SHADES OF DOUBT 

 

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                    Linda Taggatz                                                                                                                 

 

 

Kel sat alone in the waiting room. The  past few hours had been rough on him. His dad had suffered a serious heart attack while they were out to dinner. He started CPR and had someone call the paramedics. The pair that responded was John & Roy. That eased his mind a little. They even stayed with him after checking with the captain who had told them they could stay as long as they stayed available. Right now they were out on a run.

 

Kel didn’t even see Joe walk in. It wasn’t until Joe put his hand on his friend’s shoulder that Kel looked up. Without saying a word, Kel got up and went to talk to Joe in a more private setting. They went  to the coffee room.

 

“How’s he doing Joe?”

 

Joe just shook his head. “Not good. He’s hanging on. If there’s anyone  you need to call, I suggest you do so.”

 

Kel nodded. “There is. I have the number in my office. I don’t  want to be alone when I talk to her.”

 

“Her?” Joe asked in amazement.

 

“That’s what I said. My sister, Liz. She’s a professional freelance photographer. I have  a number where she can be reached.”

 

“I’ll stay with you while you talk to her.”

 

“Thanks, Joe. It’s going to take a while to reach her. She’s in Ireland, on assignment.”

 

“Wow!” was all Joe could say to that.

 

The pair went to Kel’s office. Kel found the number  and dialed. It took  several minutes before the call went through. He reached the inn where the  crew was staying. He asked to speak to Elizabeth Brackett.

 

“Just a moment sir.” The desk clerk said. Kel loved her accent. Several minutes later, Liz came to the phone. She had no idea who was calling or why.

 

“Hello?” she said.

 

“Hey, squirt!” That was all he had to say .

 

“Kel! It’s great to hear your voice. I’m going to be there next week.”

 

“That’s great, but I need you to come home NOW! Dad had a bad heart attack and isn’t doing great. If you  want to talk to his doctor, he’s right here.”

 

After a moment he heard “No, I’ll talk to him when I get there. I’ll see about getting a flight home tonight.”

 

“Okay squirt. Call me when you get into the airport here. I’ll send someone to pick you up. I’m sorry to  take you away from your work.”

 

“Kel, it was an emergency. I know you wouldn’t have called me otherwise.”

 

“No, I wouldn’t. I’ll see you when you get here.”

 

The call ended. Kel looked at Joe and said, “She’s on her way. She’s going to call me here when she gets in. Now, who can I ask to pick her up?”

 

Joe replied, “Wait till she calls again.”

 

Kel agreed. He left his office. The guys had gotten back from their run. He said, “I’m ok for the moment. I just had to go make a phone call.”

 

They went to the break room. They went there because it was more private. They didn’t ask who he called.

 

Kel poured some coffee for all of them. They knew Kel was worried.

 

“Did I ever tell you guys about my dad?”

 

They shook their heads no.

 

Kel brought the coffee over and put it on the table. He sat down and started talking. “My dad is a single parent. Not by  choice, by circumstance. After mom died he had to raise me and my sister on his own.  Mom  died as a result of injuries  received in an accident. She lingered  a month in the ICU. What happened to her is why I became  a doctor.”

 

John & Roy just looked at him in amazement. “”We never knew that.” John said.

 

Kel replied “No one here does. It wasn’t something I felt anyone needed to know. I think that if they had paramedics at that time, mom might’ve survived.  It  wasn’t easy growing up without a mom around. Her mother tried to have dad declared an unfit parent. It didn’t work. The judge felt  that since my other grandma was willing to help and that we had been through enough already, that it was best we stay together.”

 

The guys were amazed at that. “Your dad did a fine job.” Roy said.

 

Kel smiled and said, “Thanks. Things were tough at times. The only way we got through it was by pulling together. We did have disagreements. You should’ve heard the arguments  we had when I told him I wanted to be a doctor. He wanted me to become a lawyer. The arguments bothered Liz enough that she said something. We reached a deal after that.” Kel described the deal.

 

The guys just grinned. “As you see, I made it all the way.” Kel told them.

 

Kel went on to tell them about some of the things that happened during his growing up years.

 

“I got razzed a lot by some of the kids. They didn’t understand what it was like for me.  It was hard. We were lucky that Grandma Brackett was willing to help us out. She was there when we wanted someone to talk to.”

 

“How did Liz handle it?” John asked.

 

“She didn’t really get to know mom well at all. She was just a baby when mom died. She and dad had problems. Liz always talked to me. She always felt she could tell me anything. I always felt I could tell her anything too. She told me that she loved taking pictures. I’m the one who suggested she go into that.

She’s 10 years younger than I am. When you see her, she looks enough like me that you’d know we were related. She was going to be here next week anyways. She’ll probably tell me about it when she gets here.”

 

Kel was tired after the long night.  He stretched out on the couch in the lounge and tried to sleep. The guys stayed with him. They would leave when they had a run or when it was time for them to go off duty. They would be back either way. The guys dozed off. They weren’t going to let Kel be alone at a time like this. Kel dozed off too. He was dreaming of when he was a kid.

 

‘ “Kel, I know you’ve been feeling a bit neglected since Elizabeth came.” Kel nodded. He was 10 and had been the only child most of that time. Now, he was a big brother. He loved his baby sister and was good with her. That  fact didn’t go unnoticed by his parents. They had agreed that mom would spend a special day with just him. That was to be that coming Saturday. Just the 2 of them. Dad would take Liz over to Grandma’s for the day. It would be good for dad to spend a day with Liz.. Mom dropped him off for the first day of school for the year.  “I’ll see you later and I love you.” Mom had told him. He hugged her and said “Love you too mom.” Then he got out of the car and went in. He didn’t know that the last thing his mom would say to him was that she loved him.  He didn’t know that the next time he would see his mom she would be connected to tubes and wires.

 

The moment that he was told about his mom’s accident still stuck in his mind. So did the words ‘She’s in God’s hands now’ and his wavering at the words ‘Thy will be done…’ and his wondering what that was. He was beginning to wonder just what that was now.  His mind flashed back to just a few hours ago.

 

Kel had been looking forward to this night for some time. It wasn’t often that he and his dad got together for anything these days. Not with Kel’s work schedule. He was busy but always said ‘I’m not too busy for you dad.’ But work usually got in the way and they seldom got together. Kel wished they that his work wouldn’t get in the way as much so they could get together more often. His dad said he understood. Tonight was one of those times. Kel cleared his schedule for the next  week. They were going to go fishing tomorrow. Something they hadn’t done in some time. Kel picked his dad up right on time and they went to the restaurant. They were talking on the way there. During dinner they got caught up with each other. All of a sudden , dad turned pale. Kel got worried and asked “You ok dad?” The reply was “Well, I’ve been having some indigestion lately. I’ll be ok.” Kel said “I’ll take you to get checked out before we go tomorrow.” Dad agreed. He was actually feeling worse then he’d let on. Kel knew there was probably more than what his dad had told him. His dad never wanted to worry him. Kel worried about his dad anyways, he just never let on to his dad how worried he really was. Then after a few more minutes, dad grabbed his chest, said “Kel, I don’t feel so good.” Then collapsed. Kel dropped his fork on the table  then jumped up and dashed over to his dad’s side. It was a heart attack. Kel found no pulse and started CPR. A waiter came by,  Kel stopped him and said “Call the Fire Department! Tell them it’s a heart attack and HURRY UP!” The waiter  dashed to the phone and did that. He told the manager about it. The manager went to see what he could do to help. Kel said “Guide the paramedics over here  when they arrive.” The manager waited at the door for them. When the paramedics arrived  the manager led them to the table Kel didn’t look up when they got there. Not until he heard a familiar voice say “We’ll take over now.” He was relieved of the CPR by the paramedics. He helped them when they started the EKG. Then he sat  aside and watched them work. He told them what had happened when they asked. When asked if there was a history of heart problems, he said “Yes, he had a mild infarction several years ago.” The guys took care of  dad and then John said as they were ready to transport, “Doc, why don’t you ride in the squad with me? You’re in no shape to try driving.” Kel agreed and went with John after grabbing his and dad’s coats. Kel even helped with the equipment. Then he got into the passenger side of the squad. He turned to John and said, “I’m glad it was you and Roy. You’re great at keeping the family members calm.” “Thanks Doc.” John said. Then John said  “I’ll see if we can stay available at the hospital. No one should have to go through something like this alone, besides, you and your dad  are like family.”

That comment made Kel feel a bit better. He said “John, I don’t have much family in this world. So that  means a lot to me.” They got to Rampart in a short time. The ambulance went in first followed by the squad. The ambulance unloaded its precious load. Roy went in with Kel’s dad and John and Kel came in shortly after that.

 

Meanwhile, in Ireland, Liz had rejoined her crew mates.  They could tell something was wrong.

 

The crew chief asked “What’s wrong Liz?”

 

“My dad had a serious heart attack in Los Angeles. I have to get home. My brother said it didn’t look good so I have to go tonight.”

 

“Ok. I’ll help you. The first thing we’ll do is contact the local American consulate and see if they can help. You go get packed and ready to go. You’ve done a great job with us Liz. We’ll miss you for the rest of this assignment. “

 

“Thanks.” Liz left to get her things packed. She prayed that she’d get home in time. She knew Kel probably wasn’t alone, but she also knew he was probably going through hell. She wanted to get home  soon as possible.

 

The crew chief called the local consulate and explained the situation. The consulate got right on it.  It  only took  an hour to set it all up. The crew chief  and Liz waited for the driver from the consulate to come. The driver arrived and picked her up. She had everything ready. The driver said  “You can call from here if you  want.”

 

“Thanks, but I told my brother Kel that I’d call him from the airport when I got in.”

 

“Alright. The consulate said  I was to tell you that it would be ok to call.”

 

“That’s so kind. I’ve never been called home from an assignment before. He hated to do it but it was an emergency situation.”

 

Liz  and the crew chief got all her things loaded into the trunk. Everything was all set up. Her bags would be checked through without delay.. She would be rushed through  since this was a family emergency. She would always be grateful for the kindness she had been shown.

 

She boarded the plane after a few formalities. She took her seat by the window and buckled her seat belt.

She silently prayed she’d have a safe flight. She knew it would be a long flight. She settled back and got comfortable. She was anxious to get under way. It wasn’t long  before the preflight instructions. Then the plane started to move. Liz was lucky enough to get booked on a Concorde. Now, she’d be in New York in no time, then she’d catch a connecting flight to L.A. She’d be home quicker that way.

 

The plane took off and headed  towards the west. Liz wondered what Kel was doing right then. As the plane turned to go over the ocean, Liz looked  down at it. Normally she’d be admiring the view, but her mind was elsewhere. She thought about what was going on back home. She only knew she was needed there as soon as she could get there.

 

Kel was in a fitful sleep. Not fully asleep but not  fully awake either. He was aware of things but getting some rest. The guys had had a couple more runs, nothing major. They came back each time. They had arranged to have  Dix stay with him when they went to go off duty later. Until they could come back.

 

On the plane Liz ate what was served even though she wasn’t all that hungry but she knew she needed the strength for what  ever was ahead. She dozed off somewhere over the Atlantic. Her mind wandered back to when she was a little girl.

 

She was laying in bed but  couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t sleep, not with the arguments that were going on between her dad and brother. She got up and closed the door to try to block it out, then she cried herself to sleep. Her sleep was interrupted by yet another nightmare. She woke up screaming. Both her dad and brother came running. “What’s wrong squirt?” Kel asked as he held her. Dad said next to them. “I had a bad dream again!” She wailed. “I get them every time I hear the two of you arguing like that. I wish you two would stop.” Kel and his dad looked at each other and realized she was right. “Dad, I think we can reach an agreement that we can both live with.” Kel said to his dad. “I agree.” Said dad. “Let’s go downstairs and find one.” “Ok, dad. Let’s get Liz back to bed first.”

Kel & his dad got Liz settled back in bed. Then they went downstairs and talked until they reached an agreement. When they had, they went to bed. Liz was asleep, but Kel would tell her about it in the morning. There was more they would say to her, but it would wait until the next day. The next day the men were up before Liz was. They were waiting for her so they could go to breakfast. Liz came down she had gotten dressed before she came down. “Grab your coat squirt.” Kel said. “We’re going to breakfast to celebrate.” During breakfast, Kel told Liz about the agreement they had reached. Dad said “It was thanks to you saying something that we did. Why didn’t you tell us sooner that our arguing was giving you nightmares?” Liz replied “Because, I thought you two would’ve settled it before I had to.” Kel said “I wish you had told us. We would’ve ended it sooner. You know we both love you.” Liz looked at them and said “I love you both too.’ They spent the rest of the day together, something they wouldn’t be able to do too much longer. All 3 enjoyed the outing.

 

Liz woke up as the plane approached New York. She saw the Statue of Liberty against the rising sun. She was thinking it was too bad her camera was in the baggage compartment. She got to the airport in New York. She had just  enough time to  freshen up and use the bathroom. She took advantage of that.

When she was done, someone met her and got her to the next flight. She was rushed through the check in. Her luggage was  transferred to the plane to L.A. She boarded the flight and settled in. The flight took off as scheduled. Liz was buckled in and next to the window. As the flight went on, she looked out the window and remembered the first time she traveled cross country.

 

Liz had a plan. She took all the money she had saved up and snuck out to the bus depot with a suitcase and her camera. She bought a ticket to Baltimore, to the one and only person she  felt she could really talk to. She didn’t tell anyone where she was going, but she felt that no one really cared if she was there or not. She had to talk to SOMEONE. She knew she could talk to her brother. It was a long, lonely trip, but she arrived safely. She was surprised to see that he was waiting at the bus station for her. “Did you really think they wouldn’t call me and let me know you ran away? I told aunt Jean I’d take care of you. Come on, let’s go. You’ll be staying on campus with me. My room mate moved out temporarily so we could have some privacy. We have a lot to talk about.” Liz looked at him and said “You’re not mad at me for  this?” Kel smiled and said  “No. I’m not mad. I will have to call home and let them know that you’re here and you’re ok.” Liz thought about that a minute, then said “Fair enough.” Kel got her back to the room. He showed her where everything  was and let her settle in while he called home. “Hungry, squirt?” Kel asked . “Yeah.” She said. “There’s a small diner on campus. We’ll go there and eat.” They walked over to the diner. They talked as they ate. Liz noticed one waitress was eyeing Kel. “I think she likes you.” Liz said. Kel glanced over and saw  her. Then he turned back to Liz and said, “She’s in one of my classes.” They had much to talk about that night. “How was the trip?” Kel asked. “Beautiful.” She said. I took  pictures of different places we stopped. Was anyone there mad when you talked to them?” Kel said “No, just  worried. I told them that you were ok and would be safe with me.” Then the time came for her to go home. Kel bought her ticket home. She had a new perspective after talking to Kel. She took his advice and sat down and talked to  dad. Things got better after that.

 

Liz regretted running  away like that. At the time it felt like the only thing she could do. She had to talk to someone and felt that dad wasn’t the one. He seemed so distant at that time. Eventually, their relationship improved. She regretted not being in touch with her family  as much, but her job sent her  to different places. She always let them know where she was going and left an emergency contact phone number. This was the first time that number had ever been used. She missed  her family and they got together as a threesome so rarely. Just when ever she was home and that wasn’t very often. She felt bad about that, but as dad once said “Don’t feel guilty about following your dreams.” He said that to Kel and to her. Their dad knew they were both doing something they loved. She loved him for letting her follow her dreams. Kel had been right about one thing, it had been easier for her to follow her dreams than it had been for him. Liz was awakened when the stewardess  came to ask her what she wanted to drink. “Coffee please.” Liz told her. The stewardess brought the coffee a short time later. Liz took it and said “Thank you.” Then she returned to looking out the window.  The sun was starting to come up. Liz remembered a time when her dad and Kel took her to see the sunrise.  They had taken her to the ocean a few hours before dawn. They had all gone to bed  extra early since they had to be up extra early. They didn’t tell her where they were going, just that she was going to see something very special. She did, the start of a new day. Their dad told them both “This is a new day starting. Be thankful for each  one.” They sat on the rocks and watched the sun come up. Nobody said anything more. It was  beautiful. They went for breakfast after that. Kel and Liz  appreciated each day more after that. Before she knew it, the plane was landing at LAX. Liz got off the plane. Then she called  the hospital. She told the person who answered that she wanted to speak to Dr. Kelly Brackett. She heard “One moment.” Kel heard the page and grabbed the call.

 

“Hello?” he said.

 

“Kel, it’s me. I’m at the airport.”

 

“Need a pick up from there?”

 

“Yeah, I do.” Liz had told the consulate guy that she’d call her brother when she got in and he’d find someone to get her.

 

“Okay. I’ll send someone. He’s hanging on yet.”

 

Kel covered the phone with one hand and said “Would one of you  guys go see if Vince is around.”

 

“I’ll go.” Roy said.

 

“Thanks Roy.”

 

Roy went to find Vince. It took a bit of doing  bur Roy did find him in the coffee room, filled him in and brought him back to the lounge. Kel told Liz to hold on  a minute. He handed the phone to John.  John looked at him with a question. “Talk to her John. I need to talk to Vince for a few minutes..” John nodded.

 

Vince said, “Roy filled me in. How can I help?”

 

“I need you to pick my sister up at the airport. I have a recent picture of her in my office.”

 

Vince followed Kel to his office. Kel found the picture and handed it to Vince. “This was taken about six months ago. That was the last time she was home.” 

 

Vince looked at the picture. “Okay, I’ll go get her. I can see some resemblance.”

 

“There is some, but I think she looks a bit more like mom. God’s speed Vince.”

 

Vince left for the airport. Kel went back to the lounge and got the phone again. He didn’t see that the chaplain had arrived. Kel said “Liz, I’m sending a deputy to get you. He has a picture. His name is Vince and you’ll like him. He’ll get you here fast.”

 

“Alright Kel. I’d like to meet  that fellow you put on the phone. He sounds very nice.”

 

“He is and you’ll meet him when you get here. See you soon squirt.”

 

They traded byes and each hung up. Liz got everything together and waited for Vince. Kel turned and saw the chaplain. “When did you get here?”

 

“Just a couple minutes ago. I heard what happened when I came in. I don’t know what to say right now except I’m sorry to hear about this.”

 

“Thank you.” Kel said.

 

“Come on, let’s pray.”

 

Kel said “That’s what I’ve been doing all night.”

 

The chaplain smiled. “I understand.” The chaplain started the Lord’s Prayer. Kel joined in. “Our Father…” Kel was ok until it came to “Thy will be done…” It was at that point Kel stopped cold. The chaplain noticed  and asked him about it.

 

“It’s because it’s a hard and heavy thing being asked.” Kel looked at the chaplain and  said with  a hint  of frustration, “What kind of a doctor am I if I can’t even save my own dad?” There was an angry tone in his voice. “This makes  me wonder why I went into this  profession in the first place. Sometimes I wonder just  how much good  I’m doing. Like, I’m not making much of a difference. Like, nothing I do matters. Sometimes  I wonder if it was all worth it.”

 

The chaplain looked at him curiously and asked “Is this the first time you’ve had qualms about that part?”

 

“No, it’s not. The first time was when I was ten.”

 

“What happened then?”

 

Kel steadied his nerves enough to start. “My mom was in a bad accident. She lingered in the ICU for a month before she finally died of her injuries. Dad and I were with her at the end.. It was the first time I ever saw dad cry.  I didn’t fully  understand then what that phrase meant and right now I’m not so sure  either. I’m not sure of anything right now. I’m having doubts about everything.”

 

“I understand. I have to struggle with that too. People expect me to have to have all the answers. It bothers them when I don’t. Then I have doubts and my faith is shaken. Right now, you’re worried. But, you’re Kel, a worried son. Leave his care to Joe Early. I’ll wait with you until your sister comes. Then, we can all go see him and pray together. You just have to put him in God’s hands.”

 

Kel turned his head  at that last statement. His eyes  teared up. He’d heard something similar when he was 10. His mind flashed back as he told the chaplain the story.

 

He was sitting in a waiting room with his dad while the doctor was checking on his mom. The doctor  came out and  said there was no change in her condition. His dad asked if there was anything more that could be done for her. The doctor replied “No, we’re doing everything we know how for her. She’s in God’s hands now.”

 

“I didn’t know what that meant. I felt so helpless at the time. I feel that way now. When that happened at dinner, I didn’t think, just reacted. I knew he’d be in good hands when I saw which paramedics came. They’ve stayed with me all night since. They’ve only left when they’ve had a run, and they made sure I wasn’t alone before they left. I’m kind of glad of that. I don’t think I could’ve stood  being all alone.”

 

The chaplain listened as Kel described what happened with his mom and what had happened at dinner that evening. “He said he hadn’t been feeling  well lately. He was going to come in and get checked over  in the morning before we left for  fishing, Now he’s in here and he might not  make it.”

 

Kel went silent. He didn’t know what else he could say right then. He was getting sleepy but he had to stay awake a while longer. Liz would be coming soon and would want to be filled in.

 

Vince had picked up Liz who arranged to have her luggage delivered to Kel’s office later. She wasn’t wasting any time. All she had was her personal things. Vince made the run from the airport with red lights and sirens going. He called  his dispatcher and let them know where he was going.

 

Before long they had arrived. Vince dropped her off at the Emergency entrance. Liz grabbed what she had and went in. Vince came back in after parking. He took her to where Kel was waiting. When he saw her he got up went over to her and hugged her.

 

“I’m happy to see you. You can tell how you got here so fast  later. Right now  we want to talk to his doctor."

 

“Ok. Whatever you think best Kel.”

 

He had her sit down. He introduced her to the chaplain and then he paged Joe.

 

The three of them waited for Joe.  John & Roy came back. “Is there anything we can do for you Doc?” John asked. “If you don’t mind, my car is still at the restaurant. Could you go bring it here?” Kel tossed them the keys.

 

Roy caught the keys. “Sure Doc. We’ll  get it here when we get off duty."

 

“Thanks guys. See you in a few hours or so.”

 

“Sure thing.” The guys replied.

 

Kel noticed John eyeing Liz. “Introductions later.” Kel said to both John & Liz.

 

Joe came in. Kel introduced Liz to him.

 

“Hi Liz. Nice to meet you.”

 

“Nice to meet you  too.” Liz replied.

 

Kel filled Liz in on the details of  what happened.

 

Joe then filled them both in on the current situation.

 

“May we see him now?’ Liz asked.

 

“Of course. Follow me.”

 

Kel turned to the chaplain and  indicated that he should come too. The chaplain came  too.

 

On the way,  Kel  asked  Joe what the prognosis was. Joe replied  “It’s not good.”  Then he used simple terms so Liz could understand.

 

Kel, Liz, and the chaplain went in. The chaplain stood back and let Kel & Liz see their dad. He was hooked up to the EKG and on oxygen.

 

“Why is that thing beeping like that Kel?” Liz asked referring to the EKG.

 

“Be glad it is. It means Dad is still hanging in there. We can’t stay too long, just a few minutes.”

 

“Ok, Kel. I understand.”

 

Kel and Liz sat down on either side of the bed. Each took a hand. Liz started to talk.

 

“Hi dad. I don’t know if you can hear me, but I came as fast as possible when Kel called. I could only imagine what he was going through. It had to be hard on him, going through hell alone. I can only imagine what was going through his mind with all this. God only knows. I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you both.

 

Kel started . “Dad, you scared me tonight. You know I don’t scare easily. Liz is right  about  me having a tough time with this. You know I’m gonna worry about you, the same way you do us. The reason we do is because we both love you.”

 

Kel started to choke up, so he stopped talking. Liz couldn’t say more. The chaplain came forward and led a prayer. Then they left the room. The chaplain told them he’d stick close and would be there when he was needed. Kel thanked him.

 

Kel looked at Liz and said “You look tired.”

 

“I am.” She replied.

 

Kel took her to his office and said  “Get  some rest on the couch. It’s quite comfortable.”

 

“Where will you be?”

 

“I can sleep in the chair. It’s not too bad.”

 

Before she could protest he said “I insist on it. “

 

“Alright then. I’ll do it.”

 

Dix came by . She stopped and asked  “How are you holding up Kel?”

 

“As well as can be expected.’ He looked at  Liz and said “Liz, this is Dixie. Dix, this is my sister, Liz.”

 

“Nice to meet you Dix. Kel’s told me a lot about you. I know he probably hasn’t said much about me to you.”

 

Dix replied, “No, he hasn’t. Just that he loves you and is proud of you.”

 

Liz smiled. “He’s my best friend too. I could tell him anything.”

 

Dix smiled. “It sounds like you ‘re close.”

 

“We are. We always have been even though there’s a ten year age difference. Dix, I really need to try to catch some sleep. I had a long night.”

 

It was a tough night. Kel and Liz slept in bits and pieces. At one point Kel dreamt he saw his mom. She told him in the dream that she was looking forward to being with his dad again soon. Kel woke up with a start. He quietly slipped out and checked on his dad. Dad was still hanging on. The guys came and went as needed. They were staying close as was the chaplain. The time seemed to pass slowly.

 

It felt like forty-eight days instead of the actual forty-eight hours since the paramedics had wheeled  Mr. Brackett in. Kel had managed to grab a shower, but hadn’t bothered to shave. He hadn’t even been home since this all started. He looked a mess. Liz wasn’t faring any better.

 

Dixie McCall watched from a distance as Kel and the Hospital Administrator talked. As a nurse with years of experience she could only guess at that conversation. The discussion ended and the Administrator walked away. Kel seemed to slump. She remained at her station as Kel dragged himself up to her.

 

She said nothing; he’d speak soon enough.

 

“I’ve been relieved of duty.” He said in a monotone.

 

“That’s not the way he said it.” Dix admonished her friend.

 

“May as well be.” He said irritably.

 

“Kel.” She tried to comfort him. “Your father is seriously ill. You haven’t slept in two days. How can you be of assistance to your patients, the hospital, your father, your sister, or even yourself? You know just as well as I do that if you don’t rest you’ll be of no use when you’ll be needed most.”

 

He took a deep breath. “I guess  you’re right. Then added “Damn it Dix! I’m a doctor! You’d think I could do more!”

 

She smiled at him. “Good to know that you are only a doctor and not God. You won’t make a very good God, Kelly Brackett.”

 

Despite the severity of the situation he chuckled at her teasing.

 

Dix spotted Liz Brackett pacing the hall. “Liz” she called  out softly.

 

“Hey Dix.” Liz smiled thinly.

 

“How are you keeping up?”

 

“Barely.” Liz confessed. “How long can this go on?”

 

Dix didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. “Buy you a cup of coffee?”

 

Liz nodded and the two women headed for the Doctor’s  lounge. They entered to find Roy still keeping vigil. He and John were on duty but were allowed to stay as long as they stayed available.

 

“How are you doing?” His concern was for Liz.

 

“Holding on.” She replied.

 

The hospital was buzzing with its normal activity.

 

The bustle of the hospital was snapped  by a CODE BLUE. Kel and Liz’s father had taken a turn for the worse and help was needed STAT!

 

Kel looked like a trapped animal. There was no way they’d let him in the room, doctor or not. Liz clung to her brother. Dad was the only parent she really knew. Their mom having died when she was a baby.

 

Dix pitied them. “I’ll go see what’s happening and be back soon.” He nodded as Dix virtually sprinted out of the room, nearly knocking John over as he was about to enter.

 

A short time later they were waiting just  outside the room where their dad was. The chaplain had heard the call and dashed to join them. Kel found the chaplain’s presence comforting, so did Liz.

 

It seemed  like an eternity but  it was really only twenty minutes. Joe came out. “We managed to pull him through this one, but we might not be so lucky next time.”

 

Kel looked at  Liz  then said, “We talked about that. We decided that if it happens again, just let him go. Mom’s waiting for him.”

 

Joe looked at them. He knew how hard it was for them to come to that. He agreed to do that and put a DNR order on the chart. Then he told  Kel  and Liz  they could go in. The chaplain went in with them. Kel & Liz had been in and out of the room many times  since Liz arrived. Somehow they both felt this could be the last time.

 

They sat on either side of the bed and took a hand. Kel remembered back to the day their mom died.

 

Liz was with grandma. Kel was sitting with dad in mom’s hospital room. Mom had been there close to a month. Kel brought his homework along and always did it there, for something to do. It kept him busy and out of trouble. They were in there again when the EKG went flat. Dad pressed the call button. A nurse and the doctor  came quickly. Kel and his dad stepped back while they were checking mom. The doctor son put  his stethoscope away. He looked at them and said “I’m sorry, she’s gone.”

Dad asked  the doctor if they could have a few minutes alone with her before they took her away. The doctor  agreed. Kel looked at his father’s face and saw the pain that was there. He saw  his  father cry. It broke his heart to see that. It was at that moment that Kel decided to become a doctor. Then his dad kissed her hand then leaned over and kissed her lips one last time. He said “I love you Margaret and I’m sorry I couldn’t make it better.” Then he promised to do his best with the children.

 

Dad had done his best with them. It was hard at times but he loved and was proud of them both. Kel remembered many times over the years that his dad toughed it out. Times when other men would cave in.

 

“There’s a point where medicine stops and something much bigger begins.” Kel said.

 

Liz wondered what he meant. Kel told her it was something he’d learned a long time ago, back when he was training to become a doctor. “It’s something they don’t teach in med school.”

 

The EKG started slowing down. Kel signaled the chaplain to approach and do what he had to do. Kel and Liz kept holding dad’s hands. The chaplain had come prepared for this. He put on his official chaplain wear. He led  a prayer and the Lord’s Prayer Kel still hesitated on ‘Thy will be done…’ but he managed it. Then the chaplain administered last rites  to their father. It was during that time that they heard the EKG stop beeping and go into a steady tone. The chaplain finished  and stepped outside so they could have  a few minutes alone with their dad. It was the chaplain who went to get Dr. Early.

 

A bit later Joe came in and checked . When he was done, he put the stethoscope away. He turned to Kel and Liz and said “I’m sorry Kel, Liz. He’s gone.”

 

Kel just nodded and asked if they could  have some time before they took him away. Joe said  “Sure. I understand.” Then he left.

 

Kel said. “I’ll take care of  making the call to the mortuary.” Before Liz could say anything Kel told her that dad had he had prearranged his funeral. “Dad said  he knew how stressful that is and that it would be hard enough dealing with things without that burden.”

 

Liz looked at him and said “He told me about last time we were all together. He said he wanted me to know. He also said  he’d leave the choice of pallbearers to you.”

 

Then they took some time and said their last goodbyes. It was hard on them, but they knew he wasn’t hurting any more and was with mom again. Kel quietly disconnected everything. He wanted to cry but he knew he had to hold up for Liz.

 

“Bye dad. Give mom our love. We’ll miss you but we know you’re ok where you are.” Kel stopped before he fell apart. He knew that if he went on he would  fall apart and he had to keep it together a while  longer.

 

Liz said “Dad, I know we haven’t always  seen eye to eye. I know you and Kel didn’t always either, but we both loved you. We’ll be ok but it’s not going to be easy. Nothing ever was for us, but it’s been worth it.’ Liz stopped before she went to pieces. They just sat there until the orderlies came to move  him. Kel had pulled the sheet over the face after they were done. Then they both stepped aside while the orderlies moved him to the gurney to go to the morgue. Kel and Liz walked behind them and the chaplain followed as they went. Kel held on to Liz as they went. Their heads bowed. Everyone  who saw this  understood and kept respectfully silent.

 

Kel and Liz stopped  outside the morgue door. They watched as the gurney was wheeled in. Then they went back upstairs accompanied by the chaplain. Kel  took Liz to the Doctor’s Lounge  for coffee and  a bit of privacy. The guys were no where to be seen but that was because they’d gotten a run just after the code was called and had to dash off.

 

Neither one said a thing while they had coffee. Then Kel  asked  “Are you hungry squirt?”

 

“Not really.” She replied honestly.

 

“We’re going to need our strength for what comes next. You know,  going through dad’s things.”

 

“I know. It won’t be easy and will take some time.”

 

“I know. Hey, why don’t you stay at dad’s a while?”

 

“I always stay there when I’m in town.”

 

“You’ll need the keys. They’re in his coat pocket. The coat’s in my office.”

 

“Ok. I might as well just take the coat.”

 

“You might as well. I’ll go in with you when we go. Right now, I’m way too tired to even think about driving anywhere even though my car is outside.”

 

“You do have a set of keys to dad’s place don’t you?”

 

”They’re at home. So I can get in there even if you’re not there. I’ll tell the  landlady  there what happened. She’s a sweet lady, always trying to set me up with her granddaughter.”

 

“I can see why. You’re a decent  guy and good looking too. I’m surprised some  lady hasn’t caught you yet.”

 

“I’ve had ladies who tried  but none ever worked out. They had problems dealing with what  I do.”

 

“Their loss. I know what you’re really like. I know the you that most people don’t see. I know that you have a great sense of humor  and I’m sure most people don’t know that.”

 

“They don’t because they don’t need to know that.”

 

“I understand that Kel. Around here you have to stay professional, but you are only human. I know they’ve probably seen that side of you.”

 

“They have, more than once.”

 

“I believe that.”

 

Just then John & Roy got back from their run. They went to the Doctor’s lounge to find  a weary Liz and a haggard looking Kel having coffee.

 

“Hey Doc, Liz.” The guys  greeted.

 

“Hi guys.” Kel said flatly. Kel turned to Liz and said  “These two are the ones  I had in mind for  your assignment on paramedics you were telling me about. They’re our very best team and also two of the first in the county.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind when I talk to the chief about the  assignment next week.”

 

“Good.”

 

The guys sensed something was wrong by the way Kel said hi. “What’s wrong Doc?” John asked out of  concern for them.

 

Kel turned to them. The look on his face told the guys all they needed to know.

 

“Sorry. When?”

 

“Less than half an hour ago.”

 

“Is there anything we can do?”

 

Kel looked at them and said “The funeral was pre arranged. All that I have to do is  pick the pallbearers.” He paused. “I’d like you and your shift mates to do the honors if you guys don’t mind. I’ll have to let you know when, where and what time.”

 

“We’ll pass the word along to the rest of the guys and pass your request along too.”

 

“Thanks  guys.” Kel and Liz got up. “Thanks for everything. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’d like to get something to eat.”

 

“Sure.” The guys let them pass. They headed for the cafeteria. Liz had gotten used to eating there and the food wasn’t too bad. They didn’t have much appetite, but they still ate. The next thing they needed to  do was get some sleep if they could.

 

Joe came in. He saw them sitting there and joined them. “How are you both doing?”

 

“We’re hanging in there Joe.”

 

“I got word from administration. They’ve officially put you on leave of absence for as long as it takes  for you two to get what you need to done. I know you’d rather keep working, but you’re in no condition for that. Under the circumstances, I tend to agree.”

 

Kel sighed. “Ok..” He turned to Liz and said “You need some time before starting your next assignment too.”

 

She replied “I’m going to talk to the editor about it. Explain what happened and ask for a delay in starting. I think that all things considered, I’ll get the delay.”

 

“I’m sure of it too. When w get everything settled, how about us taking a vacation someplace together? Heaven knows we’ll need one  after this.”

 

“Good idea. I’ll need time to refresh and relax a bit before  I  start the next assignment.” Liz looked at him and asked “Would you  go with me when I talk to the chief? I know you can help in the selection of stations to cover.”

 

“Sure. I’ll go with you. I’ll even drive you there. It’s tricky to find.”

 

“Thanks Kel.”

 

Kel hung his head down. He was silent for several minutes. Then he slowly lifted his head and said with a hint of anger,  “I should’ve picked up on the clues, I should’ve been able to do more for him!”

 

Liz let him go on before she said gently, “Kel, I talked to the paramedics. They told me you did all you could. They said there wasn’t any more you could’ve done. Even if you had brought dad in, the results probably would’ve been the same. You know as well as I do that someone might check out fine at the doctor and still die of a heart attack the next day.”

 

“Liz, I’m trained  to save lives!”

 

“I know. You always do the best you can but you don’t always succeed. Kel, you’re the one who always says that there’s a point where medicine stops and something much bigger begins.”

 

“True, but this is different..”

 

“Why? Because it’s family this time? Kel, come on, It’s over. There’s no need for you to beat yourself up over this. It was meant to be. I know you miss him. I do too but Kel, if he was going to suffer then he’s better off where he is now. You  told me once that part of your professional oath is ‘first do no harm.’ Would it have been good to have him stay if he was going to suffer? If he did suffer, it wasn’t for long.”

 

“You’re probably right. It just doesn’t make it  any easier though.” He looked at  her and asked “Where did you learn to talk like that?”

 

She looked at him and replied “I learned it from you. You’re my big brother and I love you, always have. I always felt I could tell you  anything. You’re not just my brother, but my best friend  and confidante. I could always trust you with whatever I had to tell you. You never steered me wrong ever. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be a photographer. Your fight to become a doctor despite dad’s objections made it easier for me to follow my dream. Even though I hate being based out of New York.”

 

“You do? Where would you rather be?”

 

“Here. In California. I think I’ll  do it too. I can move into dad’s place if you don’t mind.”

 

“Not at all. You living alone in New York made us a bit nervous. We worried about you  as much as you worried about us.”

 

Liz chuckled. “I took self defense. I thought it might come in handy. “

 

Kel looked at her and said “Good for you.”

 

“Let’s go home squirt. We need some sleep. We’ll take a cab home then we can come back at a later time to get your luggage and my car.”

 

“Ok, but how do we get home?”

 

“By cab.”

 

John & Roy overheard that. John stepped  up to them and said “Doc, I can take you  guys  to where you want to go.”

 

Kel looked at Liz and said “Ok. We’ll go to dad’s place.”

 

Liz agreed.  They finished eating  then went to Kel office and gathered up her luggage. John helped them with it On the way there, Kel told Liz about the dream he had, where he saw mom and what she’d said.  Both Liz & John said  that wasn’t unheard of.

 

 John took them to their dad’s  apartment building. Kel got the  keys out. They went to the apartment and surprised the neighbor who was looking after the place.

 

Kel smiled at her and said “Hello Mrs. H.”

 

“Hello. I thought the two of you would be off on your fishing trip by now.”

 

“Come on in. I’ll tell you what happened.” Kel turned to John and said “Thanks. We can manage it from here.”

 

“Anytime Doc.” John said as he left.

 

Mrs. H went inside with them. Kel had her sit down as he described what happened. He also said that Liz would be moving in.

 

“That’ll be fine. I’m so sorry about what happened. Is there anything I can do?”

 

“Thank you. We’ll let you know.”

 

“You’re welcome.”  She said as she hugged them both then left to pass the word.

 

Kel  closed & locked the door behind her. “Tomorrow I’ll call dad’s lawyer.”

 

“All those details can wait til tomorrow. Even calling the mortuary.”

 

“Right. We need  to rest up now. Why  don’t you  turn off the phones until sometime tomorrow. At least turn the ringers off.”

 

“Good idea. The lawyer can take care of some of those details.”

 

“Then we just need to make two calls. To the mortuary and the lawyer.”

 

“Right. Liz, I talked dad into leaving you this apartment.”

 

Liz started to say something but Kel put his hand up to stop her. “You need a place to stay when you’re here. If you decide that you want to move back here, then you’ll have a place to live.”

 

“What about you Kel?”

 

“I have my own place. I think we should try to sleep a while.”

 

“Ok. Night Kel.”

 

“Later Squirt.” Kel said  as he turned off the ringers on the phones.

 

Two days later the mortuary and the lawyer had taken care of the details and Capt. Stanley had called and  said that the shift would be honored to be the pallbearers. Kel thanked  them. He had told them the time, day and location of the funeral. The reviewal was that evening. The funeral  was at 11 the next  morning.

 

The next  morning the guys arrived  at the church in full dress blues. Kel and Liz were well rested and happy that the lawyer could handle the details  that had to be tended to. He had made a lot of the calls they would’ve had to make, but since he had been authorized, he could get through faster.

 

The funeral went as it had been planed. Kel was glad  his dad had that foresight. He’d done it that way because he remembered  what it had been like planning the funeral for Kel’s mom. It had been stressful and he didn’t want Kel & Liz  to have that kind of stress. That was why he had taken Kel with him one day to pre arrange his own funeral. They had gone to the mortuary and the church. They pre wrote the obituary, leaving the age at death blank for the time being. They took care of everything at that time.

 

Several of their dad’s neighbors came. They all expressed sympathy and were delighted to hear that Liz would be moving in there. Kel was happy to be surrounded  by friends at this time. That way, he didn’t have to be  strong. He could  others be strong for him. He tried, for Liz, but she knew just how close he was to falling apart and breaking down. She knew him better than anyone else. She knew he was trying  so hard to be strong for her. She took him aside and said “It’s ok, you don’t have to be strong right now. It’s ok to let your emotions show. It’s ok if you want to cry.”

 

He smiled at her and  said “You’re right. You know me so well Squirt. You know me better than anyone. You always seem to know what I’m thinking without  me saying anything.”

 

“It’s a gift Kel. Comes  partly from God and partly from being so close to you.”

 

He hugged her. “I’m glad you’re here. I couldn’t do this all alone.”

 

“I know. I’m glad you called me. The chief understood and said to call him when I’m ready to meet with him. I hope I get the guys that were the pallbearers. I like them.’

 

“I’ll recommend  it for you."

 

“Thanks. I think we should get back. People might be starting to miss us.”

 

“Right.” They went back.

 

As time went on, people drifted off and  went home. Kel & Liz got some of the left over food to take home. Then they and the guys went. Both Kel & Liz thanked  them again for all their help.

 

After they got back to their dad’s place, they collapsed into chairs. It had been a long last few days with all that had happened. Liz had decided to make her call the next day. Kel thought that was a good idea.

 

They had also decided to take a few days  before they started the hard task of sorting through everything. When they finished they’d be taking a bit of a vacation before they’d be ready to get back to work..

 

Kel fell asleep. He hadn’t slept much during  the past few days. Liz just covered him up and  started  to read. Then there was a knock on the door. Liz answered it. It was Dix coming to check on them to see how they were holding up.

 

Liz let  her in but told her that Kel  was asleep. Dix said  she’d be quiet so he could sleep. “Heaven knows he needs it  bad.” Dix said quietly. Liz suggested they  talk in the kitchen. Dix nodded and followed her. She glanced at Kel who was sound asleep. The ladies sat at the kitchen table. Liz poured  some coffee. She had made it that morning. It was a bit strong, but was ok. “Sorry bout the coffee, it might be kind of strong by now.”

 

“It’s ok Liz. I’m used to  strong coffee”

 

“I‘ll make some fresh later. I know how the smell of fresh coffee wakes Kel and I don’t want to do that.”

 

“What about you Liz?  Are you going to get some sleep too? You need it just as bad as he does.”

 

Before Liz could say anything, Dix said “I can take care of things here while you get some sleep.”

 

Liz was tired. “Ok Dix. Thanks. It’s pretty quiet here right now.”

 

“I’ll take care of you both today.”

 

“Thanks. See you later.” Liz went off and  went to bed  for a while. Dix went and locked the door.

 

Time passed and Dix had fielded  several phone calls, taking messages. She got out a huge pot and looked to see what there was  to make soup. She found frozen vegetables, green beans, & corn. She found various meats and fresh tomatos. She  thought they’ll do. For the main food, there were the leftovers. They would do fine. Dix knew that neither one had  been eating much  the last few days. Dix started  the soup and got everything together. She even got some fresh coffee going.

 

When everything was ready she gently woke them both up. “Soup’s on!” She said gently.

 

Kel stirred as the smell of the coffee reached him. “Something smells good.” He said  as he woke up some. As his eyes focused he saw Dix. “When did you get here?” He asked.

 

“Just after you fell asleep. Liz let me in. I’ve been handling everything so you two could get some rest.”

 

“Thanks Dix. I must’ve really been tired, I didn’t hear anything.”

 

“I know.”

 

Just then Liz woke up. She was feeling  refreshed. “Smells good Dix.”

 

There was a knock on the door. “I’ll get it.” Dix said.

 

Dix answered the door. Standing there was Joe Early along with John & Roy. “A neighbor let us in the building.” They explained.

 

Kel saw them and said “Come on in.”

 

They came in. Liz had gone to freshen up a bit before she came out. Soon as she did, Kel went to freshen up. He wanted to look presentable for  their guests.

 

There were  enough settings  for  6 people. Dix had found  one of the table leaves and  had put it in. She knew that there were usually 3 people  at that table at the most at any time.

 

Liz went to  offer Dix some help in the kitchen. Dix said “Everything’s under control.” Liz went back to the living room and sat  by Kel. She was talking with everyone too. She could see why Kel thought so highly of this group of people.

 

As they sat at the table, Kel let Liz lead  the grace. Liz started. “Dear God, Thank you for what we are about to receive.” Then she stopped. Kel picked  it up and added “Thank you for those we are about to share  it with.” Kel looked at everyone and said “Thank you all for coming.” Both Kel & Liz were glad they were there. They were there for them through the whole thing.

 

After dinner, leftovers were put away and the soup put into small containers & frozen. The dishes put in dishwasher. The evening went on. Eventually, everyone started to drift on home. Both Kel & Liz thanked everyone again for coming. After they all left, Liz looked at Kel & said “You told me how great the people you worked  with were, but until now I thought you were exaggerating. They really are as great as you said.” Kel agreed. They sat up a while longer  and talked about anything & everything. Kel made sure the door was locked for the night.

 

They eventually got tired and  went to bed. Kel took the extra bedroom. He was thankful he had such good friends, ones that would be there if he or Liz needed anything. He felt lucky. His last thought  as he fell asleep was ‘Thank you God for such good friends.’

 

 

 

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