Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 16
- Blackbird has Spoken: Part 15
Thomas' life takes on a new course, but not without trials and confusion.
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 15
Thomas, in the weight of his guilt and shame goes the chapel again, weeping before God, seeking His help. Chaplain Bob Reddick comes along and shows Thomas the way to God. Thomas leaves with joy at his salvation and entrance into new life. Sadly, he comes home to find his wife Linda has gone away to think about whether she was willing to stay married. But that night Thomas reads the Bible and falls in love with his Savior.
He read into the wee hours of the morning, riveted to the stories and teachings of Jesus. He didn't understand everything, but he fell in love with Jesus. The horror of His crucifixion made him weep. Not just for His suffering, but because He suffered for him. Then there was the resurrection that Bob had spoken of. When he finished he knew he couldn't go to sleep without talking to this Jesus he just fell in love with.
Dr. Wong arrived on the unit feeling a bit depressed. It was raining and gloomy and he'd had a nightmare about Cloe. Much to his surprise, however, when he arrived at the little office where he met with patients a painter was busy putting a pleasant pastel blue on the walls. His heart skipped a beat with excitement and his mood went up from zero to sixty.
"Oh, very nice color. Thank you for making patient room cheerful."
"You bet, doc," said the painter. "Maybe I can get some free therapy for my wife in exchange?"
Dr. Wong laughed. "Oh sure. You better come first, though. You probably drive her crazy."
"Ssh. Don't let it get out."
"No sir. Thank you."
Dr. Wong checked in with Muriel to see what could be worked out for seeing patients. Muriel looked particularly dour today.
"Good morning, Muriel. Good day today," said Dr. Wong, hoping to get her to smile at least a crack.
"I don't know what's good about it. Do you realize what the smell of that paint is doing to my system? I am very sensitive to chemical smells. I've got a headache, I'm dizzy, and I'm queasy. And just what are you so cheerful about? I miss that long face you've sporting for the last few months."
He wasn't going to let Muriel drag him down. "Mad that I'm in good mood?" he said, smiling. "Muriel, you break my heart."
"Yes. It's in very poor taste to be happy when I'm so miserable."
"Okay, here is my frown." Dr. Wong scowled at Muriel. "Feel better, Muriel?"
"Much. Thank you. You treat patients in the staff room today."
"Thank you, Muriel. You make my day," he said, heading to the staff room.
She scowled after him grumbling under her breath.
Searching for Cloe
Storm clouds gathered above and on Ivy's face as she searched the cemetery for Cloe's grave. She'd spent hours looking, but could not find it. The longer she looked, the more hopeless and depressed she felt. At one point a grave stone inscription with the name Cloe caught her attention. Her heart fluttered and she stopped with excitement. She read,
Cloe Zimmerman, Beloved daughter. April 2, 1992 - January 15, 1993.
Devastated with disappointment she fell on the grass and wept. The cemetery faded away.
Ivy awoke in a state of profound melancholy. She'd been wondering for a long time where Cloe was buried, and who'd made the arrangements. No one at the hospital seemed to know. Ivy didn't know if Cloe had any living family members. Her heart cried out to find her friend's grave and lay flowers on it. Somehow it would make her feel better to know Cloe's body was resting where she could be visited by strangers and remembered by friends.
After lunch Ivy joined the grief class and poured her heart out on the matter, telling them of her dream. It wasn't the first time she'd brought it up, but this time was different. At first it was a curiosity, then a frustration, then a longing, and now a desperation.
Erlene suggested her cousin James look into it. Perhaps he could find the answer.
"That's a good idea," said Ivy. "But then there is the issue of going to her grave site."
Someone reminded her she could leave anytime she wanted to, even if it was against medical advice. She didn't want to handle it that way. She knew her own discharge was coming soon. She'd just have to hold on. It cheered her a bit thinking James might be able to help.
It so happened that James stopped by midday rather than at evening visiting hours. Ivy was fervent in her petition for his help.
"Hmm. Let me see what I can do, Ivy. There must be records somewhere I can find out. I'll get on it."
"Thank you James."
Ivy made her daily visit with Dr. Wong in the staff room. It did her heart good to see Dr. Wong in such high spirits. She was as thrilled as he was to learn about the renovation of the office.
"Please tell me they're going to eighty six the God forsaken green chair."
"Yes, that means to get rid of something."
"Oh yes. I think you will like new furnishings."
"Woo hoo," Ivy piped in. "Dr. Wong, I want to ask you about my discharge. I feel like I'm about done here. I am doing so much better."
"Good you bring it up, Ivy. Staff and I talk about this just yesterday. We agree. How would you like to go home day after tomorrow?"
"That quick? Heck ya."
"You have place to go?"
"Yes. My cousin and aunt caught up my rent, so I can go home to my apartment, although there are so many memories of Nana there, I don't know that I will want to stay there. They invited me to come stay with them awhile if I want. I may take them up on that. My lease will be up in another two months. The other thing is my job. I feel bad, but I never called them to tell them why I had to be gone. I felt too embarrassed, although Clara said I had no responsibility to tell them why I was hospitalized. I could have gotten family medical leave. But I just couldn't handle it. So I am sure I don't have a job to go to. One more good reason to stay with my aunt awhile. I don't want them to keep paying my rent."
"You have good family. You very lucky."
"I don't believe in luck. I believe in God."
"Yes. God is good."
"He's a keeper all right."
Linda Gimmler walked the beach. It was cold, blustery and drizzly, matching her mood, but she had her rain gear on. Rather dismal to most people, but she felt herself driven to walk it and didn't mind the weather. What she minded was the agony she was in, the struggle as to what to do about her marriage. Thomas had respected her request to be left alone, much to her surprise. She had expected phone calls of groveling, sweet talk and promises, or that he would show up. How was she to interpret that, she wanted to know? Was it out of respect or that he simply didn't care? How silly to let this concern her when she had no desire in the beginning to have contact with him. Did this mean she still loved him? That she still wanted to try and stay in the marriage? What if she tried and it went badly?
Linda thought about the note to Marilyn she'd found. She couldn't breathe whenever she remembered it. She'd just come around to at least listening and talking with Thomas, and then the note brought all the pain and humiliation back. Tears burned her eyes. It wasn't from the wind or the cold. She was furious with Thomas all over again. So angry that she turned back to the condo just short of running. She slammed the door hard as she entered, took off her rain gear, and grabbed her phone. She would call Thomas and tell him it was over. She punched in his number and waited.
'How pitiful that I don't have my own husband on speed dial.' What was the point? He never responded to her calls. It appeared to be the case this time as well. Thomas' voicemail told her her call was important to him. "Poppycock," she said. It only applied to business people and his deviant friend Murray. She hung up without leaving a message. She couldn't stand sitting around the house or cooking. She changed and went out to eat.
The Sand and Tides was a lovely restaurant with a panorama view of the ocean. It was breathtaking despite the weather. She slid into a booth and a waitress immediately appeared. She ordered a glass of wine and tried to relax and think of nothing but what was in front of her. An avid people watcher, she looked around and noticed all the couples that filled the room. She could tell the ones that weren't happy. The middle aged couple across the room weren't talking, just looking around. Clearly, they had nothing to say to each other anymore. Another thirty-something couple in business attire were both texting. They could just be business associates, or they could be a couple who had not learned the fine art of direct communication. They didn't stand a chance if that was the case. Over in the corner booth there was a man and woman looking deep into each others eyes over the candlelight. He held her hand up to his lips and kissed it lovingly. Things appeared to be heating up rapidly as they left quickly before their food came. He paid the check and left it on the table. Linda thought about how many times Thomas had been in that situation with other women. It made her sick. The waitress came by and she ordered the scallops and another glass of wine. She'd just begun to sip her wine when a handsome man about her age with a woman on his arm headed her way. He looked vaguely familiar. His hair was a beautiful gray, meticulously cut and wore an expensive suit. She looked equally refined and lovely. As they passed by he gave her a quick nod, then did a double take and stopped.
"Linda? Linda Thompson?"
Linda tried to place him. "Cal? Cal Brady?"
"I thought that was you. Gosh, it's been so long."
"Yes, it has." Their eyes held.
Cal's lady looked from one to the other and back again and began to look uncomfortable. She tried to discreetly nudge him back to herself.
"Oh, forgive me. Linda, this is my lady Sandra. Sandra, this is Linda, as you heard, an old college friend."
Sandra knew it had been more than a friendship by the way he and Linda looked at each other.
"It's very nice to meet you," Linda said smiling.
"Yes, nice to meet you, too," she said, clearly not meaning it. "Cal, we have a reservation, we ought to find our table."
"Yes, of course," Cal said, suddenly noticing her existence momentarily. Then he turned back to Linda. "Linda, I can't believe this. It was very good seeing you." They shook hands warmly, too warmly for Sandra's taste. She nudged him again. "Good bye then," he said.
Linda's salad arrived and as she ate she went back in time to her senior year at college.
They met at a frat party, something neither of them usually went to. But it seemed fate had other ideas. Cal was a handsome jock, she an avid student and volleyball player. They struck up a romance quickly and after a year decided to marry. Then tragedy struck when Cal received a traumatic brain injury during a game. The subsequent battle to get well took it's toll on their relationship. He fell into self pity, and struggled with mood swings aside from the more physically apparent symptoms. He cancelled the engagement and they parted ways, leaving her brokenhearted and discouraged. Several months down the line she'd met Thomas, a classic college charmer. She saw that he was full of himself and a bit of a snob, but her head spun at his sweet talk and fawning attention. They eventually married. It was only a couple of years when his affections for her dried up. He was often aloof and always out with Murray. She couldn't have children and that drove them further apart. When he broke up with one of his lady friends, he'd suddenly love her again and she was barraged with flowers, gifts, words of love, and a sudden passion for her. But it never held. Why he'd not left her long ago was a mystery. Why had she stayed with him and subjected herself to continual betrayals and mistreatment? She continued to love him all the years and convinced him to try marriage counseling a few times. He went to a few sessions each time then quit when the counselor would hone in on his issues.
Linda snapped out of her reverie and looked up to see Cal. He was alone.
"May I sit with you?" he asked
"Um, sure. Where is Sandra?"
"Oh, we're not serious. She's the jealous type. She found you a threat, and, well, here we are. You are as beautiful as ever Linda. I can't believe I turned you away. Worst mistake I've ever made.
Sticking in the knife
The morning broke with a stunning sunrise. Linda made her coffee and couldn't stop smiling. The sun had risen in her heart. Linda and Cal closed the restaurant, talking and catching up. The spark had kindled and when they said goodbye they made a date for dinner the next evening. Since coming to the condo, Linda had taken off her wedding ring. She told Cal that she'd been married to Thomas many years but they were no longer together. It wasn't a lie, really. 'A half truth isn't a full on lie,' she told herself. Cal was a perfect gentleman. He made no advances, but clearly he was interested, Linda thought. It was thrilling to think something would come of it. It would serve Thomas right, and it would be wonderful to be cared for by a man. The phone rang around nine. She looked at caller I.D, and her heart turned to stone. It was Thomas.
"Yes, Thomas. What do you want?"
"I'm just returning your call Linda. I saw your number on caller I.D."
"Well, you probably noticed I didn't leave a message. That should tell you something."
"Linda, you called for some reason. If you want to talk or have something to tell me I want to hear it." His voice was calm and sincere.
"I just wanted you to know I'm not interested in coming back. I'm done. I've met someone else." It felt good to sting him the way he'd done so many times to her. Although she'd only seen Cal once, she knew it was going somewhere, that was her hope anyway.
Thomas was quiet for a long time. He spoke through tears. "I don't know what to say, Linda. I don't blame you for not wanting to stay, but I wish another man wasn't in the picture. It certainly hinders..."
"How dare you, Thomas. How does it feel to have someone else in the picture like it's been for me so many times? Sure feels good to me. And FYI, its Cal Brady, my lost love from college. Surely you remember him. He treats me like a lady. He honors virtue, and respect."
"Linda, I know, I don't blame you, but I need you to know how serious I am to change. I found a relationship with Jesus Christ the other day. Linda, He's changed my heart, He's changed who I am and who I want to be in the future, a future I want to spend with you. I realize our marriage is very broken, but it's not hopeless. If you'll just give it some time, I know we can rebuild our marriage."
"Jesus Christ, eh? How nice for you. How convenient for you. I hope you two will be very happy together."
Thomas knew to continue would only serve to upset her more. With God's help he would not push, and allow God to work. God's timing was best, but he was new at this faith thing and it would be hard. In this moment, knowing there was another man was nearly unbearable. But that is exactly what he'd done to her.
"Linda, I'm not going to push you. I'll give you time, and whatever you choose, no matter how bad it is, I will always love you and I will continue to pray for you whether you come back or not."
Ivy woke up just as the sun was rising over the city. Once again beams of light poured into her room. She did not shut the drapes as she had so many times in the past, but rather stood at the window and thanked God she was going home. She spoke to Him words of gratitude that He'd spared her life. She wondered why some suicides were completed and others were not. Someone once said to her, "Well, God must have a plan for you." Of course that was true, but surely he had plans for those that didn't survive. And certainly many had loved ones or friends praying for them, but still, they'd completed their act. It was heartbreaking. She felt the Lord in that moment planting an idea in her heart to help others in some way in her situation. More would be revealed. Ivy headed to the shower, taking joy in the fact that the next shower she would take would have steady warm water, no sudden surprise ice water sprays.
At breakfast she chatted with patients in good spirits. Clara stopped by and told Ivy she was setting the discharge process in motion and she could count on leaving around one or so. Moments later, young Jeb, who'd been discharged some time ago came out in his hospital pajamas. The first day attire along with the desolate face. Ivy's heart ached, remembering what a cruel woman his mother was. She looked at his wrists, hoping they weren't bandaged. They weren't, but he had that look of having tried and failed, hopeless. She left her friends and went and sat with Jeb.
"Hi Jeb," she said quietly.
Jeb stared down at his food and a single tear trickled down his cheek.
"Oh Jeb, I'm sorry you had to come here again. I wish I had some definite answers for you for your situation, but I don't have any. But I'm going to pray for you every day that God will move in your life to help you. If I didn't know the Lord I might not be here, or I might not be going home. I'm leaving today. I probably won't see you again, but don't give up. God is mighty and he loves you. I'll send you a card. Or can I call you?"
Jeb looked away and said nothing. God, if there was one, was surely not on his side. But Ivy was so kind and sincere. "Thank you," he whispered.
Ivy left the dining room and went to her room and got on her knees pleading for Jeb and his family, and all the broken people who come through. She prayed for the staff, for the hospital. She prayed until her burden lifted. She couldn't help anyone much, but God could. She promised herself she would never forget places like this and the people in them. Oh my, how God had worked. Clara knocked at her door and came in wanting to go over the required crisis plan, and follow up treatment plan.
"Clara, I hope I never need my crisis plan. God has done so much for me it's mind boggling. But should I ever, I know this is a place of love and understanding, at least for the most part. You have been such a wonderful nurse, friend, and advocate, I don't know how I can ever thank you."
"Ivy, I'm the one that should be thanking you."
"Me? Why is that?"
"Because you have been a reflection of God's love. I know you went through a lot here, but it's so plain to see how real and precious God is to you and whether you know it or not, you and Cloe both had a huge impact on all of us. What you just did for Jeb with that song, that wonderful song I heard you sing that first morning, and other times as well, has gotten my attention. It's made me want to get close to God. I've been going to church the last few weeks. Thank you for that."
Ivy gave Clara a fond pat on the head. "I'm so happy for you Clara."
Now for the really hard part, saying goodbye to dearest Dr. Wong. Ivy remembered Cloe's last day and how hard it was for her to say goodbye to him. She had been so kind to bring him the churros. The memory of what happened moments after delivering them struck Ivy with force "No, I can't go there today," she told herself. Clara came in and told her the office was ready for patients so to go ahead and meet Dr. Wong in there. When she entered the room the smell of fresh paint, the soothing color, a new painting on the wall of a little girl sitting on a sand dune watching the ocean gave her a thrill. The painting was simple, but it struck Ivy profoundly. Dr. Wong got her attention.
"Hello Ivy. What do you think of new digs?"
"That was pretty hip, Dr. Wong. I love the new digs." She went to sit down and was delighted to see the ugly green plastic chair was gone and there was a simple but nicely upholstered mauve colored one, a lovely contrast to the pastel blue on the walls. Ivy sang out a line of the hallelujah chorus, surprising Dr. Wong.
"Glad you happy Ivy. We are all going to miss you but it so very good to see how far you come. I am proud of you. You help so many people while you getting well here. You help me very much too."
"Really? How so?"
"You talk about faith in God, you show me honesty, you show me you are survivor. Ivy, I want you to go out and thrive."
Ivy was touched. "I plan to. I know it's likely we won't see each other again, at least not under these circumstances, but I just want you to know what a remarkable doctor, a remarkable man you are. I've never known anyone like you. I thank God for what you do for people here. You have a way with people. Psychiatrists are known for being aloof and clinical. Your humanity and compassion are proof of a man of kindness and integrity. Mrs. Wong is sure a blessed woman."
"Yes, I agree." They both laughed.
Ivy was ready to go. She didn't want to get teary. She was about done for the day with goodbyes. She thanked him once again and left. As she stepped out of the office James and Aunt Gwen were there to pick her up. She went to her room to collect her things and wait for the final paper signing. Clara was quick about it and Ivy was on her way. As she stepped out of the locked double doors of Mercy Hospital's psychiatric unit she had a flood of emotions. Freedom and hope being the greatest. Aunt Gwen and James planned to take Ivy to her apartment and get some things and come stay with them awhile.
They were quiet for awhile as they drove, all lost in their thoughts about what Ivy had been through, where she was headed, how their lives together would be different and better because they were altogether. Ivy thought of Cloe.
"James, did you find out about Cloe yet?"
"I'm waiting for a call. It seems her body wasn't claimed for awhile because they couldn't find a next of kin. What they do in those cases is cremate them at tax payers expense and bury them after a certain amount of time in a cemetery of unclaimed...bodies. And they will hunt high and low until they find a relative to pay them back."
"How awful. So has she been buried yet?"
"That's what I'm waiting to hear."
Aunt Gwen could feel the heaviness in Ivy and changed the subject. "Ivy, I thought you'd like to know that Nana left a bit of money for you. You know, she didn't have much, but she put money away from Daddy's small pension. We can talk with the lawyer whenever your ready."
"However much it is, I'm going to use it toward giving Cloe a proper burial and a service."
"That's so thoughtful of you, dear. James and I will contribute, of course."
"We're here," James said.
Ivy stared at the apartment building that she'd shared with Nana for so many years. It seemed foreign and from another lifetime. Indeed it had. When they stepped into her apartment she knew immediately she did not want to continue living there. Too many memories of the past year. Ivy made tea for them and began to pack the things she wanted. She grabbed a photo of her and Nana, beaming love. She took the lovely crocheted blanket on Nana's bed. It smelled of lavender. Memories flooded. Finally they were off. Ivy was relieved. What was life to be now? Dr. Wong told her to thrive. That was the plan, but what that looked like she didn't know just yet. But she knew it would be God's leading. He would show her the way. She whispered thank you.
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