My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

By the time most of you read this, my husband, Russell, will be undergoing double bypass heart surgery today. We are both surprisingly calm, as are our children, Rory and Lily. Nobody in our family has had surgery before (unless you count childbirth without an epidural), so this is a first for all of us. We figure that since we’re starting with a BIGGIE, anything that pops up in the future (tonsillitis, anyone?) ought to be a cakewalk. 

My husband’s surgery is happening at the same hospital where my daughter made her entrance into the world 18 years ago, so there are many happy vibes there. And across the street is where we had a Greek breakfast at Nick’s Cafe after my obstetrician three floors up stripped my membrane to finally put me into labor with my son more than two decades ago. When Russell and I sat down and heard “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash playing on the radio in the cafe, we both burst into joyful tears. We’ve called it “Rory’s Song” ever since.

 As I look out at the snow falling outside my home office window on a fresh Sunday morning, it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, Russell was running several miles on the treadmill and shoveling two feet of heavy snow off our sidewalks and driveway. It’s a miracle, really, that he went eight months without a heart attack after first noticing a sore throat that flared up after exercising. It was his only symptom. 

 My husband has always been a mellow, kindhearted and poetic guy — kind of like John Lennon, for those of you who tell me that he resembles the beloved Beatle. At our meeting with the surgeon on Friday, Russell flashed me “the look” when I pulled out my notebook and asked the surgeon a long list of questions, including what kind of music he liked to listen to during heart surgery. (Some people become quiet during times of stress, while others might cry or panic. But I’ve always put on my reporter’s hat to get me through.) 

 Dr. Jim Stringham, an affable man in his early 60s with white hair and a steady handshake (good qualities for heart surgeons and airline pilots, I’ve always thought), smiled and told me that he and his team like to listen to just about anything: classical, country, jazz, bluegrass, you name it.

 “What about Neil Young?” I asked. “Russell loves Neil Young. Can you put some of his classics on?”

As if I needed to ask.

You’ve got it,” said Dr. Stringham. “Neil Young it is.”

 So imagine this: After Russell is wheeled into the operating room this morning and introduced to the team of medical experts that will extend his life, he will close his eyes and drift off to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” 

 I can’t think of a better new beginning for the next 20 years of his remarkable life. ♥️

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2 thoughts on “Heart of Gold

  1. LA says:

    Thinking of you and your family

    1. Cathy Free says:

      Thank you kindly! He’s now in ICU and doing well. ♥️

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