The Mend

by ericavanhorn

For any readers of this blog who received notification last week entitled RAINFALL RADAR, you have probably realized by now that this is a pre-Covid posting and it is a mistake. 

Apologies to all. It is human error mixed up with technology error. 

A small moment of Time Travel….

I was the first patient scheduled for surgery on a Monday morning. The surgeon visited me in my room before the operation. We both signed a paper document. He told me that he had seen a red squirrel on the weekend. He said it was the first one he had seen in the seven years since he has been back in Ireland. We both felt that this sighting of a red squirrel was an auspicious start for the week.
I have lived here for several decades, but I have never seen a red squirrel. I only see the pesky grey ones that were mistakenly imported as a wedding gift for someone many many years ago.

My wrists are thin and my hands are bony. Veins stand proud on the back of my hand. Rings, bracelets and nail varnish have always seemed to me to be a bad idea. I try not to call attention to my hands. I was lying flat on my bed in the hallway outside the operating theatre when the anaesthetist arrived. He was from somewhere on the Indian sub-continent. He introduced himself to me before he lifted my hands gently, first one and then the other. He said he had never seen such wonderfully large and visible veins. I said Yes. My hands are not beautiful. He held my two hands in his two hands and he replied, Ah no. They are beautiful to me!!


My first food was toast. First I was served one half a slice of white toast. The next day, I was given two half slices of toast. Underneath the toast rack lay a single slice of soda bread. Not toasted.

I set off to take a small walk down the corridor. I held onto the white rail against the wall. At the first door there was a woman standing a few feet inside.

She asked: How do I look?

It was 8.30 in the morning. The woman was all dressed in pink. Her nightdress showed pink underneath her dressing gown. The dressing gown was white and fleecy with pink swirls all over it. With her bright white over the knee anti-blood clot socks and fluffy pink slippers her outfit was completely coordinated. Her wispy white/blond hair was cut about shoulder length with a flyaway fringe. Her eyebrows were drawn on or maybe they were painted on with some dark brown product. The ends of these wide eyebrows were squared off with sharp corners. They were about the width of a magic marker. The rest of her face was heavily made up. The painted face and the fluffy pinkness failed to make her look youthful. The woman looked like a cupcake but not a fresh cupcake. Everything about her was a little mashed. She looked like she was missing some air.
She announced to me that she had had a hysterectomy. Her surgeon was doing his morning rounds now. She was waiting for him. Her surgeon was not the same man as my surgeon. Hers was a different surgeon than my surgeon. We had had the same operation but she informed me that her man was The Best. She inferred that my doctor and my entire procedure was no doubt sub-standard.
She asked again if she looked alright. I could not tell her that she looked okay for a mushy cupcake. She wanted to look nice for her surgeon. She wanted to please him.
I turned and I crept slowly back into my room.


The glass in my three windows is covered with some kind of a film. None of the other rooms have this coating on the glass. The film is translucent so it allows in a white light but it cannot be seen through. The film stuck onto the windows is cracked and distressed. The light is diffused. Soft and sort of feathered. The outside looks sharp and colorful through the narrow slots that are open.

When asked about it, one nurse suggested that the coating might be there to stop the intensity of the sun. Another suggested that perhaps the covered glass made the room appropriate for the respectful privacy due a nun or a priest.


It is quiet inside and it is quiet outside.  Except for the birds.

I hear birdsong through the open side windows.


First names are an important part of life in this country. Everyone is on first name basis immediately and it important that a name, once known, is used frequently in the course of a conversation. Many people manage to use the name of the person they are talking to in every single sentence. The regular use of Christian names combined with the fact that there are a few names that are used again and again and again means that there are a lot of women named Mary. Mary is a popular name here among the nurses. I can hear them at all hours calling to one another up and down the corridor. Mary shouts up to Mary and Mary shouts back to Mary. One Mary says Are you there, Mary?  Shall I wait for you, Mary? and Mary calls back in a cheerful voice I am coming Mary. I will be with you shortly, Mary. The patients are Mary and the nurses are Mary.

A woman comes around sometime during mid-morning and mid-afternoon and again before bedtime. She is offering coffee, tea or a glass of milk. I made the mistake of ordering coffee.  It is best to stick with tea.

I take small slow walks out of doors. I look at everything coming up. Slowly. Slowly. The walks are slow. The coming into flower is slow. The grape hyacinth. Flowering red currant. I do not really like the flowering currant but for a few weeks every spring it is a pleasure to see it.


Looking across to Anthony’s  field. It is steep.  The cows are there and they look like they might fall off the side of the hill and tumble down.


The hospital bed was delivered by a young man about to become a father for the first time.  He delivered the bed to us earlier than we had requested because he did not want to travel too far from home. He did not want to miss the baby’s arrival.  He was excited, so we felt excited for him.  We had ordered the hospital bed because our own beds are built so high off the floor.  The top surface of each platform is 36 inches off the floor. The mattress on top makes it higher.  It is normal for me to climb up and down with the help of a stool but after surgery I feared the climb might be difficult.  The hospital bed is now in the big room. I spend the day and the night seeing this room in a new way. The things on the wall opposite look like completely new things.  I lay here in a lazy daze of staring without seeing but seeing it all.


I can see the glass door of the cupboard. Reflected in the glass, I watch the cows walking by up in Joe’s field. That field is about three meters above the ground level outside the house.


Three pheasants under the birch trees at the bottom of the meadow.


I take nuts out to the birds. Slowly. I decant a small amount from the big bucket and I carry them out in a bowl. I thought I would walk around for the recommended 10 minutes but after feeding the birds I came back into the house and fell into the bed.


Derek the Postman told me Napping is the important bit.


There is a teasel bent on its stem down near to the ground.  It catches on my dressing gown each time I walk to the bird table.  Each time it happens I think that I will return with the secauters and I will cut it down but of course I never remember and leaning down to cut the thick stem is probably not a good idea anyway.


I rang Tommie from my bed.  It had been a while since we have spoken.  He told me that he has had his second jab,  and that he felt ill for three days after it. He said he slept a lot and that he was off his grub.  We agreed that this is not like him.  He interrupted the call and told me that someone was at the door.  He told me to wait.  He went away and I waited but he never came back to the telephone.  I had no chance to tell him I had been in hospital.

The last time I saw him, before my hospital stay, I took him some apple cake on a plate.  John Mangan arrived at the same time.  John was carrying his bag of messages from the shop.  We three talked at a distance from one another  with Tommie standing in the doorway holding his plate of cake.  He said he would just go and put the cake into the kitchen.  He went inside and he never came back.  John and I talked for a while.  We wondered if maybe Tommie had sat down to eat the cake.  It was cold so I decided to leave.  John said that he would wait a little longer and if Tommie did not return soon he would shout out. He promised that he would not leave until Tommie’s front door was firmly closed.


The sun pouring in through the skylight is knocking me out, but since I am already lying down it is fine to just go back to sleep.


We live in a valley. Everything in every direction is up or it is down. I started by making Figure Eights around the yard.  Now I have progressed to following the perimeters around buildings and bushes. I attempt to find all of the edges I can walk without any climbing. I like coming up behind the sauna in a way that I usually would not view it.


The daffodils that have been folded down lie with their faces in the grass. They might have been bent by a passing fox or a badger or a cat.  It might just be the weight of the blossom itself that topples the flowers. I pluck the bent ones and bring them indoors.


Pat assures me that I am Heading for The Mend.


I have lost track of days and I have lost track of weeks.  On the 12th of April we had a national opening, of sorts. The schools are all open again. And we are now allowed to go 20 kilometers from home for exercise– an extension of the 5 kilometers sanctioned up until now. Nothing more is open. All shops remain closed.  Life remains on hold. It is more than 100 days since this version of lockdown began just after after Christmas.  I continue to live in my own little lockdown within the lockdown.


I am learning the lines of my perimeter walks. There is a great deal to pay attention to and to notice every time I go around. I pride myself on observing all of the small signs of spring.  Everyday there are new poops from the fox. Why does she choose to relieve herself here in our yard when she has all of the surrounding fields to choose from? It must be some kind of territorial marking.  I see which branches have buds. I see forgetmenots and dandelions and whitethorn added to the visible blooms. Blue bells. A few apple blossoms. The promise of wild garlic flowers bursting out in another few days.  But I completely missed the completely flat tyre on the car even though I walked past it at least eight times.


This walking by foot feels like one long journey not a lot of small walks for the purpose of building up my strength.  I walk around and around following my own trail through the grass. It feels like one long walk.

As I stroll around at slow speed I remember the frequently quoted Antonio Machado line: Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking. I walk and walk and walk. The grass records my path.