The elder Zierdt's response?
“Well … that's something we can get through,” he said.
He then asked if they'd told Ginger's mother, a task the entire family knew wasn't to be done carelessly. Ginger's mother had recently lost her husband to cancer. Zierdt's parents immediately offered to drive to Spring Valley to break the news to her. And that's what they did.
The families are close. Jonathan and Ginger met when they were 5 – Jonathan claims to have kissed her in kindergarten, a claim Ginger can't corroborate. They became “sweethearts,” as Jonathan said, in high school and never parted.
Parents from both sides wanted to come right away.
“We said 'No,'” Zierdt said. “I wanted them to see me healthy, not in a hospital gown.”
When the families did come, Jonathan realized he needed to have a talk with his father.
After living through the previous week, he said he had a much better understanding of the seriousness involved. And he was slightly ashamed he'd failed to show proper emotion when his father needed him.
“I told him how sorry I was at how I did not respond in a way that was becoming of a son,” Zierdt said. “He just smiled, shook his head and said, 'No, it's fine.' He knew there wasn't any ill intent on my part. It was just me being me. And then he moved on.”
The Zierdts have been lucky. For nearly all their marriage, they'd never really experienced loss. The first came last fall when Ginger, an only child, lost her father. The events of the past four months have opened their eyes, they said. They're feeling a desire to pay attention more to the life going on around them.