Most of us have at one time or another played the card game by that name. I never was very good at cards because I’d start daydreaming about a story and forget what had been played and not… And I am not a happy loser. I can lose so easily, even at Fish or Old Maid with my kids and now grand kids but that’s another tale! Still, that was the title my story seemed to want.
Only this story has nothing to do with cards or really much with games except for those that people play as they begin to dance around an attraction that takes them by surprise. It’s especially hard when it comes out of the blue and gob-smacks you when you’re still nursing old hurts or maybe insecurities from that bad baggage so many of us carry through life. How can one overcome such obstacles and build a lasting partnership? Ah, therein lies the tale.
I would be the first to admit this is an off-beat story. I’m not even really sure where the original germ of an idea came from. Maybe it was when my kid brother died very suddenly of an aneurysm and someone at the hospital asked if I would agree to his being a donor for anything they could take to help someone else live or live better.
I did not hesitate. I knew Alex and how he’d feel about this. It would even ease my anguish a small bit if I felt his sudden and seemingly senseless death might help another person live or at least experience a better quality of life. I agreed and it was done although I am not sure what exactly was utilized other than the corneas which allowed someone to see again.
Perhaps it was even earlier when I critiqued the start of a friend’s novel where a woman received a kidney transplant and very soon had an urgent desire to go to China. I do not recall any of the details of that story which I thing was never completed but these two events started that insidious “what if” process that afflicts most of us who write.
Heart transplants have been going on for some time. I dimly remember one of the early ones being in the news. As I recall it was done in Arizona at the UofA medical school’s teaching hospital. We all know that ascribing the emotion of love to the heart is medically absurd but the myth persists and the connection of “hearts and flowers” permeates our celebration of Valentine’s Day and other romantic situations. So, the odd notion came to be: what if. What if someone’s lover died suddenly and traumatically and that person’s heart was implanted in another body? What if the surviving partner later came to meet the person to whom the heart had been given?
Since some time had to elapse, I decided the survivor would have to be some years older than the other man who had the donor heart. When the Silver Foxes Pax came along, I knew at once that this story would work there. At that time, all I had was the prologue in which the original lovers are parted by death. That unfinished tale had haunted me for some time; now I had cause and a need to find out--what happened next?
First I had to move ahead ten years with my original hero, DeVore. I gave him a new life where although very reclusive, he had to appear in the busy world on occasion. I still didn’t know what was coming until he looked across the crowded reception and met another man’s eyes… I felt that jolt just as he did. Who? What? Why? And from there the tale unfolded.
I still can’t say whether it is possible or not. Could the recipient of a donor organ gain some minor bit of the former person into the life he or she now had? Would there be some subtle connection, some similarity or link that transcends normal reality? I still don’t know and perhaps never well, but for the time being, I satisfied my “what if” questions and I hope that DeVore and Tim have found their answers as well. And of course that you my readers will also be satisfied with the way this game of hearts played out.
If any of you have a personal transplant experience, I would really like to hear about it and your take on this odd premise. Feel free to email me privately. I know few ever learn the identity of the person from whom their new organ was received and that is probably for the best. I can see a lot of difficult situations arising otherwise. This secrecy and privacy is best for all concerned although I suppose one would always wonder—who did my loved one’s gift help? To whom do I owe my life or my new capacity and what were his or her survivors like?
If you, like me, have been one of those survivors, I salute you. The Donor Network, as I have experienced it, is very supportive and helpful to the bereaved folk left behind. I hope they have helped you as they did me to come to peace. It’s been almost ten years now for me as well. I cannot meet a new brother but I know he did not die completely in vain. I hope his gift of sight has been treasured and is still giving joy.
A Game of Hearts by Deirdre O'Dare is now available at Amber Allure.
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