September 9 2005
I awoke next with a warming sight. Our family’s physician was sitting next to the bed this time, praying silently. Dr. O’Hara was the woman who delivered me and has been my physician ever since. She was also a member of our parish and an extremely religious woman. She was actually becoming a nun before she heard a “calling” to become a doctor. And she was a damn good one too.
“You can stop your praying, I feel fine,” I said with a smirk on my face.
“Oh thank God you’re all right.” She looked like she had been crying for a while.
“Where are mom and dad?”
“They’re out trying to eat supper and fill out forms at the same time.”
“Do you know what’s happened? Like where am I right now?”
Her voice was always sincere and had kind of a calming aspect to it. “They med-flighted you to Madison. You’re at the University Hospital right now. I’m sorry but I really don’t know anything else right now.”
“I might be able to help with that,” came a voice from the other direction. I looked over and saw a tall man, probably in his seventies since he bald all except for bushy white eyebrows. “It’s good to see you awake Mr. Stenson, you had us worried for a while. I’m Doctor Boland.” He walked over to a lighting board on the wall, pulled out several large x-rays he had in his hand and clipped them up. “I suppose you’ve got a lot of questions and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can. I’ve already spoken with you parents.”
Oh great, I can imagine mom is going to be leaving with a few more ulcers than she came with.
“Well from what we can gather from what your friend told us,” he must have meant Derrick, “you were shot with a 22 caliber rifle bullet. It entered your lower back and became lodged into one of your kidneys. We were able to remove the bullet and sew up the kidney. Only time will tell if it’s going to function normally.” He used his finger to show a darker area on the x-ray. “That is where you got hit; the bullet actually went between a couple ribs so it didn’t cause any damage in that sense.” He pulled away the x-rays.
“To be honest Tommy, you’re very lucky to be alive. Had the bullet strayed by a few millimeters either direction, it could have splintered on the ribs which would have torn a bunch of stuff up inside and caused a whole mess of trouble. You lost a lot of blood, but you stopped bleeding after we sewed up the kidney, so you shouldn’t need anymore transfusions.”
“How long am I gonna be in here?” I asked.
“Well, you seem to be recovering pretty quickly, we’ll want to keep you another day or so before transferring you back to Baraboo where you can stay at the hospital there and start physical therapy.”
“Yes, the bullet did tear some muscles I you lower back. It’s not going to be a huge amount of therapy, but it’s going to still take a lot of effort on your part. Do you have any questions?”
“No, none that I can think of.” Wait, duh! “Actually, do they know who did it?”
“The police interviewed your friend a while ago and I’m sure they’ll want to speak to you, but that can be taken care of when you transfer. Otherwise, I really don’t know a lot about it. Frankly it seems like their being pretty quiet about the investigation.”
“Also, and this is going to sound a little stupid.”
“I’m sure I’ve heard worse.”
“What day is today?”
“Oh yes,” He looked at his watch. “It’s the 22nd; you’ve been out for about three days. We’ll I hope you feel better. Get some rest now.”
“Well,” said Doctor O’Hara, “I suppose I should see if I can find your parents to tell them you’re awake.”
“Bye Doctor O’Hara, and thanks for coming.”
About twenty minutes passed before mom came back in.
“Did you get everything taken care of?” I asked.
“Yes, luckily your dad’s insurance should cover most of the hospital stay and the surgery, and whatever his doesn’t, mine will.” It was nice to have two parents who worked for the government; it at least had nice benefits.
“Mom, I think we need to talk, but I want to do it when dad’s here too.” I could see mom was trying to decipher as much out of what I had said as she could.
“That’s fine, your dad went back to check on your brother at the hotel. He should be back soon. In the mean time, is there anything you want, are you hungry.” She was springing back into concerned mom mode again.
“I’m fine mom. Believe me.”
“Well you need to eat something, you haven’t had any solid food since you got here and they took out the feeding tube this morning.”
“I had a feeding tube in me?!”
“It was the only way they could get you nutrients while you were unconscious. But the doctor said you’re fine to start eating solid foods whenever you want.”
“I’m really in the mood for a burger if that’s possible.”
“Of course Tommy.” She stood up, gave me a kiss on the forehead and left the room.
The burger tasted like shoe leather, but I didn’t care, I was STARVED! I practically inhaled it along with the carton of milk mom brought also. She just sat there as I quickly enjoyed my meal. Just as I was finishing, dad walked into the door.
“Hey big man, how you holdin’ up?”
“Just fine dad. Do you know what happened to Derrick?” I had to know even if there was turning back from this question.
“I saw him a few days ago when you were first brought in. I don’t know what happened to him after that.”
“He was the one that was with you when this happened, right?” I could tell mom definitely wanted to know more than the question asked.
“Yes mom, and that’s what I wanted to talk to you two about.” I had gone through this moment a million times before in my head.
Come on Tommy, it’s easier if you just come out with it. Screw the consequences the have a right to know. They need to know.
“Mom, dad, I didn’t go out to a movie that night like I told you.”
“We know that much Tommy.” Mom clearly stated.
“The fact is, I went out to supper at Fields with Derrick that night. Because, frankly, Derricks more than a friend to me, a lot more. Mom, dad, he loves me and…I love him.” Those three simple words sent the whole room into a quiet awe. After what felt like hours of no one saying anything, which was in reality probably a minute or so, I decided to continue.
“The whole reason this happened is because of me and Derrick. People at school found out and it spread like wildfire. The reason I’m lying in this bed, the reason someone tried to kill me, is because I’m gay.” Again, no one said anything. This time I waited for some else to say something. Dad was the first to speak up.
“Jesus Christ, I can’t believe it!” Here it came, all the things I had been dreading from my parents were about to be spilled out, I bet he’ll go for the disappointment route. “How could someone do this to you just because of this?! When I find out who did this, I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch!!”
“Settle down John,” mom said as she stood up and grabbed his arm.
This time I was the one struck silent. I couldn’t believe it. After all the years of fear I had for coming out to them, this is it? He wasn’t angry or frustrated at me.
“So you’re fine with me being this way?” I finally asked.
“Honey, that’s your choice,” mom said. “We told that we’ll love you no matter what, and that’s a promise. Although I guess I won’t be getting grandchildren as soon as I hoped, but that’s fine dear. Frankly I’m just glad you found somebody, man or woman”
Dad’s anger melted away and turned to more of intrigue. “So you and Derrick, huh? How did that all happen?”
I spent the next half hour recounting my story starting with that first saxophone choir practice. Of course I left out a lot of the more intimate details for their sake.