The Big Sick
Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.
I should have left the bloody book on the floor. It was past midnight, and I had finished a little light bedtime reading: A thriller by Barbara Vine, a chapter a night. I replaced the bookmark and reached over to put the book on the bedside table. It fell to the floor. That was no big deal.
But no. I was compelled to lean over to pick it up. I am not very nimble these days. I stretched down. I was maybe two inches away. I shifted, and made a real reach. I crashed onto the floor. Yes, dear readers, for the first time in 65 years, I fell out of bed.
My forehead bounced off the table. I landed hard on my side. The table lamp landed on top of me. I was wedged between the bed and the table. I began to slap on the floor. My wife Chaz, who always has an ear out for alarming thumpings, arrived along with Millie Salmon, my care giver. They hauled me back to my feet and I got back into bed, chastened, and said I was feeling fine.
I slept soundly. When I awoke and sat up in bed, I felt incredible pain in my right rib cage, and soreness elsewhere. It hurt too much to stand easily. They took me to see good Doctor Havey, who ordered x-rays, although when the technician asked me to stand next to the plate and breathe in deeply that was an agony.
No broken bones. A "contusion." That can hurt as much as a broken rib, he didn't need to inform me, because I broke a rib once before, in 1967, when a drunk whimsically decided to hit me in O'Rourke's. Havey told me what I already knew: There is no treatment for bruised or broken ribs. You grit your teeth and wait for the healing.
The conditions of my life are precarious. In 2008 I fell and fractured a hip, which led to my fourth stay in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. I began walking again, but my confidence was undermined. I couldn't afford to break another bone. I have arrived at a balancing point between sickness and health, and it is the bargain I live with. I don't take chances.
Havey gave me some pain med. Nothing addictive, I insisted. It helped a little. He said the pain could last as long as six weeks, but it now seems to be subsiding. It is the pain to my peace of mind that continues.
For years we live in innocence. We walk around all day and never give it a moment's thought. For years, every single day in tolerable weather, I woke up around 6:30 and walked for 90 minutes around the Lincoln Park ponds. I wore a pedometer and aimed for 10,000 steps a day. Some days I topped 25,000. I loved it.
Now Chaz asks why I don't wear my pedometer. Its count would be too depressing. These days I can walk about 12 city blocks, although since the fall I've only made it around as far as the block I live on. I realize I've been having a daily reprieve from greater disability.
This cast me into a depression. I felt I was walking on a narrow path with a chasm on either side. I returned to reviewing movies, which as always freed me from myself and occupied my mind. My other work suffered. I lost the drive behind my blog. Not long ago I wrote an entry about the use of CGI animals in movies, and about our general attitudes toward movie cruelty to animals. I finished it, read it, and thought: Meh. Not much of an entry. I posted it, because I thought that was the best I was capable of that day.
What I was avoiding, I realize, was writing about this subject. It is humiliating for an adult to fall out of bed, and still worse if he has done it not by accident but by stupidity. Why didn't I simply sit up in bed and bend over? The fall portrayed me as vulnerable, and I prefer to think of myself as enduring. An entry might seem to be a request for pity, and pity curdles my blood. But this blog has become a venue for my truths, and it wasn't wise to allow this event to continue suppressed.
So there. I've described it, and it belongs to the past. We leave today for the Toronto Film Festival. I will see great movies with great audiences. The Oscar season will open, after a summer of a fair amount of stupidity. The movies, as they always do, will cheer and inspire me. They heal, because they take me into the minds of their creators. Man, am I ready to go to Toronto this year.
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