My legs gave out halfway through the third quarter of the Floyd County-Radford regional semifinal playoff game Thursday night.
And I smiled as I limped back to the Wrangler in the parking lot. Sadly, the Buffaloes would lose the game but my ability to stay on through most of the game was a personal victory over a long and painful fight with a back and nerve disorder that threatened to put me in a wheelchair.
Hanging in there two-and-a-half quarters was the longest I’ve been able to photograph a sporting event since the last football game of the season last year.
For the first time since November, I could stand for longer than 10 minutes and shoot sports action.
I’m back on my feet, walking — for the most part — like a normal person. I can get in and out of a car like a normal person. Drive a manual transmission vehicle without mind-numbing pain, climb stairs and walk at a normal pace.
And the fact that I’m able to to do so is due to the help and support of many people, including some who openly admit I’m not their favorite person.
I’m the first to admit that I’m an arrogant asshole. I’m opinionated, judgmental, presumptive, egotistical and too quickly dismissive of those who disagree with my strong opinions.
When it comes to protecting my family and those that I love, I cut corners and will do just about anything to protect them.
So I know I’m not easy to like, or support or encourage sympathy.
But the outpouring of support, offers of help and open displays of sympathy has touched me in ways that I can’t begin to describe…or comprehend.
From the man who drove my Jeep home while his wife followed with me in the car to several Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputies and State Troopers who have helped me get home when I had no business trying to drive, I have many to thank.
Three months ago, I walked into Peak Rehab in Floyd hardly able to walk after two back procedures that pumped thousands of ccs of painkillers and steroids into bulging disks and damaged nerves in my back.
“You were a mess,” admits physical therapist Adam Hartman who took on the task of getting me back of my feet and restoring my mobility, strength and flexibility.
And he’s done it, even though the job is far from over. I can walk upright, even at a brisk pace. I can climb stairs without having to pull myself up on the balcony. We’re into strength training now — which others who have been through tell me is the worst part but Adam has kept me at a pace that allows me to progress at a speed I can handle.
My brother Ken and his son Travis fixed our hot tub — a much-needed hydrotherapy model — which sprung a leak and stopped working just as my troubles began. Having that available for use three times a day has been invaluable. Indian Valley Supervisor Fred Gerald publicly offered prayers and other members of the board offered support. Mark Warren came over after the snowfall earlier this year and shoveled all 450 feet of our driveway and helped me free the Wrangler from a drift that covered it. Skip and Barbara Pendrey have helped in many ways. On just about any day that I’m walking on the sidewalks of Floyd, someone who drive by and yell “good to see you on your feet.”
So many others have helped that it is not enough space here to list them all. Some who have been targets of this web site have put the past behind and stepped up to offer support.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the unflinching and always available support from Amy, my wife, lover and best friend for the past 31 plus years. She has helped me cope with many a crisis in three decades, including alcoholism recovery, anger management and inability to work well with others. I’m here because she was always there when needed.
As most readers know, I have been serving as my mother’s caretaker since she fell at home last April and has been in and out of rehab and is now in assisted living. The stress of that situation has not helped but the folks from assisted living and home health care have stepped in to help out. My mother is fading and I know I will lose her in the not too distant future but she is well-cared for in a facility where she has her own apartment and a trained staff to attend to both her medical and personal needs. I visit her as often as I can — in fact more than I saw her when she lived at home in Floyd County.
All this has caused me to stop and re-evaluate my life and the way I approach it. Amy and I moved here to put a high-profile, controversy-filled lifestyle behind us. The economy put some of our plans on hold but I didn’t keep my end of the bargain by slowing down and staying out of the middle of controversy.
That will change.
My grandparents, Walter and Zella McPeak, were among the founders of Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church. It was the church I attended as a young boy when my mother moved from Florida back to Floyd after my father died.
I’m returning to Slate Mountain and will ask them to contact the church where I maintain my current membership and transfer back to my family’s home church.
My body came home in 2004.
It’s time my mind did too.