Community Columns

When “I had a lobotomy” says it all

Dick Hagerty, post fall
Dick Hagerty, post fall

The last words I heard going out the back door: “Why are you going out barefoot in the dark without a flashlight?”

The next: “OK, lean back, hold the towel tight on your forehead; we will be at the emergency room shortly.”

Moments after the first admonition I had managed to trip over the edge of my backyard fire pit and pitched headlong into the steel rim on the far side. My forehead split open like a ripe watermelon. The trail of blood to the back door still lingers on the deck, the walkways and the porch.

The kindly woman at the hospital desk informed us, “You are lucky; the doctor on duty is one of the best stitch artists you will find.” Faint hope when you are seeing a ragged tear across the top of your face, but indeed good words. Because now, some weeks later, the scar already has begun to fade into the sea of wrinkles that already populated my brow.

For a week I looked a bit like one of Dr. Frankenstein’s associates. When people asked I simply smiled and said, “I had a lobotomy.”

Some smiled at the joke, and others were heard muttering something like, “Well, it’s about time.”

In the wee hours of the first morning after, sitting in my recliner at first light with my head throbbing, what walks by the window but a mangy coyote. I was not sure if I was hallucinating, or if he had come to take me away. First one I have seen on the property in a dozen years.

There are, I suppose, a number of lessons to be learned here.

First, you should always listen to your wife. She may sound a bit annoying at times, but a bit of listening is far better than a ton of pain.

Second, once you get past a certain age (yes, I passed a really big one last week, with an “8” in the prefix) it behooves one to stay better shod and not rely on memory for navigating in the dark. For that matter, navigating in the dark is not advisable at any age, but some of us macho types just insist on being brave in the dark, no matter the cost.

Finally, the new pain pills apparently are addictive, but using them for the first 36 hours was nothing short of miraculous. The stitch doc shot me full of painkiller when he sewed me up. “That should hold you until morning” he said, and an hour later the whole thing wore off and it was astonishingly painful. But, four pills were enough to get me over the worst of it. Having friends that had difficulty weaning off after surgery, I was anxious to stop before getting hooked on the stuff.

Two footnotes:

First, when I had my annual physical the doctor (who had just recently taken out the stitches) had to ask a series of “senior citizen” questions. And, of course the first one was, “Had any falls lately?” The second had to do with memory. I guess forgetting the flashlight and diving into the fire pit was all the answer he needed.

Second, when we got home from the hospital at 1 a.m. I looked around and said “You know, I was headed out to light those limbs and trimming in the pit. Anyone want to go out and light it for me?”

The looks I received were nothing short of priceless, with lots of head shaking and scornful answers. So, this time with flashlight in hand, and shoes on my feet, I took my aching self back into the yard and completed the task.

Dick Hagerty is an Oakdale real estate developer active in nonprofits. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.