Read To Everything a Season Online

Authors: Lauraine Snelling

Tags: #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #FIC042030, #Christian fiction, #Love stories

To Everything a Season (5 page)

BOOK: To Everything a Season
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Astrid and Elizabeth came in together. Ingeborg gave them a fast report on what they had done and knew, little that it was.

“It has to be a stroke again. There is no evidence of any injuries, other than that poor shoulder that has been severely strained. We can chip off some ice and ice it. Would an ice pack under his head help?” Astrid asked, turning to Elizabeth.

“It can't hurt. Let's apply the ice packs and get him cleaned up. Then watch him. Can he swallow?”

“I don't know.” Ingeborg went into the kitchen to find Reverend Solberg chipping ice off the block in the icebox. “We can get more from the icehouse as we need it.” She made two separate packs rolled in dish towels, and while the good Reverend Solberg carried those into the bedroom, she prepared a basin of warm water with soap, and grabbed a washcloth and a towel. All the while she moved through the familiar actions, her mind continued the same “Help us, Lord” litany. “Dear God, wisdom, please. Your wisdom, not just ours.”

Chapter 5

N
o changes,” Astrid said when her mother relieved her in the predawn dark.

“Were you able to get him to swallow any of that broth?”

“Not enough to do much good.” The two women, so alike in stature and wearing the same neck-to-ankle-length aprons, stood looking down at the man in the bed. “I talked to him and read his Bible aloud. You've always said patients can hear, even though they cannot respond. He's not even twitching.”

“You go on up and sleep for a few hours. Elizabeth said she would take care of things at the hospital.”

“I will. Can I get you anything first?” When Ingeborg shook her head, Astrid tucked her arm through her mor's and leaned her head against her shoulder. “I'll call Dr. Morganstein after I sleep and ask if they've learned anything new about patients like this.”

Ingeborg nodded and laid her cheek against her daughter's head. “Thank you for staying.”

“You know that any of us would. You watch. There will be a steady stream of visitors today, most of them bringing food, since they want to help so bad and care so much.”

“All any of us can do is pray, and I know we all are. Yesterday morning Haakan and I had breakfast by ourselves for a change. He commented on how he appreciated that. I can still feel his arms around me and his chin on the top of my head. Please, dear Lord God, let me, let us, have times like that again.” She stared up at the ceiling to try to outsmart the tears, but ended up drying her cheeks on the edge of her apron anyway.

“I feel so helpless. After all my training . . .”

“And mine.”

“I know you will say to leave it in God's mighty hands.”

“It's easier to say and believe when it is someone other than Haakan or one of my children. Or grandchildren. You go on and sleep. Takk for being here. I'm going to sit here and read to him. He loves to be read to.”

“All right.”

Ingeborg settled herself in the chair and, picking up her Bible, flipped to the Psalms and began reading.

As Astrid had predicted, a steady stream of visitors took turns sitting beside Haakan, some reading to him, some telling him of the events of the last couple of days. Andrew finished seeding the wheat and moved on to disking the oat field. When Thorliff brought Inga out, she sat on the bed beside Haakan and told him all about her broken arm. When she couldn't think of anything more to say, she sang to him—songs she knew and some she made up.

Astrid told Ingeborg about how she and Elizabeth pored over their books, consulted with wise Dr. Morganstein, and took turns going about their regular duties. The earth kept spinning on its axis while the man slept on.

They started exercising his arms and legs. They rolled him from side to side to keep him from getting bed sores. They put very small amounts of water in his mouth. He usually swallowed.
Astrid commented that he was getting dehydrated nonetheless. Ingeborg chose to sleep beside him and let the others go about their lives without round-the-clock supervision.

On Sunday some of the musicians brought their instruments over and played for him. Ingeborg knitted a sweater for three-and-a-half-year-old Carl, starting her Christmas gifts early. Others weeded her garden . . . and life went on. Three calves were born and a foal, and Ingeborg described them to the silent man if Inga didn't do it.

A glad change: He started swallowing the water that they offered him, a scant teaspoon at a time. Ingeborg prepared a rich broth and he swallowed that as well. “Still, he is dehydrated,” Astrid commented. The diaper pad beneath him remained dry, not a good sign.

School let out for the summer, so that the children could help on their farms. Inga came by the house that afternoon, sitting on Haakan's bed and explaining with many words about how she had to stay in from recess because she had climbed the tree at school one day. The boys could climb the tree but not the girls. It wasn't fair, she'd decided. She laid her head on his shoulder and stroked his hand as she had seen the others do.

Ingeborg went out to peel the potatoes for dinner, but she could still hear Inga clearly. “You got to wake up, Grandpa. Me and Carl need to go fishing. Emmy's uncle came and got her again. Her cousin, Two Shells, too. Grandma has sad eyes all the time and with Emmy gone, I lost my best friend. But Mor reminds me that Emmy will come back in the fall for school again.” Suddenly Inga shouted, “Grandma, come quick! Grandpa is smiling!”

Ingeborg flew in through the open door and dropped down to sit on the edge of the bed. “Oh, Haakan, you
are
smiling. Please, dear Lord, let this be a sign to us, a sign of hope.” She took his hand in hers and squeezed gently.

The return pressure was weak but real nonetheless. “Thank you, God. Oh, thank you.” She slipped into Norwegian and kept on thanking and praising God.

“Grandma, I don't know what you are saying.” Inga sat cross-legged on the bed, one elbow propped on one knee, her chin in her hand.

“Ja, I will talk English, but you little ones need to learn Norwegian too. Thank you for the reminder.” She stood. “I will let the others know so we can all rejoice.” Her steps light, she hurried to the telephone and lifted the earpiece. “Gerald, could you please let everyone know that Haakan is smiling, and he squeezed my hand back. Inga saw it first.”

“Oh, Ingeborg, I am so glad. I will tell all of Blessing, indeed.”

“Thank you. I know this is only the beginning, but he is responding.” She set the earpiece back on the side prong that held it and stared out the window. These last days had been the longest in her life, or so they felt at the moment. “Lord, only you know what is ahead, but I am so thankful that you are holding us both tight in the palm of your hand. I trust you no matter what. Thank you for your patience with me and my fears.”

She knew He heard whispers as well as He knew her thoughts. She went to the icebox and pulled out a jar of broth to heat. Lars had brought her a new block of ice. There had been talk of installing one of those machines that made ice at the hospital, but so far cutting ice from the river and storing it in the icehouse with sawdust to pack around it worked well for the whole town.

The jangling of the phone caught her in midpouring. She set the jar down and returned to the oak box on the wall.

“Mor, that is such wonderful news.” Astrid fairly bubbled with joy. “I'll be right out. You tell Inga to take good care of her grandpa.”

“Oh, she is. She saw the smile and hollered for me. Astrid,
I know there is a lot ahead, but right now I am weak with joy and relief. I'm afraid I was beginning to lose hope.”

“Me too. Sometimes one's knowledge can be a hindrance instead of a help. Do you need anything from town?”

“Only the mail.”

“I'll get it.”

Ingeborg set the jar in a pan of hot water from the reservoir and left it on the back part of the stove. She went to the bedroom door. “Would you like tea or something else to drink?”

“Milk.” Inga smiled at her grandmother. “And cookies?”

“Of course.”

“In here or outside?”

“In here. We'll sit by the window.” She watched as Inga scooted off the bed, her arm still bound to her body. Another week and Astrid said they would remove the sling and check the arm, although Inga was getting pretty adept at using one arm. The amazing adaptability of a child. Would Haakan recover also? He did not seem to have any paralysis, but once he began moving on his own again, they'd know more.

Later that evening, after Elizabeth had come to check on their patient and taken the protesting Inga home, Ingeborg sat in the darkening bedroom, the breeze lifting the curtains at the window. A sound from the bed caught her attention. “Haakan?” She slipped over to sit on the edge of the bed. His eyelids fluttered and a frown creased his forehead. “Can you hear me? If so, squeeze my hand.” This time the squeeze was certain and stronger. “Oh, Haakan, my dear, welcome back from wherever you have been.”

The side of his mouth twitched, and a smile curved the dimple in his right cheek.

“Can I get you anything?” She smoothed the hair back off his forehead. He'd lost so much weight, she could feel the bones. “If I bring the broth again, will you take some?”

The nod was so slight she almost missed it, but he was responding.
Finally! Oh, Lord be praised!
“I'll be right back.”

This time he swallowed half a cup of spooned-in broth and then he clamped his lips. Ingeborg felt like whirling around the room like Inga. She watched her husband relax, visibly this time, as if he'd been working hard. Which she knew he had. After lying so still in bed, any response would take effort. She remembered back to when she had fainted, or whatever they called it, after she had saved baby Goodie's life. She never knew she could run so fast. God must have given her wings.

And now Andrew and Ellie's little Gudrun May was such a delight. With little Haakan, their newborn boy now three weeks old, Andrew and Ellie had three children, and Ellie was hoping for more.

Resisting the urge to shake her sleeping husband to make sure his activity had not been a dream, she got ready for bed before dusk had darkened into night. The narrow yellow band on the western horizon had shrunk to a thin line when she propped Haakan up on the side facing her and crawled into bed. She took his hand in hers and softly recited the Lord's Prayer in Norwegian, as they did every night. This time he squeezed her hand twice at the amen.

Lord,
wake me if he needs me
was her slipping-away thought, and when she woke, the rooster was doing his best to get the sun out of bed. Ingeborg had not moved all night. That never happened. Haakan was breathing softly and easily, the breeze fluttered the white lace curtains, and a sleepy bird tried out his morning chirp in a raspy voice. In her light summer robe and bare feet, she strolled to the outhouse, glorying in the lightening sky, with the sickle moon hanging in the west, and the eastern sky giving way to the new day. The rooster crowed again, making her smile. The dew felt chilly on her feet and dampened the
edge of her gown. A new day. A glorious new day. Haakan was improving. What more could she ask?

When she returned, Haakan had rolled onto his back. By himself. Another feat that sent her dancing to start the fire in the cookstove, pour out the little remaining coffee, make new, and dip water still warm in the reservoir to wash her face. In all the ordinary daily actions, she kept singing praises. So many things to be thankful for. After checking on Haakan, she took her Bible out on the back porch, where she could watch the sun paint the sky and revel in that perfect moment when the rim of the sun crested the horizon and the trees lining the river shimmered in the glory.

She searched out the psalms of praise and sang them along with the birds.

“Good morning,” Freda said as she stepped up on the porch after the brief walk from her house. She had taken over much of the heavy work, including running the cheese house.

“Coffee's hot.”

“You had breakfast yet?”

“No, but Haakan is sleeping peacefully, and now I will go get dressed. If Kaaren needs you, we are fine here.”

“Is there any bacon left?” At Ingeborg's nod, Freda continued, “Good. Scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese, toast and jam. Then we'll discuss the day.”

Ingeborg smiled and tipped her head. “You are such a dear.”

Freda shook her head. “Maybe in heaven I will be.”

“Then bring a cup of coffee out here and sit with me for a moment.” She knew Freda rarely sat down once her day got going.

“If you insist, and then you'll tell me how Haakan truly is doing.”

Freda brought the pot out, refilled Ingeborg's cup, and poured her own. “Now.”

Ingeborg brought her up to the moment and leaned her head against the cushion. “I was losing hope.”

“You and all the rest of us. God sure is never in a hurry to answer our prayers. And believe you me, the whole town is praying.”

“I know. We are so blessed. Oh, and instead of toast, we have cinnamon rolls that need to be eaten. Warmed in the oven would be good.” She started to get up but Freda waved her back down.

“You just sit for a while. It won't kill you.”

Ingeborg gestured to her nightwear.

“No one else is around. Just sit and enjoy the spring around you.”

For a change Ingeborg did what she was told, and after they ate, she returned to the bedroom to get dressed for the day. Humming, she sat down to brush out her hair and heard a noise behind her. “Haakan.” He was rolling to his side and actually smiled at her.

“Ja. Good.” His voice sounded gravely for lack of use.

She sat on the edge of the bed and smiled into his eyes, grateful for a slightly lopsided but returned smile. “I was so afraid this would not be again.”

“It . . . was a . . . long . . . way.” So raspy. So beautiful to hear.

“Let me get you some warm water and honey. That will soothe your throat.” She swiftly twisted her hair and pinned it on top of her head. “I'll be right back. Don't go away.” His smile made her float out to the kitchen.

“They are done with the milking.” Freda set a crock with a handle up on the counter. “I knew we needed to churn butter, so I brought the cream in to warm. From the look on your face I can tell you have good news.”

“Haakan is talking. Warm water with honey will help his scratchy throat.”

She poured a blob of honey into a cup of warm water and grabbed a spoon, stirring as she returned to the bedroom. “Do you think you can sit up if I prop you with pillows?”

He nodded but was too weak to do anything to help her. So half sitting, he sipped from the cup, then motioned for her to use the spoon. When Ingeborg set the empty cup aside, his smile was not so lopsided—not a normal wide Haakan smile either, but an improvement.

BOOK: To Everything a Season
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