Sunday, April 03, 2005

Chapter 29 / The Path

Walking the halls of the hospital was about the only chance Sinclair had to exercise, excepting his regular visits to the therapy room. He had a “walker” very much like the kind that little children or old men use, an aluminum frame that encircled him and gave him support between strides. There were springs within the wheel housings that provided sufficient resilience to accommodate his body weight and at the same time pushed the frame away from the floor as Sinclair adjusted his balance between steps. If he should move the walker ahead to fast the wheels would lock into place automatically.

He got to roam about anywhere he wanted as long as he didn’t exit the hospital grounds. He particularly enjoyed the sidewalk that led behind the service area. There were some large old pecan trees that had escaped all of man’s attempts to eradicate them. The expansive parking lot had grown around them, leaving each with a portion of breathable ground; massive ornamental iron gratings protected each hallowed plot.

Twice a week the yard man would place canisters of fresh chrysanthemums along the red brick pathway that snaked its way around the trees. It was like a concrete oriental garden. As Sinclair would scoot along, always mindful of exactly how many steps he had taken in his effort to regain full use of his legs, the breeze rushing by the leaves acted as a tranquilizer. He was able to enjoy the beauty that was all around him. He would look up as jets streaked on their last leg toward Hobby Airport. The thundering of the engines as they began to power down was exhilarating.

Once, after having been to a Cub’s game in Chicago, he and Bev had flown over basically the same path and they were able to identify many of the ground locations. He didn’t really like to fly, but the ability to do so was high on his list of marvelous wonders. The perspective from the air was a humbling experience. It forced him to realize how small men’s works were in comparison to the world.

A thoughtless individual had tossed a cigar butt to the ground defiling the spirit that resided there. The pale greenish brown stub had also been “heeled”, leaving a stain of soot on the stark white concrete. Sinclair was reminded of the many times he had seen Pecaw reach down to pick up a discarded candy wrapper or a soda can as he walked through the courtyard of their apartments in New York. It was not enough to have yard men and janitors, it was important that everyone do his part. Sinclair was prompted to retrieve it; but was painfully reminded of his body’s limited ability to respond. For a moment he was stymied, unable to figure out how to accomplish the simple act of bending; in the therapy room pool it had been so easy.

“Well . . . are you going to stand there the rest of the day or what?” He turned slowly to see who was harassing him; the voice was familiar. Eva was standing at the rear entrance to the hospital watching to see what he was about to do. She had taken off a little early to take her car in for repairs before the shop closed. The motor had developed a menacing noise. The employee’s parking lot was on the other side of the air ambulance landing pad. Her genuine concern echoed in her tone, it was not sarcastic or harsh. It was more like soft laughter that made him feel better.

“Oh . . , ah . . , I was just trying to figure out whether that was a domestic or an imported variety of cigar.” Blushing, but at such a distance that it could not be seen, “I think its terrible that someone would mess up such a beautiful garden.” Many times on her way into work she had walked the short brick path from her car to the back door; not once had she thought of it as a garden. Letting the words bounce around for a moment and at the same time pausing to look around, Eva had to admit that it truly was a fine garden. It bothered her that she had never appreciated it before.

“See there . . .”, pointing with his index finger, “ . . .over there, just past the light pole?” Sinclair had spotted one of the community cats; one that all the nurses liked to feed and take care of. The furry white cat was crouched low on its belly behind some creeping jasmine; stalking a small green lizard. The short wait was fruitful as the cat’s lightning fast paws reached out and snared it. The cat’s tail whipped back and forth in triumph as it carried the prize off in its mouth. The garden was full of interesting sights, for those willing to watch.

“How terrible, that poor little thing!” Eva did not enjoy seeing the cat destroying the lizard with such enthusiasm.

“Terrible, . . . for who; the cat or the lizard?” Sinclair wanted to turn the question inside out. He had conceded the laws of nature and could find no fault with the cat’s ability to find a meal on its own. He waited as he watched the angle of Eva’s head change ever so slightly; pondering his remark.

“Well I guess if you put it that way . . .” She continued to watch the cat dismember the remains of the lizard. In a few moments the cat was done; taking a few quick strides toward the automatic double glass Emergency Room doors. The cat deposited the lizard’s head and scurried off.

“A prize left at your door step; what an honor.” Sinclair had found many lizard heads, bird wings and rat tails on his way to get the morning paper. His own cat was quite a hunter.

“I still think its cruel.” Changing the subject back to Sinclair’s walking mode,

“You’d better be careful or I might find that the cat has left your head at our door step. Are you having trouble? Do you want me to get you a wheel chair?”

Sinclair could feel his defensive side bristle; then relax, realizing that her questions were only out of regard for his best interests. He did not like having to admit to anyone that he was not yet in total command of himself.

“Let me help you back inside.” Eva walked up beside him not waiting for him to either accept or decline her offer. The two walked methodically along the path. Sinclair’s steps were marked with a metallic clicking as one of the rubber end caps had worn through.

“Sounds like I’m a quart low; better check under the hood.” Sinclair made fun of himself as he breathed a little harder. He had just about run out of energy for the day. He stood, arms stiff and locked, as he searched for the last few drops at the bottom of the tank.

“More like your out of gas. Wait here while I pop inside to grab a wheel chair.” Eva disappeared around the corner. It was only after she was gone that Sinclair let his face feel the pain. His teeth clenched firmly as he muscled up, trying to take some of the weight from his legs. The breeze felt good as it hit the beads of sweat that had formed across his brow.

“What took you so long?” Sinclair heckled her as she came back with the chair. She eased up behind him, guiding the foot supports past the walker, thereby eliminating the possibility of his falling.

“Just lean back. . .”, placing her hand on his shoulder, “. . .and let me do all the work.” He sank back into the chair; his eyes closed momentarily when he relaxed his grip on the walker. Eva folded the aluminum frame and placed it on his lap.

“Your timing was perfect; thanks.” Sinclair hung his head as he worked to overcome the moment. His shirt was soaked clean through with perspiration. He felt a bit of nausea welling up as his head became light.

“I think we need to get you inside; you don’t look so hot.” His skin tone was a pale olive/gray and cold to the touch.

“I’ll be fine. Just let me sit for a moment.” Taking a deep breath to steady himself. Once, when he was with William in one of those four seater airplanes for a special birthday gift, he had become air sick. He knew that if he concentrated all his efforts that he could get past it. As the plane bounced and bobbed along on the invisible currents, Sinclair played back the music that was stored away in his mind. He carefully eliminated the noise of the engine, the notes of each instrument played on. When the plane landed he sat for a bit, not wishing to upset the delicate balance that had been established. William wanted to go up again; adding that it was okay for Sinclair to stay on the ground.

“There is a green field far away . . .”, his mind wandered to a place within himself as he listened to one of his favorite hymns.

“Mr. Dosilmeyer are you okay ?” Eva pushed the chair into the emergency room. “ . . . Mr. Dosilmeyer?”

“ . . . with out a city wall . . .”

“Could you give me a hand?”, stopping in front of one of the rooms where a nurse was stocking one of the crash carts.

“ . . . but we believe it was for us . . .”

“He was walking out there and I think he over exerted. When I got him to sit in the wheel chair he just collapsed.”

“ . . . and try his works to do.”

“His color is coming back. I think he’ll be okay.” The nurse took his pulse; counting off the sweep of the second hand as it ticked its way across the dial of her watch.

“That’s good to hear.” Sinclair sarcastically babbled as he raised one eyelid to peer out.

“You scared the bejebers out of me.” Eva brought her arm up to hold her stomach.

“I’m sorry; didn’t mean too.”

“I just now realized. . .”, looking at the wheel chair that had been borrowed, “ . . .you don’t have your gizmo thing.”

“It weighs too much, and besides I don’t really need it.”

“But your voice; its the same; well, almost.” Eva watched carefully as Sinclair formed his words. After having accepted the computer generated voice, it seemed somehow odd to have him talk without it.

“What did you expect, Perry Como?” Sinclair forced a smile while still battling the nausea.

“Oh, that’s good. I like that.” The E.R. nurse had no idea what Eva was talking about.

“You have a very nice voice. Why do you still use that . . . “, pausing slightly, “. . . computer thing?”

“I guess I’m just lazy. With the computer I can edit what I say before it goes out. It saves me from saying things I might regret later on. It also stores all my conversations so that later on I can replay them when I’m by myself.”

Eva wasn’t sure if he was pulling her leg or telling the truth. She looked over at the nurse to see how she was reacting to the tall tale.

“Right.” Letting the word extend to express her disbelief.

“ ‘ For real. I even have your voice; well almost yours, matched up in the synthesizer. It will hold up to eight separate and distinct voices.”

“I’m flattered.” Eva wanted to hear what characteristics had been assigned to her voice. “Who else do you have locked away in that box?”

“Well, let’s see. There’s me and Bev, Vern Rylan, Dr. Gwynn, Maime Stuart, Dr. Chatterly and you. I had a real hard time with Dr. Gwynn’s voice; but I had to get his down first. I used his voice to get authorization to order food from the Burger King. They were a little suspicious at the nurses station so I had to use Maime Stuart’s voice to verify the orders.”

“Who’s next; John Wayne?” Eva shook her head; quite sure that he had made the whole thing up.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Should I ?”

“Well, I guess it does sound a little far fetched.”

“A little?. . .”, raising her brow for emphasis. “. . . a little? This qualifies for the brown shoe award.”

“Why don’t you wheel me up to my room and listen for a few minutes? It won’t hurt to do that; now will it?”

“I’d like to; but I need to get my car to the mechanic and I’m already running late as it is.”, remembering that she was on her way to the parking lot when she stopped to help.

“Was it that black Cutlass; the one the wrecker was hooking onto?”

“What do you mean? What wrecker?” Eva had a panicked look as she thought about her past due car note.

“While I was out for my walk I saw a wrecker back up to a car and latch onto it. When you said that you were having car trouble; well I just assumed that . . .”

“Damn!” Eva ran out the door to the parking lot. She had a gut feeling that the car would not be there; she was right. It had been snatched up by the “repo” man. Walking slowly back to the emergency room, a few tears trickled down her cheek. “They got my car; they got it. What am I going to do now?”

“What do you mean? Did they steal it?”

“No, I’ve been late on my payments. The bank told me that if I quit paying on the insurance that they could take it at any time. Its my own fault.”

“Oh . . .”, Sinclair was familiar with how the wreckers would follow a “target”, waiting for just the right moment to retrieve a car. “. . . I see.”

Wiping away a stray tear and sniffling to clear her nose, “Well I guess I can spare a few minutes to listen to what you have in that computer voice machine while I wait for my brother to come get me.” Turning to the nurse to get permission to use the telephone, “Is it okay?”

“Use that one.”, pointing to the one on the wall. Eva punched in the numbers and waited. She looked at the floor, the ceiling and the walls as she avoided looking at either Sinclair or the nurse. She was embarrassed by the situation.

“Any luck?”, the nurse asked as the phone continued to ring. Eva ignored her and let the phone ring a few more times.

“Answer the phone, dammit!”, talking to the piece plastic handset. A few more tears formed as it became apparent that there would be no answer. Eva hung up the receiver and thought for a few moments. She had no other family that she could turn to.

“My wife will be here around five thirty.”, looking at the large wall clock in the emergency room. “She might be able to give you a lift home.”

“You don’t think she’d mind?”

“Of course not, Bev would enjoy the company.”

“I don’t live too far from here.”

“Consider it done.” Sinclair felt good at having offered to help. It had been a while, too long, since he had been able to offer help to another.

“I guess you can take him on to his room now.”, the nurse was satisfied that Sinclair was reasonably stable now.

“I’ll have the nurse upstairs check him out when I get up there; thanks again.”
Eva pushed the wheel chair out and down the hall toward the elevators.