The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Nineteen
Happy New Year to You All
“Turn, turn, turn.” The seasons keep proceeding, with our without our permission. The pages of the calendar turn, our age increases daily, the leaves change in color, fall, sprout once again, old men die, while the young see incredible lives ahead of them.
Such is life!
I had planned on this story ending a long time ago, but that would mean saying goodbye to old friends, my characters, and during my lifetime I’ve had to say goodbye to far too many old friends already. Why would I willingly do it to my fictional friends?
So Max and Katie will continue as time allows, and today time allows.
Enjoy my tribute to a modern day family.
It happened on a “Chamber of Commerce” day in early April, low seventies, the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, in Seattle, the Ballard neighborhood if you like specifics, the smell of the tide drifting by on the soft westerly wind, new buds sprouting, grass growing much too fast, kids running and laughing, just a glorious damned day in the city of my birth, me and Dad out front, taking care of some chores, enjoying each other’s company.
And then Dad had a heart attack!
We were talking about the Mariners, our perennial sad-sack Major League baseball team, talking about their chances, even talking about finding our old gloves, maybe tossing the ball around later, and he grabbed his chest and, it seemed, slumped in slow motion to the newly-mowed lawn.
I didn’t wait around to ask questions. I’ve seen too many medical emergencies in the Army, so I sprinted into the house, found my cell phone, and dialed those three dreaded numbers. I swear I had barely done that, shouted to my sister, raced back outside and the Medic One van was there, siren fading, and emergency personnel were taking vitals and slapping oxygen on my old man’s face, neighbors curious, watching from a distance, as if they were afraid they might catch whatever it was that happened, or maybe just giving us space, allowing us to grieve in private.
It’s kind of a blur after that, Jeannie and I racing to the car, calling Mom and Katie on the way, telling them what happened, meet us, hurry, at Harborview Hospital, giving them what we knew, trying to remain positive, Jeannie doing a good job while I drove in a daze, switching lanes, in and out, barely missing a sideswipe, hard to see with damned tears in my eyes.
Grandpa Pete, a Vietnam vet, liked to say “there ain’t no atheists in a foxhole,” and it took me years to understand those simple words, simple truths, the toughest of men, ones who swear they don’t need no gods, don’t need any of that magical, mystical bullshit, will pray like babies when the mortar rounds are dropping and the buddy next to them loses his legs to a “Bouncing Betty,” and on that ride to that hospital I was praying my ass off, making promises, expressing sincere sorrow for transgressions, remembering the words from long ago, bless me Father, grant me this Father, I am heartily sorry Father, just hoping to the Almighty that one of those damned prayers would stick, that somewhere in the netherworld there was some being listening.
They had him in I.C.U. by the time we got there, good people at Harborview, caring people, pros at what they do, a fly-by at Emergency and right to Intensive Care, and someone at the reception desk passed us on to someone on the fifth floor, and finally a doctor, couldn’t have been much older than thirty, sat us down and told us the old man was in trouble but in good hands, and then Mom appeared, and shortly after Kate was there, and we all shed some tears and hugs, telling each other he’s a strong old bird and Mom saying he’s too ornery to die.
And the next thing I know I’m out in the parking lot, just roaming around, horns honking, people yelling at me to get the hell out of the road, and Katie grabbed me, took me over to a park bench, and held me until I figured out where the hell I was. “It’s okay, Max, I’ve got you now,” she said, and me crying like an infant on her shoulder, her hand smoothing my hair, her kissing my cheek. “It’s okay, Max, he’s strong, he’ll make it, this isn’t the war anymore, darling,” and finally my breathing slowed, my heart rate slowed, and I was back in Seattle, back from the Sandbox, no IUDs to worry about, back home, Dad, focus on Dad, and I let Katie lead me back to the room, Room 501, where my dad was receiving what he needed.
What I couldn’t figure out was how he was breathing with that tube in his throat, didn’t make sense, you know, seemed impossible as hell for a human body to do that, and Lord Almighty, wires hooked up, monitors everywhere you looked, beeping, more tubes in his arms, nurses making busy, charts, bright lights, I just wanted to scream at them “LET HIM REST,” but Katie’s hand on my arm, gently squeezing, kept me from further embarrassment, and she sat me down next to Jeannie and Mom, kept holding onto me, and that made all the difference.
And then it was time to wait, at ease, soldier, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, the platoon second Lew used to say, and waiting meant thinking back to a time long ago, playing catch with my dad, going to the park, him hitting flies to me, me chasing them down, two boys of summer, and my first swim lesson, his strong, reassuring hands around my waist, “use your arms, Max, kick those legs,” and Mariner games, hot dogs on a Saturday afternoon down at Pikes Place Market, or a ferry ride to Vashon, a guy and his son, the guy prouder than hell at school games, his son making a touchdown, firing the last strike on a two-hitter against Garfield High, and those strong arms hugging his son, the troop plane getting ready to take his firstborn to Afghanistan, hard to fathom all those years passed so quickly, were all the words that needed to be said clearly stated, like I love you and thank you and . . .
Two Days Later
The doctor told us it was a near-miss, could have been worse, a few things needed to be done, change of diet, no more smoking, cut back on the Jack Daniels, bypass surgery was a life-saver, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen again, and it was up to all of us to make damned sure Dad took care of himself, and we all promised to do that, promised to give him the love he needed, and those promises weren’t hollow by any means, we meant what we said, but still, you know, life is so damned fragile, hanging by a thread, we are, and we damned better make the most of it, love like we are crazed, breathe deeply while we can, jump and run and howl at the moon, because one day, man, it will be gone, a blink, one-thousand one, one-thousand two, and it will all be done.
Katie and I made love that night. She did what women do, man, when the screaming banshees threaten to unravel all that came before, she wrapped me in her arms and took me inside her safe place, her wild red hair falling down on my face, her eyes, those deep pools of promise, allowing me in, allowing me to see the safety of love, allowing me to drop all the macho bullshit and just be.
SEE YOU SOON
I hope so. I hope you are finding enough in this saga that will interest you and leave you wanting more.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)