But Not Today, a novel
High school sweethearts, Dom and Maria Domiani, are in high spirits as they set out to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary amidst the magical red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. But life takes a bitter twist when Dom falls ill along the way, and emergency surgery reveals he has incurable cancer. The devastating news tests their strength but not their love, as they grow even closer in a surprising new intimacy. Maria is a progressive, though devout, Catholic. Dom is less overt about his faith, and Maria wonders how he’ll come to terms with the prospect of dying. She is surprised when he finds inner peace and acceptance more quickly than she does. After all, this is her world.
Maria is a hospice bereavement counselor, thoroughly familiar with death, dying, and bereavement. She can educate others about the process, teach classes on the subject, and walk with complete strangers in their time of need. But she is shattered at the thought of losing her husband, the love of her life.
Through the story of one colorful Italian-American family, BUT NOT TODAY captures universal themes of love, meaning, faith, loss, death, and fear of growing old alone. It shows the various ways people cope, and how humor can provide a sense of normalcy even when life falls apart. The story is narrated with heart and love through the eyes and rich inner life of the main character, Maria Angela Theresa Giordano-Domiani.
Maria imagined telling Dom of the experience. She grinned, knowing he'd give her that completely baffled look she'd seen so many times. Then he'd probably say what he often said when his wife was in her reflective mood. "Maria, we live in two different worlds." Or sometimes he'd say, "It pays to be shallow," which to her meant, Reflection is too much work. I'd rather watch the golf channel. He didn't deny it nor did it bother him in any way.
Maybe it was more like work for Dom, but for Maria it was as natural as breathing. She'd always been a person who paid close attention to her life. She had things to work out. She wanted to grow, spiritually and emotionally, and yes, she had to admit that sometimes it was hard work. It helped that she found the whole process fascinating.
One of her spiritual disciplines was to practice living in the present moment, though she couldn't do it for more than a few minutes at a time. But still, she practiced daily. When she found herself stuck in the past or worrying about the future, she'd use her mantra: Be here now. But there were times when it all sounded like such a load of new age crap, even to her.
She didn't want to be here now. She wanted to be in Sedona, waiting for the kids and grandkids to arrive. She wanted to be at the anniversary party, sitting next to her handsome husband at the Italian restaurant, taking pictures, listening to the kids laugh and tease each other. Be here now. What a crock.
She moved away from the window and took a seat at a large round table. She crossed her arms and laid her head down on her wrists. When a door opened at the opposite end of the large waiting area, the noise startled Maria. She sat up quickly. She couldn't believe she'd actually been sleeping! A nurse approached, the one who'd given Dom the Ativan. She said, "Dr. Reese wanted me to let you know it's going to be a little longer." Maria's heart sank. "Is everything okay?" The nurse couldn't say or wouldn't say, but Maria could tell by her face, the way she averted her eyes, that things were not okay. She didn't press her; right now, she didn't want to know. "It should be another hour or so. Do you need anything?" "No. Thank you. I'll be right here. Please keep me updated."
Maria was alone again. What should she do? Call the kids? Not yet. Sophie and Johnny, the two youngest, and Sophie's husband Derrick Morgan, were to fly into Phoenix from Berkeley sometime today. Then they'd planned to rent a car and drive the two hours to Sedona. At least that's what Maria thought they'd said; she was too stressed to remember. Their oldest daughter Melanie, her husband Mark Bonner, and their three teenaged daughters, were probably on the road right now, driving up from Tucson. They'd all be checking into the same resort, then meet up in the morning for breakfast. Dom and Maria's fiftieth anniversary was the perfect event and excuse to have a family vacation, something they hadn't done in years. Maria hated to call and spoil everything. She'd wait until she knew what was going on with Dom.
Almost two more hours went by. Now Maria was truly panic stricken, thinking horrible thoughts. Is he going to die? Did he die on the table? Oh, God, please, no. I know it's going to happen someday, but not today. Please, God. I'm not ready. She was thinking she should call Melanie when, finally, the door opened and Dr. Reese walked briskly towards her, still in scrubs and surgical cap. Maria was afraid to stand up. She felt weak. "What happened? What's wrong?" The doctor took a seat across from her and hesitated briefly.