Arnie; Part 2

Aaron and I had been skating.  He had new skates, it was winter break and we wanted to get out.

Aaron, around age 8

Aaron, around age 8

The rink was nearly empty, and we had plenty of space to dip and spin and fall and play tag, getting our feet back under us for the winter.  In the summer, on a boat, you need sea legs, but in the friction-free winter, you need to get used to slickness – winter legs.

We neared the driveway and Aaron said, “Hey, Dad, do you think Dr. Schaffer might like to see us?”

“Sure, he would, Aaron.  He’s always glad to listen to you,” I said.

“Yeah, I can tell. He always tries to smile when he looks at me. Do you think he got downstairs today?”

“Hard tellin’ not knowin, kiddo.  When you’re as sick as Arnold is, you have good days and bad days.  I know he can’t stand up anymore. He’s too weak.  Mrs. Schaffer has to feed him now, I think.”

“What was yesterday, Dad? A good day or a bad day?” he asked.

“A pretty good day, I think. He was smiling when we came in, listening to the opera, and then he really smiled when he saw you,” I said.

“Music can make you feel pretty good, can’t it, Dad? Like when we listen to the new Santana to get ready for soccer, huh?  And I can’t, you know, relax and fall asleep without my sleeping CD.”

We parked and rang the bell. Mae Nella answered. She smiled at Aaron.

“Come to see the Doc, have ya? Ohhh my goodness…this  your little one what you Momma and Daddy used to push in the stroller?  Mercy, when he get so big and strong? Too fast, isn’t it? My youngest grandbaby ain’t no baby anymore, either. He’s eight now.”

Her smile glowed at us.

“He had a tough mornin’. He hurt.”

She pursed her lips and frowned.

“Hard to get ‘im down the stairs but he’s OK now. Head right on in, he’s in his chair.”

We walked through the kitchen and stopped in the entryway to the den, hearing the Pavarotti and peeking around the corner, checking to see if he was awake.  Arnold’s head was turned away but I could see his eyes were open.  We walked in, he turned his head, and his eyes opened wide with joy.

“Aaron, my young friend,” he husked. “How are you?”

The effort made him close his eyes for a moment.

“Me and my Dad been skating. I got new skates, well, bought second hand but new for me, anyway, they look really new, and were up at Birch Run skating and we decided to stop by and say hi.”

Aaron paused a beat.

“Hi, Arnold.”

Arnold drew his eyebrows together, puzzled.

“Skating? In Birch Run?” he asked.

I could see Arnold concentrated; thinking.

“Near the outlet mall, Arnold. The NHL opened up a great rink right across from the outlet mall, near Tony’s Restaurant,” I said.

It made me smile, using as a landmark a restaurant best known for one pound BLTs to a Jew who keeps kosher.

“I had a hard time at first, “Aaron said, looking at me but speaking to Arnold.

“Aaron, you need to mostly talk right to Dr. Schaffer.  It might be hard for him to hear you otherwise, I said.

I looked at Arnold for assent.

He nodded. “I’m just hanging on, don’t know … how much longer.”

His head fell back, his mouth fell open a bit, and his eyes closed while he took several deep breaths.  I stood up to go. The rustling of my parka, still cold with the winter’s first snow, startled him.

“No,” he said. “What are … you boys doing … (deep gasp) tomorrow?”

His head fell back again.

“Me and my Dad and my stepbrother BJ are going up North skiing. Uptoskey. Well, snowboarding really, with my new snowboard, my brother and me, we’ll ride, but my Dad, he’ll ski. Snowboarding’s for kids, mostly.”

“We’ll go now, Arnold. You’re tired, I can tell,” I said.

We got up to go.

“Thanks for coming,” he said, each word separated with a deep breath.

I lifted the end of his blanket and peeked at his feet. They were no more swollen than yesterday, and they were a healthy looking pink.

“Your feet look good today, Arnold. Pink feet, happy feet.”

He smiled. I walked to the other end of his chair, took his hand in mine, and bent and kissed him on the cheek, holding my stubbly face against his freshly shaven cheek for a moment.

“Be good,” I whispered.

“Okay,” he rasped.

We saw ourselves out, Aaron and I.  On the back porch, he turned his face up towards me and said brightly, “That was a nice visit. Can we go home and get a snack now?”

To read part 1 of this seven part series, click here.

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The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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