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.”
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