“Did you decide what you wanted to do for your birthday, Mom?”
Haley was curled up in a recliner in the living room, eating a bowl of cereal. Her mother, Debbie, was folding clothes, stacking neat piles along the back of the couch.
“Having all of you together for dinner would be great,” Debbie said, turning one of her husband’s T-shirts right-side out. “Some place where I don’t have to cook or clean up would be even better.”
While they discussed possible restaurants, Leland, Debbie’s teenage son, grumbled his way down the hallway, still not completely awake. Without a “good morning,” he stomped out the front door, to return a minute later with a fist full of mail.
“A couple of cards came for you,” he said, tossing two oversized envelopes on the cushions in front of his mother.
The smaller of the two was from a local bookstore. Debbie opened it first, knowing it was a coupon in recognition of her pending birthday. Tucking it into her purse, she started a mental list of which books to buy.
On the front of the second envelope, familiar block lettering spelled out Debbie’s name and address. Turning it over to pry open the flap, she notice an unfamiliar return address. Only then did she remember that both her engineer father and architect brother wrote in all caps, as if they were shouting everything they penned.
Seeing her sibling’s name on what appeared to be a birthday card was unsettling. She had to sit down before opening the card – the first contact between them in nearly five years.
“What’s wrong Mom,” Haley said. Concerned, she took the card from her mother. “Wow, that’s weird. Do you want me to open it for you?”
“No, I’ll do it, it’s just a card.” Debbie tore open the envelope, and read the message inside, then re-read it.
“Yeah.” Debbie shook the card, as if it would change the celebratory words inside. “I bet your grams is behind this.”
One phone call to her parents later, and Debbie had the whole story. The card was the first olive branch in a carefully planned cease-fire in the siblings’ unending feud. She had something her brother, Frank, wanted and he was trying to soften the blow before asking for a bold favor.
After a life-long effort to distance himself from Debbie, Frank was in the unbelievable position of needing her to save his life.
The choice should be simple. Frank needed a kidney, she had a spare one. He’s her only sibling, and without her donor organ, he could die. The irony was staggering. Frank went out of his way to avoid interaction with his sister, and now she may be a critical element to his very survival.
The only question for Debbie was whether to unceremoniously call Frank, and offer to be tested for compatibility, or wait for him to formally ask her.