The snow fell slowly like glistening white confetti emblazoned against what remained of the afternoon sun. It was a relatively cool January and Doug Delaford strode in the receiving door of the hospital with a glazed look of disbelief on his face. The sanitary smell of the stale hospital hallway assaulted his sense of smell and he reminded himself, at that moment, to forget all the sensory bombardment, for it was a day he would have to forget. As he hastily approached the smallish information desk he could hear those sounds so reminiscent of a hospital: the whispering nurses trying to be discreet in their story telling; the creaking of the gurney as it rounded the corner for one more pick-up; and the impinging ping of the public-address system signaling that some baritone nurse was about to make a less than important call for an unobtainable doctor. Two steps from the information desk and Doug could feel his body tense, and he questioned, at the same moment, if this had all become some strange nightmare fused with reality. The day had gone normally enough. Could this have been an odd sort of day-dream?
He stepped up to the desk, “My name is Delaford. Could you tell me where I could find my wife?”
“Certainly,” the nurse said, not realizing what life had thrust upon Doug Delaford. “She was in room 323 but they had that changed. No one remembered to write down where they took her.”
“I’ll find her myself.”
“But, sir, you can’t go back there. You don’t even know where you are going.”
“That’s only because someone didn’t do their job,” he snapped.
Doug Delaford, not being one to jump to conclusions, felt the unfairness of his last comment. As he walked away he thought he should turn around and apologize but his body kept moving solidly in the other direction on a mission to find his wife. It was the tone of the day and how quickly it changed left Doug in a moving fog that propelled him forward. He had never felt quite the same pressure in his entire life. On January 1, he had become a father to two his second son named Dwyer, a name he and his wife had chosen the first day they knew she was pregnant and lost his wife to some complication of birth he did not understand and could not ask clear enough questions when he was called immediately to the hospital interrupting his holiday time and one-half shift at Trumbull Cement.
As he continued searching through every hallway and corridor of the hospital. Doug thought of all the things in life he had not had time to do with his wife. He tried to think of what he was going to do with a family of two boys who would need constant attention; something he was never particularly good at. But all this turned sorrow-felt for himself, which he regretted terribly. His wife had gone through such pain paying the ultimate price for motherhood and all he could think of was himself. He grew tired and frustrated by his search and decided to sit down in one of those cheap, formed plastic chairs that always seem to make any back sore. It was not that he was especially tired, it suddenly occurred to him that there was nothing he could do. His wife had died and he could not bring her back. The loss left an empty spot in him that he had not felt before, something which became irreplaceable over the years had left him. At first, Doug felt betrayed by God, he was a solid, church going man and this type of thing should not be happening to someone like him. Then he began to realize how much he would miss his wife. Doug Delaford leaned back in the plastic chair, let a heavy breath out and tried to calm himself. The tension suddenly lessened. His wife was gone. He could not change that. He had to figure out a way to move forward. His two kids were young. They no longer had a mother. Doug no longer had a wife. He regretted and felt the guilt of not being at the hospital when she gave birth but this had all happened fast and weeks earlier than planned. He felt completely unprepared to be a single parent.
A nurse quietly trotted down the hall toward Doug, catching up to him while he gathered himself. She gently clutched his arm and helped him from the chair, “Now, let’s go find your wife.”