Chapter Thirty-Five: Reseda
I had to do some things before leaving. I brought my clothes in from the SUV. Pearl let me shower in a bathroom near her room. She said the water heats up faster there.
I also had to take care of some calls. First, I had to let Alison know I would be gone for a while. I never had to deal with a patient of mine getting shot, but major surgery required at least several days in the hospital. Next, I called Muriel. She was horrified about what happened to Dylan but overjoyed that he was OK. I had to let Teresa know. She seemed surprisingly sympathetic, but she also seemed a bit frazzled and distracted. I could understand why with the situation she was in. I asked her to come, but she declined.
I thought about calling Rachel. I even had tapped her name on my contact list. Would she take my call? Would she even care?
“We’re ready when you are.” Hannah stepped gingerly with her cane.
“I’m ready.” I slipped the iPhone into my pocket.
I offered to take Pearl and Hannah to the hospital, but my SUV was too high for Hannah to climb up. I followed them up Reseda Boulevard to the hospital.
It was just as well, because I needed some time alone. What would I say to Dylan when I saw him? What would we do after he recovered?
WHHHSK. The nurse drew the curtain around the bed.
ERRRRFFFF. The blood pressure cuff tightened around my forearm.
I had gotten used to the routine. The nurse would wave something in front of my forehead to take my temperature, change one bag that was attached to my arm, drain another bag that was attached to my dick, and shine a flashlight in front of my eyes and my open my mouth so she could shine the light in there.
PFFFFFFT. The cuff loosened.
The nurse glanced at some machine and tapped numbers into an iPad. “110 over 65. Pulse 67.”
I wished Dad were here so he could tell me what that meant. He wasn’t, so I asked the nurse.
“Is that good?”
“Yes.” She closed the cover on her iPad and tucked it under her arm. “The doctor will be in to see you soon.”
WHHHSK. She pulled back the curtain.
“Excuse me.” I wasn’t sure she heard me as she stepped from where the curtain bunched at the end. But she stopped and turned towards me. “Is my dad coming?”
“I believe so.” She smiled and headed out of the room.
I sunk my head into the pillow. What would I say to Dad when I see him? Would it be another bullshit talk about the Angels and superhero movies? No. Not this time.
Pearl, Hannah, and I huddled in the corner of the elevator. Most of the elevator was taken up by a elderly woman in a wheelchair and a middle-age man who I assumed was her son, and a teenage girl who was probably her granddaughter. I made a few trips with Mom outside of the hospital towards the end. Not as many as I wanted.
Pearl glanced at the newspaper tucked under my arm. I would tell her and Hannah about it later. But this was something I had to show Dylan.
The elevator stopped at our floor.
“Excuse us, please,” Pearl whispered.
The man pulled the wheelchair back, and the girl moved close enough to him to let us pass through.
We stepped into the corridor and looked for the sign to the patient rooms.
Hannah patted my shoulder. “Do you want to spend some time alone with your son?”
The doctor explained what happened to me. The guy with the stained and stretched-out white t-shirt shot me in the stomach. He then freaked out and ran. The cops caught him a half an hour later. Fortunately, the guy’s bullet missed my spine and a major artery. But the doctors still needed hours of surgery and several pints of blood to fix me up.
I glanced at Dad. He must have heard all about this type of stuff at his job. It must not have been a big deal for him.
Normally, I could listen to a diagnosis, even the cause of death, with clinical detachment. But this was my son! He was almost killed! I could have lost him!
"What’s his prognosis?”
The concern in Dad’s voice surprised me.
The doctor smiled. “Quite good. We will monitor his vitals and make sure the sutures continue to hold. Starting today, we will gradually increase his activity. He should be able to make a full recovery, but it will take time.”
I looked at Dad. He had his practice. He had his girlfriend and her kids. There was no way he could stay here until I get better.
I knew Dylan’s doctor couldn’t tell us how long his recovery would be. I didn’t commit to timetables either. It depended on a number of things, most of which a doctor can’t control. If I couldn’t stay the whole time Dylan recovered, I could make trips. I wasn’t going to abandon him. Not anymore.
The doctor said, “If you have any questions, feel free to ask. The nurses can page me at the station.”
I nodded. “Thank you, doctor.”
“Thanks.” Dylan’s voice sounded different from the last time I saw him. A bit deeper, perhaps. It couldn’t have been just from his injuries.
I glanced at the doctor as he left the room.
I then looked at Dylan. As I looked down at him in that hospital bed, he seemed like a completely different person. Someone I didn’t really know. Someone I never knew at all.
I looked up at Dad, waiting him to say something. Anything. But he sat silently. It was if he knew we had to be real with each other, and he didn’t know how.
So, I had to speak first.
"Do they know?” Dylan said.
“I told Muriel. She said she’s coming from Minnesota to see you.”
“She’s not going to ditch midterms, is she?”
“No. I said you were recovering. She’ll come during break.”
“What about Mom? Does she know?”
“I told her.”
“Then, why isn’t she here?”
“You know your mom and I can’t be together in the same room.”
“Even for this?”
“I’m afraid your mom has problems of her own.”
Dad reached over to the tray next to my bed. He picked up a newspaper and handed it me. It was the Orange County Register from a few days ago. The front page had a picture of a glum looking Mom and Steven standing in front of their house. The house they threw me out of.
“FACE TIME EMPIRE CRUMBLES
DIMITY MAY FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES AS PROBE EXPANDS”
I looked up at Dad. He tightened his lip. I looked back at the article.
“DANA POINT - In addition to mounting accusations of plagiarism and falsifying information, Christian motivational speaker and Face Time with Jesus author Steven Howard Dimity now faces allegations of fraud related to his non-profit organization, Face Time for Healing. According to assistant DA Francine Jacoby, Dimity and his wife Teresa ‘used the organization like a personal bank account. Money that should have gone to charitable work was instead used to furnish Dimity’s office in Newport Beach and his private residence in Dana Point.’”
I was glad I didn’t take all of my stuff. It would have been seized as evidence.
I looked up at Dad again. He glanced down at the paper, encouraging me to read on.
Steven did plagiarize from Reverend Patricia Williams Story. And several other authors, including the pastor he made fun of because his son committed suicide. Everything Steven said was a lie. Growing up the only white kid in a bad part of Cleveland? More like an affluent white suburb. That firefight in Iraq? He wasn’t even in Iraq. He enlisted, but he got injured in a touch football game in basic training and got discharged. He never earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He never had anything personally presented to him by President Bush, but he did meet him at a Republican fundraiser. And that time when he took in his homeless opera-singing buddy? All staged. He hired an opera singer, actors to drive in the cars behind us and applaud, and a professional film crew to make a video to promote his so-called non-profit. He even staged the visit with the cancer patient at the hospital where he met Mom. It was true that Steven’s father went to prison, but was for fraud and tax evasion, not armed robbery.
I looked up at Dad once more. Again, his glance urged me to continue. I had to turn to another page.
“Teresa Dimity said, ‘These lies were perpetuated by my husband’s jealous rivals, his ex-wife, and godless liberals who want to persecute decent Christian people and destroy traditional American values. We will beat these charges. I stand behind my husband 100 percent.’”
I lowered the paper and looked directly at Dad. Mom would stand behind a cheating pathological liar but not a husband who loved her. And I could tell it broke his heart.
"How do you feel about this?” Dylan said.
“I don’t know. She is your mother. She hurt me, but I loved her.”
“But you have a new girl...”
I shook my head. “We broke up.”
“Sorry. She looked pretty.”
“Pretty is only on the outside, son. It doesn’t show you what’s underneath.”
“What are you going to do, Dad?”
“I don’t know. I’m more concerned about what you’re going to do.”
Dylan looked away. “I don’t know either. I lost everything. The Explorer got towed.”
“I can pay to get it out of impound.”
“But I lost my job.”
“I spoke to your boss, what is his name?”
“Yes, sorry. I forgot. He said last night that he’s willing to take you back.”
Dylan looked up and smiled. “That’s great.”
Dad smiled back. “So, do you still want to leave?”
I blinked and stared at him at a moment. Then, I remembered that email I sent him.
“You don’t want me to come home with you?”
“I don’t have a home for you to go to. I lived in my girlfriend’s house. So, I don’t have a place to live.”
“We can find a new home together.”
Dad smiled. “I think you’ve already found a home of your own.”
“But I don’t have a place to live.”
“You do with us.”
Both Dad and I turned towards the door. Pearl stood in the doorway with Hannah right behind her. She walked to the side of my bed, next to where Dad sat. She reached under my head and cradled it.
“Mom and I talked. We want you to live with us.”
“But Pearl, you’re already doing too much. You can’t take care of me too.”
Hannah smiled. “But you will get better. And then, you can help her help me.”
Watching Dylan, Pearl, and Hannah together, I saw the love I wished Teresa and I could have given him. But I no longer felt sadness or regret. I felt joy that my son was moving ahead in his life. He found purpose and direction. It gave me a sense of warmth and happiness I never felt at any time in my life.
I reached up and patted Pearl on the shoulder. “Do you want to spend some time alone with Dylan?”
When I got the Dylan’s Explorer out of impound, I had it towed to the gas station where Reza worked. Pearl drove me to the station. I paid for five gallons, enough to see if it would start. Pearl and Reza stood next to the vehicle as I got into the driver’s seat. The car smelled like underarms and unwashed socks. I couldn’t believe Dylan spent a month living in it.
“Will this thing start?” Pearl said.
“As long as the battery has a charge, it should turn over,” Reza replied.
It was up to me to find out. I put the key in the ignition and turned it. The engine roared back to life without hesitation.
Reza and Pearl stepped away from the vehicle.
“He could have gone home anytime he wanted,” Reza mused.
Pearl smiled. “He did.”
I shifted the transmission to drive.
Back at Hannah and Pearl’s, curiosity got the best of me, and I started looking through Dylan’s things in the back. He showed his ingenuity by covering the windows with black plastic tarp, laying a sleeping bag out over the bed, and getting a folding knife. He must have learned about the usefulness of knives in Scouts. I found his iPhone and a couple of books. One was Steven’s. The other was some New Age book.
“Mom let him borrow that.” Pearl walked towards me.
“I’m sure he’ll want to finish this. I’ll take it to the hospital for him.” I glanced at the title, The Healing Power of God’s Light. “I used to read books like this in college. I was into all that stuff, crystals, incense, tarot cards, meditative piano music. It didn’t help me.”
“It helped Mom.”
I set the book on Dylan’s sleeping bag next to something bunched in a pile. I then turned to Pearl and looked at her t-shirt. I hadn’t noticed it before.
“You play softball?”
“I did in high school.”
“My daughter does too. She’s at the University of Minnesota.”
“It doesn’t cover everything.”
Pearl exhaled. “I was offered a scholarship to Oklahoma.”
“Patty Grasso has a great program there. They won the NCAA title in 2013. They say they may win again this year.”
“Yeah. They say.” Pearl hung down her head. My heart sank with hers.
I gathered some positivity. “When Dylan starts helping your mom, you can go back to school.”
“I can’t go to Oklahoma...”
“They have schools in this area. I think there’s a Cal State here, and I’m sure there are community colleges. Perhaps you can get into UCLA.”
“It’s too late.”
“It’s not. Sometimes, life gives us second chances.”
She looked up at me. “Like you have with Dylan.”
“And you too. I know how you feel about each other.”
Her face reddened, and body locked stiff. I thought what I said embarrassed her. Then, I noticed she was looking in the bed of the Explorer. I looked the same direction she did. I realized what was in that bundle near the book.
I smiled. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s perfectly acceptable these days.” I took a step towards her and spoke softly. “If you need any tips, there’s an excellent website. I think it’s called ‘Hawthorne.’”
I patted her shoulder and went back to the Explorer to close the lift gate. Pearl still looked red-faced and stiff.