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Mom’s Wrist Surgery

            The first thing I thought of when Mom told me she would be having surgery on her wrist (outpatient for Carpal Tunnel) was – who’s going to cook? I cook once in a while, but I generally don’t have the energy to do much of it, and with all of the extra chores I’d be responsible for with Mom’s right (dominant) hand out of commission, I was worried we’d starve. Or have to live on peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, or something.

“Peanut butter sounds good to me.”

            I’m sure I was also in a panic about the risks of anesthesia, and problems with the surgery itself, and Covid, and Mommy is going to die and leave me all alone! But on the surface, mostly, I was worried about the food. And having to take the dogs out for all four walks each day, especially first thing in the morning. Ugh, and I’d have to wash dishes and fill and empty the dishwasher, and vacuum and clean, on top of doing the laundry and the food shopping as usual. Just thinking about it all was exhausting, and Mom was (selfishly) just worried about her potential pain, and how would she survive without sewing until her wrist healed. Harrumph.

            (Don’t worry, we went to the freezer section of the supermarket two days before the surgery was scheduled and loaded up on cauliflower crust pizza, and veggie stir-fry’s, and ice cream. I’m sure that’s what you were most worried about.)

            I don’t think of myself as lazy, per se, but I do get very grumpy about doing chores. Mostly I curse quietly to myself. But not always.

            Of course, as we got closer to the day of the surgery, and all of the prep work was done, we were both getting anxious about the day of: Mom about the surgery itself and the potential pain in the aftermath, and me about the driving. I always get nervous about driving to new places, or to places I haven’t been to in a while. And I would have to drive early in the morning (originally we were told she’d have to be there by 7:30, but in the end it was a more reasonable 9 AM).

            Mom has a map of Long Island (and all of New York and probably the Tristate area) tattooed on her brain; me, not so much. I drive because I have to, and I resent it. It just seems like a game of Frogger brought to life, except that I don’t identify with the frog who keeps stupidly trying to cross a busy street in the middle of traffic; instead I identify with the poor drivers who can’t dodge the enormous frog in the road, and have to feel guilty when the frog goes splat.

            But, once we got going on the morning of the surgery, I realized that I mostly knew the route. I couldn’t picture it on paper, or by the street names, but in person it looked familiar. I was sort of relieved that the Covid protocols prevented me from going into the hospital with Mom, because if I had to sit there doing nothing but worry for hours I would have been swamped with anxiety. But I also felt guilty for dropping Mom off like a package at the front door, and I worried about her the same way I worry when I have to drop one of the dogs off at the vet instead of going in with them. What’s happening in there? Will Mommy/Ellie/Cricket/Butterfly/Dina ever come out again? Why didn’t I go to medical/veterinary school so I could take care of these things myself?

“Could I go to medical school?”

            As soon as I arrived home, the dogs insisted on going out to pee again, and to sniff Grandma’s footsteps along the walkway. Cricket gave me dirty looks for the next few hours, because, clearly, it was my fault Grandma was not home, and I could never be trusted to leave the house again.

            I was too anxious to take a nap, so I worked at the computer while I waited to hear that Mom was ready to come home. Mom had said the surgery would be over by around one o’clock and that she would call to let me know when to pick her up, but I didn’t hear from anyone until after two o’clock, and the wait felt more like a week than just an extra hour. I imagined every possible disaster, including: problems with the anesthesia, accidental amputation and catastrophic blood loss, a sudden outbreak of Covid taking over the whole hospital, a bomb, a meteor, aliens…My brain can do a lot in an hour.

            But a nurse finally called and said that everything went fine and I could come in an hour or so to pick Mom up. Of course I left early, because I was afraid I’d get lost, or stuck in traffic, or something, and I called Mom’s cell phone as soon as I arrived at the front of the hospital. She was rolled out in a wheelchair ten minutes later, and I worried when the man guiding the wheelchair said that I should help her into the car and make sure she didn’t fall, as if she was much more fragile than usual, but it turned out that he was just being extra careful. Mom’s hand was wrapped to the size of an oven mitt, and she was a little tired and dizzy, but otherwise not too bad.

            When we got home I found out about more of my duties, including medicine-bottle-opener, and ice-cube-bag-filler. I got used to filling both of our ice cube trays every few hours, and then pounding them on the counter to try to make the ice cubes come out. Ice cubes are stubborn creatures, until they break free, and then they can really fly.

            After seventy-two hours I was able to drop the ice-cube-breaking and replace it with Mommy-Watching, because Mom seemed to think she could do all kinds of things with her wrapped hand that she clearly was not supposed to do, like creating power point presentations. Each day, I had to watch her more closely to make sure she wasn’t secretly carrying heavy packages or chopping vegetables. She found the whole thing very frustrating. And boring. And clearly I was the meanie keeping her from doing anything fun.

“Don’t be a meanie.”

            After ten days I drove her to her follow up visit with the doctor and, since Mom did not want me to go in to the appointment with her, I asked her to get a clear plan from the doctor for how she could gradually return to normal activities. I sat in the waiting room watching a live action Chipmunk movie that I will never be able to unsee, and eventually she came out with a much smaller bandage on her hand and a smile on her face. It seemed that the doctor had said the most wonderful thing that a doctor could say: sewing is good therapy. As soon as we got home she was on the computer telling all of her quilting friends that the doctor recommended that she spend MORE time sewing, and they all cheered.

            We still had a few frozen meals left, but Mom was eager to get back to cooking. By the next afternoon she had prepped a soup for the slow cooker, walked the dogs on her own twice, and was planning to go out and do some errands; because, where my instinct is always to rest, hers is to DO SOMETHING. I had to intervene and drive her for the errands so she wouldn’t overdo it on her first day back in action, and then I really needed a nap. Watching her do so much stuff is exhausting.

“For us too.”

            It will be a few months before her hand is back to full use, and I’m expecting many tantrums as Mom struggles to survive on only five or six hours of sewing a day. (Don’t worry, the dogs and I will do our best to avoid the living room when Mom gets grumpy. I’m sure that’s what you were most worried about.)

“Is it safe to go back to the living room yet?”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

105 responses »

  1. Glad that Mom is back at it, and that you are too. Very smile-inducing piece, Rachel. Thank you!

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  2. Good to know the surgery went well and you all survived the experience.

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  3. sewing is good therapy=spend MORE time sewing–your mom is a riot! So glad the surgery went well.

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  4. I’ve had carpal tunnel surgery years ago and it turned out just fine. So much better than not doing anything about it. Glad your mom is on the mend.

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  5. Your Mum will recover and her hand will be much better. I hope she can be patient while it all heals up. I LOVE the photos of your pups. Their expressions match the words of your post beautifully!

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  6. You and your mom are lucky to have each other. 💕

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  7. As always the self-deprecating humor charms. Best wishes to mom (and to you for surviving her surgery).

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  8. I had wrist surgery about a year and a half ago when I fell and broke it. I don’t remember much about it except wearing a sling for a while and going to physical therapy, so I guess it went okay — or else the mind forgets what it doesn’t want to remember. Hope your mom is doing well.

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  9. I guess you can breathe again.

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  10. Hopefully the few months will pass quickly. All the best wishes 🙂

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  11. This was great, Rachel. Amazing how you can make a thing like your mom’s wrist surgery so entertaining.

    But oh my goodness. My doctor thinks that I may have some carpal tunnel issues in my right wrist and she wants me to see a neurosurgeon in the near future. And I don’t want to.

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  12. Well, so glad that’s over. Glad that mom is well and recovering from her surgery. Also glad that you and the pups survived the ordeal.

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  13. See? Everything went well and all your worrying was for naught. Mommy will be fine and back to cooking soon. I broke my wrist last May when I had a bad bike accident and the surgeon said it will be “back to normal” in a year, so your mother has it easier. Now, 9 months later, my is almost perfect but I do feel it when I exercise (push ups) or use chopsticks.

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  14. The curse of a creative mind is all of the disasters it can come up with when left to its own devices. Give Mom a big healing hug from all of us in Readership Land!

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  15. Another layer of anxiety in covid-time.

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  16. I’m pleased all went well

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  17. Glad that the surgery went well. I hope the recovery process goes well too. Sending all the best 🌻

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  18. I got a lot of laughs out of this post. Our moms sound so much alike with their energy and always needing to be doing something. My mom tripped on one of the dog’s blankets more than a year ago and fell and broke her hand, so I can really relate. She doesn’t let much stop her, and found ways to still do many things she shouldn’t have been. I’m so glad to hear that your mom is past the worst of it and doing well.

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  19. Mums are the best! They put us to shame with their resilience and ‘can-do’ attitude. Well done to your mum, Rachel! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  20. Hoping for a swift and full recovery for Mrs. Rachelsmom.

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  21. I’m glad the surgery went well. Sounds like she is doing great and will be back to normal in no time. Also glad you survived the ordeal. Sometimes being a caregiver is harder than being the patient.

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  22. Glad to hear that all went well and your Mum is on the road to recovery.

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  23. I’m glad things went so well. I had carpal tunnel surgery a long time ago now, on both hands. simultaneously. THAT? Was an exercise in frustration, as my husband was the one who had to do all the chores, and your remark that you felt ‘lazy’ because you didn’t admire chores (who does if they are honest?) made me smile. I’m sure you looked like a busy bee compared to my husband. We lived on take-out for two and a half weeks until I could cook again.

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  24. Let’s all give Rachel a hand for her courage. Now she has to give her Mom a hand for awhile. Hands down, it will take dedication and perseverance. You got to hand it to her. OK, I’ll leave now.

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  25. your dogs are so expressive 😁🐕

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  26. My Mum had this op when she was in her 90s and was fine after a few months. Wishing your Mum hours of happy sewing.

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  27. Shavuah Tov, Rachel, and a
    Continuing Refuah Shalemah for your mother… (I really miss sewing!)
    Stay safe,
    -Shira

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  28. Just started following! These post and pups are so adorable! I can’t even! Good luck with the wrist dear. I understand the grumpiness that comes from being tied down all too well!

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  29. Your posts always make me smile.😀

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  30. Loved the caption “don’t be a meanie”, the expression on your dogs face was perfect! I hope your mother is much recovered now.

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  31. Anxiety in the time of Covid. Yep, I know that one well. May her recovery be swift and your patience long.

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  32. My mom had wrist surgery for a ganglion in the late 1960’s. It didn’t take long. Now, there are surgeries that can be done with 3 tiny incisions (like taking out a gall bladder). Surgical science has been making great leaps. Your mother was in good hands.

    I’m happy that your doggies didn’t have to resort to eating peanut butter. 🙂

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  33. I have absolutely no sense of direction and am — I freely admit — a terrible cook. No wonder I enjoy your blog, Rachel (LOL). I am glad your mom’s surgery went well. 🙂

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  34. This was a fun read; glad it all worked out and you all survived!!!

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  35. Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery to your mom…sounds like she’s well on her way!

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  36. I expect that the hardest part of recoveries is patience. On everyone’s part? Best wishes for the healing process and settling back into ‘normal’, whatever it might be. 🙂 Oh, my!

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  37. What good news for your Mum. She sounds just fabulous and a girl after my own heart. I’m a bit of a ‘doer’ too. She is so lucky to have you and the pups, to care and support her and to regale us with tales of her derring do. I hope she has recovered and you are able to reduce the worry level a bit. 🙂

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  38. Glad her surgery went well! I also hate chores! 😌

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  39. How ironic. The one who doesn’t want to do anything having to do everything and the one who wants to do everything not allowed to do anything.
    Jeff and I are both “doers,” but I think I would be happy to play Queen for a couple of days and let him wait on me hand and foot. After that, hmmm, wonder where he hid my laptop.

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  40. Good to hear that your mom is healing and that you both are progressing … I enjoyed the humorous spins … being able to laugh in the midst of worry is good for the soul I think. As always a good read.

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  41. Your mother sounds like a bundle of energetic momentum! Hope her wrist is back to full strength soon. Enjoy the times you have together – I miss my precious mama every day!

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  42. Hope the surgery works for her. lovely babies looking so darling!!!!!!
    💖

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  43. Glad to hear your mom is well and happy everything went well !! 🌹

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  44. Glad to hear it went well!

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  45. Love your sense of humor! So thankful the surgery went well and recovery is going equally well. God bless y’all.

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  46. I’m glad that her surgery went well. I have too say though, your mom and mine could be related. She no longer sews, but keeping her from going flat out is near impossible. She had surgery on her elbow years ago and within hours was trying to do things she shouldn’t. The battle is real with trying to take care of the ones who are accustomed to be the care giver.

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  47. She sounds like a wonderful mum to you and the dogs as well.

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  48. This is a very sweet story. Glad mom is better now.

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