Over the past couple of years, my eyes had grown so heavily hooded it was as if I was peering out at the great Street of Life from under a pair of heavy canvas awnings. Thus, late last month, I had an operation to open these peepers up a bit.
Everything went swimmingly the surgeon said, and so, five hours after the initial scalpel cut, he sent me home – with an Rx for a 10 mg dose of Percocet, which, besides some acetaminophen, holds within it a small but mighty hit of Oxycodone.
These pills I took in strict moderation, choosing to take only the one, and not the two, pill dose at a time and stopping cold turkey after just five days. I still felt pretty crummy of course, and my eyes stung. I couldn’t bend over, lift anything weighing more than a few pounds, or even read or look at screens. And so my husband and I decided that come the weekend we would seek a change of scenery. We would drive the hour and 40 minutes north to our summer place where we could curl up with our new kitty, stream some good shows and look out at the frozen lake.
Now I had not been out of the house at all in the ten days since my operation but the morning of our planned trip I felt the need to join three friends in doing an errand of mercy for a fourth, very elderly, friend. And so I slowly dressed and, glad to be out at all, drove to meet these three, one of whom called out to me as she crossed the parking lot.
“Should you really be here?” she exclaimed, knowing of my surgery. “And also, WHY are you dressed like this?!” she added, her eyes sweeping down over what turned out to be one extremely ill-considered outfit: a silk blouse, a crepe skirt with a voluminous hemline just brushing the tops of my high-heeled boots, and the fanciest coat in our front hall closet. “I mean, are you going someplace after?”
Well, I was going someplace, of course: to the lake, later, but first home to meet up with David, there to give the kitten a small palmful of kibble before settling her in the cat carrier for her journey on my lap, and finally to visit a drive-through for burgers to go. BUT, I told my friend, the far realer truth was I had dressed up to feel better.
And mostly I did feel better, at least for the first third of the journey. David and I talked, and I ate my lunch balanced over the cat carrier that held our soundly sleeping kitten inside.
And then it all went south.
The little cat opened her eyes just as a certain.. scent reached our nostrils. It was a mild scent, reminiscent of the meek scent of a newborn’s diaper. Alas, she then began crying out,
Something was coming.
It was coming.
We sped like Roger Rabbit in his tiny roadster to the highway’s nearest rest area, me whispering “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” into the cat’s wee triangular skull. Because I just knew that her troubles followed from a nurturing flaw. I knew that the only other time I had given her kibble – as the vet had said I could do now and then “just as a treat” – she had had what appeared to be a kind of painful diarrhea that caused her to cry out just like this. And now it had happened again.
Once we had reached the rest area, I pulled the poor creature out of her foul prison and set her on the floorboard in front of the passenger seat, there to be looked after by David, while I shot into the Ladies Room and did what I could to dab at the many stains and pawprints on my silky blouse, my fancy coat, and that gorgeously wide crepe skirt. I knew I made a spectacle as horrifying as the raggediest of the rugged Walking Dead, and I knew people were shrinking from me, but what else could I do? I crawled back into the passenger seat cradling the kitten in my arms, David doing 80 because you can go that fast in New Hampshire.
Nestled up against me, she went right to sleep, tummy up and legs splayed. After a while, in despair and alarmed by her immobility, I told David in mournful tones, “I think I’ve killed her.” “Nah,” he said back. “She’s just worn out.”
Of course, he was right. She was just worn out. And once we reached the refuge of this house up north I was able to give her a bath, hose and scrub the holy hell out of her cat carrier, bag my formerly fancy outfit for later consideration by the dry cleaner, and treat myself to the world’s longest shower.
So all of that was Story One.
Story Two commenced at the end of that peaceful weekend when I met my daughters for a fun dinner out – only to find I couldn’t eat a single morsel or concentrate, or say very much.
I was just as sick the next day either, and the day after that, or for all three of the days following. Finally, 18 very long days after my eye surgery, I began to both faint and throw up, a winning combination in anyone’s annals of illness.
“For heaven’s sake get i to the hospital!” cried my PCP when finally I called her. “You need to be evaluated!”
David came home from work and into the ER I wobbled, to do my seven hours of penance among the suffering.
There were people coughing, people in masks, people spitting up and people passed clean out. As far as I could tell, I was the only one with blood adorning my legs.
Long story short, after a CT scan with contrast and various other ministrations, the docs decided to admit me to the ER’s observation unit 12 stories up. I felt I had died and gone to heaven. From the rag-and-bone shop of the ER, I had ascended to the hospital’s uppermost floor, with a twinkling view of the Boston skyline.
I got to stay in that room for two blessed days, and though they discharged me before I was altogether well, I have done the remainder of my healing at home – or to be utterly candid, at home for two days and then in the cozy stateroom of a Viking cruise ship whose itinerary loops all around the Caribbean.
Both David and I have treated these 8 days as a rest cure. We pad about on deck, take gentle walks on land, eat amazing meals and toddle back to our cabin for yet another nap.
This – tonight – is our last night on board. Tomorrow we fly home to that new little cat of ours who has been well cared for by not one but two sets of family members nice enough to have actually MOVED IN in order to look after her.
I can’t wait to see her, keenly aware as I now am of our connection. or are we not all meek small creatures, utterly dependent on the intricate workings of our bodies to go about in the world? We are indeed, and in this connection the famous limerick comes to mind that gives this post its title:
I sat next to the Duchess at tea.
It was just as I feared it would be:
Her rumblings abdominal
Were simply phenomenal
And everyone thought it was me.
Well, it was me, this time. The upside is that I now keenly sense my commonality with all beings, and I am content. Sure, my eyes still sting a bit and yes, some bruising persists. But these eyes are OPEN! – enough to see that whatever further surgeries await me in this life I will never, ever, again take the fiendish little pill known as Percocet.
See? My eyes DO look better, don’t they? 😉