I get a long without you very well…
you know I do…
Except in spring
But I should never think of spring
The song is playing on my earphones – a song I long have felt close to, remembering… a Him who long ago disappeared. Yet, the song always evokes a nostalgia that lasts through the three or four minutes it takes to play. And oh, that line: “But I should never think of spring, for if I do, it’d break my heart in two…”
Today I’m almost finished with my workout, and I’m letting down the intensity as I slowly work the arm exerciser. Getting older seems to make it harder and harder to lose the flab below my upper arms. I look around as the song plays on the Walkman at my ears. Others in the light machine workout room are doing repetitions to the music on the loudspeaker – 1970’s rock and roll: sha-na-na! (They have told me it helps with energy levels.)
It is the orange T-shirt that catches my attention, even before I notice the wheelchair. A message across the occupant’s chest reads: “What Is The Cost of War?” The young man wearing it sits sullenly, trying to ignore an enthusiastic trainer who seemingly is rapidly losing patience. For a moment the trainer stands still, just looking at the young man, who appears to be 17 or 18 (but then when you get to my age, they all look like mere children). His head hangs down, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair. Is he, like I am, listening to something in his head?
“Just push the wheels yourself,” the trainer encourages him. “C’mon, man, you’re just not with it today.”
Then I see the reason for the wheelchair. Instead of muscle and bone inside his workout pants, he wears prosthetic “legs,” with outsized gym shoes that face in awkward, different directions. I conclude that this is new to him – this managing without legs, this “working out” a body that once tore down a football field and made love under the bleachers.
I try not to stare, although the boy’s eyes aren’t focusing on anything or anyone. His body does not move. I try to imagine what is going through his head. The sounds of bombs exploding? One particular bomb? Or the silence that follows before the pandemonium begins?
Although the gym is near the Army base, the thought crosses my mind that this boy may have lost his legs in a car accident, but then I notice the partial uniform worn by the trainer. This young man has been to war. This is the DOD equivalent of help for returning war veterans.
The song in my head begins its last chorus of the words. And tears begin to form as I listen again to the familiar words, repeated in my ears. “I get along without you very well…” (what do I need legs for anyway?) “…except in spring, and I should never think of spring, for if I do, it’d break my heart in two.
Copyright ©2005 Val Dumond