surgery

Superman, the couch potato

It’s my first day back at work after 5 days at home, recovering from a minor surgery. I had a cyst removed from my lower back on friday, and despite the painkillers it still hurts to walk, lean over, and especially sit down. Driving to work this morning was pretty unpleasant and i’m not looking forward to the return trip, but being at work – standing at my tall desk – is not too bad. If I could get to work without walking or sitting I’d be set, although I’d still rather be at home on the sofa.

I’ve been very blessed the last few days, though, despite my need for a thrice-daily percocet. My mom stayed in town an extra week after my parents’ weekend visit to see me thru the experience, ignoring my protests that it wasn’t necessary. She was at her supportive, nurturing best all weekend, even down to planning leftover meals to see me thru my days

A father who is oh-so grand.

The family grapevine is operating at full bandwith today, as it does any day someone in the family is in need of our collective thoughts and prayers. My grandfather, Allen, is lying in a hospital bed in Montana, attempting to recover from his 14th back surgery. Apparently all the painkillers it’s taken to keep him alive for the past 30 years have built an immunity in his system to nearly all of them, and there is unfortunately little modern medicine can do to offer him any relief. His continued sanity in the face of the gruelling pain he lives with day in and day out is a statement to his immense determination and strength of character; he is still as energetic, supportive, cheerful, and selfless now as he was 27 years ago when he married my widowed grandmother and dutifully took on the role of emotional cornerstone for his newly-acquired family.

My grampa Allen is the type of guy every guy hopes he will be someday, when he is old enough to be a grandfather. He can make or fix anything, from a barn to a spice rack, a diesel engine to a paper airplane. He is an expert at nearly every craft he undertakes, and a patient teacher eager to share his knowledge and invested in his students’ success. All his tasks are undertaken cheerfully and with 110% effort, whether large or small, and things are done right the first time, with integrity, loyalty and love. He always has time for his children and grandchildren, and has been involved in our lives as much as we would allow in our various stages of youthful independence. His enthusiastic bear hugs – accompanied by the brush of his whiskers and the smell of his cologne – always made me feel welcome and safe under his roof, and his dedication to and passion for my grandmother – stronger every day despite all life has thrown at them – have become part of my measure for wedded bliss.

I wrote long Christmas cards to them both last year – letters, really – trying to encapsulate and express my love and appreciation for the people they’ve been to me and the sacrifices they’ve made for our family. I wanted them to know that their struggles have not gone unnoticed. I wanted to apologize for the times I was a child and was more interested in their Christmas gift than their attention, or for when I was a teenager who deemed them old-fashioned and “uncool”. I wanted to express my regret that I didn’t relish the opportunity to learn more from them when I was younger and geographically closer, and that it had taken me 28 years to realize not only how important they are to me, but how important I am to them.

Danielle and I sent a message through the hospital to be relayed to him, and will call both our grandparents tomorrow when they are both hopefully better rested. I know he’ll recover, because he always does, and will be back to his energetic self in a few weeks’ time, albeit slightly dulled by the ever-increasing dosages of drugs that no longer really help and the pain that never really goes away. I know neither of them will be on this earth forever, but there’s still time while they’re here to appreciate them in person, and there’s always time to pray for them.

When in doubt, take the Percocet first.

I was “WFH” today, which is kind of like “AWOL” except that they know where you are. I went to bed around 9.30 last night feeling very nauseous and just generally not right, due to what I’m not sure. (Clint, I’m blaming the chili. Maybe the fritos should go on before the cheese). I slept soundly for a good 20-25 minutes and then spent the next 3 hours thrashing around like the “what not to do” portion of a Stop-Drop-n-Roll video, twisting all the sheets into a surrogate bed partner.

The abdominal pain and my heartbeat pounding in my ears finally drove me out of bed a little after 1.00am, my mind spinning in a sleep-deprived fog. The hypochondriac said, “Go to the hospital! You have a massive intestinal blockage, or a burst appendix, or a hernia – or all of the above! You need an abdominal CT and a chest xray, stat!” Cursed television hospital dramas that taught my brain those words, and cursed WebMD for teaching it what they mean! The realist said, “You ate too much, too quickly, you pig, and now you’re going to explode in a firestorm of skin, blubber and chili like a water balloon hitting the concrete. Serves you right, piggy!” I should note that no part of my brain ever gives me a break, so if you ever think you’re being hard on me, take comfort knowing that you’re not half as cruel as my inner monologue.

I chose the conservative route and went to a 24-grocery instead of the hospital. Mostly because I have no idea where a hospital is this side of downtown, and every time I’ve been inside one lately it’s nothing like Scrubs. It was a quick visit, clutching several boxes of promise-making pharmeceuticals and trying to walk as little like a bell-ringing hunchback as possible – not that I would have been out of place with the other high-caliber clientele buying groceries at this hour. I found my way home and ordered my purchases systematically on the kitchen counter in the order i would take them: least drastic first, see how it goes, then move up to the harder stuff should it be necessary. Note that i am not advocating this strategy. My formal advice would be: when in doubt, always take the Percocet first; you can find a band-aid for that hangnail later, after you’ve finished guest-hosting the Merv Griffin Show wearing only your underwear and a lampshade.

Sometime around 5.00am I gave up on ever being a functioning member of humankind again, resigning myself to a life of rolling around on the bathroom floor well into my golden years. Lying on my back, the warmth of the laptop on my chest staving off the early throes of hypothermia in my 76-degree bedroom, I emailed the office to say i’d be Working From Home, and to please tell my family i loved them.

Somehow the day passed, the telecommuting keeping my mind occupied and the elastic waistband in my flannel pajama pants preventing my having to fumble with a zipper. With a sparse diet of crackers and water (a flashback to my supermodel days, sans the cigarettes) I basked in the warm glow of an LCD screen and, later, the sun, soaking up the healing rays of both.

At 5.30pm, after everyone else in the office had logged out, i allowed myself to do so, as well. Dad’s suggestion to get some fresh air seemed like a good one, the morning’s rain had dried up, and my car was still dirty from the Memorial Day roadtrip, so i bumbled around the driveway cleaning it up. My head was still soupy with drugs and sleeplessness, but the finished product looked so inviting I couldn’t resist a drive around the block, at least. Fifteen feet out of the driveway the “low fuel” light rained on my parade, and 500 feet further on what had now become a quick trip around the block to the gas station, the black clouds moved in threateningly. Every light was red, but the gas station was mercifully empty. No matter, though, because my wallet was at home, on my nightstand.

I had obviously been trading my ambitious energy on margin and lost due to plummeting prices, because the drive home was a race to see who would grind to a halt first, me or the car. We both made it home, discouraged but thankful, but not before a stray glance in the rearview mirror delivered an unpleasant kick to a man already down: I was wearing girls’ sunglasses. I don’t know where they came from, and the black frames and dark lenses looked normal enough initially, but now in the sunlight i could see the characteristically turned-up corners and a purplish hue to the lenses. I chose to squint in the sunlight the last several blocks home.

Esconced once more in my internet-enabled Batcave, swathed in thumpy music and surrounded by empty Sprite cans, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be ready for the real world come monday.

Faith and honey walnut prawns.

Ran across the street for lunch and returned with honey walnut prawns from New Star Chinese . As Yoda would say, “mmm… very tasty, they are… yes.” Didn’t manage to get out to QFC last nite for work food, so i treated myself to lunch out. Christi at the front desk says that sounds kind of backwards – indulging as a reward for laziness. I told her it’s negative reverse-psychology. Very cutting edge stuff, all the lastest publications are talking about it…

Danielle and i are glad to be back in the city (we both missed our laptops) although the week with Mom and Dad was excellent, as always. Mom spoiled us to no end, and Dad is recuperating extremely well and continues to impress us all. His 7-hour brain surgery was a complete success, all of the tumor is gone, and the doctor’s exact words were “it couldn’t have gone any better than it did.” He’s experienced only mild aches and pains so far, and was out of the hospital two days ahead of schedule. He’s been really positive about the whole thing, and i’m very proud of him for both his attitude and fortitude through the whole experience. It was a journey in faith and patience for all of us, but especially for him, and he continues to set an example for me as the man i’d like to grow up to be.

Huge thanks to all the family and friends who were so supportive – the calls, emails, cards, flowers, and balloons… the spare bedrooms… the plane tickets… the hospital visits… the prayer vigils… the 27 people who joined us in the surgery waiting room on thursday. All your prayers, all your caring paid off, and Dad is healing quickly with the worst behind him. Quite a statement of the power of prayer and family, and i feel priviledged to have been such immediate witness to it all.

If the weathermen know anything (i’m just going to leave that one alone) there may be snow in Seattle yet this week. I wouldn’t mind a little, as i’m hoping to try out that season pass as early as next week. At the same time, i wouldn’t be bothered if nothing exciting happened for a little while… after the last couple months, a nice unremarkable routine holds a certain appeal.

Leaving on a jet plane.

Keeping it short cause i’m supposed to be getting some sleep – i need to be at Danielle‘s place at 6 tmrw to catch our ride with Steph (thanx again, btw!) to the airport. We’re headed home to montana for a week or so, but this time not for a holiday vacation but for Dad’s surgery. It’s a lot more nerve-racking and scary than our usual trips home, and will also be the first time she and i have flown together since i was 15 and she was 13 – which was also the first time either of us had ever been in an airplane – so nothing about the situation is going to seem normal or familiar. At least Uncle Tim and Aunt Carol will be traveling with us for the eastbound trip; they’ll be our stand-in parents yet another time this winter, which we really appreciate.

Again, i probably won’t be real communicative while i’m gone, but i made the nice little comment thingy for you guys to keep yourselves amused talking to each other in my absence. With the wireless blog broken thanx to the server move (combined with a distinctive lack of GSM service in montana) that option’s out, and i’m leaving my powerbook in Seattle and giving my eyes a much-needed break from computers (not that i wouldn’t take a gameboy with me if i had one of those…). Besides, i anticipate spending a lot of the trip in places where both kinds of appliances are either frowned upon or downright useless, so the excuses to travel light are a-plenty.

I’ll try and call those of you that i said i would, and let you know how Dad is doing as i have news. I really appreciate everyone’s prayers and support, for both Dad’s health and Mom’s sanity 😉 … and i know they do, too.