Skip - Part 39


Skip – Part 39

Ow! Damn! I felt a pain in my head and then I heard a sound within my sleep. What was it? Alarm clock? I came into half consciousness, but saw that it was quite dark. Too early for the alarm. What? ... PHONE! I grabbed my cell phone, waking more. The bedside clock read 2:17 a.m.

"Aaron. It's Kelly at Shepherd. Can you come? Skip had a seizure that turned out to be an aneurysm."

My mind and body went into full alert mode. "Yeah. I'm on my way."

I pulled my jeans on over my boxer briefs, pulled my sneakers on quickly, grabbed a shirt and put it on clumsily, and shoved my cell phone into my pocket. I hit less than every step on my way going down stairs. I grabbed my car keys off the table beside the door and ran into the parking lot. I did not think to lock my door. (I would not realize that until I came home much later). I sped off into the night. I felt fear and rage at the same time—scared enough that I had wet my pants.

Aneurysm. Actually cerebral aneurysm. A rupture somewhere on his brain. This is more serious, by far, than his bleeding while at Yale-New Haven. I am lucky that all I did was wet my pants. Jesus! LEAVE HIM ALONE! ENOUGH! DAMN ...

I had to pull over. I put my car in park. I did not cry, but the rage was about to make me drive recklessly. My driving record did not need a ticket (I already had two lifetime ... young and stupid is my only excuse).

"enough ... enough. I've lost Kate and my son, and I know I may lose Skip. Don't take him away from me. Please. He's needed here, and not just with me. Do you know his potential for greatness? I do know, and I'm not that special."

I released my grip on the steering wheel when I realized that my hands were hurting. I leaned back against the headrest and took two deep breaths.

A few minutes later, I entered the lobby. The night security guards, of course, did not know me, but Kelly had called them to tell them I would be arriving soon. One elevator had been locked into the lobby for me.

"Go quickly," said one of the guards, pointing to the elevator. "Press the Stop button to release it."

I stepped off the elevator onto the fourth floor. Mark was there waiting for me.

"I didn't expect to see you," I told him.

"First, be calm, hard as that might be, Aaron. Kelly called me at home. We have an agreement about my patients and their families. Know that our surgeons are the best, and Skip is in good hands. Come to my office and I'll explain what I can."

Mark's office is the SCIU Therapy Gym. We sat on the same padded table that Skip works out on. I could feel some part of him here, and others as well.

"I felt him in pain, maybe an hour ago," I said. "I don't know how ..."

"You love him deeply. That's how. Kelly was in his room. We have an early warning system of sorts, when a patient's vitals fall outside of a range. That range, for Skip, is very narrow. His EEG spiked. She called a code immediately and he was taken to surgery mere minutes later. To get to the aneurysm, the surgeons must first remove a section of the skull. It's called a craniotomy. It's just bone, so it's not as bad as you might think."

I nodded. As Mark talked to me, I envisioned what had gone on, or was going on.

"The surgeon then spreads the brain tissue apart and places a tiny metal clip across the neck to stop blood flow into the aneurysm. After clipping the aneurysm, the bone is secured in its original place, and the wound is closed. Skip's surgery is done already. You're sensation of pain probably coincided with his, as you said, an hour ago. The only unknown is how long he'll be unconscious. He'll be brought back to our ICU later this morning. He's in Piedmont's ICU for now."

"Thanks for explaining. I did know ahead of time that Shepherd can also do emergency surgery."

"We do many things, but spinal cord injury rehab and brain injury rehab is our main mission."

"Not exactly. Caring about us, no matter who `us' is, is your main mission. You've proved it more than one. You should know that I got very angry on my way here. I had to pull over and just scream it out. I know you've seen too many patients to fall for the `why him' or `why her' crap. But I did ask ... God, I guess, to lay off."

"Anger is one thing I understand, bro. There's nothing wrong with letting it out. What about `why me?' Certainly you have as much a right as anyone to ask that question."

"'Why me?' has no answer."

"Simple as that?"


"What brings you peace then?"

"That there is no answer to "Why me?' Peace comes from not worrying about stuff that's out of my hands."

"And how do you feel about Skip?"

"Is he alive, at this moment?"


"Is he going to get better, in terms relative to how he is now?"

"Yes," Mark answered right away.

"You're confident."

"I've helped several hundred people. And Skip taught me something that is more important than anything else I have ever learned."

"Which is?"

He got up and went to the desk. He took a piece of paper off his corkboard from above the desk. He brought it back and handed it to me, smiling.

"You wrote those words when you were 16 years old. Everyone should read those words, and feel them deeply inside, every day of their lives."

"He told you my words?"

"Yeah. It took him over two hours. He loves you more for teaching him those words than almost anything else."

"I knew he liked them and that they mean something to him. To us. But I didn't think they were important enough for him to work so hard at communicating to you."

"They are moving forward words. The profoundness of those what, 13 words, rocks me. They are not just on Skip's tongue. They are deeply embedded in his psyche. He knows, no matter what he has to put up with, including surgery, he is going to be fine. You've been where he is for similar reasons, and you're here. Better yet, you're here with him. Seven years of very profound love is why he'll be back to his therapy inside of a week."

I nodded. The lump in my throat was huge. Tears ran down my cheek, though I could hardly tell anyone why.

Mark pulled me to him. I put my head on his shoulder and held him. He rubbed my back. He kissed the top of my head and then held me at arm's length.

"Your quality of love for him is going to bring him back to you. Do not doubt that for a second."

I nodded again. "Thanks for that. I have to believe. You've seen the scars on his chest and abs, from lymph surgery?"


"You know he has only half a left lung?"

"Yes. And one testicle because of testicular cancer, which is why he has half a lung and all those scars. Having a lover with such trauma painted all over him must have been hard on you."


"Hmmm, I guess I don't find that hard to believe."

"Rule of the house—we do not lie and we are not insincere. When I told Skip, seven years ago, that I had a tumor on my kidney, he knew I needed him. He knew how to care for me, because his brother Billy cared for him, brought him back to life. He told me about five years ago or so that he knew, back when we first met, that he could make me love him. I didn't want love because the best love I ever had was from my Kate. I almost died, a few months after we started to become lovers. I've had one kidney removed and two kidney transplants, one from Billy. I take nine meds every day because I'm still rejecting the second kidney, though I'm better than even six months ago. I live, and thrive, only because of Skip and Billy. I don't know if Skip would say he lives and thrives because of me."

"He already said so," Mark said, motioning to the paper still in my hand.

"Can I see him, for a moment?"

"I'll find out."

Mark left and Kelly came in with a cup of tea for me. She sat where Mark had sat.

"I love those words, by the way. Mark told me the whole story of how Skip said them to him. Pretty profound for a 16-year-old boy from New Hampshire. Skip honors those words, more so because they are your words."

"If I knew back then that they would make Skip live, I would have been even more profound."

"Not possible. They say everything I'll ever need to know about life. They're about as close to `What is the meaning of life' as I'll ever get."

I smiled shyly. "Mark has gone to see if I can see Skip for a minute."

"Let's walk that way. I suspect that you can."

I followed Kelly down the hall. Mark was just getting off the phone. He nodded.

We three got into the elevator and went to the first floor lobby. They led me through the tunnel and into Piedmont Hospital. Once we got to Surgical Recovery, I relaxed a bit. Skip was again bandaged around his head. I knew he would be, after Mark told me the procedure for stopping the hemorrhage. I saw his vitals and knew how to read them. He was okay.

Would he know that I was there? Maybe. It does not matter. I will be with him forever. I made a promise and I will keep it. I bent down and kissed his lips.

"I love you bro, with all my heart. I know that shocks you beyond all reason, but it's just something that you'll have to live with. I'm going back to my apartment. I promise not to worry about you. You're safe. We'll move forward again, okay love? See you later today. I'll come when you wake up, if you want me to, or at 4:00. Tell Kelly or Lorial. Bye, bro. Rest easy."

Kelly and Mark walked me back to the lobby.

"You sure you want to go home?"

"Yeah. He'll hate it if I stay here. You'll take care of him better than me anyway. I said what he wanted to hear, so it's okay. When I come in today is up to him. If I don't hear otherwise, the usual 4:00."

Mark hugged me tightly. "You're a better man than I am, Aaron."

"Nah. Not by a long shot. Just different. Thank you so much for coming in. I know you got out of bed to do so. Will you go back home too?"

"Yeah. I'm not due back until 1:00. I'll see you this afternoon."

"And you, dear Kelly, thanks for calling me. I'll see you soon."

She too hugged me, and then kissed my cheek.

"Rest easy, Aaron. See you."

Once home, I climbed back into bed. I make a note on a chart I was keeping of Skip's harder times. There was a list of them, not just one or two. That meant, to me anyway, that he knows how to survive. My clock read 4:45 a.m. I would nap, but it was good enough. It was worry-free.

When I arrived at the center at 4:00, I was a bit surprised to see Skip sleeping. I knew that he would be in ICU, of course. Hmmm, sleeping or still unconscious—had he woken up since his surgery?

"How was his day?" I asked Kelly as she walked into his room with me.

"Quiet. He's on pain management meds, so he hasn't been brought to consciousness yet. The aneurysm was enough trauma to give him a monster headache. Surgery only added to that. He won't be fully conscious until tomorrow afternoon."

"Okay. I'm going down to the cafeteria to get something to drink. Can I bring you something back? My treat."

"Sure. Whatever you're having."

I came back a short while later with drink boxes of orange-pineapple juice. I gave one to Kelly. I went into Skip's room. I leaned down and kissed him on his cheek and then his lips.

"Hello love. It's after 4:00. I had a good day at work. Patricia called me to tell me Billy is healing nicely. I sent the boys email last night to tell them thanks for the BC sports gear they sent to you."

I settled in the chair beside Skip. I brushed my fingers across his cheek. I tried not to be sad. I failed. I was sad. Kinda dumb; what was the use of being sad? I had to feel something, so why could I not just feel happy that Billy is healing and that Skip will be awake within 24 hours again? Common sense had little to do with me lately. I put my head on the edge of his bed and dozed off for a little while.

A gentle hand touched my shoulder some time later.

"Hi Aaron."

"Hey Mark."

"I'm done with my patient for the day. How about going to the pool? Deb told me about your CMT. Are you up for a workout?"

"Sure. I'll change into my swim trunks and meet you upstairs."

I went around the building to Skip's regular room for my duffle bag. I changed into trunks and a t-shirt, and put a towel across my shoulders. I stepped into my sneakers. I arrived at the Pool Level, five floors about Skip's unit as Mark came out of the locker room.

"Okay bro, into the pool and take two laps, which is a 50-meter warm-up. Then I'll do the same type of range-of-motion tests and strength tests that we do for Skip."

I did the two laps while he did his.

"Geez, Aaron, I see that you are intimately involved with Freddy Kruger. Your back is a tangle of scars."

"Sorry. I should have left my t-shirt on. It's pretty gross back there."

"Nope, not even a little. Scars are badges of honor in my eye. Your scars, and Skip's scars, tell amazing stories for those who know how to read them."

I nodded. I did agree, naturally.

"Alright, lay down on your towel on the deck. Let's start with strength tests while you're warmed up. Do you happen to know what your EMG readings were the last time?"

"25 to 41 milliseconds. My readings six months prior were 17 to 29 milliseconds."

"Not surprising. CMT is degenerative, with cycles of remission and relapse. Your gait shows more weakness on your left side than right, and your ankles are always on the floor."

"Yeah, that kinda creeps people out. I forgot my ankle braces at home."

"We'll take a walk over to Neurology tomorrow to get braces. You're stretching the ligaments beyond their capability. I suspect you'll damage a tendon that way. You would not like that."

"Tendon vs. ligament?" I asked.

"A tendon is fibrous and connects muscle to bone. Ligaments, also fibrous, connect bone to bone."

"The ligaments are stretched, but judging from what you just said, tendons don't stretch, or not as much."

"Right. Pulled too far, a tendon will tear. Nasty. Repairing it would be a surgical procedure."

"Okay, braces all around."

"Good choice. You don't want to go breaking your hip from a fall either. Or your neck."

While we were talking, Mark flexed my left leg at the knee a couple of times and then did the same for my right leg.

"Not much resistance in either, but less on your left side. Push your feet into my palms. Push."

I did, but with the same results as my last neurology checkup. He put his hands on the outside of my knees. I pushed out. Then inside of my knees, having me push inward. He scowled a bit.

"Left side sucks," he said. "We'll work on that. It's a losing battle in the end, but Deb and I can show you how to slow it down. You should also see your neurologist when you get home."

"I've got an appointment in early September, in DC. I can push it back if we're not home yet."

"Or take a couple of days and go anyway. I wouldn't want you messing around with that. You'll want to stay stronger longer to take care of Skip.

I nodded. He was right, of course. I like that he spoke plainly. A lesser man would flinch at being told that it was a losing battle in the end. I had no delusions about walking forever. A wheelchair holds no fear for me. He offered me more than just negative words—then added hope to them, and a mission. Slow it down. Stay stronger longer, for Skip.

"Let's see how your fingers are. Put them all together. Okay, push out. Now the left hand. We'll at least it's consistent. Is this scar from nerve relocation?" he said, running his finger down a long scar that ran beside my elbow.

"Yeah. I crushed it twice when playing basketball. My knee gave way the first time and my hip the second time. My middle finger and the other two were numb and tingly. I had the surgery three years ago, in the fall."

I had to show off a bit. I raised my right hand. I did Mr. Spock's (from Star Trek) sign with my fingers.

"Live long and prosper," I said with a smile.

"Live long and prosper, friend Aaron," he said, returning the sign.

"I can't do it left-handed though," I told him.

He showed me that he could. "You've got arthritis in the knuckle of your middle finger."

"Most of the time I forget that, until it flares. There's arthritis in my lower back as well, plus its spreading to my pelvis. Rainy days are hell on my bones."

"I can imagine. My dad says the same thing about his knee. Back into the water, Aaron. Let's spend twenty minutes strengthening your back muscles."

Mark took me through a routine of four exercises, ten reps each. Once done, I dropped fully into the water and took one more lap.

"I'm done, bro," I said to Mark as I climbed out of the pool. "I could curl up and sleep right here."

"Rest for a few minutes. You earned it."

He went into the locker room and came back with two bottles of OJ.

As promised, Mark walked me down to Neurology the next afternoon, before Skip's afternoon workout. I purchased two ankle braces of the same make as Andrew bought me a while back. Mark's friend made sure they fit properly, especially inside of my sneakers.

"Good. No more ankles on the floor. That's too weird," Mark said.

One evening, as I sat beside Skip, he broke down. It was something he had been doing off and on for a couple days. He still was not speaking enough to tell me what he was thinking about, or feeling. I climbed into bed with him and I held him tightly. I tucked his face into my neck and stroked the back of his neck. I spoke only when he was done sobbing.

"I'm going to make a stab at why you're having a tough time, love." I talked without looking at him, not wanting his expressions to cloud what was on my mind. "First of all, I'm a shit for bringing you to tears like this. You need more attention than I've given you. Some of it is that you're almost 1000 miles from home, and 1200 miles from your folks. Billy hasn't been part of us for over six weeks. Mom and Dad seem light years away in time, not just miles. Your life is about as far from normal as it ever has been. You haven't had enough therapy yet, or made enough progress to feel that any of this is worthwhile. It's frustrating that you cannot breathe on your own, and even more so that you cannot talk."

I pulled away from him for a moment, touching his cheek. His cheek is still about the only place on his whole body that he can feel touch.

Tears were flowing down both cheeks. I gently wiped them away. I kissed his eyes. I watched him for a few minutes before speaking.

"Am I close?"

"All—of it," he said, straining.

"I want so badly to change all of that. I'll try. The easiest thing for me to say is `I'm sorry', but I don't want to. Sorry is always inadequate. We could move you closer to home, but your quality of care might suffer. I'm pretty sure you're okay with Atlanta overall, and the staff in particular. Mike and Amanda too."


"I can ask Billy to call, or we can call him, every night."

He moved his head ever so slightly.



"Do you want to talk to your folks every night?"

Negative. A bit of a wink.

"Not every night, but more often than you have."


"Done. Do you want more therapy?"


"Maybe a bit longer therapy session?"


"I'll let Deb and Mark know. We can't speed up the healing, love, and we both know that's the issue."

Affirmative followed by sad eyes.

I picked up my cell phone.



I pressed Contacts, scrolled to Billy's entry, and then pressed Send.

"Hello, love. Are you okay to talk for a bit? ... Cool. Your bro is missing you so much. I'm going to put my phone against his ear. Ramble if you have to, but give him a good earful, huh?"

I put the phone up against Skip's ear. Inside of two minutes, his eyes changed. I had no clue what Billy was telling Skip, and it was not for me to know. A smile crept slowly across his lips. He looked at me. I kissed his forehead. During the `talk' with Billy, his face reflected what he was hearing. He was sad for a few moments, but he lightened up. After a good twenty minutes, he looked at me again and blinked.



"Thank you love," I said to Billy. Can we call you tomorrow? ... Nice. We love you too, bro. ... I think Skip is a bit better."


"He says he is. You're awesome. ... He's been sad, so he needed to hear your voice. ... I'm going to stay with him tonight, if he'll let me. We're going to call Mom and Dad. ... Yeah. Good night, love."

I was about to call up Betsy and JD's number when my phone rang. I smiled as I answered.

"Okay, so are you two where Skip gets his psychic abilities? ... Yeah, I was seconds away from calling you. We just got off the phone with Billy. ... No, he's not having a good day. This place is getting on his nerves," I said truthfully. "I'm putting the phone up against his ear. Talk away, as long as you want to. He'll tell me when you're done."

I moved closer again and put the phone against his ear, holding it with my left hand. I watched his face. Tears started up again. I stood without moving the phone and kissed his cheek. He did not acknowledge me. That was okay. He was lost in his parent's voices.

When he cried, I wiped the tears away. After a while, he looked at me, somewhat including me in the conversation. One of his folks, or both, was talking about me. He gave me eyebrows. I leaned in and kissed him sweetly. I watched his eyes as I heard his mom's voice. I backed off and sat down again. He followed me with his eyes. I touched his cheek again.

A while later, as much as he could, he winked at me.

"Done?" I asked.


"Hey," I said into the phone.

"Is he okay?" JD asked.

"Are you okay, love?" I asked Skip. "Talking to your folks was good?"

Affirmative. Bright eyes.

"Awww, yes JD, he's better. He missed you both so much. We'll call in a couple of days. He wants to hear your voice more often."

"I'm sorry we haven't called much," said Betsy. It seems awkward."

"Not as awkward as you think. He listened to you and cried. Whatever you both were saying was just right. He loves me again too."

Skip scowled a bit. He knew I was pulling his leg.

"Okay okay, he's always loved me, but his mood is better. I don't always know what to do for him, but I think calling home will go a long way."


JD thought so too. "For us as well," he said.

"I apologize JD, and to you too bro, for not asking sooner. My fault."

"No worries, Aaron. We know your cell phone number. We have not wanted to bug you."

"Call anytime you want to. You know it's not even close to bugging me. Skip seems to think every other day is about right. Am I right, love?"

Affirmative. Bright eyes.

"We're all looking forward to him being weaned off the ventilator. We have Eyes to communicate with, and it works, but you know ..."

"Yeah, we know. Shepherd staff knows what it'll take, so trust them," said Betsy.

"We do. Skip has more patience than I do. We'll talk to you in a couple days. ... Yeah. ... Nice. Love you both, a lot. Night."

I looked at Skip.

"I really am sorry about not talking to you sooner about what you need. I guess I take a lot for granted. Stupid."


"Sorry bro, you can't talk me out of this one. It breaks my heart that you needed to cry before I moved my ass."

Negative! (He closes his eyes hard).

"Say what you will. Just know it won't happen again."

Dancing eyebrows.

I kissed him for a long while. I eventually got into bed with him again. Sorry folks, but he needs me and I need him at least as much. Skip fell asleep shortly thereafter. I lay and watched him sleep.

"How can I possibly love you more than I do my bro," I said quietly.

Kelly came in a while later.

"It looks like you took away the tears. I can do a lot, but it's hard for me to do that for him."

"I kinda just ran off at the mouth for a few minutes. It came down to him being very homesick. I called Billy and put the phone up to his ear so that Billy could just ramble. His folks called shortly after that and we did the same. After we hung up, he forced me to kiss him. He said if I didn't, he would beat me up. I hate when he beats me up. So I gave in. I tried to talk him out of it, but you know he can be very convincing."

She laughed aloud. She walked away, still laughing. I had to laugh at me too. I cracked me up. Sure as heck beats crying.

I fell asleep. I woke only for a moment when Kelly came in to put up the bedrails. I was pushing my luck in staying with Skip overnight. I just made sure that Kelly or Lorial woke me before management came in. To get either of them in trouble would be taking them for granted.

The rest of the week went by with little notice. Skip remained in ICU until his brain scan was clear. He was moved back to his room on Friday while I was having chemo. I returned on Saturday morning with good news for Skip.

"Another tumor has bit the dust. Gone, even at very high magnification. The remaining one is down to three-quarters, and there are no new ones growing anywhere."

His happy eyebrows danced happily and he smiled clearer than before. My own translation of that said "Way to go, love. I'm so pleased. Kiss me, quick!"

Naturally I did. If he beat me up, I would be sore for a month. When I started to back away, he tilted his head and kissed me more. I, of course, did not stop. My lover ... ding! Realization.

"Wait! Did you just raise you head to keep kissing me."

"No ... Neck."

"You tilted your neck up?"


"Did it hurt?"

He scowled a bit.

"You couldn't really feel it."


"Kinda makes me nervous, but at the same time, that was pretty cool."


"I'll be right back. I want to see if Deb or Mark is still here."

I walked around to the other side of the building to the therapy gym. Both Mark and Deb were there, working through a routine with a patient. Mark looked up at me.

"Come on in, Aaron. We're about done. Meet Chris Lowell. Chris, meet Aaron Langille. Aaron is Skip's best bud. Chris is about to graduate out of the program."

"Hello Chris Lowell. I bet you're thrilled to be almost done. How long have you been here?"

"Four and a half months. Oh yeah, can't wait. Nothing personal, Mark. You know how it is. Feels so awesome to have come so far. Still got a lot of work to do at home, but this is a million miles ahead of where I thought I'd be. How is Skip today?"

"Actually that's why I came over to see Mark or Deb. He tilted his neck up a minute ago to ... uh, to show me something."

Deb smiled knowingly. Mark smiled for a second. Awww geez!

"He moved his neck?" asked Mark. "Good and bad, but we'll check on him in a few minutes. ICU or his room?"

"His room."

"Good news!" said Deb. "Sit for a moment."

I did. Deb and Mark did five more minutes of flexes with Chris' arms. This was like a glance into Skip's future. I watched, fascinated, and filed this away for future reference.

Once Mark put Chris back into his high-tech wheelchair, he took off like a rocket.

"He hates this that much?" I asked.

"Nope, his girlfriend is taking him out for dinner."

"I knew that," I said, smiling. "Seriously, I can't picture anyone hating to get better, even as rigorous as this is. What about whiners and complainers."

"Very few and far between," said Deb. "Maybe it's because we're so specialized in our care. I've never had a whiner and I have one complaint on my record, relatively petty."

"Same for me," said Mark. "I'm no angel, but not from lack of trying."

"You both are angels. But Mark, your halo is a bit off."

"Figures. So am I. Gotta love me."

We arrived at Skip's room.

"So love," said Deb. "The heat of the moment got to you huh?"

Wiggly eyebrows.

Deb, Mark, and I cracked up. I did not expect the question OR the answer. I went a dozen shades of red in a heartbeat.

"Oh my, is this part of Southern charm? Right to the heart of the matter huh?"

"I'm a woman," Deb said. "I know things."

"I'm a stupid man. And I blush easily."

"No and yes. So Ricky, splain yourself."

"Oy. Well we were smooching. I pulled back to adore his beautiful eyes and soul. He decided to get greedy for just one more. I'm a hunk, if you haven't had time to notice just yet. I know, I know. Not everyone can see it. But you're a woman. You know things."

"Skip?" said Deb.

He looked at her.

"Is he full of himself or what?"

"Tot—ally. Blink Loves m—me tho."

"Baby, it ain't love. He's got it bad for you, and you for him."


"You two went way beyond love the first month you were together and you haven't looked back since."

"Wow Skip. She really does know things."

Affirmative. Bright eyes.

"Seriously, for a moment," said Mark, "there's a bit of a bruise where you tilted your neck. The only thing I'm concerned about is blood flow. The bruising eases up once we get into your therapy. That being said, I have never seen anyone like you two, and probably never will again. We haven't hardly gotten going yet, but I'm going to miss you two badly."

"We'll come back. Seriously. GE can make me a project once a year if I want it. I do."

"Nice!" said Deb.

"Yeah. Nice indeed," said Mark. "Everyone touches our hearts in different ways, but you're unique in that. I don't talk about work to my wife, but I've talked about you."

"Yeah, but don't bore her to tears. I don't see much special about us, especially above anyone else here. I see Chris Lowell and want Skip to be just like him."

"We'll get you and Chris together, Skip. You've got a fair amount in common. He's out of here soon. You'll like him."


"Now, I'm all for your quality time together," said Deb. "Just be very careful. Nerves, tissue, your aneurysm ... wait, hear me out." Skip looked afraid. "Nerves and tissues strained too much will cause you distress, even when you can't feel it. The aneurysm is just an instance of how fragile you are. We'll help you along. Just be careful."

Affirmative. Understood.

"Me too," I said.

"Are you staying overnight?" Mark asked.

"No. He needs to sleep. I don't want to get anyone in trouble for staying. I know it's not exactly policy. Kelly and Lorial have my home and cell numbers. A question though. When can he take a real bath?"

"Hmmm," said Mark. "Deb? What do you think?"

"First of all, don't take that the wrong way," I said. "Kelly and Lorial let me give him a sponge bath. I love taking care of him. It's one way to prove the `not a burden' thing in actions instead of words."

"I understand. You're also 100% right. Skip, how do you feel about a real bath tonight? I can change your sheets once we get you into the tub."

"Aaron ... m—Mark?"

"You want Aaron and Mark to put you in the tub?" she asked.


"So I know how, I guess," I said.


To her credit, she did not ask if he was modest. I wondered a bit, since he had not been with a woman. Nah. Kelly and Lorial both bathed him and re-dressed him before I asked to help.

"Uh, I feel awkward about you changing his sheets, Deb. I could do that before ..."

"No worries, Aaron (she had picked up on that from me). It's not a menial task and I'm happy to be part of his comfort."

"You two are amazing."

"We have to be," said Mark, straight-faced. "It's in our contracts. I'll be right back."

"Crap," I said. "What about his respirator?"

"Two possibilities. He needs to be weaned off it, so we could start now. Or it can go with him into the bath. I'd need to get a longer tube for his trach."

"Do you want to try to go without it for a while?" I asked Skip.

He gave us nervous eyes.

"Me too, but Deb knows best."

"I'll get a tube. We don't want him antsy. A bath is quite enough excitement for one day."

Mark brought a wheelchair in from the gym. He lifted Skip out of bed and gently set him in the wheelchair. Deb came back in with another tube. We went to the bathroom and I undressed Skip while Mark drew his bath.

"Hey, it's got jets," I said, noticing for the first time. "Duh, it's a spa tub, so of course it would have."

"Yeah, once we get a patient into their bath, it's hell getting `em out."

I looked at Skip again. He gave me dancing eyebrows.

"I just thought of something, yet again. Can I ask him, Skip?"


"Can a quadriplegic get an erection?" I asked Mark. "And can we ... have sex? I had a lot of difficulty on my last MD flair. I could get off, but my bud here had to work hard."

"Yes to both. And what's wrong with working hard at that? Most people think someone with spinal injury can't get an erection. You had problems because of different sets of nerves and muscles, not because of your spine. Quite the opposite for Skip, and sometimes erections last longer than usual and become painful because the guy can't relieve them."

I looked at Skip. "Have you had that problem, love?"


"Damn. Why am I so ignorant?"

I was truly frustrated. Love overrules sex, but we were sexual too. Why could I not think about ALL of his needs?

"Now now, cut yourself a break," Mark said to me. "For you to think about everything is impossible." Then to Skip, "It's a very private situation, but you can make out with your lover any time you want to. Okay bud, your bath is ready. Aaron, if you'll take your sneakers off and kneel in the tub, we can get Skip into it easily."

I took off my sneakers and socks. I was wearing shorts as usual. I got into the perfectly hot water and knelt down. Mark picked Skip up and brought him over. I put my arms in the spaces he left for me and we lowered Skip into the water. Mark put Skip's head and neck into a sort of brace, to immobilize his spine again.

"While you're in there, and of course I did that on purpose, now is as good a time as any, so I'm going to leave you two alone. Try it. You'll really like it. And if you're feeling funky about it, then it's therapist's orders. I need to know, eventually. When you're ready to get out of the tub, ring for me. I've got nowhere to go, so you're not keeping me from anything. My wife is in class until 9:00. I'm not great with `home alone' either."

Mark closed the bathroom door as he left. I looked at Skip again and got madly dancing eyebrows. I reached into the water and found him half-hard.

"Oh my. Is our friend Mark partly responsible for that?"

"Some ... you mo—mostly."

"Good. I would worry if you didn't find him attractive too. He could be Henry's brother with those looks, huh?"


"How's the throat, love? You can't seem to talk again once you've been vocal."


"In time love, especially when you can go off the respirator for a while."


"I know this is moving fast, but you really are rock hard. Do you know that?"


"I'm so sorry love. I wish ..."


"Okay. Mark is right. Why beat myself up? I ... I'd like you inside of me."

Dancing eyebrows.

I soaped up my butt for a moment and then eased myself down on him.

"Oh my God. This is sooo awesome. Are you sure?"

Dancing eyebrows.


"I never thought about this. I guess I didn't ask you because it's not what makes us lovers. I do, still, feel a deep need to ensure you feel you're not a burden. If we really could not have sex again, I wouldn't care. Billy and I still could, I guess, but I couldn't if you couldn't."


"Well, it seems the point is moot."


"I wonder if you can come."

Wiggly eyebrows that likely said, "Let's find out, lover man."

I leaned in to hold him tightly and to kiss him. I rode his cock as I would if we were in bed. After a few minutes, I took the washcloth that Mark had set on the tub. I wet his hair thoroughly and then put shampoo in the palm of my hand. I lathered up his hair and washed it, kissing him a couple of times. I took the hand shower, turned the control to a light spray, and gently rinsed his hair without getting shampoo in his eyes. I then washed his face, ears, and neck.

"Skip, I can't describe how I feel. You inside of me, but me still taking care of you. Will you be okay with doing it just this way at home?"

Affirmative. Excited (eyes side to side quickly).

"I don't want to take advantage of Mark's time. Maybe next time, I could be inside of you? I'd have to talk about that with Mark since we talked about your erection, not mine."

He looked down at my stomach. I pulled off his cock for a moment, showing him mine. He gave me bright eyes. I plainly waived my right hand in front of his eyes.

"We're good friends, palm and me, so it's okay."


"No bro, affirmative. I don't want to press my luck. Maybe you can't suck me anyway. I'm antsy because of your respirator."

He moved his mouth. Technically, there was nothing blocking his mouth. His breathing tube was coming from his throat.

"Just a taste then."


I rinsed the soapy water off my dick and leaned forward, sliding my cock part way into his mouth. He looked up at me, as he always did, when he sucked me. I gave him a couple of minutes and then reluctantly pulled out.



"It's about you anyway, love, and your wonderful cock."

I slid him back inside of me. I washed his shoulders, both arms and hands, and then his chest and stomach. I washed as much of his back as I could without moving him, and then washed his sides. I would save washing his right leg and foot for when we were done making out. I did nothing more for a few minutes except let him feel my tight hole.

I watched his eyes the whole time, kissing him only once more. He wiggled his eyes and then opened them brightly.

"You coming?"


I kept riding him, clenching his hardness, surely pulling about 20 gallons of unspent cum out of his balls. When he was done, he closed his eyes for a few minutes. I slid off him and then kissed him passionately.

"Niiiiiiiice," he said again.

I jacked my cock a couple of times and then unloaded all over his chest.

"Wow, that took me by surprise, bro."

Indeed, it had. I had planned on reliving this in my mind when I got home later, but now I did not have to, at least not by jacking off. He gave me excited Eyes.

I leaned down and licked my cum off his chest. Then I washed him once more. I finished up by washing his right leg and foot. His left leg cast was protected from the water just by nature of the cast. Cast technology had come a long ways, at least at Yale-New Haven. He should be about ready to have it removed.

I also washed up while I was there, but briefly. I would take my usual shower before I got into bed. I got out of the tub. I went out to ring for Mark, and then got back into the tub. He came within a couple of minutes. We lifted Skip out. I toweled him dry. He was obviously sated.

"Thanks so much, bro. It went well for us both."

I put my shorts back on while Mark put Skip back into the wheelchair.

"Sometime this week, your fully customized electric wheelchair will be delivered. You're becoming more mobile, obviously, so you're ready for it."


"I knew you would be," Mark said to Skip. "It also means your therapy is about to get a whole lot more aggressive."


"Aaron told us you're ready for that too. Twice a day, two to four hours each session. It's not a cake walk."

Understood. Excited!

"Okay, bro, I believe you," Mark said, laughing. "I love your expressions. Long live Eyes!"

We brought Skip into his room. Mark gently lifted him into his bed.

"You, Aaron, stay as long as you like. I'm heading for home. I'm very happy for you both. Do you want to do the bath, say, twice a week?"

"Yeah, nice. Would it embarrass you if I asked a couple more questions?"

"Nope. Fire away."

"This time around, I was able to have Skip enter me. It was as easy as you might imagine. I can't picture being able to enter Skip though."

"Well, he does need to work his legs, so lifting them will be okay. It's only his neck that we have to be very careful of. The brace collar that I locked him into in the bathtub will take care of keeping his spine immobilized. I'd advise against raising his hips though, any more than necessary."

"Okay. I understand. How about here, in bed?"

"Same thing, just go gently."

"Easy enough. That's our style anyway. Thanks for letting me be so forward."

"No problem. I always wait until the patient or family approaches me with the question. We would have talked about Skip's sexual health in time anyway. You feel okay, Skip?"


"Any embarrassment, about this?"

"No. It wa—was nice."

"You two deserve for it to be nice," Mark said, leaning down to kiss Skip on his forehead.

"Skip likes that best, on the forehead. Me too, just so you know."

He took my not-so-subtle hint to kiss my forehead as well. He gave me a nice hug, and I returned it.

"I never expected this, Mark. Not any of it."

"So now you know. Why not make a regular schedule of coming to spend a night or two with your bud. It's a way to give both of you something regular to look forward to. It helps to stem the depression too. Privacy is yours for the asking."

"Thanks," I said, looking from him to Skip. "Tomorrow night, if you're up to it, love. Mid-week too?"


"I'm going to walk out with Mark. You're obviously ready to sleep. See you tomorrow, in the afternoon. I want to go out to Stone Mountain Park again."

I kissed him on his lips. Mark gave us our moment to say goodnight.

I walked out with him, not to talk behind Skip's back, but to tell him that most of my fears were gone.

"Most of them?" he asked.

"I guess I'm still worried about the long-term."

"Don't be. Live in your moments. You're the expert on that."

"Okay. Seriously, having him inside of me was so good. I'll take that as a very large step to adjusting my attitude, and his."

"Did he come?" Mark asked.

"Oh yeah. From experience, I know the quality of that orgasm. It was about as good as it gets."

"Nice. See, told you I care about you two."

"Never doubted you for a moment, but you're awesome to be so cool about this."

"Hey, I know need as much as the next guy does. Having that taken away, even for a while, would bite. It's not going to be easy on him, and maybe never will be, but we do try hard to break down the fear wall."

"You succeed too. Safe home, huh?" I gave him another hug, which he returned.

I went back to Stone Mountain Park on a Sunday, alone this time. I had seen so much the first time that I found the need to revisit the place and take my time. I had told Skip on Saturday night that I would not see him during the day on Sunday. I told him I wanted to revisit a place that Mike and Amanda and the boys had taken me. It was a place to get lost in for a while. Maybe this would be his day-trip away from the center, when he finally got time off for good behavior.

From my place, it was an 18 mile / 30 minute drive. I paid $6.00 for parking and $18.00 for an all-day pass so I could see as many attractions as I wanted to. The weather was warm, though not muggy, with bright blue skies and cotton ball clouds. I brought my backpack and a couple of ham salad sandwiches for lunch. I sat on a piece of grass, under a cluster of oak trees. The mountain was stark in its immenseness. I had read, during the week on the Internet, that the carving of the Confederate leaders was over three acres in size, the size of three football fields. To take away some of that starkness, I looked at all the features, still clearly, through the branches and leaves of a tree. I had not packed my camera, on purpose, upon leaving Connecticut. I figured it would not get used. So, I put this scene in my mind's eye. It would never be hard to recall how nice this park is.

I will need to pace myself with walking today. The best way to get a feel for the entire park was the railway that we had taken the twins on. That Saturday had been the twins' first visit to Stone Mountain, so the railway was a must see for them. The vintage train ran a circular route of five miles around the base of the granite and quartz domed mountain, rising over 800 feet high above the park. We went through woods and past parts of Stone Mountain Lake. People were hiking around the wooded trails. A Swiss-style cable car glided up the Confederate Memorial side of the mountain. I would save that for later in the afternoon. A young man and his apparent girlfriend sat across the aisle from me. Kids were a bit further forward.

I really did love the twins, but on our day out, I paid more attention to their faces and gestures than I did the scenery. I told Mike on Friday that a planned a trip out here today. He pointed out the places that were somewhat kid-free. I felt a bit guilty about going alone, but he said he understood. In fact, he and Amanda did re-visits of several places they had seen with the boys for a different perspective.

Once off the railway, I strolled around with the crowd and by myself. What I saw with people and solo was quite interesting. Some people would point or talk about a certain scene. I would listen in and view the scene with them. On my own, I looked more carefully at details without distractions. In general, I avoided the `tourist trap' places that sold souvenirs and stuff I had little interest in. The first Carillon bells concert was at 1:00, so I started the walk to the opposite side of the park, at the lake's edge. Up-close the Carillon was truly impressive. It was a freestanding structure of metal bells looking more like I-beams than bells. A lady named Mabel was famous for playing the carillon for the past twenty or more years. I recognized one of two pieces, including the theme from "Gone with the Wind." Mostly I just sat at the end of the water, by myself, listening to the music, watching the riverboat cruise around the lake, the breeze blowing gently as I put my face to the sun.

After the concert, I walked back to the main area, wanting to see the surrounding landscape from the top of the mountain. The ride was just the right length. We rode past the thoroughly impressive Confederate Memorial carving. From this angle, it was breathtaking. I had seen a program on National Geographic years ago that showed how the carving was done. The project was started around 1916, with various stops and starts, all the way to 1972, with as much as a 30-year gap in the work. The view from the top of the summit was outstanding. I could look west and see the Atlanta skyline, some fifteen miles away. Visibility was as much as 50 miles on this bright clear day. I walked all over the top of the mountain, again with groups of people or solo. I finally sat at the edge of the rock, looking out at the city in the distance, tuning in on my Skip. I hope he was having a good day. Mark and Deb would have done his morning PT by now. We would do round two together at 6:00.

At day's end, I was tired and happy. When I had traveled over the years with GE, I had always made it a practice to see the local sites, enjoy the restaurants, and play tourist. Stone Mountain was worth a revisit in the future. I wondered how many other places Skip and I could travel to so I could show him where I had worked. Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Chicago, and San Francisco were potential places. They had all been home from three months up to eight months.

I arrived back at The Shepherd Center at 5:30, so I could spend some quiet time with my bro. I told him about the sights and sounds, allowing him to see what I saw throughout the day.

"Was your first therapy session a good one this morning?"




"Because you can't feel much yet." It was not a question.


"Awww. The first time you feel something more, you're going to want to shout it to the world."

Wiggly eyebrows, for `oh boy!'

Wiggly eyebrows covered a lot of ground, based on the context of the conversation. Mostly wiggly eyes meant `kiss me bro'.

"Should I kiss you now?"


"What, after missing me terribly all day? Hmmm, I guess the only thing I have to say to that is `too bad' and `pucker up'."

He did, gladly. I gave him a kiss that would curl his toes if he could curl his toes. I looked. Nothing. Well, it was fun trying, and I can be persistent. Good thing, because he will need me to be.

Instead of bringing his bed to the therapy gym, Mark brought a wheelchair.

"Will you do the honors, Aaron?" he asked. He locked the wheels in place.

I put Skip's hands on his belly. I had a brief flashback to Vince, of putting his hands on his belly too, when I knew he was gone. I reached under Skip's back and under his knees, easily picking him up. He was a good 15 pounds lighter than before the accident. I'm barely 100 pounds at this point, and not a muscle hunk by any means, but it was easy to carry Skip. That made me sad.

Deb read my face. "Don't be sad, Aaron. He'll put on weight easily when he can eat solid food. He was off the respirator for over an hour this morning. We increase his off-time by 30 minutes each day."

I put Skip into the wheelchair, adjusting the footrests. He was wearing a maroon BC t-shirt and white shorts with maroon stripes on each side, a smaller BC logo on the left leg of the shorts. The hospital gown days were in the past.

"At what point do you know he needs to go back on it?" I asked.

"Before his breathing becomes labored. We don't want him in respiratory distress, so right at the beginning of his breathing harder. He can also tell us if he begins to panic, but your bud is strong and determined."

"You know what Billy would say, right bud?"


We three laughed. He gave me wiggly eyebrows so I kissed him again, pleased by his attitude. I wheeled him around to the other side of the building, into the gym. No one else was there. The morning or afternoon therapy sessions were often done with Skip's peers around him.

I picked him up again and lay him down on top of the padded exercise table.

"I'm going to show you how to work your way all the way down Skip's body. We'll work every possible muscle for however long it takes. Two hours is standard, depending on how he does. Come. Kneel down beside me. Are you ready?"

"Do you trust me bro," I said, not at all certain what the answer would be. He was though. He looked at me above him.

Affirmative. He did not even think about it.

"You break my heart, love. I hope I earn your trust then." I kissed his forehead.

Affirmative. No doubt.

Deb started by rolling Skip's head gently to the left, back to center, and then right. She did this twice each, with a bit of a stretch on his neck.

"Pull very carefully as your roll his head to the right, just a little."

She moved to her right. I got in line with Skip's head. I put my hands on either side of his head, exactly the same as Deb had done. I gently rolled his head left, back to the center, pulled a bit, and then rolled his head right, and then back to center.

"Five more," said Deb.

I did five more, slowly and steadily.

"Okay Skip," Deb said. "Your turn."

Skip put extreme effort into moving his head. I could see the determination on his face.

"You can, love. Just a little," I said.

Skip rolled his head all the way to the right.

"Oh my God," I said, putting hand over my mouth.

"Wait for it," said Mark.

With as much determination, over the course of half a minute, he brought his head back to center. He looked up at me and made half a wink, as if to say, "Of course I can do it love. It's for you."

"I'm ... my God, I'm stunned."

"Hey, we don't just sit around while you're working. This is his first time doing it for you, but he did it for Mark two days ago. He did it again for me yesterday. He almost did it this morning, but could not move back to center."

I scooted around the edge of the table until I was squatting down beside him. I touched the side of his face, tears rolling down my cheeks.

"Rah," he said.

"Rah indeed. I am sooo proud of you, love. You've been working hard. This is the best Sunday of my entire life, bro, hands down. Not the whole, this moment. Can you do it again?"


I got back in place and cradled his head lightly. He gently rolled his head all the way to the left. He waited a moment and then began the rotation back to center. He stopped. I touched his temple gently with my index finger. He began again. A half-minute later, he made it all the way to his starting point again.

I wept. I leaned down and kissed his forehead, and then broke down, fully. I put my hands under his shoulders and back, put my head on his shoulder, and cried for all I was worth. He turned his head a little bit to the right and kissed my cheek. I raised my head and looked into his eyes.

"No mo—more tears. ... Rah."

"Okay, love. No more tears. It's just so overwhelming. I'm not sad, of course. Very grateful to have you in my heart. Very grateful to have Deb and Mark in our lives. Can you move other muscles yet?"

"You'll see," said Mark, smiling. "Take it as it comes. That's what your bud does."

"So, three days in a row of rotating his head."

"Yes," answered Deb. "The last seven of nine tries."

"Eighty percent," I said in a whisper.

"Yes. 80%. Now come around and sit on the floor beside the table. Take his hand as you hold it when you're together doing nothing," said Mark.

I moved around, sat, and took his right hand. I interlocked our fingers.

Mark sat beside Skip on his left, taking his hand, also interlocking their fingers.

"When you're ready, bro," Mark said.

We waited. I said nothing. Mark quietly said `Yes, bro. Very good."

"What?" I said, looking up at him.

"Patience young grasshopper. You have much to learn."

I looked at Skip. He looked into my eyes. A very small smile crept across his lips. He blinked, which mean `I have more to say'. He squeezed my hand. I opened my eyes wide.

"Really?" I asked.


"Not a spasm this time?"


"When?" I asked.

"This morning," said Deb. "For both of us."

"Rolling your head was 100% enough. Squeezing my hand is 200% enough. But I gotta ask—any more surprise?"

He did it again.

"THAT is over the top. Holy shit. Does it hurt?"

"Again?" I prompted him.

He tried for a minute or more.


"Then in time, okay?"

"Yeah," he said.

"You should know, Aaron, that he has something new to show us each session, so there really could be more. Only he knows. I do know, because I've spied on him, that he tries, very hard, even when he's in his room."

Deb spoke up. "Skip knows he can practice anything he wants to, except for his head and neck. Maybe in a week or so."


"Can I work with him, outside of here?"

Mark smiled. "I knew you'd ask, Aaron. Good for you. Yes, you may, but a limited set."

He went over to his desk and brought back a sheet of paper with illustrated routines.

"Any of these, stated number of reps, but no more. If Skip gets frustrated or too tired, it won't help him get stronger."

"I understand. Did I ask the right question, bro?"


"Good. Now back to work. If you have a surprise for us ..."

He half-winked. Inscrutable Skip.

"It's usually a bit rude to do this, but let's try shrugging again, Skip," said Deb.

We watched him as he put his `I'm trying' face on. There were very small movements in his neck, but nothing else.

"Okay love, no sweat. We'll try again tomorrow," she said.

"Next, Aaron, take Skip's right hand," said Mark. "Hold it for now. Skip knows what to do."

Skip looked at me. He moved his thumb up and slowly down to where it started. He was trying to move it downward, but he only scowled. He moved his index finger slightly. He looked at each in turn, willing them to move for him, mere millimeters if they ... would ... just ... move. He looked at me again.


Mark took his left hand. The concentration on his face, looking at Mark, was evident. We waited.


"Okay, bro. I'm going to work each one, like this morning. If you feel the urge to assist me, do so. In the meantime, if you can, work your way to your toes. By the way Aaron, once again you are proving that you love Skip."

I was not sure what he meant. I looked at Skip's hand. I was working his fingers, watching Mark, doing what he was doing. I looked at Skip and then at Deb, and finally at Mark.

"Loving Skip is the easy part. Helping him is another."

"No. Loving him is helping him. Helping him is loving him. I do both, equally, and proudly," said Deb.

"As do I," said Mark. "Skip knows that. I told him so this morning. So did Deb. I will add the word `profoundly' to that. And for you as well. Skip said "Mother Theresa' to us yesterday. I went to the Internet and looked her up. I came across quotes. The quote that ends in `we belong to each other' seems to be the most appropriate for you."

"For all of us," I said. "If there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. We'll find peace. You've done it before, many ways across time. Give him your heart, not just your medical training. Feel when he feels—good or bad, and make it better."

As we were talking, both Mark and I kept working Skip's fingers, stopping to see if he would continue on his own. He moved his index finger for Mark. I smiled and motioned to Skip's hand in Mark's hand.

"That's why," is all I said.

Skip looked over to his right, past me. I turned to see what he was looking at. It was a board of some sort. I asked Deb what it was.

"A board that's adjustable, for sitting up. Do you want to sit up, love?" she asked Skip.

"Yeah. Ple—please."

I went over to get it. Deb took it. She put it behind him as Mark and I raised his back off the table.

"Skip, you're full of surprises. Let's keep going."

Mark raised Skip's arm, still holding his hand. Skip tried to turn his hand. Determination was there; his eyes focused 100% on his hand, trying very hard to twist it even a little.


"S'okay bro," Mark said. He took Skip through the motions of how to do it. Four reps, and then he waited. Mark massaged Skip's wrist. Skip smiled with his eyes and then moved it ever so slightly."

Mark looked up at me, his eyes glistening. In those moist eyes was the heart that I wanted to see. Mark is not a robotic instructor. He was a man, wanting his patient to do well, even in the tiniest of steps. Small steps will lead Skip home. Chris Lowell took those same small steps.

"Can you bend your elbow?"

It took me a minute to understand. Mark was asking Skip if he knew how to do the everyday things that almost everyone, except the injured, takes for granted. Skip was to do what came naturally. When he could not, Mark would show him how. He did four reps of showing Skip the motion. Again Skip tried, willfully, to do what Mark just showed him. His mind said "move, move, move." He did not take his concentration off the effort until he looked at Mark.


Negative did not mean "No I can't. Negative means "We'll try again next session."

"Your turn, Aaron."

I raised Skip's right hand, same as Mark had done. Skip tried to move his wrist. I rubbed his wrist a bit, adding a bit of heat to the nerves, a sort of external stimulation. He looked at me. I did the four reps, pausing between each, as Mark had done, to train the muscles and nerves. They needed to talk to each other. Skip's brain was sending the signal but it was not being received at times and was being received at other times.

A slight dancing eyebrow, and then his wrist rotated ever so slightly.

"A little move, love," I said, showing him how, while he was concentrating.

He did, but that was the extent for this time. It was more than he did yesterday.


I felt his muscle jump a bit, just above the inside crook of his elbow where I had a finger.

"Hey, did you feel that?"

He looked at me. Maybe.

"A muscle movement?" asked Deb.

"Yeah. Spasm again?"

"Nope. A pre-movement. That's what a muscle does before you move your arm. We just need that one more motion."

I took Skip through the motions and then waited for him. The muscle twitched again, but nothing more.


"Okay, love. I can feel the muscle, so maybe next session, like you said."


"We already tried his shoulders right, with the shrugging?"

Mark laid Skip's hand in his lap.

"One more with his arms," said Mark. "It looks like an elbow motion, but it's really a shoulder movement first."

He demonstrated with his own shoulder.

"You know what to do, bro."

Skip tried to imitate what Mark did. I unconsciously did the same motion with my shoulder, realizing I had done it only after I felt it. Skip rolled his eyes at me.

"Oops, sorry love, reflex action."

He pulled his hand back across his lap a bit, until it rested on his hip.

"Wow, that was a big movement," said Deb excitedly.

Mark put Skip's hand back in his lap. "Again?"

Skip did it again, relatively easily. But I could tell that the effort was tiring. He could not do it again. I put his right hand in his lap. He did the same as before, with deep concentration. He did it a second time, and then half a third time.

"That's new, as of this session," said Mark.

Skip's eyes danced happily.

"You are so impressive, love. Fingers, wrist, shoulder. Sweet"


"Yes. Your failure is not a failure. It's a delay in doing it, maybe tomorrow or the next day, but you will. Please believe me."




"I love you so much. Whatever you do, just don't forget that."


I looked over at Mark and then at Deb.

"You know you can," Deb said.

I leaned in to kiss Skip. I put my hand on his cheek, kissed him warmly, and pulled back to look into his eyes.

"Good job, love. I do know it's not easy, but I also see you trying very hard. Mark is right; you're full of surprises."

"For you."

"Nice, but do it for you first."

He thought for a moment.


"Okay, for us. That works. What's next, love?"

He looked down at his legs.

"Can you move either of your feet, maybe side to side?" asked Deb.

He looked down at his bare feet. His right foot moved a bit, toward the inside. Deb moved down to sit on his left. I came to sit beside his right. Skip was trying to move his right foot back to the center. It twitched a bit, but he could not do it. I took his foot in my hand and showed him the motion that he should be making. After four reps, I put his foot down again. He tilted it to the inside again. He looked at me. I gave him encouraging eyes. He concentrated hard and made it about half way back to the outside. I waited to see if he could come fully back to where he had started. His eyes went from his foot back to me.


"S'okay love. You still did more than knew about. Is that progress?" I said to Deb.

"Yes. He's been able to tilt it inward since Friday. Moving it back to starting position is new today.

"Rah!" he said, happily.

"You knew you got move it somewhat? Back to the starting point?" I asked.


"Because you practiced it in your room."


"Now do it for Deb."

He tilted his left foot inward, about half the distance as his right foot. He could not seem to go further. He concentrated again, trying hard. His big toe almost touched the table. It was more of his ankle than his foot, of course. He was also trying to move his leg inward so he could move his foot outward.

He gave a slight shake of his head. Negative. He looked at Deb.

Deb took his foot and ankle, moving it left and right a little, flexing the muscle. She massaged his foot for a moment. She set his foot back on the table. He tilted it inward a bit and then back to the outside. He looked at Deb. She nodded. He tilted it again toward the inside, more. Again, his big toe almost touched the table. He moved it a little toward the outside. But he could go no further. He looked at Deb again, a bit sad.

"No sad eyes, love. You're doing very well. I am not at all disappointed."

"You're done your part, for now," said Mark. "Aaron, if he wants to, will do you leg flexes with you. Deb will do hers with you after that, and then you're done for the night."

I lifted Skip's foot off the table and put it in my lap. I bent his leg at the knee, my right hand on his shin, my left hand behind the bend in his knee. This is something that I would be doing for a good long time. His leg would feel as if it weighed a ton. I did ten reps of knee bends. Mark and I then laid him gently on his back after Deb took the back board from behind him. I raised his leg at the hip ten times a well. His hips had been healing well.

"Can I do his left leg as well?" I asked Deb.

"Sure, have at it. You're doing just fine."

"Okay by you love?"

Affirmative. Happy eyes.

I moved around to Deb's side of the table. I exercised his left leg just as I had done his right leg. There was no strength in his legs at all. For now, this was a way to keep his muscles from atrophy. Mark was exercising Skip's shoulders at the same time, six reps each.

I looked out the window to see the sun setting in the distance. It was close to 9:00 p.m.

"Ready to go back to you room?" I asked.


"You're staying the night?" asked Deb. "Sunday and maybe Wednesday?"

"Yeah. You okay with that?"


"Thanks. Both of you. I'm pleased that our bud had such a good day. Showing progress is awesome, huh love?"


Mark lifted Skip back into his wheelchair. He and Deb walked back to Skip's room with us. They each knelt down and gave him a hug. I knew that he badly wanted to be able to return it. He obviously had taken well to them both. They both kissed him on his forehead. Deb hugged me and kissed my forehead as well. Mark hugged me and rubbed my back, planting a kiss on my cheek.

"You're quite impressive too, Aaron. Your patience is making you a good coach for Skip. Remember, too, to be careful tonight."

"I will. Thanks guys. We make a pretty good team. See you tomorrow?"

"You bet. Good night guys," said Deb.

"Night guys. Sleep well."

I lifted Skip from his wheelchair onto his bed. I made sure his arms, legs, back, and hips were straight. I took off his t-shirt.

"Shorts too?" I asked.

"Yeah." Blink "Make—love?"

"If you're okay. Would you rather sleep?"

"No. Love m—me."

"I do love you, every day. Can I be inside you?"

"Oh b—boy."

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