What’s a hernia? I wondered when I heard my grandma talking about my grandfather’s. I didn’t think too much of it– it seemed perfectly natural that an old man would have medical “stuff” to deal with. To this day, I’m not sure if they were talking about a hernia or hemorrhoids because those two are fused in my brain; they are filed under “uncomfortable stuff that starts with ‘H’ and afflicts old people.” Neither were any concern of mine.
Yep, no concern of mine at all. Until of course the dull ache on my left side was diagnosed not as uterine cancer (as I was convinced because I am hysterical and do not understand human anatomy), but potentially the start of a hernia. Maybe.
A frizz-eaking hernia.
“Are you sure it’s not cancer?” I asked, because oddly I was more prepared for that than a pre-hernia.
It’s not entirely clear why I was begging my doctor to diagnose me with cancer, but there was just something about the hernia. How could I possibly have the same thing that my grandfather had when he was already a grandfather? I’ve been ransacking my brain for more memories of my grandfather, but my grandmother’s impression was so much more vivid that she’s almost crowded all of the memories of my grandfather. All that’s left of my grandfather, the taciturn farmer who wore overalls most days of his life and died in 1981, is an impression of a man who worked hard enough to run a family farm and lost most of his hearing from riding a John Deere tractor.
I’d long ago given up the idea that I’d find common ground with him, a man who died in the same room he was born in inside the old yellow farmhouse outside of Forreston, Texas. But this thing, this pre-actual-problem on my left side feels like an invisible thread leading me back to him. We’re connected! I found something that’s ours– it’s a hernia! I was really seeing the bright side of my almost-hernia.
For the days after the doctor said the “H” word, I felt the ache all the time. I was convinced my abdominal wall was rupturing, and I hoped my boss wouldn’t be too mad if I collapsed at work. I looked up med-alert bracelets and taught my children how to dial 911. I was going to be ready when my “might be a hernia” developed into a code-red emergency.
Then, the ache went away. I poked and prodded the spot where I’d pictured my intestines rolling out onto the floor. And nothing. Except I’ve now got a bruise from pressing so hard in search of my little hernia that could– could connect me across two generations to my daddy’s daddy and open up a longing for him inside of me that had been dormant for decades.
As the doctor promised, it seems like the issue “resolved itself.” So it’s gone. Without it, I feel the thread to my grandfather has been severed. I feel him slipping back behind the spotlight where my grandmother’s memory glows from center stage. And I miss him and that dull little ache that had been keeping me company.