Sequential teds

Johanna Shapiro, PhD

Sequential teds are not a row of inconsequential little men
known to their everlasting humiliation by a trivializing diminutive –
No, they are uncomfortable, scratchy calf-length “boots”
unstylish white cotton Velcro design
But as Nancy Sinatra might say
Should she ever need to wear a pair,
“These boots are made for walking!”
or more accurately put,
these boot are made to do the walking for you
if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being a patient
in a hospital bed
supine, confined,
unable to do your own walking

Sequential teds are another great American invention
fueled by that other great American discovery
(I was about to say ‘invention’ but even
we Americans leave a few things to God),
electricity. As my nurse explained
(she herself was Filipina)
“When Americans find a problem
(she didn’t say death, suffering, anguish, despair,
but I know these were included in the list –
we Americans have these in our sights as well)
they just fix it.”

Once in the grip of
the sequential teds – and this grip can convince you that given half a chance
at least one of these teds could have been a real man)
you walk without walking
It’s the abdominal exerciser – lose weight while you sleep! –
come true at last!

Thanks to good old Yankee ingenuity –
I knew we could do it –
(death, pain, suffering finally erased)
just a matter of time!
And those sequential teds
in their own inarticulate, heavy-handed way, do yeoman work
Because who wants to go through the indignities –
not to mention the expert time and precious resources expended! –
of abdominal surgery for a complex endometrial sarcoma,
make it out of the OR, past the morphine induced glow,
past the headaches, nausea, clear liquid diet,
pain, pain, pain,
plastic-tasting food, determined cheerfulness of nurses,
awkward conversations with the visiting well,
resigned recognition in the eyes of your fellow travelers,
existential despair –
to be recovering for God’s sake
Doing your patriotic red white and blue best to get better
overcome the odds, get back to being a productive member of society –
only to be carried off unexpectedly one night by a random blood clot.
How un-American.
And that’s why the teds are there
While you sleep they walk, keeping you safe from yet one more vicious assault
from that random, unpredictable universe that must have been invented in Europe,
probably France
just one more un-American phenomenon we will surely soon put to rest alongside weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombers, Bin Laden, and
lack of appreciation for the freedoms we’ve bestowed
on yet another undeserving country
After all, what is cancer really but a mass of unruly, violent, terrorist cells?

Hospitals are full of nifty devices
like my good friends the sequential teds
IV lines, monitors, bed rails, open-back hospital gowns
They keep you safe
and they keep you tame
and any redblooded American is grateful for their vigilant presence
guarding the destabilized perimeter

Still, lying in hospital
at unguarded moments
waiting for the pathology report
to give a definitive ruling on
the complex mass of unknown origin
that will decide my life or death
I sometimes dream
of rising from my bed
gently extricating from the determined embrace of the teds
leaving gracefully behind the functional and humiliating hospital gown,
the tethered cord of the IV drip
the bleep of the monitor
to roam the silent corridors of pain and suffering and death
naked, unencumbered, free