It isnât light at 5:30 a.m. I see no sign of Auroraâs rosy fingers drawing back nightâs curtain and painting her magic oranges and pinks across the sky. Best just to sleep a bit more cuddled with cat.
âKathie Gibboney itâs 5:50,â prods the Beleaguered Husband from the other room. Heâs trying to coax me into getting up, as if it would be fun, but I know better. He brings me coffee, maybe for the last time.
Thereâs not much morning traffic driving north on the 101, yet we are anxious about arriving on time. I offer up the old cliche, âWell, they canât start without you. They canât perform hip-replacement surgery without the hip.â He guns the car as we whiz by the big Santa sculpture in Oxnard, and I whisper a wish that my husband will come through this grueling procedure and return to a lightness of step and heart.
Coming from a background of constant athletic activitiesâ volleyball, biking, surfing, disco dancingâMichael Floyd Anapol had grown accustomed to an active physical lifestyle, but in the past few years he developed a recurring pain in his right leg which was diagnosed as requiring hip replacement surgery. Sometimes he actually creaked, but it didnât stop him from surfing, just slowed him down a bit. He tried exploring less invasive treatments, cortisone shots, exercises, copper socks, myriad useless pills and magical ointments that I labeled as snake oil. I finally had to forbid him from purchasing more. There would be no miracle cure.
After meeting with several surgeons and exploring the options, all of which made him feel like an old man, he opted for anterior hip replacement. Due to COVID-19, however, there was a long waiting list for scheduling. He had seen a surgeon associated with Kaiser in Ventura that he liked and at the beginning of the year they had an opening, but then because of a pandemic spike, all elective surgeries were cancelled. It was a bit of a letdown, and we returned to the days of, Wine and COVID, where the most exciting thing was a trip to Trader Joeâs and the great sense of accomplishment I felt from renewing library books online. Oh, yes, there was one winter night with a beautiful ring around the moon that promised hope.
In the interim, we researched recovery times and queried my brother who underwent the same surgery a few months before. âIt felt as if my leg was made of cement,â he reported. He also advised against taking the pain pills if possible. âI preferred a good slug of vodka,â he confessed in true Gibboney style.
In just a few weeks Michael was re-scheduled, and we reported to the hospital arriving only one minute late. I was permitted to accompany my husband while he awaited surgery and our first stop was the family waiting room, a horrid windowless place with beige walls, beige furniture and fake potted plants. The colorless chairs were cordoned off for social distancing and a few other patients were spread about. A video on the wall kept playing slow motion images of scenery, waterfalls, mountains oceans, and trains traveling through countrysides accompanied by a stagnant piano soundtrack. It was supposed to be soothing but quicky became irritating as the continuous loop repeated itself. I became afraid to watch for fear of falling under some hypnotic spell or mind control. Something about the whole place seemed just sort of sad and I envied one woman asleep in her wheelchair.
Then Michaelâs name was called, and he walked away through the beige door to be prepped for the ordeal. I was left alone in the vacuous room holding a plastic bag containing an apple and banana weâd brought along. The fruit was strangely comforting being the only natural things in the room. I was called in to say good-bye as they wheeled him away and we kissed through our masks. Suddenly I was very tired.
I had lunch with my friend Cindy but really didnât taste the food because I was anxious, concerned about my husband. Suppose he has a bad reaction to the anesthetic and woke to be even less of stable mind than usual leaving me to find the Tom Waits CD by myself and battle the Frontier bill alone? Mid-afternoon the surgeon called. All went well. I returned to the beige room. The same video played, but I fought itâs brainwashing and after an hour was ushered in to see my husband waking up from surgery. The nurse nudged him and said, indicating me, âLook whoâs here.â
He waved his hand in a dismissive manner towards me as if to say, âBig deal!â and I knew he was himself. Certainly, he was a bit loopy, hallucinating, talking nonsense, bothering the overworked nurse with silly jokes, some of which, if you will excuse the pun, were âtoo hipâ for the room. If it was the drugs or the mind-altering video I donât know but he sure enjoyed a small cup of applesauce, claiming it was the best thing heâd ever tasted. A kid in an enjoining cubicle was brought in with a knife wound, loudly yelling and Mike wanted to go over and comfort him. In spite of his joviality, when the physical therapists had him stand, the color drained from his face and his blood pressure dropped. He was not cleared for release.
The Beleaguered Husband, spent the night under professional care. I picked him up in the morning. We argued as to the correct freeway entrance to get back home to Topanga. âShould I turn right or left here?â
From the back seat he yelled, âNo, over there, right! Whatâs wrong with you, canât you see?â I knew we were home free.
So far Michaelâs recovery has been remarkable, he is not in pain, is zipping about with his walker, and even eating the meals I prepare. Iâve seen him looking for a new surfboard online.