A warrior’s heart beat in his chest. And for as long as he could remember his warrior’s heart compelled him to run, but now he sensed the running had controlled too much of his life … and his moral compass. The truth he could no longer deny, evidenced by the remnants of his life’s battles was not a final joyous victory, but a deep-seated loneliness stark as a desert, an external callousness hard as diamond, an overwhelming pain deep as the ocean’s darkest depths, and an immeasurable fear tormenting his days, nights, and all the spaces in between.
The spaces of memory in between where, a voice right now, was trying to reach him, it’s call echoing off the hollow walls of his being, while streaming tears painting the face before him meant nothing more than mere curiosity. A vein-etched hand reached out to touch the salty stream, but the face’s eyes widened and he saw, rather than felt, the strike slide sharply across his face.
The unexpected force of the slap turned his face away from the striker’s face. The measurement of the power behind the strike registered a three on his internal Richter scale.
Returning a vacant stare to the being still before him, his sinewy arm rose to return the strike, but froze in mid-air. Abruptly, his body commanded a retreat as the words, “Do not engage. Do not engage,” reverberated throughout his internal canyons.
Riding the wake of his retreat, a piercing scream rippled through the heavy, stagnant air.
Without even a backward glance, he strode forward, eyes scanning the horizon searching for a familiar face. Features on faces rolled by as indistinguishable objects not worthy of his attention. Neurons fired, pushing, pushing, but his legs seemed to have forgotten their function. Distracted by his attempts to understand and fix the problem, he did not feel his legs betray him until his body hit the sharp coldness of the tiled cement floor.
Shocked by the impact, his confidence wavered, though only briefly. Thoughts attempted to penetrate the thick walls of his command centre, yet they were not breaking through. The thin parchment of skin covering the still-supple, sinewy muscles flooded red under the surface of his flesh without notice as he focused intently on the task of righting his wronged body. The lightning strike of pain flashed brightly within, briefly grabbing his attention, yet in seconds subdued as he shut out down all sensations to focus on the immediate task of springing back onto his feet because he knew he must. Not to would reveal weakness, opening the door to defeat and someone else taking control.
Once upon his feet, his thoughts drifted to distant, far away places as his confined sojourn continued. Fields upon fields of green, gold and brown fanned out in all directions until they melded softly with the blue horizon. A man’s deep voice, his father’s, droned constantly throughout his being, calling out to him from across the sea of fields, but he felt his legs pushing him further and further away from the fields into a place to call his own. Not just a place, but a state of being. A running warrior at heart, he knew he must never give up. Faster and faster his legs carried him, while face after face tried to imprint his mind, but disappeared as quickly as they arrived, not powerful enough to interrupt his quest of conquering the corridors with his perpetual forward motion.
“Run! Faster!” muscle memory urged as it had since he was a stripling of a boy. As if his childhood was today, he pushed forward with all his might, his eighty-year old legs pumping rhythmically like his eight year old legs once did to keep up with his bicycling friends. The promise of the awaiting cool creek water on the hot summer’s day fired each beat of his feet hitting the dirt road, as did the teasing, yet admirable glances of his friends flashed at him for his for his physical prowess, feeding the hunger for acceptance and approval he never truly felt.
“Good. Good,” he urged himself on, “Keep going!” resounded through his being as one foot pounded the ground in front of the other. “Come on!” the command reverberated throughout the mazes of his personal canyons as they had all the days of his warrior life.
Another flash, this time of clarity, lit his mind and eyes for a moment and he saw what was in front of him with the detailed accuracy of crisp details. Long, white hair topped the collar of the dark shirt and draped over a deeply furrowed forehead, almost obscuring the rich, deep chocolate eyes almost void of light, highlighting his gaunt cheeks. Remnants of a once known face stared back at him in the bright light, but just as he reached out to touch the reflected image, as fast as the clarity arrived, it vanished.
Pulses fired constantly though there was no guarantee of what switches they turned on and off.
One moment, he was back on the country road with his childhood friends, the next, running amidst a group of his adult friends playing lacrosse, his longer legs thrusting him across the smooth, cool grey cement amidst the shouts of a myriad of voices echoing off arena walls. In yet another, his feet pounded the yielding sandy beach littered with varying sizes of stone and wood, plus the indicators of humanity’s presence.
Sporadically and temporarily, his life was now all about the comings and goings of his mind. For moments, hours, and sometimes days, his eyes brightened with the fire of life before receding into the abyss that had become his mind, then suddenly, without warning, a cold blast of arctic-like blew threw his mind, sharpening the edges of his memories till they cut deep and cold like shards of ice do when blood vacates flesh though at this moment John felt an an even colder blast zoom in from the north as strange hands grasped his arms and an unfamiliar voice barked a command he could not and did not want to hear.
The startling invasion forced him to draw back violently from the perceived attack. Abruptly, mobile command interceded with the command to spin about face on his heels to escape at full speed, adroitly avoiding the obstacles of people, wheelchairs, and supply carts.
But, in anticipation of his attempt to flee, the invader’s hands seized hold of him once again, evoking from him the primal sound a wild animal makes when a predator digs into its prey’s flesh before striking the death blow.
A struggle ensued, not just of the body, but of the minds. For some unknown reason to him, he did not like the voice trying to keep him still with its disturbing grip and words he did not want to hear.
“Come on John. It’s time to …”
“NO!” his voice broke finally as he wiggled out of the voice’s grasp.
“John,” another voice echoed deep off his internal canyon walls, but this voice’s smoothness settled upon like a welcome summer breeze.
The soft, soothing voice, he realized, had a pretty face. Leaning in gently, John smiled flirtatiously.
“John,” the soothing voice said, “Company is coming to visit. Let’s get you cleaned up,” she cajoled.
“I don’t want to,” John murmured.
“But you want to go for a car ride, don’t you?”
“Let’s go!” John abruptly yelled with enthusiasm as his body also responded quickly by quivering with anticipation. “Let’s go!”
“Let’s get you changed first John,” the pretty woman urged gently, now leading the strong, wiry body towards the ward room.
Without warning it seemed, hands touched him in ways no one should. He didn’t like it. His stomach turned over and over, like an engine that wouldn’t start, while the woman’s words strove to soothe his obvious fretting nerves as her hands steadily went about their business of toiletry and clothing changes.
Just when John had reached his boiling point, the pretty face smiled widely at John, “Okay John. You’re good to go,” as she directed his movements towards to escape opening once called a door, leaving the disturbing sounds of a lone television blasting the air with its non-stop noise invasion and the occasional yells of its taskmaster.
Freed once again to the corridors where freedom resulted from motion, a face and body loomed on the horizon stirring up something deep within John. Recognition dawned. Crying out with zest, “Hey! Come on! Let’s go!” John rallied, stepping up his speed even few normal people could muster.
Peeking around the body of the new arrival, a second visitor appeared on the mundane horizon. Stepping boldly into John’s personal space, the second visitor, a petite, brown-haired woman, smiled profusely and warmly greeted him with a soft “Hello John.” Tenderly placing a loving kiss on John’s lips, the two visitors watched John’s face burst into such brightness it momentarily appeared as if all clouds had been cleared from his mind.
From the back of the car, John barked his commands to the driver while the petite woman tucked in the back seat with him, held his hand and chattered into the non-hearing aided ears he preferred because silence was his choice rather than the sounds echoing in both the corridors and canyons of his prisons.
A gentle flick of the driver’s wrist on the steering wheel softly united the backseat passengers. Child-like laughter burst into the air. Enraptured, John broke into songs he did not know he knew as his companions chimed in. “I make up my own songs too. I could have been a professional,” John enthusiastically offered before finally slipping back into his own world of outward silence.
“Please, please! Don’t leave me here. Take me with you!” his husky voice pleaded. “No don’t, please don’t leave me here,” he cried as glass doors once again confined him to the indoors he had grown to hate. Hurt and angry, mobile command set him in motion and the attack on the corridors began … again because he hated his shared ward room. He had no choice but to find a quiet space to claim for peace of mind.
Far away from the hustling noises of desks and loud people, a quiet room beckoned with its empty bed and sleeping companion in the other bed. Slipping peacefully into a restful sleep, John started violently when a harsh voice woke him and hands tugged at him again. “No,” he struggled, but the voices were persistent.
“This isn’t your bed or your room John,” the voices stated, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to sleep in the quiet space.
Hands on him again led him down the corridor and left him the loud room. “This is your room John,” the two voices echoed at the same time. John’s nose wrinkled with distaste as pairs of hands attempted to settle him in his own bed. Within moments of the hands departure, the blaring television reminded him of his starvation for the peaceful space his mind needed to rest his command centre. As if watching from a distance, John his body rise, and as always, his legs thrusting him forward. But when he returned to the quiet room, someone had taken his place. He couldn’t have this. He needed to sleep here. Without hesitation, he pulled back the covers and grabbed the body with the intent to pull it from where he longed to be.
Suddenly though, something was very wrong.
John heard a man’s angered voice. “That’s my wife’s bed and my wife!” Unexpectedly, the once-quiet room was flooded with a flurry of activity and stern voices. Not so gently this time, John felt the hands upon him trying to force him into the place he did not want to go and the warrior in him rose to the surface. Flailing arms and legs, John tried to keep his assailants from handling him, but too many grabbed hold and suddenly he was no longer in control.
He did not like riding in this vehicle because they forced him to lie down. He knew this because he tried to move and discovered the straps tying him down. Sweat began to seep up from the surface of his flesh. Breathing laboured. “Run” mobile command urged, but he couldn’t. He wanted to fight, but couldn’t. Terror began to rack his body. “What had he done?” his voice echoed inside, but no answers resounded.
The quietness of a new private room soothed him. An almost forgotten peace settled upon him. Unfamiliar faces appeared again on the horizons of the new smaller corridors. Now and then, when his lights flashed on, John wondered where his visiting companions were. Days melted into weeks and then into months. His brain seemed to be getting better because he knew he was remembering more and more, but then something happened that took him to a place so dark he was afraid he would never return.
Even when a familiar face arrived, he could not get the words stored in his canyons out. Strangely, even his legs refused to stand. He did not understand why all of a sudden his body refused to heed commands from mobile centre. The familiar face his heart told him was dear to him streaked with tears, as she and an unfamiliar face struggled to his coat upon his immobile body strapped into a wheelchair.
“What have you done to him?” echoed off the walls.
“I would report it if I were you,” the woman replied before quickly exiting the room.
Riding in the car wasn’t fun anymore either, but neither was a wheelchair. The return to the corridor place was eased by not having to return to the television room, but to a two-bed room.
Tired and sore from sitting or lying down, his body felt really different, but he didn’t know why because it looked the same. His legs felt disconnected from his body though they were still attached. They now longer cooperated with command central, yet the insatiable desire to move relentlessly pounded out the message, “Run!”
He heard, rather than felt, the snapping of the bone in his thigh. Shock courses through him with the realization his body was betraying him. He felt something shift in him. He felt the urge to fight like the warrior he was leaving him as he lay once again on his back in a vehicle that delivered back to the hospital once again.
“Are we going to fix the leg or just block it and leave him in bed,” a asked the circle of familiars surrounding him. John wanted to scream out “Help me” but no words formed and escaped his parched lips. Amidst the non-medicated pain throbbing his body, a quiet sigh of relief escaped John’s lips when the group of women replied unanimously, “Fix it!”
When John awoke, a new terror besieged him. The constant hurting was gone, but ripped apart by severed bone; he could no longer run from his demons. Forced into stillness, the reel of memories dominating his internal theatre was not about his running, but the brokenness his constant running yielded. Images of those he hurt, including himself, deliberately and not, haunted him, frightening him to the point he could no longer breathe. He felt his heart flutter. The wetness of a tear escaping the decaying canyons of mind and body surprisingly soothed him, easing the grasp of fearful desperation with the light of hope this was the beginning and not the end.
Through A Daughter’s Eyes
Kaitlin Ann Trepanier, Founder, Artistic Director, & President of Connecting the Dots … with The Respect Principle http://www.therespectprinciple.com ©All Rights Reserved 2016
In memory of my father and the tragic last few years of his life
with the hope for change in our senior care system.
Rest in peace Dad.