Indefensible by Lee Goodman


I don’t want to give up the quiet pleasantness of working through a bowl of clams with Captain Dorsey.

There’s no sign of marriage more poignant than filling out advanced directives and living wills on a quiet Thursday evening after the kids have gone to bed. That’s what we did last week. And then we watched funny shows on netflix and did the chores and went to bed, because work and school start early this time of year.

It’s a few days later and Michael is having surgery on his spine right now. I’m in the waiting room. Waiting. With several other poor souls, most of whom seem to be reading pamphlets. Hospital waiting rooms are different than waiting rooms at train stations, or airports, or even car service stations. Here there’s a hint of tragedy on everyone’s faces. That woman over there—she’s probably waiting on her husband to have his in-grown toenail removed, but she’s trembling and tense as if death is imminent and it’s only a matter of moments before the doctor comes out to reveal the fatal details. Which of course it is, and he may. But I saw her husband before he went in and he looks pretty hearty and hale.

That guy over there is reading a bible. He’s the only one with an actual book.

I brought extra books; I wonder if I should offer them around, like madeleines at a tea party?

Oh! Someone just rolled up what looks like a food cart! Maybe breakfast?

Ach! The food seems to be for the people behind the closed doors, the professional medical people in whose hands the lives of our loved ones lie. I would kill for a muffin. I am really hungry. I spied vending machines on our way in. But even I manage to find them, I may not be able to find my way back. Michael is a much better navigator than me. Usually I drive and he tells me where to go and he pokes fun at my left/right confusion (it’s hereditary!) and together we could travel to the moon and back, the boys behind us in the back seats building complicated worlds in minecraft land.

Of course Michael will be just fine. It’s fairly minor surgery. We live in a wealthy country in time when anesthesia is common. In another couple hours he’ll be rolled into his wee curtain cupboard and I’ll get to make fun of his blue paper hat.

I don’t want to give up the quiet pleasantness of working through a bowl of normal life with my dearie.

Hey! I did it! I found a cafeteria. It’s the little successes that make life so good. I bought $4 worth of scrambled eggs and home fries. They’re terrible. But I’m hungry.

Sometimes when I’m stuck somewhere for a certain amount of time I think about what it would be life to have to stay here forever. You know, if the world went all twilight zone. What would it be like if Michael never came out of surgery, if I was never allowed to exit this hospital and see the boys again, or smell their (usually dirty) hair? What if I never left this cafeteria?

I’m back in the waiting room. Right now I’m pretty happy. The wifi is working and it wasn’t before. I paid bills. I have a work plan for the next couple hours. Michael is surrounded by competent people. His nurse just popped his head out and let me know he misquoted the time, that actually it was going to be a longer wait. I smiled and said no problem, but now I’m wondering if by misquoting he actually means something horrible has gone wrong.

But probably not.

I suppose days such as this will get more frequent as we get older. There will be hips to replace, shoulders to patch, hearts to convince. We’ll unconsciously develop a silent language for saying hello and goodbye after and before procedures. A quick touch to the shoulder will mean, “Even if you come out with all the wrong parts in all the wrong places, I’ll still love you and will spoon potatoes into your ever-gaping mouth.” A squeeze to the foot will mean, “I’m here. Quit fussing. You’re fine. I’m here.”

My glasses are miserably dirty. I cooked pot roast last night and any time I braise meat on the stove I come away with filthy glasses. I could pop into the bathroom to clean them, but what if they come looking for me just at that moment? The cafeteria was enough of a risk.

I hate to leave this as a cliffhanger. So I’ll give away the ending before signing off. In another hour, Michael’s nurse retrieves me and I’m ushered into the wee curtained closet, where Michael looks at me with sleepy eyes and cracks a joke about farts. I give him an affectionate grimace and put his wedding ring back on his finger. We go home.

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