For chapter 7 click here : Chapter 7
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Agnes enjoyed giving parties, but she was also a careful planner. She spent a lot of time organizing and worrying if everything will go as planned. She made “to do” lists and checked each item off as it was completed. She wanted everything to be perfect. But, today’s party was special. It was a party to celebrate Owen being included in Miami’s fifty best doctors for the year 2004. She made sure that all the prominent physicians in Miami were invited. The guests would start arriving at six thirty. There would be a cocktail hour followed by a buffet dinner. She had a blow up of Owen’s picture from the Miami Magazine, framed and placed on an easel near the swimming pool. It showed Owen wearing a striped burgundy tie, a light blue shirt and the white lab coat. Agnes had selected the tie herself. In all of 20 years they’d been married, she’d never been so proud. She knew Owen hated surprises so she did not hide it from him.
“Make sure you come home early, honey,” she had warned him as he left for his office that morning.
Owen cancelled his last appointment. It was a well baby appointment that he could postpone for the next day. A pharmaceutical company had sent a calendar with a picture of tropical locations for each month and the current month’s pick, Kenya, made him think of his days in the Peace Corps in Malawi and how far he had come. That was in 1970s, almost thirty years ago. He was a young man then, unsure of his future but wanting to be of help to people. He was on his way to fulfill that goal.
On his way home he felt a bit of strain in his back, a gentle throbbing pain. There it is again, he thought. The pain would be very acute sometimes and wouldn’t go away with minor over the counter pills. He had seen some specialists, who were in his friends circle. All the tests couldn’t find anything. Sometimes, he worried that if it gets serious he may be confined to a wheelchair and will have close his practice. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
He took a hot shower to alleviate some of the pain and changed into more casual clothes — brown Dockers, a long sleeves sports shirt from J. Crew that he liked so much and penny loafers. He avoided taking pain medication fearing he may not be able to take alcohol during the party. He looked at the backyard from the upstairs bathroom window. All the festive decorations were in place. He admired Agnes for doing a good job in arranging the party. She looked beautiful in the brand new blue dress with a short pearl necklace he had given her for Christmas the year before. She was checking the final decorations. He remembered their encounter in his office, their romance and the wedding. He smiled. He was happy the way things had turned out in his life so far, but for the nagging pain in his back. It’ll go away, he thought.
When he came downstairs some guests had already arrived.
“Owen, my friend, congratulations.”
It was Andy, his classmate from the medical school. Andy had become a psychiatrist. They talked of their days in college.
“How do you manage to keep yourself so fit?” Andy said.
“It’s no magic. I still run every morning and watch what I eat. But lately I am having some issues with my back.” Owen said as he stretched his shoulders as if rowing a boat.
“Ah, don’t worry. You’re still a young man. It’ll go away.”
Owen himself thought so. The pain didn’t prevent him from his morning runs every day and he was happy about it. He hoped he would be able to continue that habit as long as he can.