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I am awakened sometime during the night by a deep yet familiar pain. The room in which I’m staying remains dark and the early morning sunlight won’t cast its glance towards it for another couple of hours. In the meantime, I rely on the shadows cast off by the glow of the television set to navigate my way in these otherwise strange surroundings. They flicker and dance along the wall and I feel for the door knob with a growing sense of confidence knowing that once the door is cast open, blessed light will cause the darkness to vanish and I will be able to find my way.

All the while, the pain massages me like an old friend. I take comfort in it as it spasms across my body and causes me to wince every now and then. There’s a rumbling in my belly that foretells what is going to take place.

I make it to the bathroom and glance at the army of prescription bottles that are lined up like soldiers in formation along the sink. A quick glance in the mirror to steel myself against the coming tides is needed and some reassurance is found. I nod at my image and whisper aloud to myself “Okay Bob, you can do this.”

The night had been a shaky one. Dreams were interrupted only to find myself encased in the glisten of yet another low grade fever mending itself. The sheets, while not soaked, were clammy and I reached out often for my glass of water and bottle of percocets to help make the chills and the rest of the night go away.

The rest of the house remains silent. Its occupants remain deep in sleep of their own as they plan what lay in store the next day and the next day after that. They remain clueless to the proceedings going on just a few doors down from them.

I close the bathroom door behind me.

It’s been a week to the day since my quadruple by-pass surgery. So far, its been a week of mixed feelings and emotions ranging from euphoria to despair and back again. I feel as if I have run the gamut only to have my emotions be driven by the winds and be scattered in more than one direction. Between bouts of depression and confusion, there are those of joy and clarity. Between what seems to be a constant dull ache in my chest there seems to be moments when I don’t have to stop what I’m doing in order to catch my breath. One minute, I’m on the mend and the next…..

I emerge from the bathroom and the pain has subsided. I feel a bit light headed as I make my way back to the confines of my room. I grunt and groan and shift myself back on to the bed and wait for sleep to carry me away again.

I awake a few hours later, the light of the early morning sun has replaced the shadows of the television set. I smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafting through the house and it beckons me towards it. I’m greeted by the smiling faces of the regular occupants of the house, both of them well into their morning routine. “Good morning”s are exchanged, coffee is poured and the morning paper is passed around. I rest my chin in my hand and smile a smile only I can see,

You see, a few hours earlier had been important ones for me. While those hours might not seem like a big deal to your average Joe, to somebody on the mend from what is considered major surgery, it is a big deal indeed. The moment of truth had come and I passed what I considered a major test in the healing process.

During that time, I had finally moved my bowels without the aid of a stool softener or some kind of laxative. The shit had once again begun flowing on its own.

Today, Anna is coming by to spend the night. It’s the first time I’ll have seen her since the operation. Then, I was still deep in the fog of anesthesia and I can barely recall our conversation. Now, I’m almost making a list of things to talk about. No sense in leaving things to chance. Her mom will pick her up in the morning and bring her to soccer practice, she’ll drop me off at my place and I’ll open the mail that has gathered in the week that has passed and curse the bills. I’ll play with “Jude” our cat and tell my story to my neighbors about what has transpired during my absence.

Tomorrow marks the opening of the Buckeyes college football season. I’ve been a fixture at my local watering hole for these kinds of events for as long as I can remember. This year, I have to take a pass. Another will fill my seat at the bar but I will watch the game from home and celebrate the victory or mourn the defeat. There will not be the temptation of beer and cigarettes and friends to tarnish whatever small amount of progress I’ve made.

My “victory” is ensured either way and my “normal” has changed…

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