Grateful at the end of a long week

Grateful at the end of a long week February 16, 2018

My wife comes home this weekend. She’s been at Pennsylvania Hospital most of the week recovering from surgery which the good doctors and nurses say went just the way it was intended to go. They’re confident that they fixed what needed fixing.


Avoiding the details, her problem fell into the general categories of stuff that’s not supposed to be there and of stuff that’s not where it’s supposed to be. This wasn’t life-threatening, but it was the source of a lot of pain and discomfort. This problem isn’t particularly rare, but it’s usually only found either due to some underlying syndrome or problem, or else it’s a symptom of some new ailment or disease (including some of the really scary ones.) So the long run up to her surgery involved months of screenings and test and consultations with specialists, all confirming that she didn’t have any of those syndromes or diseases.

Depending on how you look at it, then, she’s either incredibly lucky/fortunate/blessed to not have any of those associated problems that doctors expected to find, or else she’s incredibly un-lucky to be the rare, otherwise-healthy person who somehow wound up needing this surgery today. We’re mostly choosing to look at it the first way — especially after learning about what all it was those screenings and consultations were ruling out, and what the poor souls who do have those associated problems must be dealing with.

That whole “depending on how you look at it” choice always seems to be part of the picture when you’re spending time in hospitals. You wouldn’t be there if not for something bad and painful and serious, but you’re also surrounded by others, many of whom are facing something worse and more painful and more serious, and whose road back to normal might be longer and harder than the one ahead of you. You can take that raw experience and spin it into either grievance or gratitude. I can’t say I haven’t felt a bit of the former, but today I’m mostly focused on a lot of the latter.

Ash Wednesday is a strange day to spend in a hospital waiting room. I’ve always appreciated the meaning of that day’s visible reminder of our mortality and fragility. That reminder is true, and good, but in a hospital waiting room it just seemed redundant. Everybody in that room was already thinking about that. We’d all just helped loved ones sign multiple consent forms reminding us of those very same things. I think in a hospital waiting room, every day is Ash Wednesday.

(The day set for her surgery also led to less ponderous thoughts — jokes about how unfair it was to have to fast on Fat Tuesday, or about how she seemed to be taking the whole “giving up something for Lent” business a bit too seriously. And whenever anybody asked me if I was doing anything special for Valentine’s Day I could just say that my wife and I had reservations in center city at a really nice place.)

The Slacktivixen is still pretty sore, but there’s a chance she’ll get to come home tomorrow or Sunday. It will be a while before she’s back to 100-percent, and they’ve forbidden her from going back to work for at least three weeks. She’s the sort of impatient patient who needs to be formally forbidden from trying to do too much too soon — the sort of patient who when told they can’t return to work will start secretly planning ambitious projects around the house.  So I’m getting ready for a few weeks of saying things like, “Yes, it looks great and you did an amazing job blacktopping the driveway, but please, you’re supposed to be taking it easy.”

But the very, very good news is that within a few weeks she will be feeling better than she has in a long time. We’re enormously grateful to the doctors and nurses and the whole crew at Penn, who have been kind and capable and impressive at every step.

Anyway, I’ve spent most of the week in This Is The Only Thing That Matters Right Now mode. I hope to be emerging from that soon.

"Wow, my definition below was spectacularly close, apparently. That makes me kind of sad."

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