Web Site: Ann Gray Presents a Trilogy - New Stories from the Old South
A nostalgic woman wishing for the "good old days" discovers the benefits of modern day medicine when her husband falls ill on the Interstate.
Cruising up Interstate I-95, we watched the digital trip mileage counter on the instrument panel click off two hundred miles after we crossed over the Florida-Georgia state line.
In the driver’s seat, my husband turned to look at me, grinning, and asked, “Now, beautiful bride of mine, how does it feel to be on our fiftieth wedding anniversary vacation?”
“Oh, honey, you’re so generous, having suggested this trip to tour our nation’s capitol.” After a few moments, I sighed and said,” But, just see how things have changed!” I shook my head. “I can’t help but notice how the landscape has disappeared since our last vacation. Why, within the last few miles I’ve seen nothing but off ramps, on ramps, and an occasional "food, gas, and lodging" sign. Honestly, it’s so sad! Don’t you ever long for the days when you could actually see a cow or a barn along the side of the highway?”
“Not really—” Charlie answered, grinning. “There’s a lot to be said for living in today’s world, actually. Think of the electronic and medical advances we profit from every day without giving them a second thought. Computers and cholesterol lowering drugs are just two examples that immediately come to my mind.”
“Oh, my good heavens!” I winced, as a driver nosed his car into our lane only inches ahead of us. “Everybody is always in such a hurry these days! You didn’t have to drive seventy or eighty miles per hour in the old days to keep up with traffic, either!
Eyeing his rear-view mirror, Charlie interrupted, “Uh-uh! You’re right about one thing, Hon, and that’s for sure! Back then, you didn’t have to worry about semi-trailer truck drivers about to run you down while they’re dead-heading it back to the barn!”
I looked in the passenger side mirror and saw the smoke-belching monster eating up the highway as it approached our car at an incredible speed for its size. It couldn’t possibly be traveling within the posted speed limit. In moments it would be in our trunk. That driver certainly must have been as Charlie had said, "headed to the barn."
Blinker clicking, Charlie quickly took advantage of several small gaps in the seventy-five mile-an-hour traffic to move over one lane at a time, making room for the trucker who continued barreling down on us in the fast lane.
When the emergency was over, I said, “Wow, that was un-nerving. How can drivers of those monsters be allowed to force cars out of their way like that?”
Without answering, Charlie grew pale and the car began slowing perceptibly. “Take the wheel for a minute, will you, please, Debbie. Suddenly, my jaw’s aching like crazy.”
When our eyes met again, I could tell Charlie was scared and because he was scared — so was I.
I managed to steer the car to the side of the highway without incident, and fortunately, a compassionate fellow traveler took note of our difficulty and stopped directly behind us.
Surprisingly, Charlie didn’t object when our good Samaritan called 911 on his cell phone. We’d been intending to get one of those gadgets for ages.
The good Samaritan’s call immediately brought emergency vehicles to our location with police and fire trucks, each adding their voices to the cacophony of blaring sirens as they converged on us from both directions.
One of the arriving policemen was kind enough to drive me, shaken and scared, to the local hospital in our car behind the emergency ambulance as Charlie, paler still, was hauled away.
So much for our relaxing vacation.
After an hour’s interrogation by combined police and hospital personnel in this unfamiliar Georgia town, and the filling out of a mountain of necessary papers, I had been led to the Family Waiting Room where, along with nine other worried relatives of emergency room patients, I would anxiously await word of my husband’s condition.
In a state of emotional confusion, I concentrated on sorting out my own fearful thoughts. Concerning Charlie’s condition, I was convinced the paroxysm had been a heart attack — its severity yet to be determined.
My immediate impulse had been to call our adult children to inform them of his hospital admission but better judgment prevailed. It would be wiser to wait until I had something to report rather than simply frightening them with an uninformative outcry for my own moral and spiritual support.
Silently, fervently, I prayed for God’s merciful healing touch for Charlie and for His never-failing guidance for myself. Trusting in Him to see us through, I picked up a six months old magazine and settled into an overused, overstuffed chair opposite the door so that I would be able to see anyone approaching the room.
The silver-toned voice on the hospital intercom interrupted my train of thought repeatedly calling for Doctor Evans who had failed to respond to either his first or second page. I hoped Doctor Evans was not being paged for my husband’s sake.
The rustle of a starched uniform reached my ears before the nurse’s imposing figure filled the doorway. “Mrs. Jameson?” she asked, looking about the room from anxious face to anxious face.
“Here,” I answered, pulse suddenly pounding in my ears.
“Come with me, please,” she said, as she stepped out into the hallway. “Your husband is asking for you. You may wait in his cubicle with him for the results of the blood tests and EKG. It shouldn’t be too long.”
The squeak of our rubber soles on the polished floor echoed as we walked the long corridor.
“How is he?” I asked, “I mean, is he in pain?”
“No, he seems to be doing just fine. He’s receiving medication for pain.” She had a well-practiced but sincere smile.
“Thank goodness!” I said, relief emphasized in both words.
In Emergency, the nurse pulled back the curtain on one of many cubicles and I saw my husband, dressed in a hospital gown dotted with little blue triangles, lying on a narrow gurney with a bag, a tube and a needle dripping something into his left arm. She gave the curtain a stout pull in the opposite direction and we were alone.
I leaned down and kissed him. Seldom too ill to joke, my lifelong love lifted his hand to show me his wrist band.
“Look, I’m a prisoner!” he quipped, “but they’ll never get anything out of me.”
“Like what?” I asked, relieved to see that the glint had returned to his lively brown eyes.
“Like how much I love you and how sorry I am that I scared you half to death and how glad I’ll be when they let me out of here so we can get on with our anniversary trip.”
“Our trip? Now, Charlie,” I said, “be serious.”
“I am serious.” He lowered his voice, making sure he couldn’t be overheard by anyone passing the curtained cubicle. “You didn’t tell them, did you?”
“Didn’t tell them what?” I asked, perplexed, and becoming more concerned for his mental condition than his heart.
“You know — about us!” He whispered it, pulling me down closer. “It being our fiftieth anniversary.”
“Oh, that! Of course, I didn’t tell them. Who’d care, anyway?” I asked. “People celebrate fiftieth wedding anniversaries everyday. Besides, we still have three days to go.”
“Three more days —” Charlie said. “Three more days until I reach and mark the most important day of my life.” His expression became more serious. This was going to be something very important! “Bet you didn’t realize that in three days, I’ll be the first man in my family to reach fifty years of marriage, did you?” He laid back on the thin hospital pillow and grinned up at me. “Honey, look at me, I’m a bloomin’ miracle — I am!”
It was true ! I was ashamed that the fact had never occurred to me. It must have been preying on Charlie’s mind for years! Whether or not he’d reach this forthcoming all important day — our fiftieth wedding anniversary!
Both Charlie’s grandfathers, his father, five uncles, and both of his older brothers — they had all been victims of heart attacks at early ages. All of them died — leaving widows — before reaching Charlie’s present age.
Before I could reach out and embrace him, the curtain slid back and a somber young man of about thirty-five entered the tiny curtained space and stood on the other side of Charlie’s bed. He was not wearing the typical TV show’s dazzling white coat with stethoscope draped evenly around his collar.
Instead, he wore a blood smeared, wrinkled green surgical suit with matching cloth overshoes and carried a long, narrow coil of paper in his left hand.
Nodding to me, he reached out with his other hand and shook Charlie’s idle right hand. “Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, I’m Doctor Evans. Sorry I kept you waiting.” Following my gaze, he looked down at his garb, and explained, “It’s been a busy day." Back to Charlie, he said,"Mr. Jameson, you’ve had what we call a very minor ‘incident.’ You may properly call it ‘a warning.’ You can go ahead and dress now. You’re free to go.”
He looked across at me and, after handing me the folded paper, he said, “You’ll want to show these findings to your husband’s cardiologist when you get back home. He’ll tell you what you both need to do. Have a nice trip.”
Suddenly, he broke into a broad grin and pumped Charlie’s hand again —before zipping the curtain back around as he left before I even had the chance to thank him.
“Well, that’s certainly a welcome relief,” I said, as we climbed back into our car inside the hospital parking garage.
We found our way back to the interstate quickly enough, and as Charlie entered the on-ramp and picked up speed, he said, “Let’s see! We only lost four hours back there. We ought to be able to make Charleston by tonight, don’t you think?”
“Charleston?” I said, gasping at his words. “What are you talking about? We should be headed back home. You heard what the doctor said, ‘That was just a warning. You should see your cardiologist as soon as possible.’ That’s what the doctor said.”
“No, honey,” Charlie said, as he moved into the fast lane on I-95 heading north. “The doctor said — and I quote: ‘You’ll want to show these findings to your husband’s cardiologist when you get home.’ Then he said, ‘Have a nice trip.’ And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
“Okay—” I surrendered as we zoomed by another off-ramp. “—if that’s the way you want it, but the children will have to be told soon, and you’re to call Doctor Carlson first thing when we get back home—”
He wasn’t listening.
“Fifty years in three days,” Charlie said, enthusiasm bubbling forth again. “Tell me you believe in miracles, honey!”
“Believe in them?” I answered, the fullness of love for this exceptional man filling me to overflowing. “Why, I’m married to a bloomin’ miracle — I am!”
And I thanked God for His many blessings.
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