** I hope as you read this that you'll do your best to not pass judgement, but rather just take it for what it is ... a story about how something as benign as a sports blog, can help a somewhat troubled mind through a very difficult experience. ** Notes From Hispaniola (01.20.10)
The final buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the game ... the Garden erupts into a chaos of jubilation ... KG, Paul, Perk, Ray, and Rondo run together to form a nucleus of celebration, hugging each other and jumping up-and-down, and soon they are surrounded by the rest of the team and coaching staff, who have rushed onto the floor to join them ... a large number of fans lining the perimeter of the floor are too much for the limited amount of security, and they also rush onto the parquet, throwing hats, cups and various souvenirs into the air to mix with the blizzard of confetti and balloons falling from the rafters, and screaming at the top of their lungs ... this is it, they've done
it! The Celtics have won!
They've beaten the Lakers in the NBA Finals and have won the Larry O'Brien trophy! For the second time in three years they are World Champions! World Champions!!
No one can doubt them anymore ... no one
can question whether or not they are worthy of the title "Dynasty" ... soon they will be raising that eighteenth banner to the rafters! (Huh? Eighteenth?!? Oh, man ... I must be dreaming again ... ) Wham! Clang! What the heck?Where am I? God ... I'm still here ... it wasn't just a nightmare. I must've fallen asleep sitting up again ... I just knocked a sterile prep-tray onto the floor with my nodding head, ("floor" being a general term in this case ... tarp over dirt and crumbled pavement, but at least it's clean) ... the last Ansell gloves I used are still on my hands ... what was once red and moist is now brown and flaking ... I slowly bend my stiffened fingers and watch it crumble off, like old chocolate frosting dried to a spatula ... the little flakes drift down to the floor, and I see through the small space under the hanging tarp barrier that it's now dark outside. One of the many cheap plumber's lamps that are clipped to the tent frame in various locations, has been purposely directed into my eyes, and Brigetta is standing beside it in her nurse's uniform with hands-on-hips, looking at me like I've missed something ...
"I be sayin' dey here widda girl anna fah-dah," she says, (I did miss something) ...
"Ya hokay, Doc-tah?" I don't answer, but stand up to take the gloves off and re-prep. I glance at the top of the crash-cart where my "Birthday Cake" still survives, (Brigetta made a large whole-grain muffin, frosted it and stuck a candle in the top - it's the thought that counts - I still have no idea how she discovered my birth date), and my "rare collectible" Celtics timepiece, (a past Christmas gift from my daughter), winks up at me with it's single eye, a gold twelve o'clock marker ... she made me promise to wear it whenever possible, so she'd always be keeping an "eye" on me. Every time I glance at it for the time or date, I think of my little girl, then my team in green ... no matter how casual the instance, or how intense. It's not the style or type I would ever buy for myself, but considering who gave it to me it's priceless, and one of my most treasured possessions. This time the gold chevron hands reveal that, not only has the sun set between blinks, but I've been sleeping prone for almost three hours ... wow, already 7:00 PM ... just like that ... 7:00 ...
7:00 ... The Celtics should be playing soon ... Mike Gorman and Donny Marshall talking about the tip-off ... the members at CelticsBlog gearing up, the posts on FlCeltics' Game Thread coming quicker as the excitement grows, Gary Tanguay and Tommy Heinsohn on Comcast with their inane banter ... the camera following the players as they go out onto the court, shaking hands ... maybe a word or two from Greg Dickerson about the absence of KG and his status, (maybe Friday's game he'll be back?), that and his many pre-game rituals: head-butting the post padding while he ties his shorts, pointing to the rafters, throwing rosin into the air over Gorman's head, the white dust drifting slowly down ... dust drifting down ... Dust ... everywhere ... plaster, dirt, ashes, (wood, paper, human) ... every time you step or move, a little white cloud follows you ... every small breeze carries it, every passing vehicle or person leaves a wake. I swear the stuff all comes straight to me like I'm some kind of particulate magnet ... or maybe someone who knows my weaknesses has sent it as a form of Haitian voodoo ... a conjured pale-white phantom, taunting me, reaching it's sticky arm down my throat, playing it's fingers across the alveoli in my lungs ... I need to cough, but I repress the urge, no signs of weakness here. I watch through the poly as they put the little girl on a make-shift gurney, shaking my head to myself ... the "helpers" here know very little about sterility and sepsis, and though we keep repeating everything to them, the limitations of our communication and resources, (human and material), make the effort seem pointless ...
I can picture Perk standing in the center-court circle right about now, across from his opponent ... who is it tonight? Detroit ... so .... Kwame, I think ... yeah, must be ... I always liked Kwame, but he hasn't developed the way I thought he would, he just seems to get in his own way, become his own worst enemy. I think KP can handle him well ... Perk doesn't elevate as much as Kwame, but he's got a great reach and uses his body well. He's also lost weight over the summer, he's in much better shape now and is moving his feet more quickly ... but Kwame's game can be very inconsistent, on both ends of the floor ... I've still always liked that kid, though ... Kid ... this one's a kid, maybe 7 or 8 at the most, her father holding her small hand with tenderness, though I can tell by the way her head flops as they move her that she's already unconscious ... she may have been triaged and medicated prior to getting here, though after seeing the wound I assume it's more likely because of fever and pain ... whatever the reason, it's a blessing really, minimal anesthesia, no trauma of needles or scary masks. I pull the head-end of the gurney through the gap in the plastic and raise my hand to the girl's father to let him know he needs to remain outside ... he lifts his daughter's wan little hand to his lips and kisses it softly, then lays it at her side carefully, as if made of glass. I touch the inside of the same little wrist, checking ... it's clammy, but there's a strong, steady pulse ...
Pulse ... the Palace At Auburn Hills is pulsing by now, throbbing with the life of the game ... you have to go
to an NBA game to really appreciate it ... the building takes on the heartbeat of the crowd, and the intensity of the fans' excitement reverberates throughout the structure, and shakes you to your core. It's an "away" game tonight, so Tommy's probably not there ... he doesn't go on the road much anymore, I fear he's readying to retire, (man, that
will be a sad day), though they say it's just health problems that keeps him close to home ... Health problems ... I shake my head at the thought - up there it's the exception, down here nothing BUT ... that's all there is for these people - health problems and rebuilding - now and for a long time to come, (maybe me as well) ... in that hideous, white dust-demon are endless contaminants, asbestos undoubtedly ... there were never restrictions imposed in most third-world countries, and the catalytic amount for mesothelioma is microscopic ... won't know for years, and it kills so slowly, insidiously ... the people that were crushed were lucky, it was quick ... (Lucky?!? God, how can I think that way? Don't go there ...)
I can still remember the first game I took my daughter to ... with buying just that one
extra ticket I multiplied my enjoyment of a Celtics' home game by a hundred-fold, and began a new tradition that the two of us now treasure and look forward to every season ... she was instantly infected by the Boston Garden "bug" and was as excited as I was, even though she'd never been there before, and knew little about basketball, and even less
about the Celtics ... I let the nurse, Brigetta, take vitals and start the IV, get the fentanyl ready ... her knowledge of what we're about to do is next-to-nothing, but she's a specialist in anesthesia, and I say a quick "thank-you" to God in my head for it, (again) ... we have no way to weigh patients who aren't ambulatory, so we have to guess-timate for propofol calculations, and she's very good at it ... she's used to dealing without technology, where I have become dependent on it. Amazingly, she has never done this procedure before, though I had assumed she was more familiar with it than I ... god, talk about a "crash course" ...
"Crash course" ... that's what my daughter got when we went to that first game together, in more ways than one ... we were playing against Shaq, and there were backboard problems after one of his monster dunks ... blew out the hydraulics or something. I remember another game I had seen years earlier when he was with Orlando, and he completely destroyed the backboard, with the glass crashing down ... they started re-designing them not long after, for Shaq's sake. Anyway, I spent half the time with my daughter just explaining rules and procedures of the game, and I think I overwhelmed her ... I should've just let her watch and enjoy that first time, and talked technical stuff later, or just let her ask questions ... I felt kind of bad about it afterward ... I feel badly for Brigetta, I know that she is struggling with this, I know that if she had known what she'd be asked to do, she would never have offered her assistance here ... not today, not for this. Little does she know that I feel the same, that I am struggling just as much as she is, that I would give anything to escape this place, that I have brief moments when I despise everything about it and everyone surrounding me.(Stop it).
She's continually crying as she works, not sobbing, just quiet tears tracing little streams through the accumulated dust on her face, like miniature mud-slides, (another natural disaster) ... I don't say anything, but do my best to act like I haven't noticed ...
The game's in full progress by now, I can see in my mind's eye Rondo's huge hands running the offense, looking for Ray to get free on the perimeter, or maybe driving the lane for that amazing fake behind-the-back pass and lay-up, or dishing back out to Pierce for a jumper ... the Pistons fans will be booing for that, but roaring with each basket their
team scores ... the few die-hard Celtics' fans making proper, (and proud), fools of themselves, and reminding the home-team hoard that they know how to celebrate, too, yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs ... Screaming ... it's in my dreams now ... we sleep when we can, where we can ... last night there was a lull, (if you can call it that), for some reason there was a sustained period of quiet, (the calm before the storm), and I was asleep before my head was down on the army cot, and dreaming ... in the dream I was at my old place in West Gorham, just me and the kids ... our house was outside of town, and we would often hear the coyotes at night ... I was dreaming of the howls, but when I awakened, it wasn't the howl of coyotes, it was human, and as guttural as I've ever heard ... I wish it was a rare sound here, but it's not ... maybe someone like this girl, but without the anesthesia ... (don't think that way, keep your head) ...
The Celtics are still
a great team ... I really believe that ... I take exception to most of the negative stuff posted on the blog lately - the seemingly endless trade threads, the stuff about KG and the other injured players - but I think it's just over-reaction, or maybe some people taking what we have for granted ... funny how when you have a great team nothing but perfection
seems acceptable. I wish the doubters could spend a week being New Jersey Nets fans, then maybe a little of the appreciation would return, (yeah, right). I hope Pierce is feeling good ... I hope he's on fire tonight ... Fire, everywhere ... the sky is never black at night, and I can't remember seeing a star since I've been here, (not that I've even thought to look - taking in ANY kind of beauty seems almost sacrilege, like the right to escape this horror is only allowed those like this little girl, who have truly paid their dues). The only black I see regularly is necrotic tissue, like the extensive decay of this little angel's leg, (god, this could be my little angel ... how would I feel then?).
Brigetta relays to me the story the father told her while we prep, of how long it took to find his child amidst the rubble, of the time it took to find and arrange for transportation, the problems and delays of the trip, and of how he kept the wound "clean" by repeatedly rinsing it with water, (water that most assuredly supplied the bacteria that has now brought this necessary end about) ...
It still feels like a dream to me, that Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are wearing Celtics uniforms now, that we have already won a championship with them ... KG was always one of those players who was larger than life to me, almost inaccessible, and I never dreamed
he'd be wearing green one day ... and Ray the consummate scorer and gentleman, the two book-ends of what "Celtic Pride" is all about ... Red would have loved
to have seen this, he would have embraced this renaissance of team spirit and "defense-first" basketball, being played the way it should be again, (at times) ... this amazing success story ... Brigetta continues relaying what the father told her, how he had found maggots in the wound on several occasions, and diligently scraped them out with the curved blade of a spoon, though it caused his daughter intense agony when he did so ... I just keep shaking my head in disbelief, knowing that if the father had left the fly larvae in the wound, this horrid procedure would probably not have been necessary ... maggots eat only dead tissue, and if he had left well enough alone, they would have kept the wound clean and free of necrosis ... and if he had simply boiled and cooled the water before rinsing the wound, it would have been free of the swarm of bacteria that extended the damage done to this little one's limb ... if he had been given these simple instructions, the chances would have been much greater of his daughter remaining whole, with only a scar to show for the trouble.
Celtic pride ... a feeling and a phrase created long ago, by the accomplishments of those like Russell, Auerbach, Cousey, Havlicek, Bird, and so many more ... it's something that means many things to many people, but it stands for the ultimate in team spirit ... the ultimate team
. Seems a lot of that kind of tradition and atmosphere has gone the way of the Great Auk ... most officiating of late has had little to do with "earned respect" or fairness, and the Celtics' traditional success has become a target for some ... Violet Palmer, Kenny Mauer, Bennett Salvatore, Joey Crawford, Brian Forte, Eddie F. Rush, and even Dick Bavetta, all seem to have the C's squarely in their sights. I really think the system needs a bit of an overhaul, though that's easier said than done ... bias is running rampant among NBA officials these days, and green seems to be their least
favorite color ... objectivity at a premium ... objectivity ... Objectivity ... how in the name of God can anyone be objective in this place? I can NOT do this ... I can NOT ruin this child's life ... I can NOT maim and disfigure her permanently, or give her a lifetime of taunts, nasty looks, name-calling, and pity ... I can NOT take this perfect creation of God's and turn it into a deformity! And the emotional scars will go even deeper ... and last a lifetime! She'll be shunned by this society, and probably never marry or have children of her own! I can NOT do this horrid thing ... I can NOT!
(STOP. You need to keep it together, and you can't let your mind go there ... It's beyond options now ... there are no choices for her ... or you).
She will blame me, I know ... deep-down ... the father will blame me too, her family, friends, loved ones ... no, they won't say it to my face, but I will know by the look in their eyes ... I've seen it so many times now. God, how I wish I could tell the father that his actions are what brought about this ugly thing, that his ignorance of basic precautions are to blame, that his lack of rudimentary education has precipitated this outcome ... if I could only put the blame where it belongs, (god what a selfish, condescending thought - it's not his fault) ... but then two lives would be ruined, or even more ... (stop being so weak ... focus ... )
So who's to blame for the C's weaknesses this year? Doc? The other staff? The injuries? The new players? Our "Big Three" getting old? Not enough defense? Poor free-throw shooting? Horrible officiating? Personality conflicts? Plenty of things and people to blame ... plenty of excuses for the Celtics, whatever happens this season. People always look for someone to blame ... a certain player, one of the coaches ... but in team sports it's always a combined
effort, whether you win or lose, it's on everyone's
shoulders, and the blame is spread around. God, I wish I had that luxury now, but I don't ... I'm the only one at the end of this line ... I'm the monster with the smile and the blade ... I'm the fool of this hideous moment in time, the tool of these circumstances, and there is no escaping it ... without it she has no chance ... no chance ...
OK ... time to THINK, stop feeling sorry for yourself, focus ... nothing is routine, never forget that ... OK, no pneumatic, have to improvise tourniquet with spare tubing and a BP cuff, (a "trick" I never dreamed I'd have to use), twist, clamp ... measure 16 cm, mark, (thank God for Sharpies), measure for anterior and posterior flaps and mark, (here we go ... god, look at all the necrosis ... it didn't have to be this way ... cursed ignorance!) ... STOP. FOCUS. Incise through fascia, then through periosteum ... mark anteromedial surface of tibia with saw ... I should be slicing birthday cake, but instead ...
I wonder who Doc will start for KG tonight? It's gotta be Sheed ... I'm trying hard to give that guy the benefit of the doubt, but I just don't see that he's contributing much. He won't get his hands up on "D", or move into the lane to take a charge, and those bricks from the three-point line are getting to me ... he's a whiner, too ... I mean, there's a reason
why he gets more techs than anyone else, cuz he puts running his mouth before the good of the team, and he always has
. Big Baby is a better option in my opinion, always liked that kid ... yes, he makes immature mistakes sometimes, but who doesn't? He's passionate about the game, and motivated by positive energy ... always gives 110% when he's on the floor ... on the floor ... parquet and green
on the floor there, red
on the floor here ... green and red, the colors of Christmas ... (god ... stay focused ... ) Divide the muscles of the anterior compartment, find superior peroneal nerve in lateral, divide after slight traction ...perform double ligation of anterior tibial vessels, and divide deep peroneal nerve. Split Tibia with recip. saw, then fibula slightly shorter ... pull distal tibia to anterior with bone hook, then divide posterior compartment muscle one centimeter distal to tibial section. Doubly ligate and divide post. tibial and peroneal vessels ... retract and divide post. tibial nerve. Tangentially divide gastrocnemus and soleus muscles for myofascial flap across tibia ...
That's right, I almost forgot ... tonight is Sheed's first return to The Palace at Auburn Hills since being traded ... I wonder what his reception will be? Maybe it'll be so warm he'll decide to stay there, (we should be so lucky). I'm really not sold on the guy ... he's great on the low post, but he's so reluctant to play that "inside" kind of game ... I hope he proves me wrong, I really do. Perk proved me wrong ... I was ready to trade the big guy last year, he seemed to be only doing enough to just "get by", but this year he looks great ... running the floor, not showing the ball to the defense before going up to the rim, in better shape than ever, dunking the ball instead of those too-soft lay-ups that often come back out ... dunking and hanging on the rim ... hanging heavily on the rim ... hanging heavy ... Like the odor of death hangs heavy on this acrid air ... we've been spraying all kinds of things on the inside of our masks to hide it, but nothing helps much, the smell is still there, just mixed with other scents, newer versions of decay ... "Armani Eau de le Mort" ... "Carrion by Calvin Klein" ... (god that's sick ... don't go there ... focus ... )
Bevel anterior head of tibia and smooth all the bone edges with rasp, (what I'd give for a pneumatic right now ... )
Every time I lift my head back to try and re-direct the sweat away from my eyes, I glance toward the "door", (just two over-lapping pieces of clear plastic hanging from a collapsible frame, the rest is blue tarp), and he's always there ... her father, standing vigil. He can't see her, can't see what I'm doing, the way things are set up all he can see is my face and the side of Brigetta's head ... I wonder what he's thinking ... what he's feeling? What would I be feeling if I were him? Anger? Sorrow? Hatred? Relief? Revenge?
I came here hoping to give help ... to give relief ... to give something positive, anything positive ... but I have become a monster under the guise of Haitian disaster relief, and I wasn't given a choice ... what will I say to him afterward? To her? What will they say to me? I can't really see into his eyes because the plastic is imperfect, and it distorts everything on the other side, thank God ... I don't want him to see my eyes, because they don't hold the answer ... they don't hold any answer ... (stop it ... just do your best, think clearly).
I miss my "Boyz" ... running the floor, playing defense the way it should be played ... if they can just get back to that intense defensive pressure that got them the championship two years ago. They're so good when they're at their best, nobody can beat them when they're playing that way ... the swarming defense creating turnovers, turnovers creating fast-breaks, fast-breaks creating easy buckets ... everything clicking and fitting smoothly into place, it's a joy to watch ... Rondo with that back-door pass to KG for the alley-oop ... that's so sweet, perfectly timed, perfectly executed ... that's what great defense can do, it can turn a game around, when the other team is on a roll it can take control back, change the momentum, stop the bleeding, so to speak ... stop the bleeding ... Hemostasis ... please ... please ...
Release the tourniquet, the moment of truth ...
The moment of "The Truth" ... man, he was so
good in that 2007 - 2008 Finals series against the Lakers, shutting Kobe down, when people thought it was nearly impossible ... It's clean, smooth ... no bleeding, looks good. (Looks good? How can I think such a thing? This leg will never look good again) Irrigate with betadine, suction deep into the flap ... absorbable sutures, (they're not ready, Brigetta has to search, search ... but I can't complain, it's not her fault) ... suture deep fascia of the posterior flap to deep fascia and periosteum of anterior flap. Close the skin, interrupted regular. Just like that ... just ... like ... that. Dear God, forgive me ... no choice ... no choice ...
I glance at my watch, think again of my little girl, (now an amazing young woman, but forever daddy's girl), then my team ... it's around half-time now, the Boyz are heading into the locker room, the bloggers on the Game Thread posting frantically with their mid-game thoughts and analyses ... "the halcyon days of blogging" ... Donny and Mike "sending it back" to Gary and Tommy in the studio for their take on the first half ... half the game left, half the game gone ... Half a leg gone ... a whole life ruined ... dear God, another full plate of guilt, served up sweet for my birthday ... my whole life motivated by error and a striving for unattainable perfection ... now those inescapable shortcomings, those "doomed to fail before you start" premonitions by my father, the desperate longings for any kind of approval, the pursuit of a dream not my own and a profession I would never have chosen for myself, have brought me (again) to the affectation of lives not my own ... lives young and sweet and precious and vital, lives that are victims of circumstance only, (and this is where I still struggle with my Faith), lives that should not be a witness or accomplice to such horrors as these ... lives like this little angel's, with beautiful, bright, shining, dark eyes like mountain pools in moonlight, that should not have to take in the sight of a shortened limb, that should never have to cry tears of anguish and pain and loss and an altered life ... (STOP. Hold on ...)
She needs a rigid dressing to prevent flexion contraction of the knee and edema, (which will be considerable due to the infection), and as I dress the stump I allow Brigetta to take notes, (and sometimes repeat my actions herself), because she will have to change it and repeat this as the swelling goes down, possibly more than once, depending on the care (I cringe) given by the family ...
The second half of the game is probably underway by now. When this team was first put together two years ago they were a "third-quarter" team ... they'd come out from the locker room on fire and just clamp down on defense. But for some reason this year is very different, they've been struggling a lot in the third ... I wonder why? Older legs maybe? A lack of being able to sustain their focus? A change in personnel can do that, but I think they've had long enough to get used to each other with the new members added in the off-season ... sometimes there's a bit of a let-down after winning a championship, like the attainment of that goal has afforded them some slack. I hope that's not the case ... if it is
, they'll be in for a big wake-up call ... Dear Lord, what do I say to her when she wakes up? How do I even look into those soul-deep eyes without betraying my deed? How can I show her with my eyes that I'm not a monster, that I only did what I had to, that I had no choice? Maybe if I close my eyes and pray hard enough this will all just be a nightmare, and tomorrow we'll both wake up to a room full of sunlight and promise and wholeness ... dear God, I'll never be whole now, either ... I have cut out a piece of my heart and left it there on the specimen tray with her blackened limb ... God, please take the whole thing ... take my whole heart and give this angel back her wings!
STOP. You're feeling sorry for yourself. You know where this goes, and you can't go there ... not now. Robert Frost, remember? "Miles to go before I sleep ... miles to go before I ..."
With any luck the C's have made it to the fourth quarter with a bit of a lead, now it's time to put the pedal down and put the game away. Oh, how I wish I were sitting at my pc right now, trading barbs with my peeps at CB, sharing the joy (or sorrow) of the game, tossing Tommy Points around like candy just to let those people know how I value their friendship and the opportunity to share my love for this team with them.
Some would say I'm silly to get so attached to a bunch of avatars ... people whose faces I've never seen, whose voices I've never heard ... all I know of them is their writing style and screen-name, yet I am more connected to some of them than I am certain friends and family members, like cousins who I haven't seen in years. True, I've never seen or spoken to the people at CB, but I spend so much time with them, conversing, joking, arguing, analyzing, TP-ing, posting, discussing ... I'm actually missing
them, and it surprises me to even think it ... missing a bunch of bloggers?!? Go figure. We wheel her on the gurney into an adjacent "room", (just another area with four "walls" made from hanging blue tarp), I lock the wheels of the gurney and look up ... Brigetta is staring at me with that half-smile, half-terror look, and she's begging me with her eyes to go and talk to the father, telling me with that glint that she can not be part of it, that she can't even look at the man, let alone discuss this horrid thing with him ... this one's my responsibility, and mine alone. She follows me back into the make-shift O.R. to help me clean and re-prep ...
"What you tinkin' sah?" she asks, and I glance at the specimen tray where the angel's severed and blackened limb now lays, (with the invisible piece of my heart), and then back at her, and when our eyes meet she winks and smiles slightly ...
"I be takin' care dat doc-tah ... de fah-dah be wantin' dat." I nod my head and look through a gap in the tarp at where the girl lays, still unconscious ... the sweet angel changed forever by my hand ... mutilated by intent for the sake of ignorance ... never whole again, never whole ...
The game should be winding down now, hopefully a blow-out win by the C's, but more likely a nail-biter down to the last minute. Whenever I think of a close game in the fourth quarter I think of Ray and that amazing shooting stroke of his ... so smooth, shoulders squared to the basket, one fluid movement ... how many times has he clinched a game with that stroke? How many times has he bailed us out? Dear Lord, I wish someone would bail me out of this nightmare ... I can't do this anymore, this isn't me ... how did I ever get here? I can't take it ... death, disease, destruction, pain, anguish ... I can't handle this ... everywhere I go there are bodies, bloated in the heat ... limbs among the rubble and trash, that were just a short time ago attached to someone and moving ... laughing, crying, talking, going about the casual business of ordinary life ... now just inanimate objects tossed among detritus and crumbled structures ... and people just walk on by, like death won't be there if they don't acknowledge it ... like ostriches with their heads in the sand ...
But even when your eyes are closed, the smell remains ... inescapable, tangible and nauseating ... dear God get me out of here, just let me go, please ... run away, just run ... get the heck out of here ... I never wanted this, never asked for it ... I don't know these people, they don't know me ... if I run no one will care, I'll be forgotten tomorrow, and they'll find someone else to do this horrid stuff ... they'll find another sap to use as their butcher and say what they need to justify it ... no one will care if I leave ... just go ... run ... RUN!!
STOP! Wow ... gotta hang on ... what's happening to me? It's getting me rattled and I can't let it. Have to keep it together ... have to ... HOLD ON!
I wash up and go out into the waiting area and the girl's father is still standing there, no expression ... he hasn't moved all this time, standing vigil like a statue of strength. I stop a short distance from him and we just look at each other ... he's looking into me, just the way I knew he would, the way I didn't want him to ... I do my best to show concern and sympathy in my eyes, but all I'm feeling is fear and I can't hide it, and still we stand there staring at each other ... silently ...
... I know he can see the fear in my eyes, fear that he can tell how much I hate this place, how I hate this moment in time, how I hate him for bringing this deed to me, for not taking the small steps needed to prevent this, how I hate this life and the choices that brought me to this horrendous place, how I hate myself for following a path that was not of my own choosing ... how I hate myself for not having the courage to stand up to my father and tell him that my dream was not the same as his dream for me ...
The game should be over now, I'll assume we won, (of course), and Greg is interviewing somebody court-side, (maybe Paul?), asking them what the strong points were, that Rondo distributed the ball well, KG was hitting his 18-footer with consistency, Perk had been a beast inside, Ray draining threes and perfect at the stripe ... maybe talking about what weaknesses of Detroit's that they took advantage of, and what they were going to make adjustments on for the game coming up against Portland. There's always a rush of posting near the end of a game, people summing it up or celebrating a bit ... throwing TP's at each other and joking around ... man, I wish I was there ... I'd give anything to be there instead
... sharing in the joy of a win ... celebrating my team together with those friends ... not here, anywhere
but here ... dear God ... Still we're looking at each other, no words, and I'm trying so hard to not betray my feelings ... I'm staring into his dark eyes, (dark and deep like his little angel's), and they look different now, they look like they did through the plastic, distorted and abberrated ... cloudy somehow, and strange ... then I begin to realize ... he must be crying ... god no, I can't handle that, please don't ... don't go there ... I don't know what to say, I should say something, anything, but I can't speak ... I start to open my mouth but nothing comes out ...
Then this strange sound ... tip ... tip ... tip ... and he's still staring at me, no words, but now his face looks strange too, distorted like his eyes, like I'm looking through the poly at him, and the sound continues ... tip ... tip ... tip ... and a very small smile starts to change his face, and the whole thing is distorted now ... his face, his eyes, the "room" of tarp walls, like I'm looking at all of it through the clear plastic, but I'm not ... and the sound again ... tip ... tip ... tip ... and slowly I begin to realize what's happening, and I look down at the tarp floor where a small wet spot is growing ... there between my feet ... and now I know, the tears are mine, not his ... and I've betrayed myself and the facade of strength that I'm always supposed to show ... and I'm ashamed ... I can't look up ... I can't look in those eyes again ... I can't ... Then the thought occurs to me that maybe he hasn't noticed ... so I try to make a quick wipe of my face, but all I succeed in doing is making it worse ... it just streams off my chin ... and I can't speak, just the sound that we both can hear ... tip ... tip ... tip ... and I feel such a fool ... this is not me, this is not what should be happening ... this is not the tower of strength and detachment that we're supposed to emulate in such situations ... what do I do? This is horrible, horrible ... and I just keep looking down at my feet, praying for an interruption, or my voice to come back, or anything to help me through this ...
It's the post-game show now ... Tommy and Gary in the studio going over the keys to the game and whether or not the C's were successful at carrying them out. Then a post-game interview with Doc, talking about what needs to be improved on ... I love the post-game stuff, especially with Paul and KG, but they don't have those when they're on the road, so at least I'm not missing that
. Donny was the "color" guy tonight, most likely ... I'm really not crazy about his commentary, and he's just not the shameless homer that Tommy is, (and should be), but I love listening to Mike try and get a word in when Donny is yapping ... you can tell he'd love
to give Donny a whack once-in-a-while, and it's a riot ... It's not working ... my face is still wet and I still can't speak and I'm still staring at the floor like a kid being scolded in front of the class, praying for some kind of divine intervention ... something, anything ... and then I finally get it ... a pair of shoes across from mine ... a hand ... on my shoulder ... and a voice:
"Tank you, sah ... tank so much doc-tah"
No, don't say that ... please don't say that ... please dear God don't let him say that ... I want to scream at him not to say that ... anything else ... anything ...
"Tank you so much doc-tah, sah ... tank you."
I'm shocked ... really ... he can't be saying this ... can't be! I finally look up at him with my horrid wet face, through streaks of fluid, and there are now other people in the room behind him, looking at me in this horrible condition, with their deep, dark sparkling eyes ...
"Dis da fahm-ly ... my wife and ah-dah chil-drahn." Dear God, no ... how can I face these people? I'm so ashamed. But I have to face them ... no escape ... I look at each one briefly as he introduces them, with my wet eyes and red face, and they smile at me ... smile! Don't they know what I've just done? Don't they realize that their little angel has now been maimed for life? Don't they understand? Why aren't they mad at me? Why are they so phlegmatic? Why don't they grasp the horror of what just happened here?!? Still they stand there and smile at me, and I'm shocked ... this shouldn't be happening ... shouldn't ...
The post-game show goes back to the arena now for a last word from Mike and Donny, and the "Player Of the Game" Award ... who would it be in Detroit, I wonder? If we won there it would have a lot to do with Perk and KG, they'd have
to have a big game in the paint, so I'll go with Perk ... been a while since he got the award anyway ... yeah, Perk ... I like that ... So they're still standing there, smiling, with flowers for their sister/daughter and little packages of what I can tell are food treats for her to eat when she awakens. I think to myself that it's a bit of wasted effort, really, because she's not going to feel like eating for quite a while. The shock of their behavior has now brought some normalcy, (and dryness), back to my face, (thank God), and since I find I can speak again, too, I explain to them what the procedure was like, that she did very well with the anesthesia, what they can expect in the days and weeks to come, and how they will need to help her, etc..
When I'm finally done with the standard "post-op" diatribe, I motion that they can go in now and give her the flowers and gifts, though I explain also that she might not be aware of their presence for a little while yet. At this point I'm finally beginning to feel somewhat relieved, thinking the worst is over and that I've got my little embarrassment under control, (it must be the lack of sleep that's making me so emotional?). So I turn to lead them into the area where she is, and I hear the father's voice again: "Please wait a moment, Doc-tah."
So I turn back around and they're all standing in this little line, waiting, and I think to myself that this is a bit odd, but then it's a foreign country, so what do I know? Then I see the father give a little nod in their direction, and one-by-one they walk up to me and hand me the flowers and little packages of food, and each one speaks to me individually: "Tank you, Sah" ... "Tank so much, Sah" ... "Tanks, Doc-Tah" ... "God bless you, Sah" ... "Bless you, Doc-Tah" ... well, now I'm standing there like a deer caught in the headlights, and my finally dry eyes and cheeks are rapidly returning to their previous embarrassing state, and when the last member of the family has finished their little presentation to me, the father steps up to me again and puts his hand out for me to shake. Though I'm still in a state of shock, I reach my trembling hand out and take his and shake it firmly, and as I do so he puts his other hand on top of the ones we're shaking, and looks into my eyes, and I can tell that he can tell that I'm more than a little bit confused, and the small smile creeps onto his face again, and the dark eyes twinkle, and he says very softly, but very assuredly:
"I tank you from da bah-tom of my haht." And I look back at him, (with an expression that I know must be incredulous), and I'm sure he can tell that I'm even more confused than ever, and now I'm beginning to think that maybe I've missed something, that maybe they didn't understand me completely, that maybe, (God forbid), they still don't know that I've removed their little angel's lower leg, and my heart sinks again, because I'm thinking that there's a possibility that I still haven't conveyed the reality to them sufficiently, and I can feel the fear creeping slowly back into the pit of my stomach ... so I finally say:
"Please, Sir, I pray you don't take this the wrong way, but do you understand what has happened here? I have just removed your daughter's lower leg ... there was no choice, it was dead tissue, and it was spreading to .."
And he raises his hand to stop my explanation and says:
"We know what you do Sah ... we know."
I know he can read the continued confusion in my face now, but I still stumble on:
"Please forgive me, but I don't understand, why are you thanking me? Why the gifts and flowers? This is going to make life much harder for her ... she will never be the same ... she will need prosthetics to walk again, it will be a long, slow recovery process, and she will be ..."
And he raises his hand to interrupt again and says:
"Don't ya see, Sah? You have taken hah leg ... but you have given us back hah life." Well, the weight and reality of these words hits me like a sledge hammer, and it takes my breath ... he motions the rest of the family toward the gap in the tarp, because he can tell that I've lost my voice again, (and he knows I'm embarrassed by the water returning to my eyes), and they go quietly in to be with their little angel. They all disappear behind the tarp but I can tell I'm still not alone, and when I look through tears toward the triage area, I see Brigetta standing there, hands on hips, and I know she has witnessed this whole thing, and she has a new set of mini-mudslides on her face, and the biggest smile I've seen since I've been there. She says nothing, but winks at me and disappears behind the tarp.
I stand there for what seems an endless amount of time, listening to the family talk softly behind the tarp about the celebration they'll have when they get her home, and how they were lucky to not have much damage to the building they live in, letting my face slowly dry and my eyes clear up sufficiently to see again. When my vision finally returns, I place the flowers and gifts on the small chair by the entrance, and slowly walk to the "door" in the tarp, and look out on the now quiet street, at the lights twinkling in the dark, (like the twinkle in those dark eyes). For the first time since I arrived I realize that there's no orange glow in the sky, there are no fires burning tonight, and the heavens are clear. Some of those twinkling lights are actually stars ... the first stars I've seen in what seems like a very long time. I also notice what a beautiful night it is ... how the direction of the breeze has changed, and though it probably won't last long, for now the air is clean and sweet and finally free of foul odors. As I stand there absorbing the stillness of the evening, I'm suddenly struck by the irony of the situation ... that here, amidst all this destruction and death and misery and pain, here in the midst of this living nightmare, a ray of light has found it's way to me ... here in the midst of one of the worst experiences of my life, a poor family besieged by tragedy has taught me a lesson in kindness, forgiveness, understanding, grace, and a boundless appreciation for life. Here amidst the cold reality of chaos and horror, a simple people have found a way to renew my faith and warm me to the limit of my being.
I stand there in the clear night air and breathe it deeply into my lungs ... and in the midst of this ravaged landscape, I smile.
I wonder who got the Tommy Award?
* I would learn later that their small gifts were not just a way to say thank you, but were their way of welcoming me to their family ... and the small angel's wrist that I had earlier checked for a pulse, now sports a "rare collectible" Celtics watch ... so I'll always be keeping an eye on her, (my daughter approved highly).