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by Melissa Martin
11/08/2011 / Short Stories
Josh felt like his heart would explode as he raced back and forth between the two hospital floors. Kate, his wife, lay in the maternity ward with labor pains while his father rested in the intensive care unit after a heart attack. Please, God, help them both, he pleaded.
"How's your dad?" Kate questioned as Josh dashed into her room.
"Dad is doing fine." It wouldn't help for Kate to know that Jim, his father, was in critical condition. Death from heart attacks was common in Jim's family. Kate was ordered to bed rest by the obstetrician for the last 3 months of her pregnancy and Jim, recently retired, took over all the household duties. For the last 9 months the house buzzed with excitement over the joy of a new baby. Kate adored her father-in-law. At times, Josh felt envious of their close relationship. Kate played the role of the peacemaker when the two men butted heads. Growing up with a workaholic father proved to be lonely for Josh. Jim, an admiral for the Air Force, was strict and expected perfection from his son. Jim's dream, to pass on the military legacy to his only son, shattered when Josh rebelled and attended an art and design college instead. A wave of grief flowed over Josh as he thought about his mother. He had been a momma's boy and he still missed her. The look of concern on Kate's face brought Josh back to the present crisis.
"Please breathe with me?" Kate requested with tears in her eyes.
"You know I will," Josh gently stated as he held her hand and wiped the beads of sweat off her face. Josh could sense the uneasiness as the nurse monitored Kate's vital signs. Her blood pressure, due to the edema, continued to rise. An hour later the fetal monitor began to beep loudly. The nurse rushed in and gave orders to the hospital staff to prepare the surgical room. The doctor gave Josh a nod of encouragement as Kate's bed was rolled away. Please, God, let her live, Josh begged.
"How's Kate?" Jim could barely mouth the words.
"She's in surgery right now, but the doctor says everything is under control," Josh tried but he could not hide the strain and worry in his voice.
Tears formed in Jim's eyes. "You know I love Kate and you, very much, don't you son?" The words shocked Josh. Both men had a hard time expressing feelings to each other.
"Yes, dad, I love you too," Josh whispered.
"I wish your mother were here," Jim sadly commented. Both men exchanged glances of understanding. Shelley, Josh's mother, and the peacemaker of the family died three years ago.
The hospital chaplain walked briskly into Jim's room. "Josh, the doctor, wants you to suit up and go to surgery right now!"
After Josh left, Jim questioned the chaplain. "Tell me the truth, is Kate in trouble?"
"Yes, Jim, it's serious."
Rev. Saunders appeared solemn as he conducted Kate's funeral three days later. Jim sat with one arm around Josh while cradling his new grandson in his other arm. The atmosphere was bittersweet. "I don't have the answers to the questions many of you are asking today," Rev. Saunders continued, "but I know there will be rejoicing in Heaven when this family is reunited. Kate and Shelley are spending time together and waiting with anticipation for the day when they will see Seth."
Eighteen years later, three men stood at the airport gate. Seth was flying off to attend basic training for the Air Force. "I'll make you proud of me, grandpa!" Seth exclaimed.
"I'm already proud of you," Grandpa Jim replied as he hugged his grandson. Josh and Jim stared into space long after the airplane traveled out of sight. Seth was the center of both their worlds.
Memories of the years since Kate's death flooded Josh's mind. His dad, an anchor of strength, helped raise Seth. The three were inseparable. Josh lost his wife but found his dad. Josh identified with the prodigal son; he made peace with his father after Seth was born.
"Well, dad what do we do now with all our free time?" Josh tried to add humor to his voice as he winked at his father.
Jim joked back, "We'll go fishing or golfing, I guess, son." For a few seconds their glances met and helda look of camaraderie was exchanged. "Let's start by going to the ice cream social at church tonight," Jim stated.
Josh laughed, "Dad, you're always thinking about your stomach."
Jim joked, "It's no wonder after eating your cooking all these years!"
Josh's thoughts flashed to Kate and his mother. "Your mother and Kate sure could cook." Jim could sense what they were both thinking. Both men grinned. What a family union they would have some day!
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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