Do any of you remember the days of the great hospitalizations? When I was a little kid and that first black rubber mask was lowered over my mouth and nose and I was told to inhale deeply and got that first whiff of anesthesia, hospitals - much like the airlines of the day or the great ships crossing the Atlantic - gave you a classy ride. A person was sure to enjoy himself. No doctors wore scrubs with candy-color elephants on them and hats that made them look like a highlighter with the cap off. Surgeons had the bearing and taste to wear the somber greens and grays appropriate to being the last person to deal with you before the undertaker. If you happened to make it out of surgery alive, no one would think of barging into your room nine times a night and snapping on ten thousand watts of overhead lights and mercilessly raising the electric bed so they wouldn’t have to lean down too far to yank your pillows out from under you and yell “HOW ARE YOU FEELING!?” at you at the top of their lungs. There was consideration. Visitors? They didn’t dare show their face in anything but a dark suit or dress and a shoeshine fresh off the elevated chair in the lobby. No one would think of lighting a Chesterfield before politely asking the nurse for an ashtray. Even in a time of diminished joie de vivre, there was always some savoir-faire. You would never be subjected to anybody - not even patients rolling their chrome IV stands down the halls - walking around in bathhouse sandals, ankle socks and a pair of jeans riding far enough down their ass to force you to read their underwear.
From the first time I was was sliced open, I loved it. There was no place I would rather be than getting operated on. Well, at least, in the hospital, but an operation was the price of admission, and well worth it, as far as I was concerned. It was great! Under the anesthesia you couldn’t hear your mother screaming at you. And later when she showed up, the Irish nurses - for in those days they were not only Irish, they still had the accents to show for it - made everyone toe the line and to a T. It was the life.
The tide turned in the middle 80s. I remember it because it coincided with the installation of longer runways at some of the world’s best remote destinations, which sent them on their death spiral down the crapper. I also remember it because I was entering a few years of epic hospitalizations resulting from being crushed, spilt open and later paralyzed. Scattered among these visits to hospitals from Kathmandu to California to New York, there was still the occasional high point, remembered like a glossy black-and-white with that pretty Stork Club cigarette girl in the background, but they were rare. The industrialization of the processes had begun. The light was changing. The artists were shown the door.
Today, getting an operation isn’t any fun at all. Name one connoisseur of any standing who would disagree.
I’m reminiscing about this is because I have to have an operation in ten days. I brought it on myself. I popped a couple of hernias when carrying Roo after her snakebite. The underlying guts are now protruding in little lumps that have to be poked back in and won't quite go. It was why I had to put Roo back down on the ground and make her walk the last 300 feet to the car, though I then picked her up again to put her in and again to get her into the ER. There was no choice. If you ask Roo, by the way, she'll agree that being hospitalized isn’t too much fun, either.
Surgery doesn’t worry me. The most recent one I had was on a shoulder. I think the surgeon operated with a fork and mistook the shoulder for a plate of mashed potatoes that he needed to stir. He destroyed the shoulder forever, and I did that one with nothing but Tylenol (I won’t be doing that again).
What worries me, however, is Roo. It will be several days - the surgeon says three weeks, but I don’t believe that for a minute - before I can walk her at all. There is a yard here, and she can adapt, but it’s going to be a drag for her.
So. If anyone is in Asheville, North Carolina, and feels like walking Roo once or twice, let me know. She might need a place to stay, and I’m reluctant to place her in boarding, where, in the event I am required to stay in the hospital unexpectedly, I’m worried about her being stuck. Though we’ve been here since April, we don’t know a soul. That is because I am too shy to want to know anybody or to ever hang out with anybody. I guess the lesson is that no dog is an island. And there we are.
Trying to lighten the blow on the little World Bear.