Fish Crackers

Looking down at his feet, the father couldn’t quite remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday.  “How long have I been here?” he asked himself.   “Two days…or three?”  He noticed his shoes  still looked creamy smooth.  The Italian leather was highly polished, making the burgundy color shimmer under the lights of the hallway.    “I love those shoes, even after all these years,” he thought.

“Excuse me, nurse.  When’s the doctor going to be out?”

“Sir, as soon as he’s completed the exam, he’ll be with you…I’m sure,” she replied,  sounding both annoyed and sympathetic.

Within minutes, the exam room opened and the doctor walked out, somewhat uncomfortably.  “Let’s talk in here,” he motioned to a small room at the end of the hallway.

“Any change?” the father asked.

“Not really.  Your son’s brain’s still is swollen.  If it doesn’t improve within the next 12 hours, he might become comatose.  At that point…well…I’m not sure.”

All the father can do is shrug his shoulders, sigh heavily and lean against the wall.

“Why don’t you go home for a few hours.  Get cleaned up; take a short nap.  We’ll call you immediately if anything changes.”

“I’m not going anywhere.  He needs me;  he needs me.”

“I thought you would say that.  I’ll send some lunch into you.  I’ll check back in a couple of hours.  Maybe you can take a quick snooze in the room.”

“Yeah Doc…maybe.”

The father walked into his son’s room…closing his eyes quickly as he saw the tubes protruding from the side of his throat…and the IV stuck in his little arm.   He slowly and gently sat down beside the bed, rubbing the fine hair on his son’s head, touching the heavy wrap.  “I love you son…so much.  I’m right here.  Promise.  I’m right here.”

He thought about how they’ve grown so close in such a short amount of time.  His mom had been gone for only 5 months, but they had become inseparable.  “I’m lost without you, buddy boy,” he thought.

As he looked up toward the window, with the blinds closed, he could still hear the rain and wind.  His quick dream was interrupted by something he saw, more like felt, out of the corner of his eye.   A movement…a slight burst of air.

“I’m sorry to disturb you sir.”  A man, tall and lean, had walked into the room.  “How is he?”

“Not good.  Are you with the hospital?”

“I often volunteer,” he replied, walking around the other side of the bed.  “He’s very young.”

“Yes, but he’s very strong.   A good boy.”

“Ahhh.  A sweet soul.”

What an odd thing to say, the father thought.   Looking at the volunteer, he saw a man that looked fragile, yet powerful.  “It must be the eyes,” he guessed.  They seemed to change color when he  moved his head.  Blue, then dark green, then light blue.   “Stop staring,” he told himself.

After smiling at the young man, the volunteer slowly raised his head and looked at his father.  “If you don’t mind me asking, are you a religious man, sir?”

“Not really.  I try to believe, but it’s been difficult.  I lost my wife recently and now this.  Faith is hard for me, right now.”

“I understand,” the volunteer replied.  “Faith is a gift that must be accepted.”

“That’s true,” the father giggled, smiling quickly.

“You have a nice smile, sir,” the volunteer observed.  “I can tell you’re a good man.”

The father sat back in his chair, wiped away small tears and looked at the stranger.   His face was old, but the eyes were so young.   His hair was medium cut, thick and blond…ish.  No grey.   “How odd,” he thought.   His face was narrow, as was his tall body.  He looked familiar.  Watching the volunteer softly touched his son’s head, the father asked him, “Have you been doing this long?”

“Ohhhh, for years and years.  I try to bring comfort to the patients and their families.”

“Well, I can tell you that I appreciate it very much.  It’s nice to have someone to talk with, other than hospital folks.  It’s been real nice.”

“I should be going,” the volunteered said, rising from his chair.   “Sir, if I may remind you, the Lord acts in mysterious ways; ways that don’t always seem fair or righteous.  I hope you find your faith.”

Oddly, the father felt relief and comfort from his words.   Most people say those things in passing, but from him, they seemed genuine…and true.  “Thank you,” he said, turning back to his son.

Sensing the stranger leave the room, the father felt that quick rush of air again…and a burst of light.   Spinning around, facing the door, he thought he saw a shadow, a very transitory one at best.  Numbly staring at the doorway…it looked like a shadow of wings!  “You are tired,” he sighed.   The brightness of the room remained.   “The sun must have come out,” he concluded.

“Dad?!”

Spinning so fast that he tripped over the bedside chair, the father could only reply, “Son?!”

His green eyes were open, his voice hoarse and weak.  “Hi, Dad.”

“Hi, buddy boy.”  He felt his nose running and the tears soak his cheeks, his arms shaking.  “How do you feel?”

“I’m hungry.  Can I have some fish crackers?”

Laughing, rubbing his nose and cheeks with his shirt sleeve, the father could only reply, “whatever you want.”  His son just smiled.

“Let me open the blinds and get some sun into the room,” the father snapped.

Yanking on the cord, he pulled the blinds back.  He could only stare at what he saw.   Dark clouds covered the sky.   It was raining harder than ever.

“Dad, I love you.”

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