Friday, September 10, 2010


I don’t know how to deal with ailments any more, let alone diseases.

All right, maybe I never knew how to deal with ailments, maybe even so much as discomforts, but I could fake it with the best of them.

I am convinced I don’t know any of it, now.

I mean, what if my stomach hurt? (Oh, all right, it does; but that’s way besides the point.).

Other people have stomach-aches. I did. They get cramps. Their stomach has been upset. They get, “doubled over;” “queasy,” “uneasy.” I had that on and off for years before the stroke. You take something—Pepto-Bismol—and move on, or, if it’s really bad, you stay in bed until you’re hungry.

Now…well, first of all, how would I know that a stomach ailment was real? I’ve now talked with people who weren’t there, had conversations with people with whom I haven’t had conversations. I have a recent history of imagined triumphs and vivid post-stroke phenomena that may have happened only in my imagination. I can’t even figure them out.

On what scale would I put, “I think something might be awry in my early digestive system;” or, “I think I’m going to be sick;” or, worse, “What was that sound? Did you hear that awful sound? Did that sound come from me? C’mon, now. Be serious, here.”

Also, I haven’t heard from my stomach (well, in a figurative way) in months (which at first seemed really rather cool, because my stomach, at least, almost never registered any delight or pleasure; only pain and nastiness. So, what was the loss?); and I have suspected it was among the parts benumbed by paralysis. Therefore, I surmised, as long as I didn’t shovel any hot peppers or old clams into it, a numb stomach might be advantageous.

Not so. You really want to know if your stomach is in a bad mood.

“What’s wrong with you?” I ask myself.

I don’t know. I think it’s my stomach.

“You look like you’re in pain.”

Yeah. I think that, too.

“Well, hit me with a symptom.”

It’s painful, and it’s growling, my stomach. And, look, it appears to be moving, not far, but, like, doing calisthenics. Over here [left], it hurts. But not over here [right]. Of course, that may be because I can’t feel anything over here [right]. I get the impression that if I could feel, it would be the same—pain—and I would really be in pain, twice the pain I’m in, now.

“What are you going to do?”

Read. And, I suppose, stay close.


Yeah, see if can forget about it. I can’t go for a ride. I can’t drive yet. Sold my car. Can’t run around the track—although, I never did that anyway. Can’t play with Silly Putty.

“You did that? Played with Silly Putty?”

No, of course not. And at that time, they called it, ‘Nutty Putty,’ anyhow.

“Why would you say that, about Silly Putty?”

I don’t know. Because I’ve never been here before. I don’t know what, ‘sick,’ is any more. If I got leprosy, would I be sick? Hell, I’ve already been dead. If a guy has an arm, and he gets acid on it, but it’s still his arm, is it a sick arm? Is it sick if it’s stabbed? Is it sick if it’s paralyzed? Look at my right arm. Does it look sick?

Vendor says: “Oh, yeah, that’s a perfectly good arm, never been broken, all the joints work; God knows it’s never been used to excess. Why, if it were wired correctly, it would be a damn near perfect arm. Belongs to the writer, there, the guy holding his stomach with his left hand.’ He can’t use it. He had a stroke.”

And, all right, let’s cut to the chase: let’s talk about dying, here. Do I stop having to worry about dying? Or start?

I got stomach pains, big deal. Teams of people with degrees up the whazoo spent hundreds of hours pumping and feeding and wiping and getting blood all over themselves and their shoes for I-don’t-how-long to bring me back to life, most of me. I’m going to complain, now, two-and-a-half-years-later, about a stomach ache? What am I, an ingrate? “Oh, poor dear. Look at him, all upsety-wetty. He has a stomach-ache.”

Shouldn’t I keep my selfish mouth shut about my little upset stomach?

“What if it’s fatal?”

A fatal tummy-ache.

“Well, what if it is?”

I guess there are two points of view, two at least.

One; I died of a tummy-ache. Weird, I guess, after all that melodrama in 2008.

Two: well, hey, I moved in with Susan. I got two years-a-and-half out of the heroes in the hospital. I saw great weddings I wouldn’t have seen, wrote letters I wouldn’t have written, learned a lot—a whole hellavalot—and attended my mother’s funeral. And I moved in with Susan.

“You said that.”

I know.


  1. Hey Ed
    Glad to see that despite you took a licken', you kept on ticken'.

  2. You're tough. I'm not, so much. Stomach aches can hurt. But maybe I'll try not to complain next time I get one. Doubt it, though.

    Loved the bit!