how I pass my days, the joys of Percocet, thoughts on disability and euthanasia

The ultrasound showed the source of my abdominal pain and swelling to be a hematoma. It is large enough to be visible through my clothes, and will have to be excised if it doesn’t dissolve on its own. I was sent home with Percocet and told to alternate between ice and heat. I can neither take walks nor bike rides, and the Percocet makes me unsafe to drive; so I am as housebound as I have ever been. I nap, read, eat, watch squirrels, listen to Baroque music, and, once these many labors have been completed, I beging them again. I’ve read Silas Marner, two books on logic, the 1882 novel John Eax, and parts of other books.

This is not such a terrible way to live when one gets used to it. Friends are solicitous, painkillers make the days run together dreamily, and even a recent sunny day scarcely tempted my thoughts outward. The sun emits a pleasant glow through the window, but the air is chilly, and I am too lethargic to venture out even if I could.

Josh took Bonnie out on Sunday, over did it with her ball-throwing stick, and had to carry her home. He is unable to understand the limitations of a ten-year-old dog, and she is unable to understand that she can no longer run, jump, and make u-turns at full speed. Bonnie and Baxter have both gained two pounds now that I am unable to take them for their daily bike rides.

I ponder the lot of those whom we used to call “shut-ins,” and of what it must be like to lead a life devoid of all ambition aside from passing one’s days in warmth and comfort with plenty to eat. Imagine, no one looking to you to do anything, of no longer having the ability to do anything—at least not anything much. Maybe a hobble down the hallway for stretching exercises, or else a wheelchair ride to the common room to hear a community volunteer play the piano. Then, every other Thursday, another volunteer would arrive with her golden retriever for the residents to pat with the paper-thin skin of their perpetually bruised hands. With the illumination of Percocet, I can see how such an existence might not be so bad—assuming the ability to afford a “nice home” rather than a warehouse where manacled residents with open bedsores slump in odiferous corridors atop squished feces.

But does anyone ever really come to want nothing more than that? With enough drugs, maybe. The power of a pill to alter one’s life is remarkable. Percocet is like a comforting hand, like a voice that says, “Doesn’t it feel beyond heavenly just to lie here, just to read ten pages, nap for two hours, read ten more pages, and then nap for another two hours? How could anyone ask for more? Yes, the world is out there, somewhere, but it’s a crazy and frenetic world—as you yourself have often observed—so why not just let it chase its tail while you lie here in warmth, and peace, and a joy that is as real as it is mysterious?”

Such feelings are one reason I hold back on the Percocet. My prescription calls for a maximum of twelve a day. When I found that I was becoming unable to remember how many I had taken or when I had taken them, I began keeping a record. Most days, I take no more than five, and only then if I really need them to keep the pain from reaching a fever-pitch.

Peggy leaves in two days, and I will miss her dreadfully. I miss her badly enough when I am well and have projects to occupy my thoughts, so how much more will I miss her if the zenith of my capacity is to sit at a desk doing paperwork. She departs on Valentines, and returns two days after my birthday. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but it would be even more bitter if she stayed home to nurse me—as she is even now tempted to do. As much as we love our dogs, we have come to think of them as more a burden than a joy; and I want to do everything I can to prevent Peggy from seeing me in the same light.

I question the wisdom of a person devoting their own life to the deteriorating life of another. Peggy’s father has cared for her mother in such a way for years with no end in sight. I can but wonder at my society’s many contradictions regarding our so-called reverence for life. On the one hand, we are determined to keep every frail, damaged, deformed, demented, and aging human being alive as long as possible no matter what the financial or emotional burden. On the other, we have shown the consistent willingness to send our youngest and healthiest adults to die in foreign lands for reasons that seem nonsensical a decade later. And is it not the epitome of irony that we “put our pets to sleep” because “it would be cruel to make them suffer” even while we denounce human euthanasia and imprison those who help make it possible? So many of the values that are commonly esteemed by my society appear so damnable in my eyes that I don’t feel that I am a part of society, but am instead like one who was caught in a current too powerful to resist.