The other day, I went to see the back surgeon on a follow-up visit. The doctor ordered a few X-rays, which were soon taken, in contrast to the pre-surgical round, many of which had to be taken several times because I couldn't stand still. According to the X-rays — or to the doctor's interpretation of them, I should say — my neck has healed nicely. This was better news than he might have thought, before I told him that I'd had a second fall, in late October. I hadn't told anyone about that, except of course Kathleen. I told her on the day it happened.
I was taking what was already my daily afternoon walk. I had just crossed East End Avenue and entered Carl Schurz Park. The pavement there was fairly recent, a handsome pea gravel. For some reason, I slipped on it. My cane was useless, but the neck brace probably saved my life. I fell heavily on my right thigh, then on my shoulder blades, but the brace cushioned my neck and head. I was very badly shaken, but otherwise unhurt. After a moment or two, I managed to stand up. I proceeded to take the rest of my walk without further pain or incident.
I ought to have seen one of my doctors about the fall right away; I knew that. But the idea of having more X-rays taken was by itself enough to put me off. In the way that we do, I made a deal: if I lived long enough, I would see the surgeon after Christmas and assess any damage then. This was very foolish, but I got away with it. It turned out that the second fall had not hurt me.
Whenever I thought of this unexamined episode — as I did rather increasingly whenever my neck or shoulders hurt, as they sometimes did, in transitory phases, now here, now there, but never very painfully or for very long — I would slip into a sort of temporary depression that I found myself putting a smiley face on, in the form of the phrase Nunc dimittis. The Song of Simeon, taken from Luke 2.29-32, does not contemplate suicide, but in a modern context it implies letting things take their course.
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
What I've been allowed to see, of course, is the light of the Internet. In the short time that I've been blogging, especially, I've felt that my life not only made sense but attained fulfillment. I hope to go on and on, blogging away, but I've done it long enough to know that I've done it. There's much more to learn, but, to switch Biblical references somewhat, I have not only seen the Promised Land but crossed its frontier. The momentousness of that step will never be repeated in my lifetime.
I don't mean to sound jaded. But I feel a contentment about my life that puts the unpleasantness of doctors' offices in a new perspective. I used to be so terrified of bad news that, paradoxically, I couldn't wait to hear it — or rather, I could wait, more or less patiently, in the uncomfortable waiting-room chair, with the television in the corner trumpeting the news (no matter what the actual volume), or, worse, as happened the other day, the voice of George W Bush. The other day, however, the voice of the President was simply intolerable. I informed the women at the desk that I would wait no more than half an hour to be taken in for X-rays.
I can talk of contentment and the joy of blogging all I like though, but I'm not fooled: not telling the doctors about my second fall left me with a serious discomfort that ought to have been guilt but felt much more like depression. Departing in peace was simply not on offer.
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