"Rebirth" by Gail B. King (GailBKing@aol.com) (c) January 1999,

Rebirth

by Gail B. King

Alex and Walker awoke to the sound of the ringing telephone. She looked at the clock beside the bed and wondered who would call them at five o'clock in the morning.

"I'll get it, Alex. Go on back to sleep. It's probably for me anyway."

"Thanks. Please let me know if you have to leave, okay?"

Walker nodded his head yes and kissed his wife on her ear. Then he encouraged her to go back to sleep for a few more hours.

By this time, Alex was more curious than sleepy, so she trained her ears toward the kitchen in order to listen to Walker's end of the conversation.

"You're kidding, me. He acted fine last night."

"Sure thing. Thanks for calling, Trivette. I'll be right there."

Hoping that Alex had gone back to sleep, Walker peeked into the bedroom. The last thing he wanted was to be asked a lot of questions he either didn't want to answer or didn't know how to answer them. Alex was still in bed, but she had positioned her pillow against the head board and was sitting up against it.

"What's wrong?"

Alex could tell by Walker's expression that he had gotten some kind of bad news. He had never been very successful at hiding things from her.

"I'm not sure, yet. I promise I'll call you as soon as I know something."

Alex knew he was evading her question, but she'd learned from experience that she needed to let the subject drop.

"You promise me, Walker?"

"I said I would, didn't I?"

Walker had been trying to get dressed as quickly as possible and snapped at Alex. He could tell by the expression on her face that she'd been surprised and hurt by his rude reply.

He walked over to their bed and cradled her face in his hands as he gently kissed her lips. She knew it was his way of apologizing and she returned his kiss to indicate she accepted his apology.

Walker turned and walked out of the bedroom, grabbed his keys, and climbed into his Dodge Ram. Alex could hear the supercharged engine's rumble fade into the distance as he drove down the drive way.

Alex tried to go back to sleep but that seemed hopeless to her. So, she got up and filled the tub with hot water for a good hot bath. The mystery surrounding the phone call had caused her muscles to become tense and the hot water would help them relax.

As soon as Walker reached the highway, he turned on his flashing lights in order to get to the hospital as soon as possible. When he arrived, he found Trivette waiting in the intensive care lounge for him.

"Thank God you're here. He's been asking for you almost continuously. There's a chance they may let you in before regular ICU visiting hours."

"He looked so good last night. We all thought he had begun to improve and fight this thing."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It's been six months since he had his heart attack and the doctors had given him a prognosis for a good recovery."

"That's what I thought."

"Well, I don't understand it. But you'd better be getting on in to see him if you can."

"Okay, I'll check at the desk."

"I'll be here if you need me."

Walker checked at the desk about visiting now and not waiting until the regular ICU visiting hour which was two hours away.

"I think that would be possible, Ranger. His condition is very critical. It is probably only a matter of time."

"Thanks, ma'am. I'll be right with you."  

Walker walked back over to Trivette to talk to him for a minute. He could see that underneath Walker's calm exterior he was hurting inside. Trivette knew Walker's pain was for Alex and himself. He decided to take a chance and give his friend and partner as much of a hug as the stoic Ranger would allow. He held both of Walker's upper arms firmly in his hands and looked him straight in the eye.

"Walker, I'm sorry you had to hear about this from me."

"I wondered about that."

"Apparently he thought you were on call, and the hospital would get you. They got me instead."

"I think things worked out for the best."

Walker gently but deliberately freed himself from Trivette's grasp. He knew someone would have to tell Alex, but Walker knew he didn't have the right words to break the news. "Jimmy's always been better at doing things like this."

"Trivette, do me a favor, will ya?"

"Sure thing. What do you need?"

"Run out to the ranch and pick up Alex. I don't want her to have to drive here 'cause she's really going to be upset."

"You got it. You want to call her to let her know I'm coming?"

"I don't know that I would know what to say. Do you mind calling her?"

"No. I'll call her now and leave immediately."

Trivette headed toward the bank of pay phones in the hospital lobby. The first time he tried to reach Alex, the phone rang but there was no answer. He waited 15 minutes and tried the ranch house again. This time he got through and felt better because he was doing something useful to help Walker. He'd always felt uncomfortable around people who were critically ill. Even the times when Walker and Alex had been comatose, he hadn't been able to stay. He had to be doing something away from the hospital.                     

The nurse led Walker back to the ICU hospital room. As many times as Walker had been in the hospital himself he thought he would be prepared for what he would see. But, he was wrong and was shocked as he entered the room. It was filled with all kinds of monitors and rarely had Walker seen anyone poked full of so many tubes. The sight made him feel uncomfortable and his heart ached for his dear friend who lay in the bed.

"Is that you, Walker?"

The voice was so feeble he could just hear it.

"Yeah, I'm here."

"Is Alex here with you?"

"No, I'm alone just as you asked. Trivette's gone to get her."

"Good. I wanted to talk to you about some things first."

Walker didn't know what to say so he decided the best thing was to listen.

"I don't know enough words to tell you how much your friendship has meant to me. You never gave up on me even when I had."

Walker's friend tried to extend his feeble hand to take Walker's in his. Walker decided he needed to sit down and take his friend's hand.

"These last five years of my life have been the best years of my life and more than anyone could have asked for. I've had a successful career, accomplished everything I wanted to and broken relationships have been restored. I've made my peace with the Lord and I'm ready to go when he calls."

"Don't give up, now. You've fought so hard and you can pull out of this."

Walker noticed his eyes had begun to water so he tried blinking the water away.

"Walker, I'm tired. I want to leave this broken shell behind. My kidneys have stopped functioning, I can't breathe, and it's okay. I know it's only a matter of time now, and I'm ready to leave this place behind me.

"I've added a codicil to my will to endow the HOPE center. I don't want Alex to know where the money has come from so the gift will be anonymous."

"Do you really think it's fair not tell her?"

"I'm not sure she'd really believe I love her and had that much interest in the center."

"I think you don't know how much she loves you, my friend."

"Maybe you're right. I will leave that decision to you then. You're a good friend Walker and you and Alex have both done right by me."

Walker's friend began a coughing spell which wracked his whole body from head to toe. Walker could tell he was in pain and the episode had completely exhausted him. Not knowing what else to do, Walker followed his instincts and began to speak.

"Great Spirit and Father of us all, be with your son as he prepares to make the journey across the waters. Make his journey short and steps sure."

Walker continued to sit in the ICU room and hold his friend's hand. He occasionally brushed his eyes with his sleeve to remove the water that would accumulate before it could trickle down his cheek.

Trivette and Alex finally arrived at the hospital. Trivette took Alex to the ICU nurses station and introduced her to the nurses. Trivette still hadn't told her who she needed to see in the hospital. He had only told her a friend needed her.

An hour had passed since Walker had arrived and he had begun to be concerned about whether or not she would make it in time. A nurse led Alex through the ICU doors into the room where she saw Walker. As he stood to take her hand, she was shocked to see that there seemed to be tears in his eyes. He pulled her aside so they could talk for a moment without disturbing his friend.

"I'm glad you're here; he's been asking for you."

"Why didn't you bring me with you earlier? I would have come."

Alex and Walker whispered to each other quietly.

"I was just doing what he said he wanted, Alex."

Alex shrugged her shoulders and Walker realized she had no idea who it was that lay in the bed. She peered around Walker's arm and he felt helpless as he watched her horrified emotions spread across her face.

"Daddy?"

She reached down to touch his shoulder and noticed how swollen he was. Tears of grief and sorrow began to form in her eyes.

"Daddy? Daddy, it's me Alex."

She tried to control the quiver in her voice as she talked softly to Gordon Cahill. Her tears had begun to run down her cheeks and drop on his bed covers.

"Alex? Is that you, Honey?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"I love you and you've made me very proud. You always have."

Alex sensed he was trying to say good-bye. She felt so confused. Why had he asked for Walker before he'd asked for her. This whole situation seemed so unfair.

"Oh Daddy, I just found you again. You can't leave me behind now. Please don't go."

"Alex, I'm just going to a different place. Where I'm going, you'll be able to talk to me whenever you want."

"Daddy, I love you. I'm so sorry for the way I've been to you. Please forgive me."

Alex felt she would feel no absolution for the hatred she'd held toward her father over the years. But she had to ask.

"Alex, all as been forgiven. But, I'm tired and I'm ready to go now.

"Walker, take care of my little girl, and Alex, take care of your husband. Now, you two just sit with me awhile."

Walker moved a chair around so Alex could sit next to him as they sat by Gordon. Walker put one arm around Alex so she could rest her head on his shoulder while they both held Gordon's hand.

Walker felt Alex's hot tears dampen his shirt and her silent sobs shook his shoulder as they racked her body.

Suddenly, Gordon sat up in his bed and reached out into the air with his other hand. As Alex and Walker looked on, his hand appeared to close around an invisible hand they couldn't see as the heart monitor in the room went flat. Then it looked as though Gordon's body was gently laid back against the bed by invisible hands.

"Daddy ... ."

Alex's sobs which had been silent became gut wrenching sobs, and she found herself gasping for her breathe between each one. Walker held her tightly against him as he assured her it was okay to let the tears flow and her anguish flow.

Two days later, Gordon Cahill was buried in the company of many friends. Alex had always heard that the Lord giveth and he taketh away. The verse had always been confusing to her and she felt angry towards God because He had taken her father away. She knew she would never recover from the loss of her father.

The first month after Gordon's death was a living hell for Alex. There had been all the thank you notes that had to be written for cards, flowers, food and memorial gifts friends had given them. She became so depressed that it had been necessary to take a temporary leave of absence from her job.

Walker would come home at night and find her sitting in ranch house sobbing over some imagined wrong she had done her father. All his efforts to hold or comfort her physically, which was his normal way seemed to accomplish nothing. He realized he needed to reach into the depths of his own soul in order to intervene in this crisis.

"Alex, there was nothing you could have done to help your father until he was ready. And Gordon wasn't ready until five years ago."

"But, I didn't trust him then. I didn't believe he wanted to get better. I didn't want to give him a chance. I didn't even encourage him.

"And, it made me angry when he listened to you but not to me. I was jealous of you and your relationship with him. I almost wound up hating both of you because of it. Why would he have ignored me most of my life only to come back into it. And when he did, he was more comfortable with you than with me."

Walker came over to his wife and sat down beside her. Finally, they'd begun to get to the bottom of her feelings of guilt, grief and anger. Walker picked up her hand and kissed each finger and side of it as it he were caressing it with his lips.

"He could listen to me because there was no history or past hurts between us that we had to work around."

"Walker, are you sure that was it? I've been sick over not having done more for him."

"Alex he loved you more than you'll ever know."

"Oh, I don't know, Cordell. I think your just trying to make me feel better."

"I promised Gordon I wouldn't tell you this unless my judgment told me I should. You know the anonymous endowment for the HOPE Center? That gift was from your father because of his love and faith in you. Alex, he forgave you a long time ago. Don't you think it's time to forgive yourself?"

Walker gathered Alex in his arms and pressed her close to him.

"Yes, I guess it is."

As the months after Gordon's death passed by, Alex discovered there was an additional reason for her depression and illness. She learned that she was carrying their first child.       

"Walker, how will we be able to rejoice when our first child comes. Daddy would have loved to be here and now he's gone. I miss him so very much."

"I don't know, Alex, but we will find a way."

"You will have to help me, because I just don't know."

Again, Walker was forced to take hold of the emotional reigns of his household. It wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, but someone had to do it.

"Alex, it says in the Bible that 'the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.' I think this applies to generations of families. God is giving us a new family member to take your father's place."

"That's ridiculous."

"Is it? Mark my words, wife."

Some 10 months after the death of Gordon Cahill, Cordell and Alex Walker brought their first child, Gordon Cahill Walker, home to their ranch.

As they readied for bed that evening, Alex and Walker looked at their son in his cradle.      

"Thank you, Walker, for giving me little Gordon. I'll always miss my father, but that emptiness has been filled to over flowing with the gift of our son." Tears of joy tumbled down her cheeks.

"I love you." It was all Walker could say as he gathered his wife in his arms. He kissed her as though there were no tomorrow. Any thing else would have to wait for six more weeks.