I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I loved kids. I loved my teaching courses at Central Michigan University. I was an ESL teacher in Nanchang, China as well as an underground missionary for a the 1990-1991 school year. Yes! This was my passion, my calling! My God-given gift! I was going to teach for at least 30 years, probably more. My wife and I left the relative safety of our native Michigan for our first teaching assignment in the states in Yuma, Arizona. My career and life was seen as far as the long, straight desert highway. If I only knew that 20 years later, I would lose my career, and almost my life.
“I can do this,” I thought. I had been sitting on the hospital bed for fifteen minutes, convincing my wife, Kim, that I was going for my first walk in over two very long weeks. With her help, I am standing, Kim on my left and the IV stand on my right. Out to the door. Shuffle, shuffle. Turn right. Now walk the longest hospital block in the world. Shuffle, shuffle, stop. Stand. Shuffle, shuffle. Nurses everywhere smiled.
“Mr. Tanis! Oh, Mr. Tanis! You’re walking!” I tried to smile, but I could only glance toward the nurses’ voices with my blurred vision. I used all my concentration to move my cement legs. Nurses’ station, turn left.
“You’re doing great, hon,” Kim encouraged. “Shouldn’t you sit down now?” I mumbled and willed my heavy feet to shuffle onward. It was considerable time inching to that last corner that would take me back to my room.
Creak, phhhh. Creak, phhhh. The sound increased.
“What is that sound?” I asked Kim.
“It’s an old man who looks to be in his 90s pushing a walker.”
“I an not letting that old geezer pass me!” I hissed and forced my left foot up. Clunk. Drag right foot. Clunk. Drag. Chunk. Drag. Chunk. I went through the door of my room, turned, squinted, and smiled at “walker-man.” He didn’t turn to look at me; he was staring straight ahead, concentrating as I had. After he eventually passed, I asked Kim,
“Wow. He looked bad. I don’t look like that, do I?”
“No, you don’t,” my wife lied, wanting to say that I actually looked worse. I eased my exhausted body back into my hospital bed as Kim lifted my dead legs. The safety of the dark hospital room was comforting. Kim kissed my forehead and I immediately fell into a hard sleep.
Welcome to spring, 2008.