We flew to New York. That was pretty great for me because I hadn’t seen Nick in nearly a year!I wanted to see Kathy and Al. Our nephew David would be staying in Tony’s late parents’ home with Nick.I wished Melissa was going to be there.I promised I wouldn’t give Tony a hard time about spending money when purchasing things for our real trip.That would be in Milan I told myself.We were going to New York.He was buying something there so we could go to Italy to buy more.Did that made sense?I knew better in my head.This time, Tony wanted me to have the “real” New York experience.We flew into Newark, New Jersey.It was only when I looked to my left as we descended I realized what I was seeing was Manhattan.It wasn’t as big as before to me, but that would change after we landed.There was the air train to Penn Station and that was an experience.Nothing moved slow here.And if I lost Tony, I was sunk.He kept his hand in mine as we moved in and out with what Tony had was practiced ease.Then there were the delays and more.I got to see more of Long Island as more than just Queens.To me it was one big neighborhood, but at last we arrived in Babylon.I let out a sigh when it was time to get off.
“This is exhausting!”I moaned.
Tony chuckled bringing me into a hug as we walked.“And not for the faint of heart.”
“Well, I won’t be able to go solo for a while.”I muttered looking back as the train moved on.
“Probably not.”Tony nodded as we descended to the ground.He looked for someone.“Nick or David should be here.”Then he waved at someone.“There he is.”
Our nephew David greeted with a wave motioning toward a white car he stood beside.
“Nick’s at home watching a game.”David greeted sourly.“We did rock, paper, scissors to see who came to get you.”
Tony grinned.“You lost?”
David grinned.“I didn’t lose.I got to come!”He looked down at our rolling bags.“We didn’t know how much luggage you brought and feared there wouldn’t be enough room for the other.”
I chuckled.“Nice try, but a good save!”
David shrugged.“It’s the playoffs!”Asking, who could blame him?
Tony chuckled.“You have to have priorities.”
David nodded.“That’s right.”
The ride back to the Delveccio home was short.It was just a few streets over.That was a house I knew.Entering I grinned.It had been occupied by two men in their twenties and it looked like it.It wasn’t dirty, but cluttered.Tony was about to say something when Nick rose from a chair where he was watching something.
“Dads!”Nick greeted coming to hug us.“Welcome back!”
Tony frowned as he looked around a room that was lived in by two young men.“Your grandmother is rolling in her grave!”
Nick looked where his father was looking.“Why?”He didn’t see what the problem was.
“Your grandmother kept this place spotless!She did the kitchen floor everyday…”
David, Nick and even I knew this one.“…on her knees!”We all completed with a chuckle.
Tony grinned at me.“I see you have been paying attention.”
“In both English and Italian!”I said happily.
“Is our room still clean, at least?”Tony asked gruffly, but it was more out of fun than irritation.
Nick sort of shrugged.“Well…” he hurried on.“We didn’t use Grandpa’s or Grandma’s room…so I kind of used it.It’s clean…mostly.”He grinned.
Upstairs in what had been Tony’s room…it wasn’t dirty, but it was cluttered.Tony sighed as he began straightening up.I helped him get things back to where they belonged.
“It could have been much worse.”I said softly.“It will be fine.He’s just…young.”
Tony nodded as he continued.“We all were once.”
It was that evening we saw Kathy and Al.It was the weekend and Melissa came as well!She’d matured!Sort of.When she saw Tony she smiled at him.The mischievous little girl was in her eyes.
“Uncle Tony!”Melissa said throwing herself on Tony.“It’s been ages!”Turning to me, she hugged me just as hard.“Hi, Uncle Mitch.”
The gang was almost all here and the conversation blew up.There were the many conversations at once, to which now I was used to and kept up with no problem.
“So, it’s nice of you two to take time from your world of jet setting to come up and see us.”Kathy chuckled as she put the ever present macaroni and gravy on the table with the other things typical Italians ate.
“One day, that will be me.” Melissa said with confidence and then sighed.“Stop off in New York before you pop over to Milan to buy for your trip to Australia.”
Tony chuckled.“I have no doubt about you, Melissa.”
“Is there anyone in the picture we should know about?”I asked her.“Anyone we should have a talking to before it’s too late?”
Melissa grinned shaking her head.“No, not at all.It’s not that I don’t date, but right now, I don’t need to be tied down.”She did her wave around the room.“There’s a big world out there and I intend to see as much as I can.”
Tony nodded as she sat beside him.“It will be there, but it’s so much better to see it with someone special.”He grinned looking at me and leaned toward me kissing me lightly.“It can be quite nice having someone to share it with.”
Melissa smiled.“I didn’t say I’d be alone.”
It was later I watched as we ate and saw Tony struggle slightly as he swallowed again.I knew of Tony’s achalasia and it didn’t bother me too much, but Tony’s father had it and I was told that was a reason he’d gotten the cancer that killed him.I did as I always did.I put my hand in Tony’s as he swallowed.Tony grinned at me and as always, neither of us said a word about it, but kept on with the family.
It was later in our bedroom as we were getting ready for bed I mentioned anything about it.“Will you get screened before we go to New Zealand and Australia?”
Tony sighed as he sat down on the bed.“I’ll get it done.”He said, but I wasn’t convinced.
“I’ll go with you.”
Tony didn’t look at me.“I know you will, but I can’t put my life on hold for this thing that may or may not be in my future.”
This was a subject that needed to be addressed lightly with Tony.“The chances of it being in your future is greater than mine.At least this one.You’re just like your father.You don’t complain and…I don’t want to lose you.”I sat beside him and slipped my arms around him.“If you do get cancer, if we catch it early, we can defeat it.Your father waited until it was too late.I won’t lose you.”
Tony nodded sadly.“One of us is going to lose the other eventually.”He shrugged.
“I’d like to grow old with you, Tony.”I said softly.“If we see it coming, perhaps we can do something about it.”
Tony smiled a little weakly, but nodded.“I’ll schedule a screening before we go to New Zealand.”He bumped his forehead against mine.“I promise.”He kissed me tenderly.“I love you, Mitch.”
I smiled as he said that.“I know.”
We caught a show on Broadway and shopped a little, but enjoyed being with the family mostly and flew back to Charleston.
The trip to Milan came up and this time, we didn’t come from Rome, but flew directly to Milan.This trip was taking several days as we shopped and you know I hate shopping.I put up with Mr. Perfection as he brought me things to try on.That, I really hated, but Tony was happy doing it, so why not?The great thing was we weren’t taking anything home.It was all being shipped to Charleston.I couldn’t keep track of what all we bought, but Tony was extremely excited about it all.
Once back in Charleston, I mentioned Tony’s promise and he made the appointment.One of the other things about Charleston, we had hospitals.We had the Medical University of Charleston which was a large educational complex for medicine and two major hospitals combined and became a big hospital.There was one hospital that specialized in cancer.There we met Dr. George Keogh and he was a very nice doctor.He was a kind man in his late thirties whose dark head of hair was parting a little more than necessary.He was losing his hair, but it was mostly still on top of his head.The fact Tony and I considered ourselves married never bothered this doctor.It seemed to make the doctor realize we had a strong relationship.To be safe and to make Tony feel better I even had myself screened.Cancer wasn’t just a Delveccio problem.In the doctor’s office, he sat down with a smile to me.
“Your screening came back fine.”Then he looked at Tony which he was not happy about what he was going to say.“You, however, there are some suspicious growths we need to look at.Whether they are cancerous will take a more thorough exam to be sure.”
That was a knife in my heart.“We need to get it done, then.”
Dr. Keogh chuckled.“You can still go on your trip, but we should look at it when you get back.”He nodded as he shrugged.“It could be nothing.”
Tony frowned.“And it could be cancer.”
Dr. Keogh held his hand up.“One thing at a time.Go, enjoy your trip and we’ll tackle this when you get home.”He smiled.“Okay?”
I smiled, but not happy.“You’ll understand if this sort of puts a damper on that a little.”
On the way home, Tony was quiet.
“Talk to me, Tony.”I said to Tony at last as we walked in the condo.
“Talk about what?”Tony asked deep in thought.
“Tell me what you’re thinking.”I said looking at him at the kitchen counter.“What are you feeling?”
He shook his head.“I don’t know!”He said a little loud as he threw his hands up in frustration.“I heard him and I’m scared.This could be it!”
Walking over I put my arms around him.“It could be.But he wasn’t sure, let’s locate the saddle before we seek problems riding the horse.”
His eyes grew and then he smiled.“Is that one of those Southernisms?”
“It’s a Mitchism.”I corrected.“Let’s find out what we’re dealing with before we start fighting the unknown.”I urged holding him closer.“He doesn’t know.We shouldn’t plan a funeral without knowing.”
He chuckled.“You’re right.”He kissed me.
“I’ll be right here with you.”I assured Tony.“We vowed in sickness and health.I live up to my promises.We do this together.”
“But we say nothing to anyone else yet.”He said holding a finger up to me.“Until we know.Okay?”
I shrugged.“There’s nothing to tell yet.”
Plans for the new house went forward and the bridge was fixed.The pipes were next and wiring for the house.I did volunteer for a few causes and was surprised how busy I could be.The trip was getting closer and things were more chaotic.What we’d gotten in Milan had to be packed.Three weeks on a ship was a lot of clothes!It would be Spring and Summer there.It would be warm.To save time and money, we shipped much ahead of us.The same would be done coming back.Those extra luggage costs on a plane were expensive!
Sasha and David were planning their wedding and all was going well there.They decided to have a ship wedding with the understanding we weren’t to come along for the cruise.It made sense.They were doing an Alaskan Cruise.Family, if they wanted to come would come.It was a little costly for many McKenzies so not many would come because of that.That was Sasha’s and David’s plan.It would be spring again in the Northern Hemisphere when the wedding happened and promised a few days of almost nothing but sunshine.I mean the sun didn’t set too much that time of year that far north.
I kept things light, but that specter of cancer was right in the shadows now and weighing on me even though I tried not to think about it.It wasn’t real yet, but it never left my mind.Dr. Keogh wasn’t alarmed, just cautious and I know it played on Tony’s mind, too.He kept things upbeat, but I could see it.
We left for Sydney.We would begin there and take the ship toward New Zealand, cruise around there and then around Australia for the rest of the cruise.
When we arrived in Sydney, I was exhausted!Tony and I collapsed on the bed or our suite at the hotel we booked before we boarded.
“That…” Tony moaned softly.“…was a long flight.”
I grinned rolling on top of him.“We’re on the other side of the world!Of course it’s a long flight.”
“But it will be the best trip!”Tony brightened.“Everyone tells me, this is quite a ship!”
Jet lag kicked was a real thing now and we almost didn’t wake up to get on the ship.
Tony was right.This was quite a ship!It just oozed being regal.Elegant.That black hull on the water and the Sydney Opera House off the port bow.Walking up the gang plank I took Tony’s hand and no one seemed to notice or care.
“I feel snobby.”I said sourly to Tony.
Tony chuckled.“It comes with the price of the ticket.”He shrugged.“Call it a perk.”
Tony was not undone.We had a grand stateroom!Two floors!There was the lower portion with a living area that had the couch and chair.The upper section with the king sized bed and there were balconies off the bedroom and living room!There were three people in our suite all in black like butlers.
“Forgive us, Mr. Delveccio, Mr. McKenzie.”A black suited man said as he pointed to our rolling luggage.“We’ll be gone in a moment.Your other things arrived and we took the liberty of unpacking.”
I hadn’t anticipated that and looked at Tony surprised.
Tony looked at me shrugging.“Thank you.”
My eyes widened.“How will I know where things are?”I asked Tony.
Tony grinned with a shrug.“Look.”Then he pulled me aside.“And I will remind you, you’re on vacation.Remember?Vacation?”
I nodded with a grin.“I’ve had a few.”
“One more thing.”The steward said.“Anything you need laundered just put in the special closet inside the upstairs closet.It will be cleaned.Also, if you need something pressed for the evening, put that in there, too.Just push the button for service and someone will be happy to do it for you.Enjoy the Queen Mary.”Then the man bowed slightly and left!
Tony turned me around.“This is going to be the cruise of a lifetime.”
For some reason, being brave all this time, his comment hit me wrong.“No!It won’t be.”I said angrily, I guess I was a little more sensitive about the possibilities than I realized.“We’ll have others!I won’t let anything happen to you!”Then, and I didn’t just do this, but I was upset as my vision blurred.“I’m not letting you go!”
Tony was shocked at the angry words and stepped back a little before he understood what I said and grabbed me in a tight hug.“I didn’t mean that, baby, I swear.”He assured me holding me tighter.
But somehow the flood gates opened and I couldn’t help it.He might be sick and there was nothing I could do.I felt helpless!
“I’m still here, Mitch.”Tony assured again softly as he rocked us both slowly.“I didn’t mean anything except this will be fun, and it will be.” He kissed me deeply and then pushed me back.“Like you said, we don’t know.When we do, we’ll deal with it.”He hugged me again.“Know this, I don’t intend to die.We will do what we need to.”He pushed me back and I saw he was crying now.“I know I won’t be alone.You won’t let me do this by myself.”
What was wrong with me!?He was the one that might be sick.He was comforting me?I pulled him closer even still.“I’m sorry, Tony.I don’t know where that came from.You shouldn’t be comforting me.”
Tony grinned as he caressed my back.“That’s what mated partners do.Our roles are going through some changes and you may be comforting me next.We’re here for each other and always will be.”He smiled kissing me.“You kind of like me.”
I shook my head.“I do, but I love you, Tony.I’m sorry, this could be nothing.”I shrugged.
Tony kissed me gently.“I know you love me.I’m not leaving.” He smiled. "We're on the Queen Mary!"