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
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
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
“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
“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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