This story is a sequel to ‘Ups and Downs’. While not necessary to read that story first, it might help.




Making the Most of It

By Audrey W.




John Gage rang the doorbell and waited for the front door to open. When it did after a minute, he grinned.


“You ready?”


“Yeah, let’s go.”


“This is gonna be great!”


He and his long-time pal Roy DeSoto headed down the walkway of Roy’s parents’ home, toward Johnny’s station wagon. Roy and his wife Joanne lived in Washington state now, where Roy was a trainer of other paramedics, but had returned to California to visit relatives and friends for a couple of weeks.


This day was going to be spent with two very special friends who Roy hadn’t seen for awhile.


The men got into the vehicle and Johnny pulled away from the sidewalk and into the street, anxious to get to their plans underway.




When they arrived at their destination, Johnny parked in the gravel driveway. He shut off the engine and looked at his best friend beside him. 


“You okay?”


Roy nodded. “I am. I was just thinking of how it would be if things hadn’t gone like they had. . .you know.  The tumor.”


“Dix would have been one of those seniors always on the go,” Johnny admitted. “No doubt about it.” He cracked a crooked grin. “We probly would have trouble keeping up with her.”


Roy smiled as well. Johnny was likely right. . .


. . .if only.


“Let’s go,” he said, ready to see their dear friend.


Dixie McCall had been diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor when it was too much of a risk at her age to have it removed.  Thus she and her husband Kel Brackett had decided it would be better to leave well enough alone and just deal with what challenges came from it.


At first, Dixie’s short term memory was most affected. Her eyesight and equilibrium had diminished as well.


Now the seventy-seven year old's memory of the past twenty years was gone, and any day-to-day things dropped soon after she heard or experienced them. Everything for her was in the moment, except for the far away memories.


The tumor also had finally taken her eyesight completely.


But those weren’t the only problems Dixie had encountered. She also recently suffered from congestive heart failure and was diagnosed with a probable blood clot near her heart. Thus she was sent home with Hospice Care after a week long stay in the hospital, if she even survived being moved home by ambulance.


Johnny drove Kel home from the hospital the day Dixie was released. They’d followed right behind the ambulance, both hoping and praying their girl would make it.


When she’d survived the trip home, it became a waiting game to see what would come next. Would she die or would she live on, her quality of life diminished? Or would she surprise everyone and manage to turn things around?


With tender loving care from her husband and friends, and aid from the Hospice organization, she’d done the latter after a few months. She’d even gotten off the Hospice. It had become apparent along the way that the blood clot was a misdiagnosis, though she still had to deal with congestive heart failure.


Now she mostly was confined to a wheel chair when out of bed. She couldn’t do anything on her own completely. Because of her needing much more assistance than Kel could give, there was a lady from a senior assistance center who routinely came in daily to help take care of her.


Johnny explained all this to Roy, so the older man would know exactly what to expect when he saw the retired nurse again.


He and Johnny climbed out of the station wagon and headed up the walkway toward the home. After Roy rang the doorbell, the two were greeted by Kel. His grey hair, added wrinkles and slightly plumper body were the only noticeable changes in him to Roy.


“Well, it’s about time you two ‘hose jockeys’ dropped by together,” he kidded with a familiar twitch at the corner of his mouth .


The two smiled wide. Though both still with the fire department, they hadn’t been ‘hose jockeys’ for quite a number of years. But they'd never forgotten Bracket referring to them as that once in awhile in earlier days.


“You know us, Doc,” Johnny said as they entered the house. “Partners till the end.”


He nodded with a big smile on his face, too. 


“It’s good to see you again, Roy.”


“You, too.”


“Is Dixie up to the day?” Johnny wondered. He knew that some days were better than others. Some she was just too confused and tired to be able to do much.


“Yes, it’s been a very good morning for her so far. Tina was here earlier and got her out of bed, cleaned up and dressed. She was able to eat her breakfast with little help and she’s pretty alert. She knows you’re coming, Johnny. I saved the news about Roy as a surprise.”


Johnny wondered what would be more of a surprise to her. . .him or Roy. Since she often still called him ‘Roy’, maybe she’d be more surprised to find out ‘Johnny’ had come to visit. He had to smile at the notion. It would be nice to finally have her know he was there.


As they came into the livingroom where Dixie was seated in her wheel chair, Kel broke the news.


“Honey, Johnny’s here and he’s got a surprise for you.”


“Johnny?” She questioned. She kept her eyes closed, as she often had since losing her sight.


“Yes, Johnny Gage.”


Gage stepped forward and walked over to the nurse and held her hand.


“Yep, it’s me, Dix. Roy’s here, too,” he said as he turned to look at his friend.




Dixie’s eyes opened and Johnny looked in amazement. He never thought seeing Dixie’s eyes would be so incredible of an experience. But it was. Even though they looked lost, like there was a curtain up behind them, hiding everything that was in her thoughts. If he could hold the moment forever, he would.


“That’s right,” DeSoto had come over as well and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “It’s good to see you, Dix.”


The corners of her mouth turned upwards. “My two favorite paramedics.”


“That’s us,” Johnny teased.


He couldn’t wait for her ‘two favorite paramedics’ to give her the next ‘surprise’.




Johnny, Roy, Kel and Dixie all rode in the Gages’ station wagon to Dolphin Park in Carson. Once there, Roy and Johnny helped Dixie out of the car and into her wheel chair. Kel took in the scenery. It’d been a long time since he’d even been by the park. 


“Can you smell the fresh cut grass, Dix?” Johnny asked as he leaned down to be closer to her.


“Yes, it’s nice.”


“We’re going to have a picnic on it,” Roy let her know. The smile he got in return lit up his own face.


The three men walked along a paved pathway as Dixie rode. Johnny made sure to take her through a bunch of leaves on the ground under a large tree just off the path so that she could hear the rustle of them.


“Can you guess what that is?” Roy wondered.


She seemed to really be trying to figure it out.


“Leaves,” he helped.


“Oh, leaves, yes, that’s leaves.”


They headed for the fountain in the center of the park next so she could hear the water splashing as it rained down. It was in the middle of a large round man-made pond.


Kel pulled out his wallet and placed a penny in her right hand.


“Make a wish, Honey.”


Dixie held the coin tight in a fist, her mouth set as she did just that. Johnny then pushed her closer to the fountain so she could toss it in. The coin didn’t quite make it, but Roy quickly picked it up and dropped it in the water.


“I think a little assistance is allowed.”


“Are you going to make a wish?” she asked the men.


The three looked at one another and shrugged. Who said they couldn’t play along?


After they each had a penny, they closed their eyes, made their wishes, then almost simultaneously tossed them into the fountain.


Johnny didn’t know what the others wished for, but he had a feeling theirs would be similar to his. He wanted just one more day with Dixie before the tumor took so much from her.


Just one day . . .    


To be able to tell her how much he thought of her, how much she’d meant to he and Roy over the years.  He hadn’t gotten the chance, not knowing at first what was going on with her mind, and not realizing that her time of fully understanding the words would be gone.


The group continued on with their walk around the remainder of the park, using the pathway.


When they were back to where they’d started, they sat on the grass to eat, Dixie in her chair since she needed it for support in sitting up. The three escorts watched with smiles on their faces as Dixie tilted her head back, enjoying the warm California sun on her cheeks while she listened to the sounds of small children playing here and there in the distance.


“You know, not a day goes by that I don’t think about how things would’ve been if I hadn’t taken a chance on the doctor being wrong about the blood clot and brought her home. If I’duv left her in their care, doped up on morphine. Once they had the fluid buildup from the congestive heart failure cleared, she wasn’t even in pain anymore.”


“I know.” Johnny shook his head. “I guess even modern medicine can’t always replace gut instinct.”




In late afternoon, the foursome returned to the Brackett’s home. Dixie’s caretaker was there waiting to help them get her settled back in.


“Well, pretty lady,” Johnny said when it was time to go. “We’ll be back soon, okay?”


Both of us,” Roy added. “Joanne really wants to see you, too.”


“That’ll be nice.”


“It will,” Johnny agreed. “It really will.”


As they left the room, Kel leading the way, Gage turned and for old times sake gave a small wave as he said, “See ya, Dix.”


“See ya later,” Roy echoed.


“I’ll be here.”


Kel grinned at the exchange. One that he was sure his wife clearly recalled from long ago, judging by her response.


Once at the door the retired doctor thanked Johnny and Roy.


“I know she won’t remember any of it, but I will. It was great to see her having such a good time.”


“Hey, we should be thanking you!”


“He’s right,” Roy said as they stepped outside, one after the other. “It’s a day we’ll never forget either.”


The two waved goodbye once they got to Johnny’s car, then watched as Kel closed the front door.


They soon were on their way, both very glad they’d planned the outing for Dixie, a special day with her they’d always cherish.






I wanted to write this to give hope to some of those who have to put loved ones under Hospice care. Some people think it means the end, I know I used to. But some patients do get off of Hospice care.  Dixie’s condition is again mirrored after my mom’s. The trip to the park is based on two outings my siblings took our mom on after months of her not being able to go beyond the patio at home. It’s been a miraculous journey for her that we are very grateful for. This is dedicated to her and my sister for giving herself to mom 24/7.   :o)




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