Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Hey, It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 2)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death — Bob at 10:23 pm on Saturday, April 10, 2010

Part Two:

By Robert M. Katzman

I drew up a will.

I had a successful store north of Chicago, worth I felt, about half a million.  Joy and I had a house in Highland Park on a wooded half-acre worth about the same (six years ago) and I had $400,000 worth of life insurance with State Farm.  All together, about $1,400,000 in assets.

If two of those assets were liquidated in the event of my demise, I felt Joy could remain securely in that house with our daughter, Sarah.  I wrote out those words in my will.

My oldest child, Lisa, then 29, was just about to graduate with an advanced degree in her field, in December.  I was certain that I intended to be there for her, for that.  She should have her father be a witness to her success.

I had two tickets to see The Lion King in a Downtown Chicago theater, purchased earlier as a Chanukah gift for Sarah.  No way would I miss that experience, with her.

I visited with and listened to my middle daughter, Rachel, and my son, David.  Warm, loving children.

I wanted to see my oldest friend, Rick Munden, continuously essential to my life, over New Year’s Eve in his home in Sunnyvale, California, near San Francisco.  Maybe a visit, maybe goodbye, but a priority for me.

While I was there visiting Rick and his wife Mary, during a quiet moment late one evening, I asked him if he would be the executor of my will, if I died from or during the surgery.  Not exactly something I ever dreamed I would ask the person whom I first met in 1961, when we were both eleven and in sixth grade.

Rick, though momentarily surprised to hear my request, didn’t hesitate a second to my relief, and agreed immediately.  That was the last piece I wanted to have solidly in place, for my peace of mind and for the protection of my family.  I trusted Rick, completely.

All of these desires of mine were successfully completed.  Then, and only  then, did I agree to go under the knife.

It is now April, 2010, over six years later.  The world-crushing Recession of the last few years has swept away all the assets I wrote about in my will: No house, no more life insurance, and mostly, no big collectible store.  Just a little one, now.  An acorn, not an oak, people.

Rick is in the final stages of selling his house so he and Mary can fly to England and live on a boat he bought last week, a thirty-one footer.  He intends to live on it permanently, and gradually sail south down various rivers this summer until he reaches the Mediterranean Sea.  I am happy for him.  Jealous, but happy.

He recently called to tell me that while going through the last few boxes of unsorted papers before he disposes of them, like he has disposed of just about every other possession they have, that he came across that old will I entrusted him with, and did I still want him to keep it.

I silently mused to myself about the coincidence in our lives that Rick deliberately chose to divest himself of all his possessions,  and my having done virtually the same thing over the last six years, although involuntarily.  Nevertheless, amused by the irony, I told him to keep the will and try not to sink the boat.

But, well…obviously, I am here to tell the tale and I feel no meaningless compulsion to mourn lost possessions.  Telling you I survived the operations doesn’t necessarily kill the suspense of this story.  Sorry, if it did.

Here is what happened when I showed up for brain surgery in the first week of January 2004, at 6 am.

After checking in with Joyce by me, as always, I shed my clothes, had my vitals taken, ports inserted in my hand for drugs to be administered or whatever else would be sent into my veins and was then sent to wait in a too cool hallway to await Dr. Francois’ summons to surgery.

Besides Joy, my three adult kids were there, David, Lisa and Rachel; my older sister Bonnie and my deceased mother’s younger sister, Aunt Adele, too.  They kissed me, and wished me good luck.  Then the anesthesiologist pushed down on the syringe to began the serious stuff flowing through the plastic tubing and into my body and I was rolled into the operating room.

When I woke up later that same evening, back in my room, Joy was there.  My head had thick bandages tightly secured by surgical tape, more plastic tubes were everywhere, nurses came and went and eventually Dr. Francois came in to talk to me.

We talked for a while as he periodically looked down at clipboard.  He asked me many questions and I answered him.  But I was very tired and didn’t want much conversation.  I thought this was a social call, you know:

“Hey Bob! How ya doin’?”

The pain drugs, always welcome, those lovely narcotics, were flowing and I was happy about that, or maybe I just thought I was happy about that.  Not sure.  My doctor made some notations on his clipboard with a red marker.  He was in a good mood and told me I should no longer experience any pain in my forearms, as if that were my main priority at that moment.  But still, I thanked him.  I wanted to be sociable.

Then he told me everything went smoothly during the surgery and that I would be going home in a couple of days.

That was a shocker!

“Really?” I responded.

“Doc, when I was eleven, in 1961, I was kept in the hospital for a week—for a hernia!” 

Well, he replied, things change.  He kept watching me.  Then I wondered if my sudden recollection from over forty years earlier was of any significance immediately after brain surgery, but Dr. Francois said nothing about it to me.

He was friendly, gentle, attentive and told me the surgery went well, both tumors were removed and I was fine.

A couple of days later, the tubes were removed, the bandages, too, and I was told that the incision was healing nicely and I could go home.  I wasn’t to drive a car for a week or so until I felt steady enough to do that.

As I was dressing to leave, I noticed a clipboard sitting on a chair at the foot of my bed, perhaps left there by accident.  I was curious, since I was NEVER allowed to see my chart.  I picked it up and began flipping through the several pages of undecipherable medical hieroglyphics.

Then, written in red marker ink, was one sentence in clear English with an exclamation point after it, apparently written by Dr. Francois.  It said:

“The patient has made a fantastic recovery!” 

I shuddered at the red words staring up at me from the page, and I thought to myself,

“Exactly what were they actually expecting?” 

I put the clipboard down on my bed, buttoned up my shirt and left the hospital.  The potent words were haunting me.

Joy had gone to the parking garage a few minutes earlier to get our car so she could drive me home—the Damaged Invalid.  Annoyed, I thought,

“Screw that!”

When she pulled up to the curb, I told her to slide over to the passenger side.  I would drive.

Joy hesitated, then saw I wasn’t negotiating.

She knew me…and said nothing.  She slid over, wordlessly. 

After all, I’d had a “Fantastic” recovery, right?

I drove us home, spent a few boring days in bed and went back to work in my store.

No problems.

It was over.

No…it wasn’t.

Part Three  in a week


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle:bob_katzman


Comment by Larry marks

April 11, 2010 @ 8:46 am

I’m looking forward to the next part

Comment by Don Larson

April 11, 2010 @ 11:39 am

Hi Bob,

Okay, I’m hooked on this story now.


Comment by Bob

April 11, 2010 @ 4:31 pm


You will soon see where my anger comes from. Then, I believe you will become angry, too. Just wait another week. I have to turn the semi-legible into type, first.


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