Naturally, far from everything was finished as planned before surgery morning dawned. I had contemplated going over useful information with my daughter, such as where my will is kept, or how to ward off various slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which might reasonably be expected to fling themselves our way in the near future. In the interests of not freaking her out any more than she already appeared to be, however, I kept my mouth shut, gave her a hundred-dollar bill in walking-around money, and threw some books and night things into a bag.
I drove. She didn’t even ask. Probably too tired—seven a.m. is too early for her. As soon as we arrived, hospital staff shooed her away, with just a moment to hug me. “Take care of my life, now,” I said, handing her the keys and the aforementioned bag of stuff, thinking that this was her first taste of what it will be like when I do die, and suddenly she’ll this have stuff and activity to manage. “Stop worrying,” I said. “Remember what my mother said about me? ‘Born nine days late and never caught up’? Well, there’s this rule at the heavenly gates: if you didn’t finish your homework, you can’t come in. Just think of all the homework I have to catch up on!” I got a weak smile, and she was gone.
Then the real work began. Clothes off and into a plastic bag, along with the reading material the hospital instructions had suggested I bring, heaven knows why. On with the ugly cotton gown. So far,so familiar. A nurse handed me pills for pain—that was different, but I guess she’d seen an epidural put in before. Because that, indeed, proved a little bit of hell. But before that, something new: thigh-high stockings, so tight you squiggled your mouth around behind one ear in your concentration to get the danged things on (No, they are not designed for the plump patient).
Supposedly, this epidural was going to make a large positive difference in post-operative pain control and let me get away with less narcotic substances cluttering the system, but there is a price to be paid in the negative difference in pre-operative pain. I sat with my naked back toward the Ghostmaker doc, my head and shoulders hung down to afford him a better spine curvature to find his way, a nurse standing in front of me to prevent me from bolting or perhaps falling off the gurney with pain. And oh my heavenly silver socklets, was there ever pain! I cried like a little kid—couldn’t help it.
And then it was over and the Ghostmaker or somebody suggested I “lie yourself down”–I kid you not: apparent medical or nursing degrees do not a grammarian make. I corrected the speaker twice, because a grammar nazi with that much goof in her can’t help herself, but I was gentle about it—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And that, as I lay spread out like the proverbial patient etherised upon a table, was all I knew until I opened an eye to see my daughter looking for a spot to put some flowers.