Before I get to Tony….one more short story about Ralph…. about 4 years after his discharge and after I had gone to NJ to watch him coach his team in a game, he called me to say his team was invited to a tournament at my alma mater, Jacksonville University…. he was going to fly with the team but he needed his van to get around the city….. his father was going to drive the van down to Jacksonville, would I like to keep his father company on the trip and get to see my college again!
Wow! That sounded like so much fun! so 11 years after I graduated, it was back to Jacksonville…. while Ralph was a patient at Rusk, I spent many sessions with his family…. His dad especially. So I looked forward to the chance to give his dad some “free therapy”… his dad took what happened to Ralph the hardest. Ralph’s mom and sister were very strong women, who focused on doing whatever they could to make his life as good as it could be…. his dad, thought that God abandoned him. He would repeatedly say “How can a loving God make this happen to my son.” ….with my support, he was able to verbalize his feelings without any judgment from me and that created a trusting relationship…. I measured up to his high expectations, of what he expected out of a “shrink”…. he also loved watching how much his son got excited whenever I was around him…. he witnessed how I was able to motivate his son to continue to be the best he could be in spite of his paralysis.
The trip was a fantastic experience for all of us…. I had a great time with his dad in the Van ride both ways….. it was so good to see him smile and laugh with no more bitterness in his interaction with me. Watching how happy his son was on this new adventure in flying and coaching his team in the tournament gave him great joy ! ….. I loved watching him express that joy ! It was very “nostalgic” and such a coincidence that the tournament was in Swisher gym where I played so many times in my 4 years there…when I went back in 2015, when J.U. honored my baseball team on our 50th Anniversary (that will be a future great story), the gym was still there, all fixed up, looking brand new on the inside…..they are building a new campus arena soon but they are keeping the gym as a landmark….
to experience watching Ralph living such a normal and happy life,in spite of being paralyzed from the neck down, I thought back to all the sessions we had. Sometimes the tears would drip down on his cheeks and I would have to reach over and wipe them away for him.
The conclusion I came to watching Ralph and other patients as severely paralyzed as he was, go back to a life that included happiness and JOY,….was that our bodies do not define who we are as people…… What makes us who we are, are our minds, our hearts and our souls…. so even though we may come down with physical setbacks, aches and pains, terrible illnesses like Cancer & Heart Disease, as long as our minds, hearts and souls stay “strong”….. we can still find JOY in our life….. If men like Ralph can find Joy…..then so can all of us who are not as physically challenged as him……
I swear I will get to Tony’s story tomorrow, unfortunately my back reminded me of my herniated disc, and 2 bulging disc’s. I am wearing a back brace so I cannot stay on the computer for one more minute…… thanks for understanding….. see you tomorrow for sure as I have finally learned to treat physical PAIN as my best friend who never leaves me alone!
Read the next post Taking Stock Day 42.