The far end of the couch - or - how wonderful it was to suffer this horrible ordeal; how sad, how lonely, to be getting well
Please do not misunderstand what I am about to write. I certainly did not enjoy the multi-pronged ordeal I have had to go through since I underwent my first, planned, surgery and then had to deal with all the complications that followed.
Yet, there were some good things about it. All regular readers of this blog know that I am an insomniac, a person for whom a good night's sleep is a rare and treasured thing. In the early days of my recovery, when I was totally drugged up, there were days I slept for 16 hours; maybe 18, maybe even 20 on a couple of occassions - and my dreams were magnificent, even if sometimes a bit perplexing and horrifying, other times tantalizing.
I did so enjoy the sleep and the dreams! Often, I did not want to wake up at all.
But the best experience I have had - perhaps the best experience I have had in years, an experience I would have altogether missed if I had not encountered this life-threatening situation and had to face this wonderful, life-saving, yet horrible, painful, temporarily debilitating and financially-crushing surgery - has been the time it has given me to spend with my wife...
We have spent more time together than we have in years...
...and all this time with Lynxton, too: an added bonus, a blessed bonus.
No, there has been nothing happen between Margie and me that follows along the lines of what is normally considered to be romance. No, nothing like that. It has just been sweet to feel her loving and caring presence nearby at all times. More important than romance, she has played her main role in my life - that of my best friend. Romance, lovers, amorous activities - these things can come and go in a person's life and take on different shades but to have a friend such as she...
This is a rare and special thing. This is the real treasure.
Given enough time, if one lives long enough, one can have a good number of grandchildren and doubtless one will love them all so greatly it hurts, but to have a grandchild so close on a nearly daily basis as Lynxton has been to me during the parts of my recovery spent at home and not in the hospital - what could be more wondeful?
A grandson so pleasant, sweet and good-natured as Lynxton! Yes, it has not all been easy. When he got sick and could not eat or sleep and would scream in pain when Margie picked him up and his temperature climbed so high and then we delivered him to his parents and they took him to the emergency room... this was hard, frightening and, as I earlier mentioned, caused me to grow more concerned and worried than I ever had grown for myself during this ordeal - even during those moments when I seriously wondered if I was going to survive all this or if death had now come to my doorstep.
Yet, to spend so much time so close to him... I in my electric recliner Jacob and Lavina bought to help me through, he just feet away at the far end of the couch with Margie or sitting, smiling and growling at me, from the laundry basket that served as his cozy little playpen...
So special! So beautiful! Perhaps as close to heaven as I will experience in this life... in any life, if there should actually be more life beyond this one.
And it would not have happened if I had not had to undergo this ordeal.
And now it is over. This little slice of heaven has now been removed from my daily life. And why? Because I am getting so much better, growing so much stronger: getting well. I still have a ways to go, I still have an ugly hole in my tummy that would still horrify most viewers to look at, but it is healing, it is narrowing and I am emerging back into regular life.
So, this weekend, Margie and I concluded I am doing good enough I no longer need her constant presence. I can change my own dressing. I can don Levi's instead of just loose-fitting, baggy, pajama-like pants. I can drive myself to wherever I need to go. I can cook. I can change TV channels for myself but when I am well, alone without Margie, I watch almost no TV, so this improvement does not really matter much.
So, Sunday, after giving us two more days with Lynxton than normal so that they could take Jobe and Kalib to the fair via the Alaska Railroad, his family came out to get Lynx. Just before they left, Kalib splashed through a puddle in our driveway.
Then, Monday morning, just as I had been doing every Monday before my surgery, I drove Margie into Anchorage and dropped her off so she could spend her week babysitting. I then continued on to Girdwood and the Alyeska resort hotel, where I sat in on the Arctic Imperative Summit and did some real work, not with my iPhone but my "real" cameras.
I had gone Sunday as well, but had only lasted three hours before the pain and irritation of wearing Levi's, a belt, and not being able to stop myself from quickly changing positions and hopping up and down when I saw the dynamics of the scene before me change, became too great and I had to leave.
I lasted all day Monday, sort of. I did have to break away for awhile in the afternoon, go to my car, crank the seat all the way back, open the windows up all the way, lie down and take a nap, but basically I got through it and I was there for the parts I felt most important to what I am trying to do - although it also became very clear to me that I need to look well beyond the parts most important to me, because what is happening and even more importantly what is about to happen in the Arctic is huge, overwhelming even, the characters and players many and diverse, with competing, conflicting interests - some whose great concern is how they, their families and communities can get through what is now coming down upon them with their way of life and the animals among whom they live and reap their sustenance from intact; others who look at the Arctic, often from afar but some pretty darn close too, and see only dollar signs; still others who observe what is going on in their homeland, know it is coming no matter what, as it has always come from the days of the railroad and the destruction of the buffalo and beyond and who now search for the way to keep their culture alive along with the animals needed to sustain it and yet to influence the debate, to be part of it and to retain at least a tiny portion of the wealth about to diverted from their aboriginal homeland and sea to the benefit of their own own people.
I have been absent from the Arctic now for almost a year. I have been aware of the issues and most interested in them, but have been on what in many ways has been a strange yet absolutely needed journey - to New York City, to Arizona, to India, to the hospital, which in turn has taken me right back to my wife and family in a new, warm, surprising and special way.
I must go back now. In fact, it had been my plan to climb into a Nukapigak boat today and journey upriver from Nuiqsut into the Beaufort Sea and then on to Cross Island, but my body is not yet ready for that.
When the summit concluded, it was my intent to drive straight home and see if I could finish up one phase of a personal project I have been working on for years before I went to bed last night. Not long after I turned on to the Seward Highway coming from Girdwood, I heard a report on the radio that there been a crash at the Highland exit just before Eagle River and, as of half an hour before, one lane of traffic was blocked off and traffic was moving at a crawl.
I hate to get stuck in such a traffic jam. I hoped it would clear out and I could pass freely through, but I got no more updates on the radio. I pulled up my iPhone and asked Siri for a traffic advisory, but I have to tell you - as wonderful an advance as she represents, Siri is not nearly so smart as she is cracked up to be. I would estimate that she knows what she is talking about maybe 30 percent of the time. Beyond that, she is pretty worthless, even a time-waster. She gave me no traffic information at all.
I entered Anchorage and traffic was pretty normal for early evening - heavy, but moving at a decent pace - most all of the way through town. Then, as I approached the Boniface exit - Boniface being the main road enroute to Jacob and Lavina's house - I saw all traffic slowing to a stop just ahead. Beyond, it did not appear to be moving at all. This meant it was stalled and backed up for somewhere between 10 and 12 miles, so I exited on Boniface. I called Margie, to see if maybe if we could get something to eat to kill the time. She said Jacob was going to bring Pizza home.
Pizza would be good, I said.
Jacob won't be home for about an hour-and-a-half, she said. That's too long, I said, I 'll go to Taco Bell.
So I drove to Debarr and then turned left, toward the Muldoon Taco Bell. Muldoon is the last major road in Anchorage on the north-bound side. When I got there, the traffic waiting to get on the highway was backed up all the way to Taco Bell, so I turned in the opposite direction. Margie called just then to inform me Lisa had just called. It was Bryce's birthday. They were going out for sushi with Bryce's family. Could we join them?
So I went to pick her up, and that was when I saw Jobe in the window, looking out at me. It was now 6:41 PM. The sushi dinner was scheduled for 7:30 at Ronnie's on Muldoon - right smack in the middle of the congested area. So we waited and drove over right at 7:30. The traffic had eased.
The sushi was magnificent. I am eating too damn much. The doctor wanted me to gain weight all right, but at my last visit, he said the 175 pounds I weighed in at was just about right for me and I should stabilize myself right there. But something has happened to me. After all that time of hardly eating at all, after being put on diets of clear liquid or less for stretches of five days at time, my body has suddenly figured out it can now eat anything and it wants to eat everything. It wants to go right back to where it was. No sooner do I finish breakfast than I start thinking about lunch and then I figure out that I can have a snack even before... and so it goes throughout the day until finally I go to bed, filled with food, fantasizing about breakfast.
So I have got to bring it under control - and I will, too, after Margie and I go to the Alaska State Fair on Friday. We go to the Fair for two reasons - we go to mark the end of summer - we go to eat. There is so much delicious food at the fair. A lot of it is junk, too expensive, too unhealthy, yet even the worst of it is scrumptious. We only get it one day of the year.
I agree - it cannot match the $100 sushi boat Bryce ordered for us all. Plus, the sushi chef there, who hails from Japan, really likes Bryce and Lisa, so we got a lot of other side dishes thrown in with the boat, including an absolutely fine and exquisite pastry, fruit and ice cream dessert, made to look like a birthday cake, complete with candles, and some people ordered other things, too, and shared. It was truly a magnificent meal.
And then I came home, alone. I awoke this morning to a house empty of Margie and Lynx. Margie will not be here until the weekend. I do not know when Lynx will be here again.
And this, my friends, is the sad, lonely, part about getting well.
I guess it is just as well. I need to head to the Arctic, as soon as I can. So I would be leaving them, anyway. This is how we have always lived.
I see I am overdue for lunch. I am going to go find some food.