Thursday, May 15, 2008


In Which We Find Out What's Wrong With Us...

It only took me an extra 45 minutes to get hit by a car, comfort a mother in labor, drive the car that hit me to a parking garage, hand the keys of the car that hit me off to the head nurse at the hospital maternity ward, and hoof it (albeit slowly and with much wincing) back to the Mayo Clinic building where Her Lovely Self was waiting for me.

Except, of course, that she was still in the procedure room--apparently the technicians had been backed up (insert gastroenterology joke here). So I had an hour to wait. Which was good, since that gave the extra-strength Tylenol a chance to kick in.

Finally, the procedure room doors whooshed open late in the afternoon, and there stood an orderly, steadying my wife by her elbow.

The last time I'd seen Her Lovely Self like this was, well, at the last test where they had to dope her up. But the first time I'd seen her like this was in 1992 on a curb outside of a bar on Clark Street in Wrigleyville in Chicago, on her birthday. She was busy throwing up and wiping her mouth extravagantly on her sleeve; then throwing up some more, then wiping her mouth some more. I remember something special about that moment: being overwhelmed with an absolutely undying love for her. That, and wishing I hadn't let her wear my jacket.

"Why isn't she in a wheelchair?" I asked. And with a bedpan in her lap? I added mentally.

"She--" the orderly started.

"'M fine ta walk!" she slurred, pitching over into me. Then she started sobbing and rubbing her sniffly nose into my shirt. And suddenly I wished for my old jacket again.

I have no idea what they give you when they're scoping out your innards, but in the case of Her Lovely Self, it must be some serious depressant--perhaps Demerol or Valium, or a gallon of Everclear. Whatever it is, my wife sure does react badly to it. Last time I picked her up from one of these tests, I had to drive the whole way home listening to her tell me about everything that was wrong with our marriage (and an inordinate amount of the reasons seemed to involve me in particular). By the time I got her upstairs and into bed, she was forecasting her own death before 40--and was glad about it!--because it meant she wouldn't live to see her own children afflicted with such a terrible disease. And so it went.

It's at moments like this that I realize just how much of a Mary Sunshine, glass-is-half-full kind of guy I am, because I just can't listen to that shit for very long. My strategy in such cases is to get my wife's mom on the phone. She's a bit of a catastrophist herself, see, and that's without the aid of Valium or Everclear, so I figure she's in her element. Then I let them cry at each other for a while. You'd think such an action would result in a mother-daughter suicide pact, but typically what happens is the drugs wear off mid-conversation and HLS realizes that she can't listen to this shit either, so she eventually hangs up.

But first I had to get us back to the hotel and the phone. My own cell phone was long dead (we were only going to be gone for a day, remember, so I hadn't bothered to bring a recharger), so the only phone we could use was back in our room.

It was an interesting walk. "So where'dja go withowtme?" she rasped as she stumbled across the street (against the light, of course. And of course, no cars were coming. She has all the luck).

"Oh, well, you know. I just drove around a little,"

She tried to glare at me, but that's awfully hard to do with bleary eyes. "So you juss wenoff and leffme?" she demanded.

I blinked at her several times, wondering what to tell her. In the end, I just said "Sorry," which seemed to be all she wanted to hear. It's a strange thing to be married, I thought. But at least it's nice to have figured out some of the answers by now.

I got her back to the hotel without incident, although on the way, we passed by the restaurant near where I'd been hit, and the waitress who had come out to see if I was alive recognized me and poked her head out the door. "How you doin', honey?" she asked. I smiled and mouthed "Fine." Then I pointed at HLS lurching alongside me and gave the universal nonverbal signal that I had traded up from pregnant women to drunken wives and off we staggered into the hotel.

There's really not much left to relate. I mean, after the whole getting-hit-by-a-car-driven-by-a-pregnant-couple-on-the-way-to-the-hospital thing, everything else was largely anticlimax. I got my wife hooked up telephonically with her mother and they sobbed at each other for a while. Then, once the drugs wore off, and since my wife didn't have to start fasting for her next test (she had one more in the morning) til midnight, we went out to dinner.

"Feeling any better?" I asked, although what I meant was Feeling any happier?

"Not really," she said, and informed me that, from what she could remember of the test, the technicians seemed to be muttering about not being able to see very much, which I guess happens. "I feel like it was a big waste of time. I feel like I'm going to need surgery after all," she said.

Then all of a sudden, I was depressed.

So it's a good thing that, when we finally finished all the damn tests and got an audience with Mayo's top colorectal surgeon late the next day, he actually turned out to be this nice, big, bald, jovial fellow, the kind of man I could easily see in a Hawaiian print shirt, hosting a barbecue and being your best friend. In my experience, there aren't many surgeons who have such a great bedside manner (yes, sweeping generalization. Sue me), but this guy was aces.

Of course, the fact that he didn't want to operate on my wife may have skewed my opinion of him.

His view of things boiled down to this: If she felt all right, then he didn't want to mess things up by operating. Especially since he knew there was a whole class of drugs that HLS hadn't even tried.

My wife frowned. "But aren't there a lot of side effects, and won't I have to be on them, like, forever?"

He nodded. "The recommendation is to take them as long as they're working. But you know, there are some meds you can take that have a fairly low risk profile. There's one in particular that has been shown to work fairly well on your particular type of Crohn's." And shortly thereafter, he handed us back to the 16-year-old GI we'd met the first day. He wrote HLS a prescription and the upshot is, she's going to try this particular drug therapy.

An hour later, we were back on the highway, headed home. I think it's fair to say that my wife was--still is--a bit down. On some level I think she was hoping not to have to try drugs or surgery. But she also felt she'd got the best opinion she could on the matter, and so she was satisfied. Which, believe me, is an odd state for her to be in, married to me and all.

Myself, I was a little more than satisfied. As I may have mentioned earlier, I don't like leaving decisions hanging. I like to make my choice and take my chances. I like to map a course and then follow it until I hit another fork in the road (or, as can sometimes happen, something hits me and takes me in a new direction).

And wherever it is I'm headed, I realized, as I looked over at my bride, I don't want to go there alone.

"You feeling all right?" I asked Her Lovely Self, who was hunched over, arms crossed. "Stomachache?"

"No," she said. "Just a little cold. And a little nauseous."

I reached into the back seat and tossed a bundle into her lap.

"Here," I said. "Take my jacket."

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Good close on your story, too! I'm glad everyone is satisfied with their decisions. And I think this is the most sympathetic story I've ever read about HLS who I think, in general, rarely comes across as a very nice person in your stories. Nonetheless, it's very apparent to your readers how much you love her.

Good health to everyone at the Mag Mansion. And I really hope that collision with the car didn't result in any more back pain for you.

Thanks for writing about your adventures.
It's something in the anesthetic. It makes some people really happy, and some people really depressed. Last time I had a general I cried like a baby for an hour after it.
That was a great story MM, I'm glad you're both going okay. Fingers crossed the drugs have a good effect! But what did HLS say when you told her you were hit by a car?? I guess nothing surprises her anymore. ;)

Great story! You're a romantic heart with a positive head and black & blue legs - HLS got more than a jacket...Wishing her well with the new meds.
I'm glad you got fairly good news. And I hope you made it to Thomas' pitching debut.

I was kind of worried that once the adrenalin from being hit wore off that your back would start causing you major problems, glad it didn't.
Awww, sweet ending to the story. I'm also glad she may have found a good option that doesn't involve surgery. I hope for the best with that. And I also need to say that I don't agree with the first anon comment that HLS "rarely comes across as a very nice person in your stories". I think she comes across as a patient, loving wife and mom. That could be because I find myself occasionally identifying with her, being married to a guy with whom you may have a bit in common. :) Despite how little I know about her, I have formed a very favorable opinion. And I hope she feels well soon.
This was a neat post. It's a nice insight into how marriages work. I've been married for five and a half years, but it seems like we're just now starting to figure things out. For the longest time we've operated as individuals, almost like roommates, only consulting each other on large financial decisions. But now he's worried about how I overspend, and I'm upset with how he never helps out around the house, and we have our own medical issues to deal we're having to come together and work things out. It's a challenge, but absolutely worth it.

In regards to Anonymous #1's comment, I think a lot of us identify with Our Narrator and feel like he's heroic and does nothing wrong, so when he gets in "trouble" it's easy to be annoyed at the person he's in trouble with and think that that person is the unreasonable one. This happens despite your constant asides about how you screw up all the time, MM--we just see that as humility ;)

I personally find it easier to identify with men than women, and there are things women do that annoy the hell out of me, so you can see how I might tend to take your side. Which is really easy to do when I'm not married to you. I also think House (the TV character) is hilarious and awesome...but would I really want to deal with that on a daily basis? (Of course, as far as I know you're nowhere near that bad ;)

In the end, all we can really do is try to keep things in perspective.
Well, there you have it. I'm glad to read everything worked out as well as it did.

I think they should have asked your name so they could name the baby after you.. :)
Aww, sweet ending. So glad you've figured out that sometimes, all we want is a simple apology. I'm STILL waiting for my husband to figure that out, but seeing as how we've only been married three years, I think I can be patient a bit longer...Glad everything worked out (semi) okay in the end.
nice. Your good, and Im glad everything is going alright for both of you..
Someone with a more Semitic background might be better suited to make the following comment (Stu comes immediately to mind) but I'm going with it anyway: You are a MENSCH! Great story, told with your usual panache.
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