Long before I discovered the mysterious mix of pain and relief that writing from the heart brings, I was pursuing a Masters in English Literature at Central Washington University in the small town of Ellensburg, Washington.
I was broke, like most grad students, and supported myself by working for two individuals confined to assisted living situations. One of them, Larry, was completely paralyzed. He was unable to speak, and could only blink his eyes. He had been in prison when the ill effects of an operation he undertook there had gone wrong, and were then compounded by an error by the anesthesiologist. His sustenance came from gulping small spoonfuls of food blended with milk. Never in his life would he ever again “enjoy” a meal. He would never be experiencing the simple actions of walking, singing, dancing, swimming, driving, fishing, wandering …
He may have been unable to speak, but Larry had a lot to say. He communicated by blinking his eyes. I would sit beside his prone body on the gurney and slowly recite the alphabet until he blinked on a letter. “C?” I would ask. Another blink. C. Recite again,”A?” Another blink. A. Recite to N, another blink. I would ask, “Can?” Another blink, “Yes.” “Can” would eventually become, “Can I have a drink?” I would get him some juice, or water, depending on what he would spell next.
It was laborious to communicate with him and it took patience and stamina. He lacked neither, for he had a book to write. We would spend three hours to produce half a page of text.