Saturday, February 12, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 6 - Grand Central Station

The respirator kept a monotonous pace that almost relaxed Bev as she struggled to find a comfortable spot in the chair. Her own breathing was somewhat labored; the light sleep she now found herself in was marked by sporadic and occasionally frantic awakenings. She bolted upright in the chair, the unfamiliar surroundings did not bring any relief. After a few moments the reality of the situation reminded her that she was not having a nightmare; or, at least she was not asleep. Bev looked at the amber monitor lights as if by just wishing, she could make them disappear. A stubble beard now accented the white adhesive tape that held the tubes in place on Sinclair's face. Bevglanced at her watch, nine twenty in the morning; only a few hours ago Sinclair had been on patrol.

Sinclair was motionless except for the forced movement of his chest from the breathing tubes. His face was without expression, what could be seen of it past all the
bandages. What bothered Bev the most was that he did not look like Sinclair anymore.
She tried very hard to see the spirit of Sinclair; a soft gentle soul, the man she had grown to love. Her stomach tightened to think that he was already dead and that only modern medicine with all its machines was keeping his body suspended above the grave.

The door opened unannounced and the floor nurse, a serious looking young woman with a face which seemed to lack human compassion, entered and studied the chart at the end of the bed. Bev waited momentarily for her to say “Hello” or “Good morning”, and simultaneously moved away from the bed to allow the nurse to proceed with her duties. There was no exchange of smiles, only a cursory mechanical nod as she went about her chores.

“Four A, Dosilmeyer”, she checked the tubes to see that they were free of kinks and in proper order as she took note of the monitor connections. She was satisfied that all was as it should be. She wrote some notes on the clipboard that hung from the end of he bed. Without a word she walked over to the next bed.

“Four B, Alajandro”. She adjusted the flow of liquids and immediately the monitor noted the increase. Lifting the sheet that covered a heavily bandaged stump of a leg, she checked the color of skin and made some notes on his chart. As she left the room she looked back for a moment. “There’s a fresh pot of coffee at the nurses station”, she turned and was out the door, not waiting for any reply.

“No thank. . .”, her words fading; the nurse would not hear anyway, “. . .you”. Bev had never tried coffee, even before joining the Church. It was something that never interested her; but, she would have liked a cup of hot chocolate. Still looking at the
door as it closed behind the nurse, Bev wished that she would have at least stayed for a
moment to talk. The man in the bed next to Sinclair had lost his leg in an automobile
accident while driving to his home in Phoenix. She paused for only a moment, then got
to her feet and walked over to him. He had an empty look about him, as if he were all
alone in the world. Bev tried to start up a conversation but he could not reply under
heavy sedation. She took his hand and noticed that he wore no wedding ring. “Did he
have a family somewhere that cared for him as much as she did for Sinclair?”, she
wondered to herself as she stroked his soft hands. “He must be a salesman or an office
worker, no hard work has damaged these hands”, as she noticed the manicured nails. A
weak smile of thanks came to his face even as he slept.

“Mind if I come in Sister Dosilmeyer?”, a quiet but strong voice peeked past the corner of the door. It was Bishop Russell J. Nelson. “I came as soon as your Home Teachers called. They will be along in about half an hour to give him a blessing.

How’s he doing, or is it still too early to ask?” Bev began to cry again as she started to
answer. She really did not know, and thinking about it was more than she could handle
at the moment.

“The doctor said he would be by around eleven or so to check the results of some tests they had run”, she avoided looking him in the eye as she wiped away a stream of tears and coughed to clear her throat.

“He’s fortunate to have a wife who loves him so much. I’m glad to have the two
of you in our Ward.” He was hedging just a little as he made small talk. “I brought you the paper; no mention about it, ‘happened so late into the morning”, as he pushed it in her direction. “Astros really blew a chance last night.”

“Sinclair fell asleep listening to it last night before going into work.”, she closed her eyes to recall the image of him in the recliner. Taking the folded paper made her look up for just a moment to acknowledge the gift.

“I talked with Sister Bailey and she has arranged to take care of the children. She’s going to have them at her house for the next couple of days. All you need to do is ask and . . .”

“Thank you Bishop; I still need to talk to them about their father.” Standing next to the bed, she wanted to run her fingers through his hair, but stopped for fear of disturbing anything.

“I’ll come by later this evening. I have some people to see at the office at eleven, but after that my schedule is open if you need anything just call me at this number”, writing down his private line number on the back of his business card.

Bev accepted the card and put it in her purse, not really looking at it, “Goodbye,
Thanks for coming”. She was alone again. At least when Sinclair was working nights she could let the kids pile into bed with her.

Sinclair was himself very much alone. He could not feel his body and it bothered him. He looked inside his mind but could not find answers. There was a humming in his head, sort of like the sound that electricity makes on a muggy day as it passes through
the high power lines. His mind was hearing the low voltage hum of the monitors that
were affixed to his head. The clip on his ear measured the amount of oxygen in his blood. The monitor read 92 but he could not see it. While he was aware of the humming, he also noticed that there was another noise; much more subtle, but discernible none the less. It was a clicking, but ever so quiet, like the sound a gnat would make while chewing. Sinclair reasoned that it was some kind of binary code like the kind computers used. His mind began to listen to the patterns.

He listened as her warm but trembling pair of lips kissed the tip of his ear and Bev
whispered to him, “I love you”. Her warm breath massaged the soft baby hair on the edge of his ear lobe.

“I love you too”, he thought as loud as he could. His mouth did not respond. He
could not even blink his eyes to let her know how much he needed to hear those words. His heart did beat a little faster and the nurse at the display panel noted the change. His oxygen level increased for a moment, the binary code changed and he now had recorded the number 92 and 94; even if he did not recognize the information.

He thought about his pending trip to the Temple where he would get to do some very special work for his grandfather. Pecaw had died of lung cancer back in 1960. Sinclair would have liked to have visited just one last time; but , the rules at the hospital stipulated no visitors under 14 years old. Sinclair had felt cheated by a stupid rule, Pecaw was going to die; what did it matter how old he was.

The moments of his time spent with Pecaw began to flood his mind. Pecaw’s image was crisp as an Autumn day. Every year for his birthday treat, Sinclair would get to ride the train into the city and spend the weekend with his grandparents. Each September would be like Christmas, maybe even better since it was a day made especially for him. The treat would begin by packing an overnight bag, complete with his worn out brown Teddy. Teddy was blind and had no ears. The soft fur had long been worn away leaving the course under fabric. Teddy’s arms and legs had been sewn back on several times; the battle scars of a well loved bear. The two would then take the short drive to the commuter station late in the afternoon. A train ticket would be purchased from the man behind the cage; making the weekend official. There was something very special about that ticket, it was a magic pass, a piece of a “yet to come” reality that Sinclair could hold in his hand.

After boarding he would wave to his parents and the short trip into the city, his visit with Pecaw was started. He would look at the images that passed his window, small towns and rail crossings with people in their cars waiting for his train to pass so they could go on about their own business. He loved the fall colors on the trees that mapped the path in dabs and dots. Here and there were small fields with other children playing in their coats while he was in the warm coach. For a moment he was with them and then they were lost at the window’s edge as he peered back to catch a final glimpse before the next view would find its way to his window. What was only an hour and a half trip was much more lasting in magic moments for Sinclair as the wheels of the train measured each rail joint along the way. He would watch as the signal lights along the tracks announced the rail status.

“I have an alert on Four A’s blood pressure.”

The train made its way closer to the city and the scenery became more urban. Tenement rows and bill boards replaced the shrubs and trees; deep red bricks instead of orange and yellow leaves. The change was neither good or bad, it was all part of the trip.
He enjoyed the view of endless apartment houses that rocketed by at close range. He would soon be in the heart of the city and he knew that his grandfather would be there to meet him at Grand Central Station.

“Code Red SICU.”, the monotone voice crackled through the empty air of the hospital.

In the back of his mind he worried, just a little, about whether or not Pecaw would be there. It was not a real fear because Pecaw would never let him down, but still in his mind there was the “What if this or that” nagging that one day maybe Pecaw might not make it.

“Mrs. Dosilmeyer please. . .”, as a young nurse escorted her out of the way,
“. . . wait out here. I know that you would like to be near him; but at the moment you’d only be in the way.”

“Code Red SICU. Code Red SICU.” The words continued to pound the corridors.

“Blood pressure is dropping, he’s bleeding inside. Get another line going of whole blood. Keep track of his monitor very closely.”, the nurse barked out in her East Texan drawl.

“Train arriving on Track 5”, the station master’s voice echoed through the massive concrete and steel structure. His mind grabbed the word “track” and inserted it into his on going fantasy. The darkness of the entry tunnel was rapidly being replaced with incandescent blasts from the main terminal.

“Long Island Commuter Special arriving on Track 5”, there were so many people
scattered all across the platform as far as he could see. They were all in their white suits and white shoes. Sinclair began to wonder how come they were all in white. He remembered how dirty the main terminal was and how Pecaw was always reminding him not to touch because of the film of black soot that was on everything; but here they all were in spotless white business suits and the woman all had long white dresses. How strange it all looked, like the first time he had gone to the Temple in Salt Lake City. As the train eased to a stop he began to look for Pecaw among the many who were all gathered at the sliding doors of the train. There were so many people there as he waited inside the train for a moment or so longer, trying to figure out what his next move should be.

“Were loosing him”, the monitors displayed a flat waveform. Sinclair was not sure how to take that as he was torn between living and dying. He wanted to finish his dream; he was dreaming, wasn’t he? He wanted to see Pecaw at the train station.

“What are they all doing down there?”, he looked as his spirit removed the weight of its mortal body. He was feeling so much better now that he was. . . dead?

“Sinclair, you chowder head, you were supposed to go to the Temple and finish the work before you came here. What am I going to do now? Have a hot dog, as long as your here you may as well.” Pecaw was standing at the Nedix Stand eating a hot dog and sipping an orange drink as he talked. Nothing seemed to make sense to Sinclair. The hot dog; cooked on one of those stainless steel rollers, was just as he had remembered. The bun was really just a piece of formed bread resting in a piece of white cardboard. He dabbed some mustard on and took a bite.

A twinge of guilt ran down his spine as he realized that he had let Pecaw down by not completing the Temple work for him. As he backed up into the still open door of the train.

“ I have the papers ready; Sister Burkhardt helped make sure they were all in order. Bev and I were going to the Temple this week.”

“Stand clear of the doors. All Aboard!” The conductor’s voice broadcast down
the platform in both directions.

“Pecaw, wait!” Pecaw had stepped back from the edge of the platform.

“You chowder head, you’ve dripped mustard down the front of your jacket.”
Sinclair looked down to find that he was also wearing a fine white jacket.

“Stand clear!” A serge of voltage slapped his chest as the doctor tried once
again to revive Sinclair. The monitor sprang back into action as Sinclair’s body decided to live again. He felt himself being drawn back inside his body; first the pain and then the numbness of his injured system. He’d been given another chance to live.