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.”
* * * * *