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Calendar >  Take Without Forgetting – Thomas Calabrese

Take Without Forgetting – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  November 27, 2021  /  8 Comments

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Give Without Remembering

Thomas Calabrese- Nick Holmes looked back on his Marine Corps career with a mixture of emotions. He was glad that he went in the military, but wasn’t sure if he had in him to do it all over again. Nick did was what required of him, but there was nothing spectacular or heroic about his journeyman career. His MOS (military occupational specialty) was 0621, Field Radio Operator and he spent most of his time assigned to 1st Combat Engineers on Camp Pendleton. Nick had three deployments and rose to the rank of Sergeant before his discharge and was ready for the next chapter in his life.

Not just in the military, but in all aspects of life, millions of people do their jobs without fanfare or notoriety. They get up every morning, do what’s asked of them then repeat the process over and over a few thousand times before they die. Nick didn’t think of himself as anything special or even different from the hustling bustling mob. He used his G.I. educational benefits to start attending Mira Costa Junior College in the fall quarter after renting a room on Cameo Drive in Oceanside from a retired Marine and his wife. He easily settled into one routine after spending years in another.

Nick was an easy going kind of guy, quick with a smile or a friendly greeting. He didn’t drink, smoke or do any drugs and although he wouldn’t admit it, he was more comfortable being alone than in a crowd.  When he was around others, he preferred talking about them rather than himself.  He met Nina Bronson in his Economics 101 class and they developed a casual friendship. Nina was recently divorced with a seven-year-old daughter and was definitely not in the market for another romantic relationship. Besides carrying a full load at school, she worked two days and three nights at the Hilton Inn in Carlsbad.  Her daughter stayed with a neighbor when she worked late. Nick didn’t put any pressure on her and she liked that, but on the other hand there wasn’t a lot of chemistry between them, which meant Nick wasn’t that important to her.

The former Marine knew Nina’s situation and didn’t mind doing things around her schedule. He had less responsibilities and it only made sense for him to be the flexible one. Nick had asked Nina out for lunch, then a walk on the beach, but she declined both times. It wasn’t so much that she turned him down, it was her tone of voice that gave Nick the impression, that she had lost interest in spending time with him. There was distinct difference between flexible and beating his head against a brick wall, so he decided to try one more time just to be sure.

 Nick called her on Wednesday evening, “How are you?”

Nina responded coldly, “Busy.”

Most people would respond by how they were feeling and not by their activity level, so Nick did not expect the rest of the conversation to go well, but he proceeded anyway, “I was wondering if you wanted to do something this weekend?”

There was a long pause before Nina replied, “I’m going to be busy.”

            “I won’t keep you then…have a nice evening,” Nick disconnected the call.

Nina had a feeling that Nick wouldn’t call again. When they saw each other in class, they were polite and cordial, but did not even make small talk. The Carol King song, ‘It’s Too Late’ said it best.

It was early Saturday morning and Nick strapped his paddle board to the rack on his Tacoma pick-up and drove down to Oceanside Harbor. The sea was perfectly calm so there were no surfers out. Nick paddled out, then headed south toward Carlsbad.

It was a perfect day for paddle-boarding, the sun was warm, but not too hot and the board glided over the water with minimum effort. The only sound was the flapping of the wings of a single seagull as it flew overhead. Suddenly there was a rumbling, like a train roaring down the track or a descending jet. Nick look around and saw nothing, but the sound grew louder until it became deafening. It became dark as something gigantic blocked out the sun. When Nick looked up, he saw something coming toward him. The blue skies turned red and orange from the heat of a meteoroid as it burned through the earth’s atmosphere. It hit the water twenty-five feet from where Nick was paddling, sending water a hundred feet into the air and sucking him under the surface.

The temperature of the water instantly heated up to spa-like temperatures. For some unexplainable reason, Nick didn’t panic. The meteoroid sank to the bottom and was still glowing. Nick swam to it and rested both his hands on it and felt a surge of energy through every fiber of his body. He had been underwater for almost a minute, but was not struggling to breath. It was a very surreal experience and Nick began hallucinating and a thousand images flashed through his mind in a matter of a few seconds. By the time he floated to the surface, first responders were in the area.

One lifeguard saw Nick’s head pop out of the water, “Are you alright?”

Nick was slightly dazed, “Yeah, I think so.”

After being checked out by a paramedic on shore, “I don’t see anything wrong.”

One lifeguard brought Nick’s paddleboard over. It was seared and badly burned, “You were extremely lucky. I don’t see how you weren’t injured or even killed.”

That night when Nick went to bed, he noticed a slight glow in his room. At first, he thought he might have left a light on in the bathroom, but that was not the case. After getting under the sheets, Nick noticed the glow was coming from his body.

The next morning Nick woke up at sunrise, feeling completely alert and energetic. He got dressed and went outside and began waxing his pick-up truck. His landlady, Mona Scott walked outside and approached Nick with a big smile on her face, “Good morning, how are you?”

Nick had always been cordial and polite to his landlady, but had never known her to be overly-friendly so he was slightly surprised by her change in behavior, “I’m fine, Ma’am, how are you?”

            “Call me Mona. I just wanted thank you for being an excellent tenant.”

            “I should be thanking you for letting me stay here,” Nick responded.

By the time, Nick finished cleaning his truck, Mona returned with a plate of food that included an omelet and hash browns, “I thought you might be hungry.”

            “Thank you very much, that was very thoughtful of you,” Nick responded,

Mona responded, “Would you prefer apple or orange juice?”

            “Apple…please,”

As Mona turned around, she felt extremely good about herself, better than she had felt in a very long time. The aches and pains of her chronic fibromyalgia were gone. 

Nick had a part-time job at Bryor Medical Products, loading trucks three days of week. Upon entering the warehouse located on Peacock Boulevard in the Temple Heights area of Oceanside, Nick would punch in and immediately go to the docks and get his assignments.

Foreman Sam Henning burst out with a friendly greeting, “Hi Nick, good to see you.”

            “Good to see you too,” Nick responded.

Sam got up this morning feeling grumpy and irritable, but all of sudden he was feeling very optimistic about the prospects of the day.

It was lunch time and Nick was standing in line at the food truck. Jeff Bryor, one of the owners was standing behind him and was picking up on the positive energy that was in the area. After Nick ordered his fish tacos plate, Jeff called out, “I got this,” and paid for Nick’s meal.

            “Thank you,”

Jeff responded, “My pleasure, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m Jeff.”

            “I’m Nick,”

Jeff responded, “I hope to see you around.”

 Nick took his customary seat at the back of the classroom and Nina entered a few moments later. She sensed something when she looked back at Nick. After class she approached him, “I owe you an apology.”

Nick was confused, “For what?”

            “For the way I handled things,”

That didn’t clarify much, “Handled things?” Nick asked.

Nina tried to find the right words, “When you called I told you I was busy…looking back I was rude. I was feeling overwhelmed with school, work and my daughter and I feel I took it out on you.”

Nick responded, “Your first priorities should be your daughter, work and school. I should be last on your list. I was disappointed, won’t say it didn’t hurt, but that’s because I care and like spending time with you. What I want should never supersede what’s best for you.”

Nina looked at Nick with a completely different perspective. They walked to her car in the lot and when they got there, Nina asked, “May I give you a hug?”

When they embraced, Nina’s neurotransmitters began firing and she felt a chemical reaction in her brain, a clear indication of a magnetic attraction. Nina rested her head on Nick’s chest and she almost felt like she was floating. When she sighed and choked back her emotions, Nick asked, “Are you alright?”

Nina replied, “Never better.” She forced herself to let go, then asked, “Would you like to get together this weekend?”

            “Yeah, sure.”

As time passed, Nick slowly began to realize that he was changing in a variety of ways, not just how people perceived him, but how his mind and body were evolving. He read a dozen books a week online and retained everything. Even highly technical manuals weren’t beyond his comprehension. He only needed two hours a sleep and always woke up feeling refreshed. When he went to his regular fitness center, he noticed that his strength, speed and cardiovascular capabilities were improving at a rapid rate. To test himself, he joined a CrossFit and a Mixed Martial Arts gym and quickly progressed from novice to elite.

Matt Weaver, owner of the CrossFit suggested, “You should consider trying out for the CrossFit Games.”

            “I’ll think about it,” Nick responded.

While having dinner with Nina, she commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than these last few months with you.”

            “It’s been good for me too?” Nick leaned over and kissed Nina.

Lauren, Nina’s teenage daughter, entered the room and asked, “Nick, you think you could help me with my trigonometry?”

 Nick responded, “I never took it in school, but I’ll try.” As soon as he looked in at the equations, the answers were clear to him, He explained in detail to Lauren how to decipher the problems and when he was done, Nina exclaimed in amazement, “Is there anything you can’t do?” 

Despite his growing list of accomplishments, Nick remained modest and unassuming. He began investing in the stock market and started an account in his name and one in Nina’s. Like everything else, Nick quickly developed a skill for picking the right stocks at the right time. His next step was to start his own charitable foundation and began giving away thousands of dollars to worthy causes especially those that had to do with veterans and animals.

Nick volunteered at a local hospice and while his touch didn’t always bring the terminally ill back from the brink of death, it often gave them a few minutes of extreme clarity to say their final farewell to loved ones. These were invaluable moments,

What he didn’t know, Nick educated himself about, and what he couldn’t do, he trained himself to do. Time passed quickly and it seemed that not a minute passed where Nick wasn’t doing something to help others or improve himself.

Nina voiced her concern about Nick’s frenetic schedule, “I’m worried that you’re pushing yourself too hard.”

            “I’m alright,” Nick shrugged, “Would you believe me if I told you I feel like I can do much more?”

Nina sighed, “I know that there is something different about you. Do you trust me enough to tell me what it is?”

Nick smiled and began, “Once upon a time, a man went to the Oceanside Harbor. It was a beautiful morning and he was about 200 yards offshore paddle-boarding and then…”  When he finished telling the story, Nina asked, “So that’s your explanation and you expect me to believe it?”

            “I don’t expect anything,” Nick responded defensively” 

Nina smiled, “Well I do believe you and I want to help?”

It was sunrise and Nick and Nina drove down to Martin Luther King Middle School. Nick carried a large duffle bag and they went out to the track. He opened the bag and dumped out a football, basketball, baseball and various equipment.

            “What do you want me to do?” Nina asked.

            “Test me…I need to know what I can do.”

With a stopwatch in Nina’s hand, Nick began running a variety of distances ranging in length from 40 yards to one mile. Nina recorded the times then looked at her IPhone to see what the world record were and wrote those down. Nick threw the baseball the football extremely long distances then went over to the basketball goal and did several acrobatic dunks and shot several long distance shots.

When it was over, Nina showed Nick the clipboard, “World records times in all events and high level of proficiency. Are you thinking about competing professionally?”

            “It wouldn’t be fair, athletes spend their entire life working to get to the level I was given, besides there would be too many questions to answer,” Nick continued. “Every boy wishes he could be a super athlete when he grows up…now that I’m able to do it…I can’t do it. Kind of ironic, huh?”

            “Every boy also hopes that when he grows up that he’ll have the honor and integrity to do the right thing when the time comes. My personal preference is; I’ll take a great man over sports headlines any day of the week,” Nina kissed Nick and added, “Don’t be too disappointed, you won’t need the roar of the crowd when I’m your biggest fan.”

It didn’t take long for Nick to decide that search and rescue offered the best opportunities to utilize his unique skillset. He often had to be move quickly when his services were needed so he purchased two aircrafts.  The first one was a Cessna Conquest II dual turboprop plane with a range of 1,700 nautical miles, cruising speed of 370 mph and certified for an altitude of 35,000 feet. The other was a Bell 407 four blade, single engine, civil utility helicopter. Nick quickly became a licensed pilot in both aircraft then taught Nina how to fly them. He also studied the services manuals of the Cessna and the Bell until he became a master aviation mechanic and could repair anything on them. They were kept in a hangar at the Oceanside Airport and were ready to go at a moment notice. When the call would come in from authorities anywhere in the country, Nick would be on his way to offer his assistance, usually with Nina by his side.

On one particular rescue, a private plane went down in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, north of Lake Tahoe. The crash site was in a particularly precarious position. With Nina at the control, Nick parachuted out of the Cessna with a large backpack of medical supplies, blankets and food. He cut his way through dense undergrowth, using a razor sharp machete and climbed up a steep incline that would have been inaccessible to almost anyone else. There were two couples in the airplane, the men were more seriously injured than the women because they were sitting in front when it nosedived into the mountainside. Nick provided emergency medical care to the men and carried them one by one to a place where they could be airlifted out. He went back and reassured the women that he would get them out. Strapping ropes around their waists Nick used his immense strength to keep them from falling to their deaths. When they were on flat land, Nick lied to the emotional women, “That wasn’t so bad…you’re stronger than you think because I hardly did anything.”

Over the next few years, Nick remained extremely vigilant about keeping his unique abilities secret. Fate can be a cruel prankster because it chooses what kind of life that we are born into, but as we grow up, we come to realize that we have the ability and the alienable right to achieve the life we want if we’re willing to work hard enough.

Nick felt blessed for what he had been given, but realized that the true fulfillment in his life came from how he utilized those gifts. His philosophy became; Never Take Without Forgetting, where itcame fromand always Give Without Remembering or expecting anything in return.

The End

Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance

The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org

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8 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Good one

  2. Tom says:

    Fascinating…loved it!

  3. Tony says:

    What a neat and heart warming story for this holiday season. If this story was made into a movie it would be right up there with the movie “It’s is a Wonderful Life”. Stranger things have occurred in life although we may not know it but there is a reason. This story is a great way to kick off the holiday season and wind down the year with a positive story by Mr. Thomas Calabrese. Hopefully, it will make people feel goo about themselves and the year and we will finish the year on a positive note. Thank you for this great story.

  4. John michels says:

    Nice story Tom. Rank it mid range

  5. William Swilley says:

    Thanks Tom, fun story.

  6. WOLF says:

    . A change of pass story for Tom. Nobody gets killed, no crooked politicians or terrorists.

    I really enjoyed it

  7. Mona says:

    Nice story Tom! Very readable too.

  8. SupaFred says:

    Noice…way better than Stephen King’s version in Creepshow I!!!

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