The wind hisses as Doc pushes open the heavy glass doors. He hurries inside, head down, a skull cap drawn snug over his ears. I pull my fleece jacket tighter, turn my face away from the frigid blast of air. Joe, the kid working the register, smiles brightly ready to welcome our gym patron. But when he sees who it is, he steps aside and defers to me. Doc tugs off his hat and without a word, sets a steaming cup of Starbucks coffee down in front of me. Instantly I wrap my hands around it, thankful for the warmth. He swipes his gym card across the reader, I hand him a towel and a lock.
“Thank you,” I nod at the cup in my hand, he nods back and moves towards the locker room.
“Does he ever smile?” Joe folds his arms across his chest. I retrieve my clipboard and pen from under the counter.
“Once in a while,” I reply, “But quite honestly I could care less as long as he continues to bring me coffee.” I give him a wink and walk out to the weight room floor.
Aside from the regulars, there are few people in the gym. Friday’s at 6:00 am tend to be sparse. By the end of the work week people appear to have given up on their fitness goals and instead focus on the weekend ahead.
Doc approaches pulling on his black cycling gloves, sweat towel wedged under his arm.
“Ready?” I ask. He shrugs, scratches his chin through his gray and white beard.
His long-sleeved black spandex shirt stretches across his broad chest and shoulders, his matching pants show off his powerful quads and hamstrings. At seventy-four he is an avid cyclist, and in admirable muscular and cardiovascular strength. His lack of flexibility on the other hand is the reason he began seeing me. In the early days Doc was lucky to be able to reach his knees with his hands whilst sitting upright in a chair. Three years later he can sit on the floor with his legs straight out in front of him, and grab hold of the toes of his runners. Progress.
“Want to start here today?”
I lead him to the treadmill for a quick warm up.
“Meh,” he kicks at a stray weight plate left on the floor. His glassy blue eyes appear a million miles away.
He releases a long sigh and steps up onto the machine. I climb up on an aerobic bench to boost myself to his level. I look him in the eye.
“What do you know, Doc?” He pushes the red quick start button, and the treadmill begins to move. He doesn’t alter the speed but rather meanders along at a painfully sluggish pace. Finally, he replies.
“Life is hard.”
I look down at my clipboard, pretend to write something.
“And then you die?” I finish without looking up.
“Yes,” he nods, “but not before suffering first.”
We fall silent.
“Yes?” he answers.
“I don’t think you should try giving any of your patients pep talks today.”
I hear him exhale forcibly. I grip my clipboard, hold my breath. Then ever so softly from somewhere deep in his throat, I hear a gurgling begin. Soon he’s chuckling and eventually no longer able to hold back, he erupts into a robust belly laugh. He laughs until tears glisten in his eyes. When he stops the treadmill leans over and wraps me in an enormous bear hug, I’m startled. But I hug him back and giggle along with him.
For the rest of the session Doc opens up to me about his wife’s terminal illness. About the many tests she’s been through. He confides how much pressure he feels to not let her suffer. She’s made him promise that he will let her die when she is ready, on her own terms. The burden of this responsibility weighs heavy on him. But by the end of our time together, he seems a bit lighter, a little less sad. I tell him to hang in there and he promises he will.
“From the very first pages, Lorinda Boyer’s pile of confessions moved me. Lorinda is a master with a pen. She incomparably describes what it feels like to be a Christian woman who must comply with fulfilling the role of being a perfect, dutiful wife and mother at any cost. No saints exist in the pages of this exceptionally written memoir, yet what stands out is the way Lorinda writes about how much her beliefs, confusion, and other people’s actions or lack of them affected her behavior. Overall, Straight Enough by Lorinda Boyer is a triumph of embracing one’s identity, redefining love, expressing one true self, and freeing oneself from feeling unworthy of love. It portrays a flawed, loving woman who repetitively struggles with excruciating guilt and thoughts that say she deserves to be punished by God.”
Emma Megan, Reader’s Favorite