Thursday, May 9, 2019

the tipping point?

"It seems that I am cutting off more toes these days," the surgeon mused as he regarded the longest toe of my left foot yesterday as we moved, doctor-fashion, towards an amputation date of my own. There's a wound on that toe's 'knuckle' and it is in a place that is unlikely to heal over. And as your grandmother observed, "a stitch in time saves nine:" not cutting the toe off might lead to worse infection and the amputation of more than the toe.

I wonder if all doctors hit a tipping point in their practices -- the point between keeping the patient healthy as for a longer life -- and the recognition that death is part of life and if you can't handle that, you're in the wrong profession.

The whole discussion was delicate. Who knows how anyone will react to the notion that an appendage that has come so far must now be removed as a precursor to death. It's all diabetes-related in my case. Actuarily, I have four or five more years to go. Propping up what is bound to decline takes on an increasingly over-energetic effort ... i.e. a fool's errand. Healing and energizing and kissing things better is a young (wo)man's sport.

Anyway, the 45-minute operation (a 'procedure' dontcha know), is likely for sometime later this month.

I wonder what "cutting off more toes these days" means to the surgeon. What does that imply about his skills and experience and the health care system as it currently exists in his mind?

Going to the the doctor at 3 p.m., when I am used to taking a nap, took some of the starch out of me. Am I fretting (and ergo sub-rosa fatigued) in ways I don't know behind a curtain I can't see? I was tired when I got home. Didn't feel like eating. Napped. Ate peanut butter and crackers. I don't feel especially anxious that I know of ... but then, what do I know?

The wound-clinic doctor, when she raised the possibility of amputation before shunting me to the surgeon, said en passant, "you don't need that toe much anyway." OK, but now that this old companion is fixing to move away, I wonder what it was doing there all this time.

And time seems to slip away lately. There are occasional hallucinations, which sounds fancier than it is in fact -- a man, quite clear and whole, across the room. He has a somehow mildly disfigured mouth. He poses no threat or joy, he's just there. Or a small bird behind some black-string netting ... once again, clear as a bell and yet placed in the room where where was not netting or bird earlier. No threat or joy or noise. It takes a few moments to reorient the room, the man, the bird ... and then they're gone. And time itself -- was it ever all that necessary?

If you see things that are and see things that aren't, how much difference is there really?

The sun's out. Air is warming. The tree of the hanging squirrels across the street has burst out in its Japanese maple red and plays with the passing breezes. There are daffodils. I figure if you're gonna make shit up, it might as well be stuff you like ... sun, air, Japanese maples, tousled hair, trying to get the mourning dove's four- and six-note calls fixed in my mind.

I figure as long as I don't do something harmful or hurtful, things are basically OK.

Doctors or anyone else for that matter: Over the tipping point. A tipping point suggests two ends to a teeter-totter -- a weight at one end and a weight at the other .... balancing, toying, smiling.

Two ends.

"Ends" is a bit bizarre.

Sort of like "two."

Was it Rinzai or his teacher Obaku who chastised the Zen monks in his care: "Your who problem is, you do not trust yourselves enough."?

Two ... one ... poof!


  1. This is one of your more engaging posts, even though it is lacking in details regarding process. It begs the question: “How the hell did things get this far?”

    Given the philosophical speculation and spiritual quote about self confidence, it is likely due to some rather embarrassing details of a set of human weaknesses, one might suspect. Usually involved are poor judgment and / or careless follow through.

    In any event, if the story is based on truth, I hope your toe surgery goes well. Take good care!

  2. Please postpone the poof, Adam. I would miss your ponderings. (Alliteration by accident.)