My physical trainer reminds me that I have only accomplished half of my goal. My intention is to show the hospital staff that I am regaining my strength, so they might consider letting me out of this hospital. I realize I will not be going home, and fortunately my mother doesn't live far from Charleston. Since she will be working, I must demonstrate some sort of self-reliance before they consider my release.
When I finish the trip down the long highway, and back to my bed, it will be the furthest I have traveled by foot since The Incident. I remind myself that the best mindset I can muster should be the advice I was given by my high school, cross-country, and track coach. He used to help us discover an extra reserve of energy during the third lap of a four lap race. The slowest, and toughest lap. This is my symbolic third lap and final fourth lap kick, today.
Mental anguish is causing serious doubt of whether any of this is worth the effort. The hows, and whys of what it took to put me in this situation are upsetting, and cause for self-degradation. Every time a rubber walker wheel is caught on a metal door jam, each instance that I drag a fattened toe on the cold tile, I question the culprit. Me. I did this.
There is an overwhelming deluge of guilt, and embarrassment, and I don't think a bully could do any better insulting me. I think to myself, 'Was it worth this?' 'Are you having fun, now?' 'How much money did you spend to become this way?' 'This is your punishment for all of your irresponsible, and selfish decisions'. 'Your random acts of promiscuity are no good here.'
'This is what your ego did to you.' 'Now, talk your way out of this one.' 'No one can help you.'
I feel like I could burst into tears, and just add to my image of weakness. I am a waste of talent, ability, mind, and wit. I am the drunk guy. I am the one who didn't use his college degree, but decided to serve other people for his entire adult life. Even in my utterly, grotesque perception of reality, I am fully aware of my mother's concern, and fear of losing her first-born son. The oldest of her two baby boys.
I have taken my family for granted, and now they have to suffer because of my own stupidity. My brother will be lost if I don't pull through this shit. I fear that I am the one he looks up to, but feels empathy for. A combination of disappointment, and the helplessness that comes with a drunken brother who won't listen. There have been a few heated exchanges between us about my drinking. My argument has always been, "Well, you drink, too." I literally have no ground to stand on, this afternoon.
By the time, we reach the door to my room, its curtains. My mind, and body have had enough, yet my physical therapist will hear nothing of it. On top of that, my mother is watching, and I must show her any kind of improvement I can assemble. My health motivator seems to agree, as she suggests I attempt to climb some stairs, again.
The last time I undertook this obstacle, I could not scale a single step up the insurmountable monster. Never mind, the eight floors of staircase I would have been able to lick, merely three weeks ago. I cannot refuse this typically, meager challenge, this day.
Encompassed by the unnerving echo of the frigid, chamber of steps, I take my best shot. The ascending stairs are directly in front of me, and I latch onto the hand rail. I grab with my right hand, and immediately lose any power I had to stand up. The therapist grabs my canvas support belt, and lifts me enough to catch the rail with my left hand. It is up to me to hold myself up, while my assistant rattles the walker away from me.
I dig deep, and urge my body to use every muscle. Step number one is out of the way, which is way better than the last time we did this. After I audibly strain to climb the second, I feel like I am entirely too high. If I were to fall now, I would be done for. Yet, the trainer is not done, and says, "Come on. You have one more in you. You can do it."
I fire back quickly, "No. I can't. Help me down, please."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, please! I am going to fall." I have real fear in my voice.
At least, I was able to put both feet on the same step.
After much, more struggle, we finally get back to my room. I feel like I have been in the hall, all day.
All I can do is lie back, try to return to a normal respiration, and let the chilly air dry my sweaty bag of bones.
My mother leans in to give me a hug of reassurance. She is close to my face, and her hair is brushing my cheeks. I lift my arm, and place my palm on her neck. I pull her towards me, and touch her forehead to mine.
"I don't want to die", I whisper.
"I don't want you to, either, Donnie."
In Photo: Coach Lloyd Schlegel
& Donnie Wayne Todd