the surgical holding area, the strength of old ladies, I make my incision swell, my father's stubbornness

Rain all day, as usual. Last Sunday—the day before my surgery—we had five inches of snow—a phenomenal amount for the valley floor—and I spent the day clearing it from the patio roof.

After I checked into the hospital, I was taken to a room that held six patients. Curtains offered visual privacy, but there was no verbal privacy. My surgeon was running two and a half hours late, so I saw other patients come and go. One was 88, and had suffered for nine years from infection following a knee replacement. He was there to have the joint removed and the space packed with antibiotics for three months. Then would come another replacement and, if that didn’t work, a fusion. He was sharp of mind and did his own talking. We were taken to the surgical holding area together, and, as he was wheeled into the O.R., I kept thinking, “You are screwed, dude; you are not going to survive this at your age.” Then I realized that he was probably screwed anyway.

Every day, I watch Mrs. Fredericks walk by. She is 90, lives three houses down, and lost her husband to diabetes last year. A few months later, her daughter and a couple of her grandkids were killed in a plane crash. She stays in her house until she “can’t stand the loneliness anymore,” and then she walks. I ponder the pain she suffers with every faltering step, and I wonder how much longer she can holdout. We denigrate men by comparing them to old ladies (“an old lady could run faster…lift more, etc…than you”), but old ladies usually live to see their once strong men dropped into holes.

I feel sicker now than I did the day after surgery, and I finally figured out why. It’s because I am forced to sleep on my back, and my sleep apnea is worse that way. Last night, I had dream after dream in which I was trapped in dark, dank, putrid rooms without enough oxygen. The constipation came back with a vengeance too. I lay awake most of the night reading Silas Marner.

This morning, I decided I was babying myself too much, and that I might feel better if I did some light housework. I unthinkingly lifted two empty backpacks from the top of a closet, and the area around my incision swelled alarmingly, forcing me back to bed. Peggy was in tears for worry.

Walt stayed with us at the hospital all day Monday, Shirley brings us food every morning, and others have reached out too, but I feel too vulnerable to open my heart. Instead, I am more annoyed by their faults than usual, and can hardly be civil. I am surely a difficult person to befriend, much less to be married to. But then aren’t we all, more or less? Maybe the human race is perpetually at war because we are too obnoxious to tolerate ourselves.

Peggy, I can tolerate better than usual, partly because I see how hard she is trying to help me, partly because I am in no shape to be argumentative, and partly because I see how hard things are for her. I don’t know how people who live alone are able to survive life’s travails, but, come to think of it, if Peggy were alone, she would be free to go to France.

I want Peggy to go to France no matter what, but Peggy wouldn’t be able to enjoy France no matter what. This makes me even more regretful of my foolishness this morning. I wanted so very much to not feel helpless that I made myself more helpless. Every year finds me longing for my comparatively strong body of the previous year. I apprehend further deterioration, and will have to grow stronger of mind if I am to survive.

The surgeon’s nurse said he might want to do further testing for cancer despite the biopsy coming back normal. Why didn’t he think to do “further testing” when he had me cut open on Monday? I seldom go to a doctor but what I leave less enchanted. As a group, they know so little, and most of them know even less than that. Besides, their services are so half-assedly rendered that I can but conclude that money is the main motivator. A five-minute visit costs $200.

Peggy and I tried to hide the cost of my father’s pills from him, but when the day came that he found out, he argued that if enough people chose death over “highway robbery” that medical costs would come down. This is probably true, but how few are willing to volunteer.

Everyone dismissed my father as a stubborn fool. I knew his faults better than most, but I have also observed that normal people don’t achieve sainthood. You’ve got to be a hardcore hard-ass to be a saint and, for better or worse, my father was that.