A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 19)
The Most Beautiful Woman
Georgia had finished her breakfast and was drinking her morning tea. The same nurse from last night asked if she would like another vitamin shot. “Oh my, that would be nice” she replied with a soft smile.
Everyone at the hospital knew Danny was on his way and didn’t want to ruin the surprise. There wasn't much time left and Danny and Georgia would have much ground to cover. It was a bittersweet gift.
The warden’s sister in law, Judy Jones, was looking out the window, watching for Babbitt’s car to arrive with Danny. The Warden had given her all the details. As they parked, she moved swiftly from her office to greet them.
As the hospice administrator, Judy took on many unpleasant duties. Today she would be preparing a son to say goodbye to his mother. She studied Danny as the three men approached the main entrance. Was he really the desperate son that made a bad choice or was he a criminal at heart? Would he be reformed by his four years in prison? Raised in a law and order family it was natural for her to think in this manner but as she had become very fond of Georgia she set aside her judgement to focus on the task at hand. She introduced herself to Danny and hurried him away from his two companions, suggesting they try the cafeteria breakfast.
Danny followed her to a large office where they both took a seat. As they spoke she studied him for signs of post traumatic stress disorder. When they shook hands she could feel a bit of a reaction indicating some hypersensitivity to touch. She noticed the same with noise as he reacted to little sounds around them. Both were symptoms of SHU syndrome -- a condition that can affect prisoners with as little as a few months in isolation. He would certainly have issues to deal with but right now time was running out.
Judy got right to the point. “It's been several months since you’ve seen your mother Danny and I want to warn you that she has become very frail. She is also suffering from dementia and may not recognize you or realize some of the things she says. Her time is very limited.” There was a long pause between them, then she rose and asked if he was ready.
Babbitt and Mouse sat at the small cafeteria table, sizing each other up more than enjoying the company. Mouse opened up a conversation with a statement, “Ok, I’ll be the first to say it. This is weird Babbitt.”
“Well, it is different.” Babbitt wasn’t going to lie.
“You know, sitting here with you could get me killed back home.”
“Then I would say that's not much of a home, is it?”
“Yea, maybe not but those four blocks is all I got.”
“You don’t have to go back there. You can do something different.”
“You’ve changed Mouse. Look at what you did with Danny. He was starting to unravel. You held him together. Hell, now you’re here with him to help him though this. Have you ever thought of helping other people?”
“Well first I need to help myself.”
“That’s a great first step.” Babbitt responded.
The conversation was making Mouse uncomfortable and he ended it with a trip to the bathroom.
Judy entered Georgia's room first and in her bold voice she made the announcement she had been hoping with all her heart that she would be able to make that Christmas.
“Look who I have with me. Someone special wants to see you. Merry Merry Christmas Georgia!”
Georgia looked up and studied her son for a moment. Despite her weakened state she exclaimed, “Yes, that's just who I have been waiting to see.” Danny wasn't sure if she was lucid or lost in a space between this world and the next one. Then again, this all felt like it could be a dream to him too.
Georgia did her best to raise herself up in her bed but didn't have much strength left. She extended her right hand toward Danny as she pushed her left palm into the bed. Danny approached her bed and grasped her extended hand, taking her palm in his and gently holding it as he covered their joined hands with his other hand. He couldn’t believe how fragile she had become and barely recognized the strong hands that had clutched him tightly as a child. His consolation was the love that still there and it radiated up his arms right into his heart.
“I made it Ma” he almost choked as he spoke gently to her.
“Yes you did, my only child, my sweet precious boy.” Georgia responded. She then asked in a childlike manner, “Now, how do I look?”
Danny took his fingers and gently rubbed her left temple, whisking back her silver hair from her forehead. He whispered to her “You look absolutely beautiful Ma”
In the same soft voice she answered in amazement “I do?”
All Danny could say was “Yes, you are the most beautiful women in the world.”
She smiled at him as they sat together, quietly enjoying silent memories. At first, with the exception of her childlike behavior and her physical appearance, Danny felt they may have misdiagnosed the stage of her illness. His positive assessment waned as the minutes progressed and reasoning, judgement and visual perception confirmed what he had been told -- it was clear -- she was a very sick women and their time was limited. But he had made it... and in this moment, that was all that mattered.