I had surgery on my right foot, Friday, March 30th. It took much longer than I’d expected but I don’t really know because I slept through the whole thing. I counted 62 stitches, a lifetime high score.
One question they asked me over and over during the hospital check-in process was, “Mr. Simpson, when was the last time you stayed in a hospital?”
My answer: “1963; for surgery.” Not one person who asked the question was born before 1963.
Anesthesia is much better today than it was back then. I still remember the rubber mask over my face and the smell of ether. In fact, some solvents still bother me even after 49 years, especially fingernail polish remover. This time, I have no memories whatsoever of the anesthesia they used.
Two weeks into my recovery, I’m wearing a big black Darth Vaderish boot, but I’m not yet allowed to walk with it. I suppose I’ll be using crutches for the near future. Around our house I get scolded (well, scolded is too strong, let’s say admonished, or encouraged) because I won’t ask for help whenever I struggle to do something while using my crutches. I’ll try over and over before asking for help. Don’t get me wrong, I like the help and I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I also don’t want to turn into I-Need-Help-Guy. I don’t want asking for help to become my default position.
However, the longer I’m on crutches the more comfortable I get asking for help and getting help. I also know that part of growing up means letting other people take care of me; if I always have to be in charge, if I always have to be the one who does stuff, I’m not living in in grace and vulnerability. Still, I’m a little amazed that I have to think to myself, “It’s OK to let them help me.”
And there are still some things I cannot do myself no matter how hard I try. For example, I cannot carry a large Rosa’s cup full of Diet Coke.
All of this reminded me of the time when my daughter, Katie, first learned to ride a bicycle. She didn’t want me running behind the bike holding her up, coaching her, or standing anywhere near her. She wanted to do it all by herself, and she didn’t care if she fell over several times or if it took longer her way.
I’m the same as young Kate while on these crutches. I’ll spend time and energy trying to figure a way to carry some heavy books or laundry rather than ask for help. I want to do it myself. At least, I want to try to do it myself first, before asking for help, even if it takes longer.
As it turned out, being on crutches bothered me less than not being able to drive. During the hospital checkout process, I agreed not to drive until approved to do so by my doctor. Right away, I was surprised how much not driving bothered me.
I hated not being able to control my own coming and going, frustrated that I couldn’t plan my own movements. It didn’t bother me so much to depend on other people, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t remain in charge of my own personal space and schedule.
Those feelings of frustration were magnified by the fact that my surgery happened at the same time my dad had to move my mom out of their apartment and into a high-security Alzheimer’s facility. It was necessary to limit her movements and control her freedom, but she didn’t like being told what to do, when to do it, or where to go. However, she had become a danger to herself and needed more security and structure. She complains about it every time I see her, and I don’t remember hearing her complain about anything before now.
I could relate to her complaints since I inherited much of my own personality from her, and since I was dealing with independence issues of my own. I was hyper-aware of my mom’s frustrations because I’d been feeling the same thing. However, there are two glaring differences between her situation and my own. First, I know I’ll get better with the passage of time; my mom probably won’t. Second, my mom’s concerns are well founded. She is surrounded by people determined to tell her what to do and when to do it. For me, there are no such people. All my worries about loss of freedom and control are theoretical, within my own mind.
PS: As it turns out, my exile from driving lasted only five days, and for two of those days I was taking Demerol and didn’t want to drive anyway. That leaves me a bit embarrassed complain so much about not being in control, but those five days, in connection with seeing my own stubbornness through my mom’s situation, reminded me how far I still have to grow to be the man Jesus expects me to be. Being my true authentic self is no virtue if it means I am arrogant and independent. I have so much to learn about surrender.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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