March 20, 2012 10:08:24 AM
"There oughta be an easier way," I hollered down at him. He looked up and smiled, "It's OK, I could use the exercise."
He slowly lifted his foot while bracing himself with a crutch clasped onto his right arm. He held the other crutch in his left hand and struggled to pull himself up the rail. I looked down from 16 concrete steps and a landing. He was on the fourth step.
"You know, there's a handicap entrance on the side over there ... but it looks like you're kind of committed here. Is there anything I can do?"
"Yes, young lady, you can hang this crutch on the end of that rail up there."
As he nodded up, I thought I might like him 'cause he called me "young."
He continued, "Been getting around like this for 22 years. I was in a bad accident and they said I wouldn't live." He hoisted another foot up another step.
"When I lived they said I'd never get up; my neck was broken and my spine was shattered."
I told him I'd been talking to a friend about that kind of thing. The friend said they'd end their life if there was no hope they'd get better.
"Thought about it. 'Bout three days into it, I started crying. I wanted to die if I'd never be no better than that." He paused. "Things changed when late one night this nurse asked if I knew Jesus. Told her I'd joined the church when I was 13 years old. She said, 'I didn't ask you that. I asked if you knew Jesus.'"
"I got to thinking and that night I told Jesus if he wanted me to stay in that bed the rest of my life, I would. I had a 4-year-old granddaughter; least I could give her some advice. Yep, I told Jesus that, and the next day I could move my legs and two weeks later I went home."
By now he'd made his way to the landing but I still couldn't leave him. "What's your name?"
"Junior Andrews," he answered. "I got a motorized scooter but I need the exercise. Where do you live young lady?"
I told him my name and said I lived in the Prairie, not quite Columbus. He pointed where he lived, and then he started bragging.
"I can do lots of things. I keep up my yard. I got an electric chainsaw and one of those gadgets that you can pick up things. Sometimes I have to get out of the chair and pull over to the flower bed," he laughed. "You wouldn't believe how many folks stop and ask me if I fell out of the chair. Folks are real nice like that."
As we were parting I said, "You know, if you had used the handicap entrance I never would have met you."
"Some things are meant to be," he grinned, "like that nurse. I never saw her again."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
1. Our View: Finding a successor for Mr. Lewis DISPATCH EDITORIALS
2. Lynn Spruill: Universal language LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Ask Rufus: Coming home at Christmas LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Michael Gerson: For a politics of repair NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Dana Milbank: Marco Rubio's fury NATIONAL COLUMNS