I lost track of time. It could have been 10 minutes or an hour when we arrived at a rural hospital. They wheeled us into the empty ER.
Quiet nurses closed the curtain between Linda and me. They inserted an IV. “What are you putting in me?”
Good. I was getting the water I needed. My lower back was killing me. Shooting pains that stopped breath. Mick, a nurse’s aid, came in and looked me over. He was a short guy with one eye, built like a bulldog.
“A blanket. I’m cold.” He found a blanket and covered me as gently as he would a child. “I need this board off. It hurts.”
He shook his head. “I can’t.”
Linda was moaning, which I took as a good sign. She was breathing better. “Take this board out!” I could have told her they couldn’t but I didn’t have the strength. I wanted to call my son, Nathan, but they had already done it, giving him the worst phone call of his life:
“You’re parents were in a serious accident. . . .”
I heard a nurse ask what my name was.
“Dennis Miller,” another said.
“Oh, he’s famous!” I’ve heard this enough times that I could recognize in her voice the hope that I really was the comedian Dennis Miller. She would look at me and feel disappointment when she confirmed that she wasn’t going to tend to a movie star, that by some million-in-one chance the Dennis Miller had an accident on Rt. 390 and was brought to her small, rural emergency room.
I’ve disappointed a lot of people in my life by virtue of my name.
Time stood still and flew, like a hummingbird whose wings flap 25 times a second to hold it motionless in the air.
A state police woman appeared and asked me questions. She seemed satisfied and said it was clearly no fault.
A nurse came in. “What’s your pain level on a scale of 1-10?
“Eleven,” I said without exaggerating.
Nathan appeared and God himself couldn’t have been more welcome. He went from Linda to me, caring, touching, being something no one else could be– our family, our son.
As he stood with Linda on the other side of the curtain, I felt my fingers go numb. I started shaking. When my teeth began chattering I knew I was going into shock.
I took a deep breath and focused on the ceiling,the moment, the self. Another deep breath. I didn’t want any drugs. I wanted to know that Linda would be okay. i took another breath and told myself to relax. I’d been through a trauma, yes, but I didn’t need to let it control me.
I calmed down.
Another wave of shaking. I didn’t call out. No drugs. Leave me alone until I get control.
Mick came in, quiet, rock steady like a veteran bartender checking your drink and your psyche.
“Fine, Mick,” I said calmly. “Thanks.”