Friday, December 18, 2009


Five weeks today since my brain surgery, and it's amazing how far I've come.

Some of the highlights for me:

The day of the operation, being told later that as soon as I was wheeled into the recovery room, I sat right up and began talking instead of taking the usual hour or more to slowly come out of the effects of the anesthesia. High from the drugs I was saying things like "I can see the atoms in your hand" and "I can feel your thoughts" to my family and friends who were there.

Later that evening and the next morning I was overwhelmed by the joy of being alive and by the work of kinetic art I could see out the window of the recovery room—a view of a portion of the East River with tugboats and other vessels working their way up and down it including under the Triborough Bridge and the overhead trams going back and forth to Roosevelt Island, part of which was also visible (I'm pretty sure, though at the time I could not name anything and felt I was looking out at a scene in Europe).

Those first days in my hospital room where my capacity for speech seemed "normal"—despite my inability to remember certain words and basic math and directions or telephone numbers etc. And the mix up with the hospital room phone because we talked the nurses into letting me take a room with no roommate the first night and then chose the bed nearest the bathroom instead of the one assigned to me so people calling either got no answer or the wrong patient when I finally got a roommate (two different ones over the five days I was in the hospital).

Coming home to my apartment and spending time with my 12-year-old son and my grown daughter and son and daughter-in-law and grandson. Eating hot, home-cooked meals made by my daughter or daughter-in-law or grown son or friend Sue who all cared for me during the first weeks night and day, and others who dropped off food almost every day, and digging these meals more than I ever had (craving, as I still do, warm home cooked meals to anything else now, no more of the daily salads I ate for lunch or microwaved frozen food etc.)

Sitting happily enjoying just being alive in between eating or visiting with someone during the early days when I couldn't do much anything else.

Being overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from around the country and even the world. Family and friends getting their church congregations and temples to pray for me, or entire convents full of nuns in one case. Feeling humbled and almost embarrassed by the attention and concern.

The first time I could read something, even if just simple directions on the hospital room wall, then reading at home an entire paragraph in a magazine but only able to read it out loud, not silently to myself. Then being able to do that too. Until now, I can read THE NEW YORKER with only the occasional need to reread a word or phrase and even that, this morning, seems to be almost gone (though I do tire more quickly from any of this).

The first movie I could watch all the way through and completely understand and not feel overstimulated or made anxious by—THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY.

The first TV show I could watch all the way through and enjoy—an episode of 30 ROCK, which as I pointed out at the time I had found the humor of a little too broad and obvious before the operation. The first time I could watch THE DAILY SHOW, only a few days ago, whereas before it was too layered in irony and Jon Stewart's presentation too rapid in his physical and vocal and intellectually nuanced interpretations despite the obvious broadness on the surface of his humor.

The first time my brain began to see whatever I looked at as one continuous reality and not a fragmented disparate collection of visceral data too complex and multiple to comprehend or deal with.

The day I got the reproductions of art by Fairfield Porter and Picabia that so mesmerized me with their beauty I felt overwhelmed with joy that I was capable of not only seeing them as complete and whole works of art instead of as atomized pieces of color and texture etc. but that I was able to just dig them as the creative bounty they represented that I thought for awhile might be denied me in my new mental state.

The first time I could listen to music and not feel disturbed by the separation of the musical elements in my brain—a multiplicity of dissonant notes and sounds and parts of sounds etc.—but instead could experience it as a continuous, integrated, complete and comprehensible musical experience.

There's more, but this is getting way too long for a blog post (as I guess is often the case with me, though not in previous weeks when I was struggling just to be able to write anything coherently) so let me end with this: being able to write this much without needing to make endless corrections on almost every word, but instead feeling that I'm ninety per cent back to "normal" with my typing this morning, light years beyond what I could do just a few days ago, let alone weeks.



Jamie Rose said...

I love that the convent of nuns prayed for you.

AlamedaTom said...

Hey Lal:

Maybe you should rent Young Frankenstein. The part where Igor (Marty Feldman) steals the "Abby Normal" brain seems particularly germane. There are tons and tons of hilarious bits in that flick, which I think would be good Rx for you. And, it's in black & white, just like those thirties movies you are yearning for.

Love ya,

~ Willy