(The format looks difference because it is copied from the "Second Edition" of Escape from the Belfry - now available on Amazon)
Finding Surprise Blessings
“Get your coat, Adam.” Pastor Silverman came into his kitchen a half hour later. He grabbed his car keys off the counter as the boy finished a bowl of corn flakes.
“I made a few phone calls while you dressed and ate. I’m taking you out to the sanitarium to pick up your mother. I’m supposed to move you two into Gunderman’s guest space today like you and Mrs. G. talked about.” Pastor put his arm through the sleeve of his coat, flipped the toaster side up, and popped the corner of the dry bread in his mouth.
“What?” Adam was stunned.
“I hope I haven’t over stepped my bounds, Adam, but you said your mother could come home when the house was ready for her. I talked to her on the telephone and asked if she would like to stay at the Gundermans’ until summer break, along with you of course.” Silverman looked the boy up and down. Adam had said nothing.
“What did she say?” Adam was cautious. He had lived the fabrication for so long, he had made lies his new reality. Would he be able to meet the day with the truth?
“I explained the guest space and the small amount of money, and she said she would love to move in. Gundermans would help her and she would help them. She said she knows Mrs. Gunderman a little, and she thinks you could help Mr. Gunderman in the yard and around the place.”
“So, she can finally get out of that place?”
“Like I said, Adam, get your coat. We’re going out to pick her up.”
The ride to the sanitarium was a blur of color and buildings. Soon they came to open fields that slept under a blanket of white. Winter wheat was visible in some fields not completely covered with snow. Adam was happy to see the green that peppered the ground again.
“The sanitarium is just up here,” Adam pointed, “around the next bend. Trust me, I have walked this road so many times, I’ve named all of the trees.”
The red brick building was old. “The whole place looks sterile.” Young Schumacher studied the structure from the basement window wells to the attic roof.
Adam had mixed emotions about the place. On the one hand, he sure missed Moms and had been feeling desperately alone, cold, sad, and defeated. For all of that, he hated the West Slope Tuberculosis Hospital. Yet, he knew he had to be grateful to the sanitarium for making Moms well again.
Pastor pulled his car to a stop in the circular drive just outside the entrance. They got out and Adam approached the front door a few steps ahead of the pastor. He didn’t like the looks of the place. He hurried past the facade and went quickly inside where the Christmas decorations made the interior a little more cheery. Adam had just been there two days before, but he was much too cold and wet on Christmas Day to appreciate the entrance except for the warmth. Was Christmas just Tuesday past? How could that be possible? Time usually flew by, but recent days were in slow motion.
“I will be so glad when Moms gets out of here.”
“Yes, I am sure you will be, but you’ll have to admit, this facility was a blessing to your mother. The hospital was here when she became sick and was in need of nursing care.”
“This pile of bricks and stone?” Adam couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The sanitarium—a blessing? How?
“Blessings come in different sizes and packages. Miracles are recognized with the heart not the eyes, Son.”
“How in the world could this place be anything except―” Adam stepped aside and allowed the pastor to enter the Sanitarium Director’s office.
“Good morning, Mr. Fairfield,” Adam greeted the man with more maturity than most fifteen-year-olds. “This is Pastor Silverman from the church on Cranberry Street.” Adam heard himself mocking the director in his head. Then, he realized that the man had nothing but nice things to say to him. Ridicule and negative self-talk did no one any good.
The two men shook hands. “I’m happy to finally meet you, Sir,” the director smiled. “I was glad to talk to you on the telephone and make these arrangements for the Shoemaker family. Bridget Shoemaker is a brave and wonderful woman.”
“Schumacher, Sir. Our name is Schumacher.” Adam spoke firmly and assuredly. He had been confused about many things in the last months, but of that fact he was sure.
“Yes, Son, thank you.” Fairfield smiled. “All is ready for your mother’s transfer to the Gundermans’ place. Mr. and Mrs. Gunderman tell me that you and your mother will have a separate entrance, a nice completely outfitted bathroom, a good sized bedroom, and living room, complete with furniture and radio. I believe, Son, you will sleep on the couch. Is that all right with you?”
Adam was stunned. “Is it all right? If the ceiling rafters are enclosed; if there is running water with a bathroom, heat and electricity and a finished floor, it is more than all right. The place is a castle.”
Adam stopped and thought of all his blessings. Maybe he had been missing miracles. “That sounds just fine to me. In fact, the couch sounds great.” Adam continued to study the two men.
Adam had more questions than he had answers. Why on earth would anyone do anything so nice for Moms and me? Life isn’t usually like that. Besides, I still have a lot of luggage. Wherever I live, there has to be room for a funny little basket purse and small bird.
“The arrangement is fair. You and your mother would live there in exchange for her being on the property when Mrs. Gunderman is at work. You will shovel snow now in the winter and mow the grass in the spring. Are you sure that is all okay with you? You play a part in making this work, Young Man.”
“I am happy to be able to help get a safe place for Moms.” Adam felt a few inches taller. “Yep, it is very okay with me.”
Adam was stunned beyond words to express. He was actually helping his mother to have advantages she had not had before. There was nothing but hard work on the farm and in the clan in which she had grown up. The gypsy ways were primitive. At the same time, he would be helping himself escape from the belfry.
“Then, if you will excuse me, I will go get your mother and help her with her
As soon as the director was out of the office, Adam’s attention snapped back to Silverman. “It all sounds great, Pastor, but how in the world can this place be a blessing or a miracle like you said?”
“Your mother is alive, isn’t she, Adam? She’s coming home today, is she not? She is a well woman. She just has to regain her strength and try not to catch a cold. Isn’t that a miracle? Her treatment happened here. Here in 1945, fifty percent of people, who do not receive treatment for tuberculosis, die.”
• • •
Adam was excited about the little apartment behind Mr. and Mrs. Gunderman’s house. “Isn’t the place wonderful, Moms?” He was proud. Finally, he was able to take care of Moms through his hard work and new friends.
“It is so good to see you again, Bridget.” Arletta greeted her old friend with open arms. “You haven’t been to club in years.”
“There’s always something that has to be done on the farm, Arletta. But, it is so very good to see you today.”
“This is great,” Adam whispered in amazement. The apartment was everything Alfred and Arletta had described, and more. “The furniture all looks new,” Adam observed out loud and then wished he hadn’t. He didn’t want to sound ungrateful.
“Mother Gunderman only lived a few months after we moved her in here,” Arletta smiled. “We bought everything new for her, and she purchased a lot too, like new pots and pans and decorations.” Mrs. G. seemed proud as she showed Adam and his mother around their home.
“Did she die here?” Again, Adam couldn’t believe his thoughts were not kept to himself.
For a man of few words, all of the wrong ones were tumbling out of the back of his mind.
“Adam!” Moms gave a little smack to her son’s shoulder and looked down, away from Mrs. G.
“Now that is an honest concern.” The corners of Mrs. G.’s mouth gave away her stifled laugh. “No, Adam. As a matter of fact, Mother Gunderman came into our house and tried to get a book from a high shelf there in our living room, and fell. Her hip broke when she landed on the floor and she had to go to the hospital. Like some older people, her hip healed, but the rest of her body just finally gave out.”
“I’m sorry.” Adam cringed inside. What are you, Schumacher, a four-year-old?
“I like the question though. It shows me you’re thinking.” Arletta smiled and looked around. “I forgot the extra coffee pot, Bridget. Let me run into the house and get it.”
“Certainly,” Moms smiled and took in everything in the little apartment.
“Adam, this is wonderful!” She hugged her son with all the strength she was gaining. “This has all come about because of your hard work. I am so proud of you.”
“Thanks, Moms, but we won’t be a real family until Pops comes home.” Adam tried to keep a happy face while thoughts of Pops’ absence tried to spoil their blessing.
“Adam—maybe Pops can’t come home. Even if that’s true, we are still a family.”
“Moms, what’s wrong with me? I’ve been so excited about your hospital release, I haven’t told you yet. Pastor Silverman said a man came by trying to find Pops’ family. The man had been all over Middletown looking for us. I saw him a couple of times, but I didn’t know who he was and didn’t trust him. Pastor said the man told him he thinks Pops is alive but has lost his memory.”
Adam led his mother over to the sofa. “You have to hear this while sitting down,” he said as he helped her onto the sofa.
“Moms, Pops doesn’t know anyone or even his own name. Someone saw him in a VA hospital here in the Eastern part of United States. His dog tags were missing, and he couldn’t be officially identified until an Army buddy thought he recognized him.”
“Adam, how can that be?” Bridget put her hands over her face, then whispered again, “How can that be, Adam?”
“I don’t know, but I met the man, Moms. He seemed to show up everywhere. When he couldn’t talk to me or you, he looked up Pastor Silverman. He said his name is Sergeant Smith. He gave Pastor these.” Adam held out the prize to his mother.
“Your daddy’s dog tags?” Bridget Schumacher took the small tags on the metal beaded chain and clutched them to her chest. “Do you think―? Could your daddy have been alive all this time, sick and lost inside his mind?”
“Yes, Moms, I do. I think Pops is still alive. I will be sixteen in April and I can get my driver’s license. This spring, I’m going to go find Pops. Sergeant Smith said Pops had been released from a POW camp and was taken to a hospital. That hospital is here in the states. I’ll keep driving until I find him. I’ll look up that Sergeant and he’ll lead me to Pops. I know he will.”
“But, Adam, the money for gas? Where will you get money for food and gas and shelter?”
“Shelter is no problem. I’ve learned I don’t need a bed to sleep in. I’ll save some of the money from my job at the church to get me started. I can work my way from town to town. If hummingbirds can fly south, I can drive east.”