My Kind of Town

by Don Chapman

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Eh, Mr. Tactful

>> Queen's Medical Center

Maybe this wasn't the best time to bring it up, here in the Intensive Care Unit, but they had to discuss it sooner or later. Sooner, as far as Sheets Ah Sun was concerned, because the whole family was scheduled to leave in two days for his son Laird's graduation from Stanford Business -- a delayed autumn graduation after his spring-summer internship at a bank in Geneva. It was the biggest day in the family's history and, unfortunate as his youngest son's Lance's accident was, it could not be allowed to detract from Laird's great moment -- and Sheets' great moment too.

Maybe, with his wife Grace sitting in a chair beside Lance's bed, her head bowed in silent tears and silent prayer for her baby who lay in a coma with tubes and wires going in and out of his head, Sheets could have found a better way to bring it up.

But maybe, Sheets thought, changing the subject would cheer her up. Thinking about Laird's graduation sure made him feel better.

"So, Mama, did you start packing yet?"

It took a moment for his words to register. She slowly looked up, sat up, turned to face him, totally incredulous, anger rising. "What did you say?!" Uh-oh. He'd said the wrong thing. But he wasn't quite sure how, so Sheets plunged ahead. "For our trip. For the graduation."

Another incredulous glare. "How can you even think about that right now, with your other son near death right here in front you?!"

It wasn't that hard, actually. Sheets had never really understood Lance, ever since he was a little boy. Heck, Sheets was closer to Lily, and she wasn't even ...

"There will be no 'our trip'! Not while Lance is lying here like this. What kind of mother would I be to leave him now?!"

>> Her maid Rosalita, her cousin Quinn and now her brother Lance -- all at Queen's at the same time. While Rosalita and Quinn were being treated at the ER, Lily got the number for Lance's room in the Intensive Care Unit.

She was about to knock on the door when she heard angry voices from inside. "But what kind of mother would you be to miss the greatest day in your other son's life?"

"How you can say that?!"

Lily knocked, quickly pushed open the door, saw her parents glaring at each other, and beyond them saw her youngest brother Lance lying unconscious on a bed with tubes running into and out of his head.

And then it really hit her -- Lance and Quinn, cousins, at Queen's -- what might this mean for the mysterious standoff that had lasted for 21 years between their fathers?

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin
with weekly summaries on Sunday.
He can be emailed at

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