FIRMLY UNRESOLVED

To Be Resolved — We’re entering the final days of 2014 — how did you do on your New Year’s resolutions these past 11.75 months? Is there any leftover item to be carried over to 2015?


I have stuck to the letter, comma, and sub-clause of my 2014 resolution, which was to not make any resolutions. Despite that, I promised myself I would make every effort to live through the year. I would not give up.

We can’t control the outcome of multiple heart surgeries. Nor can we control the rate at which bones knit — or fail to knit. We can control some of the variables. Make sure we take medications, eat sensibly, get to appointments. Do what is within our power to help the body recover from the assault on it. But after that?

The rest is in the hands of destiny. God, if you believe in that. My job, for all of 2014, was to nudge destiny in my preferred direction, which is to say, keeping alive.

December 22, 2014. I am not where I hoped to be, but not so bad. My heart is doing pretty well. The new valve works. The redesign of the left ventricle and the arterial valve were successful. The pacemaker is pacing, My blood pressure is sometimes weird, but more or less normal.

My cut-in-half breast bone has not knitted. It grinds and grates. I can hear it when I move. It’s particularly unsettling at night as I shift in bed. The grinding of bone-on-bone is an ugly sound. I’m amazed at how many different activities affect ones breastbone. Who’d have guessed?

No one can predict when my chest will heal. The answer is “In its own good time.” Not very doctorly. In the movies and on TV, doctors have answers. They know. In the real world, doctors have a pretty good idea, based on experience, how a procedure, surgery, or treatment will play out. But patients are individuals, so while a doctor’s best estimate could be accurate for 70% of his or her patients, that leaves a lot of wild cards. Of which I am one.

At this time last year, I was not sure I’d be here to celebrate Christmas. I was facing a terrifying surgery that turned out to be four terrifying surgeries and a couple of other procedures … much more than even the surgeon expected.

As to the million dollar question. “Do you feel better than you did before all that surgery?”

That’s a hard one. Though I was kind of dying, I didn’t know it. I attributed breathing issues to asthma and mobility problems to progressive, crippling arthritis. I’m lucky I can walk. As soon as the calendar flips over, I’m off to get shots to see if the pain can be better controlled. From my perspective (as opposed to a doctor’s viewpoint) my main issue is finding ways to control pain.

The answer to “Do you feel better?” is — “Define better.” I don’t feel better, but I am better.

I breathe better, but don’t walk better. I hurt more than last year, but the internal workings are in better shape. The surgery didn’t address the stuff which was bothering me most.

My spine can’t be fixed.

My best choice is to learn to accommodate. Anyone with chronic, disabling medical problems knows what I mean. There’s no enemy to battle and conquer. Direct confrontation will not win the day. It will just leave me exhausted and defeated. I need to be cunning, wily, and sneaky. I have to stay patient, adaptable. Be creative. There might yet be a breakthrough in pain control.

I live in hope.

SEASONAL TOUCHES AND AN OLD MOVIE

The new bouquet came complete with one bright red decoration, a red carnation, some green flowers (not sure what they are) and a large sprig of pine. It fits well with the decorations awaiting the one more small tree that, according to LL Bean, is en route, the Christmas cards, the generally festive look in our living room right now. It’s a nice backdrop for our annual orgy of old Christmas movies.

Today’s feature was The Shop Around the Corner. It’s a 1940 American romantic comedy produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Frank Morgan. The screenplay, by Samson Raphaelson, is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. The entire story takes place in Budapest — something that has always struck me as odd, considering it’s an American cast and no one explains why these people are living in Budapest.

The plot has become familiar: two people who don’t much like each other developing a love relationship through correspondence. It has been remade a bunch of times, including as the ever-popular You’ve Got Mail (1998) starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Sorry, digressed again. Just that it’s an interesting movie with a rather more abrasive set of relationships that we see in most holiday-themed movies. Take a look if you have never seen it.

And of course, I hope you enjoy the photographs.