Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Surgery and Housecleaning

I sweep the kitchen stoop, dust bookshelves, vacuum the living room and under the bed where there’s enough discarded fur to make a spare cat. I empty the trash; scrub out the toilet bowl and Ajax the sink. I am going to the hospital in three hours for the fourth cancer surgery and although this small cleaning frenzy is ridiculous—I will probably be home tonight or tomorrow—it’s also necessary.  Call it the clean-underwear-in-case-of-an-accident syndrome. On the very off-chance something unfortunate happens, a slip of the lancet, say, or a stoned out anesthesiologist who turns a valve the wrong way,  I want to make sure my home is presentable.

Actually, it’s simply something to do. I am packed—toothbrush and dentifrice, spare socks, loose sweat pants, iPad, phone, chargers, one pack of gun (forbidden, I’m sure) and two books—and I have read as much as I can. Words on a page crawl and for once cannot hold my interest.  No food or liquids since last night so even the morning newspaper-and-coffee ritual has been interrupted. I have checked emails, paid all my bills, fed the cat extravagantly, emptied the recycle bin, started the recalcitrant Jeep and let it idle for ten minutes. I have left a hidden key my good neighbor. Again, just in case. This is all familiar territory.

I remain scared.  There’s a small ball of dark anticipation in the pit of my stomach. The next 24 hours will be spent in the domain of the depersonalized medicine practiced these days. There will be a host of anonymous nurses and aides asking the same question over and over. I will tell an indifferent anesthesiologist that, since I am in recovery, I metabolize drugs more rapidly than your average non-addict. I will say I would rather not wake up in the middle of the surgery, as has happened twice before when I was not dosed properly. Last year, I got into an argument with the anesthesiologist who told me it was all in my mind. I said no, it’s all in my liver, the organ that deals with drugs of all kinds and, in my case, goes through restricted substances like a house afire.

I abhor the entire process and keep a tenuous hold on gratitude.  All this is meant to heal, not harm.

I leaf through the New Yorker, field a few text messages from friends wishing me well. Almost forgot to empty the bathroom wastebasket; do that. Wipe down the kitchen counter and scrub out a tomato paste stain from the last time I made pasta. Look longingly at the espresso maker.

Ok. I’m ready.

No. Wait. I’m not.


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