Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chapter 29

I had no plans to lie here all day in this hospital bed, but with David next to me as a guard, I knew I wouldn't be moving any time soon. Or at least not soon enough for me. He still clung to the belief—put there by Marissa—that I'd be headed to rehab. I still clung to the belief that I could go home. What an impasse.

I adjusted my shoulders and tried to move my legs. They felt heavy and full, as if leaded shrapnel had filled the hollowness. Crap, maybe Marissa was right. How could I go home if I couldn't get out of bed myself? I fell back against the pillow and closed my eyes. How had I gotten here?

I thought back to everything I'd done in my life. From the Air Force, to marrying Angie, to having the kids. I tried to keep my faith and foremost in my mind as I could. Sure, I'd have my moments, my sins, but I'd learned my lesson and moved on. Was this God's way of punishing me? Saying I'd done something wrong? It was easy to believe that. Place the blame somewhere else. Marissa would laugh and say that God didn't punish and that my body had some issues. She'd tell me to focus on the positive and stop worrying about things that didn't matter. But they did matter, didn't they? Because if God was trying to teach me something, tell me something, then this could happen again, right? I needed to learn from the situation. I just wasn't sure what I was supposed to learn yet.

"Hey David," I whispered. He opened his hazel eyes and looked at me. I'm not sure what he'd been doing all night but he didn't look good. Too tired for his age. "I need to use the restroom."

"Uh, Dad. That's why you have a call button."

"But I want you to help me. I need to see if my legs work." I saw the turmoil written on his face. He knew if he made a misstep, he'd have Marissa, Trevor, and Luke on his back, as well as the medical professionals who were helping me. On the other hand, maybe he understood a bit about pride.

"We can try one time and if you're not strong enough, you're going back into bed and you're pushing that button."

I knew better not to argue. "Okay."

David helped me swing my legs around and then placed his hands underneath my armpits. He wasn't the tallest of the bunch—5'10" was shorter than Dominic—but he had a strength that came from having the time to work out. No family, no kids. Just a job and a partner. I straightened my body out and tried to put weight on my legs. One moment, I was looking into David's eyes. The next, I was sitting on the bed.

"And this is why, Dad, you're going to rehab." David's face fell.

I could do nothing but shake my head, hoping the tears that pricked the backsides of  my eyelids stayed at bay.

I never did make it to the bathroom. David called in the nurse, who went ahead and gave me a catheter, something David said they probably should have done long before. Then he told me to wait because he was going to see about what rehab facility I'd be headed to. No one gave me room to argue, but I had so many questions. Which facility? Would I have my own room? How long would I need to be there? Could Angie stay with me? And how much was a rehab stay going to cost me? I'd worked long and hard for my money. That last thing I wanted to do was to waste it on rehab.

"I know exactly what you're thinking, Dad," David said as we waited for the nurse to return. The whir of the machines and the hum of the air conditioner were about to drive me nuts. I'd give anything to be sitting on my porch, listening to the drone of the neighbors' lawn mowers.

"Oh yeah? What am I thinking about?"

"You're wondering what all of this will cost you."

How did he know that? I was very surprised. David hadn't been the best student and he seemed lazy at times. Sure he'd done well for himself eventually—he'd graduated college, gone on to law school and had found himself immersed in teaching law actually. Something, I was told, that David did very well. One of the best at the college, in fact. But had David always been good at reading people?

"Uh, yeah. I am. Among other things. How'd you know?"

"Because we are more similar than you'd ever care to admit, and right now, that's what I'm wondering." David leaned back in his chair, his gaze trained on me.

I snorted. "Aside from the eyes, you and I are nothing alike," I said. I couldn't see it. He was so different than I was, physically, emotionally, everything. He'd always been high strung and easy to ignite, much like Angie. And he possessed a passion for art that I could never appreciate. Not to mention his preference for men. Where did that predilection come from? Had we done something in his childhood to make him want to like men instead of women? I'd never understood his stance on that, and in fact, I'd shunned him for a while, back when he'd first told me about who he really was.

I remembered the day like it was yesterday, sitting on our porch, a beer in hand, listening to the wind rustle the grass. David had a terrified look on his face. He'd told me that he wanted to talk, that he had something to tell me, to tell us. Was Angie there? She'd always had orders to fill, but that day, David waited until she was at a good stopping point. Had I known what he was going to say? In the back of my mind, I'd always suspected that David was different, but I didn't really think he could be gay because being gay was wrong. Being homosexual was a sin. The Catholic Church said so. But somehow, I wasn't completely shocked when David blurted out, "I'm gay." Essentially three words. No beating around the bush.

"I've thought about how I'd tell you guys this for so long," he had gone on to say. "But I wasn't quite sure how to say it. I figured the fewest words might be best." He'd have rambled on had I not stopped him.

"I think I knew that, because I'm not really all that surprised by what you have to say. I'm just sad that you said it." My heart felt heavy in my chest.

"Sad that I said it or sad that I'm gay?" David's pale face grimaced in the summer sun.

He'd posed a good question that day, because I thought it was a little bit of both, actually.  I didn't want a son who was gay, for several reasons. Gay wasn't right. But I knew I couldn't force him to like women, and forcing anything on David never worked, anyway. But I also knew what society was like and was still like. Years ago, people who were gay had to hide. Had it gotten any better? Probably not by much. This region of the country, me included, were pretty conservative. No, make that very conservative. They wouldn't accept him for the person David said he was. And that meant he'd have to hide in life. Maybe David should have just kept hiding his true self. Was not acknowledging something the way to go?

"Are you sure you're gay?" Angie had asked.

"Mom? Are you serious? Am I sure? No, it's just a phase." David rolled his eyes and paced back and forth on the porch. "I've thought long and hard about how to tell you this…I kind of hoped you'd just figure it out. I know it goes against what you believe, but for as long as I can remember, something inside my heart spoke to me. It said, You're gay. And I've never doubted that fact."

"Never? What about that girl you dated in high school?" Angie's question hovered in the air for a moment then popped like a bubble.

"That girl? She was a good friend. A very good friend, someone I really tried to like in that capacity mostly to appease you." He had looked away from us then, and I felt bad. Really awful. I loved my kids, my son. I wanted to see him happy. I couldn't agree with what he was doing, but could I still have him in my life?

"This is a lot for your mother and me to take in. We'll be in touch."

The words had sounded so formal to me, and yet I couldn’t take them back. Instead, I watched him walk away, head hanging, hands in his back pocket. He got into his car and drove away.

David had that same stance now, in the hospital, as my focus returned and I looked at my middle child. Had my words hurt him now like they did then? Did I owe it to him to find out how we were alike? What else did I have to do besides talk to him? I might as well apologize; I had nothing better to do that day.

"Okay, I'm sorry. Really." I fiddled with the IV attached to my arm so I wouldn't have to meet David's eyes.

"For what?" David asked.

"For that comment. The way I said it. Now that I think about it, the tone of my voice made it sound like I'm not proud to have you as a son. That I wouldn’t want to be like you."

"Well, you don't want to be like me. I think if you'd had any tendency to like men, you'd have hidden it. You still would even in this day and age."

"Well, that's a moot point because I don't like men. And I'm married."

"But you still think being a homosexual is wrong, don't you?" David squinted his eyes, waiting for my answer.

"Yes, I do. But you're also my son. And I've learned over the last several years that having a son who is happy is more important to me than what you're doing behind closed doors."

"Really, Dad?" David didn't look too convinced, but he nodded his head. "We can revisit this another time. But if you really want to know how I'm like you, I value the same things: a good work ethic, family, and money." He nodded his head again, punctuating the last part of the sentence, placing an emphasis on the money.

"What do you mean about that last part?"

"Well, it seems like it's always been about the money for you. Hasn't it?"

"Yeah, money's important. When you don't grow up with much…you know, I've been working since I was seven—"

"All right, Dad. I know. You've been working a long time. But here's what I know. Today you might be going to rehab and you're worried about how much it's going to cost you. You want to know the bottom dollar and you don't feel like paying it. But I also know that you and Mom have money in the bank—"

I cut him off this time. "Yes, we have money in the bank. But we'll need that money for so many things."

David stopped for a moment. "You know that old saying, you can't take it with you?" He waited for me to nod my head. "Well, you can't. Having all the money isn't going to do you any good from beyond the grave."

"Geesh, I'm not there yet, David."

"And if you go to rehab—one of the good facilities—it will be a long time before you do get there!"

He was starting to sound like Marissa. I wondered if she'd spoken to him, or maybe they were more similar than I thought, too. I had a feeling I'd be going to rehab today and it was clear to me that I needed to wrap my head around it. I leaned back against the pillow and rested my eyes. It was going to be a long couple of weeks.


Anonymous said...

This is good writing. I can't wait to read the whole book!!

Christina said...

Thanks. It still needs work, but I appreciate your encouragement!

sandra doninger said...

interest piqued! sounds good so far!

Christina said...

Thank you, Sandra. Again, it needs work. But at least it's out. Just need to find the time to revise...