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Why I ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’

For the second protracted time in less than three years, I found Etta James getting Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” perfect because I am still under two sets of doctors’ orders “Do Nothing!”

And when between them they have done four detached retina surgeries on me in that time – covering two eyes, they mean, “nothing.”

Not looking for “good thoughts,” “warm wishes,” prayers, “likes” and certainly not   emojis, but “nothing” from the surgeons means “nothing.”

And it’s not personal – to you.

That’s why I am turning down invitations to meet for coffee, lunch, dinner, go to a ballgame, concert, accept a speaking engagement [canceled three paying ones], take on work projects that pay well [spelled out the problem on two of those even before the last surgery, which came four weeks to the day after the third because I detest people who leave anyone hanging or promise what they may not deliver].

I doubted whether I could deliver. ‘Fess up and give them time to find someone else.  No one, and I mean no one, is irreplaceable. Pure arrogance to think, believe or act otherwise.

So rather than explaining over the phone, in reply e-mails or FB messaging to more questions, here’s what’s gone on, going on and will continue on.

Starting at the beginning:

What did I do to set this miserable chain of events in train – nothing, outside of being near-sighted, with an astigmatism, blue-eyed, blonde-haired [as a kid] and old. I fit every niche category that eye surgeons have for detached retina candidates.

How quick can the vision go?

Less than four hours in the last instance.  Couldn’t see either hand, but the tips of the tallest fingers less than a foot from  my face in less than four hours.  My nose lost in a deep haze that stayed for more than three weeks even after the surgeries.

You can stare into my eyes as friends and relatives have and still do, and they assure me they see “nothing” out of the ordinary.

I assure them everything is out of the ordinary and will continue that way into an indefinite future.

As I wrote, the doctors’ “nothing” is another matter. It too, in various shades of deep warning and chastisement, will continue into the future.

Forget driving. Walking, are you crazy!!!!

Moving 250 yards about the house is 200 too many.  Just stir enough not to have a blood clot, that’s the command or more laser surgery and/or blindness. This, to a guy who has been going a gym at least every other day for more than 40 years.

Oh yeah, that gallon of milk, think before lifting. Don’t load or unload a dishwasher.

With all this non-exercise, I have lost more than 10 pounds.  The reason for the drop is simple: fat weighs less than muscle.

I’ve grown to hate “books on tape,” which I used in the past to get through maddening commutes {and there are no other kind]. They move too slowly, more creeping than rush hour traffic.

Two recent concessions from the docs – ease slowly back into watching television, most of which I stay away from, especially cable news and even more slowly into reading – of any kind. 

And don’t read too much when you finally can. The Post and NYT online have not and do not hold my interest or attention the way  their older print siblings do, so I breezed through them on high zoom focus.

As for that next book project, forget any travel – even to such exotic places as Nashville, Tennessee. As for the current one, pretty much keep it on hold.

Let’s reduce the situation to its basics.

Stay out of crowds of any size.  Attend a conference of 200, and here comes the quote, “I wouldn’t do that,”  so just passed up one I wanted to attend, registered for and put my money down for.

Riding Metro in the non-rush hour, flat-out “no.”  The jostling of people and the jerking of the stops and goes.

“Nothing means nothing.” Nietzsche would be proud. The docs have advanced nihilism far beyond values and meaning.

So you say, get plenty of rest.  Docs don’t want that either.  For a week or so, sleep sitting up.  Hell, I can’t sleep on an airplane in business class. Eight hours of lying down is more than enough.

I agree with the “too much” rest.  Think mind-numbingly boring, at best.

In short, I need to be awake – but certainly not about. The “not about” is the dagger in the heart.  Vegetate or get angrier and angrier.  I follow the no self-pity but angry route. Unfortunately, Lillian can attest to that.

If I want to go anywhere outside the house [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 master murderer has more freedom of movement around a Gitmo solitary cell than I do in Fairfax], I have to rely on someone else.

I hate asking anyone for that at any time.  Relying on others’ kindness or sufferance is demeaning. The grandkids expect it. I absolutely hate it.

I have for decades asked for help when I need it.  Those who know me have seen it repeatedly, if I am lost, I will almost immediately stop and ask for directions.  I curse making the same dumb decision over and over again. Fix the problem!!!

I also write those directions down — never try to memorize every twist and turn.  I have been doing that since I was 17 on a cross-country trip from Chicago to Seattle to Los Angeles and back. It only took two misadventures [being totally lost in a Washington State rain forest– one by myself, the other by two of my fellow travelers to learn that lesson]. 

How long does this “do nothing,” “be careful,” “the next one is just around the corner” go on?

The first two rounds in the left eye fell just short of a year – at a time when I had to proof a book and create an index, always a challenge.  With half an eye and immense and dogged help from Lillian and a friend, the work got done before deadline.

It’s  less than four months for the latest rounds [and since the last fell immediately behind number three take off a month].

Surgeons say four months plus, and retina is reattached.  Three years and nothing happens, might be out of the woods and in Grandma’s house. Didn’t make it the last time. 

So those are these reasons, I am “Not Getting Around Much Any More,” and thinking Etta and Duke.

Right now and for the [forgive the word] foreseeable future, Etta James’ “Blinded by Love” and the Rolling Stones’ title of the same name are off my playlist.




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