There are things in life I don’t like to think about. Things which cause me emotional pain. Things like Angie going into hospital for hip surgery on the 6th. I don’t like the thought of that at all.

While my imagination is quite gleefully capable of recounting things in graphic detail like all forms of blood and gore I’m not happy about real life dismemberment and how fragile and tenacious our flesh is. All of which I have seen in real life, so it’s not as though I’m a complete stranger to the ideas. Where there’s a car crash or a roadside death, I’m the impatient guy who wants you to move quickly on and not rubberneck. Why? Let’s just say Death and I are old acquaintances. Not the friendly sort, but the kind you want to cross the road to avoid, eyeing each other suspiciously.

One career item I don’t like to dwell on is my sojourn as a student nurse back in the early 80’s. What a complete train wreck of a career choice that was. Took me a few years to get over the emotional fallout. Just lost my Dad, so I was still pretty shaky emotionally at the time I started. Worked on various wards, in Emergency facing addicts, RTA casualties and drunks. Nursed physically and mentally subnormal children (Or should that be ‘challenged’, or some other soft fascist euphemism – poor little things). Saw people die up close and personal, knowing there was nothing I could do about it. Gave ‘last offices’ to three people who I’d grown to like. Maybe I even helped save a few lives, I don’t know. Gave comfort to a few. Even while I personally was going to pieces. Did that make me weak? I tried not to be.

What really eats at me about Angie’s forthcoming operation is that I know exactly what goes on and it haunts me. The spotlit line of blood on antiseptic yellowed skin as the first cut is made. Welling red quickly swabbed up and bleeding cauterised with little smoking fizzes (Do they still use diathermy?). Muscles rapidly transected down to the bloody red of the periosteum and white of bone. The impersonal tug of retractors, the gaping red mouth of the incision, and the awful, magnified dentist drill buzzing of the compressed air saw as it cuts through bone. My wife’s bones. Angies Head of femur. Angies hip socket. I can’t shrug it off because I’ve seen it happen several times. Even been scrubbed to ‘manipulate’ the patients leg twice, standby scrub / swab count twice each (I think, it was a long time ago) and the thought of her being sliced open cuts my heart about as though it were happening to me. The empathic pain doesn’t burn, it aches, it stabs, it crushes, and she’s going into operating theatre and I dare not think about it, yet I can do little but.

Did I say nursing was a poor career choice for me? Man, I must have been dumber than a truckload of five pound lump hammers to even think of it. Why? Too much imagination. Too vulnerable. I actually, physically feel the pain of others. If there’s an opposite to psychopath, that’s me. It’s why I can write Paul Calvin as a character, and identify with someone who sees all the pain of the world and tries to help. Even when he can’t.

I love my wife very dearly. I hate it when she’s ill. I hate it when she’s in pain. Yet she has to have this dismemberment inflicted upon her to prevent more pain. To return her mobility and let her walk properly again. Yet my heart is awash as though a hurricane load of rain has been dumped on it, and there’s nothing I can do. Did I say I hate this? Forgive me being rhetorical or even sarcastic, but the memories run dark red and bloody and I must try to rise above them. Angie needs me to be strong for her, even when I’m not; and there are times like these when I am not strong at all.

There may be a writing hiatus. I may simply pitch in to another writing marathon just to stop me thinking about it. A flood of words to wash away thoughts of her pain.

I know one thing for certain.

All the Zen in the world isn’t going to help.