I found out in 2006 that my heart wasn't functioning correctly. Twenty percent blood flow and mitral valve problems. They opened me up and fixed me and I wrote a journal during the process and recuperation. I sent it out to close friends and associates and it really managed to piss my mother off. It originally came with a christlike picture of me in my briefs with stigmata which I will not share again. It's very long and very personal but some might want to take a look. Your life can be going along so swimmingly and maybe suddenly you look up and there's a fucking F -18 barreling in on your living room - or cancer - or Bernie Madeoff with the dough. La la la la la live for today as the song says.
They found a 15mm "abnormality" in what is remaining of my left kidney a few weeks ago. They will go in and put dye on it next week, see how it reacts and maybe get a biopsy. Only the size of a penny, the Doctor says, but I am not comforted and have a pretty good explanation now for the bleeding.
Hello, old friend, it's been over twenty years - thought I'd tricked you, maybe you hung around...
Broken hearted blues – opus 1
Or my summer vacation to La Jolla
Short version – I get sick, they fix me, all is well, thanks!
or if you are in for the plunge…
Or my summer vacation to La Jolla
Short version – I get sick, they fix me, all is well, thanks!
or if you are in for the plunge…
I am in my hotel the night before surgery. Leslie, my wife, loving life partner and sometime antagonist has thoughtfully booked us a hotel room at the Hilton at Del Mar, across from the track. This was necessitated by both the fact that the check in time was 5:00 a.m. and that I needed to repeat my hardcore surgical scrub down in the shower from the night before prior to leaving. Fallbrook’s 1 hour drive to La Jolla would have made this a definite bitch. Being a stubborn male, I am not sure that I would have had the wisdom and foresight to not just endure the gruel but am thankful for her prescience and good sense.
I remove my wedding ring which has basically not left my finger since 1994, such a strange feeling, with just the faintest shameful gleam of male flight and liberation.
Chapter I - When Doris gets her oats
Leslie takes my keys and wallet and puts them in her purse. We have arrived a few minutes early and must wait for the sleepy guard to take the chain off the front door. It is cool and quiet in La Jolla and the early morning light is crisp and sparkling. We relax on the bench looking at the somewhat horrid bronze of Ellen Browning Scripps, early patrician doyenne and matriarch of the hospital, stooping to give a small girl a healing hand.
Why do so many bronze patinas give their subjects this liver/ dog shit look which makes me think of serial killers and clown child molesters?
I think that figurative bronze rarely has looked good since Charlie and Remington and lends itself much better to abstract form in the current 21st century zeitgeist. And I am a classical guy, after all.
Hey at this point I don’t know if my future is going to last the approximately 3 and ½ hours after my 6:45 call to the post. Scripps batting average for this procedure is really decent at 2.7% but even an optimistic, glass three quarters full guy like me wonders if its my turn for my ticket to be punched. I am strangely detached at the prospect of having or not having a future,
Perhaps I gave up my clinging when I went through my longtime cancer battle 20 years prior. I would miss my friends and family dearly but find some of the people I meet in this polarized time very fatiguing as I am sure they (and possibly you at this point in my missive) find me.
(Ed. Note- Feel free to go back to the heading for the short version, which is very succinct if you need to check out.)
The days leading up have been fairly compressed with preop, post concert accounting and jockeying, and legal maneuvering. I finally get Leslie a quitclaim so that she can have an easier time with the ranch if I am to soon leave this earthly firmament. Unfortunately, I am to learn that my actions are somewhat pointless, as nothing short of a living will will keep one’s assets out of probate. Got to pony up the money and get the living will.
I am told by my cardiologist, Dr. ---------, that I have several options if the valve can not be repaired. He recommends a 50 year mechanical valve that will require me to be on Wayfarin for the rest of my life. My Dad takes Coumadin and I don’t want to go that route. Other options are 10 to 15 year porcine or bovine tissue valves. In the coming weeks, I endure every possible iteration of kosher pig joke conceivable. Not that I would really care.
In a testament to divine intervention, the health insurance that we finally get for the 1st time in our married life kicks in a few weeks before the diagnosis and problem occurs. Last year’s New Year’s resolution. This thing will easily hit 200k. (ed. note: actually topped out at 135k - Still don't have living will...)
Mostly I call up the people I love and try to let them know this without getting overly maudlin and depressing. I know that there are so many of you that mean so much to me. For a guy like me there is no one else like your wife, buds and family and I salute and thank you from this slightly busted body.
When I got sick before I perceived an axiom that I think still rings true. Let us call it Robert’s law and it loosely follows like this – every seriously ill person makes 2 lists. One is comprised of the people you expected to be there for you and never showed and the other list if those that you would never expect to be there that came through with flying colors.
Of course there are your solids among you who are there no matter what and also those few who you would sooner gnaw an arm off at the stump then have any contact with.
Now for a vengeful Scorpio with a great memory, I must tell you that at least in my first experience, once you got on the shit list, you never fell off. And the latter group becomes spiritual lifers who you end up loving forever. Perhaps many of you are less vindictive or have worse memories than I.
I luckily only had one asshole in this entire medical /life experience, perhaps he was tweaked by my somewhat political and maybe not very funny tongue and cheek call for liberal blood donors. Hell, maybe he was related to George Lincoln Rockwell or something. You never really know how some people are internally wired and people like me who fire first and think later sometimes get their nose pushed in. But out of all the well wishers I think one dickhead is not such a bad percentage and I don’t really see my behavior changing so much….
I got back from the hospital yesterday afternoon (Thursday) and am doing pretty well but just had a cough that took my knees out from underneath. My sternum will have a wire in it connecting the dual plates for the rest of my life. The incision is filled with superglue. It appears to be healing nicely. This pain is usually low grade unless you are unfortunate enough to have to cough as I just did. Attendant nurses tell me that they are shocked by the physicality of watching the procedure, large tough men cracking you open like a Brazil nut. Think of the pain as somewhat akin to a group of beavers running their large rodent class incisors down your breastplate in fervent hopes of building a new dam out of your spare calcium rods.
But, I digress. My timeline is skipping around like a Sufi on amphetamine. (with a tip of the cap to Kinky Friedman.)
She: What happened to brilliant?
She: In the first draft you said I was brilliant.
He: I didn’t think you read it.
She: I glanced at it.
He: Well, the computer crashed, I lost half my
She: It was a hell of a lot better before.
He: I can’t exactly summon the genie from the
bottle every time I snap my fingers. Those lost
words will have to float through the infinite
cyberdump until they are recovered by some
future archaeologist. Well what do you think of it?
She: What a load of juvenile prattle – the hot
nurse, she stared at my package. It sounds like
you hate women and your mother. This crap is
only fair, not your best work.
But if you need to write this thing for some
closure, what the hell.
Ow, that stings, the fratboy misogynist rubs his sides that are now withering in pain. I can see that I will have to give a final edit to this puerile mess.
My first memories of the morning are being wheeled in to get shaved. A large super nice black guy from Greensboro who found out that he was a father years after the fact and whose life was now devoted to trying to build a relationship with the son while the spurned paramour does all she can to thwart and obstruct such an occurrence. As a childfree couple I thankful that we will never have to deal with this kind of pain.
Dude was pretty careful with the exception of the one nick in the top of the little head – Hey man, I just said a little off the top. Let me keep all of the shortcomings I may already possess. Nifty little industrial surgical razor, kind of like a safety, light with rpm. A note about shaving – if you are going in for a week, get them to shave your arms as well – rest assured it will all be viciously pulled off by sadistic nurses anyway. I did not take my own advice and feel like a cover boy in a recurrent Nads nightmare. You remember that Australian commercial where honey glue soaked strips are applied to lugubrious female models that never break their pasted on smiles throughout the entire length of the assault. Chest, privates and inner legs and calves are similarly shorn. Remember to shave your arms.
Next, was anesthesia. I had very bizarre reactions at Scripps Encinitas during a surgery years ago and thought it was the Versed. The thoughtful anesthesiologist I met this morning said that since I can take Valium without reaction, it was probably the combo drug phenathiazene that led to the 2-hour teeth grinding episode and autonomic jaw grinding. I had 3 years of chronic active hepatitis in my early teens and am extremely sensitive and horrible with narcotics. He said that he had seen case study for this awful and rare reaction.
And then the lights went out…
A little philosophy
Plato felt that men (and women) were possessed and powered by three main drives. Two of these I was familiar with but just recently became aware of the power of the third.
The first two standby drives are Eros, the need to love and be loved and Thanatos, the death wish. All typical stuff, easy Psych 101. The third drive is Thymos, the need to be recognized. Now the bible tells us to make our offerings in private and the I Ching says to conduct your victories like funerals, but as mortal man, we just got to have that public gravy.
And for Jewish males and probably more so for Jewish females, born into a culture that reveres the give and take of pilpul and cerebral combat, I am afraid that the need to be recognized on a civic and intellectual level as being fair and bright is very great indeed. A tragedy in this life is that those who could not give a shit about anything usually take advantage of this ethnic quirk of ours and fast track the hell out of us, leaving our righteous asses in the dust. Not that I am some big altruist but I hope that you get my drift…The wicked will prosper in this life, the righteous in the world to come or something like that.
Now as a peddler and shmattah salesman I haven’t done so bad, but if I had just kissed a little authority booty, I coulda been a real contender. Never had the algebraic mind, thought I was saving the world.
Now this whole colloquy is the setup to my real fear before surgery. Things were just set up too perfect for this operation as my swan song. My wife and I had just setup, funded and awarded 2 major scholarships for my late sister at the local high school. I produced, funded and organized a large concert for a local environmental matter that was extremely well received.
My surgery was supposed to take place in late June and I push it so that I can do this thing. I am looking way too good in my community, who have generally regarded me over the last 26 years as your basic liberal degenerate ne’er do well. My thymos afterburners are on overdrive. But I made it – now what the hell do I do? Encores are tough. I guess thankfully I am broke now and reinventing my business will have to be my goal for a while. I haven’t worked since late May, am forbidden to lift a picture off a wall and the bills they just don’t stop. Pity the poor art dealer with the monster guitar collection.
Kill your television
I mentioned that I loved my wife but let me repeat, I really love my wife! Besides sharing our mutual disdain for onions and bell peppers, our love for the colors purple and green, our love for dogs and cats, our love of combat, our love for music, we are close to being symmetric beings. Interestingly, she tells me that none of her other 7 major flames were assholes, but she is such a tough fighter that I can’t believe that I created her in my own image in some remote Bavarian laboratory.
Anyway, one thing that we have been adamant about the last 15 years has been our disdain for TV. No TV. We never saw Friends, Seinfield, or any other such popular manifestations of American culture. I would so suck on Jeopardy now. And we are so happy about being modern day luddites or Spartans or what have you.
So in the hospital it was such a shock to see the cable TV nightmare! From exposes on chola prisoners in Utah to deranged schizophrenics in the Wabash, it is a steady putrid diet of the worst underbelly of American culture. Cops, Court TV, Violence, profanity, lewd behavior, sicko tattoos, more violence, promiscuity, gay promiscuity, it is all so sickening. And a lot of Poker. I slept a max of about 4 hours a night. All I can say is thank god for TvLand and the Tour de France. Without Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster I might have really cracked up.
There is apparently a new phenomenon on television of trendy culture shows featuring smarmy kids belittling their parent’s taste in James Taylor and other 60’s icons. You lightweight punks show me something you have created morally and culturally that has the kind of legs and gravitas that we had in the sixties and seventies and you are free to dis James Taylor.
So my second day up I decide to take one of my 4 required 5 minute walks and walk to the little waiting area and sit down and this fat pathetic goober is sitting there watching Springer laughing hysterically. Not ironical laughter, this is a pure wallow in the mud. And I wonder for a minute if It was advisable to wake up from the operation at all.
I have several very dear friends who are either evangelical and/or very conservative. I find that my vulnerability in the hospital is actually an opportunity to ask questions of them that I would normally be too embarrassed or shy to ask. I cut myself a little carte blanche. I must say that for the most part, they are far more sensitive and reticent than I am but they do not flinch at my candor this time. We live in a very polarized world and I think that there are two species of men and women that just think in a different way.
And as a charter member of the unwashed and unsaved who has always bridled at censorship of any kind, I find it curious how the TV diet sickens me so. I could never raise a child with Television. I agree with the religious right on this. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you have to do something. I see a real need for worthwhile content in this hyper digital age.
When I wake up, I am reminded by somebody that I still inhabit the mortal plain. No choral music, no light at the end of the tunnel. Bush is still president, the mideast in flames. 16 years ago I fly to Israel and sit in a bomb shelter for the six week duration of the war. Not this time. My mitral valve has thankfully been repaired and the papillary cords reattached during the long and tedious 4-hour plus surgery. The aperture of the worm like mitral valve has been reduced so that I can have a tight fit with no regurgitation. My first real memory is the horrible air tube being pulled out of my lungs. The accompanying sound resembles liposuction in a walrus den.
However there are dangers and complications. My mitral valve was completely immobilized by a very unusual form of liquid calculi. One of the 3 surgeons who helped perform the operation, Dr. S-----, called it a treacherous toothpaste that is rarely encountered.. Fortunately, it was slightly malleable and could be peeled back. This immobilization did not allow my blood to pump into my heart. I have actually been working out 5 days a week in the gym for the last 5 months with very little blood flow or oxygen. Shows you the incredibly close relationship I have with my body. I am glad I finally listened to my better half and visited a doctor. Dr. S---said that I am going to look at my future life in 5 year increments. Unfortunately this rare condition is very hard or impossible to pick up on a normal angiogram. I asked for a path report on the cultured calculi so that I can start researching it myself. Perhaps someone at Cleveland or Houston has more info? I know that I have a tendency to micromanage and overreact, so I will have to see what happens.
The damage to the valve has apparently caused my heart to slightly enlarge in order to compensate. This may lead to problems down the road. Additionally I am running a low fever for several days.
A more significant problem is that I have an afib rhythm. The heart works in a ventricle rhythm in a certain damage context. It more properly works in what is called a sinus rhythm. I have to take drugs for a few months including the lovable rat poison wayfarin or coumadin in order to bring me to rhythm. Both my father and brother have a fibrillation issues. Damn, Dave Blackburn, my guitar teacher could have told you about my lousy time sense for a whole lot less dough.
The surgical team is tough, incredibly competent and impressive. The Magnificent 7 ride into town and kick ass. El Jefe, Don B------, is all business and just a touch scary. A type a archetype heli skier, this surgeon is known as the best in the business in these parts. I had the temerity to ask the doctor if I got any fancy internal stitchwork and got just the faintest touch of a withering stare, like you idiot. A private man, built with the walls that must be constructed emotionally for a person who is always surrounded by death.
B------’s colleague from Bejing, Dr. W---, is as wet and happy as Don is dry. He filled me in the next morning on the minutia of the procedure. They say that it takes all kinds but I can’t visualize these guys partying.
My buddy and urologist, John G. has operated about 6 times on this tired old body of mine. He said prior to the surgery that you want this kind of workmanlike cardiac team. It should be assembly line stuff for them and I am made aware of the hundreds of similar procedures that these guys do every year. John vouched for B------- and told me to be careful and not listen to those family members who wanted me to go to a fancy chic “name” cardiac center. He said that the Scripps physicians were as good if not better than anyone else in the world and that my aftercare would be superior. I must say that this operation feels much less traumatic then when I lost my left kidney in 1985.
Every member of his staff elicits the highest respect of anyone on the floor, especially his head nurse practitioners, Ann Marie and Bruce. They positively exude intelligence and confidence. Generally speaking all of the nurses and staff are really excellent, the ICU staff a little more together. In prior surgeries I had the feeling that the night nurses were a little less engaged and compassionate than the day crew but that was not borne out in this experience.
There are horses for courses and nurses for purses, I guess – completely illogical but it does rhyme. Nurses and acronyms of all kinds and rank, LVN’s, RN’s, CAN, externs, floor nurses, mentors, case managers, etc. At night I think they traded badges to further confuse. I meet a physical therapist, occupational therapist and a heart educator. These three have somewhat similar function. I am led through minor physical tasks and exercises and cautioned to allow rest intervals in my life. I am showed a method of getting in and out of the awful hospital bed called log rolling. Nevertheless I aggravate an upper bicep injury that I have had for ever and must now deal with the intense pain.
I notice that one of my older Russian nurses has a Jewish last name. She is uncomfortable with her heritage and said that if you wanted to find work in Moscow you had to lose it real quick. This makes me sad.
I am quickly discharged by the physical therapist when she sees how well I can take the stairs and function. Perhaps it is because of my normal workout schedule and my fantastic trainer, Jeanine Columbero or maybe it is because the normal patient is so much older but I am told that I am in the 1% recovery group. I feel like a great part is the absence of pain killers and narcotics. None of the pain for me is ever over 2 on a 1 to 10 scale, so you suck it up and heal. What I lack in native intelligence I make up for with dogged endurance.
Some of the nurses were frankly very hot and I wondered how they stayed single in their environment when so many recovering patients have to be falling in love with them and hitting on them constantly. I was a paragon of chastity and virtue and kept whatever dark and sordid thoughts I had to myself.
A hospital stay is a battle of will and attrition. The toll is taken by the small bite more often than the big whack. Every 4 hours, my vitals are checked, temperature taken, blood pressure monitored, i.v. flushed. I am sporting twin i.v’s in the hands, one in the arm and a gangle of wires coming out of my neck to the one of two pacemaker units. I have a nifty catheter as well as an oxygen tube, 3 suction tubes beneath the incision and the requisite wires still connected to my heart. Any movement is a laborious task not to get tangled in the morass of wires. A nurse comes twice a day to give me pesky shots in my stomach. The morphine has destroyed my bowel function – I will spare you and not even go there…
“Reach for the boundaries of your outer limits” – instructions to photographers assistant.
I.V. placement is critical. You keep a bad placement for 3 days. At times you feel the needle forays into your veins become fishing expeditions and you can chart the history. Other times the apparatus just lays really uncomfortably in the vein. I find that hand placements can be put in a really bad hinge point which further irritates and disturbs.
I am instructed to use the spherometer, the little plastic thing with the hose that you blow into to gauge lung capacity. I pass with flying colors. It is not nearly as hard as it was when the kidney said goodbye. This exercise will help the lungs. Pneumonia is always a danger.
At one point, Mr. Homophobia got a male nurse – I was seriously dreading when he suggested that we shower and very much relieved when he handed me the towels and said that I could do it myself. Handsome guy, but contrary to my internal wiring. I am bothered that I didn’t show a similar reluctance when Jessica wanted to scrub my back.
Fear and loathing in La Jolla
I mentioned that my body can’t tolerate most pain medication or narcotics of any kind and my first nights experience bore this out in spades. I was given some morphine and an Ambien and it was my E ticket to a very dark experience that still makes me shudder.
I had a dream and witnessed my own execution. Specific details are somewhat vague but it evolved thusly:
I am in lower Baja California with a man approximately 10 years my senior. We are both engaged in some semi-criminal larcenous occupation. I am floating in languid azure pools in the ocean when I am either killed or my body deposited in the water. Imagine looking down in a 45-degree angle right to left and you will see him standing in waist deep water. His arms are spread in a loving Christ like pose as his palms barely touch the water. My obituary flows out of my unseen body diagonally in square block red/black letters and floats on the surface of the ocean….
This dream has robbed me of my spirit and my oxygen. It had a certain flat plain religious visual quality like those great covers of the old Don Juan books by Giusti.
Upon awakening I state that there will be no more medications. But the effects are still felt now 10 days later.
Additionally I come to the sudden realization that my hospital room in the ICU looks suspiciously like the room where I saw my little sister Amie Leah Sommers die, April 15, 1983 after her car accident. Although the television has switched positions, I have a feeling it might be the same room. We talk about getting a different room. Two days later, I am transferred to the 6th floor. I ask the nurse for some ventilation and she apologizes and said the windows don’t open any more since that patient decided to jump out a couple years back. A palpable sense of dread hangs about me like a dark heavy cord.
The cumulative effects of these experiences causes me to unravel emotionally to some degree. My pain medication at my request has been reduced to an occasional tylenol. I ask for and am given a marijuana extract for appetite, Marinol, which is essentially worthless. Take away all the positive effects from grass and roll the remainder into a little ball.
Courtesy of Netflix, I have just finished watching the 17th and final episode of The Prisoner, the fantastic 1968 television series where a man is imprisoned in a kafkaesque village in Wales and his identity stolen by the state. This orwellian world has also influenced my frayed psyche to some degree.
Hey, closure is one thing. A bit tawdry to unbutton your shirt and show off your scars at the Sunday dinner, don’t you think?. Or is this a goodbye letter? You were always one for the dramatic exit.
I have a roommate in my room upstairs who has a bloodclot. Edgar is a very cool and intelligent Mexican of Bolivian extraction with a very large family including 3 small children. I may have traumatized the young daughter for life when my gown flew open and my posterior was exposed on a trip to the loo. For the duration with Edgar as my roommate, the young girl would bury her face in her pillow when I had to take a trip to the can.
Edgar’s family is large and loving but his aunt stays for hours and won’t shut up. Our best friends, Jean and Bill, brought some homemade pastries one-day and I offered them some as a friendly gesture. They wolfed the whole plate down like a pack of feral dogs. I finally had to tell them to leave Edgar alone and give him some space. See there is something to be said for not being such a nice person. I can kick people out of my room and they don’t get offended. They expect me to be an asshole.
As a cardiac patient I’m supposed to get a private room and one is finally found. No roommate issues but a psychotic octogenarian next door who insists on talking all night in her German monotone. I am getting about 2 hours sleep tops at this point. Thoughts of self-destruction quickly morph into those of a more homicidal timbre.
Food and other stuff
The food was basically screwed up every meal. While I wagged my finger at my roommate at Scripps Encinitas the previous month for being excessively picky and ungrateful, now I trump him in spades. I order hard-boiled eggs, they arrive limpid and scrambled, with every gram of flavor mysteriously removed before it reaches my tray. The milk was made in someone’s home chemistry lab. I am on a restricted Vitamin K diet to prevent clotting and I get whole plates of broccoli and salad.
The best things they do are tuna salad and fresh concord grapes. I lose 10 lbs. So maybe it’s a mitzvah. I got really good at sweet talking nurses into bringing me extra graham crackers at night.
One weird sidelight is that my olfactory sense is acute. For the first 2 days up I wonder why the nurses all smell like old tomato soup. I am a 2 bath or shower a day clean freak in my normal condition and my own smell now nauseates me. The stench of my damp sheets under my sweaty neck is horrible and they must be changed often. I am not allowed to shave and the growth puts 10 years on me and adds to the griminess.
Food tastes too salty. The juice is cloyingly sweet.
Leslie is running on empty. I ask her not to come at the end of my hospital run unless necessary since she is so burnt from driving back and forth. She brings me fresh underwear and the newspaper which I have missed terribly. She does such a phenomenal job of keeping, home, work and me together. Thank god she puts up with my stuff.
I have also managed to offend my mother. She doesn’t call me for the duration. 20 years ago I had her kicked out of my hospital room during a cancer surgery. Her morbid vigils suck every ounce of oxygen out of the room. Somehow it’s always about her. Yet I know she cares and that I have hurt her and will be extra nice as soon as I am able. My mother saved my life in 1972-74. I had recurrent episodes of non a, non b chronic active hepatitis, lost 50 lbs. I was lurking around Mr. Death’s front door. My body started the necrotic function where my pancreas emptied out and the feet started itching. The doctors gave me less than 3 days to live. My mother fought for me and succoured me back to life. 28 vitamins a day and lots of love and lecithin. I must always be grateful and not such an asshole.
My brother Buzz and sister Kim call daily. I am very lucky to have them both. Younger brother and sister John and Laurie also call but my relationship with them both is a little distant and it is hard to communicate in an easy way. Sister Liz is in Virginia on her own planet and never calls.
My father is in an early child like state but his love comes through like a warm flame and I appreciate that he and his wife Shela love me so much. They are at the hospital the first two days. My dad keeps apologizing for passing on lousy genetics but I can’t blame him. Rather blame my mother…just kidding.
A friend in need is a pain in the ass.
My solids all show up – Richard, Ron, Lena,Tony, Bill, Jean, Dave, Robin. I understand those that couldn’t. I get a million phone calls. Cam calls a lot and is a rock. Big Dave is in New York with family. Melissa calls a couple times. I think about calling my ex best friend Hank in New York but realize that we are over as buddies and that I am groping. The greatest pain for me in this life, not having had kids, is losing a good friend. But there is a time when you have to know that you have done nothing wrong when someone still treats you like crap and that you must cut the other person loose for good. Relationships must be nurtured and reciprocal or they don’t count or exist. And if I am falling short with any of you I want to know.
John Morris calls from Santa Fe and tells me that I am missed at the antique show. The opening night is the night before my operation. It is the first time in 8 years that I am not in New Mexico in July. I am glad to be missed. I have completely put business out of my mind for the last 3 months and hope that I can rebuild. Hey maybe my merchandise is dead and I will become an anachronism. But I believe in myself to the point of extreme narcissism and will lay odds on myself. And there is an equity loan waiting if I have to go that route.
I tell John Fillmore, my best friend and favorite Republican, that I think one of the nurses is checking me out and he insists that I am on serious medication and insane as he erupts with laughter. I laugh too and it hurts. I am an old man and feeling more so every day. Even the nurse at B-------’s office sees fit to remind me that I am no longer a young stallion. Hey lady, believe me, I know….
I have been doing light reading – the early Le Carre Smiley adventures, Simenon, a biography of Lord Nelson by Pinnock. I have been instructed to lift no heavy books. My brother in law Andrew has sent a parcel of magazines. He is very wealthy and I am not. It is hard for me to read such publications as the Robb Report without a touch of class envy but I appreciate his efforts.
My favorite joke of the week, which I think was sent by Ruth, my mother-in-law.
A guy calls his Rabbi and says Rabbi, I think my wife is trying to poison me. The Rabbi, says my god, that’s serious, why don’t I have a talk with her. He calls the Rabbi the next week and asks if he has spoken with her. Rabbi says, yes, I did – take my advice – take the poison.
My mother-in-law is such an extraordinary person. She has been in a wheelchair for practically the entire length of my relationship to her daughter. Down to movement in a single hand, she has handled herself with total dignity. She is brilliant and still very beautiful. I can’t imagine being in her shoes and having to constantly rely on other people. She is one of my greatest role models.
There are a strange but interesting group of people that I call ward walkers that come in to the room every day. Most of these people are elderly and have had similar operations and some of their advice is very good – floss and brush diligently every night and ward off amalytic infections which can screw up your heart. Many of them bring small dogs to visit the bedridden. These people devote a lot of energy to giving something back.
Not to sound too callous or judgmental, but I think that in some ways, many are defining their life by their past disease. I want to help and try to counsel privately but refuse to be cast as a victim. A lthough in some ways cancer was one of the great blessings in my life and in my self awareness. I live for the day and the moment. But I have been very lucky.
Many people told me that they were praying for me – as an agnostic jew I could only thank them and say bring it on – how could it hurt? I never turn one down. One day a pentacostal minister friend wanted to do the whole laying on of hands thing and I had to draw the line so as not to be a hypocrite. I finally pretended to fall asleep so that he would leave. I thought that I had the holy spirit once but it turned out to be stomach cramps.
I have to thank my blood donors, we went far over the projected need but I felt that someone is going to get blood who needed it and we are now in a critical shortage countywide. Donors told me that the Blood Bank was like – who the hell is this Sommers guy? Thank you again.
It is Wednesday – they are talking about releasing me. Begging for a pardon like a man on death row, I have been wooing and manipulating the nurses for discharge and release like the seasoned professional that I am. Then I open up my big mouth and kill the deal. I let the nurse know that I am getting little quasar flashes and shooting stars across my visual field. They send for a neurologist who can’t find a problem but wants to rule out a detached retina. My ophthalmologist will examine my eyes later this week.
One more day until I can taste pizza.
Thursday, I break out of the stir. I plead for each i.v. to be removed in quick succession. Each one is a little psychic weight lifted off of me. I beg Leslie to pick me up ASAP and bless her heart, she does so.
We stop at Rubios on the way home for Fish Tacos. Delicious. I clutch my heart shaped pillow to me like Linus with his blanket. I spontaneously erupt in tears in the back seat of the van on the way home. It is the first time I have cried in a very long time and I feel an emotional release. I have lived to fight another day.
The woman at the pharmacy is friendly to me for the first time. I realize that I have always prejudged her and treated her like wallpaper. She is somehow aware of my condition and I wonder how many other people I might have managed to alienate and have pretended don’t exist.
The home health nurse never shows up Friday – We get a Prothrombin crisis due to a stupid comedy of errors. But things are now stabilized and I am turning it around.
I feel like I have been run over by a truck. Ribs are still not in their proper place. There is a softball size ganglia of nerves constantly throbbing under my right shoulder blade. My upper bicep problem is seriously inflamed. Hopefully an upcoming massage will help. I think that all hospitals should have a massage person on staff. If not for the patients then for the doctors and nurses.
I am putting several hours a day in on my 1897 Washburn Brazilian Rosewood guitar with an orange toned Adirondack Spruce upper deck. It is small and light and perfect for old bluesy stuff. Dave taught me some 2 string pair diatonic runs which are much fun to play around with.
We may break down and get an air conditioner after 15 years. The hundred degree plus heat puts me in a tailspin when I got home. I am wondering if I am having a nervous breakdown.
Leslie is standing innocently half naked in the kitchen in her sarong. She looks like a gorgeous tropical model for Gauguin or Rousseau. The line of her silhouette is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I am so lucky to be with such a woman. She has cared for me with total love and devotion.
I am seeing no visitors at home. I walk to the plum tree every day to inspect the fruit which is just starting to show color. There will be no driving for 3 weeks. An airbag release will devastate me at this point. Hopefully I will feel good in 6 to 8 more weeks. I am very fortunate to have you all as friends.
I am healing.
Bless you all,