Follow up story to "His Christmas Promise"
Vin sat up in the barn's loft and leaned back against the stacked hay enjoying the quiet that surrounded him. He loved his team mates, his brothers. But the noise level of his six friends inside the ranch house at the moment would have raised the dead all the way to China. He looked out the open loft door at the slow falling snow with the Rocky mountains in the background. He sighed at the beauty of the scene. Tilting his head as words began drifting through his mind, he pulled out the notebook of paper and pen he had in his coat pocket. He found the words he had begun to worry he would not have and needed for the up and coming date.
As he sat there writing out all he thought and felt, putting them in groups. He never noticed the passing of time. When he finished it, he re-read and nodded to himself liking how it turned out. He slid the little notebook back into his coat pocket and pushed himself up. He took the few steps over to the loft door and took one last look out toward the mountains. He pulled the loft door closed to keep the snow from the barn's hay. Going over to the ladder to climb down, he stopped as his cell phone went off.
Seeing the caller, he answered with, "Yeah?"
"You coming back in or you going to live out there?" Chris asked jokingly.
"I'm about to head back in now. The boys still arguing over the game they was watching?" Vin grinned.
"Nope. Game's over and the food is ready. We're just waiting for you. Buck said to tell you he can't hold JD back much longer, so if you want any of the food you need to get your butt in here," reported Chris.
"Tell Bucklin I'm coming and to keep JD away from the peach cobbler Nettie made for me," Vin laughed. Ending the call, he turned and stepped onto the ladder as he slipped the phone into his coat pocket. Realizing he missed the pocket, just as he began to let go of the phone, he fumbled trying to re-grasp it before it could fall to the barn’s floor. Just as he finally got a hold of the phone, his bottom foot and hand grip slipped at the same time. Falling back, he landed hard on the packed stable floor. The fall knocked the air from his lungs and consciousness from his mind on impact.
Ezra saw Chris frowning as he looked out the kitchen window. Ezra figured he was wondering why Vin had yet to appear out of the barn. It had been a couple of minutes since he had called. Slipping into his coat, Ezra announced, "I'll go and see what is keeping our wayward friend from returning from his sabbatical solace and will hurry him along so we can return to our consumption of the awaiting dinner."
Chris nodding his thanks, stepped over to the oven, turning it off and pulling out the ready rolls.
Ezra stepped off the back deck and walked quickly through the piling snow to the barn entrance. Stepping through the partially open door, he stopped to let his eyes adjust to the dimness, and called out, "Mr. Tanner, I am here to see you do not delay the feasting that is awaiting your return any longer. I fear Mr. Dunne is within seconds of diving onto the table and..." That's as far as Ezra got when he saw his friend lying at the bottom of the loft's ladder. Quickly reaching his side, he pulled out his cell phone. He checked for a pulse and his breathing, while simply stating, "Need Nathan. Vin's hurt. Looks like he might have fallen off the loft's ladder." He heard something coming from Vin, and thought he might be coming to. "Mr. Tanner...Vin, can you hear me?" Not getting a true reply, only that same sound, Ezra tried again before the barn door was pushed open and five men rushed in.
"Buck, turn on the inside lights," Nathan ordered as he knelt down by Vin. "Has he been awake at all. Has he moved?" Nathan asked Ezra.
"He hasn't moved and I'm unsure if he's been conscious. He has been making a sound, but when I spoke to him, he didn't reply or react."
Chris took Ezra's place beside Vin, and watched as Nathan ran his experienced hands down his arms and legs checking for breaks, then the pupils, chest and stomach area.
Nathan, meeting Chris's demanding gaze, answered. "No breaks I can feel. Not tight or rigid in the abdomen area. One of his pupils is dilated, so he does have a concussion, how bad I don't know. We need an ambulance. He needs to be put on a backboard and neck brace to be on the safe side. I don't know if there's any damage to either areas. If he was awake I could ask how he landed, if he's moved at all."
Josiah had called 911 the second Nathan said they needed an ambulance, and reported, "Ambulance will be here in 15 minutes. 911 sent the call to the volunteer station 20 miles up the road. Luckily there was an ambulance there."
JD, having run back to the house, came back with a blanket that Nathan spread over Vin to keep him warm and hopefully keep shock at bay.
The ambulance showed up, accessed and loaded Vin into the vehicle with Chris climbing in with him. The others quickly covered some of the food that could be left out and the rest slid into the refrigerator and oven that was turned off. Heading out the door to their vehicles, the men rushed to the hospital. They found Chris in the waiting room, and he told them the ER staff had whisked Vin off to x-ray and for an MRI. They settled in to wait for news.
Hours later, Vin was settled in a room and the doctor, having dealt with team seven before, didn't bother to hold back the information he knew they were waiting for. He knew they were Tanner's only next of kin. He reported that Vin did have a mild concussion and that there were no neck fractures or damage. The doctor paused for a moment before adding that he thought there were no breaks in the spine, although here was a hair line fracture to L4, which wasn't normally bad, but there was severe swelling from muscle and tissue bruising. The bruising and the swelling was putting pressure on his lower spine and on the L4.. It was very important that he not put any pressure on his back, by moving around a lot. Walking was definitely out for at least a couple of weeks until the swelling was completely gone. They were going to keep him in the hospital for at least 3 to 4 days and then would only release him on the conditions that the swelling had shown enough progress receding. A wheel chair would be provided for Vin for the weeks until Vin could start walking. Vin could not be left alone and would have to stay with someone the entire time. He knew Vin would not stay off his feet if not supervised.
After assurance was given on all accounts, and with a sigh of relief that their friend would be all right, the six men decided who was going to go get food to bring back and who would be staying in the room with Vin.
Chris and Ezra decided to stay and pulled chairs up closer to the bed. Both of them noticed that since the Dr.'s talk of how things were going to be, Vin had not only been more quiet than normal, but withdrawn with a sad look in his eyes.
Thinking Vin had drifted off to sleep again, Ezra said, "Mr. Larabee, I know Mr. Tanner dislikes medical establishments, as well as having someone constantly watching his person, but is it just myself or are you detecting something else is weighing heavily on our friend due to the dilemma that he has been put in?"
"Yeah, I noticed it too, Ezra. I don't know what it is, though, and getting him to talk about anything that he feels is personal is like pulling teeth out of a tiger. Impossible," Chris stated.
"Hmmm, a puzzle. Then we must figure out with the clues we have and can obtain," Ezra stated. Seeing Vin's clothing and things folded and stacked on the table top where Buck had set them when the nurse had handed them to him, Ezra got up and walked over. He checked the pants pocket and Vin's wallet for any pieces of paper. He found nothing in either one. Lifting the coat and feeling the dampness still clinging to it, Ezra went to hang it up. Shaking it first to get any moisture off he could, he saw a small note book fall to the floor. Picking it up, he read what was showing on the open page.
"Mmm..Chris, Christmas Eve is in five days on this coming Friday. Isn't that the date of Vin's traditional trip?" Ezra remarked as he handed Chris the notebook that was still folded open, so he could read the passage as well.
When the others returned and they had eaten the food that was brought back from a favorite diner of theirs, the six men moved down to the waiting room while the nurses were changing the sheets and cold packs on Vin's bed. Entering the area, they found Nettie there demanding a nurse tell her where her Vin Tanner was. A few minutes later, after informing Nettie of Vin's condition, Chris went on to tell everyone about Vin's tradition of a song for his mom being this coming Friday, and that Ezra had found the words in his note book.
"Can't he just do it late for this year? I'm sure his mom and granddad would understand," JD said.
"They might, but our brother Vin would feel guilty for letting them down," Josiah explained.
"Mr. Sanchez is right. Our sentimental friend would take it to heart. In fact, he is taking it to heart that he has failed them so it is up to our good selves to see that the tradition is carried out for him," Ezra responded.
"We got the words, but we don't know the tune and since he didn't write down any music notes, he probably hasn’t come up with the music yet," Nathan stated.
"I think he has created the music. As I said when I found him laying in the barn, he was making a sound which I took as Vin wakening.. But now I know, though still unconscious, he was humming. And since it was a tune I haven't heard, I suspect it is the one he created for his song he wrote."
"If you can either play it on the piano at your townhouse or hum it for me to record I can run it through a music program that will write out the notes to play," JD smiled.
“Ezra, you get with JD. As soon as you get it all sorted and printed out, JD, make sure you make several copies and get them to me. Nathan and Buck, you two take care of anything that will be needed to keep Vin warm and dry at his mother’s grave. The path way is paved most of the way, but get some ply wood to lay down so we can wheel him right up to her headstone. Josiah, between you and Nettie see if you can get anyone who can play a guitar or something easy to have out there. The extra copies JD prints out will be for all of us and whomever you can get to help," Chris stated giving out jobs to everyone. No one asked what he would be doing, for they knew he was going to be keeping Vin's spirit's up as best he could and getting him released to go out to the ranch as soon as safely possible and doing it all without letting Vin know what they were up to, for this year the tradition was going to be a present to both Vin and his mom.
+ + + + + + +
It had been five days since he fell, two days since he was released from the hospital and now he was sitting in this stupid wheelchair on the day he was supposed to be...Vin couldn't finish the thought. Which pain was greater, the one in his lower back or the one growing in his heart, he couldn't say. He knew the guys were up to something. Vin figured they were planning something to help cheer him up for being stuck in this chair for a while to come. But nothing would help his sorrow over letting his mom and grandpa down. He couldn't even do it from here looking up, because he had lost his notebook somewhere between the fall and hospital and that saddened him even more, for he had really liked the words that had come this year.
Hearing Chris entering the room, Vin turned and took in how Chris was dressed. "You going out tonight on Christmas Eve?"
"We are going out for a bit. Thought you could use a break from being cooped up inside. Figured you'd like to take a drive, get some air. And while we’re out I'll pick up some things we'll need for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner," Chris said.
Vin brightened at the thought of getting out just for a bit, even if it was going from sitting in the chair to sitting in the truck. He thought maybe while they were out he could ask Chris to go to his mom's grave. Even if he couldn't leave the driveway, he could see their graves from there and could at least tell her and grandpa he was sorry.
Chris helped him into some warmer clothes and a coat, then wheeled him out to the garage and carefully helped him into the warming truck. Folding and placing the wheel chair in the back, Chris got in and they headed out. Vin cracked the window a bit, not enough to freeze Chris out, but enough that with his head leaning back, a the little bit of wind hit his face. He smiled as he stared out at the snow covered landscape and twinkling stars. Seeing the direction they were going, Vin thought maybe his luck was turning and Chris wouldn't argue since they were this close to the cemetery.
"Hey, Chris, mind turning into the cemetery? I'd like to see mom's grave and maybe say Merry Christmas to her and Grandpa. I can see their resting places from the truck," Vin asked and quickly assured.
"Sure, Vin," Chris agreed, hiding a grin.
They pulled through the gates of the cemetery, and as they grew closer, Vin saw a couple of cars parked ahead of them. Glancing over to where he knew their graves were, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. A lantern was posted at the beginning of a carpet-covered plywood path down to their graves. Josiah, Buck, Ezra, Nathan and JD were all waiting there at the edge of the road for them.
"Chris, what's going on?" Vin asked.
Getting out and coming around to Vin's side, Josiah and carefully lifted and put Vin in the chair that Buck had already retrieved. With the seven of them all together for a moment, Chris answered, "We know why you were feeling sad, Vin. Ezra found your notebook and luckily, while you were out cold, you were humming. He and JD got together with JD's computer and got the humming turned into music notes. Buck and Nathan fixed it so you could get down to their graves and Josiah and Nettie got some music help since you won’t be able to play your guitar. Nettie's down by the grave side waiting."
Vin felt overwhelmed with the care his friends had gone out of their way to give him. He nodded his thanks to them, letting the emotions in his eyes tell them how much he appreciated what they had done.
They wheeled him down between his mom and grand dad, and Vin let Nettie hug him for a moment before turning his attention to his family. Sitting in a moment of quiet, he looked up to ask the young man with the guitar to start playing. But before he got a word out, he saw what looked like little lights slowing coming closer. When close enough to make out details, Vin saw it was candles being carried by Inez, Mary, Billy, Travis and his wife, Evie. Feeling humbled by all the people showing their care and support, Vin whispered to his mom, "See, mom, I got a big family now, so you ain't got to worry. They’re going to help me give you, your present song this year."
The guitar played a warm soft tune, the voices all blended together perfectly, with the words that were sung lovingly...
It is the eve of that night again,
The date that comes every year begins.
Thought of, remembered months and days in between,
Finding and building the words for you I sing.
So on this eve of night,
with the skies twinkling lights.
And the surreal calmness in the air too,
We were graced with the beauty of you.
Twilight is now since past from sight,
With the skies twinkling lights.
Background by heaven's eternal's view,
Like family love then and now always knew.
Surreal calmness is it a dream or was it real,
Memories held dear truth I know for I can feel.
On this date a blessing, a sadness I try to endeavor
Were graced with the beauty of you forever...
So on this eve of night,
with the skies twinkling lights.
And the surreal calmness in the air too,
We were graced with the beauty of you
Were graced with ..Graced with the beauty of you.....
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