Staring back at me from my desktop is a book given me a week before I underwent bilateral knee surgery. The book, The Purpose Driven Life, accuses me in my current medical state of indolence. Hour after less than purpose driven day I do little but sit in a recliner, my feet elevated, and watch television.
I've seen some advertisements fifty times (e.g., the Dell spoof, a family shanghaiing a computer technician to remove an error message on the home screen). I have watched Green Bay Packer Brett Favre throw one answered prayer (AKA, Hail Mary passes) after another week after week. I have assimilated vast quantities of trivia... and did you know that Marlene Dietrich sliced bologna in her own deli long before she smoldered in song in a cabaret?
I've come to a new appreciation for those who by reason of infirmity are confined to their homes. Sure, it's nice to have your meals served to you in bed or in the recliner. Sure, it's nice to be freed from kitchen chores and bed-making. Sure it's heart-warming to receive get-well cards. And sure it's a pleasant change of pace to have everyone feel sorry for you and be solicitous of your needs.
But - and just how big a "but" it is I really never previously understood in the years of my mobility - the sacrifice in personal independence can be dispiriting. No wonder that some who are confined to wheelchairs take on the demeanor of master sergeants to their caregivers. Still that's better than curling up and crying in self-pity... a pattern of action which has occurred to me from time to time lately, and I have less reason than most since I can envision my not-too-distant release from confinement.
Therefore, let me lead the cheers for those who accept their confinement with graciousness and never, well, hardly ever, let their frustration color the way they greet us and the rest of the world. Like dear friend and congregant Viola Harris: she spent her final years in a nursing home in East Hampton, but it might as well have been the wide open spaces of the western prairie where the buffalo roam, because from Vi there never was heard a discouraging word. Or David Mahoney, a young victim of ALS: despite the inexorable progress of his debilitating disease, he presented to his family and the world a cheerful face and a keen sense of humor that punctured gently any mordant sentiments sent his way. And more recently, John, my roommate at McLean's surgical sub-acute unit: I've already celebrated in another essay this ninety-three year old's determination to cope with the frustrations of age's fragility with a smile and consideration for everyone who came into his company.
One way or another these heroes and heroines of the human spirit have taken to heart the wisdom of the Golden Rule, about treating others the way we want to be treated. For who among us has very much interest in another's organ recital, those litany of ailments with which the afflicted too readily afflict the healthy? Oh, we may listen with patience and charity; but they, patience and charity, usually cover a strong inclination to boredom. Vi and David and John and all of the confined heroes and heroines of the human spirit have marked well their own reactions and have chosen to spare us the details of their surgeries and attendant agonies of the spirit.
God knows, I am not among their number, as any of the four essays on this website will testify. But, dear friends who have read this far, consider that advantage of my written organ recitals: you can always stop in mid-paragraph and I, not knowing your impatience with me, will not be offended.