Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It seems that everything is black and white ” at least in Denver ” this close to the Democratic National Convention. The political pulp makes for thicker newspapers, which leads to stretching out the simple enjoyment of reading a newspaper over breakfast in a hotel restaurant, separated from the hustle and bustle of a remotely familiar downtown rush hour by a half inch of glass running from sidewalk to the ceiling. Today it is not my rush hour, so I enjoy the ordered chaos that is these “Strangers in Suits'” lives.
This is the beginning of the constitutional “free period,” when we are excused from acknowledging that roughly half the country is made up of narrow-minded, short-sighted idiots who, despite all irrefutable evidence, refuse to see the truth. Everyone is frustrated. We are even allowed to overlook our own candidate saying idiotic things now and then, because we know this is the only way to get a few of the idiots to switch over to our side. Ironically, it’s worth getting more idiots on our side in order to win.
I immerse myself in this black and white until the last editorial that will certainly set the other guys straight is read and the last sip of coffee just a dried ring in the bottom of the cup. I fold my newspaper; it’s time to visit an old friend in the hospital, where nothing has been certain lately.
I am nervous on the drive. These trips haven’t been easy. I don’t say much and wonder if the people who wrote the pop music playing on the XM radio have ever had real troubles weighing on their minds, like the cowboys do on another station a few clicks away.
The elevator bell rings, and the doors slide open. My family exits into a hallway that empties into an open area. There is a table against the wall, with a man in a wheelchair sitting at it, hunched over, working a jigsaw puzzle. As we approach, I see that it is a simple puzzle, one with kittens playing in a basket that has been tipped over with no resultant damage.
My first thought is, this can’t be him. This can’t be the friend that I grew up with, tipping over baskets of our own when we were too young to realize there was nothing inside of them, except for the laughs we filled them with after we took the curiosity out. That made such pointless exploration worth all the hours that we spent at it.
Things couldn’t have possibly turned like this since my last visit. I test my voice, and the quiet air that might carry it.
“Jeff,” I say, trying not to disturb him abruptly.
He turns and smiles hugely when he sees us. It’s almost too good to be true. It really is him, and we excitedly begin the conversation that hasn’t come since the last time I saw him conscious, back at the earliest signs of springtime. There is a lot of catching up to do after a seven-week coma.
He remembers my wife, Susan, and my two kids who have come with us and asks about the third, who couldn’t join us because she is away at volleyball camp ” remarkable because I’d heard a week ago that he didn’t remember much. The only thing he doesn’t seem to remember too well is work, and I applaud him for putting that one on the back burner to deal with the larger issues of regaining his life. He begins to show off and rattles off birth dates and high school trivia. He wants to prove to us that he’s back, but I don’t need any proof.
His wife, also a Susan, hears the commotion of this joyful reunion and appears in her own wheelchair at the table. No one can convince me it is not a miracle to see these two people come back from lives held together only by prayer after they were violently smashed into head-on one Thursday night in May, a mile from their home in Basalt, by an alleged drunken driver. In my own experience, this emergence from dark that can never be described is on par with seeing my children come into this world.
The next day I return and must keep up with Jeff as he is worked through his physical therapy session. They don’t let their patients stop for chitchat at Craig Hospital, one of the leading brain-injury rehabilitation centers in the country. He’s standing up, catching and throwing a beach ball.
“Awesome,” says his therapist.
He flashes her a smile like Ken Griffey Jr. must give to first-time gawkers around the batting cage: “Sure.”
She picks up a much smaller ball. He grabs it from the air and tosses it back a couple of times. She’s teasing the show-off now and throws one at him from underneath her leg. They’re both laughing, and, in an instant, she recognizes her mistake.
“No,” she blurts, reaching to stop him. But it’s too late. He reaches low and fires one back to her from between his legs ” incredible!
Jeff and Susan have a long way to go yet to full recoveries. But the distance they went away and have returned from is much farther. I have little doubt they will be home soon.
In politics, things are drawn in crisp lines; this is one thing, and that is another. Faith and science have become opposing explanations. I know that they are not. There is no science without faith that God will keep the order in the universe true. There is no faith where science cannot replicate and predict this order we rely on. In the real world, in hospitals that take care of your friends, you see this.
Where it matters, truth is not a compromise and is not made by rhetoric or through political advertisements. It is not necessarily found between the right and the left. It is where it is, where it has always been, hiding from the idiots.
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