My vacation from the coronavirus

As I sat in the empty waiting room, I shot this over my shoulder. You can see one of the first line of outposts, there to keep people with the virus out. Or so I assume.

As I sat in the empty waiting room on April 11, I shot this over my shoulder. You can see one of the first line of outposts, there to keep people with the virus out. Or so I assume. To that person’s left is a table, with another person seated at it.

Actually, I thought I was plunging head-first into the mysterious, much feared land of COVID-19. A day after the weirdness had started, I decided that I felt “off” enough that maybe I had it. There was no fever, and no dry cough or any of that. But my taste and smell (which are the same sense, of course) weren’t all they should be, so maybe I had it. And I just didn’t feel right. Anyway, my kids were insisting, from across town, that  I go in to be checked. And, as I said before, my primary care doc sided with them when I reached him that Saturday (the 11th, for those keeping score).

So I went in, thinking this would give me something interesting to write about. And things were different from the start. First, some people were camped out about 20 ft. from the entrance to the Emergency Room at Lexington Medical Center (see above). Like they were the expendable ones, there to make sure no one with the bug actually came in. I talked my way past them, before my wife went back to wait in the car. Inside, there were more people with masks on greeting me as soon as I went in. After a brief time with the triage nurse beyond the wall, I was sent back out to sit in the waiting area — alone. The pic below proves my tale.

Eventually, I was shown into the ER proper, and given a room. I knew I would be there for several hours, whatever happened. I’d been through this routine with others. Oddly, they didn’t test me for the virus. From the start, they were only interested in a symptom that I barely mentioned, because it was so odd to tell anyone about — the fact that I couldn’t look down. I could look at things at eye level, but my muscles simply could not make my eyes turn downward. My eyes would quiver with the effort, but I couldn’t do it. If I HAD to look at something lower down, my brain had to work it out again each time — I had to press my chin to my chest and look under the thing, then allow my eyes to drift upward. Which seemed like a lot of work, each time. Hardly worth it. I only bothered to do it a couple of times.

That’s what interested them. That’s why they did the CT scan, which produced nothing. I knew that if the CT produced nothing (and I wasn’t curious enough to ask what “something” might be), I’d have to get an MRI. Knew I’d be there that long. Anyway, about three or four hours into the ordeal, perhaps a bit more, the doctor in charge came to see me for the first time since the very beginning. I realized later that she was very conscious of having to break bad news to me, although it didn’t strike me at the time. She got right next to me and leaned in on the railing that kept me from falling out to that side. We were friends now. She was really close when she told me I’d had a stroke.

The news didn’t really register. All I noticed was that, instead of letting me go, she was telling me I’d have to stay at least overnight. I asked a question or two about the stroke thing, as it seemed the thing to do (you mean a TIA? No, a real stroke; it’s definite — we can see it), but I don’t think it fully registered on me until I saw how others reacted to the news on social media. (People there were all like, “You had a what…?”)

So I asked whether they were going to, at the very least, test me for coronavirus since that’s what I’d come for — and she said, well, no. And she explained: Sure, they could test me, but here was the thing: If they tested me, they’d have to treat me differently. Completely differently. I’d get moved to another part of the hospital where everyone either had the virus, or was assumed to have it. As opposed to being in the normal part of the hospital on a floor with stroke patients, where everyone would assume I didn’t have it. Which would be better for me.

I agreed that would be better. But I didn’t let go of the idea. I asked if I could get a test whenever I left. She said sure, whatever.

Two days later, when I was finally about to go, I asked someone else for my test. He looked at me like I was nuts. They had been observing me and monitoring all my vital signs for three days. They knew I didn’t have it — or at least, that I wasn’t exhibiting symptoms. Which means they knew more about me than about 99.99 percent of the population. I thought it would be cool to know even more, but I took his point. I never got the test.

So, for three days (counting the ER day), I was in a place where officially, no one had the coronavirus, and no one was concerned about it.

Which was nice, I realized later.

Returning home a week ago today, I was sort of startled to notice that everyone was still going on about the virus. When I read my several newspapers each morning, it was all the same stories I’d been reading since I quit going to work back in March. You know the stories — about Trump’s lie-filled daily briefings, about how hard it was for certain people (not me) to deal with the tedium of isolation, what to binge-watch, yadda-yadda.

Now, those stories seem even more boring than they did before. Now, I have had a stroke, which is officially more interesting than not having a virus! That has had little effect on me, but it has had this effect: I’m no longer tolerant of the boring coronavirus stories. Does this mean I’m anxious to get out there and do something? No, far from it. I want to do nothing, each day. I’ve given in to the fact that for the first time in almost three years, I’ll fail to average more than 10,000 steps a day this month. And once I’d given in to that, I didn’t care to do anything else.

I do some work each day. There’s enough for me to do, and I know I’m lucky to have the work, so I feel I must justify myself to that extent. But I feel no urge to exercise, or to post on my blog, or to do anything, really. I’m reading a couple of books. I had recently watched, again, “In Harm’s Way” — the 1965 John Wayne picture, not one of the many, many other things with that title. Curious about the overuse of the title, I found that I could download the novel the film was based on for free from Kindle. So I’ve been reading that. Slowly. I’ve also been reading a novel I had put on my wish list years ago — I think I had read a favorable review in The Wall Street Journal when it was first published — and received as a gift sometime during the past year. It’s set in Spain in the 16th century, when ex-Moors who had been forced to “convert” to Christianity were still called “moriscos” — and mistrusted by the Old Christians. The protagonist is a judge/prosecutor investigating a series of deaths in rural Aragon. It’s pretty interesting — more so than the one about the Navy in 1941 — but nothing really grabs my interest right now.

Someone called asking me to do something for work, so I’m going to stop and go do that. Be back soon…

OK, done with that — huff, puff, etc.  Back now, and thinking I should say something about how fortunate I am. I mean, I have had a stroke, and that means I’ve survived something that could have been a whole lot worse than it was — especially since it was bilateral. I haven’t seen the actual MRI yet, but I’m told that is remarkable. And yet, I have nothing to show but a symptom that’s been almost completely gone since the morning of Sunday the 12th (I say “almost” because occasionally my eyes refuse to focus on something low in my field of vision). That, and the fact that my desire to do anything, even something that will burn basically zero calories, is gone. I want to rest all the time, even though I’ve done nothing to tire myself. The last few days, I’ve taken a walk each afternoon that gets in between three and four thousand steps, and that’s it.

In fact, it’s time to do that, so I’ll be back in awhile…

That walk around my large block — just under a mile — is done, but I’m not moved to tell you about it. My capacity for rest is in fact the only remotely interesting thing about me in this particular state of being…

I’ve possessed this gift since Sunday the 12th. I was awakened in the hospital by the arrival of food from my wife. The night before, the hospitalist hadn’t decided I was staying until late, and there was nothing available from the mess hall that I could eat, so my wife brought something to the sentries outside, and it got relayed in to me. This pattern continued with my move to the 8th floor. The staff seemed even to welcome it. They looked at what she’d sent Sunday morning and announced that there was enough for two meals, and that they would be happy to refrigerate the large serving of soup until lunchtime. I concurred, and ate my breakfast. Then I prepared to watch Easter Sunday Mass in Spanish on Facebook. That is, I sat the iPad on my lap and put the earbuds in my ears, and slept sitting up. (I would later be told that sometime around this time they ran tests on my carotid artery, but I have no memory of that).

Then, I caught a ride downstairs to get a very closely detailed scan of my heart — essentially the background for an even more-detailed look from another camera stuck down my throat the next morning (by this time my staying another day was meekly accepted) — after which I went back to sleep, then ate my soup, then took another nap. That’s the way I remember it, anyway.

I say I was in a place where no one cared about the coronavirus. It wasn’t ignored completely. The people doing all these tests wore masks. But it seemed so routine by this time. I was living in a land consisting almost entirely of young women, and they all seemed terribly attractive in part because of their faces being covered. I’d wonder if their faces were as beautiful as the rest of them, and decided again and again that they most likely were. I was, after all, in a magical place.

Anyway, the pattern continued. I again forgot my own mask when taken down for the camera-down-the-throat test. But everyone else wore one, and no one remarked on the fact that I didn’t. The young woman in charge of me was stunning — at least, her brow was and so were her ears, and I’m certain the rest was the same. We decided that even though I technically may be allergic to the anesthesia they were going to use for the test, we wouldn’t worry about it. And it was all fine. We were in the magical place.

After that, and after another nap, it was time to get serious about leaving. I asked each person I met when I could go. At first, it would be after the next doctor who saw me did so. Then, it was decided I’d have to see another doctor after that one — the doctor I’d thought was the last one came back, somewhat breathlessly, to tell me that. Fine. Then someone took out the IV feed I’d had in my left arm ever since the ER. That was removed and I put on my long-sleeved T shirt, and the nurse left and moments later, I realized that the reason why my shirt was warm and wet from my elbow to my wrist was because the IV was bleeding quite liberally and with no sense of propriety. So I strolled down the hall to the charge nurse’s desk and advised her regarding my condition, then strolled back to what would soon be my ex-room. Normally, this would have seemed an emergency. But in this place, we didn’t sweat things. I got the shirt off, she bandaged me a lot tighter, and we decided this sort of thing would happen regularly now that I was taking anti-coagulants every day and would for the rest of my life. A statin, too.

I was told a nurse would have to accompany me to the exit where my wife would pick me up — the opposite end of the hospital, as it turned out. I walked all the way — the nurse asked me if I wanted a wheelchair, but I said no. It would be several days before I got that much exercise again.

After I got home, I took another nap, I think. And ever since then, I’ve slept at will at least a couple times a day, and at least nine or ten hours a night.

Until yesterday — on Sunday, I actually had an hour or two in the afternoon when I tried to nap, but failed. But I was unperturbed at staying awake. It didn’t even bore me.

Anyway, I’ve been home a week at this hour late on Monday the 20th, and I’ve really never gotten over the feeling of being in a place where the coronavirus doesn’t matter as much as it did.

Which is an added benefit of having had a stroke — which seems to impress everyone — but having virtually no lingering effects of a stroke. Aside from being tired all the time. At some point, I’ll have to come to grips with that, I’m guessing.

But not yet. And I thank the Lord for these numerous blessings.

It’s late now, but I might just get in another brief nap…

See? The ER waiting room actually WAS deserted.

See? The ER waiting room actually WAS deserted.and

41 thoughts on “My vacation from the coronavirus

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, I’m somewhat concerned that I may be misunderstood here…

    It’s not that I don’t care about the coronavirus. I do. I’m very mindful that it has killed tens of thousands of people, and will likely kill more, including people I know. I’m very mindful of our loss of Karen.

    But I’ve been very lucky, and I’ve also been very tired, and I thought I’d try to explain why I’ve not posted anything for more than a week.

    I’ve been in a sort of limbo. A place where people have strokes but no consequences. A place where freely bleeding down one’s left arm doesn’t matter. Where you can allow yourself to be made unconscious with a drug to which one is allergic, with no ill effect. A place where one is wafted about by beautiful, but veiled, young women who will take care of everything. And who are enormously supportive (did I tell you about the ones who assessed me for therapy and were SO IMPRESSED that I could walk at all?) well, now I have…

    Anyway, I’m trying to describe how a person could be in such a state. That’s my point…

    1. Hunter Brumfield

      Hey Brad
      Had that stroke 16 years ago. Will tell you it stays on your back without a lot of relief, but your new life is not SO bad. I read, listen to podcasts and am so appreciative of my wife Eiko, like you are of your great wife, whom I remember very well. Thanks again for writing the Elvis death editorial, I didn’t have the foggiest…

      Your eye thing is weird. in my case I get dizzy if I look up. Good thing we are not able to meet. We’d probably both fall on the floor trying to make eye contact.

      One benefit of a stroke, I have found, is those Kindle books you read 5 years ago are great to read again.

      Please keep blogging, my old friend.


      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Thanks for sharing, Hunter!

        Here’s a great benefit of, I guess, aging, since I was experiencing it BEFORE the stroke…

        My wife and I rewatch British mysteries like “Inspector Lewis” and so forth — things we watched five or ten years ago, maybe even less. And we have no idea what’s going to happen next. Oh, a character or a situation might seem familiar — sort of a “this seems familiar” effect. But we don’t know whodunnit, or how.

        Of course, I’ll admit that even when I was younger, I was often confused at the END of such mysteries, still saying, “WHAT happened?” British mysteries especially are WAY too complex in their introduction of too many characters and too many potential motives in such a short time. And the explanation at the end strains credulity. But we enjoy them anyway. I’ve been to Oxford, and it’s a nice town, but I don’t see how they keep going with so many extremely complex murders happening all over the place, all the time (“Endeavour,” “Morse,” “Lewis” and so forth)…

        The thing is, I’ve covered real murders. I know what they’re like. They’re simple. They’re about, for instance, arguments between two drunks over what to watch on TV (“Endeavour,” or “Morse”?). They don’t take all that much digging to figure out. Occasionally, they’re complicated by someone hiring someone else to commit the crime. But they tend to be about one idiot hiring another. (I’m rememberingthe Groseclose case. I interviewed both the employer and the killer. Weird, but not mysterious.) Still not too complicated.

        Sometimes, of course, a TV mystery is too simple. Last night, I watched an episode of “Monk” I had never seen. (I’ve never seen most of those.) It was supposed to be SO puzzling. But a character revealed something in the first 10 minutes that told me exactly what had happened.

        And I don’t forget everything. For instance, after subscribing to Britbox I recently watched “Life on Mars” for the first time in years, and I had pretty fair memory of all I saw. But I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve always enjoyed rewatching or rereading things I really like, even things I’ve memorized. I’m weird that way.

        But having forgotten what happened on these mysteries makes them a bit more enjoyable…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Oh, by the way… that reference Hunter made to Elvis. Made me smile.

        Long before I was an editorial page editor, I used to help out in editorial from time to time. When Hunter was EPE of The Jackson Sun and I was a reporter, I used to pitch in when he or the other writer went on vacation. I’d just move into editorial for a week and do THAT for a change. (This was during a period when I had a weird job where I floated from one thing to another, as needed — I’d work on a long project, then fill in as an editor, or write editorials or whatever.)

        It was very unorthodox for a news person to do that, but it was a small paper, and therefore more opportunities to exercise skills we might have in a different area if we had them. For instance, when I was on the copy desk, I was also the paper’s movie critic, which I enjoyed. I always felt an affinity for editorial work, something our boss Reid Ashe acknowledged. He had me serve on the editorial board later when I was news editor, which was really weird, but he wanted my input. By the early 90s, that was the only thing that appealed to me any more, and I made the switch permanent.

        Anyway, Hunter — and later Ellen Dahnke — would turn to me to help out on the weird stuff that reflected my “expertise,” such as it was. So Hunter asked me to write the editorial the morning after Elvis died. And Ellen had me do the same with John Lennon. They knew I could crank that stuff out because my head was full of it. Their brains were too full of serious stuff, so I did the pop culture….

  2. Randle

    Sounds like your altered state was the after effect of your stroke. I’ve seen so much worse, and I am glad you had a better result. I bet those 10,000 daily steps made a difference. But why did you have stroke anyway?
    No need to hurry back to the real world. It makes less sense than usual. Take care.

    1. Barry

      I was wondering that too. Brad certainly seems like an unlikely stroke victim. I was wondering if the doctors gave you any insight.

      I realize some things just can’t be answered.

      Brad, I am glad to see you posting again.

  3. Phillip

    Glad to hear that you are home and resting and what Randle said, no hurry back to the real world, just let your body tell you what feels right in terms of being up and around vs. resting and recharging.

  4. Pat

    I’m glad you ended up where you were supposed to be at the hospital, and that you are on the mend. Rest and naps are very healing and build up your immune system. Take care.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You are so kind, Scout!

      I fear that I may be somewhat aphasic, though. I have trouble remembering words. You can tell if you speak with me. It’s easy to cover for when writing.

      It’s just like a word or two each day. But when words are what you DO, such a thing can be worrisome. Not that I’m worried. I just let it go, for now…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      You are so kind, Scout!

      I fear that I may be somewhat aphasic, though. I have trouble remembering words. You can tell if you speak with me. It’s easy to cover for when writing.

      It’s just like a word or two each day. But when words are what you DO, such a thing can be worrisome. Not that I’m worried. I just let it go, for now…

  5. Bill

    I draw a line in my life
    Singing this is the new way I behave now
    And actually live by the shape of that sound

  6. martin

    I’m stunned by your apparent lack of curiosity about your after effects…as stunned as I was when you wrote about your initial symptoms that seemed to go on forever before you got medical attention.
    I would be interested to know if the fatigue and sleepiness was to be expected? How long could I expect it to last? Is it a side effect of stroke or new medications? Do I have follow up with neurologist or anyone else?
    You may already have these answers and just didn’t include in what is an excellent, really spectacular piece of writing. And, that’s fine, you don’t need to tell every detail of your medical adventures.
    Take care and take it easy…and, don’t be so reticent about calling a doctor when something weird is going on.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ll try to help.

      I would be interested to know if the fatigue and sleepiness was to be expected? Yes. Everyone has been completely underwhelmed. They say such fatigue is exactly what they would expect.

      How long could I expect it to last? Maybe as much as a year. In any case, so long that it’s far too soon to start letting it worry me.

      Is it a side effect of stroke or new medications? Side effect of stroke. Even of this relatively small one.

      Do I have follow up with neurologist or anyone else? I was at the neurologist this morning, and got all of the above answers yet again.

      The neurologist wants one more test done. If that one shows nothing, they’re not interested in me anymore. They say I should keep taking the two new drugs.

      One thing I have to keep reminding myself: While I had a DEFINITE stroke, it was a minor one in its effect. They see WAY worse than me all the time. I come in with them knowing I’m a stroke patient, and they see me, and they think I’m really doing great.

      (This reminds me of one of many things I haven’t told about my time in the hospital — when I was evaluated, separately, by two physical therapists. I was concerned about feeling slightly dizzy. THEY were used to seeing far worse. So they praised my performance to the skies, seeing NOTHING wrong with me. To them, I was like a rock star. This was part of my experience of interacting with beautiful, but masked, young women who were pleased with me and all that I did. It was very pleasant. All men should have such an experience at least once in life.)

      Like Randle and Barry, experts are a bit surprised someone in my condition had a stroke to start with. But not REALLY surprised. They see everything.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Something I haven’t told you the last couple of days. The last thing I said in this post was, “It’s late now, but I might just get in another brief nap…”

    Well, I didn’t. To my surprise, I lay down and tried to go to sleep, but failed. The same thing had happened the day before. It struck me that I was on the verge of having failed to take a nap all day for three days. In fact, I tried to take a nap before a FaceTime meeting yesterday (the third day), and failed. I was in a new phase, and hadn’t realized it.

    Which was no big deal, because the phase ended late on Tuesday. In the late afternoon, I rode with my wife to see my parents, their first time to see me since I was in the hospital, and the whole time I was there I was anxious to leave. I was sorry to be so obviously tired in front of my worried parents, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t wait to get back into the car so I could remove the mask that seemed to be smothering me.

    When we got home, about 5:30 or so, my wife asked if I wanted to take our short, daily walk. No, I said, and went upstairs, lay down and immediately fell asleep for almost two hours. Then we went for a walk, getting back a little after 8, with little light left.

    I felt tired the rest of the night, a subtle difference, but I realized I felt the way I did the first couple of days after the stroke.

    Anyway, at the doctor’s office today, no one was concerned about that. Being tired is going to come and go, they said…

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    Something else y’all might not know about how your brain does after a stroke. Or how mine does, anyway…

    I mentioned before that I’ve been reading The Devils of Cardona, a novel set in Spain in the 1580s…

    I’m in the last 100 and something pages, and the pace has picked up considerably. All sorts of stuff happening, building toward the climax.

    And my reaction is the opposite of what it would have been most of my life.

    I’m not picking up the pace of reading, trying to get to where I know what will happen.

    I’m slowing down. I can only stand a very few pages of this at a time. I’ll be in the middle of something stirring and exciting, and I’m like, “Enough!”

    I can’t take any more. I need to take a break. If a lot of exciting stuff has to happen for this book to reach its end, then I’m probably going to be taking a lot of breaks before we get there.

    I can only take so much of exciting things happening to Licenciado Mendoza. He’s not really an action hero, but I think he can take more of it than I can. And if this book is going to have a satisfactory ending, a lot more of it’s gonna have to happen.

    Don’t know if I’m gonna make it any time soon.

    I’ll let y’all know when I do.

    I’ll also avoid spoilers, I think. This is actually a book you may know nothing about — it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

    I guess not everyone is a pushover for murder mysteries set in 16th-century Spain. I took a lot of Iberian history in school, though — all on an elective basis.

    In fact, it was sort of an elective on an elective. I was taking a LOT of history and political science courses, enough that when I was only a semester away from graduating, I realized I almost had enough for a second major in history, which I got at the last minute.

    But that was mostly American history, concentrating on the first few decades of U.S. history.

    The Spanish and Latin American courses I took were a digression from that digression…

    All for fun…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Of course, even though I had spent part of my childhood in a Latin country, speaking and thinking and dreaming in Spanish, and put in all those semester hours studying the history and political background… the thing that hits me most strongly when I’m reading something like this is how very little I know about what life was like then and there…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I know… the backdrop…

        I mean, I knew about the Castilians imposing their Most Catholic will upon the Muslims and Jews of Spain, forcing conversions and such…

        I just hadn’t thought about what it was like to carry out an investigation in the middle of all that conflict…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Whew. Just read a few stirring pages over dinner.

        The climactic battle, in which Licenciado Mendoza surprisingly finds himself leading the defense of the Morisco village against an army of Christian bandits, is about to take place…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s not all that happened. An important character just died. But I’m not gonna tell you about that as the death really affects what will happen…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author


            It’s the next morning, and I’ve finished the book.

            It was good. It was the first completely NEW novel — new characters, new background, new everything, a novel novel — I’ve read in a long time, and I enjoyed it. Still processing a lot of it.

            The main action — the battle, etc., the exhausting stuff — I got through last night. After that action, there was a LOT of book left, like 80 pages, explaining how things shook out in the end.

            If the book had a flaw, it was a flaw common to such books that dare to set their stories in a different time in which people thought in different ways, and that flaw is this: They insistently make the point of view of the main character or characters that of a modern man. For instance, while everything that happened in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was influenced by the time and habits of thought then prevalent, so that you have to come to understand those ways of looking at things to understand what’s happening, the hero or protagonist has a modern man’s way of seeing the world — a way that the people around him see as strange, but the modern reader finds familiar and welcoming.

            For instance, in The Name of the Rose the hero — William of Baskerville — has a modern way of approaching everything, and is in every way an enigma to the teller of the story, his assistant Adso of Melk. They have a very Holmes-and-Watson relationship (hinted at by many things, including William’s name) that makes the extremely strange ways the medieval monks perceive existence more accessible to the modern reader.

            In this book, the modern bias is more subtle but in the end FAR more patent, more prejudiced toward modern attitudes. The main character, Licenciado Mendoza, is less consciously different — he adheres to the ways of thinking of his time, to a great extent — but his interests become tied up with attitudes that are very modern, such as notions of religious pluralism and, to grab at one very obvious straw, a tolerance for lesbianism. While everything in the end has to be framed in a way that would be possible in such a time, the more liberal modern attitudes are satisfied in the way things turn out.

            OK, so I just violated my promise not to give out spoilers. Yes, the story ends in ways that are satisfying to the modern reader. But it’s all complicated enough — as I said, many pages have to be spent at the end just explaining it — that there are still plenty of surprises left.

            People probably wouldn’t read a less modernly satisfactory book — say, one in which the forces that conspire to oppress the people of moorish background triumph — even though it would probably be a truer one, set in such a time. In any case, it’s interesting just to see how the author makes it happen without being untrue to the time…

            So I recommend it: The Devils of Cardona, by Matthew Carr…

    2. Scout

      You should read some Guy Gavriel Kay. I guess it would be considered historical fiction, but he does a great deal of research and writes about historical periods and figures and writes about them very well. But the names are all changed, and sometimes fantasy elements thrown in (but that’s not the main focus, just that if a culture presented believes in a fantastical thing, it will be part of the story from their perspective.) His stories usually follow multiple characters from different cultures/ perspectives who eventually clash or encounter each other in some way, but it takes awhile to find out exactly how. It’s kind of fun to figure out how the story aligns with real history/ culture after the fact. For example, The Last Light of the Sun is about the clash of cultures between the Vikings, Celts, and English and features an analog of King Alfred. Im trying to re read it before I watch the next season of The Last Kingdom which has just been added on Netflix. He’s also done Constantinople around the time of Hagia Sofia and some Chinese dynasties and moslem Spain, among others. They are good.

      1. James Edward Cross

        His earlier work–The _Fionavar Tapestry_ trilogy, _Tigana_, and _A Song for Arbonne_–have more fantasy but include recognizable historical elements as well. The Renaissance is a particular favorite of his. Scout is right, they are really good. I also encourage you to give them a read.

        1. Scout

          You are right. Those are the ones that got me into him when I was younger and more into purely the fantasy perspective. That was before I realized there were any historical tie ins going on. I need to re-read them now and see what connections are there.

  9. Mark Stewart

    Lot’s to reflect upon. Glad you are well.

    Just follow your brain, it’ll let you know what you need, and the pace to take.

  10. Realist

    My sister had two strokes and there are after effects that do linger. Before the strokes, her command of the English language was outstanding. To a large degree, it still is but there are times when she does struggle to get some words out that she knows are correct but the brain’s wiring is compromised to a degree and what she knows is correct, she cannot articulate. In time, the wiring is re-established.

    As for fatigue, she does take more naps now than before but they are becoming less and less as the healing continues. There are frustrations now she didn’t have before but she as you do recognizes them.

    I am not a doctor but based on your great overall physical and mental health, your recovery shouldn’t take as long as most. Just keep doing what you are doing, keep the faith and know that all of us pray for a speedy and complete recovery. You are one of the true assets in this screwed up world, take care of yourself.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, man.

      Here’s how it goes with me…

      I’m walking with my wife. She’s been having back trouble, and she gets to talking about how she wishes she had a foam wedge like the one they put under her legs when she gets MRIs at the oncologist office. She says when she has that under her legs is the only time her back feels completely natural and relaxed. She’s asked, and no one knows where it came from, and she doesn’t order one because she has no idea what the proportions are.

      I said it was worth trying because she’s made it sound like…

      … that word. You know, the word for when something is like a cure for everything…

      “Panacea?” she asks. YES, that’s it! It’s the one that’s a lot like that other word that means something really different… and I think of it myself a couple of seconds later: placebo!

      My wife notes that that is not just different, but practically the opposite. I acknowledge she is right, but the words always remind me of each other, so my brain stores them fairly close together. So when she said the one word, I could sort of see the other one back there hiding, waiting to be found and used.

      Anyway, I do things like that a time or two every day now…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Something about that comment — probably the opening words, “Here’s how it goes with me…” caused me to hear myself speaking in the voice of Max Von Sydow, after he says, “It would happen this way…” in the following clip. Probably not a sound I should cultivate, but it was memorable…

        1. Realist

          Next to Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor is one of my favorite Redford movies. Great cast, great acting. Max Von Sydow had a smaller roll but one of his best.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Top Five Robert Redford Movies
            1. Jeremiah Johnson
            2. The Sting
            3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
            4. Sneakers
            5. Spy Game

              1. Bryan Caskey

                Yeah, I’ll stand by that. I really like The Sting. However, one of my favorite parts isn’t Redford. Paul Newman playing poker on the train while pretending to be drunk and cheating to win is such a great scene.

                1. Realist

                  Kinda reminds me of a poker game when I was working in Dubai. Considering the dearth of entertainment during that period, the weekly poker games provided some relief from the boredom. The currency in Dubai is the dirham and in appearance, it looks like Monopoly money and unfortunately at times we treated it like Monopoly money.

                  We were playing 7 card stud and my first 5 cards were all hearts. 2 down and 3 up. One player was supposedly a little drunk and after everyone else dropped out but him and me, the last 2 were down and dirty. I already had the King of hearts as my high card and one of the last 2 was a heart card. The drunk guy kept calling and upping the ante’ even though he only had 2 cards of the same suit showing.

                  The pot kept growing and growing until it reached around $400 which at the time was a lot of money for one of the poker games.

                  When he called and I turned my cards up with a King high heart flush, he stumbled around and turned up an Ace high club flush. But once he started to rake in the pot, he was as sober as anyone at the table.

                  Lesson learned the hard way. Haven’t been in a poker game since then.

                  Just a little anecdote to lighten the day.

      2. Scout

        My brain does things like that. Here is why my brain would put those words together. They are both multi-syllabic words that start with /p/ and pertain to possible solutions (even though quite different quality of solutions). They both also have a medial /s/ that is spelled with a ‘c’.

        Though I am a speech pathologist, I have specialized in child language now for nearly 30 years and my memory of my aphasia classes and therapy techniques from grad school are rather fuzzy. I can definitely guess that compared to many stroke patients who need therapy for aphasia, you probably seem like a rock star. But I can also totally understand how from your perspective you are probably very aware of a difference in your language abilities.

        One thing I definitely do remember though is it will get better. And practice helps, to re-establish the pathways, like Realist said. Just having conversations, even if frustrating, should get easier the more you do it. Word games, crossword puzzles, things like that, will probably help too. Whatever you can handle while managing your fatigue. It will get better.

        1. Bob Amundson

          It will get better Brad, thanks to the plasticity of our brains. Nature and nurture (your motivation to heal) are on your side. Stay safe, stay strong.


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