...Inside though, I felt like a new person versus what I had been in the months following my operation. Emotionally I had undergone a rebirth of sorts spurred on by my new passion, my new reason for being, the video business. As a video rental store owner, the appreciation you feel from people, the joy you can bring to so many people you don’t even know by magically enabling them or their children to experience Mickey or Richard Pryor or Jack Nicholson or Meryl Streep whenever they wanted was intoxicating. It was so refreshing to hear a mom say to me “you made my child’s weekend”. Without doubt a certain amount of ego gratification comes with the power to make people happy. It reminded me of the feeling I would get a decade earlier when I used to djay at parties and functions; I always got so much satisfaction out of bringing joy to other people.
Besides, home video was a fun business to be a part of. I loved movies and got to watch new releases whenever I wanted, including sometimes months before public release as the studios often sent advance screener copies. The stores took on a festive atmosphere as we sold fresh popcorn, cotton candy, even Italian ices. There was also a little bit of a Hollywood aspect to being in the home video business. We met our share of stars at the various trade shows including Charlie Sheen, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, and Sinbad. We got to see the theatre in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas converted by Disney to a scene in Aladdin complete with dozens of actors and live animals including camels. We received loads of movie-themed premiums and giveaways—my favorite was a real leather replica of the jacket Eddie Murphy wears in the Beverly Hills Cop movies.
The video stores were very popular in the community, especially on weekends; sort of a town square where residents who did not know each other would strike up conversations about movie recommendations. If the weather called for snow, video rentals were as much a staple as milk and bread. Our record revenue days were all associated with blizzards—whether they hit the Wilmington area hard, or just missed us—as kids were home from school and parents often home from work....
I was also happy because I was able to revel in all the benefits of being a full-time father. Those walks with Kina through the neighborhood in order to rebuild my strength, her tiny hand in my left, and my cane in my right, not only helped me to rehabilitate, but forged a special bond with my then six year old daughter that would be everlasting. As a new father to my baby girl Shornay, I now could give her my undivided attention—well, that part of my attention that was not allocated to Kina. In the first months of Shornay’s life I did not really get to be the father I would have wanted; Shornay had to share her daddy’s attention with hospitals, doctors, and the despair of a difficult recovery. Now I got to dote on my little baby the way that I wanted to.
...Shorney was only an infant after my original surgery at Long Island Jewish Hospital and was oblivious to what was happening with her dad. Now a toddler, when she visited me in Winthrop-University Hospital, I would put Shornay at the foot of my hospital bed and using a remote control would elevate just that portion of the bed until it would not go any higher and then I would lower it. We would do that over and over and Shornay giggled with glee. Her non-stop giggling made me smile broadly and then we made eye contact. Shornay was staring at me smiling at her. Her gaze was transfixed: for essentially the first time ever, other than when she was an infant, she could see her daddy’s teeth when he smiled, and it was clear she was fascinated by this. Of course, this was long before YouTube, but her reaction would definitely have been a great viral video! I was in Winthrop-University Hospital for three days and each day Dorey brought Kina and Shornay to the hospital with her. Each time I would give Shornay a ride on my remote control bed, while she giggled incessantly and I grinned with joy. Shornay tells me this is the first memory in her life she can recollect.
Dr. Paul Thornton is currently a university administrator. In the past he has been a professor, small business owner, and corporate executive.