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What do I do? (12/18/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

What do you do all day? Iíve been asked.

Itís a fair question from people who have never had major surgery. I mean here I am, out of the hospital, and Iím not in the office, Iím not at the grocery store, Iím not playing bridge, Iím not at meetings. What do I do?

Until recently, I was sleeping most of the day, groggy on pain medication and recovering from the effects of being cut open and under anesthesia. Itís a slow process. But the hours I was awake, I worked from home, editing news stories and opinion pieces on my computer. It slows them down at the office, but I feel itís important to have the editor actually look at things before they go in the paper. I did miss some things while I was in the hospital and newly home, but since then Iíve been engaged.

I donít watch television. We did watch our favorite movie, Moonstruck, one night, but it had been so long since we watched a DVD on the upstairs TV we had to call my daughter in St. Paul (!) to help us get it going (use the black remote, press Input). I meant to put a note on the DVD player so we donít have to bother her next time, but I didnít. It was nice to hear her voice, anyway.

But I read, and have been enjoying books people have sent and lent to me. I read the Boston Globe, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Star Tribune online. Then I wait for John to come home, and am ravenous for news, because except for the home health nurse, and a friend who takes care of me at the end of the day, I have very little contact with the outside world ó like a prisoner, but at least I will soon be paroled. John is not the font of daily news and gossip that I hope for in my situation, so itís like playing twenty questions. He knows stuff, he just doesnít file it up front.

I havenít been sequestered like this for an extended period of time since we moved to the country. In town, I could sit in my sick room and watch the neighborhood still going on around me ó kids at the bus stop, people going to work, walking their dogs, coming back from the store with bread and milk. Iíd see workmen putting on roofs, fixing potholes, mowing or plowing. Then the neighborhood denizens would trickle back ó on the bus, in their cars, on foot. Lights would go on in the houses; Iíd imagine people fixing dinner. The blue flickering lights of televisions would seep through closed drapes, and then the lights would go out and the neighborhood would sleep.

In the country, nature is my companion ó and once the UPS van, delivering a Christmas present. When it snowed all that gorgeous fluffy stuff earlier in the month, from my bed it looked as though all the trees had moved closer to the house, they were so much larger with their coats of white. I watched as the dog, the deer, a raccoon, the rabbits, the stray cat, the crows and the other birds trampled the smooth blanket of snow outside my window until it looked like it had a bad case of acne.

Blue Jays and Cardinals, and flittery Nuthatches visit the feeder. I thought one day that a huge white cat jumped off the porch roof onto the bird feeder, but it was only a chunk of snow sliding off the sun-warmed roof. One night a huge section of snow slid off the roof into the front yard, and John came running down the stairs thinking I had fallen out of my hospital bed.

I watched as John and our neighbor tried to get Johnís newly acquired used ATV into our little shed. John bought it from Dave, who bought a newer model from the neighbor on the other side (we have a regular market economy going on out here). Dave wanted it out of his garage, no surprise, and we have no room in our garage. So they tried valiantly to shoe-horn it into the shed. I was praying it wouldnít fit, because I wanted the deck furniture in there instead, and my prayers were answered. So John parked the ATV next to the shed, and put a camo cover over it for the winter.

That night, when we let the dog out, he set up a horrible ruckus. I could hear the coyotes in their early winter chorus, and thought that was what he was reacting to. The next morning, when John let him out, he sent up the howls again. Then we saw him approach the covered ATV. Heíd bark from a distance, then get closer. Bark, run away. Bark, run to the house. It took him a couple of days to figure out the hulk was not going to move, and then he was quite brave around it, but not so brave that when a squirrel made a chucking noise from the tree above the ATV he didnít jump a little and want to come back to civilization.

So, now Iím waiting for more excitement. I saw the fog move in and out. I saw the snow melt away. I saw the sky spit a little more snow. If Iím vigilant, I might see Santaís sleigh. But Iíll probably be sleeping. 


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