Irving Kenneth Zola

I sat there looking, listening, feeling. And he lay there in many ways as I always remembered him -- burly but soft, a fellow teddy-bear. I liked his new beard. We were becoming a matched pair. But that, of course, was partly why I was here. I had been and was where he was going. His eyes sought mine as he began to speak but mine focussed on his missing part. His left leg now ended below his knee and was suspended in mid-air...held by wires, screws and cables.

He spoke of all the cards, letters and visits he had received -- all the expressions of love and caring. But I thought of all that wasn't said. So many of us did not know what to do -- as if we had to do something. Others were ashamed of the feelings it brought up. For me it was what once had been. For others it was the fear of what might someday be. Less spoken of was what it might mean for him . . . .the almost rhetorical, will he be able to . . .? ? ?

My own eyes drifted once more to his stump. My stomach jumped as I forced myself to look at it. Bandaged, covered, hidden, we both knew that something sad lay beneath. The wrappings were stained, a message that despite all the effort there was something there that had to get out, something that had to be dealt with.

"Why did you have to be so damned physical?" I said to myself. And he, almost reading my thoughts, spoke of the weekends he used to go skiing. He knew that he probably would be able to do so again but he resented a doctor's telling him that the missing limb would make no difference. "The hell it won't. It's not there anymore! And I'll know it everytime I put on the damn prosthesis."

Again we spoke of all the visitors and what they said. . . and didn't say. Then with a smile, he pushed himself up. "Have you noticed my daughter? What she does when she visits?"

"No," I answered.

"Well, whenever she comes in, she doesn't come up to me right away. She stays there by the door and blows me a kiss. Only later when she's been here awhile does she begin to come closer. And then when she's about to leave, she climbs on the bed, kisses my nose and hugs me tightly. The other day as she was about to leave she pulled back for a moment, hesitating as she was about to drop off the bed, "Don't want to hurt Daddy's boo-boo.'" He told this with no regrets, only the simple pride and caring of an understanding father.

It was 9:00 p.m. and time to leave. As I leaned over his bed he looked up and said, "I love you." I smiled and answered in return, "I love you too." His arms reached out to hold me and tentatively I let my shoulders touch his. I, too, was afraid of hurting Daddy's boo-boo. So with my lips pressed against his I tried to say without words what I felt. Like his daughter, and despite my own fear, I too can be here and will be.


copyright Irving Kenneth Zola