get Tina," she said.
arrived, the nurse explained the procedure to her, and Tina took over with the
alphabet board. She pointed to A, B, C,...but I didn't blink until she reached
H. And then she started all over again, finally stopping when I blinked at the
"Is the word
'How'?" she said.
The next word was
simpler. When she pointed to A, I blinked. "How am...?" she said. I
made no reaction. "How are...?" she said. I blinked. It took us only a
minute to work out the next word: the.
"How are the
boys? Is that what you want to say, Darryl?" she asked. I blinked.
Derek are just great," she said. "They're getting ready to go back to
school and are just waiting to see you."
Those last words
stuck with me. Tina could see it in my eyes. I wanted to see my boys, too, but
not the way I was. I was not the father they remembered. I was confined to a
bed and probably would never walk again. And I had this monstrous halo around
my head. Yes, my boys would see me again but, dammit, not before that halo was
understand," Tina said. "I understand perfectly." Tina always was a
good mind reader.
Once I came
through the spinal fusion surgery, the doctors relaxed the rules about
visits—and my room became a hotel lobby. Ray Perkins, my old receivers' coach
in New England, flew up from San Diego where he was the offensive coordinator
for the Chargers. Chuck Fairbanks, the coach of the Patriots, and Billy
Sullivan, the club's president, flew out from Boston. Marvin Gaye, one of my
favorite entertainers, was doing a gig in the Bay Area, and he visited me two
days in a row.