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Mack Williams: Rehab, divided into two parts

I decided to only split this week’s column into two installments, instead of making it “Rehab divided into three parts,” since one can only go on about something for just so long; and because no other piece of writing than that most famous work authored by Caesar should ever have, as part of its title, the phrase: “Divided into three parts.”

After my most recent crossing of the surgical Rubicon, it turned out there was no doctor to oversee the hospital’s in-patient rehab, so I was “farmed out” to a separate rehab facility (such “farming out,” also covered by my Medicare and medigap).

The EMT people did a great job of transporting me. They had my bags of necessities, and as for my flowers (one arrangement from my daughter Rachel, and two vases from my church, First Presbyterian, of Danville, Va.), the EMTers asked me if I would carry the vases atop my chest, securely clutched. I said “Sure!” When they rolled me, “en-stretchered” into the facility, vertical flowers over chest, I must have presented a particularly “Victorian” funereal sight, appearing to be already past rehab (but not in the positive way).

Lying here in rehab, the “physical” kind, not the Lindsay Lohan kind (I never go out without my underwear), I can hear the sound of my patient-mates’ oxygen machine at work.

I’ve always had a certain “not very reverent” vein within me, so let me get that out of the way before the more serious things.

I know this sounds awful, but my first thought upon hearing that “breathy” sound was of the “oxygen tank” sounds of one of my favorite television shows as a child: “Sea Hunt” starring Lloyd bridges. It was especially neat because Bridge’s character was like a sea scientist who sometimes fought against unsavory people, referred to in the current vernacular as “bad guys” (a term always sounding “lacking” to me, especially regarding terrorists: I mean, imagine calling Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Goebbels just “bad guys!” What anemic terminology for such evil!)

In another moment of irreverence concerning someone’s respiratory problems (but I can’t help it, my sense of humor intervenes briefly over my caring self), the sounds from that respiratory device also made me think of the late Victor Borge’s audible punctuation marks, also, similar ones articulated by the late Charlie Callas.

And of course, “breathing noises” always brings us around to the “Dark Lord of the Sith” (well, since 1977).

Eventually, the time limits on each of these humorous analogies finally expired, leading me to serious contemplation of the unfortunate gentleman’s respiratory problem.

The every-now-and-then snore of the gentleman in the next bed is a human sound, so in a way (a very small one), it’s more reassuring to another human being than is a respirating “mechanism” (I guess both of my hips are “mechanisms” now, having been replaced with inorganic ceramic and titanium). I just now thought of the snoring of my mother (Lorraine Williams) in my years still at home at Rt. 7 Box 147, Old Concord Road, after my father’s (Bernard Williams) early (age 60) death in 1966.

I don’t know whether or not I snore, as my late wife Diane never brought it up.

The necessity of the gentleman-next-bed’s air machine is due to fluid in his lungs. Such “fluidity” within the lungs would be great for fish, which draw their oxygen from the water, but he’s not a fish. It would be rude to ask him the details, although I have no trouble bringing up my recent medical history with his visitors, informing them that I now have “matching hips,” (talking about bones, not cheeks, but I guess they also … hmm … this direction isn’t the one in which I really want to go; bone level isn’t obscene but skin level is.)

Walking down rehab hall, the strains of the Moody Blues’ “Eternity Road” came from someone’s room. I guess no rehab exists on eternity road, just in places along the little driveways (our lives) leading to it. Sadly, Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues recently pulled out of his individual driveway onto that eternal trip.

(To be continued next week)

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