I’ll be turning sixty tomorrow. Can hardly believe it. Two surgeries since September, and a stay for “observation” (with a nurse checking my vitals every three hours, waking me repeatedly throughout the night) had me wondering. Heck, it’s been nine months of occasional pain and continual discomfort, but in-between I found some happiness.
Not always being able to sit at my desk comfortably curtails writing, or participating in online events. Thanks to painkillers I did manage to enjoy a few, such as Path to Publishing Conference, Saints+Sinners Lit Fest, the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, Lambda Literary Awards, and a couple events from GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco), plus Henderson Writers Group (of which I belong).
Seems I only leave the house for a trip to the grocery store or doctor appointment, or labs, or tests; in-addition to doing the same for my 81-year-old mother. Regular lunch dates with my husband, are a nice reprieve.
Despite lingering health issues, I am making plans for the future.
My husband asked how I stay optimistic, but the truth is I’m not always. When I told him that I wanted to move back to Michigan or California – states with compassionate suicide for those with chronic illness – he was angry and hurt. He asked, “What about me?”
At the time, I felt it was my life, not considering how others felt. Telling him that the past twenty-plus years have been beautiful and I didn’t want to endure discomfort if it were my future.
When I suffered partial paralysis and trouble doing simple tasks like eating, I had to remind myself of my late friend Ruth.
Ruth was born without arms or legs. Well, her arms went as far as her elbows, and her legs only to the knees. But she learned to eat, she learned to get around, she learned to live a life in spite of her disability. I have some great Ruth stories. We had fun, and many laughs.
Another physically-challenged friend with the same attitude as Ruth, also confined to a wheelchair (but never short of having a good time), reminded me life is not always easy. And that our lives are not simply about us. It’s also about who we love and who loves us; those we miss terribly, and those who would miss us the same.
But physical challenges don’t always compare to the uncertainty of a medical condition. Numerous trips to the hospital, or to the doctor for that matter, can task one’s emotional well-being and mental health.
I’ve had many friends (and a few lovers) who succumbed to illness, and it wasn’t pretty, but somehow, they found the wherewithal to forge ahead until the end. Despite the sickness and side effects their meds caused, they still held on to a glimmer of hope that life would get better (even when it didn’t).
When medicine brought my late ex to his knees (literally), he somehow found the strength to get back up and carry on. I don’t know how he did it, for I surely would have given up. His sacrifice, as part of the Conant antiretroviral trials, helped lead to the approval of (HIV) protease inhibitors.
Surgery, and hospital stays during the height of the COVID pandemic were scary. No visitors allowed, patient-only. At times, I felt alone and vulnerable. Every trip to the hospital, doctor appointment, and lab became a risk for exposure.
Telling my husband that I was ready to call it quits, then realizing how selfish that decision would be, left me in limbo. And with a guilty conscience. What about my husband? What about my mother?
Where and when did I develop this acceptance of euthanasia? Maybe decades ago, during the AIDS pandemic.
Statistics show that the life-expectancy of a Saginaw Chippewa (which is what I am) is sixty. So here I am, a day away, and I will most-likely beat that fact.
When I asked the surgeon why it was taking so long for me to heal, his answer was simply, “You’re fifty-nine.”
This past weekend I felt okay enough to attend Henderson Equality Center’s Pride celebration. It felt good to get fresh air, walk around (even in the stifling desert heat), and just be a part of the crowd.
Hopefully next year’s birthday musings will find me healthier, and less melancholy.