My second day of therapy came and went pretty uneventfully except that my mom came to help out. After she and Tuck stretched my arms and legs and performed the repetitive arm exercises, Tuck pulled a privacy curtain around the exercise table to demonstrate to my mother how my catheter worked. I lay on the table and watched my mother’s expression very closely when Tuck pulled down my sweats, revealing my useless dick with the catheter taped in place.
“See Mrs. Shepherd? Since Skelly can’t tell when he has to go to the bathroom anymore, a catheter is inserted into his urethra and travels up to his bladder. This drains the urine into a little pouch on his thigh called a leg bag. You won’t have to change the catheter nearly as much as the leg bag, which tends to fill pretty quickly if Skelly drinks water or tea.”
My mother was silent except for her constantly nodding head. She was staring at the tube camped out in my limp dick. God, that was embarrassing. My mother hadn’t seen my dick since I was seven years old. Now I was a twenty-two year old man and had to rely on my mother just to piss.
She cleared her throat, faking a smile. “Well that doesn’t seem so hard. What about uh…when he um…,” she stammered out. “When Skelly had his halo brace on and was in bed all day, it was easier just to use a pad that was placed under his behind. But since he’s able to get in and out of bed now and sit in his wheelchair we’ll be switchin’ to protective adult undergarments.”
I almost choked. I had not been even remotely aware of this. I stared at Tuck with my mouth open. Noticing my surprise, he tried to explain. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before Skelly, but it’s true. Unless you want me to show your mother how to manually evacuate your bowels, that’s your only other option.” My mother just looked flustered. “Adult undergarments? Do you mean….” Her voice trailed off.
I had grown exasperated with her timidity. “Diapers, mom. I have to wear diapers or I’ll shit my pants. Do you get it now?”
Her face flushed a deep red as she avoided eye contact with me. But she just as quickly composed herself. “Well, it’s not like I’ve never changed your diapers before, Skelly. This won’t be anything new.”
“You can still use the pads at night when you won’t be movin’ around much.”
I refused to speak anymore. I felt almost as if Tuck had betrayed me by not telling me beforehand. My mother looked at me sympathetically. “Your father and I love you, Skelly. Sid does too. We’ll do anything it takes to care for you.”
All I wanted to do was die. I couldn’t believe the humiliation I was going to have to endure when I got home. “No.”
“No what, honey?”
“No, dad and Sid are not going to see me like this.”
“But Skelly, it…”
I cut her off. “NO, goddamn it! It’s not going to happen, end of discussion!”
She didn’t say anything after that but looked up at Tuck with a “we’ll let him think what he wants” look on her face. Now she was just patronizing me. “Well, honey, we’ll see how it works out when you’re home. You might feel differently about it then.”
I knew that I wouldn’t but didn’t want to argue with her anymore. I didn’t speak to either of them for the remainder of my therapy session, only breaking my silence once to tell my mother good bye. Leaning over my wheelchair she kissed my forehead and whispered, “Baby, everything’s going to be okay. Don’t get yourself all worked up over something that’s inevitable. I know you don’t like the idea of Sid or your father helping you go to the bathroom, but I won’t be around all the time. We’re a family, we can work together. Okay?”
I slowly nodded my head to appease her. With that said she left promising to return every other day to help me and Tuck with my rehab.
After a few weeks I was moved to the rehabilitation building off to the right of the hospital. It wasn’t a far move, but far enough to take Tuck away from me. Since he was only my nurse he had to stay behind on the fifth floor of the hospital where I’d begun to feel at home. Because the rehab unit was so close to the hospital, Tuck still found time to come visit and help me with my exercises at least twice day.
This time no one particular nurse or therapist was assigned to me. There were several of them coming to change my catheter, take me to the therapy room, help me maneuver my wheelchair, etc. throughout the each day. But none of them compared to Tuck. Most of the nurses were female. Jenny, the sensorimotor specialist, still continued to monitor my progress.
My routine therapy sessions had intensified. Two months into my stay at the rehab center I could already drag my arm across the tray on my wheelchair. Although, it was a really clumsy action I was proud of myself every time Jenny would place some papers or an empty cup on my tray, allowing me to sweep my arm across it, knocking whatever was in my weak arm’s path to the ground. She had begun fastening custom fitted splints to my hands during the day now. With the help of a sling attached to my wheelchair and a specially made fork which clamped onto my splint I could eat almost entirely by myself. My wrists were still too weak to pick up a glass, but a long straw was all I really needed.
My father and Sid had been showing up a lot more when mom came. While my dad sometimes sat on the exercise mat next to mom, he never actually touched any part of my body or spoke directly to me. It was almost as if my mother were a translator between the two of us. Sid would find a chair somewhere and just sit and watch us from the corner of the room. He acted like such a douche.
Everything went pretty smoothly and wasn’t as awkward as I’d thought it would be. There were only a couple of really uncomfortable moments between me and my dad. Once was when all of the slings in the therapy room were occupied. Jenny didn’t see the point in waiting our turn and asked my dad to pick me up and place me in my wheelchair. He looked startled for a moment before hesitantly squatting down on the mat and lifting me as if I were so delicate that I might break at any moment. I was actually kind of touched that he handled me so carefully. He was really afraid of doing something wrong and hurting me.
After I was securely seated in my wheelchair, Jenny asked Sid to help her with the straps. I could easily see what she was trying to do. She was putting forth her best effort to incorporate my dad and Sid into my daily routine so that once I was home little things like putting me in my wheelchair and strapping me in wouldn’t seem like such a big deal.
Sid almost looked as if he was about to say no, but waltzed over anyway. “I don’t know what to do,” he mumbled.
“Here, it’s easy. You get the straps over his legs. All you have to do is make sure his feet are lined up in the footrests and his legs aren’t crooked, then just firmly pull the velcro straps over them. Not too tight, though. Skelly wont be able to feel if they’re cutting off his circulation. That’s something you have to be careful about.”
Sid did as she told him and looked like he wanted to pass out. His face got really white as he bent down next to my wheelchair. I had on shorts that day, so my painfully thin legs and curled feet were only inches away. Sid unsuccessfully tried his best not to make any actual contact with my body. He pulled the straps together as quickly as possible before jerking back up and returning to his chair in the corner.
I looked up at all of their faces from my wheelchair. I really hated that; looking up. I wanted to be able to look my father and Sid in the eyes again. I hated having to constantly look up at them like a little child. But really, it wasn’t so bad having them there. It wasn’t good. But it wasn’t bad either.
I began to see less and less of Tuck as the weeks went by. I went from seeing him twice a day everyday to once every other day. Now that I was in a different building with much more people bustling about, we rarely ever had any alone time. We had to resort to quickly sucking each other off behind privacy curtains whenever we could.
As my arms were growing stronger and I was able to do more things for myself I knew my time at the rehabilitation center was coming to a close. My family lived in Austin, Texas. I knew that wasn’t too far away from Dallas, but it was a hell of a lot farther away than the building next door. I was becoming more and more anxious about leaving Tuck. I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d get to see him would be. I also knew it might seem a little weird if Tuck came all the way out to Stockbridge just to see me. He was, after all, only supposed to be my nurse. And with things getting a little better between me and my dad, I didn’t want mine and Tuck’s relationship to ruin that. For a while I seriously thought about halting my improvement in therapy. I didn’t really want to stay at the hospital, but I didn’t want to leave Tuck either. Finally I told myself that if our relationship was strong enough the move wouldn’t affect our feelings for each other. I learned to appreciate what little privacy Tuck and I had and to make every moment count.
Eventually my old sip-and-puff wheelchair was taken away from me. In its stead was a Sunrise S-525 custom power chair, complete with a joystick. I was in love with it. Just glancing at it the untrained eye could very possibly mistake it for a manual wheelchair. As soon as I saw it I couldn’t wait to get in it. I was almost disgusted with myself for being so excited over a wheelchair. Since my dad wasn’t around that day, my mother asked Sid to help me into my new chair. Sid looked terrified. I admit, I didn’t want Sid cradling me anymore than he did, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to try out my new power chair.
Gingerly lifting me from the bed, Sid avoided eye contact with me as he transferred me to the compact, all-black wheelchair. Just the lack of a headrest made me feel less crippled already. And as far as I could tell, there was no tray. After my butt was securely placed in the well-padded seat, my mother quickly fastened a thick strap around my chest. The only other straps were across my lap and over my feet.
After my mother made sure I was safely secured, Sid did an unexpected thing. Without any coaxing from mom, he actually picked up my braced right hand and guided it to the joystick, leaving the other in my lap. Fearing that maybe he had done something wrong, he quickly looked first at me then our mother. She smiled approvingly. “Are you ready to give it a spin, Skell?”
For the next two hours I practiced maneuvering with a paralyzed right hand. It was actually a lot harder than I’d expected. And it was a hell of a lot harder than my old sip-and-puff. I got really frustrated at the times when my hand would fall from the joystick and hang limply over the side of my wheelchair. But either Sid or my mom would always be there to pick it back up and get me going again.
I eventually made my way out of the rehabilitation room and into the somewhat vacant hallway. I rode until I got to the elevators. I wanted to see if I could actually get from therapy to my room all on my own. I pulled my stick from my shirt pocket, securing my teeth around the mouthpiece. But before I had a chance to press the little ‘up’ button I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of one of the shiny elevator doors.
Before that moment I had been feeling great. I relished the independence I felt just from riding in a power chair with a joystick. I had even felt less crippled only an hour before. But now that I could see my body full- length this closely in the elevator door, the high I was on before was smothered. I had been so focused on how good my new chair looked that I didn’t think of how my body would look in it.
My eyes immediately zoned in on my legs. Though my feet, covered in thick white socks and lightweight AFO braces, were strapped in, my stick-thin legs had shifted to the left. They looked so lifeless; swaying with every bump and turn I came across. My gaze traveled up my body. All of my torso under the heavy chest strap just looked soft and flabby. I had a gut forming over the belt across my lap. I was only twenty-two years old, and I was on my way to having the gut of a forty-year-old drunk. It was bad enough that my arms and legs were so twiggy, but now a soft pooch too? No wonder Sid and my dad felt like they had to be so careful when they handled me. I really looked fragile.
Even though no one was around, I blushed when I looked down at my crotch. The bulge of my diaper was evident against my sweats. I could see the outline of it even in the reflective elevator door. Even though I’d been wearing them for weeks now, I still couldn’t get accustomed to having my mother or one of the nurses change me. I was humiliated when Sid walked in on my mom wiping my ass about a week ago. My mother didn’t think anything about it and asked Sid to hand her a fresh diaper out of the pack. I really let my mom have it that night. Afterwards I felt kind of bad for yelling at her. But she should have known better. So what if Sid was my twin brother? That’s no excuse to reveal such an intimate detail of daily life that I have to endure. Though I wanted Sid and me to have a functional relationship, I didn’t want us to be that close. Sid had politely excused himself, and neither of us ever spoke about it.
The last body part I got to critique before the elevator doors slid open was, of course, my hands. As much as I tried to ignore my consistently balled-up fists, I only seemed to make myself even more aware of them. They truly disgusted me. I would flinch every time I had an itch on my nose and I’d have to rub my face with my tightly-curled fingers. I hated the feel of those tense fingers which had no feeling themselves. I thought back to Vash. His hands had become almost claw-like. I shivered then shrugged off the thought. I didn’t want to think about Vash. He was worst case scenario; a scenario I could have easily had a part in. I heard he’d already been transferred to a local nursing home. I’d also heard his wife and kid almost never went to see him.
My depressing thoughts were interrupted when I noticed an elevator full of people, all eyes on me. I could have kicked myself in the ass for not being prepared to board beforehand. Since my wheelchair was blocking the way of anyone entering or exiting the elevator, I had to move before anyone else could do anything. I tried to quickly reverse out of the way; too quickly I suppose because my chair hit the wall can behind me, causing my hand to flop off the joystick and into my lap and my knees to spread apart.
I feebly stared down at my unresponsive hand, willing it to move back to the joystick. Without my hand on the control I was helpless. The elevator full of people were still gazing at the pathetic spectacle before them. One man was holding the doors open with his briefcase. All I could do was hang my head and stare down into my bulky lap. This time there was no tray to help camouflage my embarrassing secret.
To my amazement, no one even offered to help. The stares continued as various people boarded the elevator or continued on their way; some of them ignoring me altogether or worse, noticing my situation but deciding not to interfere. There wasn’t a nurse or therapist in sight, either.
Just as I felt tears of humiliation welling up in my eyes, Sid rounded the corner. “There you are! Me and mom have been looking everywhere for you.” He looked down at me expectantly. When I still didn’t look up he realized something was wrong. “Skelly? What happened…what’s wrong?”
Before I could even answer he noticed my hand dangling lifelessly off the armrest of my chair. Taking mine in his, he gently settled my hand into my lap. With that done, Sid grabbed the handles on the back of my wheelchair and pushed me into the elevator. Inside were some of the very same people who’d watched my struggle only minutes before. I kept my eyes down; focusing on the straps holding my feet in place.
I never could have known that my embarrassing little episodes inside the hospital and rehabilitation center were only the tip of one giant, humiliating iceberg yet to be faced.
To be continued...