Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
When I was about thirteen years old, my family went to Washington DC. I was very excited at seeing the north of the U.S. At least, that is where I thought we were headed at the time. Back then, my exploration of our country included the eastern edges of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and the western mountains of North Carolina.
I had only experienced flat land, and it was my belief that Columbia, South Carolina was in the mountains. I couldn't wait to see all of the sites. The Washington Monument, and The Lincoln Memorial were all of the sites I had in mind.
I was pleasantly surprised that there was so much more to see. I collected my personal copy of The Declaration of Independence, and even saw where The President lived. The guy that liked the jelly beans. My parents said he was an actor. We had a great time until we approached a different memorial.
Its wasn't a big, white building with statues like the rest. It was just a black, shiny wall with a bunch of names on it. It was names of men who were all brothers, somehow. My brother and I were having a great time running up and down the sidewalk along the wall.
Suddenly, we had to stop. "Be still", my mother said. My brother and I didn't understand, and we were ready to move on. I hadn't noticed how quiet my parents were until Dad snapped at my brother Tim and I. "Stop it, right now!"
Soon after, we hurried back to our car. It kind of looked like Dad was crying, and he really wanted some quiet from the back seat.
I didn't think much of my father's momentary anger with us. Fact is, I never really thought of it again until I became much older. I had heard the word Vietnam, but I didn't have a clue what it was when I was a boy. My father only spoke of it on a few occasions.
He had mentioned how he was in a river when he was a boy, and people were shooting at him. My father said he was afraid, and he was hiding behind a rock. He felt something on his side, and there was blood on his palm. It turned out that he wasn't shot, but when he ran out of the river, he was covered with leaches.
Donnie Wayne Todd, Sr. went to Vietnam when he was 19 years old. I still have his dress uniform, and it is much too small for me. I am a thin man, but he was five feet, nine inches tall. He had a ninth grade education when he was drafted.
Many years after that day at The Vietnam Memorial, my father told me why he was upset that afternoon. He felt that his name should have been in the spot where his companion's was inscribed.
On that fateful day in 1971, a man took my father's place to scope out the trail in front of them. That man was ambushed, and killed. Dad blamed himself for that. He shot the woman who killed his partner. She was hiding behind her child.
After 13 rainy months, in a jungle half way around the world, Senior was told he was going home. He snapped off his dog tags, threw them in a river, and locked the rest inside his mind. He told me of benefits that he was entitled to receive, but he never accepted them.
He said, he didn't want anything for free.
He was just happy his sons didn't have to go to war.
He understood the scars of war.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
It is not even hurricane season, yet we are experiencing a tropical storm already. Tropical Storm Byrle will bring 30mph winds, some needed rain, and not much else. Hurricane season doesn't officially kick off until June 1, with the most frequent months being August and September.
A tropical storm doesn't stir up too much excitement around here. Even a category 1 storm doesn't get everyone into much of a fuss. We are getting a few bands of heavy rain, and it has been windy, but there was a lot of sunshine today, too.
Now and then, there is The Big One. The last big one that hit Charleston was Hurricane Hugo. That was September 20-21, 1989. The storm was so large the image of it covered the entire state.
It was a slow moving Category 3 storm.
Category 3 is when the weather service begins to call the system a Major Storm. Sustained winds of these monsters are 111 and 129 miles per hour. Yes, sustained winds. When you add the gusts, they could be as fast as 160 mph, and contain many tornadoes.
Hugo hit overnight. It lasted the entire night, and our windows were boarded up on our wood siding house. The steady rumble of the wind was the scariest part, as the wood made high pitched screeching sounds as the wood on the house flexed. The power went out early, and the storm surge covered downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
After the storm passed through, we didn't have water for three days. We couldn't even leave our street for all the trees. We didn't have electricity for 3 weeks, and that led to martial law with a curfew. Too much looting.
When we finally did have water, it smelled and tasted of pine for months. Thousand of pine trees had fallen into the reservoirs. My cross-country team still tried to get practices and meets in, although school was out.
Just when we were starting to get a grip on things with help from The National Guard, The San Francisco/Oakland earthquake hit California a month later.
The National Guard had to leave,
and we were on our own.
Monday, May 28, 2012
When I was a boy, my mother made yummy spaghetti.
She made it often, and my brother and I cleaned
our plates every time without argument.
Before I left for college, I wanted to know how to make
this delicious recipe. Garlic powder, Onion powder, basil,
oregano, etc. "Italian Seasoning", she said.
One by one, she shook the herb containers like she was making a martini.
"A little of this, this much of that, and about....that much of this."
I'm confused. "How do you know, how much," I ask?
She points at the simmering pot, "That much."
That was my lesson, and it worked well
through the years whenever I wanted a quick spaghetti dinner.
After 20 years of her baby boy being away from home,
I am back. Unexpectedly, but I am here.
The first time she cooked her spaghetti with meat sauce,
I was perplexed. She didn't make a plate for herself.
"Mom. You're not going to eat with us," I asked?
"I'm making something for myself," she replied.
Confused, I asked her why,
and she said, "I don't like pasta."
"Yes, you do," I correct her. "You made it all
the time when I was a kid."
"I know," she said, "I just never liked it."
I have to ask, "Then, why did you make it
all the time?"
She said, "Because you liked it."
"That's it", I ask?
"Well yeah", she said, "You were my little boys."
It took me 38 years to notice she didn't eat pasta.
I need to pay more attention.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
I have just given up on my low sodium lunch of chicken broth, and Jell-o. My appetite is only worsening, and my limited diet is not helping the matter. Of course, my physical therapist is here. At least, she is beginning to let me eat before-hand, now. However, I am guessing that I burn more calories guiding my spoon to my mouth than I am taking in. More often than not, someone shovels the tasteless nourishment into my mouth.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
It has always been my opinion that any one who might be dying at any moment would be concerned with that misfortune, and nothing else. However, I still don't see this as a life or death situation, and I have errands to run. I have to get some things done, or I am going to have a financial mess on my hands when they set me free from my tiny hospital bed.
Its the either the end of October, or the beginning of November. Either way, I need to pay my rent. I was counting on working this week, so I am going to miss out on that cash. My mom tells me not to worry about it, but I can't help it. I will need to send my mother and step-dad to the bar to get my paycheck.
The moment I speak of sending them on this run, someone reminds me that it is Sunday morning.
"You're going to send them to the bar? Right now, DWT? Its brunch, bro."
"Oh yeah. I guess so," I say.
Crap. That's right.
Mom and Ed have never been in the joint. Plus, Sunday morning always seems to be a continuation of Saturday night.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
A PET scan is used to view the brain when there seem to be behavioral problems due to brain function abnormalities. For instance, shouting and throwing pillows at nonexistent people like I was doing last night. This scan is better than an MRI at finding out if the tissues are behaving normally. An MRI only scans for topography issues, therefore the PET scan is more capable of discovering malfunction before there is any physical damage.
The minute I eat my first spoonful of cement mix, the physical therapist is in the doorway.
"You ready", she asks rhetorically?
"I just got my breakfast", I moan.
"Come on, it'll only..."
I finish the sentence for her and say, "...take a minute. I know."
We are pushing my food tray aside, when the gray-haired black gentleman comes to take me to have my head examined. He is all smiles, and so am I. Momentarily, I am spared from my morning workout. I realize that I need the physical therapy, but I swear my little, blonde ball of energy always shows up when I'm about to eat. I have to admit, she pushes me hard, and she seems to enjoy it.
The staff helps me slide my drooping body onto the mobile bed. One of the interns grabs my rack of IV bags, and we are off. The hallway is quiet, and I try to lift my head to watch the ride. I am beginning to think that the stretcher driver is pretty good in the corners, when my foot snags a comment box hanging on the wall.
"Ow. Take it easy, bro," I tell him.
"Sorry, partner," he says without looking at me. He has a delivery to make. Me.
We swing around and backward into the elevator. I have been thinking that we are on the ground floor, but when the man presses three, we head down. After a brief wait, we bump the wheels over the gap left by the elevator door and enter the new hall. We turn left, take a right, a quick left, and we are headed down a long dead-end corridor. There is no one around. Its quiet.
I pull my feet in a bit when the man driving smashes the roll a-bed through a set of double doors. We stop short of the second pair of doors for a moment, and there is a loud rush of air for about four seconds. We pass through the second set of doors, and the ceiling opens up. It looks like a Costco with all of the rafters showing, and the same gymnasium lighting. Everything is bright, except for the graphite colored, cinder block walls.
The PET scan machine is a large white circular machine. It looks like something that would lead to another dimension in a sci-fi flick. There is a long line for the device that resembles a Depression Era soup line. Everyone is standing single-file, looking down at the floor with their arms crossed because of the cold.
My delivery man brings me over to the line, and hands the staff a sheet of paper.
The woman looks down and says, "Full name?"
"Donnie Wayne Todd."
"Date of Birth?"
"June 16th," I reply.
"Alright, sir," she says as she puts medicine in one of the IV's. "This will help you relax."
I fall back in line until it is my turn to climb the stairs. The way up could easily pass for a fire escape with its metal grates, and hard steel handrails. When I get to the top, there is a beam in front of me. It has a mobile, toddler sized table to carry me down the rail. I balance myself on the beam, and stretch my chin in the air. I arch my back and roll my eyes toward my forehead to get a look at where the rail ends behind me.
The beam is long and narrow, and runs all the way through the vortex machine. They staff tells me to lie down with my arms crossed on my chest. I have to bring one knee up to keep my balance with my left foot. Like a ride at an amusement park, the transport lurches forward. The giant PET scanner starts to whir, and the attendants tell me to, "just relax".
I close my eyes, and the ride is over. I feel like it was just getting started.
The assistants are almost patting me on the back when they tell me, "You did such a great job."
I let them believe that, but I am fairly certain there was sleep involved on that trip. No matter. The man who pushes my bed is ready to head back to my room. When we arrive, it looks like a different room, again. I wish they would just let me get used to things around here. It doesn't have to be a constant challenge.
I see some familiar faces when I notice some of the locals hanging out by my room. They are waiting to catch a glimpse of my ragged body. Their reactions are happy, and supportive. My friends act as though everything is fine. They are doing a very good job of hiding their emotions.
Before I can call them out for "being to nice", my eyes begin to feel heavy. I can't imagine the amount of drugs that are flowing through my body. I have to close my eyes. I squint hard for a mere moment, and when I reopen my eyes, my friends are gone, once more.
About These Stories
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
We're going to Folly Beach today.
D is driving a bunch of us in her Porsche SUV.
Its filled with tipsy, windblown, friends, beer, and jello shots.
Jello shots on the beach=gelatinous, watermelon flavored sand.
Its the annual Memorial Day weekend traffic jam.
Cars filled with pale faced grins, and tagged with Ohio plates.
Just one more year, with a weekend of tourists visiting
and leaving all of their trash on the beach.
We go down to 10th block to try to avoid the obese banana hammocks,
and over-filled string bikinis.
Red and white striped from the well intentioned but ill placement of sunblock.
We are the locals.
We are the "classy" ones.
Would you like a jello shot or a Solo cup of canned PBR?
You're welcome, now please don't leave a family sized footprint.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I'm learning to walk, again. I never thought this would be an issue for me. Maybe when I'm older, but now? I've literally become The Walking (Nearly) Dead.
As much as I'm enjoying the view of the hospital's courtyard, we have to get back. Its hard enough to stand and I have to go back the way we came. I'm still gazing through the window when I try to twist myself clockwise to get moving.
From my viewpoint, the entire floor suddenly dips downward to my right. It really feels like the entire building is moving. Its a good thing my physical therapist is here. Otherwise, I would have a solid tile burn on my face, and I didn't take any Dramamine.
Stand up straight, don't fall backwards. No, its this way. We made two right turns to get here, and I've forgotten how to get back to my room. I'm sweating profusely, and breathing hard. My mouth hasn't been this dry since my friend's four day bachelor party in Vegas; in August. At this point I appreciate the cool and sanitized air.
When we are almost to my room, my Drill Sargent stops me short. She's trying to twist my shoulders clockwise when she says, "We're going in here."
"Since, you were going to walk farther anyway, let's do some stairs."
When we arrive in the stairwell, I look up and then down. I hope there's not a fire while we're in here.
"Come on. Just one", she says.
It takes every last glimmer of energy for me to pull myself up with my right foot.
She's not asking me to go to another stair. Her only request is that I get both feet on the same step. I pull with my arms, and rest my body on the handrail. I can't do it.
This is what I've let alcohol do to me.
By six years old, it was little league. Then boxing, and karate. I started to run competitively at ten years old. After that, there was soccer, basketball, and swimming.
By the time I was sixteen, I had finished 333 out of 6,000 in The Cooper River Bridge Run. I was running 80 miles per week, on the cross country and track teams, and competing in 1/2 marathon races. All the while, I was earning my Life-guarding license.
By the time, I was 22, I had stopped running. I began to drink more often, smoking a lot of weed, and an occasional acid trip. My girlfriend at the time was on my case for it. She would say to me, "You're going to end up like your Father!"
As you can imagine, I didn't like that.
For the longest time, I was right. I'm not saying I didn't go on some serious benders here and there, but I kept my drinking under control.
When I finally get back to the room, I have to twist around like a drunken ballerina, again. All of my tubes and wires have to be positioned just right.
I don't even catch my breath before I am back in slumber-land.