And You Thought I Couldn’t Get Any Crankier (1)


Cantankerously Yours

And You Thought I Couldn’t Get Any Crankier (1)

By Wendell Abern

A few days before Valentine’s Day, I awoke to see a few nurses skittering past my bed.

I blinked. Then another nurse scurried past, going the other way.

I tried to yell, “What the hell is going on?” and it came out as “Grzmblplf?”

“He’s awake!” I heard my son shout. My son?

My son lives in Long Grove, a Chicago suburb.

“Dad?!” my daughter yelled. My daughter?

My daughter lives in north Chicago.

I looked around. More nurses. Confused, I raised myself on my elbows.

My kids, (aged 59 and 57) both in tears, hugged me simultaneously from opposite sides of the bed.

“What’s going on?” came out as, “Whangon?”

“Dad” my son said, “Dad, we’re so glad you’re still with us! You had a seizure”.

“You’ve been heavily sedated since January 26th.

Amy said through tears, “Try to talk slowly. You haven’t used your voice for weeks”.

“It’s a world record!” Joel said, “You’ve never gone more than three minutes without

I spoke very slowly “What …day…today?”

February 12th,” Amy said.

My mind still working, I did some quick math.

Somehow, I had just lost seventeen days of my life. Seventeen days, gone!

My crankiness meter moved up a notch.

When a seizure happens, your brain misfires, and your whole body goes haywire.

To this day, no one knows what happened.

They had found me on my living room floor, unconscious, my head bleeding.

I have one of those life alerts, called “Lively,” and apparently had had the wherewithal
to press the emergency button. Everyone agrees that I remember nothing of it.

The medical team had responded in minutes, called the Fire Department, and an
ambulance then toted me off to Florida Medical Hospital. I have been in rehab, in one
place or another, ever since.

First stop was Health South, an outstanding facility, which to this day is trying to
recover from my stay.

My kids, who had already done a miraculous job of taking care of my entire life,
had seen to my entrance requirements, wheel chaired me into my room. There, a nurse
awaited me with my rehab garb, which included support hose.

“What the hell are these?’ I asked.

“Support hose. They help your blood pressure.”

“How the hell are you supposed to get them on?” I asked, struggling with the left leg.

“Same way you put on panty hose.”

“Oh. Thanks. That clears up everything.”

She helped me don both pair.

“Can I get a stripper pole?” I asked.

She giggled. “No. That wouldn’t be appropriate.”

“Why not? I could put on a show every afternoon. We could charge $25 a pop and split
the proceeds.”

When you almost die, you gradually learn of the anguish suffered by all those close to

I’m sure I received more get-well cards than the Pope when he got sick.

And for weeks, all of my Bridge partners and half the bridge world in South Florida,
had been peppering my son & daughter for news of my condition.

Most noteworthy, I had awakened the inner Jewish mother of all my dear friends at my
Unitarian Universalist Congregation, River of Grass. Especially those of Gary & Karen

Aware of my sophisticated tastes, Gary and Karen showed up my third day with what
they know I consider a gourmet dinner: prime cheeseburger, with fries, and a chocolate
shake from Steak & Shake.

The author, scarfing down his cheeseburger. A nearby nurse exclaimed, “When I saw him wolf down that first bite, I had to time him. He didn’t devour it, he inhaled it! Eleven seconds! I’m calling Guinness!” (Photo by Karen Gonzales)

My River of Grass friends deserve mention here.

They picked up my kids at the airport and drove them back when they had to return to
Chicago. They chauffeured them all over Ft. Lauderdale and Sunrise; they took them to
lunches & dinners; they ran errands for me; they contacted doctors and dentists and re-scheduled appointments for me; they answered phones and helped my next door neighbor sort my mail.

It was like I had hired an entire corporation to manage my life.

Nothing dramatic happened during my first week at Health South, primarily because
my legs were like spaghetti noodles.

However, I was taken aback by some of the activities Health South had planned for me,
scribbled on a chalkboard hanging on my wall.

“Could you please explain to me what ‘Therapubic Dining’ is? “ I asked my nurse.

“What what is?”

“That note up there says, ‘Therapubic Dining’.”

She blinked, looked where I pointed & tried (unsuccessfully) not to laugh. Before she
erased it, she called in a few other nurses & they made a cause celebre out of it.

“It’s supposed to say, ‘Therapeutic Dining’,” one of the other nurses explained.

“Whoever wrote that left the ‘e’ out, & the’t’ looks like a ‘b’. That’s when certain
patients get together to eat.”

I’m quite certain that incident will make it into the Health South Hall of Fame.

Many other strange, humorous & outrageous events have occurred during my
convalescence, but they will have to wait for my next column. Which will also include
some of the antics perpetrated by Amy and Joel.

My poor kids! They have been remarkable and outstanding in their support and efforts in my behalf.

Which doesn’t mean they have escaped my new elevated level of crankiness.

Cantankerously yours,
Wendell Abern