"A man's reach should exceed his grasp else what's a heaven for?"

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp else what’s a heaven for?”

We’ve all heard it before. A man greets another man: “How’re you doing this morning?” And the other man responds with, “Oh, you know, man. It’s the same old same old.” Or, Ain’t nothin’ changed, man. Same as yesterday. It’s just another funky day.”

Yesterday started out to be just another day. I went to breakfast, saw the same geese chattering and squawking as they flew over the prison, just like they’d done the day before and the day before that. Those same handsome cell dogs were in the yard for their morning walk, and the same humongous groundhog I watched yesterday morning was peeking out of its tunnel in the yard outside my window.

After breakfast I was called to the dispensary to have the callous on my foot shaved. I signed in and then sat on the bench to wait. Beside me sat a man who looked to be about my age (never mind). His left foot was wrapped heavily with gauze and red stuff was oozing from his toes. “How you doing, man?” I asked. The man was obviously in pain. He squinted, kept his eyes on his foot and said, “Not too good. They just cut off three of my toes. Damn diabetes.” I said, “That’s too bad. Diabetes runs in my family, too, and it scares the hell out of me. I’ve been lucky so far.” We spent the next ten minutes sharing names of family members who have diabetes.

When the nurse called my name, I said goodbye and good luck to the fellow and followed the nurse into the room. In the corner of the room, a prisoner sat in a wheelchair grasping his chest and grimacing. He was struggling with each breath, but he managed to cry out, “Nurse! Nurse, I’m having a heart attack! Please help me!” The nurse said, “The doctor is on his way. Just hang in there.” She told me to take a seat and remove my shoe and sock. I watched as she took the other prisoner’s blood pressure. A minute later the doctor walked nonchalantly into the room and asked me where the pain was. I said, “It doesn’t really hurt until I step on a rock, Doc.” The nurse shouted, “Not him! This one over here, doctor!”

Suddenly, I no longer want my callous treated. All I wanted was to get up and walk out of that room and find those geese, those four beautiful dogs and that waddling groundhog, and just look at them, man, and really see them! And the next fellow who told me how miserable his day was, I would remind him that he has toes to wiggle and a heart that pumps and eyes to see and if that’s not enough to be thankful for, then what is?

Patrick Middleton

Patrick Middleton is a prisoner, author, and professional editor. Patrick is the author of Introduction to Experimental Psychology, 2nd edition (instructor’s manual and test battery and Research Methods, 3rd edition, (instructor’s manual and test battery); Healing Our Imprisoned Minds, a successful self-help book that is about to come out in a second edition; a memoir, Incorrigible; and the just released literary novel, Eureka Man. Patrick holds a Ph.D degree from the university of Pittsburg. He was an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pittsburg (1983-1989) and Villanova University (2007-2010) for graduate and undergraduate students. He has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania since 1975.



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