Bryson City Seasons — Family Time (Part 2)

This is from the tenth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.


Scott had dozed off and Kate walked away to do some exploring. We knew that with her braces and limp she couldn’t get too far away. We also knew that this “exploring time” was an important part of her growth and development.

I sighed and lay my head back on Barb’s lap. “Honey,” she asked, “what do you think we should do for our anniversary?”

Even though I had been wrapped up in the intricate plans for our celebration, I had forgotten to talk with Barb about them. I knew I would need to be careful. “Well, I’m planning a surprise.”

“Oh, Walt,” Barb sighed. “You know how I hate surprises.” I smiled. “I think you’ll like this one.”
“This one what?”
“Well, we’re going to take a trip.”


“I can’t say.”

“You mean you won’t say?”

I laughed. “Okay, I won’t say.”

“Will you at least let me know what to pack?”

“It’s a deal!”

“And what about the kids?” she asked.

“I’m working on a plan. It’ll all work out just fine.”

“Is Rick involved?”

“Well, he knows some of the basics—after all, he’s got to cover the practice while we’re gone.”
Barb sighed, seemingly acquiescing to my secret planning

process. “As long as Rick is comfortable with it all, I guess I will be.”

I smiled and sunk into my thoughts about the anniversary plans and the children. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that we’d be leaving them for almost two weeks—something we had never done.

“What are you thinking about, Walt?” Barb asked. “Guess I’m just worried about Kate.”

“In what way?”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be happier that she’s ambulatory. And her vocabulary is growing every day. For a kid who was supposed to never walk or talk, it’s just amazing.”

“Miraculous, I’d say.”

I chuckled. “You’re right, honey.” I paused to gather my thoughts.

“What’s wrong?”

“I guess I’m just concerned about her contractures.”


“Yes. Her hemiplegia on her left side is making her leg and arm muscles a bit spastic, and that’s causing her joints to be less supple. Her left knee and ankle are contracted, and when she walks, it makes her leg look bent.”

“Do you think it’s getting worse?” Barb sounded anxious.

“It’s just subtle for now. But I think it’s likely to worsen over time.”

“What do you mean?”

“At worst, it could mean that Kate will have more and more trouble walking, even in the braces.”

“What should we do?”

“I think at some time we need to make a trip back to Duke, honey. They’re doing some amazing surgery these days. As I understand it, if you wait too long, the surgery is less likely to be successful.”

“What will the surgery do?”

“It’ll lengthen the tendons. You see, the muscle spasticity will never go away. But lengthening the tendons will allow her little joints to maintain normal or near-normal range of motion. In fact, I wonder if it wouldn’t allow her to learn to walk with no braces at all.”

“You’re kidding me!” Barb exclaimed.

I smiled. “No, I’m not.”

We heard the sound of Kate’s laughter as she returned to our picnic site. When she arrived back, Barb lifted Scott into her lap, while I took off Kate’s braces and rubbed her legs. Kate always enjoyed massages. As I massaged her legs, I showed Barb how Kate’s left hip, knee, and ankle all had less range of motion than her right. Barb silently nodded.

What I didn’t share that day was another growing concern. I knew that children with profound brain damage were at increased risk for anesthetic problems. Sometimes their little brains would react very negatively to the medicines used to put them to sleep. The surgical risk was greater for them—even the risk of death from anesthesia.

I wondered whether I had made a mistake. If I hadn’t mentioned the possibility of surgery, it was unlikely anyone caring for Kate would have thought of it—because it was fairly new technology. With no surgery, there would be no anesthetic risk. But with surgery, Kate would likely be able to ambulate better and have an increased chance for a better future with more opportunity. I just wasn’t sure which road to take. No matter, I thought. No need to decide today.

We finally packed up from our banquet and followed the one-way, one-lane, graveled Balsam Mountain Road, which wound several more miles through the wilderness before depositing us onto the eastern edge of the Cherokee Indian reservation.

For me, these magical weekends provided large measures of memory-making time, and they nurtured my budding realization that, more than the material things made possible by a sixty-hour week or a second income, children need generous amounts of time with each of their parents on a regular basis. As we drove home that day, I discovered I felt richly refreshed. I wasn’t sure what the future held for Kate. I wasn’t even sure how many years we’d have her. But on that special trip into the mountains, I determined I would make my relationship with my wife and my children a priority.

Today, over twenty-five years later, I am grateful for the smorgasbord of pictures and sounds in my memory that resulted from that decision. This mental scrapbook continues to bring me great joy and satisfaction—despite some very difficult turns in the road of life that lay ahead for us.



  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2017. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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