Matthew Levine and
Robert Haydon Jones

Matthew Levine
“The Decision”

Not Solitary
By Robert Haydon Jones
Inspiration piece

Sarah Moran, a willowy, red haired, beauty in her early-forties, fainted and fell face down on her eggs over-easy at the country club after church on a gorgeous Sunday morning in mid-June.

Terry Moran, her husband, hesitated for just a second before he took action. The humor of it confused Terry. It was terrifying and funny. It was a merry joke. It was a ghastly happening.

He scurried around the table and placed his hands on Sarah’s ears. He raised her head. Her face was all smeared with running egg yolk. Her eyes had rolled back. Terror kicked Terry hard in the pit of his stomach. Then Sarah opened her green eyes and looked at him quizzically. She was puzzled. How did she get here?

Terry used a plush cloth napkin to clean her up. She had fainted he told her. There was nothing to worry about. It was nothing more than the random peril of going too long on an empty stomach.

Before long, staff had cleared and cleaned the table. Terry re-ordered Sarah’s eggs. They had a nice breakfast. Yet, within the year, Terry would look back on this day as the start point of a cascade of cerebral events that eventually would steal his wonderful wife from him and the entire world.

Meeting Sarah had been the high point of Terry’s life. She sat next to him at a fund raising dinner at the Cathedral, which was his home parish. Sarah was 15 years his junior, and astonishingly beautiful. She was very intelligent and a good listener. She wore a wedding band – but she was a widow. Her husband, an Annapolis grad and a Marine Corps fighter pilot, had crashed into the sea off Vietnam. They had been married for just two months.

Terry had also been a Marine Corps fighter pilot years back after Princeton. He had flown over the same waters in which Sarah’s husband had perished. The moment he saw her, Terry was certain he would marry Sarah.

Years later, Sarah told their two children she had been swept away. “I never had a chance,” she said.

Their marriage had been joyous. Friends remarked that their honeymoon had never stopped.

Money was not a concern. Terry had invented components that enabled a break through in the government’s ability to read messages that foreign powers were certain were secure. He had patented his inventions and bought up other smaller companies with similar advanced technology. His company was worth plenty.

Sarah was the only child and heir of the co-founders of the leading thermal equipment company for laboratories world wide. Her parents loved their grandchildren and the family.

It turned out Sarah had a fairly rare genetic disease that triggered cerebral incidents on a regular basis that injured her brain a little each and every time and within a year or so, would grind out her memory and personality.

It was hell on earth. They traipsed from specialist to specialist. First they looked for a different diagnosis. Then they sought a treatment that would arrest the deadly progression.

Within two months, Terry was doing the traipsing on his lonesome. Sarah had steadily dwindled. She slept a lot. She developed a passion for sweets. She gained weight.

Sarah detached from Terry and the world. She could not focus on their life. Terry brought in a full time nursing attendant and installed Sarah in a newly designed bedroom and treatment suite on the third floor. Sarah liked it. Then came the day when she did not know who Terry was.

Terry fought valiantly against the ghastly progression of the disease in the woman he so loved. For quite some time he blamed himself. Again and again, he remembered he had almost giggled when Sarah collapsed face down in her eggs over-easy, at the Country Club. It connected him. He felt responsible.

Then a thoughtful doctor at Columbia Presbyterian brought him into his office, sat him down and told him there was nothing Terry or anyone else could do. Sarah was being obliterated because a small part of her genetic formula had been fouled up.

Terry immediately wept. A flood of tears burst out of him. The good doctor consoled him but from then on, he was pretty much on his own. Great gouts of grief continuously wracked him.

His love, his wife, his lover, his, long time, trusted companion was gone. Sarah had always helped him work through every crisis in the past. Now she was the crisis. All he could do was honor her as best he could and take the pain.

His happiness with Sarah had seduced him and made him sloppy. He took the good days for granted. Sarah had normal pregnancies. The two children were okay at birth and had gone on to be splendid kids. His son had just been awarded a PHD in fine art at Harvard. His daughter was a rising force in filmmaking.

Most of all, he had taken Sarah for granted. He was still crazy in love with her and her with him. They loved having sex. They loved making love. He ran business issues by her and she asked his advice on everything from art to cupcakes.

They were enchanted with each other and with life. They went full throttle at everything. In the course of a study for her book club, Sarah got interested in William and Mary. Terry soon joined her in a full immersion in their reign.

They went on to publish a popular book on The Declaration of Right, which had later integrated into the English Constitution.

Now Sarah dwindled and Terry kept watch. He did not take a mistress or become an alcoholic or a drug addict. He did throw himself into exercise. After a time, his trainer told him he was a beast. Terry couldn’t abide being a gaunt 57-year-old. He took to meditation. It worked. He was able to bear the unbearable.

Elizabeth Attenborough was a near neighbor. She had been widowed two years back when her husband, Maurice, had suddenly been ravaged by leukemia. He had succumbed to the disease in less than two months. There were two
children in their late twenties.

Terry literally bumped into Elizabeth at Whole Foods five months after Sarah’s first attack. He had not seen her since Maurice’s funeral. She asked how Sarah was and Terry told her. They wept on each other’s shoulder.

They were inseparable ever since. Like Terry, Elizabeth had thought the good time would last forever and she had often blundered through it. She had a lust for life and as she aged, she grew increasingly insecure. So, she had a serious affair, which was very enjoyable until she realized it was really very stupid.

Fortunately, her lover loved her and the end was smooth. As far as she knew, Mark, her husband, never found out. Even so, as he died, she was sure she had killed him. Then he was dead and she was a 52 year-old widow with two grown children, a great body and a huge fortune.

Elizabeth and Terry worked hard every day on doing right by Sarah even though they were now forever linked to each other by an unspoken promise. They loved each other vastly right away.

Elizabeth and Sarah knew each other well in the past, but when Elizabeth joined Terry and Sarah at table for lunch one day, Sarah did not acknowledge her. This was the day after Sarah did not recognize Terry.

That night Terry and Elizabeth had sex for the first time and then slept together in her bed. Each of them understood how incredibly lucky they were to be together. The task at hand was to do right by the gift.

The first question was Sarah. Her diagnosis was stark. She would suffer mini strokes on a regular basis and diminish in personality and presence every time she did. She was 42 and in relatively good health. She could live at least forty more years.

Their first thought was an extended sneak. But it was so obviously not the way to go, that they immediately forgave themselves and went all out for full disclosure.

First, Terry had Sarah declared incompetent. Then he set up three carefully detailed Trusts to serve and protect Sarah. He named himself and Elizabeth as Trustees. He had intended to also name the children as Trustees but they rebelled at the plan. So Terry retained his trusted Family Attorney as the third Trustee.

Terry then divorced Sarah. His children and Elizabeth’s children threatened a nasty, drawn out scandal. But nothing happened. There was no publicity.

A week after the divorce, Terry and Elizabeth were married by a Justice of the Peace.

Elizabeth sold her house. Then Terry and Elizabeth purchased a beautiful property on the river six miles away. Elizabeth and Terry and Sarah moved in. Ample suites were allocated for each of the four children, but as of this writing, none of the children have joined them.

That is a sad fact. Nevertheless, Terry and Elizabeth are very hopeful everything will work out some day.

“Our children are in great pain”, Terry says. “We know all about that. They lost a beloved parent. We lost the love of our life. Our hope is soon they will realize our new union is a miracle driven by love and they too will rejoice.”


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  1. Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:23 am | #

    Robert–Long time no read!! Your still at the top of the writing world–great to read your wonderful “Stuff”! Please send me your address–have a gift I’d like you to have–a tribute to my wife, Sally who died in May of 2018. It’s nice to know that you and I are still hanging around! Semper fi my friend!–& Happy Days!–Jack

  2. Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:07 pm | #

    Told in Jones’ own compelling way. I knew people in exactly this situation — wife vegetative, husband (a doctor) married again in all but name to another woman. The pain for all involved, and a relatively happy ending, are all charted well in this story.

  3. Posted September 23, 2019 at 12:50 pm | #

    My comment on the other piece was really meant for this piece, about darkness and resilience. This one shows that innocence can be violated and still preserved through a narrative that pulls the reader along.

  4. Posted September 23, 2019 at 4:31 pm | #

    “Great gouts of grief continuously wracked him.” A kick the gut for Terry and readers alike. What do we do with the guilt?

  5. Posted September 25, 2019 at 3:13 pm | #

    One of the best openings to a story I’ve ever read! Then it’s a moving tale about losing the love of one’s life and finding new love in the bleak shadow of tragedy. Good work, Jones! And fine art work, too.

  6. Posted January 22, 2020 at 9:43 am | #

    Beautifully written tangle of life in its most painful and hopeless moments.The eventual acceptance of what “is” brings about a glimmer of hope and new beginnings for our character. A tough tale to emotionally digest.