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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Is this too personal an operation to speak to those who know me? Tom Green featured himself getting a testicle removed on national TV. That included the severed organ and vomiting. I don’t know if he has gone in for reconstructive surgery, preferring to remain one of the elite sporting only one ball. There are cases, one is mentioned in the movie, In and Out, and one that entails the main character of J.P. Donleavy’s, The Onion Eaters involving a group of men with three. So perhaps a donor could be found for Tom if he desired.

But getting back to my predicament, I’ve been working too hard with my body for over 30 years—carrying and working with heavy ladders, climbing the same. And then restoring them to the roof of my vehicle, not to mention all the scrubbing, equipment, and  furniture moving and other miscellaneous activities I’ve engaged in. In the past I also had a carpet cleaning business, using a truck mount, an even more strenuous undertaking.

I knew I had one hernia and suspected the second, but the doctor found a third. The doctor, by the way, is known as the Hernia King of Connecticut, because he performs more of these operations than anyone else. And since he has done more than anyone else, this self appellation as King has credence. After all, wouldn’t you want a delicate operation done by the most experienced guy?

To make a long story longer, the appointed day came, and because of  issues with Patrick, my son, I ended up being dropped off at Bridgeport Hospital at the last minute. This made me quite tense and short tempered. I was not too worried about the surgery, having been assured I would not awake from the anesthesia in excruciating pain. I was upset, however, by the prospect of being late.

Fortunately I was dropped off on time. The third floor holding room had a sign telling us, the surgery attendees, to sit tight and they’d come and get us—no check-in; so I was never completely sure I was in the right place. Finally after 45 minutes of waiting, someone came out and informed us they’d be taking us soon, and my doctor’s name, Kenler, was mentioned. I took this as a good sign that I was in the right place.

At long last a couple of us were guided into a room to disrobe and put on “the gown with the open air solution for one’s ass”. My clothes went into a bag with my wedding ring. The nurse assured me that now, I was a free man. So I asked her if she had a wedding ring on—she did and added that as soon as my wife returned I would be asked to don said ring again, since I belonged to her—my window of opportunity closed as rapidly as it opened. I must say, in an aside, that this ring represents one of the most important things in my life beyond my integral involvement with life itself.

Then commenced a wonderful parade of intake personnel: data compiler, robe adjudicator, Indian anesthesiologist, Filipino scrub nurse, shaving specialist who informed me she had to “remove this sweater, but don’t worry it will grow back,” the PA who would assist the doctor, and of course, his lordship himself, the Hernia King, who drew on my abdomen a game plan, discussed risk analysis, and engaged in a brief but harmless badinage about his well-deserved appellation that should be just shortened to King.

One disconcerting aspect of this whole introduction was the PA telling me I’d be out of commission for not just two weeks, as I’d been told might be the case due to the healthy, virile specimen that I am, but six weeks of no lifting more than 10 pounds (then again, one report said 16 and another 20).

That is why I’m writing this disclosure of my medical affair. What else am I going to do? I can’t even vacuum the rug. The upside is the Valium—I am not afraid and in good spirits, just sore. I didn’t really want to go to work today anyway, and the drugs and dictum of having to rest on doctor’s orders, removes the guilt, shame, and fear that are sometimes my constant companions.

If this missive sparks in you, a desire to communicate with me, please write, either as a comment to this post or at larry@optonline.net.

This is my first real surgery. Just as becoming a father had done for me 30 years ago, this is another initiation for me into the human race of which I often observe but sometimes avoid engaging. More than ever, I feel we are all in this together, that I’m a part of you and you, a part of me.

I suspect grandchildren will be the next big thing for me. And finally, my dying will bring it all full circle.

A way a lone a last a loved along the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.     Finnegans Wake

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[This is the 5th  installment of a hitchhiking trip I took in my twenties; see the first  post to read from the beginning]

Road to Minneapolis

 I awoke. Grey light filtered through the blinds throwing a pattern of slits on the bed beside me where Ken slept. A line of white light shown under the door.   Sounds of a car door shutting, muffled voices, and the jingling of keys made me aware of life beyond our motel room.

I was still alive.  I lay there breathing slowly and deeply.  The frightening thunderheads of black thought that had engulfed me the night before, concerning my imminent demise, were gone.  I laughed.

“What’s so funny,” said Charlie, apparently lying awake.

“Just glad to be alive,” I responded.

“Yeah, well, we’re burning daylight.  Let’s get going.”

We slowly got up and packed.

“Get your ass out of bed, Ken.”  Charlie threw his pillow and hit Ken in the head.

“Hey, watch it,” Ken flung it back at him.  Then he got up and went into the bathroom.

“Hurry up, I gotta take a piss too.”

The drive to Provo was cordial.  Charlie joked and bragged to, through, and past breakfast at Denny’s.  I didn’t want to spend anymore money than I had to.  Yet I wanted to be sociable after being allowed to live and all.  So instead of eating the salami and cheese in my pack, I ate with them at Denny’s.

We drove together past Provo and joined I-80 for the trip over the Rockies.  It was getting cold.  Once we got in the foothills it started to snow.  Ken drove.  He was scared.  “They taught us to turn into the skids when we were on the ice.”

“When?” I asked.

“When I was training to be a State Cop.  They had us drive on ice at an ice rink in San Bernardino.”

“Why?  There’s never any ice in L.A.”.

“Yeah but we were training for high speed chases and U turns.”

Both hands gripped the wheel, he had his driving gloves on so I couldn’t see whether his knuckles were white or not.  His steely jaw did not tremble, but I sensed his tension.

“I’m thinking we should just drive straight through to Minneapolis,” said Charlie, “I don’t feel like camping in this shit.”

No longer excited about camping with my two “buddies”, I was glad when I saw the snow and heard Charlie’s reaction to it.  I didn’t think they still wanted to kill me, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to see any prairie dogs bite the dust either.

The car wasn’t running as well at the higher altitude.  Sometimes it would slow way down and creep up hill.  Sometimes it would cough and sputter , threatening to die.

Finally it did die.  We had driven through the night.  My tailbone was starting to get sore from the hard console that, in spite of the padding, I could not avoid.  I slept in small stretches as Ken and Charlie took turns driving.  I contributed towards the gas but was not asked to drive.

Finally the car sputtered to a stop just as it came up over a rise.

“Well, shit.  This piece of crap.”

“Hey, that’s my car you’re talking about,” said Charlie.

“Now what?”

“Well, one of us has to get a ride into town to get help.”

“I’ll go,” I said.  “I’ll hitch in.”

There was no disagreement about that.  They were glad to have me do something for a change.  Maybe get rid of me; my money was almost gone.  If I had known I’d be paying for a ride, I would’ve taken a bus.  The only thing is, I would have lost all my earthly possessions.

It was morning; the snow was blowing over the pass, down the interstate.  There were not a lot of cars but I felt confident I would get a ride due to our broken-down vehicle.

I walked and hitched.  The next town was a good 10 miles, and I was trying to stay warm.

A Volkswagen Rabbit with skis strapped to the roof pulled over.  There was a young guy driving, his girlfriend was sleeping on top of all their luggage and coats in the back.

“Hey, how ya doing.”  I recognized the couple.  They went to Notre Dame.  Younger than me, they were still in school, living the dream.  I was hitching across the country, nearly broke, at loose ends.  They clearly could afford a car and a ski trip and school too!

“Hi,” said the driver.

“Hi,” said the girl.

“Could you give me a ride to the next town?  The people I’m riding with’s car broke down.  I need to get some help.”

“Sure, climb in.” said the driver.

“Fancy meeting you out here.  Where you going?” I asked.

“Back to school.”  They looked tired and were not very talkative.  They couldn’t care less about me but they were surprised to see me out of context.  They knew me as a graduating theatre person.  I couldn’t be doing that well if I’m hitchhiking out in the middle of nowhere.  I was forced to compare myself to these people.  The plan, when you graduate from college is, you get a good job, you start a career, you continue climbing up that success ladder.  Everyone expected it of you, everyone is impressed.  I had already gotten off the ladder.

I’m not impressing anybody here, I thought.  I asked them about people they knew and then got real quiet, trying to appear mysterious.  Perhaps they’ll figure there is more to my life than meets the eye.

They didn’t know what to make of me, but they were too tired to wonder why they, of all people, would be helping me, of all persons.

The mechanic from the gas station drove out with me in the tow truck.  “This ain’t nothing.  It sometimes goes down to 40 below with the wind blowing the snow clean through you.”

I thought how there were so many people in the world tougher than I was.  That somehow I was allowed to squeak by unharmed with so many dangers all around me.  Perhaps it was my ability to appear invisible.

“Where are they, son?”

The section of interstate was clear of all cars, not even a moving car in sight.

“I don’t know.  They’re gone.  I’m sorry to drag you out here for nothing.”  I’m never going to see them again.  I started planning on how I would get to Minneapolis without any clothes, food or sleeping bag.  I would hitch as soon as I got back to the rest stop.  Maybe get a bite to eat, but I had to watch my money, I didn’t have much left.

“It’s all right, things are slow at the station now anyway.”

I went into the diner, calculating how much money I could spend.  I was starving.

“Well, look who’s here,” Charlie said.

“How did you get here?  I went back with a tow truck and there was nobody there.”

“The car just started going again, “said Ken, the state cop aspirant, who looked surprised and embarrassed.

“Might as well get something to eat.”  Charlie sipped on a beer.

Cedar City all over again.  I sat on a bar stool and ordered two eggs over easy with home fries and rye toast, $1.75.

“Yep, just started running again.  We kept trying it.  It was getting cold out there.”

“I got picked up by two people I knew.  They’re from Notre Dame.”

“Fancy that,” said Charlie out of the corner of his mouth.

Resigned to finish the journey together, we got back into the car and headed east.  The rest of the way to Minneapolis was uneventful; just a long slow drive at 55 mph.  This was just after 55 mph had been implemented nationally because of the supposed fuel shortage.

The oil companies staged a fake fuel shortage all across the country.  Cars were lined up at the pumps for blocks.  All the while, oil tankers had to sit offshore and wait because fuel storage tanks were filled to capacity.  That was before oil companies became selfless champions of the greater good.

Talk decreased to a bare minimum as the tired cold miles were slowly digested.

It was warm and sunny when we finally hit Minneapolis.  Charlie started making jokes.  “Look at that asshole,” he said, pointing to a bearded, long-haired student standing at a bus stop.  “With all that hair you can’t tell if he’s got shit for brains or brains full of shit.”

Charlie started planning his and Ken’s future.  “We’ll live with my Mom for awhile, get jobs and save a little money.  We could buy a couple motorcycles and ride around together.”

Ken smiled, “Sounds good.”

“Well it’s time to get rid of this asshole,” Charlie laughed.  “I’m just kidding, it’s been nice knowing you,” he winked at Ken while he said this.  “You can catch a bus downtown over at that corner.  Minneapolis has a good bus system; they come every half hour.”

They pulled over and began yanking my stuff out of all the places it had been secreted around the little car.  They put it all in a pile on the sidewalk.

“Take care of yourself.  And listen.”  Charlie’s eyes narrowed, his voice, became serious.  “You watch the news this spring, the Red Chinese are coming, I shit you not.”  He reached his hand out the window and shook my hand.  “Nice knowing you.”

“Yeah, it was a good trip,” said Ken reaching across Charlie to shake my hand too.

“See ya,” Charlie abruptly started the car and gave a slight wave. I waved back, but they didn’t turn to see it. Ken and Charlie were laughing about something as they drove off. It looked as if they’d already forgotten the whole thing.

 

Next Week:

Tail Ends

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I always enjoyed being up high.  Growing up, our house was taller than most in the neighborhood.  I would go out the second story window above our porch, crawl up to the peak, and sit till my mother came out and yelled, “Mrs. Griffin called and said, you were on the roof.  Get down!”

Sometimes I would climb up into the high thin branches of our maples and sway back and forth, pretending I was in the crows nest of a sailing ship.  I enjoyed the slight sense of precariousness as I moved back and forth in the supple branches surveying the neighborhood from above the rooftops.

I was the oldest son in a large family.  So I was the first to do many things, like jump from our house to the garage.  The gap wasn’t very great, but for a boy who didn’t want to crash onto the cement below, the three or four feet was a risk.  The leap back came later, the porch’s roof was higher than the garage.  There was many a day I’d sit there and weigh whether I could clear it.  Once my legs had grown a little longer, the leap back was not as intimidating.

Two other experiments off the garage roof worth mentioning were, jumping with an umbrella into our sandbox and, in the winter, sledding down into a snow pile in the adjacent alley.  Neither met expectations.

Years later a friend invited me to audit a climbing class being offered at Cal State Fullerton.  I said, why not, as long as it was safe.

That opened up a whole new world.  It turned out I had an inborn talent.  My mother had told stories about when I was a baby and would climb out of the crib and beat her back to the kitchen.  She tried tying my hands and feet together, to thwart me, however, I was still able to climb out.  Finally she tied me to the crib.  After hanging upside down for a while on the outside of the crib, the exercise lost its charm.

Since the climbing class I have climbed in many places including Tahquitz, Yosemite, the Shawangunks, and at Ragged Mountain here in Connecticut.  The appeal is still the same.  When I climb there still is that delicious sense of precariousness offset by the safety afforded by a rope.  There is also the puzzle, sometimes mystery, of the climb that needs to be solved by a collaboration between the body and mind.  Most rock problems are solved by an intuitive urge to move in a certain way.  Once the problem is solved, there is the view.

Before I was married, I climbed weekly, daily when I lived in Yosemite, but after, it has been once a year.  While the original ecstatic thrill of overcoming my deepest fears is gone–when I first started rock climbing, I would go through a threshold of immense fear and come out the other side feeling like a bird who has just learned to fly.  Now, however, my familiarity with the undertaking neither presents the fear nor the release, but I still experience the quiet satisfaction in the solution of the physical puzzle and a joy in arriving at the top.

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