Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carson's Best is Yet to Come

Carson was good at being in charge. All of his earlier years were spent in hard, productive labor. A finish carpenter’s job was planned and completed to near perfection —close tolerance meant a good snug fit. One success led to another. Being in business for himself put the focus squarely on performance.

Slowing down wasn’t in Carson’s vocabulary, until recently. And to think that a razor nick was the culprit.

This cruise was his wife’s idea and the timing was right, in between two major bank remodel jobs. Who could have guessed there’d be an outbreak of some virus. Out to sea over 300 people were quarantined, but by then this strange turn of events had gotten way, way out of hand.

When finally back to Florida Carson and Catherine were airlifted on a private jet. Some top doctor in Phoenix sounded optimistic as he dictated an arsenal of prescriptions, bed rest in isolation, more X-rays, and wishful thinking.

Here, alone, was Carson’s first serious thought about living and dying. He concluded that excellent results in the field of medicine was nowhere as reliable as the line of work he had successfully pursued for thirty years. His lifestyle was centered around concrete things, steel and lumber, and numbers that could be verified. Results were identified and earned him a bonus, as well as a comfortable financial return.

But, being infected with some living “things” too small to be visible without huge magnification seemed a world apart from reality. Getting well seemed to be out of his control. He could put on a brave front, and being treated like a know-nothing child he could follow the doctors’ orders. But certainties seemed to have vanished.

Catherine, too, had vanished. Her symptoms were also severe, but someone told him she had been taken to the fifth floor. With her sweet disposition she was probably faring better than he was.

It took too much energy to watch the stupid TV. He slept off and on, not knowing if it was yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Until he was well it really didn’t matter. There was a chain-of-command in place, the business was in good hands.

The notion of wishful thinking came to mind as he viewed the card on the bedside tray. “Want prayer? Want a friendly chat? Ring up Chaplain Charles Cook.”

Prayer? Preaching? Wishful thinking! Carson’s middle name could have been “realistic.”

When a masked Chaplain Cook entered, wearing hospital garb and a picture ID name tag, the patient in 407 motioned him away. Even with a muffled voice you could tell the man was smiling, “I’ll come back at a better time.”

Time. The one word that now most irritated Carson. Weak and tired he was beginning to lose patience, with doctors and nurses, even with himself. Time. What a waste of a perfectly good Caribbean cruise. What a waste of time to spend a week in the Medical Center. What a calamity.

Again the door opened and a masked nurse entered, clad in protective clothes. “You’re awake.”

No reply.

“You must be hungry.”

No reply.

“Did you meet the chaplain? He’s a really nice guy. You two have something in common.” She tried to engage a response.

Carson clamped his lips shut and waved her off with a feeble gesture.

Time. Wishful thinking. But this small stirring of his mind was a good thing. Rising anger would be a good thing, too. Carson had a calamity, and it had to be solved. Carson pulled himself up with sheer determination.

“Ill show them. I’ll show everyone. I will get out of here.”

Then exhausted, Carson slipped down onto the pillows. But this time a firm frown spread across his face.

The softly-beeping electronic array must have told on him. His wife, Catherine peeped around the heavy door and sweetly called out, “You’re better, Carson!”

“Hey, wifey.” He turned to see her entering. Clad in protective hospital garb she did not wear a mask, and did she ever look good.

“They said I could come and visit. Doctor said mine was a mild case. I know it’s an answer to prayer.”

She noticed his frown as he struggled to turn over to face her, but she went right on, “I met the nice chaplain yesterday, and he and I prayed for you right then and there.”

No reply from Carson, so she handed him a sheaf of papers and explained, “Soon as you are up to it, you’ll want to read about that superbug that caught up with 300 of us on the cruise. And here’s an e-mail from your head man at the office. Well, that’s enough excitement for now. If you want a phone brought in I could stop at the nurses’ station and request one. They had orders Do Not Disturb.”

She blew him a kiss and headed for the door.

“Catherine, I am going to get better, prayer or not!”

Finally the room was silent, but instead of welcoming the now-familiar groggy feeling Carson felt irritated. He flipped through the papers.

Sleep which should have rescued him from this medical prison brought instead some really dumb dreams. At one point Carson actually spoke aloud to no one, “Bring me the remote control for this blankety-blank TV set.” But there was no TV program playing, only a nightmare running wild in his weary head.

Carson was grimacing when Dave peered in to spy on him. “Hey. You’re doing better; you’re going to make it.”

“Who are you, and why are you here?”

“Name’s Dave, and I’m going to see that you do some physical therapy.”

So it was that the hospital stay became one irritation after another. Getting well was the only way to get out of this crazy place, Carson decided.

Still acting like he was in charge of something, anything, he did comply with the impositions.

Catherine took full credit for his improvement. The chaplain had introduced her to Angela in the gift shop. Turns out, Angela was a Christian, and over a cup of coffee the two women forged a friendship. Prayer became a conversation with the Lord, and the Bible became a beacon of light. Catherine conquered her calamity.

Tuesday brought a breakthrough idea. A DVD of beautiful scenery shown with a background of calm and melodious hymns was Angela’s latest find.

Tip-toeing into his room Catherine set up the video player; soon soft music embraced her sleeping husband. She settled down on the recliner near the window to watch for the miracle she needed. Time was now a welcome friend. Her prayer was no longer a frantic call to a faraway Creator; today by faith her words were a thanksgiving in advance for that total healing of body and soul.

“Music?” Carson mumbled, opening his eyes.

“And blue skies, ocean, mountains. Just look,” Catherine pointed.

There in glorious color on the big screen was Machu Picchu, the Victoria Waterfalls, the Grand Canyon, the Alps, the Preikestolen cliff of Norway, on and on, wondrous masterpieces to fill the eyes and the soul.

At first the grand vistas were all that was needed; then Catherine joined her small voice with the instruments playing in the background,
“When through the woods
and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur and see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze. Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
how great Thou art, How great Thou art.”

Finally, when silence claimed the room she spoke, “You and I, dear Carson, will go on this same gorgeous trip outside, every day here in your room. That is until Monday.”

“Monday?” A tinge of wishful thinking showed.

“You’re getting promoted to Rehab in six days!”

“Sounds good to me,” a relieved Carson replied in a wavering voice.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” nodded Catherine. “I’ve met the Lord, and can hardly wait for you two to be best of friends. The best is yet to come!”
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by Elaine Hardt ©2008