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Who’ll Stop the Rain?

September 20th, 2011 | 3 Comments

Every time I hear the song Who’ll Stop the Rain by Credence Clearwater Revival, I think of Dennis. I knew him many years ago in Arizona.  I had taken my first job as a speech pathologist and he was one of my first clients. Our first appointment was in the late afternoon when almost everyone was gone.

“Tell me about Dennis, ” I said to his rehab doctor.  He replied, “Oh Dennis.  He had a mild head injury from a car accident. ”   I asked for more information, “What’s his background?”  The doc said without flinching, “Oh well, he was a bank robber and a gigolo.”

Ohhhhhh. Ok!  I wasn’t too nervous because as an intern at Detroit Rehabilitation Hospital, I had worked with some bad dudes.  One man, who had been shot in the head, almost stabbed me with scissors when I asked him to write his name.  Honestly, he couldn’t help himself.

Dennis was not what I expected.  He was a tall man with eyes the color of a Siberian Husky.  He was polite and engaging.  Despite the head injury, he had maintained much of his cognitive capacity.  As it turns out, we had both grown up in the same area. We shared a passion for the Rockford Files- his first question every time he saw me was, “Did you see the Files last night?”  Our favorite character was Angel, the schemer and thorn in Jim Rockford’s side.

Over time, Dennis and I developed quite a friendship.  One day I asked him,”What do you do when you rob a bank?  Seriously!”  He said, “I’d tell everyone to count backwards from 100.  After they got through 10 digits, I would say, I CAN”T HEAR YOU, even if I could.”   Wow.  Even bank robbers have a routine.

As I got to know him better, I came to know that he was deeply saddened by the choices he had made in his life, that he had caused his parents so much angst.  He was well into his 40’s at the time but his regret was as if it happened yesterday.  One bad choice led to another and before long, he had ensnared himself into the wrong crowd, doing the wrong thing, all of this made worse by a drug habit.  Only a car accident put a stop to his ill-begotten behavior.  This man was full of potential and yet this is the course his life had taken.

One day, Dennis and I were  listening to some music while we were cooking in the clinic kitchen together.   Who’ll Stop the Rain? came on the radio.  He looked me and said, “That’s what I wonder every day.  Who’ll stop the rain?”  A jolt ran through my body as I looked into his eyes.  It was then that I realized that in the heart of many men who have blown it in life, there is an ember that glows with the wish that things had been different.

I think of Dennis often,on his birthday and at other times. Who’ll Stop the Rain? remains the biggest trigger of all.  I have no idea where he is now or if he is even still alive.  Still, I want to throw a few rays of sunshine his way, even if it’s just into the Universe with his name on it.  And I hope I was able to stop the rain just a little bit all those years ago.


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