“I thought when someone cuts you in the guts you die?”
Well, yes. That is what normally happens…
Well, that’s what happens when you aren’t in hospital with doctors…
I hope that doesn’t happen.
“Yeah, me either.”
This is the beginning of the awkward, but earnest conversation that my now 9 year old (Happy Birthday buddy!) and I had about the open abdominal surgery I will be undergoing tomorrow. As with many things, he has distilled the enormous and nebulously complex to something remarkably simple–good reasons to be afraid.
Until I sat down to write this blog entry, I’ve been relatively quiet about the events leading up to tomorrow’s procedure–telling my closest friends and family; my Dean, department chair, and the folks in HR; and a handful of people who deserved an explanation for my sudden inability to follow through with long standing plans. Part of me wants to assert that this is because I don’t want my business “out there.” But let’s be real, I fancy myself a writer. Fresh Ideas Daily is more than 10 years old–I have been adding to the digital effluvia of the blogosphere for far to long and with far too much enthusiasm to pretend otherwise.
The truth is, I have been relatively reticent because I have been preemptively avoiding a set of hypothetical responses to the news of my health issues. I have been dodging the rationalizers, who will downplay. They will gloss, with statistically-bolstered offhandedness, over how many people have this kind of surgery every day. They love to pronounce the word r o u t i n e…this is a routine procedure. They draw out the long ‘U,’ sounding its etymological connection to route, meaning ‘road’ or ‘regular course,’ like the 25 well-traveled feet of my soon-to-be-exposed intestines. I have been ducking the empathizers, who will set out the details of their mother’s or aunt’s or sister’s surgical histories (good and bad), asking me to place some emotional offering on altars built by the past experiences of people I do not and will never know. I have been steering clear of the healthcare crusaders and their demands that I make demands of those who will care for me in the coming days, reveling in the polysyllabic jingoism of healthcare provision–total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingectomy and unilateral oophorectomy. Histopathology.
None of these responses give me the opening that I hadn’t really realized I needed until I remembered this conversation with my soon-to-be-stepson. A small entry to a quiet place where I can struggle with the fact that human beings routinely engage in behaviors that make little sense. We hurl across the sky without a single feather to be had species-wide, we create machines that outstrip our physical and intellectual capacities a million times over, and we cut each other open, tinker with each other’s innards, and set each other on our merry ways. Most incomprehensibly, we do all of this, all the while assuring each other that we aren’t supposed to be afraid.
Well…when someone cuts your guts you usually die, and I think that’s an okay reason to be afraid. I also know that avoiding such brushes with death has become routine, so much so that writing this blog entry has me on the cusp of embarrassment. Am I being overdramatic? I’m being overdramatic.
Still, I am grateful for my little dude. He gave me the perfect response and I realize now that I don’t need another. I don’t need a pep talk or a hug, just a sincere wish that “everything goes pretty good.”
See you in a couple days.