The brilliant Alana Newhouse and Jeffrey Goldberg of Tablet magazine have a feature called “The Gallivanting Spatula,” a list of English words used almost exclusively by Jews — words like “gallivanting,” for example, and “affair,” when referring to a wedding or bar mitzva or really any event involving a caterer.
If you have an extramarital dalliance and it doesn’t have a caterer, it is not an “affair.”
To their list I would add “procedure.” Jews may not be the only people to use this word, but I think we are unique in using it to refer to any kind of medical intervention — from the removal of an ingrown toenail to a heart and lung transplant. When your aunt calls to say your uncle had a “little procedure,” it’s usually a sign to start panicking.
Anyway, I had a little “procedure” this week, and while it was less than a heart-lung transplant it was slightly more than a hangnail. I have no memories of the “incident” (another Gallivanting Spatula term) that brought me to the hospital, although my family has been good enough to write down an account of my lost days. Nothing’s weirder than reading an account in which you are the star but of which you have no memory.
There is also the possibility that they are trying to “Gaslight” me and none of this happened — although that would be a pretty wide conspiracy, since at this point it involves my various and wonderful interlocking communities: my synagogue community, my colleagues at work, my incredible family. One colleague sent me a great gift, Tina Fey’s new memoir, Bossypants. I read it in one sitting and laughed out loud again and again. Then I read it again and laughed in the same places. Short-term memory loss: the gift that keeps on giving.
What you learn from an experience like this is that America’s health-care system is a wonder and a little scary — so many resources, so many professionals, so much in support of human dignity. And for those of us lucky enough to have insurance, it’s affordable. I’ll put aside political thoughts of whether our current health-care system is sustainable — I currently believe ObamaCare doesn’t go far enough in assuring universal access to these miracles and wonders — but I would like to express my appreciation for the institutions and the incredible people behind them.
I learned that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden halfway through my hospital stay while still tethered to the leads, lines, and other devices that are the life-extending legacy of societies that value humanity and have done all they can to extend its happiness and well-being. All I could think was how Osama and his ilk mock that life-affirming impulse in the pursuit of some mad religio-political fantasia.
By contrast, I am blessed to be part of communities that may talk in the language of miracles, but express their spiritual values in the language of the here and now. Many people have offered their prayers, but always combined with an offer of a cooked meal, a lift for my kids, some relief for my wife.
And for all those who sent their prayers, good wishes, and offers of help — please send them c/o 30 Rock, the hit NBC series that I apparently created while under anesthesia.