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Donna's Journal
Writing Group, “Narrow Escape.”

Working in the Chilocco Clinic, year 1957 was a great experience. There were the good times when no one was sick. This was when we looked for busy work in order to be productive.  Then the  unexpected came around when a bug hits the school. Sometimes it was only  a lot of winter colds and sniffles or on other occasions some really ugly flu epidemic reared its head.  This happened and it was totally possible, one by one,  all of us working would get sick. It didn't matter if  the nurses went around opening windows, spraying with germ killers, or continually washed their hands after taking care of the sick kids.

It was one of these weeks several of the employees were planning a weekend of fun with some of the medical people in a government clinic at the little town of Pawnee. We had talked about it all week and it did take our mind's of the miseries of the children who were sick.

The weekend finally arrived.  I began to feel a bit droopy but I thought it was from  the stressful week with sick kids. Arrangements had already been made for the girls to stay over night with one of the families who worked at the Clinic in that town. They were very nice, fine Christian people and we all felt comfortable with them. A lovely meal was on the kitchen table when we arrived. For some reason the food just wasn't at all tasty to me but I thought it was just the excitement of planning for a fun weekend.

“The doctors and nurses at the hospital are having a cup of coffee in the break room and want you all to come over to become acquainted.”  Our host was moving us right along in preparation for the evening.

Ordinarily this should have been a time for good anticipation for meeting  people and making new friends.  Still I was lagging along behind trying to bring myself up to the group's bubbly conversation. At the hospital I was given the name of the doctor with whom I had the blind date. I knew he had been engaged and was in a ricochet emotional downward spin from his break-up.  I was the one the group  had chosen to help take his mind off his heartbreak. They had all assured me he was a great person, handsome and  intelligent but very depressed.

I was feeling terrible by now and it made me believe I could do very little to cheer anyone up. Sure enough by the time we all got back to the house the flu was pulling me down. A hot shower couldn't even revive me. Instead of getting dressed pajamas and the comfortable bed was all I wanted. It seemed only but a few minutes and I was burning up with fever. I heard our hostess calling the hospital for medicine for me but I was too sick to care.  Occasionally during the night there would be times I wanted water so desperately. At those times one of the girls from that family was there beside the bed for me.  She didn't leave my side. Once in a while I became rational enough to look to the side of the bed to see her sitting there  until  late into the night when I finally drifted off to sleep after my fever broke.

The next morning when I woke the fever was gone and I could hear soft conversation in the kitchen. Immediately I was out of bed and back into the shower in order to get dressed. When I walked into the kitchen there was a very quiet reserve with the people there. Of course, the guilt of a sick bed last night was upon me.

“I hope you understand I didn't want to miss my date. I was just so sick. I guess it was that flu the kid's all had this last week.”

The man of the family was a kind person. To this day I remember the sad look he had on his face as he looked up at me.

“Oh no, please don't think we are angry with you.  Come sit down, have some coffee.”

As his wife got up to fix my plate he continued talking in a voice I will always remember as long as I live for being very hollow and distant as if he didn't really want to talk at all but had to do so.

“The doctor you had a date with went out to his car last night. He took a gun from his glove compartment and......................

“Oh no. Oh no, no, no.  Is he all right?”  The horror of the revelation was almost too much to be believed.  I did not know how to feel. Should I be horrified?  Of course, I was. But there was fear too. What if I had been with him. Could I have stopped this?  Or was it possible I would have been involved some way? Would he in his grief have shot me too? There was another side to my feelings. It was regret for the missed opportunity to bring  about a happier time in his life.

“Why do I feel so helpless?”  I asked the man who told me of the event.

“There was nothing you could do. It may have been a protection for you to not have gone last night.  He was in a downward spiral. Peyote, drugs and alcohol combined caused this to happen. It is all over for him now.”

For years I dreamed about the man I had never seen or known. In the dreams there was always a shadowy figure leaving the party with me. Sometimes he was laughing and talking as we got acquainted. Other times we were on the dance floor. I never was able to see his face. There was usually only a suggestion of a profile. I even dreamed once I was trying to wrestle the gun away from him.

I've often wondered why or how I could have felt guilty about some event over which I had no control. Now I know it was all a part of being youthful. The young person wants to believe they are immortal. To all at once be confronted with a terrible death like this is a shock to the mind of one who is still only learning to live.  Today as I am older.  I do realize it probably was really a narrow escape for me. To have been involved with something this horrific would have brought all sorts of most unpleasant if not completely damaging scandal  into my life.

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