Humor, my go-to option in coping with a recent medical issue, only went so far.
I did cheer myself up by making light of an eye infection that, if the world were just, should’ve made me an honorary resident of Johnson County in Kansas.
That’s where I went for almost daily doctor’s visits, two emergency surgeries and some other tsuris (ztoor-is) that started on Valentine’s Day.
I filed the first column under the label “Wah,” in recognition of my desire to whine while appearing stoic. Considering how crappy I felt, “Wah-wah” might’ve been more appropriate.
I’m feeling better now, thanks to my retina specialist, The Velvet Glove, M.D., and his hard-working medical team, whose uniforms are as white as fresh-fallen Extra Strength Tylenol.
I should mention a few things that helped keep my bearings during what a New Yorker might call an ordeal. (In The Big Apple, almost anything is an ordeal. They range from a crowded subway car filled with odorous, menacing riders, swaying and nearly knocking each other over, to ordering an extra-lean corned beef sandwich from Sy the waiter and getting one suited for the Clogged Arteries Hall of Fame.)
New Yorkers, it seems, are as given to exaggeration as Midwesterners are to understatement.
Since my retina doctor’s office shared a Shawnee Mission medical building with another specialty — The Cancer Center — I kept things in perspective. Seeing those pale, sometimes-bald patients, often with canes or wheelchairs, worked wonders for my self-pity.
As my great-uncle Mordecai the Realist would’ve said, “Eye infection, schmye infection. Whatever’s wrong with you, someone’s got something worse.”
So my heart goes out to those cancer patients, including a cousin of mine who’s battled the disease for years and worries about it returning.
But to fess up, there could’ve been a county morgue on the first floor with caskets lined up in the lobby and I would’ve felt a little sorry for myself.
When the infection was at its worst, I couldn’t read because pointing my left eye down (or, for that matter, in any direction) hurt. Reading is one of my primary escapes, so I had a void to fill.
My solution was to visit libraries for music and movies. Generally, I could look straight ahead and painlessly watch TV, whiling away a couple of hours while snuggled up with my lunch tote of eye drops, Tylenol, Advil and DayQuil.
I made what amounted to a whistle-stop tour of Mid-Continent Public libraries in Liberty, Kearney, Smithville, Parkville and Claycomo, and the Ray County Library, that gem up in Richmond.
As often as I was in Johnson County, you’d think I would’ve gotten an honorary library card, as well as the key to the county, a parking sticker and temporary voting rights.
I think tax-supported libraries should get a Best Buy rating from Consumer Reports and five stars from Yelp (Woodneath, the new Mid-Continent branch in the Northland, will soon have a coffee shop, so Yelpers take note).
I’d always liked Emmylou Harris, but her voice and gentle songs were especially soothing while I waited for the NyQuil to kick in.
I watched “The Hunt for Red October” and “U-571,” both submarine films. Somehow the “whoosh” of a fired torpedo and the “ping” of radar signals bouncing off a hull were comforting, though I imagine they wouldn’t be for the crews.
Then I moved on to documentaries (one about a tribe of New Guinea headhunters that protected the crew of a downed U.S. bomber from the Japanese, and another called “Schetl,” a three-hour account of a Holocaust survivor’s return to his native Polish village, which was 65 percent Jewish before the Nazi occupation and, by the mid-1990s, had no Jews at all).
Then it was a documentary about African-American pilots in World War II, followed by “Red Tails,” a feature film on the same subject.
More recently, it was “Judgment at Nuremberg,” a three-hour, black-and-white epic from 1961 with a big-name cast (Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Spencer Tracy, Maximillian Schell), a snail’s pace and facial gestures so broad even a blind columnist couldn’t miss them.
Thankfully, I’m reading again now, and it’s two weeks until my next doctor’s visit. The only things I have planned are hoping to fully recover — and seeing about my honorary library card in Johnson County.
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