My day started at 4 am. I was awakened by an oppressive, fiery pain in my right shoulder, the sixth straight early morning visitation, only this one was excruciating on a whole different level. I rolled out of bed, chewed up two extra strength Tylenol and turned the water up as hot as I could stand in the shower. As I stood underneath the flow somehow the thought popped into my head that Patient First was open 24 hours. As is my habit when confronted with a strange new pain, I had put off getting this shoulder looked at for six days, thinking that it would heal itself. Plan B was now operational. I threw on some clothes and headed over to the dark parking lot of Patient First where I learned that relief would have to wait until 8 am. Back home, I fired up the heating pad and laid down on the sofa downstairs watching Sports Center reruns hoping I would fall asleep. No such luck.
When the blessed hour finally arrived I was x-rayed and examined thoroughly by a lovely Indian doctor with a beautiful accent, who with an economy of words informed me that my shoulder was “terribly inflamed even to the point of being warm to the touch”. She prescribed pain killers and heavy duty muscle-relaxing anti-inflammatories and then produced a sling for my right arm, with instructions to wear it for three days. Arriving at my office in said sling produced howls of derision from my mean-spirited colleagues, with many references to my age and the shocking rapidity of the physical decline it has brought upon me. The rest of my day was filled with my left hand awkwardly trying to do a series of two-handed jobs. On a good day I have a great deal of trouble concentrating for long periods of time on one thing. I think that the term teachers nowadays use is, “staying on task”. Well, after the cocktail of pain meds and muscle-relaxers I had downed at Patient First, my attention span was shorter than Richard Dawkins’ prayer list. I would dial up a client and by the time he answered I had forgotten why I called. By the end of the day, every muscle in my back was confused and rubbery. Some days it just doesn’t pay to wake up in pain.
But then, I got home. Pam was busy at the computer. I was in no mood for idle conversation so I took the latest dose of my medicine and collapsed in the reading chair in our bedroom. I dosed off for thirty minutes or so, maybe longer, and then heard her voice calling me downstairs for supper. As she has done a thousand times before, she redeemed the day. She made something wonderful out of nothing. My wife is able to transform me. She proves her love for me over and over with a thousand little graces that are easy to miss at times. I don’t have to pour out a tale of whoa for her to know that things aren’t going well. She pays attention to those she loves, to her friends, family, her children, and especially on days like today, to me. The plate before me was a feast of manly comfort. There was a hearty potato au-gratin dish that she had thrown together from scratch. It bubbled with sharp cheddar and smelled like autumn. Beside it were crisp, cold , sliced apples that made a juicy snapping sound when bitten into. The main course was a thing of beauty. She had sliced up onions and green peppers and fried them up until they were limp and caramelized and to this heavenly concoction she had added sliced polska kielbasa, the smoky kind that wafts in the air of the parking lot at the State Fair. This was a dinner for someone who needed some healing. I don’t recall ever being served this exact meal before. How she knew that it was exactly what my soul desired is a mystery, as she is a mystery. All I know is, that at times like this I know with cosmic certainty that mine is an arranged marriage. A compassionate God had mercy on me and gave me a woman of style, beauty and grace who, if given the chance, would be a huge star on The Food Network with a show called, “How to feed your hurtin’ man”.