Mohs surgery is a technique to remove skin-cancer cells. Like many in my generation, a suntan was a priority for me, and now I am paying the price. My new dermatologist found several suspicious spots on my face, and I just had the first, and hopefully the only, malignant one removed. There is a 99% cure rate with this surgery so I can be optimistic.
A couple of years ago, I had a similar procedure, and it was easy. This one, on the side of my nose, was more complicated, and so I have a black eye and a face that looks like it’s been to war. I can’t bend over, pick up anything weighing more than ten pounds, blow my nose, and, worst of all, I can’t exercise for a week.
In our retirement community, people know Mohs surgery. Upon seeing a large bandage on my face, people greet me knowingly with...
Life is fairly frantic for this newly-turned-eighty-year-old. Visiting Peter daily in the rehab hospital, “shopping” classes at American University, and participating in some of our retirement community’s activities, have left me hopelessly behind in everything else.
But I always have time for phone calls from friends.
Several from home check in with me a few times a week, others less often. All have provided tremendous support as I adjust to our new surroundings and new challenges.
I like hearing what’s going on in their lives too. I try not to sound too smug about our winter being so much easier than the endless one they are enduring in Massachusetts.
Our conversations are never short.
My new friends here have been caring and quick to offer help. But there is nothing better than friends of fifty-plus years. They always have my back
Everybody on the East coast seems to have a power-loss story. When we lost ours during the recent storm, our retirement community’s generators kept the health center and the hallway lights on, but the apartments were dark.
With my phone battery running down, I looked everywhere for our flashlight. Then I looked at the same places again, fully aware that repeating what already didn’t work was useless.
I decided to light a candle. In the drawer with the candles…our flashlight! I lit a candle anyway, promptly knocked it off the table and broke my favorite crystal candlestick.
By then it was 9:00 and going to bed was my best option. I woke at 1:30 a.m. when the lights came on, but because the refrigerator wasn’t humming, I called our security officer for help, hoping to save its contents. He agreed to have a look. Moments later, he called to say he couldn’t get into our building, and asked me to come down and open the emergency door. So there I was at 2:00 a.m., raincoat over my pajamas, flashlight in hand walking down two dark flights of stairs to open the emergency door.
He and I flipped circuit breakers and unplugged and plugged in the refrigerator. Nothing worked until additional power was restored an hour later.
In the morning, I questioned my wisdom in inviting a stranger into my apartment at 2:00 a.m. But the food in my refrigerator was just fine.
I like challenges. But Peter’s shattered femur has set the bar very high.
I am taking it one day at a time. I spend three-to-four hours every day at the hospital’s rehab center. I bring Peter the newspaper, his mail and fresh clothes. He is making progress, but the road ahead seems long.
His caregivers are very skilled. Marsha, his occupational therapist, has been helping patients for decades. I had to look away when he winced in pain as she gently coached him into the front seat of a fake car. Renee, his physical therapist, knows just how far she can push him. They are professionals with the patience of saints.
I miss Peter all the time. I miss our reading the paper to each other at breakfast. I miss him as my co-pilot as I try to navigate Washington. I miss his warm body next to mine at night.
The surgeon says that it will take time, but he will recover.
P.S. Many thanks to 80-something readers for your speedy recovery wishes for Peter
Peter used to keep his cell phone in a case on his belt. However, because he couldn’t remove it quickly, he missed some calls. So he stopped using the case.
I decided that was a bad idea, and ordered a case that would fit in his pocket. I brought it to the hospital rehab center where he is recovering from his broken femur only to find that it was too small for his phone.
To make matters worse, seconds later, his uncased phone slipped out of my hand, and landed on the floor. The glass shattered.
I was inconsolable.
The good news is that UbreakIfix, a chain of stores that can replace broken cell phone glass in two hours (for a small fortune), wasn’t far away. A friend visiting Peter took the phone there for me, and on my way home, I picked up a good-as-new phone.
I have been noticing different things now that I am eighty.
For example, in ten years I will be ninety. During this decade I will go from being old to being "old-old," that is, if I am lucky. And lately, friends tell me about a lot more falls and cancer diagnoses and a lot fewer new adventures.
I see that my generation’s children are middle-aged now. They are watching their waistlines expand and their nests empty. They are thinking about last chances to have the career of their dreams.
And I am paying attention to our generation’s grandchildren and their challenges. I hate that their schools have become war zones and that their backpacks have to be bulletproof. They deserve to be playful and carefree.
In my eighties I don't plan to forgo adventure. I also don't plan to fall. We’ll see how that works out.
It’s not easy to find something amusing when one’s spouse is in a rehab facility facing a long and painful recovery from a fractured femur.
Fortunately, our son Jeremy can always make me laugh.
Here’s what happened. On a summer-like day last week. I took an afternoon break from the rehab center to walk with my friend Carrie, a Kennedy School graduate and friend who lives not too far from the hospital. We walked for over an hour, chatting non-stop about everything except Peter’s broken femur.
At one point, she asked me to guess who she was having a drink with that evening. I mentioned a mutual friend. “No,” she said, “although that’s a good guess.” In fact, she was going to meet a friend she knows through her daughters’ school. And who might that be? Michelle Obama. Just the two of them!
I mentioned this to Jeremy that evening, telling him how excited I was for Carrie. Jeremy’s response:
“Well I wonder what Michelle Obama thought when she heard who Carrie walked with today!”
Our February 13th calendar included a breakfast for new members of American University’s learning in retirement organization, a 1:00 pm session at our continuing care community on how to fall “safely” and our grandson’s 3:00 p.m. middle-school basketball game.
However, the best laid plans…
Walking back to our car after the breakfast, Peter tripped over an uneven sidewalk. He couldn’t move his leg, but we did not know how badly he was hurt. An ambulance took him to the hospital where x-rays showed a broken femur.
Anyone who has spent time in a hospital emergency room in a strange city will understand that this was not fun. But it could have been worse.
Peter was moved to a hospital room after only three hours, possibly a record for short emergency room stays. Unfortunately, they had to wait for Peter’s prescription blood thinner to leave his system before they could operate. That would take a very long two days.
And so the saga began.
If the breakfast had been a lunch and the “how to fall” session had been at breakfast time, we might have had a better day.
I don’t know why we waited so long to invite our grandsons for a sleepover in our retirement community apartment. They had slept at our Cambridge house during many Thanksgiving visits, but with their parents in the house. So this was a first.
We prepared for their visit by expanding our supply of tasty-bad-for-you snacks, but after multiple desserts at dinner, hunger wasn’t an issue. The highlight of the evening (for me) was a series of ping pong games. Although I didn’t win any of them, I held my own. (Too bad none of my fellow oldsters want to practice with me so I can do better next time.)
Our new TV-watching sofa bed had its first overnight occupant (Grady) while his older brother (Leo) slept in the guest room. Peter and I, early risers, were surprised to see Grady already watching live soccer on said TV-watching-sofa bed, allowing me to have a long early-morning cuddle with him. Eventually, we had to wake up his older brother, a 6’2” fourteen-year-old, who probably could have slept all day.
Yesterday was my 80th birthday. I have been blessed with good health and good luck. I am very grateful.
For the start of my ninth decade, The 70-Something Blog has a new name. And a new design. If you subscribe by email, you might not even notice, so I invite you to visit the website and see its new look.
I hope you will continue to follow me on this journey through my eighties.
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