Words Have Power, They Are Magic Pt 11
I was moved to a rehabilitation hospital. For us Veterans. There were several other soldiers that I did my physical therapy with. We all were relearning how to walk correctly, use our arms, in my case use, talk clearer, and chew food with my new jaw. There I met such fine folks as Denny, he managed to blow up a foot during training. There was Landess, the small, wiry Major who had had a stroke and his left side didn’t work so good. That wouldn’t be a huge problem but he was left handed so besides learning to walk without dragging his foot, he was also learning to write with his right hand. There were so many guys in there, coming and going, but those two were long term like me and we developed a bond.
During our sessions in order to keep my mind of my pain and with the encouragement of my therapists I told the guys stories. Since I had a hard time speaking, my sentences were short full of the easier words to say with the result of the stories sounding like children’s stories. .Stories that were the continuing adventures of a Chipmunk named Chip, a cat named Marty and a pup named John. The elementary nature of the stories didn’t seem to matter, the guys loved them. At the start of every session, they would ask what happens next, and I would end that day’s story sitting in the Jacuzzi. It kept our mind off things.
Many times my son would be present for my therapy sessions. He, too, loved my stories and would encourage me to go on. At first I think he just was ‘helping’ but eventually he seemed to like the stories as well. . Now I want to say that it wasn’t that my stories were awesome or anything, it was that they were a distraction and infinitely better than the 1970’s greatest hits that played overhead. One can only sing along with the Carpenters for so long before they went crazy. They were very simple. Anyway, my son came to me after the third “episode” of Chip, Marty and John (I think that was the time the trio stole some pecan pies from old Missus Smith and the ensuing hi-jinks in keeping that pie.) and he asked if I would write them down.
I was aghast. No way was I writing words. I asked him if he was crazy did he not remember that they have power. He tried to tell me again that it was not true but I was having none of it. Nope. He finally asked if I would let him record them and then HE would write them down. He said that as a publisher he knew a good story when he heard it and thought that there was huge commercial value to my story. I thought he was nuts. I agreed, though, I mean who was it going to hurt? I wasn’t writing those sentences and I did not think my son had the magic in him. Anyway, he did record me. At first, it was a little awkward but after a while, I forgot about it and the stories went on.
Eventually I was told that I was ready to go. Well, I wasn’t ready to go but they were convinced I was good to go. That I walked and talked just fine and there was no reason to stay. I thought there was, there were two guys still there that I would miss. I knew we would make noises about keeping in touch but that never happens. Ever. Another reason not to go was, I had no idea where to go. I was pretty certain I could not go back to the apartment besides I think I owed a couple of months rent. Where was I to go?
Everything I had there I could fit into one of those plastic bag hospital bags, they ones with a handle. I only owned two pairs of pants threes shirts socks underwear and a pair of tennis shoes. Throw in my toiletries and I barely filled up that bag. That is what I owned. I took as long as I could though, packing those things. I was dilly-dallying. I laughed at that thought, one of my foster moms used to say that when I was being slow…Richard, quit yer dilly-dallying. I grabbed the bag and with one last look at what was my home for a long time, I walked out the door.
And into a goodbye party of sorts. There was a banner that said, “Congratulations Richard” and a cake still in the plastic container from the store. The kind of cake with white frosting and pastel flowers. It too said congratulations. Some of the other patients were there and my doctor and therapist and of course the nurses. Denny and Landess both gave me hugs and we did make those noises about staying in touch, all of us know it was bullshit. During cake, the question of where the hell I was going to was answered by my son. Jr. showed up and told me he was sorry he was late and they had a room ready for me at his place.
The drive to his house took forever, I was unsure of this. I had not yet ever met my grand kids. I only knew of them through sparse phones calls and pictures. I had never met his wife. What woman would want her never before met father-in-law moving in? I was so focused on the thoughts, the worries in my head that it took a minute to realize what my son had been saying to me. It seems that he had published my stories and they were doing really well. I was actually making money on them. Well, that was a relief. A wife wouldn’t mind having a father-in-law that could pay rent I guess. Would she?
Turned out that I was half-right. Susan did mind a little bit. It was a very strained especially at supper. The kids didn’t seem to mind me at all. The littlest one, Stanley, once he found out I was the one who made up the stories of The Three Rascals (Jr.’s name for the Chip, Marty, and John stories I told. The Three rascals) was my constant companion. That is unless his mom was around. Then she would make him “quit bothering the old man.” I tried to tell her it was ok, but she would not hear of it.
Anyway, I spent my days either going to the speech therapists (still had a hard time speaking clearly), taking a daily walk to exercise my legs and then sitting on my bed waiting. Either they kids coming home from school or suppertime that break up my days. After supper, where no one was allowed to speak (weird rule but that was Susan’s rule) I would go back to my room and take a shower. I was always thankful I had my own bathroom especially in the morning listening to the boys arguing while getting ready for school. After shower, I would just sit on the bed waiting for the morning light. I had not drank since the accident and unless I took enough pain pills, I still dreamed. I did not want to dream. I was terrified of dreaming. I tried not to sleep.
It was my favorite little grandchild 6-year-old Stanley that brought about change. Stanley had been coming to my room and asking me to tell him stories. Of course, I did so. I also told him about the power of words, the magic. He listened to me. He asked me questions but he listened. We talked a lot about how when you are mad the words you right are evil and when you are happy the words you write are less evil, but it never turns out they way you think. I explained that when you say words, they can hurt or help. That it made a difference when you say them if you are happy or sad or mad or nice or mean, it all mattered. BUT. But, when you write those words, then they have power and they are magic.
Stanley listened to me. He took it to heart. He was a smart little guy. But he also did not keep any secrets.
One night after dinner as I sat in my room I could her Jr and Susan argue. Or, no, Susan didn’t argue. She “discussed things enthusiastically”. That woman was more messed up than kite in hailstorm. Any way they were discussing Stanley. It seemed Stanley did not want to do his homework. It required him to write sentences for each word he was given. Stanley said that he was mad at hit teach so he was not going to write the sentences. That his grandpa told him that words have power they are magic. When I heard that, I was proud of Stanley. But his father was not.
Jr came into my room. He walked to wear I was sitting and standing over me informed that I needed to stop filling his kid’s head with such nonsense. That it was an oddity maybe an eccentricity when I was in the hospital but that this was real life and his kid didn’t not need to learn such stuff. Words have no more power no more magic than a broom. My stupidity is harming his children and the wife was mad now and wanting me to get out. Did I promise to quit saying such stuff?
Of course, I could not promise that. Why would I promise to lie? I could not do so and I told him so. Jr ran his hands through his already tousled hair. He did that a lot, run his hands through his hair. He did it a lot when Susan was talking to him, not so much with me. He informed that something would have to change then. That if I wasn’t going to then something else would have to. That we both needed to sleep on it and in the morning we could figure out where I could live. Well guess I was being kicked out.
I sat on the bed and thought on it for a minute. Well, seems the truth wasn’t good enough. It was sad. I was happy that at least Stanley understood. I was going to miss that little bugger. I decided I didn’t need to put Jr through the trouble of taking care of his old man. I had money. They books were a big hit. I did not need to be a problem. I got off the bed and walked to the kitchen. I was looking for a bag. Needed something to put some extra clothes in. I ran into to Stanley in the kitchen.
“Hey bugger how you doing?” I asked him.
He watched me as looked in a few cabinets. I did not know where anything was. I had not spent much time in the kitchen. I spent not much time anywhere but my bedroom. Did not want to be a bother and yet it turns out I am.
Stanley broke into my thoughts “Whatcha looking for grandpa?”
When I told him a bag, he directed me to the garage. He followed me out. Stanley was six. He talked almost nonstop as I looked for a grocery bag. There was not any by the washer or near the shelves of paint and extra canned goods and nails. Hmmm, it didn’t seem to be any. When I asked Stanley, he just shrugged and informed that his mom came out here to get bags. I scanned the garage one more time and under a workbench next to a discarded helmet and broken skateboard, was my backpack.
My backpack. I had forgotten about it. I had assumed it was lost in the accident. I guess not, for there it was.
I walked over. I was almost afraid of the backpack. I hesitatingly reach out to touch it. Nothing. No bad thing happened. I grabbed the bag. Still nothing, no lightning bolts, no ghosts, nothing, except it felt heavy. As Stanley stood there asking me what I had I unzipped it. The first thing I saw was a full bottle of whiskey. How it had survived I do not know, but there it was. I stared. Did I want to? Yes I did . I did. I wanted to reestablish my relationship with that bottle. To sleep. To forget. For just a little bit. But, I might forget Stanley, whose little voice broke through my fog.
I kneeled down. “Stanley, grandpa’s got to go, I have made your mommy a little angry and I got to go live somewhere else.”
“Why grandpa? Where are you going? My mommy is always mad. Where you going to live can I visit?”
“Maybe you can visit. After I get a place ok? When I know. But, I think I am going to camp out. At a park.”
“Where grandpa? Where? Can I camp out. Can I come sleep over?”
“Ah, Bugger, not until I get a good campground. I am going to find one in a park in New York? Ok? It is long ways away from here. It might be awhile. Remember I love you. Remember what I taught you.”
I gave the little guy a hug and then stood up and walked out the side door. As opened the gate I heard little Stanley say,
“Bye grandpa I love you. I will remember grandpa. I will remember. Words have power, they are magic”