• Harry Jensen

May 19, 2020

I haven’t posted in a while, merely because of the constant, horrifying pain in my body. Really, where do I get off making these ridiculous excuses? What happened to the value of a brave face?

I have a dash of scoliosis and a sweaty-brow dollop of chronic back pain. It doesn’t help that I make my lover walk on my back twice a day, crushing it for a smidge of relief. I’ve been worrying that the floor of my ribcage will collapse under her feet, and suddenly she’ll find herself ankle deep in my absent viscera. That’s a very difficult manslaughter case to find a precedent for.

Being in pain is a double bummer. For one, of course, the agony that leaves me unable to sit, stand, think, or write anything recognizable as a human thought. Besides my pain, though, I also think about my father’s.

As the cancer spread, the tumors lined my Dad’s spine caused immeasurable pain down the course of his back and neck, squeezing tighter and tighter until they had to be removed through a chest-deep full-frontal surgery. His surgeon could have knocked on the back of his ribcage, from inside of him. Eventually, they wound tighter until they choked his bottom into paralytic nothingness, and not long after he followed suit, as if the cancer had compressed and compacted him into an oblivion too small for the world of being.

It hurts to remember his pain through mine. I shake when I think about it, and the worry lines blooming around my eyes start to seize as I imagine a pair of dripping red hands carving away at my father’s bones, inches from his exposed and throbbing bits and pieces. Oh jeez!

When I get through that grisly part of my imagination, I do start to feel other things. Some humility for one. I walk around wincing and cursing the world, but, when my father got out of his surgery, he could barely move. Every day, my brother or I had to wrap him in a turtle shell to keep him from moving. He needed the back brace to keep his spine from moving at all, not even a twist or a glance behind the shoulder. A couple hunks of titanium lay where three of his vertebrae once sat, and, apparently, it really smarted. Dad was not throwing himself on the sofa for pleas of attention.

I do also feel connected to him in it, partly because my thoughts gravitate towards my father’s pain and sickness when I am ailing. Pain can be a learning experience, not that I’m advocating for masochism. Certain burdens are doled out, and it’s easy to curse the world, but there are other attitudes. I sometimes like to think of myself as Atlas, or Sisyphus, or Jesus Christ if I’m feeling really self-important, and I try to pick myself up and remember the eternities of lore that await the stoic sufferer. If my lover one day crashes through my aching spine, and I end up on a slab with a gloved hand prodding my spine, I hope that the mortician thinks I’m wearing a brave face.

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