The fire burned gently, the quiet swelled in the house, a little like a symphony; I napped behind a flopping copy of the TLS. Fiona sat at the dining room table in a shirt top made of glittering black plastic chips. It’s a case of the cool meeting the serious nature of the political. It’s my nature to wonder what stuff means and I don’t think I ever come close.
Bu that isn’t all that happened. Betsy made little packets of Christmas candy for the first graders who participated with Betsy’s students in an educational project, made a tiny meatloaf for our lonely dinner, sent Fiona off to rehearsal for Nutcracker. It has taken me a long time to reconcile myself to the Christmas shows (in England, 19th century, the Christmas Pantomimes) and forgive them for their tawdry sentimental excesses. Fiona’s dance teacher, Donna Decker, is a member of the famous Folkine family of Russian Ballet, and deserving of great respect. All over the nation at this time young dancers are presenting these particular shows, and in the United States Nutcracker is the best and the most revered of them all. I can call up a mental picture of (can you believe it? I cannot spell his name. But you will know who I mean.) There is no note of disquiet in the comments anyway. All is serene.
Can you believe yesterday’s serenity has bled into today’s. It has become the cocktail hour again, the fire burns as brightly as ever; it is a new day, but still a same day, another same day, as we confront the cocktail hour sending the same message that I have been avoiding. So out with it. I’m going to get a new hip. There, now that I’ve said it, I feel a wonderful sense of relief. It is so much easier to shout it to the housetops than it is to slide secretively out of bed in the morning making sure no one gets a hint of your discomfort.
This afternoon Betsy and I went to the clinic for the consultations that will lead to surgery in January. Several of my friends (people in my demographic) have already gone through the experience and they all emerge from it in grand shape, maybe not climbing any moun tains, but walking to the Post Office, at least. I was struck by how different medical care is now from a century ago.
Iodine was the preferred antiseptic for skinned knees. Aged beef steak solved the concussion problem by reducing the swelling. Broken arms and legs were set quickly and painfully when the physician snapped it back into place and put on a cast. For a bad cold there was Vick’s Vaporub on the chest or a bath followed by wrapping in a hot towel called Hot Fomentations. For constipation there was always Fletcher’s Castoria, an evil tasting liquid, and castor oil for a stubborn case. And for problems with your insides you chose several possible remedies, Carter’s Little Liver Ills, baking soda, ginger ale. I don’t know much about any of them, except for the cold wash cloth on the forehead, the cozy hot water bottle, the need to stay in bed so as not to catch pneumonia or TB. And here was the food, milk toast, rice pudding, chicken broth. You felt cherished by your loved ones, who hung out around your bed commiserating, reading you stories or telling you some gossip well worth hearing. And when you finally rose from the sickbed you felt renewed.
It’s not like that at all anymore. I would go so far as to say some people are just a tiny bit irritated by someone acting a sickly, but after my experience this morning I believe there should be more of that. It could be just that lack of total kindness and sympathy that might cause someone a bit under the weather to get out on the internet and begin waving the credit card around. I suppose that if nobody wants to pay attention to you, you might just access White Flower Farms for perennials instead of a nice cheap seed house.
Of course there isn’t anything you can do about it anymore. Things change. In modern life science trumps and the poetry of medical care grows dull, even though, as Harry used to say, Sometimes the old cures are the best cures.