Every few years here on the Homefront, I am graced with the title, “Nurse Ratched,” by Dr. K, recalling the misanthropic nurse portrayed in the novel and film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The number of instances I have been rechristened with this name are five: once for each of his surgeries during the course of our (to date) thirty-two years of marriage.
Alongside his renaming rights sits a French door-sized refrigerator box containing all of his pre and post-op paraphernalia, which includes, last time I took inventory, three velcro-strapped boot casts, five slings, four pairs of crutches (varying heights and colors, all guaranteed uncomfortable), numerous inflatable accessories for your choice of limb (arms and legs only, so don’t let your imagination run wild), and several braces (knees and ankles predominate). There is also a bag full of hastily re-rolled Ace bandages bulging like bloated pigs, all of which have lost those pronged, metal pins that hold them together. That part doesn’t bother me. Whoever designed the pins must have been a sadist since their functionality tends less to hold the wrap together tightly, and more to unmercifully poke already-tender skin when the quick-to-become inelastic bandage slithers to the floor, a flesh-colored lasagne noodle lying in wait to trip up the newly hobbled.
The reason I am designated “Nurse Ratched” by my mostly loving spouse is because I read the newspaper Horoscopes, and he doesn’t.
Dr. K’s preparations for surgery reflect his view of how life should proceed, in an unerring straight line.
His most recent surgical adventure involved a little “dental work,” according to one of his surgeon friends. Unlike Twitter’s gross-out contests — it was recently trending about a live craniotomy, splashing across the Internet brightly Instagrammed and bloody details — I won’t bore you with the number of metal screws inserted this week into his left foot (four), how many bones they had to slice, crack, or smash to accomplish this miraculous recreation of a workable foot and ankle (at least three, from what I can read on the X-rays), and where they got the new ligament from. As I said. Unless you’re into nightmares, there are some things you don’t want to know.
When my sister offered to just run over his foot with her car, he declined, although he remarked that her method would be cheaper.
Staid, and moving forward step by step, he evaluated what he won’t be able to accomplish during eight weeks of non-weight bearing. Dr. K tested smoke alarms, changed filters on the heater, and took his rolly-scooter on test runs through the house to see how it navigated tight corners. He also reminded me on numerous occasions that he wouldn’t be able to take out the trash. His thinking was scientifically plotted and linear.
I have a more global way of thinking. Each morning, I check the seven horoscopes of those near and dear to me and consider whether I should warn them about the pitfalls and perils of their day, or keep my mouth shut. I don’t think ahead as to what might happen to Dr. K during the next eight weeks of post-op, because I’d have to multiply that by seven people. That’s a lot of projected possibilities to keep track of over morning coffee. This is Dr. K’s sixth surgery. I’m familiar with the post-anesthesia nausea, the pain control, the limited ambulation that so frustrates him, and the fact that he is house bound with me, and not at work. Things will happen when they happen, and then I’ll deal with it.
His life view comes with blinders that he straps on when he walks through the door from work. While in action, he concentrates on the rest of the world, but at home and wounded, the camera turns on himself. I, on the other hand, have so much else to keep an eye on. There is always someone to get ruffled over. I’m in a perpetual state of ruffledom over something new that might be predicted to affect one of the seven horoscopes I must watch over.
My horoscope yesterday said it all so succinctly: “Amaze everyone as you juggle balls while riding a unicycle.”
I am not making that up.
Perhaps that explains why, the night before his surgery, I had mushroom-clouded dreams of trekking through knee deep snow for six hours to collect him from the hospital, all the while dropping house-plan sized rolls of papers I repeatedly stuffed under my armpits to keep from becoming wet. The papers were all very important documents, or at least so my dream told me, that he must sign to be released from the hospital. Of course, none of this was real, other than the fact that he’d left the pre-op paperwork on the kitchen table when we’d left home. The admissions staff didn’t really need it; everything is computerized, these days.
Several hours after I dropped him off, the charge nurse called me to say the operation was finished and I should come to the hospital.
My dream told me that if I dropped all the rolls of paper in the snow, he’d never survive the surgery. Even though his surgeon had called to tell me that all had gone well, I wasn’t sure. I’d dropped all the paper.
As I walked into the surgical wing, he waved cheerily to me from across the ward. The operation hadn’t bothered him; it’s the fact of being tied down for eight weeks that does. Like I said, he’s a methodological, straight-line thinker. He looks ahead at the long haul. I’m a whirling dervish with fireworks shooting off in intervals in various directions, their trajectory unplottable until after the spectacle has been set off.
I set up rules for healing that are emotional and need-based; he looks to see how fast he can plow through them. Because I must take care of the most basic needs, he is hobbled. That’s why I get called Nurse Ratched. But I prefer to think it’s because I read the daily horoscopes, and he doesn’t.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @. Life inspired. Vodka tempered.