I suppose it can be a lonely and disconnecting thing to have major surgery, I am in a community of sorts, of disparate people, most of them quite unlike me, yet there is a deepening sense of community about us, we root for one another, share the good and bad news of our healing, and of our lives. I have become friends with Carol, the wife of a farmer, they have a small family farm, she had her heart surgery a couple of months before me and we both approach it in much the same way, without much dread or "negativity," as Carol puts it. She has read some of my books, we talk animal talk – she has an imperious goat named Sadie, unruly roosters and hens, cows, six dogs.
She paid me a high compliment today, she finished reading "Saving Simon" and she said "you are a farmer, Jon, I know you say you are not, but you are." I was surprised – she is a very real farmer, along with her husband Ed – and I asked her what she meant.
"You have learned when to let go and not to let go," she said, and I realized she was talking about animals, not about crops. Farmers taught me that, there is no such thing as a no-kill farm, farms are not rescue facilities or zoos. Carol told me about a rooster she loved who suddenly and for no reason attacked her and her grandson, a farmer's grandchild, said, "grandma, why don't you just eat him?" I just can't she told him, so she gave him to her son who has a fenced-in chicken area.
Farmers learn to let go when they have to let go, their survival depends on it, so does almost any farm.
Carol got some good medical news today, she might have gotten some very bad news and we were all worried about it. I called her this morning at home and she had just gotten the good news, and I brought some non-heart healthy cookies over from the Round House to celebrate. Carol is advising me on my play, "Discarded Men: The Last Days Of A Dairy Farm," she says she will come if it is performed at Hubbard Hall in January.
I was pleased by Carol's compliment, but I am not, of course, a farmer, I have never claimed to be one, I could not survive one week as a farmer, I am a writer with a farm, and there is a big difference. Carol's rehab is very different from mine, she often comes to rehab fresh off a tractor where she has been all day cutting down corn stalks and mashing them up for sileage.
There was a palpable relief in cardiac rehab, there is a closeness that comes from surgery and recovery, we understand each other in a very powerful and particular way. I suppose there is a loneliness to recovering from open heart surgery, I am not yet really sure how to talk about it or if to talk about it. In cardiac rehab, I don' really have to.