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Mack Williams: ‘To the left’

This title concerns neither the Army, nor Beyoncé, but instead, something else.

My right hip having been replaced 6 months ago, my left “hip bone” (to quote the spiritual) was successfully replaced very early on January 16.

The “roll” down the hospital halls was as I wrote before, like those series of hatches and airlocks to the “inner sanctum” of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” minus “cheesy movies” courtesy of “Pearl.” I’m sure my operation’s movie would not have been “cheesy,” but instead “horrific;” but due to my increasing pain these past months, my contemplation of the surgery had become as calming as any meditative thought engendered by a walk through a butterfly garden.

My surgeon is of Irish descent (Mahoney), so when he stopped in the pre-surgery “holding area,” I sang him an Irish ditty: “The Garden Where the Praeties Grow.” At his office appointments, I have performed other such songs: “The Low-Backed Car,” “The Dear Little Shamrock,” etc. I see no harm in this , and being a true Irish-American gentleman, neither does he.

Other assistants, and the anesthesiologist stopped by; but although the anesthesiologist is of Italian descent, I didn’t belt out “O Solo Mio” nor “Santa Lucia,” for I don’t know him as well as I do Dr. Mahoney, fearing that (especially in this day and age) he might think I was just being “ethnic” instead of displaying a true celebration of cultural difference in song.

I wasn’t for-certain-sure of the exact moment I lost consciousness. Maybe death is like that too, with the individual’s desire to make some grand theatrical exit statement being nipped in the bud by a “time-space continuum” which concerns itself more with overall, “extra-galactic” things.

Coming out of unconsciousness, I saw pretty nurses trying to get my attention (can a guy still say such stuff nowadays?). I happily began singing to them in a voice somewhat deeper and raspier than is my normal (though not as deep nor raspy as that of Lee Marvin in “Paint Your Wagon”(1969)).

They probably thought I was in need of some other type of “recovery” too! One nurse advised me of some other, very recent “operees” there trying to sleep, so I toned it down a bit (but nice to know I can project even in that state). I told the nurse I was overcome by the knowledge and joy of having come through the operation and was not dead (not telling her that it seemed very strange to me that by desiring sleep, the others didn’t seem as elated about their return to consciousness!).

I was sad, though, to learn that Vicki had retired, a nurse with the same birth year and month as mine. Her first name was special, in that it was spelled in the same manner as that of my girlfriend of four high school proms (I went to East, she went to South and was one year younger, hence (“hence” reminding me of part of her maiden name) the four proms.

It’s snowing as I write.When light came through my window from outside, I thought maybe some hospital staff had opened an outside door, possibly even stepping out onto a graveled roof to observe freshly falling snow.

The idea of a graveled roof brings to mind a graveled roof at Rowan Memorial in November of 1966, when my father, Bernard Williams, passed away. Looking out a window adjacent his room at his time of death, I imagined his soul’s ascent from that graveled roof. These present-day hospital staff members, instead of observing spiritual ascent, were observing descending snow crystals, maybe even making a snowball or two.

I’m sure Occupational Therapy nurse Lydia, to whom, six months ago, I often sang a very brief snippet of the old Groucho Marx song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” will be thrilled to know I’ve committed some more of that song to memory: “On her back is the battle of Waterloo, beside it the Wreck of the Hesperus too, and o’er it all waves the Red, White, and Blue. You can learn a lot from Lydia!”

Wear and tear on hip bones is prevalent today, but I’m glad there is no wear and tear on skull bones, causing strange “things” to “leak out” from time to time (but then again, maybe there is — and maybe they have).

So far, this recent hospital experience with my left hip, after having had my right hip replaced back in July, 2017, has been like returning to the care of a hospital staff who seem like semi-family members.

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can’t go home again” which, for this experience I’m paraphrasing into: “You can’t go home again, but you can go back and get your other hip done!”

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