Family Non-Fiction posted May 29, 2023 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 16... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tom makes a decision not to go back to his first love

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

Life Without a Net

by forestport12

Tommy overcomes his troubled families past, joins the air force and a church in Texas where he finds someone who loves him without condition until hospitalized and separated by thousands of miles

Discharged from military service-what was I to do with my newfound freedom? I left the mental ward from the VA and never re-filled a prescription. To some experts, it meant I was a walking time bomb. They say there's no cure for schizophrenia, but it didn't stop me from believing in prayer. Just maybe, I was a walking miracle.

With freedom came choices. They say when your older and you go back home, it's never the same. I was tired of looking up friends who had a family to think about. And it got old explaining why I hadn't finished my term of service in the air force.

If I went back to Texas, I would have a supportive church and Mary, who loved me with a fever that could start a prairie fire. Instead of driving to south Texas, I chose Colorado. Maybe I feared love. I had felt rejected by all the women in my life growing up and felt my mother's stinging rebuke in the hospital when I threatened to take my life. Her reply? "Go ahead then."

Little did I know, after I'd written to Mary a few times, she'd set out every day for the post office in the boiling sun. She'd clung to the hope of having another letter from me. Having gone back in time to reflect, it brings tears to my eyes to think of how she felt, sometimes going home empty handed, drenched in sweat, heart beating like a base drum. She'd go home to the double-wide trailer where she'd cook, clean, and raise her two younger siblings since mother had her breakdowns.

In Colorado I found a college for the ministry. They graciously found me a place to live and work too. I went to reside at the Silver State Nursing Home located in Castle Rock, Colorado off highway 25 halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs.

The nursing home was the most notable landmark. High on a hill, flanked by boulders, it stood out from the highway. I was given a room on an upper hallway where the self-sufficient elderly people lived. From my room I could see the mountains west like heavenly pillars in an endless sky.

I enjoyed the ministry there. I thought one of my duties was to encourage the elderly and listen to their stories. Often the nurse or director would ask me to wheel the elderly down for their meals when I wasn't in school.

I would converse with a ninety-six-year-old man on a regular basis. He was a charming and intelligent soul who had lived a storied life. We would sit in the parlor and discuss everything from history to politics. Once, I had mentioned that I'd like to be a writer, besides being in the ministry. He too exclaimed an unfulfilled passion for writing.

He stood from his chair and waved his cane. "I'm going to do it. I'm going to write a novel." I assured him it wasn't too late.

One sunny day I returned from school in Denver and parked on the gravel hill. As I walked through the door, I heard the unmistakable sound of an old typewriter slapping keys. "tat... tat... tat, zing!"

Over the next few weeks, there was a bounce in Mr. Cooley's step and the crest of a smile on his weathered face.

I'd grown used to the sounds of typing. But next to me was a big-boned German woman who I suspect would curse in her native tongue over the tat... tat... tat..., zing in the hallway.

A few months later winter found our fortress, bringing with it ice and snow. The self-sufficient elderly ones were dropped off from a field trip. Mr. Cooley was among them. Filing out, he slipped and broke his hip from which he never recovered. Then he got sent down to a room on the first floor--a death sentence. When I visited him, the spark in his eyes was forever gone.

The upstairs hall had grown silent, except for the loud whispers of that crazy German woman whose words often sounded like the hiss of demons through my wall. It seemed she'd hardly needed sleep as much as I did.

We turned another season and a corner on the winter weather, as the sun melted the snow and warmed our attitudes. The mountains took on a purple hue and the skies were an azure blue. When I stepped outside into the sun for a brisk walk, I spied smoke billowing from one of the worker apartments on site.

A nurse had driven up the winding hill. I waved her over. She jumped out of her car and ran toward the apartment with me. I broke the door down. Flames shot up and a rush of heat blew me backward.

As the flames grew, I spied him on the floor by the couch. It was Mel the custodian. I got down on my hands and knees.

The nurse screamed. "Get him out! Break his bones if you have to."

"I dove down, then slithered inside, face hugging the carpet. Breathing was impossible, my lungs burned. I grabbed his legs under my arms and yanked him through the door. I fell backward gasping for air.
She looked down, ready to do CPR. Then she felt how stiff he was. She looked at me. "It's too late! He's gone. Nothing can be done."

I jumped to my feet. We almost forgot about the male nurse in the apartment next store. I pounded on the door. "Get out! Get out! Fire!" He rushed outside coughing phlegm. I stepped backward, head between my knees, coughing more black mucus.

In the distance, the sound of fire trucks pierced the sky. When the director found Mel on the ground, he knelt down and wept like a baby. I hadn't known how close the director was to Mel.

The experience had confirmed in me the fragility of life, and how you don't have a guaranteed life span stamped on your forehead. I was truly living life without a net but with God's grace from above.

Only in my early twenties, I gained valuable life lessons spending time living with the elderly.
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