So, I watched the Harry Potter series of movies back-to-back recently. Somebody thoughtful bought me the box-set for Xmas.
Anyway, in one episode Harry asks the Dark Arts teacher to show him how to fight Dementors. If you’re not a Potter-nerd, then this would be the time to lie (by clicking ‘Like this post’) and move onward and upward into The Cloud, free of guilt.
For those still engaged, in order to repel a Dementor, Harry must conjure a moment from his past so deeply personal and emotional that it fills him up and repels the negative energy projected by the evil wraith.
Good fiction stirs deep feelings, and as I considered what I would use to face a Dementor, my mind flipped to an event I hadn’t thought of since I was a child.
If you will forgive a smattering of back-story: at age almost-six, I was hit by a fast-moving truck. Yeah. No. Not a Silverado-type truck, but a big-mother-hauling-tons-of-stuff truck.
Long story short, I lived—obviously–but only just. Terrible injuries hospitalize me for eight months. Most of the time, I was confined to a plaster cast–a shell molded to the back of my body from shoulders to feet, legs apart and raised.
Incidentally, if any of you have a six-year-old, or, if you plan to have one, and you force them to lie still for seven months, don’t be surprised if they have flashbacks when they get older.
Anyhow, eight months after the road accident, the surgeon–whom I later discovered was the one who decided not to amputate my left leg even though the femur was broken in seven places–appeared at my bedside. This grizzly man with overlong gray hair, whom I had never knowingly met, unhooked my chart from the bottom of the bed, checked my name, and said, “Peter Barber?”
“Well? Get up!”
I’d love to describe my face. Of course I can’t–because I didn’t see it. But I was in an all adult male ward, and I do remember the face of the man in the next bed who had his foot amputated earlier that morning (gangrene, I think). He was wide-eyed. It must take a lot to shock a guy who just lost his foot.
“I can’t walk,” I said.
After eight months on my back, shitting in a pan and pissing in a bottle, I assumed that was the truth.
The crazy guy pulled back the covers. “Get up!” he said.
When you’re really ill, folk don’t normally shout at you, but he sounded angry, and I was scared.
So I swung my legs over the edge: the left, white-wrapped from my groin to my ankle, the right from thigh to knee.
I remember the floor, cold under my bare feet.
Terrified, I glanced at the man in the next bed who had been wailing all night because his foot hurt. He was crying, but not in the same way. He nodded, and smiled, and somehow his approval steeled me.
I eased off the bed and rocked forward.
Standing upright for the first time in so long it was as though I had never stood before. I’d forgotten how.
My confidence slipped and I teetered toward the bed.
Before my ass hit the covers, crazy-surgeon-guy gripped my arm. His hand was bony and his determination hurt. I shirked from his grip and crabbed around the bed, hands on the mattress, legs stiff, ass in the air. I had on a stupid hospital gown, displaying my scrawny seven-year-old butt.
When I reached the end of the bed—an old style bent tube–I gripped with my left hand and straightened and steadied myself as though I were standing on a high wire.
Facing away from gangrene-man and the crazy doctor, I let go.
For the first time in eight months, I stood, swaying, unsteady.
And all those sick men, laying and sitting in their beds in the long ward, applauded.
Thank you, Harry Potter, for reminding me.