There‘s No Place Like Home: Part 1 may be found here. Part 2 may be found here. SOS is an event inspired by Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's . Hope you all enjoy this next entry to this fictional tale. To find out who else is taking part, and read some great SOS, Musings from a Muse is hosting this week. Go check it out for some soapy fun!
Gratefully the La Crosse airport was relatively small. Grace knew the only reason for the crowd that filled the lobby was because they had traveled the last leg of the flight from Minneapolis to La Crosse with a plane full of kids coming back from a school field trip to the Guthrie Theater. They had been there working in some kind of workshop with other youth from around the country, and were quite wired as they headed home.
And now, as Leland jockeyed for a good position to grab their luggage off the horse-shoe baggage conveyor belt, Gregory did his best to stick close to both of them. The nearest spots were filled, and Leland had to content himself with a spot about half-way around the “u” shape. Although there was a rather loud “hum” of voices, Gregory tried to explain why he was there, and what was going on. Grace knew his voice was deeper and could be louder, but he always spoke with hesitancy around his grandfather.
“They air-lifted Uncle Mick around nine this morning. Dad figured you’d be on your flight, so there was no way to get word to you. Dad drove Aunt Delores and me, and Mom stayed home with all the kids. Aunt Delores wanted him to stay with her at the hospital, so that’s why they brought me, to come pick you up.”
There was no acknowledgment from his grandfather, so he nervously sputtered on.
“Uncle Teddy is out at the farm seeing what can be salvaged.”
Leland’s voice was almost a growl, “Junior should have stayed at the farm to look after the animals and sent Teddy.”
Grace flinched as she watched her grandson’s posture stiffen. It wasn’t fair of Leland to take out his angst on Gregory, but it had been that way ever since his father and mother had chosen to name him Gregory, instead of Leland Allen Mueller V. It wasn’t Gregory’s fault, but since his father had become a veterinarian, putting a Doctor in front of the name, Leland hadn’t been able to put the blame on his own son. He blamed his daughter-in-law, who chose her own grandfather and father’s names for her son: Gregory Michael.
The luggage had finally arrived and the noise level appropriately increased as young voices sang out identifying their bags, and eager hands reached out to grab them off the conveyor belt before they passed by and would have to make another round before appearing again. Leland snatched all of their bags off the belt without saying a word. And Gregory skillfully placed them between he and his grandfather until all the bags were accounted for. Once in hand, they made their way to the parking lot and the family van without another word being spoken.
Grace wanted desperately to get more news out of Gregory as they drove to the hospital. Leland had taken the keys to the van while Gregory helped his grandmother into the front seat. He had climbed into the back grateful to be out of the line of fire from his grandfather. So instead of getting information, there was nothing but silence inside the van.
Grace tried a couple of times to say something about seeing the Mississippi again, how green everything was, something just to lighten the heaviness as they drove. She was grateful the hospital was just a twenty minute or so drive from the airport.
“They’re building a new parking garage or something, Grandpa, at the hospital. You’re going to have to follow the signs for the parking, and then they have transportation picking people up in the lots and getting them up to the building. Would you like to pull right up to the front door, and then I’ll park the van and catch a ride up from the lot?”
“Yes. That will be easier on Grace, and get us into the hospital faster. Where do they have Mick?”
Gregory took a moment to answer, since his grandfather’s voice was the softest and weariest he’d ever heard it. There had never been a sign of frailty in his grandfather as far as he could remember. But in those few words, he heard his grandfather sound tired, and old. When he finally found his voice, he tried to give the best directions he could.
The van came to a halt close to the door. Then Leland rolled the car a little further ahead out of the direct line of the door, thus allowing another vehicle behind him to move directly in front of the doorway. He shut off the motor, and turned around in his seat trying to look at Gregory sitting in the back. His face and eyes looked worn, and it was evident he’d been crying. Both Grace and Gregory were taken aback. Both tried to say something, anything, but neither did more than open their mouths and then close them again.
“Do you know how bad it is, boy? Did they say anything concrete?”
Gregory almost whispered, “Uncle Mick‘s got broken ribs, Grandpa. One of them has punctured his lungs. I think they were talking about a surgery, and needing a specialist. That’s all I’ve heard. Nobody talked all the way here. Grandma Telner told me to pray and not stop praying. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Leland let out a deep dragging sigh. Grace thought it sounded like he’d held his breath for the whole trip, and then let it all out in that one long sigh. She began to fumble through her purse looking for a Puffs, as the tears she’d been trying to keep back began to roll down her cheeks, unchecked. Gregory reached out for his Grandfather’s hand, then his grandmother’s. Leland bowed his head, as his grandson offered a prayer. Then there was only the sniffling back of tears. Gregory got out of the van, walked around to his grandmother’s door, and helped his grandparents into the entrance of the hospital.
As if on cue, Leland appeared to escort his parents. Gregory had used his cell phone to call from the lot where he was parking the van letting his dad know they had gotten from the airport to the hospital. Grace threw herself into her son’s waiting arms. Leland was rather amazed when his father joined in the embrace, putting his arms around both his wife and son. For a moment he couldn’t find his voice.
“Dad, it’s not good. They’ve got him in surgery right now. There’s a punctured lung, he’s bleeding internally, they’re looking at a fractured pelvis, a dislocated knee, and they said his ankle will need to be pinned. But all of that will have to wait until they can get him stabilized, the bleeding stopped . . .” his voice trailed off as he felt his parents both shivering in his arms.
“I should have come home this summer. Please take us to Delores, son.”
And with that, Leland straightened himself, pulled Grace to him, holding her firmly, and looked to his son for directions.