Letter From New York 01 09 2016 “No man is an island…”

It is dark outside; the floodlights over the creek are glistening on the water and the snow from last night.  It is beautiful and peaceful.  There is a fire in the stove but no music plays.  I have lived in quiet all day.  I am thoughtful and introspective, having much to assimilate.

The last time I wrote a letter I was hoping to be “tickety boo” the next day.  I was not.  By 5 on Tuesday I was running a fever and by 9:30 I was 103.5 and rising.  Calling young Nick, he raced to the cottage, tumbled me into a car and got me to the hospital.

They admitted me with pneumonia but it soon became evident something else was going on.  The closest to knowing what that something else is, is that I was suffering from some kind of intestinal infection of an undetermined nature.

On Wednesday, I was to teach but my friend James Green was skyping in so class went on with another teacher as proctor.  It took an hour to compose a cogent email on my phone to the school and James to explain the situation. 

For four days, I was in the hospital bed, being pumped full of IV antibiotics.  They ordered a colonoscopy and the prep for that while hooked to an IV stand was a horror story.

I hoped to be out on Thursday but my temperature wouldn’t stay down.  It was a time of thinking and, truthfully, hurting, great emotion and being touched by the kindness of others.

My self perception is of one who helps and comforts others but is not much in need of help or comfort himself.  My brother is a doctor, my sister is a nurse and I was, for a time, a teacher.  All helping professions…  We were raised to give and not take.

But sometimes we need to receive and the last two months I have been reminded of that regularly, most sharply in the time I was in the hospital.  My brother and sister, God love them, conferred by phone, and my brother guided me through what to ask about and what to request.  He spoke to the doctors, letting them know there was a knowledgeable person watching over the proceedings. 

The respect in our community for our local hospital is, how can I say this kindly, low.  On Wednesday night, when I was feeling very low, and still burning with fever, Nick’s father phoned me and told me that no matter where I needed to go, they would find a way to get me there if I opted to leave where I was.  I started to cry.

I sent an email to the McCormick/Malones and my “niece-in-law” phoned me within minutes and I cried again.

During the endless night, I thought what if I had been a Syrian refugee and this had happened?  I would probably have died.

Being in a hospital is like being on a never ending red eye from LA to New York.  Never quite resting, always being woken by something or someone, inescapable sound at all times.  During the sleepless nights I binged watched “White Collar,” entertaining and not too demanding.

On Thursday, Lionel announced he was flying up from Baltimore.  Arriving Friday early afternoon, he came in time to take me home.  When he walked in, I said that everyone in the World Wide Web of Mathew thanked him and I cried again.

I haven’t felt this vulnerable since my ex and I split over ten years ago.  I had retreated into a quiet place where I could give but found it hard to receive and feel the affection so many have for me.

Nothing like a fever of 103+ to pierce the veil of stoicism.

John Donne wrote:  no man is an island.  And certainly not me…

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4 Responses to “Letter From New York 01 09 2016 “No man is an island…””

  1. Bruce Thiesen Says:

    Mat – I hope that you are on to recovery.

    We take so much for granted. One of the reasons I enjoy your Letters from NY however, is that you know that we all take things for granted. It’s clear from your Letters that you are grateful for everything that you have.

    Take good care. Keep the clarity and context.


  2. tombers Says:

    I will do my best to do that, Bruce. Was talking about that with my students this morning, especially context. And I am very grateful for the life I’ve led. I have had so many wonderful opportunities that might not have come to a kid from Minnesota, where 82% of the people born there, die there. 🙂 I am on the road to recovery. Four days now of normal temperatures and am eating solid food. All good for now…

  3. antheaschronicles Says:

    I hope you’re hale n hearty now and feeling much better. Stay warm!

  4. tombers Says:

    I am doing my best to stay warm and get better. Just say my primary care physician who thinks, as I do, I was sick and now I’m getting better. Still have to see the gastroenterologist next week but am definitely on the mend…

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