Posted Online: Jan. 06, 2010, 1:40 pm
Lying around the house proves too tough even for a Mullen
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Frank Mullen IIII
Recuperating at home was more of a mental challenge than I expected.
After surgery for a detached retina a few weeks ago, my doctor prescribed rest. When a medical professional orders a Mullen to take it easy, the Mullen listens with joyful excitement. Humans are born, Mullens know, with a limited supply of energy, which must be carefully conserved if it is to last a lifetime.
So when the doctor told me to limit my activities, to basically lie around the house for a few weeks, I didn't feel restricted. I'm a Mullen; I felt like I'd walked into Jumer's, dropped a stack of C-notes on the pass line and rolled a natural.
The trouble is, the doctor's instruction to "lie around the house" turned out to be literal. To rest my eye in certain positions, it was crucial that I spend days draped over the furniture, sprawled face-down on the bed with my face hanging over the edge, resting my forehead on the dinner table.
Boredom steps in pretty quickly when you're spending most of the day looking at your knees. I read as much as possible, but following the plot of a Stephen King novel is difficult with your nose wedged in the crook of your elbow.
Listening, despite what my wife thinks, is something I'm good at, so, in the morning, before beginning my rigorous daily regimen of slumping, I'd tune the radio to the public radio station.
This meant spending a lot of time with Don Wooten. Mr. Wooten has been broadcasting for close to 60 years, most of this time, somehow, squeezed into the last few weeks of December 2009. Saturdays were particularly Wooten-filled, beginning with Don's morning talk show and ending with his evening jazz program. By midnight, I was hallucinating that I'd died with my head on the dining room table and was welcomed to heaven by St. Peter, Don Wooten and a band of angels strumming "Harlem Nocturne" on baritone harps.
As the days passed, my reasoning became increasingly distorted. Activities that I normally wouldn't care about seemed compelling because I was trapped at home. For example, I became convinced that the Fates themselves wanted me to drive to Davenport to join in the caroling at the German American Heritage Center. My grandmother was German, I'm an American and I used to know a girl named Carol. The parallels were astounding.
Then, a few inches of snow made me want -- no, need -- to go sleigh riding. Being stuck inside now seemed doubly wrong and unfair. In a just world, I would have been outside with everyone else, gaily whizzing down -- here comes that faulty thinking again -- those terrifyingly steep, roller-coaster roads on the slopes of the towering prairie mountains that give western Illinois its nickname, "The Alps of the Midwest." The fact is, I haven't slid downhill in the snow since 1971 when I stole a tray from the Franconia College cafeteria and rode it down the hill behind the library to a sudden appointment with the rear bumper of an abandoned 1959 Ford Fairlane.
Despite the severity of this recent mental trauma, my recuperation progressed, my vision improved and the doctor finally freed me from spending days in the face-down stress position, now insisting I sleep in a reclining chair at night.
It's a grueling procedure, but there are worse things in life than being ordered by the authorities to lay in the La-Z-Boy for seven-hour at a stretch.
Ask any Mullen.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a retired Navy band leader.