May 26, 2020


Editor’s Note: John wrote this essay in mid-April.

• By John F. Chisholm •

I had surgery on my shoulder March 1st, repairing a large tear in my right rotator cuff.

I’m still feeling the after-effects. That’s all too true. They’re no fun, either. That’s true as well.

Of course I’ve had physical therapy. In addition, I’ve been religious about repeating the exercises they’ve given me at home at least twice daily. My range of motion has returned, but a great deal of pain still lingers.

Worse, painful or not, I still can’t use my right arm in any but the lightest of activities. The repair remains too fragile for heavy effort.

More horrible still, it will be another four months before my tendons will be pronounced “healed” and unlimited use of my arm can resume.

All of that certainly seems a burden.

Still, I mention it as a necessary preamble, not as a cry for sympathy. Today, a Truth stands stark in my mind: I never guessed at the mental taxation inactivity levies. I never came close. Properly weighing that factor simply didn’t occur when I consented to this procedure.

That’s right. Set aside, apart from the surgery, it’s the inactivity that has been the worst obstacle. By far. It’s been utterly and completely ghastly. There have been and remain dozens and dozens of important, nay, essential projects that have gone undone: Next winter’s wood supply, pruning our apple trees, leveling the drives, emptying birdhouses, preparing the gardens, readying our equipment for the season ahead and so on — and on and on — that I’ve been unable to tackle one-handed. Short of devolving to obscenity-laced phraseology, it’s impossible conveying the depths of my feelings on that inability.

The experience has given me enormous respect for handicapped individuals. My mother, just for example, had polio. That confined her first to crutches and later in life to a wheelchair. In retrospect, I’m amazed by how calmly she handled the unavoidable restrictions on her activities. She suffered for years, contracting polio in 1959, essentially dying from complications of post-polio syndrome in 2005. That was 46 years of living with the disease.

Here I’ve gone nuts after a mere seven weeks. But, even stranger, it was her insistence on individual productivity that I credit as the source of my own. How ironic, how humbling, finding inspiration from such a source on such a subject.

The result?

I’ve pounded my keyboard these last months, one of the few activities officially sanctioned as a post-surgery activity, trying to live up to Mother’s memory.

I rewrote a book. That’s right: 379 pages and more than 87,000 words. Given the time constraints, it was a project and a half.

Never mind any of that. I’ll still sing the praises of unrestricted activity to the heavens should I remain living long enough for it to finally arrive: Hallelujah! Oh, Happy Day.