Im having a hard time writing about my depression, maybe because
Im depressed. But before we get to this, heres what you have to
know about an incisional hernia. No, until fairly recently, Id never
heard on an incisional hernia either. At the start of this year, which is ten
months ago now, I had a terrific stomachache, the mother of all stomachaches,
was rushed to the ER, then to the OR, and when I woke up was told that my gall
bladder had turned black and died and had to be removed. Then I had to stay in
the hospital four days. Other than an airplane, theres no place Id
rather not be in than a hospital. When I was finally released and got home my
recovery was not easy. Ill just tell you that one of the after-effects of
a gall bladder surgery is diarrhea enough said.
I eventually did recover and my body adjusted to not having a
gall bladder and all was well, if that could be said about an old geezer
pushing ninety when, a couple of months ago I noticed a bulge around the gall
bladder surgery scar. I saw my doctor and thats when I found out I had an
incisional hernia. I also found out that this was not uncommon, especially with
us older guys. Of course, nobody had told me that before. My doctor referred me
to a surgeon, who explained the process for repairing the hernia by inserting a
mesh. I was resigned to having this done but when I informed my regular doctor
he said he wouldnt advise it. The chance of something bad happening if I
did nothing was only one percent. The chance of something bad happening if I
had the surgery, which evidently was not a simple one, was five to ten percent,
depending on how it was done. And thered be another stay in the
hospital. I decided that one surgery and one hospital stay in the year was
enough and Id follow my doctors advice and do nothing.
So thats where it stands now; back to my depression. As Ive
said, Im an old guy pushing ninety, reason enough in itself to be
depressed. When writer Norman Mailer got old and anyone asked him how he was
feeling hed replay, Im eighty years old. How do you think Im
doing? Besides my hernia, I can still get about but, as my wife Sally tells me,
I walk like an old man. (She herself is a young chick of 83.) I have arthritis
in all of my joints, especially in my knees, which is probably why I walk like
an old man; my nose runs every morning and sometimes for the rest of the day; I
have periodic coughing fits; I dont have much energy and have an
afternoon nap every day. In other words, Im not in the best of shape.
But I wasnt depressed. Or at least I dont think so,
not beyond being unhappy about being so old. Then I noticed that I was showing
the signs of depression. I stayed in bed in the morning as long as I could. I
didnt look forward to starting the day. I didnt have much of an
appetite. I didnt want to do much. I didnt want to see other
people. Life looked just like the weather outside in November, like
theres a dark cloud hanging over everything.. All of this started after I
had the incisional hernia, or, as I thought of it, my bulge.
While all of this was going on another event occurred that didnt
help. As Ive written elsewhere, my closest friend in our Northern
California retirement community was Abe Silverman. Abe was a fellow New Yorker
whod also come out to California as a young guy. He and I played tennis
together, then, after we got too old for that, we had a weekly pool game with
some other old tennis players.Over time, the other old guys either went to
nursing homes or passed away and only Abe and I and another friend, Sid, were
left. Then Sid passed away and a little later Abe informed me that he had to
stop playing; it was killing his back.
The creative writing teachers tell you to show things when writing a
story, not tell. Ive had a lot of exposition so far, but I dont
really care. I dont think there should be any rules for writing a story
and in any case when youre as old as I am who cares about rules. But time
to get on with some action.
Abe and I are at his house playing chess. When Id told my wife
Sally that we werent playing pool any more shed said I should find
something else, that I couldnt just stop doing anything. When I got up
from my afternoon nap later on I called Abe and suggested we try chess. I
didnt know at that time that Abe was a pretty good chess player.
So here we are at the chessboard and as usual Im losing.
Abes wife Sophie is in the living room doing something. Its early,
about eleven in the morning. Abe says hes hungry and asks me if I want
anything, coffee and some cake. I say Sure. Abe goes into the kitchen. I study
the chessboard. A few minutes later I hear a crash from the kitchen. Sophie and
I come running; well, we kind of hobble as fast as we can, into the kitchen.
Abe is lying on the floor. Are you okay? I say. Abe looks around
and says, What happened? You fell, says Sophie. Between us, Sophie and I manage
to get Abe into a living room chair. He keeps looking around and asking what
happened. Sophie keeps telling him we dont know, we didnt see what
happened. After 15 or 20 minutes of this I say, You know, I think we
should call an ambulance. He may have a concussion.
I dial 911 and almost instantly an ambulance and a fire engine
arrive, maybe theyre on standby for our retirement community, and a
number of big burly guys are stomping around the house, Abe is put on a
stretcher, still asking what happened, and hes off to the hospital.
Sophie rides with him in the ambulance. I follow in my car. At the ER Abe is
seen right away. No, are you kidding? We wait for two hours while other people
are whisked away, then finally its Abes turn. They do a CT scan and
decided that, as Id thought, hed had a concussion but its a
mild one and already he seems to be coming out of it. He wants to go home,
which shows hes sensible. After another hour they say we can go; just
watch him and he should be all right. I drive Abe and Sophie back. Hes
tired and so he goes to bed. I drive home. Ive called Sally from the ER
and now she wants to know about Abe. I give her a blow-by-blow description of
You must be tired, she says. Do you want to lie down
for a while?
No, Im not tired. Im hungry. What do we have to
Sally makes me a sandwich and I think: Im not tired. I look
out the window and its not all gray any more. That dark cloud has lifted.
Im not depressed.
Id like to end the story here, but the reader knows better.That
feeling, after all the activity, didnt last. I do feel a little better
now. In my rare optimistic moods I tell myself that the bulge will stay the
same and I wont have to do anything about it. But by nature Im a
pessimist and most of the time I think something is bound to happen. Meanwhile,
my aches and pains are still there to remind me that Im old and at the
end of the year Ill have a birthday and be that much closer to 90. One
bright note, the last time Abe and I played chess I managed a draw.