Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 9

Going Home

I opened my eyes. I was very groggy, my head hurt and it took me a minute to remember where I was. The events of the night before seemed somewhat distant but I was relieved to discover that my mind and my body seemed to be intact. I had only been awake for a moment when I noticed a familiar weight resting on my left side.

I managed to lift my bandaged head and looked down. Sure enough, there was Josh. He was lying on the hospital bed with me, snuggled up to my left side with his arm wrapped almost protectively around my chest. His head was cuddled against my shoulder, tucked tightly under my chin. The familiar scent of his hair gel was comforting. He was lying on top of the covers, but someone had tossed a blanket over him. I figured it was probably against hospital regulations for non-patients to stay overnight in hospital rooms, but nothing is that simple with Josh.

While Josh was a sweet and loving boy with a naturally friendly attitude, he could be stubborn. I was willing to bet that he would have threatened to raise holy hell had anyone tried to make him leave my side once I was out of surgery. On the other hand, he could be a very convincing boy and he may have simply charmed the nurses and Susan into letting him stay. Either way, I was grateful to him. Waking up with him beside me was a real comfort after what I had just been through. It was probably a comfort to him too.

As my head began to clear, I lay there and watched him in the faint early morning light. The room must have been on the east side of the building because I could see the edge of the sun’s disc rising above the far horizon and I could make out the needle shape of the CN tower and the distinctive Toronto skyline amidst the rising glare of the coming dawn.

Josh was fully dressed in the same clothes that he had been wearing the night before, although someone, probably whoever had put the blanket over him, had removed his shoes for him. He lay there and slept the restful sleep of the innocent. His handsome face was slack and relaxed. He was snoring softly and seemed content. The faint light from the window was hitting his face in just the right way and I could clearly distinguish the first peach-fuzz of adolescence forming on his upper lip. I smiled to myself as I reached over and lovingly ran my finger over it. There could be no doubt, Josh was growing up.

My right arm still had IV lines in it but my left arm was free so I wrapped it around him, and pulled him in close. It was still early, I guessed it must have been before 7:00 AM so I lay back and tried to go back to sleep. My head hurt, but it was nothing like the night before. I debated pressing the call button to summon a nurse for some painkillers but I didn’t want to disturb Josh. I concentrated on listening to his slow and even breathing and the warmth of his body and I slowly faded back into oblivion.

When I awoke for the second time a bright new day had dawned outside and the room was filled with light. The sunlight coming from the window, however, was nothing compared to the light in Josh’s eyes. The night before, the look of sadness on his face had just about torn me apart. This morning, the look of sheer joy gracing his features was uplifting. Those big gray eyes of his seemed to sparkle and the dimples which framed his sunny smile seemed much deeper than usual. He was still snuggled tightly up to my side as if he never intended to let go.

"Morning dad," he whispered as he kissed me on the cheek and hugged me so tight that it made it tough to breathe.

"Morning son," I replied warmly as I returned his hug and nuzzled my cheek into the top of his head. "I’m glad to see you kiddo."

"I was so scared last night, I really thought I was going to lose you," Josh said as his smile faltered slightly.

"I know kiddo. I’m ok now. Thanks to you and Doctor Andrews and I’m feeling a lot better now. You did real good son. I’m so proud of you and I’m so grateful to you for keeping your wits about you and doing everything right. I really love you Josh."

"I really love you too," Josh replied as his smile returned. "I only did what you taught me to do and what the 911 operator told me to do. I’m a fighter too, dad, and I wasn’t going to lose you without a fight."

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that you’d one day save my life with the first aid skills that I taught you," I said in an amazed tone. "You know, that wasn’t even officially on the list of activities for camp? I just did it because I thought it was important."

"How do you feel?" Josh asked. The concern was evident in his voice.

"My head hurts a bit, but nothing like it did last night," I replied as I reached up and felt the bandages on my head. "Looks like I had a haircut," I joked. My hair was kept pretty short to begin with and they had shorn off what little I had.

"You’re as smooth as a baby’s bottom," Josh chuckled. "Hey, now I can smack you on the head like Benny Hill does to the old guy!"

"Wise guy, eh??? Whoop, whoop, whoop…." Josh always loved my "Curly" impersonations and he giggled sweetly at my silliness.

We remained that way, snuggled together and Josh told me all about what had happened when I was out of it. I lay there in awe of the maturity and intelligence of the boy as he filled in the considerable blanks in my mind. Josh was truly an exceptional child. I had always known that, but this simply confirmed it. I was moved to tears when he reached the part about his visit to the chapel.

"Josh, they say faith will move mountains," I said with wonder in my voice. "You really showed your faith last night and I’m sure it helped." I hugged him a little tighter for a moment.

"I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know I meant it all," Josh said thoughtfully. "I can’t really describe the feeling, but it was like I KNEW everything was going to be ok when I left that room."

"Josh, I’m not an expert in these matters, but I kind of think that’s how it works."

I didn’t know if it was the experience of surviving a traumatic injury or it was Josh’s story, but I made a conscious decision that I was going to start paying a little more attention to spiritual matters from then on. We kept chatting and bantering back and forth as we always did when an orderly arrived with my breakfast tray.

"Oh goody, hospital food," I said with a grin after I thanked the orderly and he left.

Josh lifted the cover from the tray and grimaced at the rubbery looking egg, cremated bacon and soggy toast. "That doesn’t look so good," he said.

"No shit, Sherlock!" I said with a laugh. "At least the Corn Flakes are edible."

"I’m hungry too, but I wouldn’t eat that stuff!" Josh replied as he made a ‘Mister Yuck’ face.

"Tell you what kiddo, see if you can figure out what they did with my wallet and go and grab yourself something from the cafeteria." I didn’t have to tell him twice. The thought of food was the only thing that would pry him, at least temporarily, from my side. He reached into the drawer beside the bed and sure enough, there was my wallet and phone book.

"Thanks dad," Josh said happily as he retrieved a $10 bill, kissed me lightly on the cheek and then scurried from the room in search of sustenance. He nearly bowled over Doctor Andrews on the way out.

"Well, good morning Tom!" She said in a bright and cheerful voice. "How do you feel?"

"A lot better doc. Thanks to you," I said with a smile.

Doctor Andrews approached my bed, examined my bandages and used a penlight to look in both of my eyes. "You’re looking pretty good, Tom. I don’t think we’re going to need to keep you here for very long. In fact I think you’ll be cleared to go home tomorrow."

I was ecstatic. The last thing I wanted to do was spend the New Years in the hospital while the rest of the world was celebrating the arrival of the year 2000. "Wonderful!" I enthused. "I have a bit of a headache but other than that I feel just fine."

"That’s to be expected. I have a nurse give you something for it and before you leave I’ll prescribe some Tylenol number 3s for you. You’ll need to have those stitches out of your scalp in about 10 days. Your regular doctor can do that for you. I would also see him about getting a prescription for Imitrex for those migraines that you get."

"I will. I’ve been avoiding it because of the cost and the side effects."

"I wouldn’t worry about the cost. You have a significant claim against the military over this whole incident."

"I don’t really want to sue the army," I protested.

"Nonsense Tom," Doctor Andrews said firmly. "The army doctors who treated you following the accident were blatantly negligent. They should have found and fixed this head injury then and there. It could have killed you. This isn’t about honour or service or patriotism, Tom; this is about your life."

"I guess you’re right," I said in a resigned tone. I really didn’t want to sue an institution that I loved and respected, but looking at it logically, I really didn’t have a choice.

"Tom, my brother is a Captain with the military’s National Investigative Service. Let me put in a call to him and ask him to open an investigation. You can’t just let this go."

"Ok. Go ahead and make the call. I’ll wait until I hear from him before I do anything."

"Good man," she said with a smile.

"Doc, what about driving and flying. This isn’t going to cost me my driver’s license or my pilot’s license is it?"

"In the case of a brain injury, I am obliged to file a report with the Ministry of Transport for Ontario and with Transport Canada; however, in this case there was no actual brain injury. The tissue surrounding your brain, not your brain itself was injured. There were no complications so I don’t see why you should suffer from any lasting ill effects. In short, I see no reason why you should surrender either license in this case."

"Thanks doctor," I said with obvious relief in my voice.

"You do need to take it easy for a while. I would recommend staying on the ground for a few months and avoid any rough stuff for a while too. You don’t want to re-injure your head and have to go through this all over again."

"I can handle that," I said with a smile. "Josh will be disappointed that we won’t be flying for a couple of months."

"That boy really does love you, you know?" Doctor Andrews said with a grin. "He’s a fantastic kid."

I took a moment to give Doctor Andrews an abbreviated version of the events of the past few months. When I was done, she just smiled and shook her head.

"Amazing," she said. "You take good care of him. I know he’ll take good care of you."

"I will. Thanks again doctor."

"All in a day’s work," she said as she left the room to see her other patients.

I had a few moments to pinch my nose and down my breakfast before a nurse appeared to give me some pain medication and to remove my IV lines. Needles had never bothered me, but I was glad to have it out. I found the controls for the bed and raised the head to put myself into what was almost a sitting position. I had just made myself comfortable when Josh came bounding into the room.

I almost laughed out loud. He had a way of entering a room which was almost reminiscent of Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’. That morning he was in a great mood and he had more of a spring in his step than he usually did. I’m pretty sure that he just barely managed to keep himself from literally jumping right onto the bed with me.

"Oh cool, you found the controls to tilt your bed up," he exclaimed as he leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek.

"Hey kiddo, how was breakfast?"

He belched before answering. "It was great; I had 3 of these sausage, egg and cheese English muffins. They were almost as good as the ones from MacDonald’s."

I chuckled and shook my head. "It sure sounds like you enjoyed it. Smells like it to, you’ve got dragon breath, bud."

He leaned over and breathed right on my face. I pretended to choke which, despite the pain in my head, got us both laughing our heads off.

"I should have known you two loons would be at it already," Susan chuckled as she entered the room. "How are you feeling?"

"My head smarts a bit, but I feel a lot better than I did last night. Thanks for letting Josh stay; it was nice to wake up to a friendly face."

"He wouldn’t have it any other way," Susan snickered as Josh went over and hugged her. "YUCK! You need to brush your teeth honey!"

"MOM!" Josh protested.

"I have to get to work Josh, I just dropped by to take you home so you could have a shower and change your clothes."

"I’m not leaving until Tommy does," Josh said with a look of determination on his face.

"Josh, I appreciate it, but you have to look after yourself too. Go get cleaned up and you can come back later. I’ll see if I can get my mom or Andy to pick you up. You could even do me a favour and bring my laptop back with you."

Josh’s eyes lit up at the idea. "Ok, I’ll be back as soon as I can," he replied as he leaned over and gave me a brief hug and a kiss on the forehead. "I love you."

"I love you too kiddo. Thanks for coming Susan. Thanks for everything."

"No problem Tom. Get well soon."

Josh and Susan left and I felt the familiar pangs of separation as Josh left the room. I wondered what I would ever do without that little guy. No words exist which could adequately describe what I felt for him. He was a part of me and I was a part of him. We had grown so close that we could read each other like a book. Subtle gestures or expressions conveyed so much between us. I had never felt such love or such a need to protect and nurture someone as I felt for Josh. We had come a long way from that June day when we first met 18 months before. We had gone from camper and counselor to friends and now we were forever dad and son.

Josh had been such a trooper throughout the whole mess and I had determined that this year was going to be special for him. I really did owe him my life. Had he not reacted so quickly and properly when I was choking on the vomit, I probably would not have made it.

The pills that the nurse had given me must have made me drowsy and I fell asleep. The next thing I remember was being set upon by a pair of what I like to term ‘cuddle-bugs’. Matthew and Richard had arrived with my mom.

"Uncle Tommy!" came the dual excited shouts from the door as my twin nephews streaked into the room and within seconds climbed up onto my bed. Each one took up a position on either side of me and planted kiss on my cheek.

"Well, if it isn’t my favorite nephews," I said as I hugged both of the adorable little boys. I reached over and tickled their ribs and was rewarded by virtually identical squeals of delight.

"You guys be careful, Uncle Tom just had an operation," my mom warned as she finally caught up with the excited five year olds. "How are you kiddo?" She asked me as she leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"Back in one piece," I replied with a smile.

"Andy’s on his way, Josh called him and asked to be picked up. He’s going to swing by your place and get him."

"Great. He stayed here all night last night and Susan dropped by this morning to take him home."

"I must say, I am impressed with my other grandson," she said with a smile. "He’s a lovely kid and he thinks the world of you."

"I know. He’s had it kind of rough. I’m glad that I’ve been there for him. He’s kind of adopted me as his dad. I’m certainly enjoying it. I love that little guy as if he were my son." I had already told my mom a lot about Josh. She knew all about his father and his family situation.

"What happened to your hair?" asked Richard from my left side.

"Yeah, and you’ve got a funny hat on," added Matthew from the right.

"They had to cut it all off when the doctor fixed up my head. It’ll grow back soon. The ‘hat’ is really a bunch of bandages."

‘I’ve got a band-aid," Matthew said as he rolled up his right pant leg and proudly displayed the purple ‘Barney’ band-aid stuck to his knee. "I fell off my bike but Grandma fixed me right up!"

"She’s good at that. She used to fix me up when I fell off my bike. She did the same for your daddy and for Uncle Andy when they were little boys too!"

Both boys giggled at the thought of their father being a little boy.

"Have they said how long you have to stay?" My mom asked

"I saw Dr. Andrews this morning and she said if all goes well I can go home tomorrow. They want to keep me today for observation but that’s it."

"I have it on good authority that they looked at your CT scan and couldn’t find anything!" chuckled Andy as he entered the room with Josh in tow. "How goes it bro?" he asked as he clutched my hand and gave me a quick hug.

"Wise guy, eh?" I said in my "Moe" voice which made Josh burst out laughing.

"Hey dad!" Josh chirped as he came over and hugged me. "I brought your computer."

"Thanks kiddo," replied as I returned his hug and ruffled his hair.

"Hi Uncle Andy," the twins said in stereo from either side of me. They climbed off me and they each gave Andy a big hug and a sloppy kiss.

"Who are you?" Matthew asked Josh.

"I’m Josh, Tommy’s my best friend and my dad," Josh said with pride.

"I guess that makes you cousins," Andy said with a smile.

Both twins ran over and gave Josh the same hug and sloppy kiss treatment that they had given Andy. Josh smiled and returned their affection.

We spent most of the day having a nice visit. My mom had booked the time off between Christmas and New Years and Andy, who was a U of T law student, was off until the New Year. Lunch was surprisingly edible as far as hospital food goes. Andy and my mom went down to the cafeteria and brought back lunch for themselves, Josh and the Twins. As the day wore on, my head hurt less and less. Only once did I need to have to request more pain pills from the nurse. The on-duty doctor visited me a couple of times throughout the day and seemed happy with what he saw. I loved spending the day with my family but I was really looking forward to going home.

"I spoke to James and Anne on the telephone this morning and I filled them in on what happened," my mother said. "They were ready to jump on a plane and come home but I told them not to bother."

"Good call," I replied. "It would be a shame to mess up their vacation when I’m going to be fine."

By around 4:00 the twins were getting restless. Josh had done his best to keep them entertained. I could see that they both loved him and decided that he was as good a wrestling partner as I was. It had been a long day for a pair of active five year olds so my mom had to leave to take them home. We said our good byes and I promised to call her and let her know as soon as I was being discharged.

Andy and Josh stayed with me for a while longer. Andy was the only relative of mine that Josh had previously met. In fact, Andy met Josh a year before I did when he first started working for camp Tonawonka. He hadn’t been Josh’s counselor but he had met Josh and knew him by reputation.

We spent most of the afternoon playing video games on my laptop and Andy went out of his way to tell Josh all sorts of embarrassing stories about me from when I was a little kid. I loved my brother, but sometimes I thought I could kill him! I could see Josh, the little devil that he was, filing away all that information for later use. The boy had a mind like a steel trap and it served him very well when mischief was involved.

Andy was just preparing to leave when a man dressed in army dress greens knocked on my door and entered the room. I saw the captain’s bars on his sleeves and knew who it was in an instant. He removed his peaked cap and approached my bed.

"Are you Tom Davis?" He asked.

"I sure am," I replied extending my hand. "You must be Captain Andrews."

That caught him off guard for a moment, "How did you know that?" he asked.

"Your sister told me that she was going to call you about my situation," I replied with a grin.

He smiled. "I am in fact, Captain Lawrence Andrews. You can call me Larry. I’m with the NIS and based on the information that my sister provided I am prepared to open an investigation into your accident and the treatment that you received afterwards. It seems that there has possibly been some negligence on the part of the Canadian Forces and I want to get it all sorted out for you."

Andy was instantly in lawyer mode. "Captain Andrews, Larry, I’m Andrew, Tom’s brother. I’m a law student but for the time being, I will be representing him in this matter."

I smiled at my brother. He was only 3 years older than me and we were both adults, but there he was ready to stand up for me as he always did.

"Andy, don’t get me wrong. I’m on Tom’s side in this. From what my sister told me, he could have died as a result of an injury that he received in service of this country and which should have been caught and corrected when it happened."

"I’m glad to hear that, but I will none-the-less request that I be present for any conversation between my brother and anyone involved in this case."

"I understand," Larry replied.

"Tom, I would like you to sign this document which gives me permission to access your medical records. I want to have them along with the accident reports reviewed by a couple of experts to determine the level of negligence involved here. Those findings will be turned over to the legal department and they will review them to determine what action is to be taken."

"What are the possible outcomes," I asked with interest. "I’m not particularly interested in getting into a legal battle with the army or the government. It would seem almost unpatriotic if you asked me."

"Nonsense, Tom." Andrew said as he flashed me a frown. "You could have died because of someone’s stupid mistake and they have to pay the price."

"Well, before we get ahead of ourselves, let me tell you off the record that the government would likely want to keep this matter quiet if you catch my drift."

"Are you telling me that you think they might agree to a quick settlement to keep this out of the press?" Andy asked.

"Lets just say that I spoke to my contact at the Justice Department and I was advised that his opinion was that the government would be most interested in a quiet, negotiated settlement if negligence can be shown in this case."

"What about those who were negligent? I don’t want that same doctor leaving some other kid with life-threatening head injuries," Andy said sharply.

"That’s where I come in. I can promise you that if any national defense act charges are warranted in this case, I will not hesitate to file them."

We discussed the situation for several more minutes and Andy finally advised me to sign the authorization to release my medical records. We shook hands with Captain Andrews and he left after promising us that he would expedite this process.

"You could be looking at a nice cash settlement here," Andy said with a smile.

"Are you sure that you’re only a law student?" I asked him. "Remind me to hire you if I ever get falsely accused of murder." We all had a good laugh over that remark,

"How much could he get, Andy," Josh asked after we all quieted down.

"Hard to say," Andy replied. "It could be a substantial sum."

"I don’t want to take the army to court, Andy." I said with finality. "If they offer a reasonable settlement, I will accept it."

"I probably wouldn’t advise you to do otherwise. These cases can take years. If they make you an offer, you’ll have payment right away."

We discussed the possibilities for several more moments before Andy finally had to leave. He hugged both Josh and I and then left us alone.

"Dad," Josh said tentatively. "If you get a whole lot of money out of this, you aren’t going to move out are you?" He had a worried look on his face.

"Of course not kiddo. I told you that we’re forever. I won’t always live in that basement apartment, but I am NOT moving out before I finish school. Even then, I won’t move far and it won’t change anything between us." I reached over and pulled Josh into a firm hug and felt him melt into me.

The next time the nurse came to check on me, Josh asked her if we could go down to the cafeteria for dinner. She agreed but insisted that I go in a wheelchair. I felt well enough to walk, but I agreed if it got me out of the room and out of another hospital meal. Depending upon what time I was discharged in the morning, I might not have to eat another such meal for quite some time. I was certainly happy about that.

Josh proudly wheeled me into the cafeteria and then proceeded to play waiter. We both had the cheeseburger and fries combo with chocolate shakes. Josh topped his off with a gigantic sundae for desert. It was a self-serve sundae bar and I can’t figure out how he managed to cram that much ice cream, caramel topping and nuts into that little sundae dish but he managed it. I’m sure he would have gone back for more if I hadn’t needed to get back to my room.

After devouring his super-jumbo sundae, Josh wheeled me back up to my room. My head was hurting again by then and I could see the concern in his eyes.

"Don’t worry kiddo, it’s not like last night," I said trying to reassure him.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," I replied as I hugged him fiercely.

"Do you want me to stay with you again tonight?" He asked.

"Kiddo, I’d love to have you stay, but I don’t know if the hospital staff would be too thrilled about it. It’s probably best if you go home after visiting hours and come back for me in the morning unless I’m discharged."

Josh looked a little crestfallen. "Are you sure?" He asked.

"Joshy, you know I’d love to have you stay. I promise to make it up to you tomorrow when I get home. We’ll try again to watch those Clouseau movies and have a grand old time."

Josh perked up a bit. "Sounds good, but I’ll miss you tonight," he said.

"I’ll miss you too."

Josh called home and arranged to have Susan pick him up. She expected to arrive at around 7:30 which gave us another hour together. Josh climbed up on the bed with me and adopted his customary TV watching position snuggled against my side with his head on my chest and my arm wrapped around him. We turned on the small television and found back-to-back episodes of "The Simpsons".

Before too long, a nurse stuck her head into the room and asked is to keep it down because we were laughing too loudly. We had a great time, each enjoying being close to the other while watching one of our favorite shows. I think I spent about as much time watching Josh as I did the TV. I simply basked in his happiness. I hugged him tighter for a moment and he looked up at me.

"You’re really are growing up," I told him with a smile. "I noticed this morning that you’re getting a bit of peach fuzz on your lip."

"Really?" he asked with interest as he began contorting his face to try to look down his nose and spot his early adolescent moustache.

I chuckled warmly and reached down and touched his lip with my index finger. "Run your finger lightly over your lip and you can feel it," I told him.

He reached up his finger and smiled brightly as he felt the tiny fine hairs that had recently sprouted. "Cool! If that hair comes in as quick as my pubes are growing, I guess I’ll have to shave again pretty soon," He said happily.

"If you want, I’ll help you with it tomorrow. You can use my razor again for now and I’ll buy you your own."

"Thanks dad," he smiled at me and nuzzled his head into my chest.

We snuggled there for another half-hour enjoying the animated mirth that was the Simpsons. Unfortunately, 7:30 rolled around all too quickly and Susan arrived to take Josh home. The three of us chatted for a few minutes before it was time for them to leave.

Josh came over and gave me a warm hug. I returned his hug and gave him a light kiss on the forehead before releasing him.

"See you tomorrow dad. I love you," he said warmly.

"I love you too kiddo. Have a good night and I’ll see you in the morning."

"See you tomorrow Tom," Susan said as she gave me a brief hug.

After they left, I fired up my computer and spent the next couple of hours playing video games. In the back of my mind, I was beginning to formulate a plan to give Josh the summer of his life. It was a grand scheme and it would give us both the experience of a lifetime. I was certain that Susan would agree to it.

I finally grew tired of the video games and buzzed the nurse for a pain pill to take the edge off the throbbing in my head. It also had the happy side effect of making me sleepy. Within 30 minutes of swallowing the 2 little white pills, I was out like a light.

It was rare for me to remember my dreams but I remembered a lot of different images, feelings and emotions from my dreams that night. I dreamed about Josh. It started with the summer that we met, progressed to the road-trip that I was planning for this summer and ended some time well into the future. I couldn’t remember many specific details, but it was a pleasant dream. In the later parts of it, I know that Josh was a grown man. He was tall and just as handsome as he was now. His sandy hair was easily recognizable but it was streaked with a bit of gray. His eyes hadn’t changed in the least. He was very well dressed and I got the feeling that he had become a person of some fame or importance. People treated him with reverence and respect. I recall that we were in an ornately decorated room with a lot of well dressed people seated on rows of chairs. I was sitting in the front row with 2 children. One was a very handsome boy who was the spitting image of Josh and the other was a very pretty little girl of about 10. I got the sense that they were his children. I couldn’t recall any other details, but I awoke that morning with an intense feeling of pride in my boy. I also got the feeling that what I was planning for that summer played a big part in whatever was going on in that room. I decided not tell Josh about that dream, but for some reason it stuck with me in the back of my mind.

I was thrilled to see Doctor Andrews when she appeared in my room just after 8:00 AM with my discharge orders in hand. I thanked her profusely for all of her help and I promised to contact her if I had any concerns. Before she left, she asked me which pharmacy I used and called in a prescription for some Tylenol 3s. I dug out my clothes and began to get dressed. It was only then that I discovered that I didn’t have a shirt. I rang for the nurse and was thrilled to see Nurse Mitchell who had been helping to treat me in the ER the night that I had been brought in.

"I have a bit of a problem," I told her sheepishly. "I don’t have a shirt. I think the paramedics shredded the one I had on."

"Well, we can’t have you out in the cold like that!" She said as she went to find something for me to wear.

Nurse Mitchell returned several minutes later with a green hospital shirt. "This should fit you just fine," She said with a warm smile as she handed it to me.

The shirt fit perfectly and I thanked her just as an orderly appeared at the door with a wheel chair to wheel me out. I picked up my computer bag and then sat down and enjoyed the ride. He deposited me in the lobby and I called for a taxi to take me home. A quick check of my wallet confirmed that I had enough cash to pay for the ride. Susan was at work and I didn’t want to trouble Andy or my mom to come and pick me up. They both lived some distance away and it would have taken them out of their way. They would have done it willingly, but I didn’t want to put them to the trouble.

Within minutes, the taxi arrived and I was on my way home. I sat silently in the back of the cab and watched the scenery streak past. It was a bright sunny day and it was relatively warm for late December. I was glad to be going home and I was glad to be alive. I had the distinct feeling that I had passed what would be one of the greatest challenges of my life. I knew that I had passed it with my son at my side and I had a deep knowledge, probably fueled in part by that dream, that he and I were indeed bonded together forever.

The cab pulled into the driveway behind my Jeep and I climbed out. I had barely finished paying the driver when Josh pounced upon me and wrapped me in one of his octopus like hugs. I smiled and hugged him back just as firmly.

"Hey kiddo, I’m glad to see you!"

"Me too dad, I love you."

"I love you too, little man."

It was only then that I realized that he was wearing only his briefs. He had evidently been in bed when he heard the cab pull up and he just ran to me. I carried him into the house.

He followed me down to my apartment and made sure that I was comfortable on the couch before he retreated to his room to shower and get dressed for the day. I took a moment to call the pharmacy and arrange delivery of the prescription that doctor Andrews had called in for me.

I looked at the calendar and noticed that there were a grand total of 3 days left in 1999. The geeks and eggheads among us liked to say that year 2000 wasn’t really the turn of the millennium, but I didn’t care. I was, for all intents and purposes a computer geek myself by virtue of my education, but that’s where it stopped. Millennium or not, Y2K was going to be a momentous occasion and I had planned a really good night for Josh and me. I had planned on taking him to Nathan Phillips Square to ring in the New Year and then we were going to stay overnight at a downtown hotel and pig out on pizza. Sadly, due to my condition, we were going to have to settle for a quiet New Years party here at home. We’d watch the festivities on TV but we’d still have plenty of Pizza.

I looked around my apartment and realized that it had been cleaned up. Either Josh or Susan had cleaned up the vomit an put everything back in its place. I leaned back in my usual position on the couch and looked at the collage of photos of Josh and me.

I fondly recalled the memories that each snapshot recorded and I sat and wondered what memories were still to be added to that collection. I had a hunch that we would need a lot more frames and a lot more wall space to hold them all by the time this life was over.


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