Soul Bound to Scotland– Part One
I am making my way out the front door as I hear Jacob yelling, “MOM! MOM! Dad says we will be there in three hours! First thing I want to see are the giraffes! On YouTube they show people feeding them and their tongues are so long and black!” He is talking loudly and a mile a minute. This will be the first family trip Daniel and I have taken since the kids were born, our first real vacation. We decided to wait until they were both old enough to enjoy it and remember these moments that will last them a lifetime. Matthew will be seven in September and Jacob will be five next week, a good age to start making memories of our time together as a family.
My husband, shuts the hatch on our suburban and yells, “Load up!” The boys dart across the lawn and jump into their seats. Daniel double checks their seat belts, while I made sure the door to our home is locked. Half way down our walkway, something made me pause a moment and take in the scene of my family. My heart swelled with love seeing their joy, exuberance, their laughter, before continuing down the path to the waiting SUV at the curb. I slide into the passenger seat, Daniel turns to me smiling like a kid at Christmas, “This is going to be a fun trip and the weather couldn’t be more perfect.”
I smile back and say, “I know, I was worried about the weather, but you are right, it couldn’t have been more perfect…let’s go!” Daniel was right, the sky was a vivid cerulean blue with light wisps of pure white clouds in the distance. The temperature was a warm eighty-one degrees after a passing cool front had went through the night before, lowering the humidity. It was a beautiful day for early June in Missouri. Normally by this time we have went from a bone chilling cold winter to a blistering hot summer, but today…it just couldn’t have been more perfect. As we pull out of the drive I catch sight of the most stunning white dove I have ever seen setting on the peak of our roof. I was awestruck by the vivid crimson tips of its wings, an illusion caused by the sunlight glinting off the neighbors red car. I watch in fascination as it flies across the sky ahead of us.
Ten minutes later the boys are singing along to their favorite YouTube character, ‘We’re going to the zoo, would you like to come too.’
“The kids are going to enjoy this,” I say to my husband and best friend. This man and I had met in kindergarten, fell in love in junior high, and been together ever since. During our third year of high school we both decided to join the Army. One we were passionate about serving our country and two to help with college expenses. We both enlisted during the school term, him as financial management technician and I chose nursing. The summer after our junior year he stayed in Missouri and I flew to South Carolina for basic training. Our senior year was spent making big plans for our future, back then we had it all figured out or so we thought. The day after graduation we were married in a small, simple Catholic ceremony with our closest friends and family. After my father passed away, we didn’t attend church as often as we should have, but my mother had made a promise to him, she would see to it my sister and I wed and were blessed in the faith. I was thankful our town had a small chapel which partnered with the larger cathedral in a bigger city an hour away that allowed us to have a simple ceremony. The priest, who was understanding of our rush, agreed to marry us before we both shipped out. He performed a condensed version of the ceremony while an older woman I was not familiar with played the piano.
I doubt she would have stood out to me, but the vibrant red cardigan she wore over a pure white sheath dress caught my attention. For some odd reason her appearance engrossed me. The songs and beautiful melodies she played were unlike anything I had ever heard from a single instrument. There was something about the woman that drew me in. When she lifted her gaze to meet mine, her eyes were the most brilliant shade of sapphire blue I had ever seen.
Two weeks after we graduated high school we separated once again, he left for South Carolina and I flew to Texas to begin our advanced individual training in our chosen military occupations. The first year was rough, even though Daniel was eventually stationed at Fort Sam where I was studying, we had little to no time to see each other. I spent what little free time I had with him, but most of the time my nose was stuck in my books. Our second year, given our marital status, we were both sent to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, where we finished our Army commitment. We agreed to not sign up for another active duty stint, but start to settle.
Within a few weeks of leaving military life we had bought a small two bedroom single story home on the outskirts of our hometown. Daniel took a position with a local CPA and later purchased the business when the owner retired. I went to work at a long term care facility in the next town over as the evening shift charge nurse. The next year, though we had planned to wait awhile longer, we found out we were expecting. After a long discussion and pouring over our financials, we mutually agreed, I would stay home to raise for our new baby boy, Matthew, and Daniel would become our sole provider. Our plan, at the time, was when Matthew went to kindergarten I would return to work. However, two years later we had Jacob and once again our plans changed. Now we were back on track with our original path. Both boys would be in school come August and I would be starting at the county Health Center in September doing well baby checkups.
As we drove toward our destination our vehicle was filled with a pure childhood excitement for our first family trip. The boys were in the backseat exuberantly discussing all the things they wanted to see, touch, and feed. I was listening in on their conversation as it played out between them when Daniel reached across the vehicle grabbing my hand lovingly. I turned toward his smiling face as he looked into my eyes and said, “I love you.” That was the last thing I remember before everything went black.
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Three weeks later
I’m walking along a well packed gravel road, taking in my surroundings. My surroundings appear to have a dull, blue haze over it, like right before a summer storm is about to burst loose. I turn in a circle to examine the sky and glance back in the direction I had come from. I see Daniel and the boys are standing together off to the side of the road, the sun streaming through the trees so brightly behind them that it was almost blinding me to look at them. My eyes started to adjust and my vision became more clear, I could see they were waving at me, I smile and wave back. I could barely take my eyes off of the three of them standing there, but for a moment, my eyes caught on the sight of a rose bush in full bloom with the most brilliant shade of red roses I had ever seen. I wonder ‘where am I going?’ I don’t know why I would separate from them, yet I have to go. “I love you!” I call out to them and Daniel blows me a kiss, smiles, but says nothing. Tears begin streaming down my cheeks as I turn to walk away from them. Why am I crying? Why am I leaving them? I don’t want to leave them, but something is pulling me in the opposite direction, away from the light…away from my family.
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One month later
I start to become aware as I awake from a deep sleep and realize I am in complete darkness. My ears pick up a faint, steady beep…beep…beep, as well as a rhythmic gushing of air. Both sounds are progressively getting louder or drawing closer. Or am I moving toward them? I can’t open my eyes and my body feels like I am stuck in concrete. I attempt to take in a breath, but something… is…not right. I try to talk, but I can’t. My heart is thumping with the onset of panic starting to build in my chest as the beeping noise becomes louder and picks up in speed. From somewhere in the distance I hear my sister pleading fiercely, “Gabby?! Gabby, can you hear me?” I can hear her, but I can’t answer her. “Mom, go get the nurse! Gabby, hold on, mom is going to find someone to help!” She sounds emotional and panicked. What is that beeping noise? I recognize it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where I have heard it before. My heart is pounding out of my chest with the growing panic and I feel out of control. I can’t draw in air and the need to do so is overwhelming to me. At last I manage to open my eyes to a blindingly lit room with the walls painted in the palest shade of blue. The first thing I can actually visualize is my sister, Diana. She is attempting to speak soothingly to me, but I hear the panic in her voice.
“Gabby, you have to calm down! It’s okay sweetie, everything’s going to be all right!” I fight to take in my surroundings and notice an older, white haired woman in a dull silvery colored blouse standing behind my sister. My eyesight is fading in and out, but my mind registers the vibrant red trim on the woman’s top. As I force my eyes to focus on her face, she is staring back at me with the most intense, sapphire blue eyes. She seems familiar to me, although I can’t recall at the moment who she is, but a sense of calmness flows through me as she smiles kindly at me. A dark haired woman dressed in drab green scrubs moves into my vision next to my bedside. The woman in green says something to my sister, but I can’t comprehend what she is saying. A syringe appears in her hands. I watch her put it into a tube next to my head. Two heart beats later and I am enveloped in a fog. I’m pretty certain I am not asleep, but I feel- as though I’m floating. The nurse and Diana are talking to me, but I can’t understand what they are saying. Where the heck am I? Where are Daniel and the kids?
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The next time I open my eyes to a young dark haired man sitting next to me. “Gabriella, can you hear me?” I try to talk, but again everything feels wrong, so I nod my head which sends the room to spinning like a top. He touches my hand with his icy one, “My name is Doctor Rodriguez. You are in St. Patrick’s Medical Center.” What!? I am in the hospital. “You are currently intubated. Do you know what that means?” I focus on his kind face and nod my head as questions are erupting in my mind. “We are going to remove the tube.” He goes on to explain the process. I am still stuck on being in the hospital. What has happened to me? Where is Daniel? Where are my kids? The last thing I remember is…The doctor begins to pull the tube and I lose all thought. The sensation of burning and coolness simultaneously are the only thing I am registering and then a red haze clouds my vision. I take in a deep lung full of air that burns like acid being poured down my throat. The doctor, as well as a nurse I didn’t notice before, are watching me carefully. She kept glancing at the monitor and I realize it’s to make sure I don’t go back into distress. My mind is still reeling trying to process anything and everything that is happening around me. My deepest concern at the moment though, is where are Daniel and my boys. The last thing I remember…we were going to the zoo, Daniel saying I love you, then nothing else. No, we were walking on a strange gravel road, but that was more like… a dream.
The doctor asks, “Do you know who you are?”
I barely nod my head and attempt to answer, but my throat is so raw, words won’t come out.
“Do you know what happened?” He continued.
I shake my head no. I want to ask my own questions and I try, but again, not a single sound makes it past my lips.
The doctor and the nurse make eye contact, something unsaid passes between them, whatever it is, it doesn’t look pleasant. Doctor Rodriguez looks down at me with sadness, regret, and something else in his eyes. “Mrs. Fairmont has lost so much,” he says to his assistant.
I wanted to yell at him, ‘What have I lost?’ but was held silent by the pain in my throat. His shoulders visibly slump and he squeezes my hand. Quietly and calmly, while looking at the nurse, he fills in the blackness as a heart wrenching scream tears from the depth of my soul, echoing through the room.