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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Spending more than 40 days in the hospital makes Dave think about what he really misses.
Spending more than 40 days in the hospital makes Dave think about what he really misses. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

What I miss the most

I have been kind of out of commission for more than 40 days with a health difficulty and it’s been a real long haul.

I think I’m in the final couple of weeks before I get to go home, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what things I miss the most. At the top of the list is people. My family and friends. Oh, they visit and email and call, but it’s not the same as being out with them.

Every time there’s a family gathering for a birthday, school function or just for the hell of it, my heart cracks a little bit that I can’t be there.

But once I get past family, the list takes on a different complexion. Things I thought I’d miss are things I really don’t. And some things I thought I wouldn’t miss have proven to be very important.

I have been pretty well wired, both in the hospital and the rehabilitation facility. I’ve got the Internet, my iPhone, speakers for music and I've discovered the incredible joys of Spotify.

One of the things I miss is salt, which has become the inviolate no-no for me. I never thought I was a big salt guy, but I find that food totally without salt doesn’t have a real identity. But that’s gone for good.

I miss freedom of movement. For 40 days I’ve spent almost every minute in a room that is roughly 12 feet square. The hospital and rehab facility have tried to make things comfortable with artwork and fake flowers, but a room that size truly comes to resemble a prison, or at least what I think a prison is like. I miss being able to walk outside or to get in my car and run to the store.

I miss spontaneity that comes with freedom. Running into someone. Deciding at the last minute to go get tacos. Going to Bayshore to eat or to shop.

I miss my dog barking at every single sound he hears outside. When I was home and he barked like mad I’d get angry. But not hearing it makes me wonder what’s going on in the world. Is nobody coming to my home?

I miss tasks, which comes as a real surprise. Doing dishes or cleaning up my office or putting in a load of laundry. Tasks, many of which have been requested/suggested by my wife. I’m not a big fan, but I miss the kind of responsibility that comes with those tasks and the sense of achievement when completing them to the satisfaction of the boss.

I really miss doing things for myself. Being confined like this I find everyone offering to bring me stuff and I find myself asking people over and over and over to bring me something I need. I really feel like a burden and I don’t like that.

I thought I was going to miss the vast array of entertainment that is a normal part of my life. But I don’t miss it at all. With online access and regular television, there is nothing at home that I can’t get here. The only thing is going to live music performances. But getting a chance to see the brand new Semi-Twang video, for example, is a fair substitute.

I also thought I would miss the privacy that is available to people who are free. But I find living in the fishbowl of the health care system isn’t that bad. Sure, I’ve had to accept that modesty is gone, but there is so much solitude that I don’t miss any other kind of privacy.

And, this may be a little self-serving, but I was sure I was going to miss being part of decisions, whether where to eat, what movie to see or how much to spend on a couch. But the salvation to missing that has been to be a very active participant in my own health care. It would be easy to sit back and let the doctors decide what to do. But it’s my body and my life and I decided I was going to be a player in this game. Making decisions about yourself is a pretty good substitute.

And finally, I thought I was going to miss Molly Snyder. She is one of my all-time favorite people and when I’m in the OnMilwaukee.com offices (which is fairly rare) I enjoy being in her orbit tremendously. But I don’t miss her because I get to read her stuff, I see the e-mails that are exchanged between staff members and I bask in the limelight of her role as the new narrator at The Pfister Hotel.

My guess is that things even out. I’m out of here soon, we hope and I won’t be forced to miss anything anymore.

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