Not long ago, the anesthesiologist called about my surgery tomorrow. “You’ll be given two painkillers,” he said, “the first to kill the pain of the second until the second takes effect.” Drugs are funny. One doctor wrote me a prescription for Ambien recently. “This medication has been known, in rare cases, to cause violent behavior,” the packaging warned. A few days later another doctor gave me a prescription for Requip. “This drug has been known, in rare cases, to lead to compulsive gambling,” the packaging advised. “Oh, great,” I thought, “I’m going to be a violent gambler.”
Last night, I was too manic to sleep, so today I took a Vivarin. Since I don’t do caffeine anymore, an occasional Vivarin makes me really manic. I was that way when the anesthesiologist called, and was consequently so bubbly that I wondered whether I sounded drunk. After we hung-up, I went back to my yard work. As I crossed the backyard, I passed Bonnie walking the other way. “Hello, Bonnie,” I said. Then I remembered that Bonnie was in the front yard, and that the gate was latched. I thought that, well, maybe I just thought the gate was latched, so I went to check. It was latched. Things could be worse, I suppose. I could be hallucinating a dog that is dead or never existed.
I’ve spent days doing all the work around the house that I won’t be able to do during my convalescence. Last night, I baked crackers, biscuits, and cornbread. I actually started baking crackers two weeks ago because each batch takes two hours, and that’s if I don’t double it. I was raised on store-bought loaf bread, but my mother kept the larder stocked with homemade biscuits and cornbread. Of course, they were inferior to what I bake. I never use shortening—much less lard—or sugar, and all my breads contain several whole grain meals or flours. There are only two things that I love to cook. One is soup and the other bread; and of the two, I prefer bread. My father believed that whole grains were for hogs (he claimed that bleached flour was purer because it was white), so he was challenged to eat my bread when he came to live with us.
I am more nervous about this surgery than any I’ve had, because the ligament that the surgeon will cut is directly above the nerve that makes my hand function. I’ve thought about what it would be like to go through life with a purely decorative right hand, and whether the odds of that happening are small enough to justify the risk of surgery. I dealt with the issue by opting to stick with the decision I’ve already made, my thought being that I would need new information to back out with any integrity.
My hernia surgery (in January) was hours late, so I had a lot of time to lie on my stretcher and think. I really wanted to walk out of that place while I still could. I remembered my friend, Hulene (a woman after my own heart, her last act before surgery was to write me a letter), who died during hernia surgery five years ago. I also thought about my surgeon, and how I didn’t entirely trust him because he always seemed so harried. I finally reconciled myself to the fact that, having made the best decision I could, and having no new information that would justify a change of heart, I needed to trust the thinking I had done when I was less emotional. Even if it was wrong, it was the best I could do. This is what will make it possible for me to lie down upon yet another stretcher tomorrow. Meanwhile, I do dread the long night ahead.