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Second Surgery

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Few family crises tug more at the heart of mother than not being with her child when she is in pain.
Mary had to undergo another operation for a ragged rotator cuff.
Yes, the first one was just last fall, but once that healed up, the other began to make itself felt and she went ahead and scheduled surgery.
Why would a 50-something pianist come down with what is usually regarded as an athletic ailment when she is so careful about nutrition and fitness? And why did this develop in the first place?

It wasn’t tennis or repetitious factory work. She had been having pain in her right shoulder for some time, just not enough to take to the doctor. A fall on a rain-wet city street put her over her pain threshold and she turned herself in. Now a veteran at this sort of event, she realized it wouldn’t fix itself.
She was right. I think she’s counting her blessings. Not only are her hands ensured against debilitating injury or illness, but this whole incident was labeled work-related.

And there was no debating: following injury and surgery like this, in Germany, you take six weeks off, do as much rehabbing as you can, and go back ready to work.
We’re grateful she is having little pain and is eager to get back to the opera house. A lot of what she does involves the piano, so you can understand why she has to come down on 10-fingered chords, arms extending to her right or left, pounding the keys. If you’re a musician, you can imagine the rigors she goes through in rehearsals, auditions, and performances.
But so much of her work is for auditioning singers or training them in five or six different languages, most of which does not involve her arms and shoulders. No matter. She is paid her normal salary, and hasn’t a lot to do.

Mary does not let the grass grow. If she has even just a few days off, she wants to go somewhere to see the sights, hear a concert, visit a garden, and take in as much as she can.
I knew what was coming when we Skyped late last week. “I made my reservation,” she said. “To Majorca. Want to come along?”
She had invited me several weeks ago to keep her company. Rainer has a full schedule and can’t leave Germany just now.
I visited a couple of websites for information about Majorca, and I wanted to call her and tell her I’ve changed my mind. The place is just right for the things Mary likes to do. She loves the water and snorkeling, mountainous landscapes, museums, cathedrals.

This western Mediterranean island off Spain is also favored by European aristocracy and hosted a variety of well-known artists and musicians, including Felix Mendelssohn, Juan Miró, George Sand, and Frederick Chopin. I’m so envious.
But I had my chance, didn’t I? I’m not quite up to hiking mountain trails, and popping in and out of lagoons and caves where the mountains meet the sea. Mary knows that and brushes it off, assuring me I’d be no trouble. A saint, that lassie.

I certainly don’t wish to act as Dowager to her Nursie. Even at my best, I could not keep up with her. I hated thinking that my saying “No” would sabotage her plans.
That didn’t happen. Subtropical Majorca is attractive to Europeans sick of winter, even though it has been a definitely dry winter this year. We’ve had more icy/rainy weather here in Georgia than in Düsseldorf where Mary lives when she’s not gallivanting around the hemisphere.
It would be nice for her to have company, but I couldn’t even suggest her Dad offer to join her. When we travel I do nearly all the thinking and leave the luggage to Dave. He wants no part of trying to negotiate a room in a hotel or map out a route via streetcar.

So. We will not be going to Majorca this year. Nor to any other seductive destination.
Mary’s going to be fine, and she takes good pictures. But I don’t apologize for saying, “No.”

{Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is]

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