Lum: Case of the missing column

Su Lum

When Aspen Times Editor Lauren Glendenning called me at 3 p.m. June 28 to ask where my column was, my heart did one of those Ferris-wheel stomach drops. I could have sworn that it was only June 23 and that I had just written a column about woodchucks.

Lauren had sent me an email at noon (my deadline, I think), but I hadn’t managed to hobble with my walker to my office yet. My back still felt as if it were broken in three or four places, and I’d just been put on antibiotics because that damned staph infection was back, killing me not so softly.

I thought Monday was Friday and Tuesday was Thursday, and I was seeing these clusters of nonexistent red gnats flying in front of my eyes that I don’t mention until they have gone away.

It was too late to exhume an old column. When Lauren assured me that I could take a sick day, I went right back to sleep, a first since 1989. When I was in the hospital in Grand Junction, Janet Urquhart took over my column for a month or two, but last week was the only time I actually forgot it.

I still miss Janet’s column.

I’m not sure how long this present crippling, crawling condition has been going on. My friend Hilary would probably guess that it’s been five or six months that she’s been fixing meals, checking my oxygen and keeping the steamer going, but it’s more like two months.

But bit by bit, I am getting better. I have graduated from the walker to the cane, a big step, so to speak. I don’t know if it’s the marijuana salve or the capsules (guaranteed not to further scramble my sensibilities), the antibiotics or the lidocaine patches or the pain meds or the sweet massages by Carrie the visiting physical therapist or just time, endless hours and days of healing time spent listening to audible books and watching “The Price Is Right.”

I think it was Voltaire who said, “The purpose of the physician is to amuse the patient while nature cures the disease.”

Last night it was freezing cold, which may account for my dachshund Freddie being under the covers leaning against my bad hip and my stocky dachshund Nicky lying directly on top of my diabetic feet.

“Move over,” I hissed, a command they both know but chose to ignore. I gave Nicky a push, and he quadrupled his weight. It was 3 in the morning and accurately promised to be a long, fitful night. I finally fell blissfully asleep at 7 a.m. and woke at 10:30, all pill schedules out of whack.

I consider it a really good morning when I don’t drop my pillbox into the dog water and can lay hands on both hearing aids, both pairs of glasses, the TV remote and my teeth. It’s an extra bonus if I don’t knock over my drinking water.

I’m pretty stubborn about claiming to be perfectly sane despite the evidence to the contrary. When I had to deal with a whole new complement of meds and a very nasty new pillbox, I got completely swept away rehearsing their names and warnings, such as “Don’t take Prilosec within two hours of taking Cipro,” “Take this with food” and “Take that without food.”

I would obsess about the pills as if I were trying to memorize and understand Einstein’s theories, and then the obsession would fade into sleep, where I was in a constant swirl trying in vain to solve the unsolvable math problems, with numbers coming into and out of focus.

After that phase was over, I could look back and think that I was definitely crazy then and am not positive about now except that people’s faces have stopped turning into blobs of bright red gnats.

Su Lum is a longtime local who is missing the whole summer. Her column, if she thinks of it, runs every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at