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A friend in the hospital

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  By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —   I’m not much for trying to keep long distance relationships thriving or, for that matter, even going. It’s not that it’s a lot of work these days- going down to ye olde stationery shoppe and picking up a fresh quill and some parchment. All I’ve to do is pick up the phone- there are no long distance calls any more, shoot out a text or send an email, complete with photos and attachments. Maybe it’s not just me. Is it possible that all my friends and acquaintances are just as lazy as me? Maybe it was Ann Landers who said, “the phone works both directions”.

     I got a call a couple days ago from the only old friend who regularly keeps in touch, with weekly calls, who let me know that another old river pilot and running buddy was in the hospital with some serious stuff going on. I got through to him this morning and we had a wonderful conversation. He had not one, but two surgeries in the last 10 days and was still on all liquids. He sounded upbeat and couldn’t say enough good things about the way everyone was treating him there in the hospital. Another 10 days and they might let him go home and recover there. 

     I let him know that I would be back in town in a couple weeks and that we should get together for a beer or two and catch up on what’s gone on in my old home town. He thought that was a great idea, although he didn’t know if the doctor would want him back on the High Life that soon. He also said that he was amazed at the outpouring of support from people he hadn’t heard from in a while. It was no surprise to me, though, when he said that he was really more concerned about how his wife would handle him being laid up rather than how he himself would deal with it.

     When we hung up, I knew that he would be all right, because he had an attitude that wouldn’t let it be any other way. I thought back to the time, eleven years ago, when I was undergoing cancer treatment, and keeled over during a stress test. (coincidentally, at the same hospital where he is at) My arteries were all sludged up and I needed bypass surgery or one day, sooner than later, they would find my lifeless body out in the back 40 with my Stihl chainsaw still idling beside me.

     I know this might sound a bit odd, but several days after waking up from my heart operation and getting removed from some of the tubes and sensors, I got that same feeling I get every single time I watch the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about how many people out there really do care about me. The calls, the cards, even the caring people who were just doing their jobs there at the hospital. I still had to deal with my cancer, but I was absolutely certain that everything was going to be just fine. That’s how I felt, and I absolutely sensed that that’s how my friend felt as I talked to him today. He’ll be O.K. With that kind of positive attitude, how could it be any other way?

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo

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