To the man who lives next door…

I heard you raise your voice at my husband.  I also heard my husband’s kind and polite non-confrontational way of responding.  His take, generous creature that he always has been until pushed too far, is that you’re very emotional…  My take is you’re an asshole.  I’ve always suspected this, but you proved it twice over the day I came home from the hospital and you chose (because these are choices people make) to raise your voice at a kind man who, without having to, was sharing with you a private family matter.  You were, actually, pissed off because we didn’t inform you and your wife that I was having gynecological surgery.

Let that sink in…

I am not as kind, patient and generous as my beloved better half.  He IS my better half.  He is, by far, the best one of us.  I am not as forgiving or as patient as my beloved husband is.  Like Mr. Darcy, I fear, “my good opinion once lost is lost forever.”

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  I know, I know.  You were “worried” or “concerned” or “alarmed” or thought you were entitled to know about something that, quite honestly, is none of your business.  In the middle of your impassioned speeches (TWO of them…you couldn’t stick to just one pass, could you?) I wanted to get out of bed, which I wasn’t really able to do with the alacrity the situation required.  OK, it wasn’t just the alacrity required, but the one I’m accustomed to…I wanted to jump up, and all I could do was roll and squirm like a turtle on its back.

This morning, when I finally decided I could go check the mailbox without being exhausted by the excursion, you had the unmitigated gall to yell at me from your driveway.  I decided (because I am older and I guess wiser) to just do the cursory wave and say nothing.  No smile.  No nod.  Just cursory wave and propel my tired forward into the house.

Had I been in the mood for an actual confrontation, it would not have been good for either one of us.

I would have told you how selfish it was of you to berate a man who has been sitting on the news that his wife has to have surgery for seventeen days, and who sat in a waiting room for over eight hours the day before.

I would have told you that whatever is going on with my body is none of your business; that my husband and I discussed how we were going to handle this information and we agreed that, to keep our son calm and our nerves in check, we would be discreet and private about my surgery.

I would have told you that, regardless of what you think our relationship is, we are neighbors.  We’ve known you for less than two years, and we are not part of each other’s inner circles.  There is no intimacy in our relationship; the closeness you share with other neighbors you’ve known longer, and who are privy to your life’s ups and downs over the years, is never going to happen with us.

We are older than you are.  We are not the social bugs that you and your friends are.  We are not prone to revelations of intimate matters because that’s not the way we live our lives.  We are the parents of an adult with a disability; our minds, our priorities, our concerns are elsewhere.

Did you even stop to think that we’d been preparing for a life-altering, routine-disrupting procedure by taking into consideration the needs of our son?  I spent the sixteen days prior to my surgery cleaning, organizing, stocking up, making sure that our documents were in order just in case things didn’t go to plan?

My husband told you, you imbecile, that not even our oldest son and his wife were informed until AFTER the surgery.  My sister didn’t find out until AFTER the surgery.  People who have inhabited my body, and who were there when my body came into this world were not informed.  These people were upset they weren’t told, but they understood why we took that tack, and they respected our decision.

You, on the other hand, decided that your hurt feelings, your sense of entitlement were more important.

You raised your voice at a man whose mother died of ovarian cancer; a man who would be single-handedly caring for his disabled son (a young man you’ve only interacted with maybe twice?) and his convalescing wife; a man who was wondering if the eviction of the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes would be the end of what was a very, very long trial for his family.  The same fears he had when his mother was ill, dying, were revisited as he waited for my surgery (four-plus hours) and my biopsies (a weeklong wait) were completed.

You made finding out about my surgery the day I came home about you.  You made it about your sense of outrage for not being informed about a private health matter.  You made it about raising your voice at a man who is older and kinder than you, a man who wouldn’t dream of doing the same thing to you.  If you asked for help or gave us news about your family, we would help you without berating or assuming we’re entitled to any information you’ve withheld.

We would try to be supportive.  We would try to be encouraging.  We would be there for you when and if you needed us.

Showing people you care doesn’t require being offended when you’re not included in a private matter.

You put no thought into your interactions with my husband.  You didn’t stop to think about him, about me, about our son, about us.  You thought about yourself; you opted to put your sense of outrage and exclusion ahead of my husband’s relief at seeing me at home, at knowing he was gracefully handling the challenge of taking care of our son while I, the primary caregiver…the constant…the anchor, was on the sidelines recovering.

Letting people in on personal matters is a matter of trust.  We know you and your wife take things entirely too much to heart, and we know you have plenty of issues you have to deal with on a daily basis.  We respect that deeply.  We took that into consideration when we made the decision to keep a private matter private.  We know you both, for your own personal reasons, think you have to be 100% present for everyone, and we’ve seen people take advantage of your kindness and willingness to help.  We’ve seen you leave your wife overloaded with worries, work and the added impositions of friends while you leave to play golf every weekend.  When you’re around, there’s no saying no to you; you want to be so generous that you never stop to think of the people on whom you’re imposing your generosity.

We kept our private life private because that’s what makes us happy, what gives us comfort.  You felt offended by our desire to be comforted, supported and consoled by each other.  For some reason, discussing a gynecological procedure didn’t seem like the thing to do.  That we shared I’d been in hospital after the fact should have elicited a different response, but what we got was a raised voice, outraged at our desire to keep ourselves to ourselves until we felt comfortable sharing any news.

So, no…I didn’t do more than the cursory wave because otherwise I would’ve marched up to you and treated you in the way that you treated my husband.  It would have upset you (I dread thinking of what that might have elicited from you) and it would have upset your wife.  Our neighborly relationship would have been damaged even more than you already damaged it by behaving like a total ass.

We’re not better than you, neighbor, but we are more considerate and thoughtful.  A line, however, was crossed, and a new one has been drawn.  Any remote possibility that we would have established closer bonds based on the sharing of private information has been erased.  You raised your voice at one of the people I will not accept being treated in such a way.  If you raised your voice at a man who can reason and respond kindly to any conversation, what would you do if confronted with J’s clumsy way of handling social interactions?

I regret to say, neighbor, I cannot trust that you will respect our feelings, decisions, space or us.  Cursory waves it is…

 

If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition…

“Cheery” has been in short supply around these parts in the past few months.  We haven’t exactly been miserable, but “cheery” has been more of an effort than it really should be.  It wasn’t so much because things are bad, but rather because some aspects of what should be ordinary and commonplace had been slightly (ok, more than slightly) “out of whack.”

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, one of the unspoken miseries of aging: the failing-in-some-way-other-than-the-one-it’s-supposed-to uterus.  The saying goes that “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”.  In the case of my uterus, that old soldier wasn’t dying…it was rallying to a reveille that wasn’t being played for it at all.  Just when I thought it was finally following the plan laid out for it by nature, the darned thing would go all Jack Torrance on me…

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Yes, I’ve reached the conclusion (as have the doctors) that my uterus (that most defining of all female body parts) had the obstreperous nature and characteristics of an annoying, relentless, mean man.  While other women were being visited by Aunt Flo, I was being assailed by Uncle Jack and his bloody ax.  Months of misery had turned into years, and those years were draining everyone’s patience and my well-being.

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Long story short: the damn thing (yes…damn…no darned for it…DAMN) is out and good riddance.  I’ve been home for a whole week now, and have several more weeks of recovery (slow and patient…not my forte, but there you have it) ahead of me.

As you might imagine, caring for J and doing all that was required of me in that particular area of endeavor had become increasingly difficult.  Needless to say, the erratic pattern of Jack Torrance’s outbursts was making it difficult to keep my cool and maintain a certain degree of equanimity.

J was suffering by association.  His anxiety, when it peaked, was crashing into a wall of hormonal and emotional stress that didn’t bode well for either one of us.  He cannot always properly process what’s bothering him, and I sure wasn’t in the mood to do so…so we were at loggerheads (rather loud loggerheads, at that) at random moments.

Earlier this month I visited my doctor and the options were laid on the table: either we cleaned the thing out and waited out the onset of natural menopause or we went in there and, Entebbe-like, released me from my misery.

I will grant you that, perhaps, I was a little eager to evict Jack Torrance and that colored the lens through which I looked at the situation.  I said “get him out” and out he came.  It was the right decision.  A certain medical condition -known as adenomyosis- had overtaken and angered my uterus to the point of downright unbearable cantankerousness.  Even a cleansing and stern talking-to wouldn’t have solved the issue to satisfaction.

The decision to have the surgery was made seventeen days ahead of the scheduled date.  Between then and the actual day, we told no one about it.  That is: we sat on the news and shared with two neighbors (one who is a Surgical Assistant at the hospital and the other who is a nurse).  The odds that we would run into them there were pretty high…as it turned out, the Surgical Assistant was working and her sister, in fact, was working for my surgery.  The kids weren’t told.  We wanted to keep things on the down-low, and to maintain a certain degree of calm for J while we prepared the house and ourselves for the procedure and the convalescence.

The morning of, J woke up to find the bags packed and -after a brief moment of confusion- he got in line with our schedule.  This hospital was new to him, and he was going to spend the day with Dada rather than with me.  Of course, this had weighed heavily on my mind; always I am the one who waits with him, and now he and Dada would be the ones waiting.  We were a little worried, but I prepared things as best I could.

J and Dada came in to see me at pre-op, and then they sat in the waiting area.  I made sure to tell all the nurses, doctors, etc. to please address J as they explained everything that was going on.  They did a beautiful job.  J was calm and happy in spite of the obvious stress that would be built into such a situation.  By the time I was out of surgery (it took over four hours), he and Dada were tired but relieved.  I told them to go home and rest, eat and come back in the morning to take me home.

I spent the night in a small room with my own bathroom.  I experienced no pain.  I was sore (I’d only had five holes poked into my abdomen and other such tinkering), but I wasn’t clamoring for meds. I managed to sleep a bit.  I ate a meal of potatoes, meat, and vegetables, I read, I walked around (gingerly, carefully)…I worked on meeting all the criteria for release, and -come morning- I was deemed fit to come home.

We’ve been low-key since.  I can do a bit here and there, but I do rest a lot.  I sleep better with every passing night.  My appetite is slowly coming back to me.  J is happy and relaxed, and he has accepted that Dada is working from home and will be until he returns to his office on Monday.   I’m letting thing slide because I want to make sure I recover properly.  By the time I go back to the doctor near the end of April, I want to hear “good job…you’re healing as you should” rather than “you crazy woman…you don’t need to do everything and you’ve botched this…tut-tut, tsk-tsk.”

Each day J and I sit and do something:  fold shopping bags for reusing as trash bags, fold socks, work on vocabulary, do a craft.  He is being proactive about helping Dada with things he usually waits for us to do.  Even the dog is cooperating (she is gentle and sweet rather than her usual bowl-you-over-with-love self) with this period of convalescence.

My cheery disposition is returning.  I am tired from time to time but comforted by the empty space where Jack Torrance used to be.  That the biopsies came back announcing that, other than being obstreperous and aggressive, Jack Torrance was harmless (just a big ol’ bully, really) is even better news.

Always talk to your doctors.  Always ask questions.  Always think of what is best for you and yours…

I’m glad I did.  My health was affecting J and, while this is an inevitable factor in the symbiosis of parenting a disabled individual, it doesn’t need to be prolonged more than necessary IF there is a solution for it.  In putting the kid’s well-being first, I also put mine and Dada’s at the top of the list.