Sunday, January 30, 2011
LOVE CHANGES is a favorite story of mine. I am going to share two chapter of the book at this time. I wrote the book after I wrote the screenplay. After writing the book I realized that what they say is true ... the book is usually better than the movie. There is a script available.
It was time. The music had stopped. As a well-dressed man slowly walked to the podium, the crowd was appropriately quiet. Faint sounds were heard as the waiters filled the goblets with champagne for the toast.
“Good evening to all our guests from Chicago, and those of you not from Chicago, we welcome you. I am Cecil Aronson, and who better than I to present tonight’s award to my colleague and lifelong friend, Dr. Martin Lewis. The man with a vision, the man with a heart of gold.”
Cecil briefly stopped his speech as the audience applauded. The spotlight transferred away from Cecil to shine on Martin. As always, Martin’s smile was contagious. He stood up as the crowd applauded.
Recognizing it was not quite time to join his friend Cecil at the podium, Martin remained seated between his wife Elaine and his mother Esther.
Cecil continued his speech. “Martin and I go as far back as I can remember, third grade to be exact. Even at such a young age, Martin was every bit as conscientious as he is today. When something needed to be done, Martin went out and did it, and he did it well. No questions asked. For a man like Martin, there can be no other way. Even at such a young age, I was able to distinguish how lucky I was to have Martin as a friend, as we all are. He’s a great guy to have in your corner. Not only does he succeed in his endeavors, he brings a great sense of pride and integrity to his projects. Thank goodness he chose the Meridian Hospital.”
As Cecil spoke, Martin listened carefully to each and every word. However, Martin began to show visible signs of embarrassment. As his face turned red, he was thankful the spotlight had left his table and was once again centered on Cecil who, unlike Martin, loved notoriety.
Over the years, Martin had always kept his charitable donations anonymous, but this time the publicity surrounding the Rehabilitation Center couldn’t be disguised.
He was the celebrity behind the scenes, but after tonight it would be over. He would go back to his practice. Delivering babies was far too rewarding for Martin to imagine himself doing anything else.
To Martin, each new life he helped bring into the world was very special. In fact, his greatest possession was the photo collection of all the babies he had delivered.
Cecil stopped for a brief moment to once again wait for the spotlight to shift toward Martin’s table. Cecil continued on with what was turning into quite a lengthy speech, one which he no intention of making, but the excitement of the evening had changed everything. And who better than Cecil to spontaneously talk?
Cecil’s speech was a tribute to a man who truly deserved praise and anything that went with it. If that meant a lengthy speech and respective applauding, so be it.
Martin looked at Cecil, trying to catch his eye. Cecil did notice Martin’s uneasiness, but that didn’t stop him. He was intent on really getting to the heart and soul of the night. Martin deserved every bit of the honor, and Cecil was there to make sure it happened.
“Three years ago, the Rehabilitation Center for the Development of Emotionally and Physically Handicapped Persons was a mere vision. Martin Lewis took that vision and made it reality. So, my friend, please come up and join me as I present you with this award for the most deserving of all doctors. You are the first director of the Meridian Rehabilitation Center, and we thank you for all the tireless hours, efficient planning and everything else it took to make the center possible. It’s the best in the country and we can thank you for that.”
Martin walked to the stage with all the excitement and enthusiasm of a man with great devotion. As Cecil handed Martin the magnificent, solid-gold plaque, Martin gave his friend a tight bear hug, reminding him of all they had gone through to get to the place they now stood.
Martin smiled at all the well-wishers, then focused his eyes toward his wife. “I think I shall begin with a heartfelt thank you to my family and friends. I was, or should I say I am, quite embarrassed by my good friend Cecil’s words. I couldn’t help but feel ‘why me?’ I have really only done what had to be done. Sometimes life isn’t very fair. I suppose somewhere along the line, we’ll all learn the reason why some are born into this world with just one too many problems. We may even find out just why in the prime of a person’s life, they find themselves needing assistance in everything they do.
“That is why we are here. To learn and to love. So to those of our patients who try their hardest to complete their everyday tasks, I say keep trying, because you will do it. I know you will but, first and foremost, I want you to believe you will. For those of you who have joined us tonight and have disabilities, I will not ask you to stand, but I will ask you to listen to what your heart is saying. I stand here as a man who has lost and come back a winner, so I know it can be done. I will help you, as will the others here tonight. Some of the men and women you see here tonight will not be there for you on a daily basis but they are here for you, as they have shown with their generous donations. These are the people who have raised the necessary funds to get the job done, which we did. I stand here now and accept this award for everyone in this room because the Meridian Rehabilitation Center is a piece of all of us here tonight. Thank you, my friends.”
Elaine watched as her husband once again won over the crowd with his kind words. He was a good man, a far better man than she had ever deserved. She knew she should love him more, but she couldn’t.
Martin reached over to one of the head waiters for a glass of champagne. Lifting his glass toward the microphone, he spoke with the greatest of pleasure, “Please join me in a toast. To a world without pain and sadness. To a world where everyone walks with dignity and a sense of well-being. To life and the best if can be.”
Esther Lewis applauded her son as he walked back to the table. “I’m a lucky woman,” she said with a smile that wouldn’t quit.
Martin seemed surprised. “I’ve never heard you say that before.”
Esther didn’t respond at first, then she said, “Well, I should have. Believe me, I’m sorry I didn’t. Your father, may he rest in peace, always felt that way. He said it often, but I didn’t. Is it too late?”
Martin kissed his mother’s cheek and answered with complete honesty. “It’s never too late, but I’ll let you in on a secret. I always knew you felt that way.”
Esther reached for her daughter-in-law’s hand and squeezed tightly. “Elaine, my dear, we’re two very lucky women.”
Elaine smiled politely in response.
It was six in the morning. Martin was just about to leave their bedroom when Elaine sat up in bed, rubbed her overtired eyes and called out, “Don’t forget the symphony tonight!”
Martin walked back toward Elaine and sat down on the edge of their bed. “Good morning,” he said, not expecting an answer just yet. It usually took Elaine a couple of minutes to accustom herself to early mornings.
“I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Seems like you barely got any sleep last night .You tossed for the better half of the night,” he added.
“I’m sorry if I kept you up,” she apologized.
“You didn’t. I keep myself up. That’s when I do my planning. It’s those wee hours in the morning when there’s complete quiet and the only sounds you can hear are the birds chirping on the windowsill. That’s when everything becomes clear and fresh. It’s always been that way for me. It works.”
“You won’t forget the symphony, will you?” she reminded him.
Martin smiled. “Have I ever?”
“No, but you might.”
“Not on your life. You know I don’t like the symphony, but it’s the only place I see you smile. For that alone, I’ll be there.”
Elaine rested her arm on Martin’s knee. “You’re such a good man.”
“That’s what they tell me,” Martin jokingly boasted. “But I like it best when you tell me. The words seem to have a much greater impact.”
After getting up from the bed, Martin kissed Elaine, not knowing what her reaction would be. It differed depending on the day.
On that day, Elaine hugged Martin tighter than usual. She hadn’t intended to cry, but she did. Martin had become accustomed to her sudden, teary outbreaks. He never really understood why she had them so often. Ironically, neither did she.
“Elaine, are you alright?” Martin asked with his usual, concerned interest.
“Yes, I’m okay. Go ahead to work. I’ll be fine. See you tonight.”
Martin reluctantly left, realizing if Elaine’s behavior didn’t change soon, he would have to suggest she see a doctor. That was not something he looked forward to. He was certain she would fight him tooth and nail on that issue, as she had done in the past.
It was early afternoon when Elaine arrived at Arlington Racetrack. The elevator to the clubhouse was exceptionally crowded for a weekday, but to Elaine it didn’t make much difference. She had reserved the same table for the entire summer. Money was of no concern to her. If it took an extra twenty, fifty or sometimes a crisp, hundred-dollar bill to help matters along, so be it.
Having money did help with life’s daily struggles. But long range, money could do nothing to change her sadness. Unhappiness was a permanent way of life for Elaine.
Elaine hadn’t been seated for more than a minute or so when a waiter approached her table. He placed a large pitcher of lemon water and a basket of rolls on the stark, white tablecloth.
Elaine smiled, appreciative of the young waiter’s acute sense of recall. They didn’t speak much, but he smiled when she did.
As always, Elaine had not placed a bet on the first or second race. That was her time for gatherings thoughts and pulling the loose ends of the day together.
Some days she placed bets on only a few races. Those were the days when her mind wandered, remembering what she was trying so hard to forget. It was on those days that she usually picked the winners. But of course, she didn’t care. That really wasn’t why she came.
The ten-minute bell rang. It was the third race. Elaine reached inside her bag and pulled out several hundred-dollar bills. She crumpled them as she walked toward the betting counter. With a brief glance, she pointed to a number and handed the money to the woman at the window.
The race ended. Elaine had won. She paid little attention to the fact that she had bet on a winner.
A bolt of lightning flashed. Seconds later, a voice over the loudspeaker called out, “Due to severe weather, we are canceling the remainder of today’s races.”
Disappointed voices filled the clubhouse. Just as everyone seemed to be leaving, Elaine felt a tap on her shoulder. She looked up, not recognizing the young man who stood before her.
“Hello,” he said in a very mellow voice.
“Do I know you?” Elaine asked in a swift, uninterested voice.
The young man’s smile was attentive. “Yes, as a matter of fact you do. We met at an art showing. You were with Sally Braverman. Now do you remember?”
“No, I’m sorry I don’t.”
“That’s okay. It was only my art showing and my art gallery. I guess it was foolish of me to think you might remember.”
A brief but apologetic smile appeared on Elaine’s face. “Oh yes, now I remember.”
“Thank goodness,” he laughed. “I thought I was losing my touch. Although, you might be good for my ego. You know, the ego I just lost.”
They shared a smile.
Holding out his hand, the young man introduced himself. “I’d better not embarrass myself any more by thinking you know my name, so I’ll make it easy on myself. Josh Derman.”
Elaine was just about to say her name when Josh interrupted. “Elaine Lewis. Am I right?”
Elaine nodded, surprised by his memory.
Josh was just about ready to sit down when Elaine stood up. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I should be leaving.”
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” Elaine responded quickly.
“You’re here every day, so why not tomorrow?”
Elaine felt uneasy. “How do you know that?”
“Because I’ve seen you here every day for the last few weeks,” Josh smiled.
Elaine didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t respond. Instead, she pleasantly smiled and walked away.
Josh didn’t try to stop her as she walked toward the elevator. He just watched her leave, wishing they had been leaving together.
As Elaine drove home, she wondered why such an attractive man, obviously several years her junior, would be interested in her. She should have been flattered, but she was just curious.
It was almost five when Martin looked down at his watch. Realizing he might be late for the symphony, he telephoned Elaine. When there was no answer, he intertwined his hand with his son Stevie’s and gave a tight squeeze. “What do you say we have some ice cream?” Martin asked, certain of the reply.
Excited by his father’s idea, Stevie jumped up and gave Martin a big hug. For Martin, that was always the best part of their visit.
“Ice cream, Daddy! Ice cream!” Stevie shouted.
“Okay,” Martin said. “All you have to do is hold onto my hand and we’re off.”
Stevie did just that, and they ran across the park, trying to catch the ice cream man before he gave his last clang.
Martin was slightly out of breath when he called out, “Wally, wait for us. Wally, we’re on our way.”
Just as Wally was about to get into his truck, he heard Martin. Wally yelled back, “It’s okay Dr. Lewis. I’ll wait for you and your little friend.”
Martin tried to take a deep breath, but it was difficult. He ran too fast, but that was what he had to do to keep up with Stevie. As they approached the ice cream truck, Martin smiled, grateful that Wally had heard him.
Wally had been banging and clanging those chimes on the Good Humor truck for about as many years as Martin had been delivering babies. In fact, Martin had delivered Wally’s four children, making them a bit more than friends.
With the help of a nitroglycerin pill, it only took a few seconds for Martin to feel better. Running wasn’t the ideal sport for Martin, but when it came to ice cream, Stevie’s excitement was all that mattered. As a matter of fact, Martin rarely thought about having Angina. That was how he dealt with the diagnosis. He knew he had it, but refused to allow it to change his life.
The truth was Martin would do just about anything to make Stevie happy. Stevie was the love of Martin’s life, and he had never regretted Stevie’s birth. Handicaps were just a label, nothing more. The only thing that mattered to Martin was love.
Being born a Down Syndrome child did not make Stevie different. It made him that much more special. However, the task of Elaine accepting Stevie still remained the dominant issue in their lives. Six years later, nothing had changed about Elaine’s denial of being Stevie’s mother.
Wally walked to the back of the truck and opened up the freezer compartment. “Chocolate cone today?” he asked.
A broad smile appeared on Stevie’s face. “Yes … yes.”
Wally noticed Martin was out of breath. “Are you okay, Doc?” he asked with concern.
As usual, Martin made light of his condition. “I’m fine, Wally. Don’t worry about me. You know doctors, we never get sick. Anyway, enough about me. How’re all my kids?”
“They’re good. A bit mischievous, but luckily they haven’t broken any walls lately. Kids do things like that, don’t they?”
Martin gave Stevie a proud shoulder hug. “Yes they do. Oh well, thanks for waiting, Wally. See you soon,” Martin added as he and Stevie walked toward the car.
Martin did arrive at the symphony on time. Elaine didn’t ask Martin where he had been because she already knew. His daily visits to Stevie were acknowledged but never mentioned.
The orchestra had begun to play. Elaine’s eyes were affixed toward center stage. She could feel her body loosen and her mind clear. Her only thought was on the magnificence of the music. Elaine’s eyes closed as soon as she felt the splendor and harmony of the music consume her. She was at peace with herself, but it was only temporary. The only permanency left in her life was her disappointment.
Several times before intermission, Martin glanced down at his watch. Time seemed to be standing still. Finally, when his patience went out the door, he decided he would do the same. He nudged Elaine’s shoulder. Elaine ignored Martin’s first and second nudge, but by the fourth shoulder tap, Elaine couldn’t very well overlook the issue anymore.
Elaine mouthed her anxiety. “Is something wrong?”
Martin answered quickly. “I have to call my service. I’ll be right back.”
Elaine looked directly into Martin’s eyes and whispered in his ear. “I thought you weren’t on call this evening.”
A childlike expression appeared on Martin’s face as he spoke a little louder than he should have. “You’re right, you’re absolutely right, I forgot.”
A woman seated behind Martin poked her long, manicured fingernail into Martin’s shoulder blade. “Be quiet. This is one of the very best parts,” she said as she sat back in her seat and crossed her hands over her plentiful chest.
Martin turned to the woman and shook his head. “Sorry.”
“Well, you should be,” she more than whispered back.
Several minutes later, Martin whispered to Elaine, “Mind if I take a break?”
“No, go ahead.”
Martin kissed Elaine’s cheek as he hunched over and moved toward the aisle. He stepped over the man seated beside him, almost falling in his lap. Several people turned his way, watching Martin make an exit. By the look on some of the others’ faces, he knew he wasn’t the only one wanting to leave. But he was seemingly the only one with the nerve to make such an exit.
When he finally got into the lobby, he couldn’t imagine himself going back in. So he didn’t. He walked outside for a while and, when he lost interest in that, he came back inside, only to once again find himself not knowing what the hell to do.
At intermission, Elaine entered the lobby, trying to push her way through the crowds to find Martin. As much as she loved the symphony, she still hated running into people they knew.
It took less than a minute. There it was, that horrible tap on the shoulder. A fashionably dressed woman, exclusively Chanel, smiled and said, “Hello, my dear. How is that wonderful husband of yours?”
Elaine had no clue who this woman was, but she still replied politely. “He’s fine, thank you.”
Not wanting to be rude, she excused herself in a very ladylike manner. “If you don’t mind, I must find Martin.”
“Of course, by all means, dear. Say hello for me.”
Elaine nodded as she rapidly walked toward the ladies’ room. Luckily, she was stopped short by Martin.
“Martin, where have you been?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he placed his arm around her waist and walked her toward the door. “How about leaving early tonight? I’ve made reservations at Angelo’s.”
Elaine thought for a moment. “Okay, let’s go.”
Martin was stunned. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”
“No, it’s okay. You’ve been such a good sport. I know how you hate being here and anyway, I’m a little tired.”
Getting over the shock, Martin turned to his wife and asked with sincerity, “Are you sure? We’ve never left this early. We can stay. I’ll even go back in if you want to.”
The moment Elaine walked out the door, Martin knew she was dead serious. It would have been ludicrous of him to stop her, so he didn’t. Selfishly, he was happy.