You’d Think You’d Know

You’d think you’d know you’d broken your arm.

I’ve had a bad 13 months. Started last winter walking dog in pre-dawn MetroPark. On the dark seldom used southern trail I stepped on black ice and went down faster than brain could follow — there was up, there was hard down, there was no inbetween.

Lying on the ice, my first thought was it’s freezing, if I don’t get up I die… but, can I get up? Am I broken? Of course I didn’t have my phone with me in case I needed help. So slow-mo pain by pain I get up, somehow functional, and creep back to light.

Weeks later in backyard I step on black ice again and wham my am fast flat. Slow creak up again, unsure I’m not damaged, take 1 step, go down again harder, slamming other side into frozen ground. This time pain’s so great I get nauseous, breakout in cold sweat.

Hobble inside, sit in chair, Lady says, “You Alright?” “I donno.” Check myself out pain by pain and it all seems to work.

Few weeks later I’m filling a five gallon bucket to water my illegal pot plants. I forget I’m 77 and not the SuperSmith I was, so lifting it out of the sink I hear a SNAP and hot pain sears my bicep.

Emergency Room doctor says no problem, I’ll be okay in 6 weeks.

5 weeks later I’m walking a 136 pound Golden Labrador (who weighs as much as I do at this point) who sees a neighbor’s illegal loose dog and charges sideways after it, wrenching my damaged arm.

I assume the intense pain is my torn bicep reinjury.

5 weeks later dog does it again, same loose dog, same damaged arm. Either the first dog charge or the second or both broke my arm.

I again assume dog reinjured my torn muscle, and my broken arm heals sideways, 90 degrees off, my bicep going horizontal instead of vertical.

For the next 5 months I have no use of left arm. I can’t do chores, can’t shovel snow.

Oh yes, in-between the torn muscle and the bone break, I contracted E Coli poisoning which went septic. 73% of the septic die. Doctor said I was very close. Lady saved me, said I wasn’t lucid when they took me in. And just to grind me down, during sepsis I was also dehydrated and anemic. Enough already.

One night there’s a knock on our door and I open it to a tall thin 65 year old black man with hedge clippers. He offers to do our yard work for a few bucks. I say sorry man but it’s dark now, too late today, but hold on I’ve been where you are and give him $10 and say come back when it’s light.

He said months later he was really angry when he knocked and my kindness touched him.

You know, he might have been an angel.

He came back next day and Lady had him do a couple hours work for $20 an hour.

Then he came back 2 days later and Lady says listen, you’ll come every Thursday, work 2 hours for $50.

I can’t do anything with one arm, so he’s a blessing. Been going on 13 months, every week.

Strange dude though, won’t talk about himself, just questions us, laughs a lot at my checkered past and cynical present. It becomes a ritual, he arrives around 10, I make us bad coffee, we drink it together, sort of talk as he avoids my questions, works for 90 minutes, Lady gives us all a hot lunch, we give him the money, and he leaves.

This goes on for months, then I seriously break my arm again. This time we’ve taken the dog to a dogwash, he poops on the floor, I scurry down 2 steps to get a poo bag, the non-slip rubber tip of my right running shoe mates with the non-trip rubber grip of the second step as I’m hurridly turning and I fly full force sideways into a display case and wall, me breaking the display case, the wall breaking me, lacerating my kidney.

Massive pain. Truly impressive. For the second time I’ve nausea and coverd in cold sweat.

Emergency Room shoots me up with one pain killer which doesn’t work, then another shot which doesn’t do it, until finally they hit me with Fentanyl which does the trick.

Doctors Catscan me, tell me arm was recently broken and healed wrong, then cut me open and put the bone back together by screwing 2 metal plates on.

Then they say by the way the Catscan shows a lump on your lung, we need to scan it. They scan the lump and say no problem BUT what is this thing peeping up behind your left kidney where nothing’s supposed to be.

Of course it was a big mother of a rare and aggressive sarcoma cancer.

Death snaeks in your mind
looks around
rearranges the furniture

First thought was I wasn’t going to be around to watch our kitten fearless Frankie grow up. He’s had so much affection that he expects love and acceptance as his due. I wanted to see what he’d grow into with nothing but love from us. The big thought I couldn’t think was Lady, losing us, her alone – some things are not thinkable.

Anyway we’re almost done here, or as life says, “Ha!”

They gave me 5 weeks radiation, then they went in and took out the tumor and anything it touched, which included my left kidney, some colon, a few unknown nerves, fat, muscle.

Here’s a link to a photo of what they removed. The man holding it is tall and has large hands. What he’s holding looks like a deformed flesh football from a David Cronenberg movie, or a large fleshpod Yeti heart. Have to warn you, it’s creepy, but in a cheap 1950’s sci-fi film sort of way.

See THE BLOB!!! I’ve named it Evil Smith, Evil Smith has been removed, so only Nice Smith remains. Look at photo at your own risk.

Evil Smith has been removed (i.e., abdominal cancer tumor)

So, 11 hour operation, 9 days hospital, so far 19 days home basically holding on trying to outwait the pains and weakness.

And yet this is good, I’m lucky. Had I not rebroken my arm, they’d not have accidentally discovered the tumor, and I’d be heading for the off ramp. Bad is good sometimes.

Back to our weekly 2-hour helper, Cornell. Can’t remember what he said as we were drinking our coffee, but it was something about my cancer that he could not know, and as soon as he said it, I instantly pinged “magic” and looked at him, thinking he knows stuff not yet said, might be one of those angels Lady and I’ve had help us past 18 years. Tried to trip him up again but no go. Kept watching him after that though. Strangely, he worked for Lady the 2 Thursdays I was in the hospital, then told her on my release day that he’d be gone for awhile, had to go to rehab for alcohol. He’s like the Lone Ranger, appears when needed, then rides off into the sunset before you can thank him. If he comes back, we’ll have something to talk about because alcohol was the hardest drug I ever beat, I bled to death from alcohol 32 years ago, came to in ICU, walked home 3 days later, haven’t had a drink since. Of course I did shoot a lot of cocaine and crystal speed and had a 6-month Nyquil habit, but all except cannabis, caffeine , and the ocassional mushroom ceased in 1999.

At the peak of my drinking (5+ gallons of cheap white wine a week) back in April 1991, I had ballooned to 275 pounds, looked like a fat gerbil who stuffed 30 pound of nuts into its cheeks. Sweated a lot. Finally settled to a comfortable 175 after going sober, but two years ago the cancer came and I’m down to 119. Look like a concentration camp survivor. Trying to gain weight but the tumor grew so big it pushed half my stomach into my chest, so when I eat, my chest stomach fills up quickly and jumps into acid reflux mode. I kid you not, we’ve got a clusterflux going here. I have some insane script writer going waaay overboard with my arc. Haven’t even mentioned my bad arthritis which hurts top to toe 24/7, and my scoliosis bent spine which curves around and out my skinbone frame to meet every chairback to be tortured. And of course causes massive pain at the base of the spine all the time. I mean come on, who writes this kind of story? Of course as far as “Why Me” goes, have to admit my past life has been less than exemplary, so I may have earned this Hell.

Best of all is my wife, Lady. She is another angel — no, not another, she is my love angel, my caring angel, my kind angel, my friend / partner / collaborator / favorite human angel. I’m alive because of her, she’s saved my life at least 3 times now, and this current rather excessive symphony of pain is worth it to be here with her. She is my magic.

This story reminds me of film director Luis Bunuel’s 1933 documentary Land Without Bread about a Spanish people surrounded by mountains who are so poor they have no bread. At one point the monotonous narrator who is piling one dread after another into an endless mass says in the winter the ground was so frozen they stacked the dead for spring burial. After awhile, so much narrated misery morphs in my head into a dry, droll Monty Python skit of horror heaped upon horror.

Laugh if you will. I do.

Wrote this today coming home.

Dead Man’s Curve
someday I’ll ride it honestly
right now I drive alive

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