They arrived at the Foggy Bottom Metro stop on Christmas Day at 9:07 AM. The stop was twenty minutes from their home in Arlington. There was little traffic in D.C. Christmas Day, but finding a parking place was always tenuous so Maria decided to take the Metro.
Maria handed Conchita the gift they’d wrapped together. Conchita sprinted ahead to the escalator steps.
â€œConchita, slow down and hold onto the rail.â€
â€œI know, Mom!â€
Conchita shifted the box underneath her left arm and held onto the railing with her right.
Maria caught up with Conchita, put an arm around her, and rode up the escalator steps to the street.
Maria and Conchita made their way into the 5 South Unit of George Washington Hospital. Once inside, they paged the nursing station for admittance into the unit.
A voice came on the intercom, â€œYes?â€
Maria spoke up. â€œWeâ€™re here to see Eric Jones. His wife and daughter are here to see him.â€
The door unlocked, and Maria pulled it open.
They made their way down the long hallway of the unit, a dorm of sorts, with satellite rooms on the left where the patients stayed. At the nursesâ€™ station, halfway down the hall, a gray-haired nurse looked up from pushing paper.
â€œOh, hi, Mrs. Jones. Hey Conchita. Are yaâ€™ll having a nice Christmas?â€
Maria answered. â€œUnder the circumstances, weâ€™re doing all right.â€
â€œGood,â€ the nurse said. â€œLet me go get Eric. He was down in his room the last time I checked.â€