Friday, December 22, 2006
He WAS a Contender.........
I was quite a number of years ago, while I was still a relatively new PCT working in the Critical Care Unit of my hospital. Already I was used to the comings and goings of the elderly patients that make up the bulk of our admissions. Most are in such bad shape, either due to disease or the ravages of time, that you don't have much real interaction with them, other than the care you afford them. Some regain a modicum of health and return to home or nursing care, others succumb to the inevitable, regardless of our high tech interventions, and make their way to Summerland, where we will all end up, in whatever guise we choose to believe.
There are those occasions, however, that these souls pass by you with their minds more or less intact, and you interact with personalities, unique individuals with unique histories, and more often than not they are more than happy to share their snippets of wisdom with you, or spin you a yarn that really grabs your interest.
This gentleman I speak of tonight had had his share of hard knocks, said knocks encountered of his own volition and choosing. He once was a prize fighter, back in the day, or so he said, and waxed with me a few rounds he made with better known names of the boxing world. Yes, I suppose, he imagined once he could be a contender, but like most who put on those gloves and suffer the insults to gut and head, he made his mark and faded into obscurity, at least in my mind, for I had never heard of him, and doubt that many had, especially considering how old he was. But, this man had known his own glory days, and who was I to weigh and measure that glory? I listened to his stories as though I was in the presence of Sonny Liston or Mohammed Ali. And as far as I was concerned, his stories carried as much weight.
What made me realize how genuine, if not historic, this man's story was, was when he, in a most matter-of-fact-fashion, asked me if I wanted his autograph. Still not having a clue as to who this gentlemen might have been in his day, I informed him I would be honored to be given such. I handed him a slip of paper and he scrawled his moniker as best he could, with a shaky hand that spoke of his numbered days.
What bothers me most this day, as I write this remembrance, is that I do not remember whether this man made it back home alive or not. So many have, as many have not. It's hard to keep them all straight, there have been so many. Almost every day, they return to the unit on one of the many trips through critical care they will take on their way out of this world, and they will recognize me, greet me as an old friend, and I smile and humor them, embarrassed that, more often than not, I have lost their face in the crowd of souls I have encountered through these ten-plus years I have done this job. I do know that considering how long ago this meeting occurred, he has most certainly passed beyond the veil.
But I still have proof that you were here, that you might have meant something in your own way to people, least of all to me. I don't remember the name that you were admitted to my unit under, but I will always remember you, Kid.
You'll always be a contender as far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm alive to remember you.