Jan Reid,

Jan Reid,

A weeklong electronic journal.
July 10 1998 12:30 AM

Jan Reid,

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       Sometimes I think this episode has been hardest on my wife. After I was shot that night in Mexico City, my friend Mike Hall, an editor and writer at Texas Monthly, kept a strong grip on my hand and stayed with me during the ambulance ride. I told him I'd rather die than endure such pain, except I wanted to see Dorothy again. The remark found its way into an Austin newspaper story; suddenly friends and strangers back home were making us into Scotty and Zelda, Tracy and Hepburn. But life and love consume a lot more soap than opera.
       When Mike called Dorothy at 2:30 a.m. she didn't pick up the receiver before the call rolled to the voice mail. I heard that message before it was erased, and I'm sure it was much like their conversation when he called again moments later: His shaken voice strained for calm while my screams could be heard distinctly in the background. Dorothy and my stepdaughter, Lila, were on a plane to the Mexican capital early that morning. Neurosurgeons there told them I would be totally paralyzed from the waist down. On the emergency jet flight to Houston, Dorothy and Lila gaped as I snored loudly with my eyes wide open--not a good sign, a doctor told me later. On the ground I had to be resuscitated with breathing tubes as Dorothy screamed at the medical crew to get a helicopter. For her the pace never let up.
       She took a leave from her job and assumed a manic gypsy life. Some days she lived in a borrowed apartment near the Houston Medical Center, learning from the therapists what my condition required of her. Then she was on the highway back to Austin, where she enlisted an architect and builder to modify the house. She admits to obsessive behavior; one day she was racing around wondering how she could possibly leave our housesitter with a spice rack devoid of peppercorns.
       The strain took its toll, of course. At the rehab hospital, therapists agreed with her that while I worked hard at my exercises, other times I demonstrated a strange, spacey passivity. Was it the pain medication? Depression? Or was it having nurses attend to my every need? A few days before my discharge, the doctors wisely insisted that we spend a weekend away from the hospital. We checked into a nice hotel, drank and ate with friends, and once more enjoyed being in the same bed. But I forgot essential things related to my medical condition; she had to drive back and get them. On the hottest day of the year I insisted on keeping a social engagement; she had to haul the heavy chair in and out of the trunk.
       "Are you depressed?" she said when we fought.
       "I'm starting to be."
       "I knew you were going to say that!"
       Afforded a valuable glimpse of how hard it was going to be, we've tried to ease back into our life at home. None of the rowdy dinner parties yet. We've only gone out to restaurants twice. Our marriage always relied on equal division of labor. Dorothy cooked dinner one week, I cooked the next. Now I'm frustrated that I can't carry out the trash and take my turn going to the grocery store. She watches me struggling to put on my socks and wonders if she helps me too much or not enough. But we're getting there. Someday we'll drive those European back roads again and even go back to Mexico. In the meantime just lying here with happy dogs at our feet's enough.
       Here's looking at you, kid.

Jan Reid is a free-lance journalist and a founding writer at Texas Monthly. He recently returned from a trip to Mexico that went awry.