I always imagined getting older would make me wiser. Maybe that’s still coming. But so far, it’s been mostly a lot of physical restrictions, aches and pains.
And those were the good old days.
Now I’ve added a new old-age experience to my resume — major surgery. After years of tennis, running and other so-called healthy activities, I was recently told by a spine surgeon that I needed emergency cervical spine surgery.
Your neck is terrible.
He literally said that to me after reviewing the MRI. Before I knew it, I was putting on a gown in pre-op and having an IV inserted in each arm. I recall the anesthesiologist being very sweet. He was young, smiley and confident about what was about to happen to me. My guess is that he was somewhere between the age of 12 and 14.
Four hours later, I awoke to a new life.
Those few days in the hospital are, for the most part, just a foggy memory. I do remember lying in bed and getting steady injections of pain meds. The friendly nurses would rush in, kindly assure me I was "doing great" and then leave the room. One of them put a wristband on me: Fall Risk. I argued with her as I thought that was absurd. She smiled at me, once again told me I was "doing great" and then left the room.
When you’re a fall risk, I learned, you’re a prisoner in your bed. When I tried to get out on my own, an alarm would go off and someone would show up immediately to scold me. I complained to my buddy on the phone about it, but he told me to quit fighting it — that girls think Fall Risk guys are sexy.
I’m home now, slowly recovering, still sexy. I was sent home with a bottle full of very strong pain meds. I won’t disclose what I’m taking, but let’s put it this way — I'm starting to reassess my harsh criticism of the Sackler family.
The pills do the trick, but they cause me to miss a lot in life — the news, zoom meetings, seders. Why is this Passover different from all others? Because I spent it in bed in a haze of narcotics, sleeplessness and excruciating pain. I’m sure the ancient Hebrews didn’t have it easy, but they didn’t have to deal with severe neck pain while fleeing in the desert.
I learned my friends (bless their hearts) have a strange sense of humor. They send me things to make me laugh, which is sweet except that laughing causes me immense pain — as does eating, swallowing and breathing. One sent a photo of a giraffe to drive home his attempt at humor that the surgery would make my neck look elongated once the brace comes off. Hey, I resemble that!
By sheer coincidence, a close friend had knee surgery the following day. His surgeon is actually my cousin — from the same orthopedic practice as my surgeon. I’ve been friends with this guy since first grade in Oak Park. For many years, we’d talk about things like music, girls and sports. In the last week, we’ve spoken often — conversations mostly about our pain meds, although sometimes we mix it up and compare laxatives. We both crack each other up at what’s become of us. I can attest that misery does indeed love company — I highly recommend having a good friend who’s as pathetic as you during such a time.
This too shall pass, I know. Just have to be a patient patient. Meanwhile, there are valuable life lessons I’m learning everyday. Once you give up on vanity, I’ve learned, things don’t bother you so much. You don’t care if your scanty hospital gown opens up to the world, you don’t give a damn about a neck scar, and you appreciate the beauty of a sturdy shower stool.
So I think I have more wisdom now. And I’ve learned that sometimes wisdom is just a pain in the neck.