Rick Rogers as Doc in the '60s television series Combat.
Almost every morning, my Park City friend and neighbor of more than 20 years, Rick Rogers, slowly and methodically struggles by me. He recognizes me—saying, “Hi, baby,” but he doesn’t remember my name. I watch him carefully as his steps are measured; his cane gripped firmly in his left hand helps him maintain his balance as he struggles to put one foot in front of the other.
Like the beat of a metronome, his left leg painstakingly inches in front of him directly followed by the thrusting forward of his paralyzed right leg and frozen right arm to complete each step that measures less than 12 inches. That’s his gait, granted it’s tortured and agonizing for him as he makes this arduous quarter-mile walk. Each step is a hope-determined action: a way to get well, a way to begin to retrain his brain that was so dramatically altered five years ago by a stroke. God only knows what goes through his mind as he struggles with the effects of this beast that has left him with limited mobility and aphasia.
A former Hollywood actor (he was Doc in the 1960s TV series Combat with Vic Morrow), architectural and design aficionado, ace pool player and superb storyteller, this Renaissance man regularly trains with a therapist on the computer with routines to facilitate his mental acuity. As limited as he is, he walks daily and maintains a regular exercise routine. No matter the circumstances, he answers the bell every day.
I’m sure everyone with a disability has his or her own agenda for coping. Whatever strategy they have chosen, Rick Rogers and his resolute wife, Carmen, possess an indefatigable and tenacious desire to remain in the hunt, to be normal and to be accepted. For them, each step Rick takes, each word he speaks, each thought he expresses makes him a victor, not a victim.
When I see Rick on his daily odyssey, I recall my experience 30 years ago when I began the onerous process of learning to walk on crutches. Difficult, yes, but my fight with multiple sclerosis was just beginning. During this process, the person next to me was a 7-year-old amputee and cancer patient, who in comparison made my challenge seem small. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched this youngster struggle. I quickly realized that this courageous child didn’t want tears; he simply wanted to walk. During our daily lessons we cheered each other as each step, each lunge represented a victory over our disabilities. Today, I quietly cheer for Rick.
In the final analysis, life is really a test—only a test. It’s probably the only one we’ll ever take that we ourselves will grade. The manner in which we handle life’s challenges and the adversities that confront us will go toward the grade we put on our lives. Rick gets high grades from those that know him, simply because he has taken responsibility for his happiness with great resolve and with the hope that things are going to get better because he wants them to be better.
May God bless him and all those who are struggling to make it through their lives. And may 2013 bring our readers only the best.
Click here to see our video on the latest advancement by University of Utah stroke researchers.