Tags: Books, Christmas, dogs, family, holidays, Humor, life, publishing, Reading, Writing
It’s getting close to the time old Santa will hitch the reindeer to the sleigh, pack his sack with goodies and leave the North Pole for places south. I’ve been busy helping the Geezer with his book signings, decorate for the season and finding presents for his family and friends. My blogging hasn’t been as frequent as I would like, but I promise I’ll do much better after the first of the year.
Speaking of presents, a lot of you have asked me…to ask him…if he would post his short story, “Claus and the Consultant,” so many of you enjoyed three years ago. It was a Christmas present to all his friends, family and readers. It’s hilarious. It’s back. Go to his blog at http://www.dlhavlin.wordpress.com or his web site at http://www.dlhavlin.com to read and laugh!
The Geezer and I have been doing so many things, I thought I’d post some of the pictures and captions of the events here and talk about them later. Though I’m sure I’ll write between now and then — MERRY CHRISTMAS — Just in case!
Tags: Books, Christmas, Cooking, dogs, Humor, life, publishing, Reading, Writing
Hello all – The Geezer and I want to thank all of you who for your many, many kind comments about A Christmas Story. Some have asked if they can share the story. Sure, just refer them to my blog. The Geezer and I would love that. I do ask that you not copy the story and reprint it. If you missed parts 1 and 2, just scroll down – they’re the two previous posts. As promised, here is part 3 of A Christmas Story.
A Christmas Story©
Alone. He felt truly alone. Dave sat as close to Rachel’s side as the arms on his chair allowed, the frame of the bed restricting him from getting closer. It would be he and his daughter when her time came. When he phoned Russell, he had lied. Russell had told him he would rush to get the girls ready to come to the hospital.
“Don’t, Russell. She’s serious, but staying the same. There’s nothing you can do and I’d just as soon have you keep the girls be at home for Christmas day. Rachel’s still unconscious. I’m here and I don’t have anything else to do. Just save me some turkey.” Dave tried to sound upbeat.
“Is she really the same?”
“Yes Russell, no change,” Dave lied again.
“Okay, but would you come over for dinner? We’ll eat. Then I want to go sit with her. You can stay with the girls.”
“Sure.” Dave didn’t like lying to Rachel’s husband, but he believed he was doing the right thing.
Dave held Rachel’s limp, lifeless feeling fingers in his circling hand. Those fingers were the same ones he’d held as they stood in line at Disney World when Rachel was nine. They’d counted the number of women standing in the serpentine queue wearing black shorts to pass the time. He remembered the two of them playfully arguing over whether some of the shorts were black or navy blue. Or, whether they were “double counting” some ladies. He looked Rachel’s face. How unfair her girls would be denied sharing those type experiences with their mother. His mind said, God, if you’re there, this isn’t right. The words spoken by the old fellow in the waiting room answered him. “You realize that believing in something is much better than believing in nothing.” Dave closed his eyes and the imagine of Ellen and little six-year-old Rachel kneeling next to Rachel’s bed, praying, was as clear as it had been twenty-eight years before.
It had been a long time. He felt guilty. But, the old man’s words would not allow him to dismiss the thought, the intention. It’s something you come to on your own. What Dave would pray for was so easy to request. It would be so difficult to grant. He needed to give something in return.
“Don’t go in there. The man doesn’t want any decorations put up.” Two more candy-strippers stood outside Rachel’s room.
Dave said, “Please come in, I was wrong.”
“All I have left are the little trees,” one of the girls said tentatively.
“That’s fine…Please.” Dave watched the chubby, rosy checked teenage girl scurry in and out of the room, leaving the small tree on the tray table next Rachel’s bed.
The Christmas Tree was the answer. It was a symbol of giving. God had given his son to us on Christmas. You must give everything to get everything. Dave started to pray. “Dear Lord, please let Rachel live. I’ll take her place. Gladly, I’ll take her place. Please let Rachel live.” He repeated the simple thought over and over. As he did, his words changed from a ritual, said to be said, to the powerful request belief brings. Hope entered his voice…and soul. “Dear Lord, please let Rachel live. I’ll take her place. Gladly, I’ll take her place. Please, let Rachel live.”
A kernel deep inside Dave awakened. Peace, so long denied, entered the man. Hope strengthened in his voice. “Dear Lord, please let Rachel live. I’ll take her place. Gladly, I’ll take her place. Please, let Rachel live.”
Like a murmur of a spring breeze, he felt a flutter in the flesh in the hand he held. “Daddy?” The voice returned to the place it should be. Dave looked at Rachel’s face; her eyes fluttered, but they were open.
Dave screamed, “Nurse!”
* * * * * *
“I really can’t believe it, but I have to,” Dr. Remington said. He shook a fistful of X-rays in front of him. “I can’t wait for Spence to see these. He said he thought what he did had a 5% chance of working. What a 5%!”
Dave stepped closer to the doctor so there was less chance of Rachel hearing his question. “Is she okay? I mean, is there going to be any damage? Anything permanent?”
“No. Hell no! Double Hell no! It’s like there was never anything wrong with her, not even a trace of plaque in the artery that was damned near clogged. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve seen in twenty-five years of pushing pills.” Remington took a deep breath. “All that I know says she should be…” He looked at Rachel who was watching them as she lapsed in and out of drugged relaxed consciousness. “You know. You need to thank Dr. Spence when he gets here.”
Dave said, “I will,” but knew there were others he wanted to thank first. His train of thought was interrupted by Russell and his three granddaughters racing into the room to see Rachel. Their tears and fears were replaced by smiles and joy. That was good.
* * * * * *
Dave’s first destination after leaving his thoroughly happy family was the chapel to make his first “thank you.” It was as heart-felt as any thought or word he’d ever had or spoken. As soon as he rose from his knees, he walked as quickly as he could to the waiting room. With the exception of Nurse Reynolds, the room was empty.
Dave asked, “Excuse me ma’am, do you know anything about the old gentleman that was here when I was waiting for news about my daughter?”
“May I ask why?” A trace of hostility remained in the lady’s voice.
“I want to thank him for helping me. While I’m at it, I apologize for my behavior towards you. I was an asshole.” Dave looked and was sincere.
The nurse’s face softened. “Pressures like you were under…It’s understandable.”
“Do you know where he went?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t. You didn’t miss him by much. He left not more than five minutes ago.”
Dave started for the double doors, saying, “Thanks, maybe I can catch him.”
“Ahhhh, Mr. Grimm there’s something you should know. Mr. Bowman lost his wife.”
Dave stopped. He felt as though someone had struck him with a two by four. “Oh, no!” he uttered. “How—”
“Heart. He took it very well. He shed a few tears, that’s true. But, he said, ‘I can’t be selfish. I had fifty-four wonderful years with her. And, I have all those priceless memories. They don’t die, Nurse Beverly.’ It about tore my heart out. What a special man.”
Dave’s need to see the old man doubled. He bolted for the entrance, but stopped abruptly after a few steps. He said, “Thank you and…Merry Christmas, Nurse Reynolds.” He heard her call out, “Merry Christmas,” as the doors closed behind him.
* * * * * *
It was a snow covered world outside the hospital when Dave stepped through the sliding glass doors. Two of the hospital’s service personnel were diligently shoveling the sidewalk, a duty that was demanding instant replays as large heavy flakes blurred the sky and tried to erase their efforts.
Though it was mid-morning, the low snow clouds made the day gray, grayer than a Christmas day should be, Dave thought. He stood at the edge of the sidewalk looking over a three inch layer of white covering the large parking lot in front of him. Dave ignored cars gingerly navigating the slick aisles, looking for the tall thin form of his new friend. It had been so selfish of him to only think of his problems, without realizing the old gentleman, Mr. Bowman, had his own with which to cope. It was important to Dave to right that over-sight. He systematically scanned the lot, row by row.
Two-thirds of the way through the process, he saw a figure who could be the man he sought. Dave stared intently. The overcoat masked the figure to a degree it was hard to be sure. The man stopped at the driver’s side door of a car almost at the other side of the lot. After the man opened the door, he removed the stocking cap he wore. It exposed a bald head rimmed with white hair. Dave decided it was most surely Mr. Bowman. If he didn’t rush after him, he’d never get the chance to thank the man. His whole focus was to do that.
Dave took a couple of running steps on the slick surface when the loud blaring of a car horn sounded within a few feet. He felt the impact of the car as it smashed into him and the hard pavement as he slammed down onto it. Dave looked upward his mind trying to process what had just happened. He’d been hit by a car…hard. Why didn’t he hurt? Was he in shock? People appeared above him, concern and alarm on their faces. Their mouths moved, but he couldn’t hear a word they spoke. Two of them ran toward the hospital, while the remaining lady peered down at him. She looked horrified.
A strange feeling came over him. Someone must have turned on a car’s headlights for a bright flash illuminated an area above him. He tried to find the light’s source, but neither his head nor eyes would move. Strange, he thought. Dave kept waiting for pain. None came. That was really strange. In fact, he felt great.
He recognized that voice, but…
“Dave, come join me. Your prayer was granted.”
* * * * *
Tags: Books, Christmas, Cooking, dogs, Humor, life, publishing, Reading, Writing
A Christmas Story©
The black numbers on the white face of the waiting room clock stared back at him. Quarter-after-three, two hours since he’d been rushed out of his daughter’s room. A starched looking nurse had provided him with the only words regarding Rachel’s condition. She delivered them as stiffly and formally as the white dress she wore. “Your daughter’s aneurysm is in a critical stage. The doctors are doing all they can, Mr. Grimm. If there’s any change in her condition, someone will talk to you. Dr. Remington said to tell you he’ll be out as soon as she’s stabilized.” She’d tried to leave before he had a chance to ask questions. Dave had leaped to his feet and blocked her exit, but it did no good. The woman was implacable. Her answer to his every question was either, “I don’t know,” or “You’ll have to discuss that with the doctors.”
When she stepped past him after issuing one last, “I don’t know,” he lashed out verbally, saying, “Do you know anything? Like your name? Bitch!”
The woman stopped, straightened and stiffened, turned slowly to face him, and spoke in a slow and controlled manner, a manner that must have been difficult for her, given the fire flickering in her eyes. She said, “My name is Beverly Reynolds. And…you…don’t want to know…all I know.”
“I’m sorry,” Dave murmured, the cause of his red face changing from anger to embarrassment.
The nurse eyed him for a few seconds then said, “Yes…you are.” She spun around as she left, pushing the double doors out of her way hard enough that they banged against their stops as she exited the room.
That exchange was an hour-and-a-half ago. Nothing had happened since. Nothing. Dave got up from the couch and went to the table supporting a large coffee maker. Dave poured another cup of the vile tasting stuff. It had something added to impart a holiday flavor; he guessed it was ginger. Were his frequent trips to the table for coffee keeping him awake and shaking…or the sheer agony of waiting for his daughter to die? He picked up a napkin that was decorated with poinsettia flowers to catch any of the black fluid that escaped his Styrofoam cup. That cup had Happy Holiday printed in red and green letters on its white background. Dave read it aloud, “Happy Holiday.” He snorted and added, “Yeah, that’s almost right, Happy ShittyHoliday. You left out a word.”
“I guess since we’re here, it does make it difficult for it to be just a plain old Happy Holiday.” An old man spoke. He was the only other person in the waiting room and was sitting in a chair a few feet from the table. “It isn’t a very good present for us to have to be here at three AM on Christmas morning. That’s true enough. But, it being Christmas…it reminds us we’ve got someone looking out for us.”
“Yes, sure.” Dave frowned. He didn’t want or need to be preached to, not at this second in his life. His faith had never been strong. Since the untimely death of Ellen, it was non-existent. The look on his face and the sarcasm in the tone he used to answer the old man were a scoffed rebuff of the man’s attempt to offer some hope. Dave returned to his seat on the couch. As he sat down, he retreated into his world of despair, staring into the black coffee for an answer he knew wasn’t there. He heard shuffling footsteps, but chose to ignore them because the last thing he wanted was a well-intentioned Pollyanna chewing on his ear.
“You don’t believe, do you?” The old man stood in front of him.
Dave looked up. The man was tall and thin. His hair, what remained of it, clung to the sides of his head, apologizing for the bald expanse atop his cranium. Deep set hazel eyes, a hooked nose, and thin lips, cooperated in producing a sad, patient smile. He was probably in his eighties, fifteen to twenty years Dave’s senior. Dave’s recent unpleasantness with the nurse made him more measured in his response as he said, “You mean this stuff?” Dave pointed at some ornaments hung from the ceiling, at one of the miniature Christmas trees sitting on the coffee table, and, finally, to a manger scene on a round table in one corner of the room. “Sorry, I don’t.”
“I won’t ask you why. I know almost all the reasons folks don’t believe. Yep, I know them all…and, I still choose to believe. Silly, I guess.” He pointed to vacant space on the couch next to Dave. “Mind if I sit?”
“It’s not my couch.” Dave’s frown and words didn’t discourage the old man as Dave hoped.
The old man’s smile remained. “I know you probably don’t want someone intruding in what you’re going through, but seeing you…well, I feel I have to try. I promise I’ll not take a lot of time. But, you see, old farts like me don’t do many things as well as we once could. Just so happens, interfering and intruding is something at which we excel.”
Though he didn’t want to, Dave chuckled, smiled wryly, and nodded, “Go ahead.”
“Ever been in a battle? Not just in service, I mean a fight where you have people shooting at you, trying to kill you. Artillery, machine guns, mortars, the works.” He waited for Dave to answer.
“No, I never was in service at all.”
The man nodded. “Well, I have and I’ll tell you it’s all the bad dreams you ever had, doubled, and know what, you’re not asleep. Panic, fear, terror, scared to death, nothing can describe how it is. Words just don’t get it.”
Dave looked at him, not sure where the man’s story was going. Seeing the question in Dave’s eyes, the old man asked, “Ever hear the saying, There’s no atheists in foxholes…?”
“Yes, I guess I have,” Dave acknowledged.
“It’s true. And, there isn’t a priest, or a preacher, or a rabbi crawling from foxhole to foxhole converting men. Nope, it’s something you come to on your own. You realize that believing in something is much better than believing in nothing. Belief gives you hope. Without that, you’ve got nothing, son. I learned that on an island called Saipan. If you have hope, you can survive anything. There’s a comfort that comes with it that’s hard to explain until you find it. Just a little prayer can help more—”
“Mr. Grimm, please come with me right away!” Nurse Reynolds’ urgent tone and expression told him the crisis had arrived. She held the doors to the waiting room open, waiting for Dave to join her. He stood as though shocked with electricity. Dave cast a glance at the old man.
“Go ahead, son. Just think. And, good luck!” he said.
* * * * * *
In his absence, the doctors had transformed his daughter into a caricature of herself. Breathing tubes and other devices were connected to her, most of which he had no idea as to their purpose. It made Rachel look like a character from a science fiction movie. Her face was distorted. Dr. Remington and another white-coated ghoul he didn’t recognize were huddled over Rachel as he approached her bedside. The nurse cleared her throat to warn the doctors of Dave’s presence. Both straightened and looked at him. The message contained in their faces was dire.
“Mr. Grimm—” Remington paused, looking for the words he’d have to say. He postponed the inevitable. “This is Dr. Spence. He’s our neurological specialist here at Mount St. Mary’s. He’s been assisting us treat your daughter.”
The second doctor nodded and said, “Hello.” The salutation’s tone was more like a dirge.
Dave asked either one that would answer, “How is she doing? I know things aren’t good, but does she have a chance?”
“Well, we’ve tried to arrest the distortion of the artery. We’ve found that the aneurysm is unusual in that it’s compounded by a clot that’s restricting flow and multiplying the swelling’s rapid growth. It’s not operable. If the clot dislodges, it might alleviate the swelling at that point…but, we don’t think…well, it would likely lead to a massive stroke. That portion of the brain—” Dr. Spence shook his head and looked down.
“Does she have any chance?” Dave asked.
Before he’d spoken all his words, he had his answer. Dr. Remington shook his head and said, “I’m sorry.”
Dave felt tears forming on his lower lids. “How long?”
“I don’t know. We’ve given her drugs we hoped might help with the clot. We’ll do our best to keep her alive, at least through today.”
“Today?” Dave didn’t understand.
“It being Christmas,” Remington explained.
Bitterness and anger welled up into a volcano inside Dave, but right before he erupted, the word, Think, spoken by the old gentleman in the waiting room, flashed like a neon sign in his mind. He stood silently. Even though he didn’t believe, he knew Rachel did. Would showing disrespect for her faith be disrespect for her? He decided it would. It was hard, but he chose to swallow the harsh words in his chest. After collecting his thoughts, he asked, “Will she regain consciousness?”
Remington looked at Spence who said, “No.”
* * * * * *
(to be continued)
Tags: Books, Christmas, dogs, Humor, life, publishing, Reading, Writing
Hello – Happy Holidays – Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah! It’s the time year for giving and I’ve decided to give all of you one of the Geezer’s short stories as my gift. And, of course, its his gift, also. I’ve broken the story into three more or less equal parts and will post them over the next ten days to make the reading time reasonable. I believe the story underlines the meaning that giving… the sacrifice we make during the Holidays… implies.
A Christmas Story©
Rachel appeared so normal lying in the hospital bed, if one didn’t see the IV stuck in her arm. Looking at her, Dave found it hard to believe his beautiful daughter was not only sick, she was dying. He watched a nurse read LED numbers on the monitor and transcribe them to a paper held by a clip board. His cynical mind remarked, just like modern medicine…spend millions to develop a machine to analyze a patients conditions, but stop short of recording the results electronically. The woman glanced at her watch, made a final entry on the chart, smiled at him as she hung the clip board on the foot of Rachel’s bed, and left with a smile that he sincerely would have liked to slap off her face. He knew that smile was as phony as the Christmas corsage she wore.
Four days. Four days he’d watched. Four days he’d hoped. Four days the doctors had spoken of possibilities. But…he watched their faces when the masks came off. Their frowns. Their slight head shakes. Their whispered words. Their four days of their lies to him. Doctors were charlatans at best and murdering ghouls at worst.
He looked at Rachel’s closed eyes. Those lids hid the sparkling blue points of light that laughed at the slightest provocation, teared at the most minute sadness, and shone with compassion at someone’s smallest need. How horrible that all those who knew and adored her would be deprived of the love that emanated from them.
His loss would be great enough; he’d had Rachel as his point of pride and as a wall to lean on for thirty-four wonderful years. He often wondered if he would have been able to make it through the grief of losing Ellen, her mother and his life’s love, without Rachel’s indefagible spirit for support. Surely, he’d have gone insane or put a pistol to his head longing for the relief pulling the trigger would bring, without the solace Rachel provided. Consoling, comforting, and scolding when necessary, his daughter guided him through the swamp of despair he was trapped in.
As bad as his loss would be, Russell and the girls would suffer far more. He knew what Russell would experience. Rachel and Russell’s relationship was much the same as Ellen and his had been. Their whole beings were centered on each other, just as he and his wife’s had been. The aimless dejection of Dave’s loss had colored any activity, any thought, any shred of hope with a gray blanket. At least, Russell would be blest with Rhonda, Rhonna, and Rebecca. The three girls would provide him with purpose. At twelve, ten, and eight, their demands and the challenge of raising them…alone…would blaze a direction for him, even if the trail was strewn with obstacles. True, Russell would not have the mature council his, then, twenty-eight year-old Rachel had provided him, but scrambling to guide his children probably would keep Russell out of the depths Dave had reached.
How terrible it would be for the three girls. They were the Three Musketeers with Rachel acting as D’Artagnan for her brood. She’d quit her lucrative position as a rising garment designer to lavish her total attentions on her children and husband. Truly inseparable, the girls had more appreciation of the love and sacrifice their mother made for them than the average adolescents. There were the inevitable clashes that evolve during the parenting process for Rachel had been careful to maintain a line between being friend and mother, but it was one clearly defined, and the children, who had this explained to them, respected it. They were at the point in their lives they would need and miss the guidance of a mother, particularly one who had made its responsibilities her over-riding task.
“Would you like some Christmas Cookies?” A candy-stripper stood next to him. He’d not noticed her, or her companion, enter Rachel’s room. The second girl carried a box loaded with ornaments, ribbons, and gaily festooned miniature Christmas trees. She immediately began looking for places to decorate. The first girl held a tray up to him, smiled, and raised it a couple of inches, inviting him to take some of the sugar or chocolate-chip goodies.
“No thanks,” Dave said coolly.
“They’re very good.” The girl’s smile broadened.
Dave shook his head sharply and said, “I’m sure they are…I just don’t want any.” He watched the second girl place one of the miniature trees on the table next to Rachel’s bed. It made him mad. He had no reason to be, but he was. He watched with contempt and derision.
“Mister, would you like some coffee? I’ll go get you a cup.” The smiling girl holding the tray was patiently waiting.
“Really, it’s no trouble.”
The smile, the questions, the decorations aggravated him. He scowled at the girl who offered him the coffee and cookies. “You want to help…get out. Take your friend and that shit she’s carrying with you.”
“I’m sorry, I di—”
“I know. Just get your buddy and get the Hell out!” Dave’s voice had a nasty edge to it that brought tears to the young girl’s eyes. She rushed from the room, spilling a couple of cookies from the tray as she disappeared out the door.
The second girl stared at Dave as she removed the small tree from the table and returned it to the box. As she left, she bent over, picked up the cookies from the floor, and tossed them into a waste can next to the door. She looked at Dave and tilted her head to one side after she straightened back up. “We’re just trying to make being in this place a little nicer on Christmas.”
Dave pointed to the door and glared at her.
The girl rolled her eyes, said, “Merry Christmas,” and left before Dave could dismiss her with more vitriol.
A shrill, “Beeeeeeeeep—beeeeeeeeep—beeeeeeeeep” coming from the monitor attached to Rachel, returned his focus to his daughter. He could see no change in her, but the machine screamed incessantly. “Rachel! Rachel!” he shouted. He spun to get a nurse, but one practically ran over him at the door. She immediately screamed to an unseen person in the hall, “Get a respirator in here, stat!”
She looked at Dave, waving him outside. “You’ll have to leave. Go to the waiting room and stay there until someone comes to get you.”
* * * * * *
Tags: animal tales, Books, Christmas, dogs, Entertainment, Fox & Friends, funny stories, holidays, Humor, life, Media, publishing, Reading, Writing
Christmas is coming with all the seasonal movies, songs, and stories that add meaning and warmth to the celebration. Humans have their “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” and “A Christmas Carol.” We have our canine art forms written, performed and produced by great canine literary figures. Who can forget “A Canine Family’s Christmas” starring Rin-Tin-Tin, Lassie, and Toto, directed by Michael Mutt and produced by Cecil B Wienerhound. Or that classic composed by Irving Boxer, “I’m Dreaming of Turkey Left-overs.” crooned by the all-time woofer, Bling Cocker. My personal favorite is the traditional poem written by our immortal bard Fidofus Spot Shakestail, “T ‘was the Canine Night After Christmas.”
T ‘was the night after Christmas
and the humans were done,
leaving the scene
for us dogs to have fun.
The house guests left early
with mess all around,
unaware that we dogs
in the middle would bound.
There were napkins to chew
and cookies to eat
and broken presents
that were hard on my feet.
Glasses full of liquor
sat on the floor.
I gave out with a snicker
as I nosed over more.
Under the tree
there was something for me.
A tasty new slipper
and a fruitcake I found,
which the cake– it was harder
than the slipper to down.
The living room air
that once was so fair,
now to be most honest and very clear,
was thick with the odor of stale farts and beer.
My tongue was engaged
with the dip for the chip
when I spied our cat Rufus
rolling in tinsel from whisker to hip.
After that rascal I went with a bound
sure that I’d catch him, but sadly I found,
stopping on floors that were made very slick
just wasn’t something a dog can do very quick.
The sturdy green pine with balls blue, red and gold,
went to the floor like a paper you’d fold.
I was in trouble, I knew when on went the light.
The master came running, he was primed for a fight.
But as he surveyed me and the riotous scene,
The most he did muster were words most obscene.
I heard him exclaim as he went to the rear.
“Where in the hell is the Pepto my dear?”
Ere he went into the bedroom and out of sight,
he mumbled softly like a moth in full flight
“There are some things that happen
you can’t face at night.”
You just can’t beat the works of the old masters.