Chapter 5

That night, after dinner and a drink, when it was time to go to bed, DeAnn – wearing her short summer pajamas - ignored the second bed and slid under the covers next to Tom.

"You deserve every minute you have," she told Tom with understanding.

"Stop worrying," Tom advised. "Just keep praying and stay positive."

She nodded. "What have I been missing all this time?"

She rolled on top of him and Tom showed that even in his illness he was still a good lover. DeAnn was happy to be naked with him in his bed and when they awoke in the morning, she didn't go hide in the bathroom to change, instead freely walking about the bungalow naked.

They were hungry so they went out for breakfast and it occurred to DeAnn that she missed Tom already.

On their last night in Key West, they went out drinking sangria wine and dancing long into the night. DeAnn felt sexy and wanted and they danced with lust and heat, returning to the hotel for one last night of Florida lovemaking.

Tammy and Paul saw them off in the morning.

"It is time to go home," Tom told DeAnn as they waited to board their flight at the airport and she could see how tired, weak and frail he looked.

"What do you fear the most?" She asked.

"That I won't be forgiven," Tom replied quietly.

Eight hours later they were back in Hillsboro and DeAnn wasn't sure which house she should enter when Tom parked in her driveway to carry her luggage inside.

"The kids don't get back until tomorrow," she told Tom. "Can I spend the night with you at your house?"

He gave her a hug. "Don't start grieving yet," he said.

Tom's kids came for regular visits. DeAnn reconnected with Pam so they could help comfort Tom together as he began his noticeable descent. He began having trouble recalling incidents and forming certain words. He lost interest in most activities and he mostly stayed at home. He lost his appetite.

"I keep hoping that I become deranged enough that I don't realize I'm dying," he told DeAnn one day.

He collapsed a few times from pain, weakness and fatigue. A grief counselor came to work with DeAnn and Tom's kids. When Tom couldn't eat much anymore, he existed on Ensure shakes.

Hospice arrived as Tom became more disoriented and weak and it became clear that there wasn't much time left.

"The end of the road has arrived," Tom told DeAnn who was stunned and shocked at how quickly he was fading.

"We'll always have Paradise," she said bravely.

"My family was here earlier," Tom told DeAnn on another occasion.

"Yes, the kids are here often now," DeAnn said.

"No, I meant my family of origin," Tom clarified. "My Dad and siblings were here earlier. I think they're waiting to take me with them."

DeAnn stared into his face with amazement. "I believe you," she said.

At the end of the road, Tom was sedated and groggy. His kids were staying at the house and Pammy came at DeAnn's recommendation.

DeAnn had a few moments alone with Tom. She held his hand and she cried, thanking him for their final road trip and telling him how much she loved him,

"It's okay for you to go now," she said. "The end of the road has arrived."

Tom opened his eyes and looked at her. "You're going to be okay," he let her know.

"Am I?" She asked, her eyes filling with tears.

"You're smart and strong and beautiful," he said.

"Is your Dad here?" DeAnn wondered.

"He's right over there with Mom and the kids," Tom acknowledged.

Then he closed his eyes and he never opened them again.

DeAnn called his kids and her kids and Pammy into the room along with the Hospice nurse and Tom passed away three hours later with DeAnn holding his hand and the nurse making the final pronouncement of death.

"Reaching the end of the road sucks," DeAnn told the others. "But what a ride it was these last few months."