Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In Which We Are Struck By More Than Thoughts...

Well, after more than a few painful phone calls made in an effort to shore up our lives while we spent an extra two days at the Mayo Clinic, we headed off to a local pharmacy to fill the script for the noxious Roto-Rooter glop Her Lovely Self was going to have to drink in order to prep for her test the next day. It turned out she didn't have to start the stuff til the afternoon, so that gave us a few hours to get a bite to eat, and to buy whole changes of clothes we hadn't thought to pack--right down to our underwear--at the local Wal-Mart.

Still finding ourselves at loose ends for a while yet, we walked around Rochester, Minnesota, which, I have to say, is my kind of town. I've lived in big cities--London and Chicago, to name them both--but I'll always be partial to small towns and cities, and it seems to me that Rochester is one of those places that progress has forgotten, in the best possible way. For starters, it had an active and almost vibrant downtown, packed with shops and banks and at least two bookstores (one a secondhand shop, the other a Barnes and Noble, but cleverly retrofitted into the old movie house). It had its share of chain restaurants, of course, but also some wonderful local places where I snuck off to have my meals (seeing as Her Lovely Self was able to consume only about 600 calories in the entire 3 days that we were there).

This is not to say Rochester was backwards in any way. To be sure, it also had its share of suburban sprawl, with two big strips of commercial hideousness stretching away into the distance. And yet, even that seemed appropriate--out-of-towners need must have their choice of Wal-Mart or Target when they have to buy two more days' worth of undies. Of course, I may also be biased because without those commercial strip malls, I never would have discovered one of Rochester's two comic-book shops (hey, I have my priorities).

Meanwhile, back downtown, Rochester had a distinctly modern feel to it, or at least the sense that the town fathers (and mothers) were not letting their home descend into obsolescence. The entire time we were there, construction folk were hard at work finishing a fountain, what appeared to be the capstone to an impressive town-square-type refurbishment. Old buildings were in evidence aplenty--the movie theater-turned-bookstore was just one example--coexisting alongside the humongous but nevertheless elegant masses that compose the Mayo campus.

I was pleased to see the care with which some of these places were being maintained, and so began to feel a growing and quite unexpected fondness for my hotel with its tiny rooms. After all, this was a Days Inn, a national chain that could have torn down the building and put up some horrible box of a motel. But instead, they refurbished the old place--built in 1919--and found clever ways to fill the space, even though it happened to be with the tiniest possible rooms. Yes, I wasn't happy about the lack of an air conditioner (they began appearing in the windows the very day we checked in, but the work crew never quite made it to our floor by the time we left). On the other hand, within 15 minutes of my first minor gripe about the lack of AC, the manager herself delivered a plug-in fan and much profuse apologies to my room, to the extent that I quite forgave the Days Inn for their lack of foresight as regards my needs in the way of chilled air, and guiltily enjoyed my little fan for the rest of the visit.

Shortly after she began her Roto-Rooter dosage for the next day's, Her Lovely Self and I repaired to the park across the street--still within sprinting distance of the hotel's lobby restrooms, which were pristine (you can take it from one who's made a careful study of these things). There we sat and read our books--she had her latest choice for her Yummy Mummy book club, while I had lugged out a goodish selection of out-of-print Jack Finney and John Bellairs novels, as well as a modest stack of about 100 comic books (purchased from the fantastic bargain coffers of the local shop: six long boxes of Silver and Bronze Age comics starting at 50 cents--the cheapest way I know to reclaim my youth).

"You know, if it weren't for the fact that I've been threatened with surgery and signed on for a whole bunch of GI tests I didn't expect, and that I've eaten only one small meal in the past 41 hours, this would almost be nice," said Her Lovely Self.

"Yeah," I agreed, gazing around the leafy park. "It's like a preview of what retirement will be like."

She nodded. "Nosing around old shops together--"

"--buying our underwear at Wal-Mart--"

"--sitting on park benches and reading--"

"--filling in the empty space between procedures--"

"--living in a one-room apartment because that's all we can afford--"

"--that's only because we spend all our money traveling," I offered.

She looked over at me, and the teetering stack next to me. "Travel, and comics. You'll be like some whole new class of crazy old man.

"Yeah, the Geriatric Geek!" I agreed. For some reason, this vision of our future pleased me strangely, and I found myself spending the rest of the day in a quite uncharacteristic state of grace, one that was only intensified by the sudden thunderstorm that blew up early that evening.

"Nuts," said Her Lovely Self, as she looked out the window. "The park benches will be too wet to sit outside tomorrow."

"Yeah, but this same storm system is going to be over our house tomorrow afternoon," I said, taking my gaze off the Weather Channel--hey, if we were in a preview of retirement, I might as well embrace it fully and be just like my Dad, who was a disciple of the Weather Channel in his final years. HLS looked at me, not understanding. "Well, if this storm hits home, Thomas's game will be postponed," I added for clarification.

And in fact, that's exactly what happened.

We didn't find that out til much later on Tuesday, though, by which time I had delivered Her Lovely Self to her appointment and was instructed to return for her in about 2-3 hours. I had to option of staying in the waiting room--and let me say here that the Mayo Clinic has spared no expense when it comes to outfitting its waiting areas which, though they may be the size of Chicago stockyard cattlepens, are nevertheless equipped with the most comfortable armchairs and couches, the brightest windows, and the fastest WiFi I've ever encountered in a hospital waiting room. Nevertheless, I opted to leave, mostly because I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and all I'd had then was the tiniest piece of coffee cake at the Starbucks across the way.

It's a strange thing to be married, I thought, not for the first time, nor for the thousandth, as I made my way to a diner that I had seen serving sandwiches and other luncheon fare in portions that had food dribbling off the plate. I have read where couples become physically and mentally alike and even dependent upon one another over the years, and I've heard all sorts of theories as to why this is. Whichever theory you pick, it's true: if it works, if the union takes, you do become a kind of symbiotic being. What one feels and does, the other feels and does, although there's no real reason why they should. It certainly doesn't jibe with the survival instinct, not all the time, anyway.

Take me and food, for example. For the past two days, Her Lovely Self had been able to eat almost nothing. I was under no such restriction, yet I couldn't bring myself to eat, except in extremity (i.e. when I was dizzy and passing out), and even then, my refueling was just that, with no pleasure taken, a furtive, almost unseemly act that I was glad to have done with. Because I felt disloyal.

Now here I was, having lunch by myself. I was, let me say, starving. And yet I couldn't bring myself to enjoy my food, although one some level I registered that it was really good. Instead, all I could think was that I should be somewhere else.

I admit, I fell out of my state of grace over the course of that lunch. A cloud of gloom, my own personal thunderheads, seemed to fall over me. And then a question popped into my head, as if from nowhere:

What if THIS is what retirement will be like?

And I saw myself, alone, marking the days listlessly, each and every meal a joyless repast at a table for one. I always vaguely thought retirement would be pretty OK, you know? But having the reality of my wife's health rubbed in my face the past couple of days had rattled me, clearly. And suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to be by her side--because I could be, you know?

Thus it was that I threw a too-large bill on the table, left my lunch half-eaten, and dashed back to the hospital. I really wasn't thinking about hypothetical retirement scenarios at that point. I just had a single, driving need: to get back to my wife.

So I can perhaps be forgiven for failing to notice the car.

You know: The one that hit me...


Okay, okay. So by now I should not be surprised by the unbelievable and uncanny amount of bad luck that you have, but COME ON! FATE - if you are reading this, CUT THIS GUY A BREAK!
Oh, the cliffhangers! So unfair! You always leave me desperate for more - which is just as you intended, I'm sure. I have been reading with deepest concern for HLS and the rest of your family in support of her, and now I am sending positive thoughts to you that the car gave you a little bump and that you're safe.

Keep your chin up, I'm glad you still have your sense of humor. And so sorry you're dealing with all this...
I really did just choke on my coffee!

How many bones did you break?! Are you okay?!
I guess you are still alive since this was posted...

but I spewed my coffee too~
I just KNEW that's what your title meant, but forgot about it by the time I reached the end of this installment. When you wrote that you'd been hit, I still had such a sudden intake of air that I was dizzy. Unbelievable. But not, if you know what I mean.
Holy hell!! you got hit by a car, Are you kidding me? I am putting you on my prayer list for you and your family.
MM, your stories keep me on an emotional roller-coaster ride; one minute happy, the next sad, the list goes up, down and sideways~ You are one gifted man and blessed in so many ways it boggles the mind.

Please let us know how HLS is and which bone(s) you broke. You all are in my thoughts and prayers~ always.
Another cliffhanger! Arrrggghhhh!
I hope all is well. As always you have me riveted.
I, too, was so worried about HLS that I forgot to think about the likelihood that you'd have some sort of accident befall you, especially considering your post title. I hope you are both well by now, and that you've seen Thomas make his successful pitching debut.
NO WAY! My chin hit my desk when I read that last line of your post! Hang in there. Need the rest of the story!
'Destiny is a fickle bitch.'
AYFKM?!? Dude! What is this freaky confluence of The Fates that somehow follows you wherever you go? It sorta makes me glad that I'm here on the west coast, in minimal danger of collateral damage due to these utterly bizarre happenings. Jebus man, at least we know you survived due to the post, but I hope you and HLS are both mending quickly. As always, you and the family are in my thoughts. Right now my thoughts are tending towards marshmallows and airbags...
Oh, for the love of god, noooo! Karma seriously owes you a Get Out of Jail Free/One Day Without a Cosmic Ass-Kicking card. For real!
DUDE! Seriously?!?!
Sigh. And now I won't be able to think about another darn thing until you finish this story.
YAAAAAA! MM, noooooo, not again!

Didn't you learn anything from my Hospital Chronicles?
Yikes, MM. I hope you're both doing all right.
you know, I really just completely stumbled upon your blog. Someone else reads you that also reads Rees Pioneer woman, I was reading her comments and your blog name caught my eye, just struck me. So---click.... at least an hour later Im still here..

My lord, I cannot stop.
I hope everyone is okay. Ive bitten my nails to the quick. Please let everyone be alright.
Take CARE you intriguing bastard..
coastal nest
Please, please, please, write a book as soon as possible!
I'm not sure that I believe you..but keep going and I will decide.
The Law of Attraction - what you think about you bring about. Think about Health and Wealth and Abundance! Think about being focused on the task at hand!

And say, all day, Thank you for my healing.

Oh goodness, I hope everyone is alright.

Damn. Get back here and finish this story!
p.s. I've loved Bellairs' books as a kid. :)
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