Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Married in the Spring

           I stood to one side as the hospital attendants quickly removed the unconscious man from the front seat of my car and strapped him to a gurney.
Wind-swept snow nearly blinded me; bitter cold bit my cheeks.
"We'll take him now, Rita," one of the attendants said.
This morning, I'd found the man slumped over the steering wheel in his car at a little roadside park on a county road.
"He'll be all right," the other attendant said, pointing to a bracelet on the man's wrist. "Diabetic. Blood glucose probably too low. Happens sometimes."
I'm a nurse at this hospital.
I knew the attendant's assessment was on target. When I'd discovered the man, he was pale and soaked in sweat, his heart beat rapid—classic signs of hypoglycemia.
As the attendants hurried him away into the hospital, I followed them to the ER. Raising the man's blood glucose with intravenous glucose and plenty of fluids would bring him around nicely. I needed to talk to him. I had his car keys. I'd locked his car before I brought him here, and I was sure he wouldn't remember where he'd left the vehicle.
An hour later, I sat in Thomas O'Malley's hospital room in a chair next to his bed. Hooked up to several IVs, he was sitting up and smiling at me. "I don't know how to thank you," he said. "Rita...Rita Albright, that's your name?"
I nodded. "I'm a nurse," I said. "Helping people is what I do."
"If you hadn’t come along," he said, "I would've...frozen to death."
"That's possible."
Though I hadn't realized it when I rescued him, he was wonderfully handsome—curly black hair, blue eyes, square jaw, and an easy smile that sucked the air right out of my lungs.
"Why did you stop at that tiny roadside park in the first place?" he asked.
"My folks live on a farm. I'd been visiting over the weekend, I was driving home, I'd drunk too much coffee with breakfast—I needed a restroom. Why were you on that off-beaten road?"
"Lost. I own a window and siding business. I'd been at a farmer's house, writing out an estimate. After I left, I felt myself getting weak. I felt confused. Ready to pass out. I had to get off the road."
"You weren't' paying attention to your blood-sugar level, were you, Mr. O'Malley?"
"Tom. Call me Tom. Please." His smile turned sheepish. "I'm careless, I admit. But this has never happened before."
"You didn't have an orange or a candy bar with you? A can of regular soda?"
He offered another sheepish smile. "I was in such a hurry this morning...you know how Mondays are." Then, "How in the world did you get me into your car? I'm six-one, a hundred eighty-five pounds. You're...?"
"Five foot, a little more than a hundred." I preferred not to reveal how many pounds over a hundred. "You weren't quite out of it yet. I managed to get your arm around my shoulder, and somehow we staggered from your car to mine."
"Thank you," he said. "I can't thank you enough."
I told Tom I was sure he'd be released this afternoon. He'd need somebody to take him to his car, about thirty miles away. I could do that—Monday was my day off—the snow had stopped—but if he preferred to have his wife or someone from his office take him, I could write out directions.
"Not married," he said. "You?"
Shaking my head, I dug in my purse for his car keys. "These are yours."
"Thank you," he said, smiling his breathtaking smile. "I'd be delighted to ride with you again."
Despite the cold, the gray skies of this morning had given way to late afternoon sunshine. By the time I drove Tom to his car over the newly plowed county road, I felt as if we'd know each other forever. He was a city boy; I was a country girl. But we discovered with liked the same movies—romantic adventures; the same music—old time rock 'n' roll; and the same sports—he'd played baseball in high school; I'd played softball.
After I parked my car next to his in the snow, he jumped out and started his, letting it warm up. Climbing back into mine to stay warm, he said, "I owe you my life. Let me take you to dinner tonight. Ribeye, thick and juicy. Baked potato, sour cream. Salad, blue cheese..."
I shook my head.
"How about my place?" I said. "I'll fix a meal that's good for you. Something healthy."
He thought about that for a second."It's an offer I can't refuse," he said, his smile melting my heart. This wonderful man with the big smile has been eating healthy ever since. Hopelessly and helplessly in love, we married in the spring.

The End
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

       The dreaded announcement crackled over the airport's loudspeaker: "Due to heavy snow," a man's voice droned, "no flights will be arriving or departing until further notice."
I slumped back in my seat in the terminal. A plane was visible through the windows of the gate area, wind-swept snow swirling about it. Across from me a woman muttered, "But it's Thanksgiving! Everyone's expecting me home."
I nodded silently. I knew how helpless and disappointed she felt.
Everyone was expecting me, too—Mom, Dad, my sister, Angie, her two kids and her husband. I'd been away too long. And now this! A snowstorm paralyzing the airport. How long would I be stuck here, only a 160 miles from home? A few more hours? Overnight?
I glanced at my watch: 10:00 A.M. I was scheduled to arrive home at noon. Mom's to-die-for Thanksgiving dinner would be served promptly at 4:00. I called home on my cell phone. Told her the situation. "Not to worry, Cindy" she said. "Turkey's not in the oven yet. If we have to, we'll have Thanksgiving tomorrow."
"No way!" I said. "Eat on time! All of you.  I'll have leftovers tomorrow—whenever I get there. All right?"
She didn't answer.
"Promise," I said. "I'll call back as soon as I hear more."
"All right."
After I shut my phone down, I realized a handsome man with startling brown eyes was sitting next to me. "I had to do the same thing," he said. "Call home. Tell them I didn't think I'd make it—my mom, dad, and grandma."
"I'm so disappointed I won't be home I could punch a wall," I said.
"Me, too. You headed for Moline International?"
I nodded. The warmth in his brown eyes sent a little tingle rippling through me.  "My hometown's Davenport. Yours?"
"Rock Island. Just across the river from you. I'm Brett O'Connor."
Was I simply happy to see someone from close to home among the hundreds of strangers stranded at the airport, or had this man's sudden appearance and good looks rocked me a little?
I smiled. "Cindy Boyd. Why are you traveling on Thanksgiving Day?"
"I work for a marketing research firm. I travel about once a week. I always plan things so I'm home for weekends and holidays, but this time a snowstorm's fouled things up. It happens sometimes." He shot a glimpse at my ringless left hand. "You?"
"I've missed being home for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the last three years," I said. "I decided that had to stop."
"Good for you."
I explained that I worked for a large engineering firm In Chicago, at first an exciting and challenging job, but as I continued to climb the corporate ladder my work schedule had become more and more demanding, sometimes seventy hours a week.  "So I handed in a six-week's notice," I said. "I was going to tell everyone today—I've quite my job. I'm going to move back home. To my roots."
"Oh, wow," he said. "Quitting a good job these days takes nerve—I mean, with the job market like it is."
"I've got a little money saved, I've got good contacts around home, I'll find something. Maybe I'll start my own consulting business."
"I admire you," he said. "I really do."
"I have an older sister who married her childhood sweetheart right after high school. They had two children right off—and I thought how foolish. Now I'm thinking how wonderful."
He nodded. "Funny how life changes your mind sometimes, isn't it?"
We both smiled. We laughed a lot as we chatted more about ourselves. We were both the same age. Thirty-five. He was an only child and wished he had a brother and a sister. He concluded by telling me he'd never been married.
"Me, either," I said.
"Simply haven't found the right person."
"I haven't had time to think about it," I said.
And then that man's voice droned again over the loud speaker telling us the snow was getting worse. No flights would be leaving until tomorrow morning. Every stranded passenger in the airport seemed to heave a giant, exasperated sigh.
"We're stuck," Brett said.
"Looks like it."
We both called home. Tears misted in my eyes when I told Mom I couldn't be there until tomorrow. She assured me there'd be plenty of leftovers. When I put my phone away, Brett's eyes met mine. My heart gave a little jolt. "How about having Thanksgiving dinner with me?" he said.
"In an airport? You're kidding."
He stood up. Held out his hand. "Hamburger? Fries? Milkshake?"
I smiled. I dropped my hand into his. His long fingers closed around mine as he firmly but gently pulled me up to my feet. That tingly feeling rippled through me again, more intense this time. "Sounds like a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving dinner," I said. Suddenly the snow and the delay—none of it mattered quite as much anymore.

The End
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