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The moon was waning as the cool winter day began. A cold snap had made its presence known even though spring was fast approaching. Bundled up in my favorite coat, I made my way down the street to the nursing home at the corner of Main and Elm. My grandfather had called me the evening before and asked if I could come and see him. I usually saw him on the weekends but his request sounded urgent enough for me to make a special trip.
Even though the nursing home had a beautiful white porch and brick facing, it always seemed bleak to me. It was probably the knowledge of how death always lingered in the hallways. My grandfather always called it the "death house," but as he aged he reluctantly realized that it provided the care he needed. He always said that the best day of the week was when his only grandchild could stop by and see him. It was the best part of my week, too.
Grandpa was in a cheerful mood when I arrived. He was sitting in his wheelchair at the window. I saw him through the glass as I walked up the steps to the porch. We waved at each other and then he stuck his tongue out at me. I could not help but smile at his playfulness. At every visit he tried to do something to cheer me up. He would never know how much it was appreciated.
Ten years ago Grandpa lost the love of his life. My grandmother, Grace, was one of the mildest and loving people I have ever known. The woman loved to cook. She could make any bland meal the envy of the world's finest chefs. I believe the only thing she loved more than cooking was Grandpa. Of course, there was plenty of love in her bosom for her only son, my father, and her only grandchild, which was me. But she and Grandpa had a special bond that only they could fully understand. Their love never wavered and when she took sick, he waited on her hand and foot until the day she died.
Grandpa thought that was the worst day of his life, but events led to even more sorrow. Three years after Grandma's death, my father and mother were killed in a car accident. I was thirteen at the time and felt the weight of the world as I buried my parents. My father, Russ, had violently swerved his car to avoid hitting a deer in the road. A nearby truck driver witnessed the wreck as the vehicle struck a ditch and then veered head on into a giant oak tree. My father had just retired from baseball and he and my mother were going on a much needed vacation. They had asked me to stay home with my grandfather and help look after him while they were gone. We were devastated when word came that they were both killed at the scene. My grandfather said no parent should ever have to bury his children. As for me, many nights I cried myself to sleep wishing that deer was dead instead of my father and mother. But in one swift moment my grandfather and I were left with only each other for support.
Nurse Rachel, Grandpa's favorite, was finished with tidying the room when I walked in. Grandpa insisted she give him a hug before leaving. After Rachel left the room I smiled and said, "I believe you really like her, Grandpa." He looked at me and raised one eyebrow, "Oh, she's all right I guess." And then with a gleam in his eyes he laughed, "Of course, you know she wants me!" I laid my coat on his bed and handed him the bag of chocolate chip cookies that I had brought. "Ah, contraband," he smiled as he smelled the aroma from the fresh baked cookies.
After some more chitchat Grandpa's demeanor turned more serious. "How is this weather affecting your hand?" he asked. From birth I had a withered left hand. The fingers were small in width and only half the length of a normal hand. The doctors said that I could expect arthritis to develop as I grew older. "Oh, it's a little stiff in the mornings," I surmised. "I take an aspirin and keep on going." Grandpa looked out his window and then said, "Well, spring will be here before long. Maybe the warmer weather will help." I agreed with him and then he turned to face me. "I've never told you the story of my best friend that I had in school, did I? His name was Russ." For a moment I thought I had misunderstood him. "He had my Dad's name?" I asked. Nodding his head Grandpa said, "Yes, he did. In fact, we named your father after him." With growing interest I pulled a chair close to him and sat down. "It's the story of Russ, Gracie, and me, Alex," he continued as he leaned forward and spoke in a hush tone. "I think I would love to hear that story, Grandpa," I said realizing that this was the reason he wanted me to make a special trip to see him.
Here is my grandfather's story:
It was March of 1939. The country was still in the midst of the Great Depression even though President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs had been in effect for some years. For many the government programs, while easing some of the pain, were far from being a cure for the nation's ills. Unemployment still hung around fifteen percent and would continue that way until World War II broke out in Europe in September. Growing up at this time was hard for Alex, Gracie, and Russ. It was even harder on their parents. They could remember the prosperous times of the 1920's, and when they lost their jobs, they felt like it was their own fault. The Great Depression was physically hard and emotionally draining.
Alex, Gracie, and Russ had quit school the year before to find jobs. All three had been close friends since childhood but now were finding themselves going in different directions as adulthood approached. Alex had found employment under the public works program and was working steady. Gracie had not found a job. Most employers were more interested in hiring men, the breadwinners of the family, than a small teenage girl. It would not be until the fall, with the start of the military buildup for war, that she would find employment. Russ was fulfilling his life's dream by playing baseball. He was starting his rookie season with the local professional team. No one could hurl a fastball the way Russ could. All the team's pitching coaches said he was the best looking southpaw they had ever seen. The batter could actually hear the ball sizzle as it zoomed by. Just when a hitter thought he could handle the speed, Russ would throw a devastating slow curve ball. Most batters were through with their swing by the time the ball crossed the plate. Everyone knew that it was just a matter of time before a scout from a big city team came and offered Russ a chance at the big league. That was until Russ tried to catch a line drive back to the mound with his bare hand. He heard the tendon in his index finger snap with the force of the impact. The team doctor told him to take a few weeks off and see if it would heal enough to start throwing pitches again. Russ was angry at his misfortune. Not only was he hurt and off the team, but a scout was due at a game later in the week. Now he would not be able to showcase his talents and, for the moment, had ruined his chances of making it in the big league.
Alex and Russ were always vying for Gracie's attention. She was a petite young lady with golden hair, eyes of blue, and the sweetest disposition. In the past few weeks, Gracie and Alex had grown closer as Russ concentrated on his baseball career. On this cool winter evening she had actually reached for and held his hand as they strolled down the sidewalk. She let go of it when they saw Russ approaching in the distance. "What're you two up to?" yelled Russ as he came running. Alex faked a right cross to Russ's stomach, "Looking for you. How's the finger?"
"Oh, it's still bigger than my thumb," asserted Russ. He held the bandaged appendage up for all to see. Gracie took a long look and asked, "Does it still hurt?" Russ winked at Alex and replied, "Only when I hold it up like this." Gracie drew back in concern, "Oh, I'm sorry!" Alex and Russ burst out laughing. "Good old gullible Gracie. That's why we love her," shouted Russ. With her face turning red she yelled, "Russ Marcum. That's the last time I'll ever feel sorry for you!" With a flip of her hair she spun away from the boys and crossed her arms in mocked annoyance. Gathering himself, Alex asked, "What's the Doc telling you?"
"He says it's just wait and see. There ain't much that can be done," sighed Russ as Gracie turned her attention back to the boys. "Hey, guys, look at the old Waller home," she interrupted while pointing at the dilapidated house. The Waller place always had a strange and eerie look to it. Old Man Waller had kept to himself over the years and this contributed to all types of weird stories being told. Folks in town had him being everything from a spy in the Great War to a member of the Kaiser's royal family. Of course, it did not matter that he claimed to only be a retired coal miner who had moved to town years ago from West Virginia. Everyone was convinced he was hiding the truth about his past and his hermit-like life only added fuel to the fires of town gossip.
"It's all boarded up," declared Alex as the three friends walked to the picket fence surrounding the dwelling. "I wonder what happened to him?" mused Gracie as they tried to peer through the boards over the windows. Russ scratched his head and reflected, "You know, I think my Dad said something about him. I was busy with ball and didn't pay much attention to what he was saying, but I believe he said the old man had up and moved out of town."
"Well, it sure looks like he did," agreed Alex as they made their way through the fence and climb the steps to the porch. "This place always gave me the creeps," offered Gracie as Russ tried to open the front door. "Hey, the door ain't locked," declared Russ as it creaked open. "Let's check the place out."
"I'm not sure we oughta do this," reflected Alex as Gracie and Russ push through the door into the hallway. "Oh, come on, scaredy cat!" teased Gracie. They walked as quietly as they could on their tiptoes as they made their way into the living room of the house. It soon become apparent that the place had been abandoned. The furniture that was still in the house was covered with a light layer of dust and the room felt damp and smelled moldy. Russ brushed dirt off the couch and sat down while Alex and Gracie took a look around the room.
"I hope it was cleaner than this when Old Man Waller lived here," declared Gracie as she grabbed her nose to keep from sneezing. "Well, he sure loved his cigars," observed Alex as he opened a box that was sitting on the fireplace mantle. "There's at least a dozen boxes here."
"Hey, throw me one," yelled Russ as he stretched out on the couch. Gracie found a stack of books in the corner of the room and began looking through them. "Look at this book, fellows," she said as she held up a big burgundy colored book. The title was "New Growth" and was embroidered in gold letters. "What's it about?" asked Alex as he lit a cigar. "There's all types of chapters in it," replied Gracie as she flipped through the pages. "Here's one called the 'The New Moon Equinox.'"
While Gracie read the chapter, Alex and Russ gave way to small talk about what it would be like to pitch baseball in the big league. Finally they turned their attention to Gracie and were struck by the amazed look on her face. "What you reading, Gracie?" whined Russ in his little boy voice. She eventually looked up from reading and said, "This is unreal, if it's true."
"Read it to us, my dear. Read it to us," declared Russ, imitating an English butler's voice. Gracie flipped the pages back to the start of the chapter and started reading.
The book told of the vernal equinox that happens twice a year. There is the Spring equinox and in the fall the Autumnal equinox. This is where the plane of the sun intersects with the earth's celestial equator. When this happens the length of day and night are equal throughout the world. Gracie read about how in the Northern Hemisphere this is the beginning of spring and the days slowly become longer than the nights. With the days becoming longer, it is as if they had a new beginning as they started dominating the nighttime.
Gracie continued with how much the same was happening when a new moon arrived. We can only see one side of the moon as its revolution around the earth matches its rotation. At least once a month the moon is in a position where light from its face cannot be seen from the earth. This is considered a new moon. Slowly, as if a new day is beginning, light can be seen as the moon enters a waxing phase.
"Now here comes the weird part," surmised Gracie. "When the equinox and the new moon are on the same earth day, then 'there can be a new beginning. There can be new life.'" Alex and Russ looked at each other, "What 'new life'?" asked Alex.
"It claims here that in ancient times people would cut animals' feet and legs off in sacrifice to the gods," explained Gracie. "But when they did, the feet or legs would grow back just like new."
"Oh, God! That's got to be the craziest thing I've ever heard," declared Russ. "Maybe I could cut this finger off and it'd grow back new." Alex joined in the laughter, "Then you could go back to pitching!"
"Well, it says here that the ancients would sever their deformed hands and feet and that they would grow back normal," offered Gracie as she closed the book. "But it warns that it must be done between the exact time of the new moon and the spring equinox."
"If that stuff is true, it sure would be nice if this was the year when you could do it," reflected Russ as Alex was looking through the books on the floor. "Hey, here's an almanac," he declared. "Let's see when the next one takes place."
Alex flipped through the pages until he found the month of March. "Oh, my God," he shouted. "The new moon is on the 21st and that's the same day as the spring equinox!"
"Are you sure?" asked Gracie as she looked over his shoulder. "Look at the symbols," offered Alex. "Russ, Alex is right," shouted Gracie louder than she meant to do. "Tomorrow is a New Moon Equinox!"
"Well, my dear, this has definite possibilities," said Russ as he once again tried to imitate an English butler. "The new moon is at 1:49 a.m. and the equinox occurs at, let's see, 7:28 a.m.," offered Alex. "Are you sure?" questioned Gracie as she still tried to see over Alex's shoulders. "That means 'new life' can take place between those times," she reflected as she placed her hand over her mouth.
"Well, why don't we try it out," offered Russ as he flopped back down on the couch. "We can get some critters and chop their little feet off and see what happens." Gracie grabbed Russ' neck from the back and cried, "You're not going to hurt any animals!" Russ faked choking as Alex scratched his head and said, "You know, we could get a frog or two and try it out."
"Are you serious?" asked Gracie as she turned to face Alex. "Yeah, why not?" he replied. "And besides, if it's true, we could sell it to the government." Russ rose to his feet and smiled, "That's my buddy, Alex. Always thinking of a way to make money. I'd be happy just to have a new finger."
"Russ, you're not thinking of doing anything crazy?" asked a concerned Gracie. "This could just be a bunch of hogwash." Alex tossed the almanac back in the corner with the rest of the books, "Man, your finger is going to heal. You can't heal a finger that's not there."
"Ah, you guys know me better than that," laughed Russ. "But let's try it out. I'll go down to the river and get some frogs and meet you back here at, say, about three." Alex looked into Gracie's eyes trying to see what she was thinking, "What do you think, Gracie?" She looked at Alex and then Russ, "Well, I could bring my mother's meat cleaver."
"All right, then," declared Russ as he headed toward the front door. "I'll see you guys back here at three. This is going to be fun."
Alex and Gracie met each other at two-thirty the next morning on the corner of Main and Elm. This was where the old Waller house stood before it was torn down and replaced with a nursing home. Gracie had her mother's meat cleaver hidden in her shirt and Alex took a look around to make sure no one was watching.
"Well, we're in the time of the New Moon Equinox," reflected Gracie as she adjusted her blouse. Alex eyes widened as he growled, "I feel the hair on my neck growing! My fingernails are becoming claws!" Gracie swatted him on his arm, "That only happens during a full moon, silly."
The two made their way through the Waller yard and went into the house. Alex found an oil lamp and lit the wick. Gracie found the "New Growth" book and started reading it. Three o'clock came and went and Russ did not show. Before long Alex and Gracie were sitting on the couch and soon fell asleep with Gracie's head on Alex's shoulder.
"Wake up sleepy heads!" yelled Russ as he entered the room. Alex rubbed his eyes, "What time is it?"
"Oh, it's around six," answered Russ as he sat a box onto the floor. "Sorry, guys, but I fell asleep and just woke up about an hour ago." Gracie stood and looked in the box, "You got a frog."
"Yeah, I didn't have time to find but one," declared Russ as he moved a table to the center of the room. "Ah, the sacrificial altar," smiled Alex as he joined Russ. "Did you bring the cleaver?" asked Russ as he held his hand out. Gracie reached under her shirt for the knife. "Be careful and don't cut any vital organs. They might not grow back," teased Russ as Gracie gave him a disgusted look. She walked past his outstretched hand and laid the cleaver on the table. Alex brought the box over and laid it beside the blade. "Who wants to do the honors?" he asked.
Russ grabbed the frog and held him up in the air. "I don't mind if I do," he declared. As he took hold of the cleaver Gracie turned away. "I can't watch this," she said as Russ held the frog down on the table. In one swift motion Russ brought the cleaver down and severed a leg. The frog struggled in its pain, but Russ held him securely to the table. Gracie turned back to look and she and Alex gagged as blood flowed freely from the open wound.
"I don't think it worked," muttered Alex just before the bleeding stopped. The three friends looked in amazement as a light blue glow surrounded the nub of the frog's leg. A few seconds later a very tiny leg could be seen coming out of the severed limb. Within a minute the leg had grown to full size as the frog sat contentedly on the table.
"Oh, my God!" shouted Gracie. "Can you believe that?"
Alex finally realized that his mouth was hanging open. "Do it again," he laughed. "Why not?" Russ replied as he once again raised the meat cleaver and brought it down on the frog's other leg. In a couple minutes the frog was resting comfortably on the table with a fully restored limb. He even let out a satisfied croak.
After several more times of chopping a limb and watching it grow back, Russ put the frog back in the box. Alex pulled chairs up to the table and all three sat down and stared at the box. Breaking the silence, Alex proclaimed, "That is the most amazing thing I have seen." The three friends discussed what had happened and who they should tell. Alex and Gracie wanted to call the sheriff, but Russ was not sure that would be the best thing to do. He finally declared, "Well, I've got a decision to make." Gracie and Alex looked at each other and she asked, "What do you mean?"
"I've got the opportunity to get a new finger," offered Russ. Alex thought for a moment and then reflected, "Just because it worked on a frog doesn't mean it'll work on you." Gracie joined in the argument as she and Alex did their best to discourage Russ from taking such a drastic step. "But can't you see?" asked an annoyed Russ. "This is my chance to become somebody. My chance to live a dream!" Alex raised his hands in frustration, "But you can still have that dream. All you've got to do is wait until the finger heals." Gracie chimed in, "Why take the chance? If you lose your finger you'll never pitch again."
The three continued their lively argument until Russ finally exclaimed, "I'm gonna do this! You two can leave if you want." He stood up at the table and grabbed the meat cleaver. Alex and Gracie rose and backed away. Russ gingerly placed his hand on the table and raised the knife. "I can do this!" he proclaimed as his eyes widened. Alex gathered Gracie into his arms as Russ shouted, "I might as well get me a whole new hand!" With as much strength as he could muster, Russ brought the cleaver down on his wrist completely severing the limb. He cried out in pain as blood squirted from the fresh wound.
"It's not growing back!" said a distraught Russ through clenched teeth. In the distance a chime sounded. Gracie clutched her mouth in horror, "Oh, no, Russ! The church's clock just gave one chime!" Alex felt the panic in his chest as he realized that the clock only gives one chime at the half-hour mark. "God, Russ, it's 7:30!" he shouted. "The New Growth was only good to 7:28!"
"My hand! My hand!" shouted Russ. "Oh, God, it hurts!" Alex took his shirt off and wrapped it around the wound. "We've got to get you to the hospital!" yelled Gracie as they guided Russ to the door.
Of course, the medical community of 1939 had no means of reattaching a severed hand. Even if they could have, Russ' use of it would have been limited. All the doctors could do was stop the bleeding, bandage the limb, and give Russ medicine for pain. The local sheriff came by to investigate the incident and left just shaking his head in disbelief. Alex and Gracie stayed with Russ until their parents came and took them home. As they were leaving the emergency room they could hear Russ' mother sobbing in the hallway.
The three youngsters stayed in touch for awhile. Russ found it awkward being around people. His once promising future had tragically turned to a handicapped life. Before the year was out he and his family moved three states away and eventually Alex and Gracie lost touch with him. At first, the two were traumatized by what had happened and turned to each other for comfort. Before long they fell in love. They were married on September 8, 1939; just one week after Hitler's German army had invaded Poland, thus starting World War II.
The happy couple settled into a regular routine of married life. Both gained employment at the local factory as the government made jobs to produce supplies to support the Allies in Europe. Alex was a good hardworking husband and Gracie was the love of his life. She loved Alex with all her heart and made a happy home for the two of them. The only thing missing in their lives were children. Gracie had been diagnosed as "barren," and the doctors of the time could offer no hope for ever conceiving. She listened to the advice of every mother in the neighborhood and tried all types of methods to produce a child, but to no avail. Alex supported her efforts and tried to reassure her that he could love her a lifetime without ever having a child. Their life together marched happily forward until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Alex and thousands of other young men were sent off to war. By spring of 1942, he found himself stationed in the European theater.
Gracie wrote to Alex as much as she could. Her letters were a source of great strength to him and with the end of the war in September 1945, he found himself on the way home. Alex and three other hometown heroes finally arrived in February of 1946. The whole town came out to show their support for the returning troops. All Alex was interested in was hugging Gracie and kissing her red ruby lips. In Gracie's arms he felt the safest he had in three years. The two resumed their married life with Alex obtaining employment at the local automobile factory. As they entered the 1950's both had become respected citizens in the community and were well known for their charity work. They settled easily into the cold war way of life that had embraced the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. All was happy and normal until there was a knock on their door one Thursday evening in March of 1958.
Alex opened the front door and immediately recognized Russ. He looked a little older but there was no mistaking the silly grin. Gracie gave Russ a big hug as he came into the house. She retired to the kitchen to fix drinks while Alex ushered Russ to a seat in the living room.
The three old friends sat and talked about old times and what they had been doing since the last time they saw each other. Russ had started his own bicycle shop in a nearby town. All his family had passed away and he had become somewhat of a loner. He had never married but had come close on one occasion. They all laughed when Russ said his biological clock was ticking and he needed to settle down soon. After taking a sip of his drink, Russ asked his friends, "Do you like my new hand?" When Alex and Gracie looked uncomfortable at his remark, he laughed, "Oh, come on guys. It's all right. I accepted this a long time ago." Gracie straightened her dress and asked, "What's it made out of?"
"Some new plastic," replied Russ. "It oughta been made out of gold, as much as it cost." Alex sat his drink on the table and asked, "Do you ever think of baseball?" Russ sipped his drink again and answered, "Yeah, all the time. I love the game. But more than that, I would love to have my hand back again." For a few moments each were lost in their own thoughts until Russ asked, "Do you guys know what day it is?"
"It's March 20th," replied a perplexed Alex. "I know it's March 20th," smirked Russ as he rubbed his artificial hand. "I mean, do you guys know what day it is?" Alex and Gracie looked at each other and shook their heads. "Today is a new moon and it's the spring equinox," declared Russ as he handed his empty glass to Gracie. "What are you saying?" asked an apprehensive Alex. Russ leaned to the end of his chair, "Well, according to the almanac I have a window of opportunity between 9:50 a.m. and 10:06 p.m."
"You're not thinking of trying something stupid?" asked a concerned Gracie. Russ smiled and reflected, "Of course not. New Growth is not stupid. You guys remember what happened to the frog."
"Yeah, and I remember what happened to your hand, too," offered Gracie as she collected the empty drink glasses. "You try something like that again and there's no telling what could happen." Alex leaned forward in his chair, "Gracie's right, Russ. Besides you don't have a hand to cut off and grow back." Russ settled back into his chair, "You're right, I don't. But I've done a lot of thinking about this. You know it's been nineteen years and a day hasn't gone by without me thinking about what went wrong and how to fix it." As she was headed toward the kitchen, Gracie turned and said, "Well, you can just take any crazy idea you have and go somewhere else with it."
"Why did you come here after all these years?" asked Alex. Russ rubbed his forehead and replied, "Well, you two were my partners in crime when I lost my hand and I thought you would be willing to share with me in getting it back." Gracie came back into the room and sat down beside her husband, "It's like Alex said, it's not going to work. You don't have a hand to grow back." Russ smiled, "Yes, it will. A little after ten o'clock this morning I did a little experiment on a frog." Alex gave a nervous laugh, "You can't leave those poor animals alone, can you?" Russ ignored the remark and continued, "You see, I figured that with a limb already missing there would have to be New Growth of the whole animal. If you just cut a piece off, it'd only grow back the way it was. You'd still be missing the part that was originally cut off. Does that make sense?" Alex rubbed his chin and replied, "I think I see where you're going with this."
"So, yesterday I cut his leg off," Russ declared. Gracie put her hand to her mouth, "Russ, how can you be so mean to a helpless creature?" Again ignoring Alex and Gracie's indignation, he continued, "So, today after ten he was missing a limb just like me. That's when I killed him."
"You killed him?" mouthed a surprised Gracie. "Why did you do that?" Alex asked. "Well, the way I saw it, the whole animal would have to be made new," explained Russ as his voice rose in excitement. Gracie took a long look at her husband and then asked, "What happened?" With a broad grin on his face Russ replied, "The blue glow came and this time covered the entire frog. Within a minute he was sitting up looking at me!"
"He came back to life?" asked Alex and Gracie at the same time. "Yep, he did," declared Russ as he sat up straight in his chair. "He was alive and the missing leg had grown back. Everything was made new!" The three silently reflected on what Russ had revealed. After a few moments Russ asserted, "So, today I'm gonna get my hand back."
"Wait a minute, Russ!" protested Alex as he stood up from his chair. "You're not thinking of doing something foolish, are you?" Russ pulled himself to the edge of his chair and declared, "I'm going to die today and be made new again." Before Alex or Gracie could react, Russ raised his shirt and pulled out a pistol that was hidden under his belt. Raising the gun to his right temple, he cocked the hammer.
"No, Russ!" shouted Gracie. He smiled and said, "I love you guys. I always have." His face turned serious and then he pulled the trigger. Gracie grabbed Alex as they both shouted in horror. The bullet pierced Russ' skull and he collapsed onto the floor as blood splattered against the wall. Gracie buried her head in Alex's chest as a red pool of liquid formed around Russ' head. She sobbed and shook with fear as Alex stood transfixed by the sight of the lifeless body lying on his living room floor.
"Look!" whispered an amazed Alex. Gracie turned to see a light blue glow encircling Russ. The glow spread to all the blood that had been spilled. Slowly the droplets and the pool disappeared as the blue light returned to Russ' body. The glowing slowly intensified until Alex and Gracie were forced to look away from the brightness. In a flash the light was gone and when they looked so was Russ.
"Oh, my God," mouthed Alex as he walked to the place where Russ had fallen. He was examining the spot when he heard Gracie cry out in pain. Rushing to his wife he barely caught her before her head hit the floor. She struggled to a sitting position and shook her head to clear her senses. "Are you OK?" cried Alex. "I think so," replied Gracie as she rubbed her stomach. Alex helped her to her feet and gently wrapped his arms around her head. "You scared me to death!" he whispered in her ear. "Alex, look at me," demanded Gracie as she backed away from him. He stared at his wife in disbelief as she continued to stroke her swollen belly.
"You look pregnant!" said Alex in total disbelief. "I feel pregnant," offered Gracie as she waddled to a chair to sit. Alex put his hand on her stomach and smiled at his wife, "You've got to be four or five months." Then, with the full realization of what had happened sinking in, they both said at the same time, "Russ!"
"What in the world happened?" asked Gracie as she looked into her husband's eyes. "I don't know for sure," replied Alex as helped his wife to her feet. "But I believe Russ was made new all right. He's a baby in your belly!" Gracie grabbed her stomach and grunted. "What's wrong?" asked a concerned Alex. "Oh, nothing really. But I think I felt him kick," said a smiling Gracie.
"But I'm confused," pondered Alex. "The doctors said you could never get pregnant." Gracie thought for a moment and then offered, "I guess if Russ was going to be made new, then whatever caused this decided to make me new so I could have a baby. I can't think of any other explanation." Alex watched his wife try to maneuver toward the kitchen and then declared, "We're taking you to the doctor tomorrow. We're gonna have a baby!"
The next day the doctor was at a loss to explain how Gracie could be pregnant. All her previous tests had clearly shown that she would never be able to conceive. After mildly scolding her for not coming to him earlier in her pregnancy, he declared her in good health and worked out a prenatal plan.
On September 6, 1958, Gracie gave birth to a healthy, and fully formed, seven pounds and two ounces bouncing baby boy. When Alex first saw the baby he had no doubts that the child was Russ. Gracie was also convinced about where the baby came from. They decided to not tell anyone the truth, but to keep the secret to themselves. Without hesitation they named him Russ.
The happy couple loved the child as if he was their own and were always thankful for the miracle that had come into their lives. As their son grew they were constantly amazed at how advanced he was. He easily was a grade "A" student in school. It was as if he already knew the answers before the teacher taught the subject. Of course, Alex started him playing baseball at the earliest age he could. Before long, little Russ was dazzling everyone with his blazing fastball. As he grew into adolescence, universities all over the country offered him scholarships. But Russ' love was for baseball, and so he joined a professional team instead of pursuing a college education.
It was not long before he was scouted by a big league team and shortly thereafter, joined the major leagues. He threw his first no-hitter during his rookie season. After two more no-hitters over the next few years, he finally joined the ranks of the few who have pitched a perfect game. This assured, as if his career had not already been good enough, his selection into Cooperstown when he was ready to retire.
In 1982 Russ was introduced to a beautiful young lady by the name of Abebe. Before long they were dating and they married the next year. The year 1984 brought them joy as they were blessed with a baby boy. Even though his son was disabled with a withered hand, Russ showed he loved him and was as proud of him as if he had followed in his steps as an athlete.
Alex and Gracie were very proud of their son and loved him very much. They readily accepted Abebe as part of the family and grew to love her as a daughter. Later when their grandson came along, Alex and Gracie felt that they had been blessed beyond their wildest imaginations. All was wonderful until the winter of 1993 when Gracie became violently ill. After months of suffering she succumbed in June of 1994.
For the first time in his life, Alex felt alone. Three years later when he thought he was finally recovering from Gracie's death, tragedy struck. Russ and Abebe were killed in an automobile accident. Without hesitation, Alex took his grandson into his home and raised him to the man he is today.
That is the story my grandfather told me about Russ, Gracie, and Alex.
My grandfather turned his wheelchair away from me and stared out the window, "I've never told anyone that story. I knew nobody would ever believe it." I sat befuddled and not speaking for the longest time. "That was an amazing story, Grandpa," I finally said as he turned toward me. "I don't know what to say."
"Well, there's nothing to say, except that in less than a week there will be another new moon equinox," he revealed as he reached for a book on his nightstand. "Look at this almanac," he ordered as he handed it to me. I took the book and turned to the month of March, 2004. The equinox was scheduled to occur on Saturday the 20th at 1:49 a.m. and the new moon would take place at 10:41 p.m. "What are you saying, Grandpa?"
"Just that there will be an opportunity for New Growth between 1:49 a.m. and 10:41 p.m. on that day," he explained as I closed the almanac and handed it back to him. He smiled at me and continued, "It would take a lot of determination, but a person could actually grow a new hand during that time, if he wanted to."
I immediately glanced at my withered hand as the import of what he had said sunk in. "Are you suggesting I chop my hand off?" I asked in disbelief. "Well, that's up to you," he said as he once again lowered his voice. "All I'm saying is you have the opportunity to have New Growth."
After talking awhile longer, I left my grandfather and the nursing home. Walking back to my house gave me time to contemplate the astonishing and marvelous things that I had been told. Over the next few days I debated as to what I should do. One moment I wanted to believe my grandfather. He had never lied to me before. The next moment I was concerned that what he had said could have been the fanciful whims of an elderly man suffering with dementia.
The clock in my kitchen chimes as the hour reaches 9 a.m. I look at the calendar for the hundredth time to make sure it is March 20th. My fingers gently stroke the handle of the meat cleaver sitting on the dinner table. I close my eyes for a moment and then with a deep sigh take a firm hold of the knife and raise it into the air.
"Grandpa, I hope you were telling me the truth!"
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