By Kris Radish
There is one window just beyond the little cell in this white emergency room that lets me see the waving hands of the Hawaiian palm trees. The kids are out there building forts with dead branches and making the most out of something that has now turned into a whole new kind of experience.
I am bending up and down and helping my elderly friend who has fallen in the sand on the first day of her long awaited vacation.
I am cleaning her shoes and her underwear and I am watching her grimace in pain and I am thinking about how this was not part of the plan. Not at all. We were just supposed to get her to Hawaii before she got too sick and old.
I am talking to the nurses and hoping the doctor is not a jackass because my friend is one tough old bird who was a nurse and probably could turn this goddamn hospital upside down in about twelve minutes.
I am also looking into her Irish eyes and seeing all the years of her life flood onto the sheets like a river of pain. Her life is bleeding out like a worn out song and this “I’ve fallen in the sand” event is the single movement that has pushed her over the edge.
Later, when we help her up the steps and I bathe her and bring her food and then we spend quiet days helping her walk and shifting her legs and moving just that one slow inch at a time, I will listen as she tells me her life story.
She talks because the dam was somehow jarred loose when she fell and there is no stopping her now. She likes the way I tell people to go to hell and how I do my own thing, so she trusts that our hearts have always flown in the same direction. She talks until I nod off in the dark and then she starts all over again when I pour the milk on her cereal hours and hours later.
As the stories build into a moment that has reached way beyond the doors and has filled the living room and the long porch and is now moving towards the Pacific Ocean, I see a sparkle spread from one of her eyes to the next until she realizes suddenly that, “By God, I’ve had a life.”
Forget the pineapples and the fruit drinks and walking through the sand I tell her. I hold up the mirror and she sees all the stories floating past her and she sees that she has covered more ground then one-hundred marauding camels and she has written her own book of rules and she has seen the sun rise in Mexico and set in the Mississippi swamps.
Before we take her home I will sneak off to the beach by myself and plant my feet half in and half out of the swirling water. I will throw my dried flowers, the lei of hope, into the highest wave and watch as it drifts to the farthest corner by the rocks and struggles to get back out into the open water. It is still there, fighting like a son-of-a-bitch when I turn to face the rest of my life.
Already I see my wish coming true and thousands of nights of adventure erasing the word no from the slate where I store my guidelines and then I am walking naked on a thin line of wire that stretches around the world and touches hearts and smiles at the storms and never, ever do I look back but always ahead.
This story is republished with permission from SparkPress, publisher of Kris Radish’s latest book of nonfiction works, “Gravel on the Side of the Road.”
Meet the Author
Kris Radish is the author of nine novels and two works of non-fiction, including “Gravel on the Side of the Road” (SparkPress 2014). A former award-winning journalist, magazine writer, nationally syndicated columnist, waitress, worm picker and university lecturer — to name
just a few of her past lives — Radish is also co-owner of Wine Madonna in downtown St. Petersburg, where she hosts book clubs and literary events. She calls her genre Broads Who Have Been There. It takes one to know one, she says.