Another Thursday

I hear today was a holiday. The Bouviers took the kids to my sister’s place so they wouldn’t miss out on our plans. Cheryl and I stayed home. Well, mostly.

This morning I was sitting with a cup of coffee, thinking it was kind of funny to be thankful McDonald’s was open (of all things). I was thinking about the last month, about the last twenty-four hours, feeling sorry for myself. Then one of the friendly regulars (there’s a group of seniors who meet there for coffee every morning) started to slump over. I got parked in by the ambulance so I took my time. It put this last month in perspective.

I get lots shots at perspective but sometimes it seems like they’re wasted on me. I think the only way to keep my shallow, self-pity at bay is a steady, low-dose infusion.

Here’s the thing. This morning was the first time I was truly angry with the guy that hit my wife. Cheryl’s been angry for a while, and she’s got every reason to be. I’m not saying I’m a better person, just that it’s easier to be forgiving when you can move your head and arms without excruciating pain. No, youth is not an excuse for careless behavior, but I remember being twenty-two… and acting like an irresponsible ass too. I just thank God I never hurt anyone. But these last couple days my wife has experienced the kind of pain I felt in the hospital… the kind of pain she said was worse than childbirth. I’ve learned some people want to be comforted when they’re in pain, and others are like (some) wounded animals. They just want to go off my themselves, curl up in a ball, and wait for it all to end – one way or another. These last couple days Cheryl as been like that wounded animal, and it’s been eating me up.

One thing that’s surprised me since meeting Cheryl is my need for affection, both to give it and receive it. I never had this need growing up. My family was loving, but it was not outwardly affectionate – not with hugs and kisses anyway. We showed are closeness with our banter. But then I met Cheryl. When I feel bad I want a hug. When I see someone hurting I want to give a hug. It’s like I’ve become this other person (a distinct possibility, considering the family history of mental illness).

Not being able to hug this problem away, having to keep my distance… it’s been agonizing. Am I being melodramatic? I’m sure Cheryl doesn’t wish me harm, but I’ll bet she wouldn’t mind trading places for a while.

Tuesday Cheryl saw a surgeon. He said he would have scheduled her for surgery today, but it was Thanksgiving. So she’s scheduled to have C5 & 6 fused next week. He also gave her some stronger stuff for the pain; some patches that were supposed to give her a longer/stronger dose of relief. Instead they made her violently ill. By last night she had gone 24 hours without being able to keep anything down (besides a few sips of water) – including her meds for pain. (The patch had come off when the nausea started.) It was long past unbearable. Multiple calls to multiple doctors produced multiple scripts filled by the pharmacy, and zero relief; so it was time to visit my favorite place on earth – the ER. Cheryl’s mom took the kids and I took Cheryl. When the IV drugs finally put Cheryl out I ate a late dinner with my bluetooth headset hanging from my ear. I’d become that irritating person that talks loudly (seemingly) to himself in a public place… calling the family, telling them all we wouldn’t make it to the big Thanksgiving dinner planned at my sister’s place in Orlando.

A woozy Cheryl accompanied me home late last night, not completely over the nausea, but much better.

That’s why a really bitter, angry husband was eating breakfast at McDonald’s on Thanksgiving morning. I didn’t want to set off Cheryl’s weak stomach with the smell of coffee or food, and you all know about my unhealthy relationship with coffee.

Cheryl’s better for now, but I’m worried about the surgery. I’m sure surgeons would say they do it all the time, but I don’t.

Ah well. Believe it or not I do have the good sense to be thankful today. Here’s my obligatory list.

I’m thankful for (in no particular order, as they come to mind):

  • The accident not being as bad as it could have been.
  • A son and daughter who alternately drive me crazy, and surpass any notions of parenthood I had going in.
  • Finding the love of my life, even if I can’t give her a hug right now.
  • The rush of adrenaline I get this time of year when some of you northerners finally share some of your cooler air. (The sun’s down, the temperature is making a steady drop towards a number delightfully closer to my age, I’m outside watching my breath as my fingers get a little numb on the PowerBook keyboard – and I love it.)
  • The soft crunch and splash of sweet/tart juice when your teeth first sink into a fresh apple.
  • Having a job with good benefits.
  • Being able to imagine the day I hear the phrase: “former president Bush.”

Sorry if I ruined a perfectly good post with politics, but no one’s perfect.

If Cheryl’s feeling o.k. tomorrow morning, sleeping off the last couple days, I think I may take an early morning walk on the beach at Honeymoon Island. There’s nothing like an early morning walk on a cold deserted beach (relatively speaking… this is Florida after all). It’s a great recipe for recharging the spirit.


  1. I appreciate the thought Richard. It might’ve even been worth a little vacation, if Cheryl could travel.

    Actually she got some really good advise from my brother-in-law (who’s a neurosurgeon just up the interstate from us). She got into see another specialist who found a different drug combination that has worked wonders. I can’t recall what they are at the moment.

  2. I was all excited, and assuming that I had a terrific solution that might help both of you, especially with Cheryl likely to need painkillers going forward. Sativex! It’s an expensive pain killer that is derived from marijuana; you just spray it under your tongue, and it works within 15 or 20 minutes. It helps with the nausea, and doesn’t create any of the side effects that come with other narcotics, since it bypasses your digestion system…. It’s the only thing I can take now when the migraine meds are slow to work.

    But while it’s available in Canada and the UK, I see that the drug studies in the US are still ongoing, and I don’t think it’s been approved. Something else for Obama to fast track.

    So this post won’t help, and I wish that I could get some to you!

    Instead, I can just offer my support and sympathy, and send good wishes to both of you. I’m so sorry to have been an absent friend!

  3. Dear John

    Sometimes, in this hurried world, we must take time to pause and reflect (as Cheryl and I often enjoy on our noontime walks). Cheryl proudly discusses your great family in detail.

    You are blessed with the best wife on earth and I see you are thankful for it.

    Earlier this week I told our mutual friend Susanne to tell Cheryl that if she needs a disc she could have one of mine; she is such a darling and you are so lucky to be together.
    I feel her pain and can’t wait for her to get better. If it were medically possible, you can be assured that I would gladly accept a fusion for her.

    I’m just glad she’s still with us.

    My prayers are with you.

    – Brian

Give the gift of words.