My Brain Surgery, Part II

When Dr. Todd Hillman, my ENT neurosurgeon, told me my brain surgery had been scheduled for June 13, my instant reaction was, “Please tell me that’s not a Friday.” (It’s not.)

It’s not that I believe in superstition so much as that I don’t believe in tempting fate. It would have been like the time I was called to a car dealership to look at a used car – the make, model and mileage I had been looking for – that had just that day been traded in, and found that the previous owner had left a funeral wreath in the back seat. No way was I buying that car.

The fact that an acoustic neuroma had been growing in my head for 20 years or so, and that the only real symptom I have to live with is double vision, explains why there was not the same urgency to my surgery as there would if I had, say, an aortic aneurysm.

Dr. Bill Bartolovich had provided me with a plastic Fresnel prism stick-on lens for the left lens of my eyeglasses, a very clever device which optically corrects my double vision, allowing me to be functional. I can drive, watch TV, chainsaw – all the really important things. So, no real urgency because of the double vision, either.

Once the multiple medical specialists had determined that I should have and could have the surgery, the only thing left was to find a date on the calendars of Dr. Yu and Dr. Hillman when they would have nothing to do but my 10-hour brain surgery.

THE SUDDEN CHANGE from medical rush-rush to “see you in six weeks” allowed our lives to downshift from fifth to first gear. Suddenly, my wife and I found we had time to prepare, to do stuff. But, what stuff should we do?

Helpful as always, Honey made me a to-do list. I frowned when she handed it to me.

“What? You don’t like what I put on the list?”

“It’s not that. I just wish you hadn’t titled it ‘Fred’s Bucket List.'”

If this were a movie, I might have wanted items like, “go skydiving,” or “See Paris one last time” on my list, but this is real life, and in real life, on a farm, out here where we battle Nature and internal combustion engines every day, there are things to be done, and I’m going to be out of commission for four to six weeks after the surgery.

Honey’s bucket list for me looked like this:

– Do the rear brakes on the Toyota.

– Clean out the barn for the yard sale.

– Weed-whack around the pine trees.

– Plant the garden.

– Plant the other garden.

– Get the lawnmowers fixed. (Both are broken.)

– Get second book ready for publication.

OK, SO THAT LAST ITEM is kind of a bucket list thing. Publishing a book of my columns has been on my life list for about 30 years. I finally did it this winter, putting 50 columns into a paperback, “Worshrag, Shark and Seed.”

As soon as I got it done, I told my wife, “I want to get started on my second book.”

“But you don’t know if the first one will sell,” she said.

“Have a little faith, Honey!” I said.

“Well, you have to sell at least enough to pay for printing the first one.”

We had this big fight about when I could publish my second book. Not knowing I would soon be diagnosed with a brain tumor, I tried using the “I’m not going to live forever, you know” argument. That didn’t cut any slack with Honey . . . at the time.

Now, the brain tumor gives me an excuse for everything. If I forget something, if I make a wrong turn, I just point to my head and say, “It’s the tumor.” If I want to do something, and Honey objects, I just point to my head.

“All right, all right, I guess you can go ahead with the second book,” she said grudgingly.

I was working on the second book anyway – 100 columns this time – and it’s almost ready to go to my editor.

I ADDED ONE ITEM to the list Honey made for me: cut up Skip’s tree.

Skip is a lifelong friend. This really, really huge maple in his yard blew down. I have five chainsaws and I’m really good at it.

Honey was a little miffed. “It’s only 10 days ’til your surgery,” she said. “Do you really think you should spend one of those days cutting up someone else’s tree?”

I tried to explain it to her, but didn’t do a very good job at the time, so I’ll explain it here: I can’t think of any better use for my time than helping out a friend.

At least when it means I get to chainsaw.


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