#64: Black Friday



Well, it’s darker.
Yesterday the skies were blue and clear
and today there’s a cold cloud cover
and there’s rumor of snow.
I’ll believe it when I see it, and
sometimes I wonder if we will ever
see snow here in the valley
of the Willamette again,
what with the warming.
What a strange phrase, that.
What with the warming?
I had a moment when I was not
sure whether this was a real thing
or if I had just made it up;
English is funny that way, as is warming.
However, I plan to do no shopping
today, but my wife and son are out
cavorting somewhere and I am
readying myself to take my mother
to the hospital where a young neurologist
will explain to her the results of her test.
They injected dye into her spine and
took pictures to see why her neck
has been hurting her for so long now.
She’s 83.  We are hoping that surgery
is not necessary. We’re worried about it
nevertheless, and that adds darkness
to our day, this Black Friday.


The doctor will tell her that the only fix
is a surgery that would essentially lock
the base of her skull to her spine,
preventing her from turning her head
ever again.  That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this, he will say,
is not an emergency surgery, and not
the kind of decision to make lightly
or quickly and not a surgery to sign
up for unless one’s quality of life
was so low that the situation was unbearable.
I will have to think deeply about this phrase,
quality of life.  And I will tell her, Mom,
you are bugged almost constantly by
a pain in your neck that makes it difficult
to turn your head, and you have to
constantly wear this uncomfortable neck brace.
But you are still living independently, still able to play cards,
domino games, and bingo with your friends,
still able to get yourself to meals,
get to church with your niece,
and have cocktails with your sons and daughter.
After this surgery,
after the recovery, you will still not be able
to turn your head, and, depending on how
things go, continuing to live independently
and all that goes with it
may no longer be in the cards.
My mother will say she does not
like the idea of wearing a neck brace
for the rest of her life, and I will tell her,
There are worse things, Momma.
There are worse things.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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