No where to go but up after looking down

The damn branch broke my concentration. I had not planned for an overhanging tree limb to block the pathway walking three-quarters of a mile from my home to the train station with my head facing my feet the entire time. But I was ordered by an eye doctor to lean my head all the way toward the ground 50 out of 60 minutes of each hour for seven straight days.

So there I was yesterday, less than 24 hours after a two-hour operation for a torn retina, returning to the Philadelphia VA Hospital for a follow-up check, heeding medical instructions to the letter.

You don’t know how hard it is to continually hold your head down toward your feet. Not the front of the feet, but with your eyes making direct contact with your heels.

It creates the worst pain in the neck you’ll ever suffer! I don’t know whether the pain I experienced was solely due to the neck strain or partly from the anesthesia I had had, but my whole body ached. It ached from the stomach up to the head. My throat was the worst. Ironically, I felt little if any pain in the left eye where doctors had performed the third operation in less than two years to repair two torn retinas and remove a cataract.

It’s difficult to cross the street with a traffic light when your head is faced downward. I tried it, “feeling” my way by listening to the sounds of cars coming to a stop. Trouble is, cars will turn no matter who might be walking in front of their path, including a disabled veteran with a white patch covering the whole left side of his face.

I had to look up, and just as I did, the sun shone into my one good eye. Oh brother, what a day this is going to be, I thought.

Crossing the street, it was all downhill from there. That is, until I walked a little too close to one of the new trees planted on a sidewalk. Who would have expected that a sapling whose base was no thicker than 4 inches in diameter could have branches stretching out two to three feet from that base?

A branch caught my hat nearly ripping it off as I walked into it, backing up as quickly as I could, cursing out the stupid tree. The tree took on a life of its own. It became one more obstacle in my path to recovery, and I reverted to the kid I had once been in the old neighborhood who felt he had to fight to get anywhere in life.

I felt better after cursing at the tree. I felt stronger and more confident somehow.

Made it the train station and sat with some eight to 10 other passengers. I no sooner had closed my eyes when I heard the rushing sound of a large object streaming outside the small station building. When I looked up, everyone had gotten up and exited the door, not one of them asking the guy with the bandaged face whether he was waiting for the train.

Sons of bitches, I said out loud, then jumped up, ran to the door, and nearly fell as I lost my balance on the handicapped walkway that made it longer to get to the platform than the stairs. I yelled at no one in particular, hoping that someone would hold the train for me.

I made it somehow, the last one on.

The fates were out to get me. I did not want to look out the window to see the stops, and had hoped to hear the conductor announce each stop. Not once during the 10 stops from Conshohocken to Philly did I hear that voice. Even when I got to 30th Street Station, the last stop for the train, not one word was broadcast via the loudspeaker.

Well, I made it to the station and safely boarded a bus that took me the rest of the way to the hospital. Veterans getting off the bus helped me cross another traffic light intersection and guided me to the elevators where I made my way to the eye lab and the appointed meeting with the eye doctors.

The eye looked good, the surgeon told me. Now, all I have to do I remain in this humbled position, counting my blessings from the ground up. I had nowhere to go but up after another few days of this!

Here’s looking up at you, kid.

(For more, try: “Seeing a veterans history never repeats”)

15 comments on “No where to go but up after looking down

  1. Lesley says:

    Recover soon Michael 🙂


  2. Sending healing light and intentions your way. I’m glad you shared this with us… Know you are our support and care.
    Peace, jennifer


  3. souldipper says:

    Michael J…please get someone to go with you! That is a very touchy condition. Time for a little receiving.

    I’d have put a black belt on my tongue and guided you through very nicely! 😀


    • contoveros says:

      You helped me realize we all need help from others. Too often, I prize my self-realiance above all else. It could result in the death of me if I don’t look out.

      Thanks, Amy.


  4. Unbelievable how rude we are to one another — but to a person in bandages and a veteran? Breaks my heart. Thank you for the reminder to be more mindful of others around me. Thank you.

    Hope you feel better soon and the eye heals brilliantly.



  5. wolfshades says:

    Traveling via public transit is already a frustrating exercise, but when you’re the least bit limited it can be a nightmare. Even when your condition is patently obvious. I truly feel your frustration Michael and hope that you’re able to figure put a way for the world to come to you until this thing is done.

    P.S. I became very close to lame when I had my last major flare up with gout. Had to hobble to the bus at a snail’s pace and there was excruciating pain when putting any weight on the foot at all. There were some young fit guys who pretended I wasn’t there, and so they sat comfortably on their rumps while I stood. Thought of a new more interesting use for my cane.


    • contoveros says:

      If I see you with a cane, my good friend Wolf, I will gladly give up a seat for you as long as you keep an eye out for where we’re going . . .


  6. Pram says:

    Awesome……”We ‘ll have no where to go but up after looking down” , i find it inspiring.
    I wish you to have good health always, from the bottom of my heart.

    Bangalore, India


    • contoveros says:

      Some day I will visit India where my heart has been pulling me to go for years. Thank you my friend Pram.


      • Pram says:

        You are always Welcome to India 🙂 🙂 🙂 when u visit India do visit “Sri Aurobindo Ashram” located in Pondicherry. Its a fabulous place. Its calm, fresh and lively atmosphere makes it one of the best places to meditate. I had been there two months ago,and a lot of foreigners visit this place.You might be knowing about it. Here is the link for more information 🙂


  7. Tana says:

    Oh my. Wishes for a speedy recovery and deep healing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.