It's 5 a.m. on a cold, rainy Tuesday morning and warm thoughts of people I have recently encountered make greeting such a doleful day more pleasant than it might be otherwise.
This has always been an early wake-up house, partly because 9 p.m. is bedtime. I can only handle so much sleep, and sometimes envy those people who can chalk up 12 hours or more.
My Type A personality might also have something to do with the 5 a.m. get-up-and-go urge.The doctor warned me that my Type A disposition could be a detriment in the healing process which was required after extensive facial surgery I had three weeks ago.
Patience is required for the months of healing, and I must admit that this morning, like others, I woke up wishing that my head didn't feel as if one of those old rubber bathing caps were pulled tightly over it.
I remembered when my neck was loose as a turkey's, before the procedure pulled it so taut I sometimes wake up thinking I am choking. Such discomfort lessens when I hear comments like this from a friend: “I noticed your neck was really getting loose and wrinkled.”
For more than 20 years I have known Fifi Berry as a fine cook and restaurateur at her self-named restaurant. But it wasn't until surgery that I learned what a caring person she is. When I thanked her for her kindnesses and support, she just sloughed it off. “What are friends for?” she said.
Fifi encouraged me to attend the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association George Mancy Scholarship Dinner. I hesitated because of my slit eyes and puffy cheeks - and I wasn't even sure if I could balance on high heels.
But, I decided to face the music and wear dark glasses, and even applied lipstick to the cracked lips. Ouch. After all, I had bought a $100 ticket and could have won $20,000 in the reverse drawing, which was just about what this exciting senior experience cost.
A few people recognized me, probably more because of my voice than my face. Comments ranged from what courage the surgery took, which is absolutely right, to compliments from a couple of men who said they thought I looked pretty good before. So why hadn't they said so?
Acquaintances who must have expected to see the face of a prize fighter who had lost remarked about the absence of facial bruises. I credit that to post-operative treatments administered by aestheticians at a local spa. Their fingers danced lightly over my face like cat paws in a procedure that is designed to drain the lymphatic system.
But it was the compliments that came from Nancy Packo Horvath and Mary Sue Miller that evening that I accepted as gospel truth. “You're looking good, pal,” Nancy said. “I can't believe how the swelling is going down,” Mary Sue added.
Nancy knows as much about this face job as I do. As best friend she gets the world's largest gold star, and now, after three weeks of post-op, I keep remembering that she was there, always there, to get what I needed, to sit by the bed as I slept. She fed me. She kept bags of frozen peas on my swollen eyes. And when I left the convalescent center after three days, she gave me 10 days of five-star care at her house.
The array of foods she offered was overwhelming. Nancy made a daily trip into the country for fresh raspberries. She rushed to the store to buy grits when I said I was hungry for some. She had gallons of orange juice ready because it was healing. Of course, there was plenty of Hungarian food just a door away.
But when it came to medicating my eyes, a precarious procedure, Nancy was delighted when Mary Sue Miller, a nurse in Bryan and Montpelier, volunteered. She stayed overnight, on call, at Nancy's.
They called it a pajama party. I call it friendship.
Because I have been blessed with good health for many years, I had forgotten how much kind thoughts mean when you are ill. And because I asked for the surgery, I received far more attention than was deserved.
Telephone calls are always appreciated, even if the patient sounds incoherent. Cards are kept as friendship reminders.
I know that sending get-well greetings takes time: to get the card, to find the address, to write a message, to get a stamp, and to mail it. But take it from me, each card is appreciated.
The card that gave me the biggest boost was from Nancy Berry, who underwent similar surgery three years ago. Her thoughtful message assured that with patience and time, I won't have any regrets.
But of the flowers I received, the roses brought over by my neighbor, Vivian Guss, were the most meaningful, and brought a couple tears. Three weeks before the surgery, when I said I was going through with it, Vivian remarked, “Shame on you.”
I will always wonder if she was right.
Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.