Love and healthcare

Jonathan and Cynthia McCall have been married for 27 years. She works as a waitress at the Willows Buffet at the Riverwind Casino, in Norman, Oklahoma, and makes $9.87, before overtime, of which there is plenty. She loves beer. She had dreams once of becoming a distributor. Jonathan is a veteran of Desert Storm, has two bad shoulders, both war injuries. He has his own landscaping business. He brings in about $45 thousand per year.

He also has Primary CNS lymphoma.

They live in Oklahoma City but have always wanted to build a house in Sedona, Arizona where they could hike, fish, hike, fish, and barbecue all day. But that’s not going to happen. Jonathan’s insurance — he got it on the exchange a few years back — for which he’s alternately grateful and pissed, has a premium of $1185/month with a $5000 annual deductible. The McCalls live, they eat, they shop — they’re not poor, but this is not how it was supposed to go. Cynthia is so worried, she has talked of taking in laundry — Jonathan tells her to knock it off — but she knows it’s going to get worse, the money’s already tight, and she hasn’t even told him about the letter United Healthcare sent out stating that premiums, due to what the letter called “economic and industry-wide uncertainties,” are going to double to — $2200 a month. The lump on her breast — yeah, when does she bring that up? — feels 3 x bigger than it really is and her fingers temporarily went numb this morning.

And Jonathan’s going to die.

Cynthia didn’t ask, when the doctors told her what they had found inside his head, but it seemed like they were telling her he had fewer than two years, if all went well — they actually said that. Jonathan is depressed and anxious and full of rage and his snoring scares her.

He won’t last that long.

“All that work and struggle for what? I have nothing to show for it except a tumor.” he wrote his son, the one in the military.

The scar over his eye from the first surgery, even though it’s healed, still hurts. It feels like a migraine most days. He wants to die soon. They had a terrible argument when he told her that.

“You’re not leaving me,” Cynthia told him. “You’ll fight this thing.”

Jonathan apologized.

“Okay, I’ll fight, I swear.”

But he won’t.

They spend most days just staring at each other. Cynthia just stacks the bills in a New Balance box on the kitchen table. From the living room, she can see the statements; they’re overflowing with green and red and purples logos. She can see the box from everywhere in the house. It’s a stain on the carpet, a crack in the wall, a barking dog. Jonathan’s best friend, Landon, from Carolina, came over recently, and told them not to worry, to believe in God and America, but Jonathan’s daughter, Melissa — his favorite from his first marriage — wishes “Uncle” Landon, even though she loves him, would stop coming around.

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