Friday, July 13, 2012
I'll Always Be Your Father
I'll Always be Your Father
“Come on Rudy, let's go for a walk before the snow starts to fall. Mother will have those pumpkin tarts out of the oven by the time we get back.” said Chris Pringle to his old mutt.
In no time, Rudy was at the door and panting to go out.
“Christopher Pringle!” said his wife, Priscilla, “You know these tarts are for our customers. I expect we will be busy today. I'm glad we added the section devoted to the Thanksgiving merchandise. I sold five of those big roasting pans to some of the young folks who are preparing their first Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Along with the pans, came your advice on the best way to roast a turkey. I can just taste that old bird already. This old bird better get going. That sky is looking very dark.”
Chris Pringle and his wife, Priscilla owned the town's Christmas shop. They had recently added trinkets and cooking items for every holiday. They were well past the age of retirement but enjoyed all the holidays so much that they couldn't bear to give up the shop. They never had children of their own and enjoyed the wonder in the eyes of all the youngsters who entered their store.
Rudy barked quietly as if to say, “Cut the chatter and let's go.”
“Ah Rudy, the first snow of the season. This is my favorite time of year. The trees are still showing off their colors and the north wind is beginning to pick up. I wonder who that is standing over by the lake. I don't recognize him but he looks like he could use a good meal.
To the two legged one, he said, “Hello sir, you must be a stranger in town.”
The man looked up. “Just passing though.” He turned back to the lake.
Chris Pringle was never one to retreat when someone was visiting his town. “Isn't Camden Lake the prettiest you have ever seen? Rudy and I like to come down here and just watch the waves splash against the shore. Are you in town for the holiday? Do you have relatives here? How long will you be staying?”
The man looked up again. “Just passing through.” He looked away again.
Chris had an uneasy feeling. The man didn't look threatening but you never knew these days. They'd had some pretty unsavory characters pass through Camden Corners lately. He'd keep an eye on him. Rudy didn't growl at him and that was reassuring. Rudy could sense when someone was up to no good and let his dislike known.
The old pooch was a good quarter mile ahead of Chris. Chris thought back to the time when he could almost keep pace with Rudy. He was becoming melancholy with the holidays coming up. He thought of Priscilla when they were first married. She always wore a red dress and donned a white apron when they were at home or in the shop. Their love of everything Christmas was what brought them together. Through the years they were disappointed not to be blessed with children but did find solace in all the children who visited their shop even in the warm months of summer. Miss Priscilla always had a cookie to give them and Mr. Pringle's pockets were always filled with peppermint sticks. It had been a good life.
Suddenly, Rudy turned and began running back toward Chris. He was barking and passed him by as he ran to the stranger. Chris turned and saw the man was lying on the ground. He hurried back to see what the problem was and found him to be unconscious.
“Rudy run get Mack from O'Sullivan's. Quickly boy.”
Rudy was on his way. He barked at the door. Mack recognized Rudy's bark. He opened the door. “What is it boy? What's wrong?” Rudy turned and began to run. Mack followed.
“Call Doc,” yelled Chris, “this fellow is out like a light.”
Mack did just that. Doc arrived in the next few minutes. “We need to get this man to the hospital.”
Mack helped get him into Doc's carriage.
Tessa Graham was on duty in the Emergency Ward. The patient was brought in on a stretcher. She helped ease him onto the examining table. He was waking up but not fully aware of his surroundings. Tessa took his vital signs. His blood pressure was high and his pulse was racing. She entered the information on his chart. The name on the chart was John Doe, he was listed as a transient. Tessa was cleaning the sand off him when she heard a faint voice say “Tessa!”
She looked into the man's eyes. “Father? Is that you?”
It had been almost five years since she had seen this man who was her father. “What are you doing in Camden Corners and what in the world has happened to you? You look like you haven't had a decent meal in ages.”
“I don't know. I don't remember. I was looking for you. They told me at the school that you were in Buffalo. I went to Buffalo but you weren't there either. They said you came here to Camden Corners. I had to see you to tell you I love you and always did.”
“Father, you just rest now. You are very sick. We will talk later.”
Tessa was shaking. She couldn't imagine what had happened to her father. When she knew him he was the richest man in the country and now he was lying in a hospital bed looking like he hadn't slept or bathed in a very long time.
“Doctor McMillan, that man is my father. His name is Hamilton Graham. We have been estranged for almost five years.”
“Hamilton Graham? Hamilton Graham is your father Tessa? He is a very wealthy man. Thank you for telling me, Tessa. It may help to explain what happened to him out there by the lake. I'll ask that another nurse be assigned to your father. We will keep you informed of his condition.”
Tessa tried to concentrate on other patients but her mind kept wandering back to her father. Maybe she should call Wendell Plant. The last she knew Wendell was her father's right hand man.
Alex Bentley was meeting Tessa after her shift ended. She told him about her father being admitted. “Let's talk to Oscar Crowley about this. He always knows what to do in this type of situation.”
Oscar greeted the young couple. He was surprised to learn Hamilton Graham had a daughter and more surprised that she was living in Camden Corners. Oscar knew someone who knew someone who was able to get Wendell Plant on the telephone.
“Mr. Crowley, I will be arriving in Camden Corners this afternoon. I trust you will instruct Miss Graham to meet my train.”
“I will gladly ask Miss Graham if she is willing to meet with you sir.” Oscar was not about to have any orders issued to Tessa by this bag of wind.
Tessa couldn't help but laugh. She remembered Wendell Plant. He was a little fellow with a big ego. He was also a yes man to her father. How interesting that he was calling the shots now.
Wendell arrived. He was brusk as expected. “Where is your office Crowley? We need complete privacy.” He glared at Alex.
“I will be joining Miss Graham unless she decides she would rather I didn't.”
Wendell didn't like it but he knew he didn't have a choice.
“Miss Graham, I trust you are aware that your father has disowned you and you have no claim to his fortune.”
“I am aware of that sir. I only want to help a man who is lying in a hospital bed as we speak. He is my flesh and blood no matter what any legal papers state.”
Wendell seemed to calm down after he realized Tessa wasn't after Hamilton's money. He spoke softly and with compassion.
“Mr. Graham's odd behavior began less than one year ago. I first noticed it when he missed an important meeting and instead went to the circus. He returned to the office later that afternoon carrying a balloon of all things. Another time he walked into a very important meeting with a baby doll under his arm. He said the doll was for his little girl, Tessa. He bought a model train and set it up in the conference room. He wouldn't let anyone move it until his daughter saw it. We had to turn a waiting room into an additional conference room. I began to take over meetings. Our clients were told Mr. Graham was on a business trip or even out of the country. This lasted about two months. One day, he got up from his chair and just walked out of his office saying he was going to find Tessa. That was the last we heard from him until your telephone call.”
“You will have to tell the doctors everything you know. I hope you are planning to visit my father. It may help if he sees a familiar face. Before we leave for the hospital, I would like to know what provisions have been made for my father's companies.”
“I am acting president in your father's absence. I have signed documentation to that effect. I hope you aren't planning to dispute your father's intentions. Miss Graham.”
“I have no intention of laying claim to any of my father's businesses. I am aware my father's various companies employ hundreds of people and I will fight the existing will if even one of those people lose their job under your management.”
“Mr. Plant, I believe Miss Graham has made herself clear that she will not interfere with the current arrangement for Mr. Graham's companies. I would advise her to keep her options open. I have no doubt, under the circumstances, Mr. Graham's will would be readily overturned by any judge in the State of New York. However, Mr. Graham's health is of immediate concern. I suggest we leave for the hospital now.”
Wendell Plant was not a greedy man. He simply had given his life to Hamilton Graham Enterprises. He lived in fear Hamilton's estranged daughter would upset his future. Miss Tessa seemed like a nice young lady but money did strange things to people. He should know, he gave up his childhood sweetheart for his position in the organization. Melva inherited her grandparent's farm. She insisted Wendell move back to the country, marry her and raise a family on the farm. He refused and she married Billy Joel Samuels. They now had eight children and the last he heard she was expecting the ninth. It broke his heart whenever he thought of Melva with another man's offspring. However, farming and raising a passel of children was not in the cards for Wendell Plant.
“Mr. Graham. It's very good to see you sir. We have all been very worried about you.”
“Wendell! It's been a while. How are things going at the office? Did you ever hire that secretary you talked about?” Hamilton looked at the others. “Too much work for him. He has to have a secretary.”
Wendell didn't know what Hamilton was talking about. “Mr. Hamilton, I never asked for a secretary and I don't have one.”
“Well, why don't you take mine. I think her name is Marjorie or Margaret. Something like that.”
“But Sir, you will require a secretary when you return to the office.”
“Haven't you heard Wendell? I'm not coming back. I like it here. Have you ever met my daughter? Her name is Tessa. Isn't that a beautiful name?”
“Yes it is a very beautiful name. Maybe we should talk about business when you have rested.”
“I have been resting all afternoon in this uncomfortable bed. It's time to go home Tessa. Will you take me there?”
“Father, you were unconscious just a few hours ago. You must stay here to let the doctors find out why that happened to you. They are finding a room for you now and you will be much more comfortable there.”
“Do they have tapioca pudding? I like tapioca don't I Tessa?”
“I'm sure you do Father. Now if you will just lay back and close your eyes. As soon as your room is ready an orderly will take you to your bed.”
“Will you come with me Tessa? I don't want to be alone.”
“Yes Father, of course I will.”
Alex knew Tessa was a very special person but he was finding out just how special she was. Her father had ignored her all her life and capped it off by disowning her. She had every right to reject him now. Alex put his arm around her.
“This is your young man, isn't it Tessa? I like him. He loves you very much. I can tell.”
“Get some rest now Father. I think we have heard enough of your chatter for now,” Tessa said as her face turned a bright red.
Alex laughed, “He's like a child, isn't he Doc? I have to admit he is very observant. I don't think I'll ever try to pull the wool over his eyes.”
They all left the room as Hamilton closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. Doc asked them to step into a small conference room.
“Tessa, if you would like to speak privately, we can ask the others wait to in the other room.”
“No Doc, I don't see any reason for that. I think we are all interested to hear what you have to say about Father.”
“Being a nurse, you know there are many areas of medicine we do not have an answer for. Doctor Tyndall agrees with me that your father may have suffered a head injury. His brain may have been deprived of oxygen for several minutes. As you have most likely surmised, he is in an almost childlike state. My opinion is that he will not return to his former self. We will treat him with medication. He will be able to care for himself in many ways although I wouldn't recommend he live alone. There is a very reputable and comfortable convalescent and nursing facility located in Greensboro. If you would like me to, I can begin the paperwork to have him admitted there.”
“Absolutely not!” cried Tessa. “I will be taking care of my father myself. I will find an apartment I am able to afford and move him in as soon as he is able to leave the hospital.”
Alex interrupted, “Tessa, you can't take care of your father by yourself and work here too. I'm sorry to do this with an audience. I love you and I want you to be my wife. We will find a small house for the three of us.”
“Alex, that is very sweet of you. I cannot accept. We have only known each other for a very short time and I will not burden you with an invalid father-in-law to start off our married life together.”
Oscar spoke up, “Doc, how long will Mr. Graham be hospitalized?”
“Maybe a week or longer.”
“Tessa, you don't have to decide anything this moment. Why not give it some time? I'm sure there is a solution to your dilemma.”
“I'd better start looking for a place to live very soon. I want everything to be ready for Father when I bring him home.”
“Wendell, as you heard, my father's condition is not going to be changing. Please feel free to return to New York and run the company as you see fit.”
“Miss Tessa, I'm sure we will be able to provide support for your father and yourself. I'll have our attorneys get to work on it just as soon as I get back.”
“No, I'm not taking anything from Hamilton Graham Enterprises. My father wouldn't be in the shape he is now if it weren't for the fact that he stressed over that company. I will take care of him myself and that is final.”
Alex accompanied Tessa to Millie's house. She explained to Millie and Addie the situation with her father. “I'm sorry, Miss Millie, I have loved living here but I must find a place for my father.”
“Why would you do that my child? We have plenty of room here.”
“I couldn't ask you to put him up too. He will need to be looked after.”
“Who better to do that than the four of us. He isn't quite our age but I'm sure he will enjoy Leland and Leo's company. I won't hear of you being off on your own. We will fix up one of the rooms on our wing. That way the girls coming and going won't disturb his sleep. Now, go out and enjoy an evening with your beau and don't worry about a thing. By the way, you are doing right by your father and I am very proud to know you Tessa.”
“Alex, do you think Miss Millie will regret taking Father in? I don't know how much of a burden he will be.”
“Tessa, please don't worry. James says Millie is only happy when she has a project and I think your father is her new project. Now, let's go and enjoy the evening. Caroline has asked us to join them for supper. Grace and Ted will be there with Freddy. It will be a full house. I think Todd and Susannah are planning to stop by too.”
“Thank you for your offer today. I'm afraid I was a little abrupt when I turned you down.”
“Just a little, but under the circumstances I understand. Just keep in mind that the next time I ask you to be my wife I expect you to wrap your arms around me give me a big kiss.”
“And what should my answer be?”
“I'll only accept a yes,” he smiled at her. Alex wasn't sure how long he would be able to wait to make her his wife.
Hamilton was released from the hospital. It didn't take too long before he was part of the family. The nurses all took extra special care of him. He was sure nobody had ever had their pulse checked as often as he did. He didn't mind though. He liked having the pretty young ladies hold his hand for just a little while. Leo was teaching him how to drive. Harvey was helping him count out change when he bought his favorite licorice sticks at the general store. He was learning new things every day. The nicest part of the day was when Tessa came home and kissed him on the forehead.
“Tessa, I'll always be your father, won't I?”
“Always, Father, always and forever.”
Hamilton Graham smiled. He had never been happier.