MEMORIES OF CHRISTMASES PAST

                                                                                                                       

         By

Linda Taggatz

 

 

           

It was Christmas Eve, and Kel was working the day shift. The atmosphere was festive.

He was going to meet Dixie and go up to pediatrics. Kel had been convinced to play Santa for their Christmas party. He hesitated until Dr. Harper reminded him that he owed her a favor. Dixie volunteered to help him pass out the packages that the pediatrics staff had ready. The packages contained little things to help make the hospital stay less frightening for the children.

 

            Dr. Harper had sent the suit down earlier. It was time to put it on. The suit was big on him. He used 2 very large, very thick pillows for padding. The hat was another matter. Even with the wig and beard on, it slid down over his eyes. He looked in his desk drawer. He didn’t find what he needed. He left his office and literally ran into Sharon. He pushed the hat up, but it just slid again.

 

            “I’m sorry, Sharon.” He said as he helped her up. “I didn’t see you.”

 

            Sharon saw why. “Let me fix that for you.” She took the hat and a safety pin from her pocket, and put it in the hat. Then she put it back on him. She stepped back to survey her work. ‘That’s much better.”

 

            “Thanks, Sharon.”

 

            “You’re welcome, Santa.” She grinned as she said that.

 

            Kel grinned. “Merry Christmas, Sharon.”

 

            “Merry Christmas, Doctor Brackett.”

 

            They went their separate ways. He glanced at his watch. It was time to find Dixie. She was waiting by the elevators. They got into the elevator and were part way up when suddenly, the lights flickered. Kel and Dixie looked up curiously. Then, with a sudden jerk, the elevator stopped between the 4th and 5th floors.  Dixie was thrown into Kel’s arms. They lingered for a moment, as the lights went out and the whirring of the air conditioner stopped.

 

                                                            *************************

 

            “Dix, what was Christmas like when you were a little girl?’ Asked Kel. He was starting to feel like the walls were closing in around him.

 

            “We had good times. My brother and I always got a new outfit. Mom always told us it wasn’t for playing in.” She replied with a wistful look on her face. “What about you, Kel?”

 

            “We always went to the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. Dad always read the Christmas gospel from Luke two.” Kel closed his eyes and recited. “For unto YOU is born this day, in the city of David, a SAVIOR which is CHRIST THE LORD.   We’d go to Grandma’s for Christmas day. The toughest Christmas was the first one after mom died. Things just weren’t the same without her. I still miss singing Christmas carols with her while we decorated the tree.”

 

            Dixie was surprised. She’d never heard him talk about his mom before. She always wondered why. Now she knew.

 

                                                            ***********************

 

            The klaxons sounded at Station 51. “STATION 51, PEOPLE TRAPPED IN ELEVATOR, RAMPART GENERAL HOSPITAL, TIMEOUT 13:50.”

 

            Captain Stanley grabbed the microphone. “Station 51, 10-4, KMG 365.”

 

            The bay doors opened and both vehicles sped on their way.

 

                                                            *************************

 

            “Kel, what was Christmas like when you were a resident?”

 

            “Cold and white. It’s hard to explain that kind of cold. The wind could make it feel even colder than it really was. We were usually under severe weather watch. There was lots of snow. I wasn’t prepared for that kind of weather. That first Christmas, my roommate Teddy and I got a very large package from his family. It was meant for both of us.”

 

            “What was in it?” Asked Dixie.

 

            “All sorts of homemade goodies, a jar of pickled herring, a winter coat, a pair of mittens, a scarf and a hat. The mittens, scarf and hat were hand knit. The pickled herring was a family tradition. The goodies were delicious, and I liked the pickled herring.”

 

            “What about the other things?” Asked Dixie.

 

            “The coat was a good fit. The coat, scarf, mittens and hat kept me warm and dry all through my residency. I sent his mom and Grandma a thank you note for the winter wear.”

 

            “How did you end up with that?” Dixie asked curiously.

 

            “Teddy told his mom that I wasn’t well prepared for the Minnesota winters. He told her that all I had was a raincoat, a pair of rain boots and a pair of gloves. Teddy took me shopping for a pair of snow boots. Yes, I still have all those things too.” He added that last statement in answer to her unspoken question.

 

            “Christmas in Korea was usually quiet. I was in a field hospital. The truce kept casualties down so we could have a break. We had snow. We decorated a tree using what we had on hand for decorations, and sang Christmas carols. The chaplain conducted a service. The only thing any of us really wanted was to go home.” Dixie started singing a verse of “Silent Night.” Kel closed his eyes and sang with her.

 

            “You have a beautiful singing voice Dix.”

 

            “Thank you. You have a nice singing voice too.”

 

            Kel smiled, “Thanks, Dix.”

 

                                                            ***************************

 

            The engine and squad pulled into the hospital parking lot. Mike Stoker stayed with the engine. Every one else went inside. They found Sharon calmly directing the patient flow.

 

            “What happened?” Asked Captain Stanley.

 

            “The elevators stopped when the power went out. We’re on emergency power, but it’s only running the vital services and one elevator.”

 

            An attractive young woman approached the captain. She reminded him of someone he knew. She had brown hair and blue eyes. “Are you here to get them out?”

 

            “Yes ma’am, we are.” He replied. He would’ve called her by name but he didn’t know her.

 

            “I’m meeting my brother. He’s expecting me. We’re going to our dad’s house when he gets off.”

 

            “Is he in the elevator?”

 

            “Yes. He’s wearing a Santa suit.”

 

            A WHAT?” Asked an astonished Captain Stanley.

 

            “Santa suit.”

 

            “That’s right,” said Sharon. “It’s for the Christmas party up in pediatrics.”

 

                                                            ***********************

 

            “Dix, is it getting hot in here or is it just me?”

 

            “It’s the suit. Let’s get you out of it.”

 

            Kel raised an eyebrow. Dixie helped him get out of the suit. He took off the hat. Dixie commented on the safety pin. Kel told her that Sharon had put it in after he ran over her downstairs.

Dixie grinned. The wig and beard came next. The hat, wig and beard were tossed into the corner. The boots came off next. They were tossed into the corner too. The coat and pillows came off after that. They were thrown into a pile in the middle of the floor. Kel hesitantly took the pants off. They were thrown into the pile that was in the middle of the floor. The suspenders were dropped where he stood.

 

            “You did a good job getting it on. Have you done it before?”

 

            “Once. I was a second year resident doing my pediatrics rotation. It was for a Christmas party. Speaking of which, I have to call Dr. Harper and explain to her what happened.”

 

            Dixie agreed with him. “I remember one Christmas in Korea. There was a kid from the Midwest. He was scared. It was his first Christmas away from home. He asked me to read Luke 2 to him. I did. He said I had a nice voice. He was sent home. I never saw him again. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him.” Dixie said with a combination of fondness and horror.

 

            During my second year of residency, one of my patients was a young boy named Joey. He was dying of leukemia. He asked me what Heaven was like. I did my best to tell him. It became obvious as Christmas Eve went on that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I called his parents, but they had left for an early Christmas Eve service. I asked the housekeeper where, she told me. I wasn’t very far away. I dressed for the weather, grabbed a cab and went over there. I caught the parents as they came in. I told them what was happening and asked them to come with me. They gave me a lift back. They stayed there until after Joey died. That was right on the last stroke of midnight.” Kel said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

 

                                                            ****************************

 

            Chet and Marco got the door open on the level above. Captain Stanley looked down the shaft.

 

            “L.A., this is HT 51. Respond truck 127 to our location.”

 

            “10-4 HT 51.”

 

            Truck 127 soon arrived. The two captains consulted and agreed on a plan.

 

            Captain Stanley sent Johnny & Roy down the shaft. They opened the escape hatch. Johnny pushed his helmet up and looked in.

 

            “Are you two hurt anywhere?”

 

            “No,” replied Dixie. “We’re okay.”

 

            “We’ll have to get you out one at a time. Who’s first?”

 

            “Ladies first, Dix.” Said Kel. “I’ll give you a boost. Are you guys ready?”

 

“We’re ready.”

 

Kel boosted Dixie up to where Johnny & Roy could reach her. They explained what they were going to do next.

 

“Don’t be afraid Dix,” said Roy. “I’ll guide you up.” Roy secured her with a life belt, and then they started up the shaft. Roy took her to where truck 127 was waiting to lower her to the ground. The crew of truck 127 lowered her safely to the ground.

 

Johnny entered the elevator. Just then, the elevator slipped. Kel put his arm out to break his fall. He hit his head on the wall and slumped to the floor unconscious. Johnny had landed in the pile of clothes & pillows that were on the floor. Johnny got up and saw Kel on the floor.  Johnny went over to him, took his vitals and checked him for broken bones. Thankfully, the vitals were stable and there were no apparent head injuries, but he did have a broken left arm.

 

“Cap, I need the drug box and an arm splint.”

 

The drug box and splint came down. Roy followed.

 

“Dixie’s okay. She’s on the ground.” Roy told Johnny.

 

“Roy, we’ll need the stokes to get him out.”

 

The stokes, ropes and biophone were sent down. Johnny splinted the arm. Roy contacted base and got approval to start an IV. When that was done, the two paramedics secured him on to the stokes. They used ropes to get the stokes out of the elevator. Truck 127 lowered it and the two paramedics to the ground.

 

                                                *****************************

 

Later in treatment 3, x-rays had been taken of his arm and skull. There were no skull fractures. The arm was broken in 3 places. Kel was awake by this time.

 

“You’re lucky, Kel, said Joe Early. “You’ve got a mild concussion and a broken arm, that’s all.”

 

“What happens next?”

 

“I’m going to set that arm and you’ll have to stay overnight for observation.” Replied Joe. Kel’s face fell.

 

“What’s the matter Kel?”

 

“This was going to be the first Christmas in many years that the three of us have been together.”

 

Joe raised an eyebrow. “The three of you?”

 

“My sister, Elizabeth, is home this year. She’s a photographer. She travels all over the world. Dad didn’t know she was coming. She’s meeting me here.”

 

“She’s keeping Dix company. I’ll send her in.”

 

A few minutes later, Liz came in.

 

Kel grinned. “Hey, Squirt.”

 

Liz grinned. “It’s been a long time since you called me that.”

 

“It’s been a long time since I could call you that.”

 

Liz gave him that. “Are you okay, Kel?”

 

“I’ll be fine, but it looks like I’ll be spending the night here.” He said unhappily.

 

“I’ll call dad and let him know,” said Liz. “I like your friend.”

 

Kel raised an eyebrow. “You mean Dixie?”

 

“Yeah. She thinks a lot of you,” said Liz. “Is it serious between you two?”

 

“No,” he replied. “We’re just good friends.’

 

“Oh,” she said, sounding somewhat disappointed. “I was hoping it would be more than that.”

 

“I’ll see you later, Squirt.”

 

                                                            ***********************

 

Later that evening, Kel was settled into a room. He had to be sedated for the elevator ride. Not only because his arm hurt, but also because he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of going in the elevator again. The power had been fully restored by then and there was no more trouble with the elevator. Johnny and Roy came up. They brought a card and an elevator escape kit. Both items were from all the guys at 51’s. The elevator escape kit consisted of a flashlight, with new batteries, and Chet’s human fly shoes. Kel looked at the shoes and laughed.

 

“So these are the famous human fly shoes you guys told me about.”

 

“Yeah.” Said Johnny. “How are you doing Doc?”

 

“Better. Thanks for getting me out of there. I’m not happy about spending tonight in here.”

 

“Yeah, “ said Johnny. “We understand.”

 

“I’ll be out of here tomorrow.”

 

“Then you’ll be home for Christmas day,” said Roy. “You’ll be able to spend it with your family.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s hard to observe Christmas Eve traditions when I’m in here.”

 

The guys looked at him quizzically. Kel described some of the traditions his family observed. Kel asked them if they’d stop by after they got off duty tomorrow.

 

“Sure Doc. We’ll see you then. Try to get some rest.” Said Johnny.

 

“Merry Christmas, guys.”

 

“Merry Christmas, Doc.” They said as they headed out the door.

 

                                                ***********************

 

Later in the evening, his dad and sister came in. Dixie came in too. They brought him some real food. Dixie even found a small jar of pickled herring. He winked and grinned at Dixie. She winked and grinned back. His dad read the Christmas Gospel from Luke 2. Everyone listened.

 

“You have a nice reading voice.” Said Dixie.

 

“Thank you.” Replied Neal. They talked about Christmases past and other things. Dixie told Kel that she had called Dr. Harper to tell her what happened, and that Dr. Harper was very understanding. Dixie wanted to know more about Kel’s mother. Kel and his dad answered any questions she had on the subject. They talked until visiting hours were over.

 

“See you tomorrow, Kel.” Said Neal and Liz.

 

“Goodnight Dad, Liz. Thanks for stopping in.”

 

“Kel, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas Eve if we didn’t spend part of it together.’ Said Neal.

 

Liz agreed with that statement. Kel just smiled.

 

Kel slept restlessly. At one point, he thought he heard sleigh bells. He looked out the window. ‘Is that snow?’  He thought. “I must be dreaming.” Kel shook his head, turned over and went to sleep.

 

He went home the next day. Neal had asked Dixie to join them. She had agreed.  Kel was home, surrounded by the people who loved him. He felt blessed to have what he had right now. What more could he ask for than that?

 

 

 

 

 



 

           

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