“Sitting in the mornin’ sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come…”
Problem is, there’s no dock, no bay, and no damn ships to watch roll in.
I am trapped, tilted back in a recliner, the release lever inches from my slinged arm. Getting up and around is impossible. So I’m in front of a television, armed with painkillers and a machine (affectionately known as Iceman) that pumps iced water through a tubed “wrap” on my shoulder. Worse, I have everyone in the house running around, not only doing my chores, but taking care of me as well. Not a situation I’m used to or enjoy. All part of having a bum shoulder that needed a three and a half hour operation. AND, the fucking shoulder hurts since it takes about three days to adjust the meds and get ahead of the pain. Big relief.
Not everything is bad. First, the operation was more successful than the surgeon originally hoped–there’s a possibility I’ll regain more mobility than thought, it was my right shoulder and I’m a lefty (gasp), and old reruns of Perry Mason are on two hours a day. Plus, I’m learning to type with one hand. Who knows when that will be useful again? I hope not too soon.
The real up is the way my family and friends have responded. Sherri and Harry stepped up and filled in for my Monday posts. Can’t thank them enough. Not only were the columns funny and interesting, both writers were incredibly kind about my control freak meddling. Thanks guys. Much, much appreciated.
And it’s gratifying to have friends who understand how much of a burden this is on Sue, so people bring dinner multiple times. Or, they visit regularly so it isn’t just me and the television during Sue’s long work day and Jake’s job. Thanks, without you I’d be living a pretty lonely life.
Finally, if I ever had any doubts about the Internet’s importance, they’re now completely shattered. It’s my main connection to the outside world (sorry but local television news is nothing more than a compendium of who went psychotic and acted it out on that particular day) and allows me to participate in a number of political/cultural discussions after the worst of the drugged up stupid wears off. There have been worse beginnings.
After The Beginning:
I’m now able to get in and out of the recliner on my own. This is huge. Calling Jake or Sue for “permission to pee” at 3 a.m. sucked. Now I can move about as freely as possible, given the contraption that locks my arm tightly to my side. Not the best of all possible worlds, but much better and bigger than the first couple of weeks. In nice weather my friend Bill and I are able to walk around the local pond. (I even found my twenty-year-old poncho to wear outside as a coat, since right sleeves have nothing to do with my reality.) I can get into the passenger’s seat of a car and, most importantly, I can begin to work. Still, I’m tired a lot of the day and sometimes I love Iceman as intensively as a junkie loves his pusher. Jake continues to carry a huge load and has been an amazing caretaker. A real mensch.
But now that my head is clearer I find my thoughts drifting into what it’s going to be like when I officially become old and infirm. I think a lot about all the people stuck in wheelchairs and shot full of dope without much hope of change. And when I think about this, I see myself and wonder whether cable and television and my laptop will be enough to want to live. Kinda depressing, but thoughts go where thoughts go. And in this context there’s no stopping them from sliding into mortality.
I find myself thinking a lot about Nate. We met in the gym I used to attend and one day overheard him talking about Horn and Hardart’s famous macaroni and cheese. Well, it happened that Sue once wrote an article about the last of their restaurants (actually the one he used to go to in New York) and managed to walk away with the m&c recipe. I handed it to Nate the next day and watched his 66 year old leather lined Black face break into a small smile. Bonded us for life–at least while he lived.
Nate always had a twinkle in his eyes; there were times when it was impossible to tell whether he was serious or not. Like when he’d found out he had kidney cancer with just a few months left to live and it took me twenty minutes to realize he wasn’t just yanking my chain. I spent much of those months in another recliner next to his hospital bed, almost becoming part of his family, occasionally doing a KFC run for his favorite fried. Mostly we sat quietly watching TV with Nate reminding me we were “perfecting the fine art of doing nothing.”
Well, when shit hits the fan, apparently no one is safe. This past Monday Sue was in a car accident and broke both of her left forearm bones. Her operation included plates, pins, and rods. She finally came home from the hospital on Wednesday with a cast. To her great relief, she can sleep lying down so we won’t look like two bookends sitting and sleeping upright on each side of the living room.
Although I’m obviously able to help more now than a month ago, I’m still limited to opening pill bottles, fetching, and keeping her out of mischief. The house looks like a M.A.S.H. unit with Jake in charge. And while those infirmed and mortality thoughts haven’t disappeared, there’s comfort in knowing we will recover. Though I don’t know how much dancing we’ll do at my son’s Matt’s May wedding, we’ll be there celebrating.
Truth is, “perfecting the fine art of doing nothing” is a really tough do.