The Mansion©

By Jerry D. Haight

Professionally, Charley Newell was an engineer.  Precocious early in life, he was avidly interested in things mechanical, chemical and biological. Starting with a beginner’s erector set at five, Charley soon graduated to the biggest set Gilbert made having electric motors, pulleys, gears, and wheels out of which he made robots, cranes, Ferris wheels and parachute jumps. He badgered his parents to purchase a model railroad before he could read and always had an eye on more stuff to add to it. The same was true with chemistry sets. He was known at the local industrial chemical store as “young Eisenstein” as he would cross the city via transit to buy equipment and chemicals for his experiments,  

 As a fourth grader, his teacher teamed him up with other bright, like minded students showing more than normal interest in science, maybe not a good idea.

He and his buddies were into physics, mechanics, biology, chemistry, and photography. His interest in the latter was not just taking pictures but by the time he was eleven, he also processed them in the well-equipped darkroom and chemistry lab he created from scratch.  He always demanded to know how things worked be they biological, aeronautical, electrical, engineering or construction. At fourteen, he entered the Soap Box Derby with his own car. At sixteen he and a friend built a diving rig and later with another friend built a racing bobsled. Most of his hobbies he financed with his paper route along with odd jobs around the neighborhood.

Among Charley’s passions were playing the piano, singing in his church choir and marching in a band with his trombone.

The years at Colorado School of Mines, where he graduated summa cum laude with honors, and decades of engineering practice honed his analytical mind so as to assimilate a broad range of disparate data and turn them into solutions. Charley could quickly see an issue and have it resolved, leaving his peers to cycle through what he termed "the unproductive stages of denial, anger and blame while looking for a miracle solution."  

During the last few years his body began to "let him know his age" as he was known to say. The herniated C6 sent knife-stabbing pain into his shoulders; the arthritic knees and elbows slowed his movements, his reading was hampered by the cataracts covering his eyes, the indolent fingers kept him from his beloved piano and the growing mass in his lung made breathing difficult. He attributed most of his anomalies to his hectic work schedule even though that part of life was receding into the past.  

He “retired” a little over a year ago – or so he says, but to his partners Charley has been nearly as active as ever with his nose into just about everything going on at the office. In a way, Lynn is relieved at this because she is not sure she is ready for him to be fully retired. She doesn’t know what that would mean to either Charley or her. She quit working about five years ago and grew quite comfortable having time for her pursuits like genealogy, church committees and reading. Although she loves him dearly, in her subconscious she is reminded that there is such thing as too much of a good thing.    

At Lynn’s urging, he could no longer procrastinate and scheduled a physical with their family doc, Dr. Hartsville.  After an exhaustive physical by Dr. Hartsville, last week Shannon called.., the one with ice water in her veins.., that unsmiling vixen who managed the doctor's office. Her first words were, “You have lung cancer," then coldly added "doctor Hartsville will see you at 2:00 on the 26th,” three week hence. Be sure to bring your proof of insurance and co pay, if you don't or if you are late you will have to reschedule". Reeling from the hammer like blow to his midsection. Her last words, barely registered in his mind. That was on Friday a week ago. The Doc’s office was closed for the weekend when he tried to call back and then on Monday he learned Dr. Hartsville would be out of town until the 21st. He felt sorely threatened, stranded, and alone and terrorized.  

So much had happened that week. First, his mind went into a kaleidoscopic overload with an endless parade of dark thoughts of an ominous future turning over and over in his brain.  "So I'm going to die of cancer." "How long will it take?" "Will I suffer?" "What will become of Lynn?"  Then he went into his problem solving mode, frustrated because he didn't have any facts to go on and certainly no early hope for a solution. His days were spent at the university library doing research, but the more he read the more frightened he became. His nights were at first sleepless then restless as he slept in spurts only to find himself awake and wandering around the house, at the refrigerator, in front of the TV, or in the bathroom.