After an hour of sick babies that can't be consoled, I put on my head phones. My wife smiles knowingly, she wondered when I would crack. She has the patience of a saint. Dylan, a down syndrome boy, has found a ball. I wish with all my blessings, that I could be that happy about anything. He cajoles the Latin boy with the heart transplant, into a game of catch. Soon the game is completely out of control and people in the waiting room are taking shots to the head and body. It would be annoying if Dylan wasn't so happy. The ball rolls to the twenty year old guy, with a horse shoe shaped scar on his shaved head. He looks like he just won the lotto. His smile turns on and he holds out the ball for Dylan. Dylan whoops with excitement and runs to the kid with the scar. He climbs in his lap and hugs him with all the strength of his ten year old arms. Everyone in the room is watching and smiling, except Dylan's parents. They are exhausted and worried.
A group of guys that look like gang extras from an inner city docudrama, are playing cards. They seem like thugs until one speaks to another about how well he is learning the game. The meanest looking one of them all, has the kindest voice in the room. He starts to deal the cards and they all pick up their hands. The ball hits in the middle of the table and the cards are dispersed. They all smile at Dylan, and resume play without talking.
A guy two seats over is about my age and I ask if he had a P.F.O. We exchange stories and figure out we are both cyclists. He had his stroke in July, mine was in August. We had our heart surgery the same week. We talk about cycling and how much it means to us. He's getting off coumadin in a few weeks. I am jealous. I won't be off for four months, all because of a condition, I do not have. One misdiagnosis, cost me a whole season. Jeff and I talk like Nam vets and exchange info. He invites me to come ride in Tampa, when I get off thinners. He admits he is riding against doctors orders, because he just couldn't take it anymore. Thirty to forty miles a week on the road is keeping him sane for now, but he really misses his mountain bike. I nod and feel like someone gets it for the first time in months.
Dylan goes back into the examining room and drags out a doctor. He lifts his shirt and motions for the Doctor to listen to his heart. The doctor plays along and tells him his heart sounds great. Dylan walks over to a man and starts trying to open his shirt. He wants the doctor to listen to his heart too. The room erupts with laughter. It is obvious to all of us, Dylan is an angel. A new kid comes in a wheel chair. Dylan runs full speed at him and his mother barley catches him, before he crashes into the kid. Dylan smiles and tries to hug him but the boy in the chair is very small and frail. His mother takes Dylan's hand and gently touches the other boy who smiles back. The heart transplant boy is on top of a counter. Dylan sees him and rushes off to the rescue.
I am the first one to the pool this morning. The fog swirls around the surface like dancers in Swan Lake. It's cold and I am tired. There are fifteen hundred yards in between me and self respect. The girl in the life guard stand is huddled up in a ball and she has no shoes. The old guy in the next lane laps me, as I count down the yards.
I wonder how Dylan is doing.