Yesterday I posted Timothy’s Mother which is part one of State Home for the Holidays. Today, as promised I am posting the second and final part of the story, Christmas Connect the Dots.
Christmas Connect the Dots
Christina walked from room-to-room in the empty split-level house. More alone than she could ever remember, Christina couldn’t bring herself to decorate for the holidays. Telling herself that she deserved a treat, she headed for the widely publicized, eagerly awaited grand opening of the Red Toad Shopping Plaza with its promise of opening day entertainment and everyday low prices. Two hours later, tired but happy, she headed for home with a set of place mats decorated with four of the seven wonders of the world, a new pair of reading glasses, a bathtub stopper, a silk scarf, automobile deodorizer, two bamboo picture frames, a salad spinner, a reversible plastic tablecloth, gold earrings, pantyhose, a pizza to go, and for Timothy, for when she visited, if she visited, a Christmas connect-the-dots.
As Christina pulled up in front of the house, she could hear the phone ringing inside. Leaving her packages on the back seat, she grabbed the pizza and, fumbling with her keys, ran for the door. Too late. By the time she reached the kitchen, the phone had stopped ringing.
Minutes later, it rang again.
“Mrs. Hargrove, I’m glad I caught you.”
“Who is this?” Christina hated people who jumped right into conversations without identifying themselves.
“I’m sorry. This is Ms. Milligan,” she paused, expecting acknowledgement, “from Buena Vista.”
“Omigod. What’s wrong?”
“Everything’s fine. Really. Timmy had a minor mishap, hardly worth mentioning.”
Christina could feel the guilt expanding to fill her chest. “What happened?”
Ms. Milligan took a deep breath. “Timmy slipped in the shower room; really it was nothing, just some minor bruising.”
Unable to sleep, Christina called her ex-husband at two in the morning. “You’ve got to help me deal with this.” George thought he had been a pretty good husband. Apparently, Christina didn’t agree. They had been married in the early days of the first Bush Presidency and, not unlike Bush Sr. he was thrown out just four years later. But George agreed to go with Christina.
George tried to imagine what it must have been like for Timothy upon arriving at Buena Vista. Even as a visitor, George found the hospital to be frighteningly weird. They arrived late Christmas morning after driving north from the city for three hours. Turning off the thruway, they drove the last hour on an unmarked road through the Catskills. The road ended at an enormous Tudor manse; once a private estate, the house and surrounding property was now home to several hundred patients and staff.
“Can I help you?” After wandering around the deserted halls of the main building, growing more uncomfortable with each solitary minute, Christina was relieved to see another human being, the first since their arrival at the psychiatric facility. Her name tag identified this large woman as Mavis Carter.
Christina spoke up. “We’re looking for our son. We came to spend Christmas with him.”
“My name is Miss Carter. I’m a case aide. Most of the offices are closed today for Christmas. Let me check your son’s records and I’ll take you back to his cottage. I think it’s wonderful that you came to spend Christmas with your son. So many families forget. What’s your son’s name?”
Christina was growing impatient. “Timothy, Timothy Hargrove.”
“This will just take a moment.” Miss Carter ducked into an office down the hall and returned carrying Timothy’s file.
“I’m sorry. Timothy just got here last week. I’m afraid he’s not allowed any visitors yet.”
“What do you mean he’s not allowed visitors? I’m his mother.” Christina was pissed. “I drove three hours to spend the holiday with my son and I’m not leaving until I do.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not allowed. See, here’s your signature.” Miss Carter showed Christina a signed copy of the visitation agreement. “Didn’t anyone explain this to you?”
“I don’t give a damn about your rules. I want to see my son.”
George was not displeased to have an excuse. “Christina, maybe we better just go.” Christina turned her attention, briefly, to her ex-husband. “If you can’t handle it, go wait in the car.” George stood his ground, but closed his mouth.
“Now where was I… oh yeah, look, who do I have to talk to to see Timothy?”
“Dr. Viejo. But he’s not here today.”
“Then he won’t have to know that we broke the rules, will he?”
“I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Well I can. Are you coming?” Christina was barreling down the hall, while George was still rooted in place with Miss Carter.
“Please, don’t make me call security.”
From the end of the hall, Christina turned to stare at the case aide. “You wouldn’t. I mean, it’s Christmas.”
Miss Carter relented. “Wait. I’ve got an idea.”
Christina walked back slowly. “Go on.”
“I was thinking. Lots of the kids won’t get any visitors today. As long as you made the trip, why don’t you visit one of the others?”
“Are you nuts? Why would I want to do that?”
“I don’t think you understand. Why don’t you visit Timothy’s roommate?”
“I don’t give a damn about his roommate. I came to see Timothy.” Christina was adamant.
He knew it would be risky, but George decided to interrupt. “I think that’s what she means. Isn’t it Miss Carter?”
“Yes. Go down this hall and around the corner to the end. You’ll see a covered walk to the cottages. Timothy lives in Cottage 3. Tell them you’re there to see Eberial Santoval.”
“Thank you Miss Carter. And Merry Christmas.”
They were admitted without further incident into Cottage 3, where they found the children and staff celebrating Christmas. The local Order of Buffalo had sent a Buffalo to the hospital to play Santa Claus, while several Buffalo Gals, dressed as elves, helped Santa distribute his sack of gifts.
The children sat on the floor, some staring at Santa and the elves, some lost in their own private celebration, staff directing them to pay attention. Buffalo Santa forged ahead. One by one, he called up each child and offered a present. George and Christina stood against the back wall watching as each child received a gift – puzzles, stuffed animals, bubbles, toy soldiers, whistles, coloring books.
They feigned excitement when Santa called for Eberiel Santoval. Santa had a special gift for Eberiel – medication. Embarrassed that Christina should see this, one of the staff hurried over to explain. “We’ve been having a problem getting Eberiel to take his pills so we thought, maybe if he got the pills from Santa, you know?” Christina nodded her head ever so slightly and whispered, “I understand.”
“Have you been a good boy this year?” Buffalo Santa asked Timothy.
Ignoring the question, Timothy picked at a loose thread at Santa’s wrist. Santa moved his arm.
“What would you like for Christmas?”
Timothy appeared to be deep in thought. He looked up, connecting with Santa for just a moment. “Hoo. Hoo.”
After Santa left, George and Christina visited with Eberiel and Timothy in their bedroom.
“Give him the present Christina and let’s get out of here.”
Christina held back. “But I don’t have anything for Eberiel.”
Her ex wanted to yell, but it was pointless. Instead George pulled out his cell phone and began dialing.
Christina giggled. “That’s it. Give me your cell phone George.”
“Your cell phone. It’s perfect.”
George was ready for an argument, “Are you out of…” but he looked at his ex-wife, surprised to find Christmas reflected in her sad eyes. “Here. I was going to cancel the contract anyway.”
Christina gave him a peck on the cheek. “I’m sorry George.” She gave Eberiel the cell phone and Timothy the connect-the-dots. “Merry Christmas boys.”
Eberiel pretended to make a phone call.
Timothy chewed on his pencil. “Hoo. Hoo.”
Christina smiled. “I love you too Timothy.”