There was an ambulance at the emergency entrance to the hospital, so I found a parking spot as close to the door as I could. I unbuckled Larry, wrapped him in my arms, and started off for the emergency entrance. Lenny was scrambling to keep up, grabbing onto the blanket I had wrapped around Larry. The automatic doors opened but I still almost ran into them in my rush to get Larry inside.
A nurse at her desk looked up as I sat Larry down on the counter. "May I help you?"
"Yes, I'm Crane Johnson. My son is having severe pains from an inflamed appendix. Dr. Greene is on his way into the hospital to care for him."
"Dr. Greene called a few minutes ago. He said that you were on your way. If you will follow me, I'll take you to the examination area." I picked Larry up and followed her down a hallway to a curtained off area. "Dr. Habib will be with you shortly."
I put Larry down on the examination table. Lenny was quickly standing by his side, looking like he wanted to climb up beside his twin. I felt Larry's forehead. It was very warm to the touch.
A few minutes later Dr. Habib came in and introduced himself. He had a thick Middle Eastern accent that made understanding him somewhat difficult. He examined Larry, taking his temperature, listening to his heart and lungs, checking his throat and then checking out his abdomen. He was nearly finished with the exam when Dr. Greene arrived.
"I see you're in good hands," Sam said, shaking Habib's hand. "Is there anything that I should know?"
Dr. Habib described his examination of Larry to Sam before leaving the area. Turning to me, Sam said, "You heard what Habib said. It looks like the appendix needs to come out, the sooner the better. I'll check on an operating room and send a nurse in to begin prepping him. You'll need to sign a lot of papers to get him properly registered. You can do that as soon as the nurse arrives."
"What about Lenny? Are they going to raise a stink about him being here?"
"It should be alright as long as he stays out of the nurse's way. I know that they would both feel better with him being here," Sam said. "Can you do that Lenny? Can you stay out of the nurse's way while she gets Larry ready?"
Lenny nodded his agreement.
The nurse came in a couple of minutes after Sam left. She was a motherly type in what appeared to be her mid-40s. She was carrying a hospital gown. "What's your name?" she asked Lenny.
"Lenny," he said quietly.
"Well Lenny, would you like to help your brother get out of his pajamas and into this?" she said holding up the gown.
Between the two of them they started getting Larry undressed. I took the opportunity to go back to admitting and fill out the paper work. They handed me a clipboard with several forms on it and told me I could take it back to the examination area. When I returned, Larry was wearing the hospital gown and Lenny was lying beside and holding him on the narrow examination table. The nurse smiled at me and then looked at the boys when I entered.
"We've got to make sure that we take the right one to the OR," she laughed as she left us.
I filled out the forms as we waited for the doctors to come for Larry. I had finished the paper work by the time Dr. Greene came back to see us. There was a young male nurse with him who he introduced as Jim Pfeiffer, the OR nurse. Jim approached Larry, talked to him quietly, and then took a hypodermic from a tray he was carrying.
"I'm going to give you a shot that will make you sleepy. I'm really good at giving shots to young boys like you. Now, I want you to hold your brother's hand while I do this," Jim said.
"Okay," Larry said, closing his eyes and grabbing hold of Lenny's hand.
Jim was right. He was good at giving shots. Larry didn't even flinch when the shot was administered.
"There, all done," Jim said, brushing Larry's hair back off his forehead.
"I've found it easier on my patients if we don't start the final prep until they are partially sedated. It's not as scary for them," Sam told me.
I took the forms back to the admittance desk while Sam stayed with the boys. By the time I got back, Larry was pretty well out of it. I eased Lenny off the examination table. He resisted a little and then clung to me when two orderlies began wheeling Larry out of the area and down the hall. We followed them into the elevator and up to the second floor. When we came to a set of double doors, they told us that we couldn't go any farther. As the doors closed Larry disappeared from sight.
I led my clinging son back to the waiting room where I sat down in one of the larger comfortable looking chairs. Lenny climbed into my lap and laid his head on my chest. When I looked down his thumb was in his mouth. I had never seen him suck his thumb before. I almost reached for it to pull it out of his mouth, but decided that he needed it to help him cope with the stress he was now feeling. My way of coping with the stress was to wrap my arms around him and rest my cheek on the top of his head.
We sat there like that for several minutes before I thought that Hildy would be worrying about what was going on with Larry. I looked at my watch and saw that it was about a quarter to four. Hopefully she was able to go back to sleep. I decided to wait an hour or so before I called her. I had failed to check my watch when they took Larry into the operating theater, so I didn't know exactly how long it had been. It seemed like hours, but it was probably around twenty minutes.
Lenny startled me when he doubled up and groaned as if he had been hit in the stomach. "What's the matter, son?"
He didn't answer, but I could see the tears beginning to flow down his cheeks. My guess was the empathic connection between him and his twin was causing this reaction. I just held him tighter and rocked with him.
It was maybe 45 minutes to an hour later when Dr. Greene walked into the waiting room. I struggled to my feet still holding Lenny. "How is he, Sam?"
"He's fine. Nothing to worry about. The appendix had not ruptured, but it was very inflamed. We got it just in time. Everything went very well. Larry's in recovery now. He should start to come around in a little while."
"When can we see him?"
"Well, since there is no one else in the recovery room, I think I can sneak both of you in there. Normally they don't let children go in there. But, you know what they say. 'It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.'" Sam chuckled, as he motioned for us to follow him.
I was shocked by what I saw when we entered the recovery room. Larry's face was nearly as white as the sheet that covered most of his body. He had an oxygen mask partially covering his face, an IV running into his left arm, and he had a number of sensors hooked up to a machine. I restrained Lenny as he tried to climb onto Larry's gurney.
"Is he all right?" Lenny cried. The tears streamed down his cheeks and he began to sob loudly.
"He's going to be fine," I said, hugging his back to me. "He's sleeping from the anesthetic. He'll wake up pretty soon, but he'll still be kind of groggy. They'll take him to his room as soon as he wakes up."
We stood there for maybe ten minutes staring at Larry. Lenny held my hands tightly to his chest. Every so often he would wipe away a tear on his sleeve.
"He opened his eyes. He did. I saw it," Lenny said, pointing to Larry.
"The anesthetic is beginning to wear off. You stand right here and don't climb onto that gurney. I'll go get Dr. Sam. Okay?"
When I returned a couple of minutes later, Lenny had his chin hooked over the side rail on the gurney and was patting Larry's hand. Larry was looking glassy-eyed and trying to focus on his brother. Dr. Greene started checking Larry's vital signs and asked him how he was feeling. Although Larry tried to answer, the sounds coming out of his mouth were unintelligible.
"I think he is recovered sufficiently to let him go to his room. I'll get the orderlies to take him," Sam said and left the room.
The orderlies appeared very shortly and began wheeling the gurney toward the elevator. Lenny and I followed. I had requested a private room because I knew that there would be a constant stream of visitors to his room and I didn't want any other patient to be bothered.
When Larry was in his bed, I remembered that I had not called Hildy. I made sure that Larry was comfortable and then dialed my home number from the room phone. I think that Hildy was standing by the phone, because she answered it on the first ring.
"How is he," she asked, even before she said hello.
"He's doing fine. They had to remove his appendix. He's back in his room and resting. Lenny is hanging onto the side of his bed. They've both been troopers. Larry's still pretty groggy, but his speech is getting better. His tongue is still a bit thick.
"How are the other boys? Are they doing okay?"
"They're not up yet. It's just six o'clock. Larry's dog, Buddy, is acting strangely. He just lies in the corner by his food bowl and moans. It's as if he knows something is going on with his master. He won't even play with the other dogs.
"Has the doctor said when he can come home?"
"Not yet," I said. "Sam said when I talked to him earlier that it would probably be around three days, so it will probably be this weekend before he comes home. Tell the boys that Larry is doing fine and that I will bring them to visit him this evening."
"I know that you want to stay with him, so why don't Manfred and I bring them to the hospital after they get home from school? We'll bring you and Lenny a change of clothes, also," Hildy said.
"You're an angel, Hildy. How could I ever get along without you?"
"Oh, you'd manage, but don't you even think about trying."
"Take the van. The keys are on the hook by the back door. Tell the boys I love them and I'll see them this evening," I gave her the phone number of the room before we hung up.
After I hung up the phone and turned around, Lenny was trying to climb up the side of the bed to get next to his brother. I started to stop him, but I saw Larry reaching for him. "Be careful of his IV!" I admonished, while helping Lenny get in on the left side of his brother. He gently draped his left arm across Larry's chest and kissed his cheek. It wasn't but a few minutes before they were both sound asleep.
I sat down in the bedside chair and watched my two sons. I don't know how long I sat there, because the next thing I knew a nurse had come into the room and was leaning over the bed and Lenny, to take Larry's temperature. She smiled when she saw that I was awake.
"They look so cute," she said. "I'm glad that one of them had the bracelet on so that I knew which one was the patient. His temperature is 99.1. It should return to normal in an hour or two. The OR nurse told me he did just fine. No complications."
"Thanks, is the cafeteria open yet? I need a cup of coffee."
She checked her watch, before answering. "By the time you get down there they should be open for business. I'll put the side rails up so that they don't roll out of bed while you're out of the room."
I thanked her again and left after checking to make sure that the boys were asleep. The cafeteria was just opening its doors as I arrived. The smell of coffee was wonderful. I filled a large foam cup with coffee and headed for the cashier when I spotted one of the workers putting out some fresh bagels. The name of the bagel bakery was on the bag he was taking them from. I knew the bakery and knew that they made authentic bagels, not the 'bread shaped like bagels' that are so common in Texas. I decided that I had to have one with cream cheese.
Eating a bagel always brought back memories of my days at college and one of my Jewish friends. He always said that his father told him that 'bagels had killed more Jews than Hitler'. I knew it was a joke, but no matter how many times he said it, it always made us laugh.
I hadn't thought of Dick Silverstein in a long while. I wonder whatever happened to him. We lost track of each other after we both finished up our PhDs. The last I heard was that he and his wife were planning on emigrating to Israel.
Larry and Lenny were still sleeping when I got back to the room. I sipped my coffee and savored the bagel and cream cheese. Dr. Sam stopped in to check on his patient. He gently lifted the sheet covering Larry and looked at the bandage on his abdomen.
"Looks like we did a good job. I don't see any unusual seepage or bleeding. Make sure that he stays relatively still for the next few hours. He'll be on pain medication for at least the rest of the day and probably through tonight. I want him to get a good night's sleep. I'll be back later this afternoon and we may try to have him sit on the side of the bed for a while. Tomorrow he'll get to take a little walk. If everything goes well, he should be able to go home on Saturday."
"Thanks, Sam," I said, shaking his hand. "I'm glad that I had someone to call and depend on when all of this happened."
I was sitting in the chair beside the bed when I realized that I was supposed to be at the consulting office both today and tomorrow. I looked at my watch. Carol should be in the office by this time, so I dialed her direct number. When she answered, I explained to her what was going on and that I wouldn't be in the office. I told her that I would call and set up when I would be able to come in next. She said that she would inform everyone and then wished Larry well before we hung up.
About an hour or so later, Lenny woke up. "I'm hungry, dad."
"Me, too," Larry said weakly. "And I'm thirsty."
"I'll ring for the nurse," I said, looking for the call button. I pressed it and waited.
"Do you need something?" a voice asked from the speaker.
"Yes, my son is thirsty. Can he have something to drink?"
"I'll check his chart," the voice said.
A minute or two later a young black nurse walked in carrying a plastic glass half filled with water and a bendable straw sticking out of it. "You can have a small sip of water, just enough to wet your mouth. Later today you'll be able to have some fluids, but right now your breakfast is in that IV," she said smiling at him.
"That's going to be hard on him," I said, knowing his appetite.
When the nurse left, Larry said, "I gotta go to the bathroom."
"Let me get the bedpan. You can't get out of bed, yet."
From the time Joel was in the hospital, I suspected that the bedpan was in the bedside cabinet. It was. I carefully put the bedpan in position and waited for him to use it.
"That's cold," he said, before emptying his bladder.
I dumped the bedpan into the toilet.
"Lenny, climb down out of the bed and I'll take you to get some breakfast," I told him. "Larry, you try to go back to sleep. We'll be back in a little while. If your stomach starts to hurt, push this button and tell the nurse about it."
I gave him a kiss on the forehead and then we started out of the room. When I looked back into the room as we got into the hall, Larry appeared to be asleep all ready. The cafeteria was more crowded than the first time I was there. I steered Lenny to the serving line and got him a tray and eating utensils, then started down the line. I think he would have taken everything that they offered, but settled for scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, grapefruit sections and orange juice. I got a second cup of coffee.
When we got back to Larry's room, he was still asleep. His color was much better and his breathing was regular and deep. I sat down in the chair and Lenny crawled up in my lap. It wasn't long before he was sleeping, also.
I think that I nodded off for a few minutes, because the next thing I knew, a nurse was changing Larry's IV. "How's he doing?"
"His pulse is regular and his heart sounds normal. I can't take his temperature until he wakes, but his forehead feels close to normal. He doesn't appear to be in any pain or discomfort at the moment. He's still on pain medication for the rest of the day, so he may be a little groggy. It shouldn't be that bad," she said.
Around ten o'clock I decided to call Darcie to let her know what was going on. She hadn't expected me to be in the office today so she wasn't concerned that I hadn't check in with her. When I told her about Larry, she wanted to know all the details and insisted that she stop by the hospital and bring us some lunch at noon. I asked her if she would bring three tooth brushes and some toothpaste when she came. In our rush to the hospital, I had neglected to bring the basics.
Larry awoke after a while and was feeling nauseous. I summoned the nurse and she brought him something to settle his stomach. It surprised me that he was not having much pain. Even though he was receiving some pain medication through his IV, I expected him to experience some pain.
When Darcie arrived with lunch for Lenny and me, I asked her to stay with Larry while we took the sandwiches outside. I didn't want to eat in front of Larry since he couldn't have anything solid to eat. Lenny and I went to the cafeteria where I got Lenny a carton of milk and me a bottle of water to go with the deli sandwiches Darcie brought us.
"How come Larry can't have anything to eat?" Lenny asked.
I paused a minute trying to figure out the best way to explain it to him. "Larry had to have his appendix taken out. That means that Dr. Greene had to open up his side and remove a part of his intestines. The doctor wants to let that heal a little more before Larry has any food in his stomach. It's like if you had a cut on your arm, you wouldn't want anything to rub on it until it got better. Larry will get some food that he can drink later today and maybe some soft food tomorrow."
"Oh," he said thoughtfully.
An orderly was leaving Larry's room when we arrived back. He had delivered Larry's lunch, which consisted of an 8 ounce glass of a concoction that looked like a vanilla milk shake. It was probably a high calorie protein drink. Larry was sipping the drink slowly as he had been instructed.
"I called Eric after I talked to you. He said if it was all right, he would stop by on his way home from work since it was practically on his way," Darcie said.
"That's fine. Now if you will excuse us, we need to brush our teeth. Thanks for bringing the stuff," I said and stepped into the bathroom leading Lenny ahead of me.
I felt much better after I had cleaned my teeth. I still felt a little grungy from not having my morning shower. I'm sure that Lenny did, too.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Jack called. He wants you to call him. This all happened before you called about Larry. I told him that I thought you were working at your old place. I don't know if he tried to call you there."
"He didn't say what it was about?"
"No, just for you to call him."
It wasn't long after Darcie left to go back to work that I decided to call Jack. I was hoping that he had some information on who was doing the background investigation of me. I wasn't worried that they would find anything. My life, up to the time I got involved with my sons, was pretty boring. I was generous with my charity contributions, but never got involved publicly with any cause.
"Jack, it's Crane," I said when he answered the phone.
"I've been trying to track you down. Darcie said that you were at your old place, but the guy I talked to there didn't have any information about you. Where are you?"
"I'm at the hospital. Larry had his appendix taken out. He's doing fine now. It was all fairly routine, but I was still a basket case. Why were you trying to reach me?"
"Oh, I just wanted to update you on the investigation going on about you. It seems that a charitable trust is behind it. The information that I have is that the name of the charity is the Eschenberg Family Trust. Have you ever heard of them?"
"No, that name doesn't mean anything to me. I wonder why they want to know about my boring background. I hope it has something to do with ASEC. Maybe they are going to give us some money to help with our work. That would be nice."
"If I find out anything else, I'll let you know. Give Larry our best. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Take care, my friend," Jack said before he hung up the phone.
Later a candy striper came by pushing a cart loaded with books and magazines. I picked out a couple of books and thanked the lady. Lenny was once again in the bed with Larry, holding on to his brother. I chose one of the books and asked the boys if they wanted me to read to them. Of course they wanted me to read.
The book was one of the Hardy Boys Mysteries. I had a copy of it at home in my collection but I had never read it to the boys before. I read to them for about an hour and a half only taking out time for Larry to use the bedpan and Lenny to use the restroom. A nurse came in once to check Larry's temperature. She also checked to see if he was experiencing any pain. His temperature was back to normal and he wasn't experiencing any real pain, just a little discomfort. His stomach was still a little upset so she went to get some medicine to settle it.
Dr. Greene arrived just in time to save my throat from further reading. He thoroughly examined Larry and pronounced that he was satisfied with his progress.
"Larry, I'm going to raise the head of your bed and then I will help you to turn half way around and dangle your feet off the side of the bed," Sam said as he lowered the side railing on the bed.
The head of the bed slowly raised causing Larry to giggle. "Ouch, it hurts when I laugh."
"I forgot to tell you that it would. We'll have to make sure that nobody tells you any jokes. Now, swing your legs around slowly. I'll help. That's it, you're doing fine. Okay, now let's try lifting your left foot straight out. Let it down. Did that hurt?"
"Good, now try lifting the right foot."
"That hurts!" Larry said grimacing with the pain.
Sam had him do a few more exercises to test what caused Larry to have pain. Before long he had him turn back around in the bed, but he left the head of the bed somewhat elevated.
Turning to me, Sam said, "He's doing great. I'll be back in tomorrow morning to check on him again. If his progress continues, I'll start him on some soft foods. After lunch, I'll leave instructions for the nurses to get him out of bed to try a few steps. He'll be able to sit up in a chair by that time, also. I'm going to reduce his pain medicine, but if he is having a lot of pain, I'll authorize the nurses to dispense some for him.
"By the way Crane, you look like hell. You need to get some real sleep tonight. I'll have the orderly bring a fold-out bed so that you can at least lie down. I assume that you plan on staying here tonight."
"Yes, I am. Thanks, this chair is okay, but it wasn't meant to sleep in."
It wasn't long after Sam left that I heard a commotion in the hall. I looked at my watch and knew immediately that it was Hildy and the boys. I rushed to the door to warn the boys to be careful of Larry. They gave me a cursory hug and ran to see their brother, all six of them talking and laughing at the same time. I greeted Hildy and Manfred and thanked them for bringing the boys to the hospital.
"Here're some clothes for you and Lenny. I also brought some clean pajamas for Larry, if he can wear them," Hildy said, handing me a package neatly wrapped in brown paper.
"Hi, Hildy, they won't give me anything to eat," Larry said as Hildy bent over and kissed him on the forehead and received a kiss on her cheek in return.
"Honey, your stomach is still too tender for real food. I bet that they are giving you some liquids, aren't they?"
"Yeah, but it's not like your food," he pouted.
"In a couple of days you'll be back to normal and I'll fix you whatever you want."
Manfred and I were trying to control the boys when Eric walked in the door. "Man, you have a full house."
I laughed and gave him a hug before he went over to see Larry. A few minutes later, he and I stepped outside the room so that we could hear each other talk.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm fine, except for being a little fragrant. Hildy just brought me a change of clothes and I haven't had my shower today. We left the house in such a hurry last night that I didn't think to bring anything. Thank goodness, Darcie was able to come by at noon and bring me a toothbrush and toothpaste or I would really be offensive."
"You'd never be offensive to me."
"Thanks," I said, hugging him again.
We talked a few more minutes before going back into the room. It was still as boisterous and full of life as when we left it. I checked on Larry and saw that he was getting tired. I got all of their attentions and told them that they had to let Larry get some rest and for them to say their goodbyes.
TJ climbed up the side of the bed, leaned over the railing and gave his brother a kiss before climbing down and coming over to me. The rest of the boys thought that was a good idea, so they all followed suit.
"Hildy said we could have pizza," TJ whispered to me.
"Oh, that'll be good," I replied, lifting him up and giving him a squeeze.
He wrapped his arms around my neck and asked, "Are you gonna come home tonight?"
"Not tonight, little one. Larry needs me here with him."
"But I want you to be home," he said sadly.
"I know, son. I'd like for all of us to be home, but Larry can't come home yet. I love you."
"I love you, too," he murmured into my neck and squeezed it even tighter.
After everyone had left except Lenny and me, I noticed that Larry had a couple of tears running down his cheeks.
"What's the matter, son? Does your stomach hurt?"
"Yeah, a little."
"Just a little?"
"Well, sort of a lot."
I rang for the nurse and told her he was in pain. A couple of minutes later she arrived and injected some pain medicine into his IV. Within a few minutes, I could tell that the medicine was taking effect. Larry's eyes were beginning to close and it wasn't long before he was fast asleep.