Monday, November 01, 2004

Attack of the Rotater Cuffs

I'm waiting for Kathleen to get out of surgery. She's getting the rotator cuff on her left shoulder repaired.

I first ran across the quarterly rag called "Tin House" about 3 years ago. This past summer I ponied up for a subscription and this week I finally got around to seriously reading it. I had forgotten what truly good writing is like. The poetry is so-so, but the first two short stories were amazing. I almost fear to move on to the third, for the opposing fears that it will either be a disappointment, or that it will be good enough to drag me over some sort of literary precipice – a point of no return that will prevent me from ever picking up another lesser magazine or novel.

The waiting area for outpatient surgery is interesting for two reasons, related to each other and both having to do with people watching. First is that there is such a cross section of people here. Unless you are the cherry atop the economic cake, or the droppings on the floor, you are stripped of strata and difference before being ushered into the labyrinth of check in, preparation and waiting. All are the same. So I am seeing a wide cross section of the populous. More than that, where ill health is the whole reason to be here, there is less of the Fitness/Glamour magazine feel to the place and more of a misting of well drizzled and grizzled reality. (Perhaps if there is a common thread in the parade of souls, there is that of obesity, especially among those who are obviously here for treatment. Fat seems to be the polio or bubonic plague of 21st century America.)

The second venue for observation sweetens the first, being the fact that nearly every person in this area is in the company of a child or parent. In a few cases there are three generations walking down the passage together. It most interesting to observe when the younger generation is adult, and has become set and settled into the ways of their life. Then you compare that person to the parent and see the similarities, in appearance, behavior, habit and persona. You realize that how a person plays out their life, and by that I define life in terms that ignore such trivialities as possessions, career or role, is embedded in the template of their parents and grandparents. Thus when I look to Kathleen, I see her forever being like her mother, full of projects and crisis and children, always swooping in and out of their lives and home, as a planet on the elliptical orbit, sometimes near and sometimes far, but always within the firm bonds agreed upon by the opposing pulls of gravity and motion. As for me, I see my father, living his life in the office, in the Rose Room of his house, or in solitary projects. He supported his family and helped them, but always from a proper and protected position, much like the bank teller who, no matter how friendly and caring, is still behind an impenetrable barrier and is still concerned with your transactions and happiness only in so far as it will look good on his books and in his cash drawer at the end of the day. Or I see gramps, whose last act before his stroke (an act that was also the mark and or cause of his stroke) spent a small number of days suddenly shunning the house and his wife and busying himself with the garden. Even before that, I remembered him as being reserved and sticking to himself. So. My fate is foretold in the actions of my fathers.

It was almost exhausting to listen to the conversation before Kathleen was wheeled off to pre-op, as the doctor went over the list of medications she was on, the ones she was allergic to, the ones she just thought were icky, etc. Again, my eyeballs scrape in their sockets as I wonder how much of the paranoia is justified and how much is fantasy. I contrast this to when I will some day be talking to the same doctor before having my knees done: "I take no drugs and I fear no drugs." [ed. That day fast approaches. Since the original writing, my left knee has gone to hell and I have my first appointment scheduled for Nov. 23.] The last thing I took was Advil two weeks ago to kill a hangover, and I've never consumed a drug (legal or illicit) that I wasn't able to stare down and force into an abject submission to my will. (OK…there was that little incident with the percedan, but that was a matter of dosage and enthusiasm. Then there was the X. It won't happen again.)

To add to the book list: "The man who gave thunder to the earth" by Nancy Wood.

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