28. CHARITY HOSPITAL part VIII

They had managed to move me out of the Intensive Care Unit into a general ward next door and I had even begun to eat semi-solid food that was spoon-fed by Morris or William. William had taken to scouring the supply cabinets to make sure I had all the medical equipment I needed and had set up a chair and footrest into a bed of sorts.

Mom came up to my bedside with the saddest face I’d ever seen. Sadness, fear, concern and dread in her eyes and yet she also showed the stoic resolve she always displayed. There would be no hysterics or recriminations, just a firm determination strengthened by spiritual conviction. I had tears in my eyes but wasn’t sure of the emotional context. “I came as soon as I could”, she began and then “We’ve been praying non-stop since we heard”. She told me the details of how they had found out about my injury. “We thought it must be Pops”, she said, referring to my eighty six year old grandfather who had been struggling with health issues of his own. William joined her and began going over aspects of my situation and she explained how she was staying in a motel by the airport.  “We’ll need to close out your bank account so I can stay indefinitely”, she said.

Dr. Fontenot came into the room to begin his rounds and came over to us first. “You’ve got a strong boy there”, he said, looking over at me with a smile. “His father will be here when he can”, Mom said. “He’s working at getting Brom transferred back to Seattle and there are traveling nurse services we can hire for the trip”. “That’s a very good idea”, said Doctor Fontenot. “Frankly”, he said, turning away with mom so I couldn’t hear, “I’m not too sure of his chances if he continues here at Charity”. They continued conferring in private and then Doctor Fontenot directed the nurse to update my vital signs and ordered a blood test.

I tried to explain to William that mom could stay at my French Quarter apartment. “I think Marino has moved in and claimed it for himself”, he said. “Now that I’m staying with Boggs, he’s left your old Uptown place and moved in.

Mom came back and told us both about a benefit that William’s girl Sharon was organizing. “They’ve rented Freeway Hall and all your musician friends are going to have a concert”, she said hopefully. “They plan to raise enough so we can get you back home. Your old friend from St. Margaret’s, Erik Bagsman will bring his whole band with him”

As much as I hated to be putting my Mother through this ordeal, I was so relieved that she was here that I felt my stress level ease considerably. The nurse came by with a thermometer and placed it under my tongue and strapped on the blood pressure cuff and began pumping. “You’re running a slight fever and your pulse is a bit faster than it should be”, she said looking at the reading on the thermometer. “We’ll give you more saline in your drip and check it again later tonight”.

I had seen the white Southern Baptist Minister making rounds of his own, trailing a couple beds behind Doctor Fontenot and he sidled up to my bedside and introduced himself to Mom and William. “Reverend Jacobs at your service”, he bowed slightly. He couldn’t bow much more. He must’ve been nearly three hundred pounds and was stretching the buttons in his clerical uniform. I’d never known a Southern Baptist but had been warned of their enthusiasm in warning sinners of the temptations that lead to damnation. “Have you been saved, my son”, he said earnestly, looking at mom and William too. I looked towards Mom with pleading eyes. William explained that I wasn’t able to talk and Mom assured him that indeed, Brom had a strong faith and that his Catholic Church family was even now offering masses on his behalf. “Oh”, said Reverend Jacobs, being slightly thrown off his game plan. “We have one of those too”, referring to the Catholic chaplain also on duty at Charity Hospital. Without missing another beat he continued, “Unless ye repent of thine iniquities, ye are damned”, he said, to the harrowed stare of my mother. “You must pray for forgiveness to be allowed into the bosom of our Lord, Jesus Christ”.

Mom started rising to my defense and assured the reverend that I was an honest man, had never hurt anyone and always put my faith in God. “Ye must repent”, he repeated. I was at peace with myself. I hadn’t hurt anyone, stolen anything and even kept my profanity to a minimum but I suspected the good Reverend Jacobs harbored grave doubts as to the state of my eternal soul. “Maybe it’d be best if the Catholic Chaplain came by”, offered William. My Mom was getting red in the face and I was afraid might soon say something that would put her state of grace in jeopardy. “Please pray for us Reverend”, said William, straightening my tubing and busying himself with my covers and pillow. “Yes, thank you Reverend”, said Mom calmly, picking up on William’s cue. Glenda and Morris were wheeling in a new patient and Reverend Jacobs became distracted. “Yes, of course”, he said and shifted the bulk of his frame back a couple steps. “Pray for redemption”, he warned, as he turned his attention to the new arrival.