Day after day, Rad and Reeve struggled to rebuild their farms, and slowly but surely, a semblance of order was restored to the devastated land. Lou's days were filled with caring for the children, keeping the house clean, cooking, and other chores. At night, she and Rad made love, and the ache in her heart was temporarily soothed by her husband's loving caresses.
Then came the terrifying morning everything changed forever.
Lou arose and fixed breakfast for Rad and the children as usual, but Rad never came to the table, and when Lou went to check on him, she found him lying in bed shivering.
"Something's wrong," he whimpered. "I feel all weak and funny."
"I'll fetch Dr. Russell right away," Lou said.
Quickly she got the children dressed and left them with a neighbor, then hurried to Dr. Russell's office.
"There's something bad wrong with Rad," she told him breathlessly. "He's laying in bed all shivering and pale. Says he feels funny."
"I'll be there right away," Dr. Russell assured her. They returned to the shack to find Rad still lying in bed, looking even worse than before. Dr. Russell examined him thoroughly and then shook his head. "I"m afraid it's polio," he said gravely.
Lou felt her heart sink. "Is he gonna die?"
Dr. Russell shook his head. "I don't know. Time will tell. The important thing is to get the kids away from here as quickly as possible. He's very contagious."
After making sure that Rad was comfortable, Lou called her mother, Marge, who lived about an hour's drive away.
"Rad has polio," Lou told her mother. "The doctor says he's very contagious. Can you please take the kids for a few weeks?"
"Of course I will!" Marge exclaimed.
Lou sat beside the bed gently brushing Rad's hair back from his forehead and talking to him while she awaited her mother's arrival.
"I'm sorry, Lou," he moaned. "Reeve and me just about had things back to normal. We were gonna start working the fields again just like before..."
"It's all right, darling," said Lou. "It isn't your fault. You couldn't help getting sick. But it's gonna be all right. I called my Mama to come get the kids, and I'm gonna nurse you back to health. Everything's gonna be all right."
Marge arrived, and Lou hugged the children and kissed them good-bye. "Your Daddy's sick, so you have to go stay with Grandma for a little while so you don't get sick too. He's gonna be better again real soon, and then Grandma will bring you back home again," she told them. She stood waving good-bye until the car was out of view.
The next few weeks passed in a blur for Lou. Between caring for Rad and doing as much as she could on the farm, she was soon completely exhausted. Rad slept much of the time, and he often had a high fever and became delirious, rambling nonsense. Dr. Russell came by to check on him frequently, and when Lou asked how her husband was doing, he simply shook his head.
Finally there was good news. "The fever has broken, and he's sleeping peacefully," Dr. Russell told Lou. "The danger's over, and he's no longer contagious."
"Thank God!" Lou exclaimed. She called Marge right away.
"Mommy!" called Timmy, Wyatt, and Ruby as they tumbled out of their grandmother's car and ran toward their mother. Lou hugged them and smothered them with kisses. Never before had she been so happy to see them.
"Sh! Your Daddy's asleep!" she warned them, but it was too late. They were already romping over Rad in bed, and he was smiling and laughing.
Lou stood just smiling and watching them for a few minutes. Everything's going to be all right now, she told herself.
Suddenly Rad looked confused and frightened. "I can't move my legs at all," he said.