“Dennis, nothing is going to happen to you,” she said lightly but unconvincingly as she attempted to pull her hands free from his. “Really . . . I don’t think we need to have this conversation right now, do we?” She pursed her lips in a tight, disingenuous grin as she nodded slightly toward her son.

“Yes, I do,” he said sternly, both his grip upon her hands and expression resolved and firm. “I think this is the perfect time to have this conversation so that if, God forbid, something were to happen to me — or you — there would be no question about what action should be taken.”

He continued, “I understand if you need to think about things a bit more, but I don’t. You need to know how strongly I feel about this.”

“I understand, but I think we should both talk about this later. We’ve been saying for quite some time now that we should set up an appointment with a lawyer to have our wills drawn up,” she argued. “We can discuss this then.” She was becoming increasingly uncomfortable because of the subject matter, as well as his insistence that she make a commitment to him immediately.

His gaze softened in appreciation of her uneasiness. But his determination to extract her promise did not.

“O.K.,” he said, softly kissing the top of her head before finally releasing his grip as he rose and strode to the couch on the other side of the room. “I’ll get a referral and make an appointment with a lawyer this week. We’ll talk about it in more detail then. But in the meantime . . . ”

She held her breath in anticipation of his words.

” . . . you have to promise me,” he stated gently, “that if it becomes necessary, you will respect my wishes. You take whatever time you need to decide things for yourself and then let me know what you come up with. Deal?”

She knew him well enough to know that he would relentlessly seek her affirmation until she finally surrendered.

“Deal,” she sighed, as a shiver ran down her spine. She recalled that jolt of electricity after she experienced it again a few months later. That night, the ringing telephone jostled her awake with news that their lives had changed forever.

But now here she was, on Christmas Eve of all nights, learning that her son had made a decision, as well. She was thankful that darkness had set in, allowing them to see only each other’s profiles, because she did not want her son to see how badly shaken she was by this conversation and his announcement.

“Let’s go to your grandparents’ house and try to make Christmas as nice as we can for them. If they ask me what I am going to do, I’ll tell them the same thing I’m telling you: I am doing the very best that I can under the circumstances. I understand what you are saying about not visiting your father any more and why you feel that way. I won’t argue with you or try to change your mind.”

She slowly took a deep breath before adding, “I will go with you to the hospital on New Year’s Eve, if you want. If you would prefer to go alone, I will respect your wish. It’s up to you, but you can think about things. You don’t have to tell me right now which you prefer.”

She hesitated for a moment before continuing, her voice cracking with emotion as she tried to maintain her composure — for her own sake as much as her son’s.

“I will talk with the doctors again. One last time — to be sure. If their opinions are unchanged, I will authorize them to remove your father’s life support on New Year’s Eve.”

She felt light-headed, as thought she might lose consciousness. Her words hung in the air like a thick fog through which she was struggling to navigate. Neither of them spoke for what seemed like a very long time, their respective breathing the only sound emanating from inside the vehicle as people continued to enter and exit the busy parking lot in anticipation of the holiday celebration.

Finally, her son said quietly, “Mom, it’s the right thing.”

She nodded silently as she turned the key in the ignition, flipped on the headlights and began the drive to her in-laws’ home.

Click here to read Chapter Eleven>

Inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt: “New” or “New Year.”

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