The Path That Eli Wellingsworth Took by Michael Harris Sequel to my short story, "The House That Bernard Wellingsworth Built." E... [9,402 words]
The Arrivals by Michael Harris **********WARNING*********** Do not read further without first reading my short story, The Rivals,... [10,381 words]
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Watershed by Outlaw's Serenade 'he's a star I am not' And so begin the journey as she walks the valleys and peaks of her dreams. [993 words]
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It all started with a paper cut on Christmas. Caught up in the rush to open my new doctor’s kit, my dad accidentally cut his finger. It became my duty to make him my first patient. I grabbed my stethoscope and checked his heartbeat. Check. I then used the plastic triangle knocker to hit his knees, probably a littler harder than I was supposed to. Knee jerk? Check. Well, it seems to be that you have a BooBooOnTheFingerItis. I opened up the box containing band aids and gently placed one on his finger. My mom always had the camera ready and snapped a Polaroid. Holding the drying picture in his hand, he said, “There’s my doctor.”
I pulled out a notepad and placed a small tally under the column Daddy. One more minute. My dad had given me a pack of Post Its from his office to keep me occupied, and it soon became a journal of tally marks. As childish as it was, this pad of paper was the ultimate medical chart from a first grader’s point of view. Every time that my father would smile, I would make a mark on this pad. Each page was covered in these lines, some papers were even stuck around the house. On the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, by his night stand. You see, I had this theory that every time someone smiles, their heart will beat for an extra minute. Yes, it sounds a little unbelievable, but it became a superstition. Smiling is such a magical thing and it can brighten anyone’s day. One smile equals one more minute of life, which I still believe to this day.
I received a full ride scholarship to Stanford University to pursue my ambition of being a Cardiologist. A simple childhood theory became my professional superstition. I wanted to know every little thing about the heart; how it pumped, the types of cells that make up the tissues; every single detail that I could take in. There was so much to be done before I would have the title as an MD though. It wasn’t as easy as it was when I was a little girl. A plastic stethoscope wouldn’t cut it in the big kid world. It was time to start working with real syringes.
For Christmas one year, I went home to visit my parents. We opened our gifts, ate a huge honey glazed ham, and sat around and caught up on our lives. That’s when my dad told us… he had these fatty deposits in his heart. The fat clogged his arteries, which meant that he couldn’t get enough oxygen supply to his bloodstream. “Coronary heart disease? That can be treated, Dad, you can do this.” But then he explained more to us…he went so long undiagnosed that he was at high risk of having a heart attack. The man who raised me, came to all my school plays, and taught me how to ride my bike. My father? It wasn’t possible. Not my dad. But his struggle only made me push even harder.
That spring came faster than any other spring had before. All I had to do was graduate and I had it. To give people that extra chance to see their grandchildren, or to have a reason to take that late vacation to the Alps. I wanted to give everyone that extra minute to pump. To live life to the fullest. Nothing mattered to me anymore other than making sure that I could do anything possible to find a way to make life for Dad easier.
For the next year, I spent my daytime at school and my evenings working at a small 24 hour clinic. I moved back in with my parents to keep an extra eye on my Dad. I just didn’t want him to have any stress at all. Any bit of stress could trigger it…the heart attack. He couldn’t do anything that could cause stress, and if that meant turning off the football game when his favorite team was losing, that was okay.
I remember studying for finals in my room one night. It was late, only a small table lamp lit desk that was covered in piles of books and notes. I couldn’t even find what exactly I was looking for. My mind wandered back and forth, trying to remember how to perform an operation step by step. It felt like everything that I had been taught over the past years had suddenly escaped from my mind. I was going to fail for sure. Right when I thought about giving up, my dad peaked his head into my room. “There’s my doctor. I brought you some milk and cookies.” I released my frustrations. Dad told me that the only person who could ever stop me from being a doctor would be myself. That night he reminded me that I was going to give every patient a smile…one more minute. I had been so focused on the bigger scale that I forgot what really mattered. My professional superstition.
In my last year of residency, I was more than ready to cross that finish line. I was working the graveyard shift at the clinic when I got the page. It was from my mom. Emergency, call me ASAP. When she answered the phone, that’s when she told me…
The doctor stood outside my dad’s door, waiting for me to arrive. When I met her, she said that my father was asking for Doctor Merideth, but they didn’t have a Doctor Merideth on that floor, and his medical chart didn’t show him ever having a doctor by that name. But what she didn’t know was that I was Doctor Merideth. I entered the room to see my father, trying to hold back my tears. He was lying on the bed, connected to so many wires and machines. In his hand was a Polaroid….it was me, when I was a little girl. He cut his finger and my mom got a picture of us on Christmas morning. He held the picture and looked at me and said, "There’s my doctor,” he whispered. “Dad, I’m here. Everything is okay, Dad. I’ll take care of you.” A faint smile came across his face. I looked at the clock…5:03. He told me that I had given him the longest life and he had never been more proud of me. Then clock struck 5:04. Superstitions are real. That smile gave him that last minute with me.
Hanging on my wall in my office are two pictures. One is the Polaroid of me putting the bandage on his finger on the Christmas morning and the other is of me graduating from Med School. Just seeing that picture reminds me that he’s looking down on me and smiling.
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© 2007 Keri Lebeau
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