My husband had surgery this week. It’s a thing he has done semi-regularly in our 20 years of marriage. It’s a thing he will, inevitably, do again. Because the surgeon says so. And because his ankles are a hot mess.
Not to brag or anything but I’ve kind of gotten good at this surgery thing. I know what to expect and how to respond. I know now that when the surgeon says “6-month recovery,” he really means it. I know it’s serious because there is always a hospital stay involved. Other people get their ankles fused and it’s an out-patient thing but not my man. He needs wound care. He’s special like that.
I know I am going to be a caregiver who has lots of energy, enthusiasm, and sympathy for about fifteen seconds. And then I turn exhausted and resentful. I don’t love that about me but I do know that about me. So, that’s something right?
And we’re right on schedule. Not even one full day home from the hospital before I lost it.
I know people; people who give a care, who give care with care. My mom who is caring for her mom. My aunt who cared for years and years for my uncle and my aunt (her brother and sister) until they both passed away. My mother-in-law who sat by my husband and his brother’s hospital beds for many years, taking notes, giving blood, and praying until spent. And I know the people who gave care weren’t always selfless or saintly. I know they loved and I know it exhausted them. I know they did (and do) what had to be done because there was no one else to do it. But it seems like they did it with a touch more grace than I am capable of.
I’m one of those people you really don’t want in an emergency. I lose my whits. Medically fragile is just not. my. thing. Some people are great in those situations. I am not one of them. I make things worse. If you’re bleeding and can’t walk, you may want to muster what’s left of you to run away from me. There are so many careers I’d be terrible for: first responding, any kind of dispatching, doctoring, nursing, or dentalling. Oi! Yesterday, when my husband and all 200 and a bunch ‘o pounds of him started tipping over, I had the wherewithal to yell, and cushion his fall. Smooth.
I remember two surgeries back, eight years ago, when my oldest son was four and potty-training. I remember sitting on the back porch with my journal, spilling vitriol into the pages about how horrible it all was – how I wanted to run away. I remember that feeling, the one that was me realizing the care-giving job was bigger than I could possibly bear. That feeling is coming again, I feel sure of it, and it really frightens me. It is right around the corner.
A friend of mine runs. A lot. (This relates. I promise. Stick with me.) She sought advice from another running friend because she kept struggling on mile 7 of all of her runs. She said something to him like, “I love every minute of it until then but at that mile, I hate it. It sucks and I want to quit every time.” His advice? “Embrace the suck.”
I will hit my proverbial mile 7, probably within the next fifteen seconds and stay there for 5 3/4 months. I think the advice is sound. I will be embracing the suck. What other choice is there? In the words of a pre-school memory, “You can’t go over it! You can’t go around it! I guess you’ll have to go through it!”
But please. If I love you, and you hurt yourself, and you have a choice about this? Please, please find someone like my aunt, who is good at it, to take care of you. Because when I give the care, it’s a whole lot of inept embracing of the suck.
By the way, we knew he needed surgery. We scheduled it for the absolute soonest he could get in – July. But we asked for a slot on the cancellation list and then prayed he’d be bumped up because the ankle situation was at its all-time worst. We got a call. That’s why it happened this week. You guys. It’s a March Madness Miracle. You can’t believe how happy my fella is to be bedridden (with a TV) at a time like this.
By the way, by the way, anesthesia makes people loopy. When he came out of surgery and woke up, he kept trying to “honk” my nose like he was a two-year-old. And he kept missing and honking my cheek instead. When the nurse asked how he was feeling, he said, “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.”