Page 99 from Love and Grace
By Eric Hammel
Reprinted with permission. © 2010 Eric Hammel, all rights reserved.
Book Description: It’s 1984, and Marty Weiler is back in town for his twentieth high school class reunion. Happily married to the brilliant and beautiful Sonia, Marty finds himself trapped in a profound midlife crisis brought on by one more near-death experience than he can handle. He impulsively gets into the spirit of “going home” for a week by calling his high school sweetheart for the first time since she broke up with him in 1965. As Marty prepares to meet the alluring Glenda for lunch, he ruminates on their history together, beginning with their first encounter at summer camp in 1961. As things turn out, Marty’s full-body contact with his past leads him to a clear understanding of where and how life has led him by the nose and what he must do to live the remainder of his days with love and grace.
just laying around and staving off boredom by overeating. As the leg surgery
drew closer, I felt like I was going to explode. I was put on a diet as
soon as the new leg cast was on. The doctor in charge of that part of my
recovery didn’t care as much about the unbelievable discomfort as he did
about good blood flow. (“We’d hate to do all this work just to have you go
necrotic on us.” Here’s a word to look up while you’re trapped in a body
cast: “necrosis.” Use a medical dictionary; it’s ever so much more detailed.)
Also, after many X-rays and consultations leading up to the leg surgery,
they decided it was safe to free my good right leg, which had been
swathed in a cast to help immobilize my spinal injury, because it turned out
to be “only” the blown disc. If I had even had a cracked lumbar vertebra, it
had healed without complication. In the end, I had my left arm in a cast
over the elbow and my left leg in a full cast that extended around my hips,
and was held in traction.
They told me things would be looking up. So, let’s see what my diary
has to say: “We’re seven weeks and counting. New cast on my left arm
following minor surgery, new cast on my left leg following major surgery,
possible additional surgery to remove the blown disc and maybe fuse my
spine. Still trapped in bed with my leg in traction. Still crapping into a
bedpan (try that with your leg swinging from ropes). Peeing into a gizmo
that looks and acts like a rubber but has a long tube attached to a container
on the floor. I’m on a putrid low-calorie diet. Help!"
Oh, yeah, life was sooooo much better now.
But wait! There’s more.
Because of my status as research specimen in a teaching hospital, I was
awakened around the clock by waves of med students, interns, and residents.
Poked and prodded incessantly, asked the same questions over and
over. It got to the point at which I responded to any sudden awakening by
automatically reciting the litany of medical terms the doctors mumbled to
one another. I even incorporated the most-used sound in the medical lexicon
—"Hmmm"—in all the appropriate places.
Heaven was being taught to pee into a metal urinal. Freehand.
Once both right appendages were more or less free from the casts and
my left arm was a little free, I took to operating my own pulleys when I felt
the need to move around a little, especially to get pressure off that blown
disc. This self-help modality (Hmmm) earned some rebukes from the nurses
Eric Hammel is the author of forty critically acclaimed non-fiction military history books and scores of articles. Love and Grace is his first novel.
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