I am in a hospital waiting room. My wife is having cataract surgery right now. For the last four hours I’ve been in this crowded holding pen of optical patients where we have been exposed to dangerous quantities of daytime television.

Currently, there is a TV mounted overhead with volume set to “deafen.” We are prisoners, all forced to watch “Live with Kelly and Mark,” where the banter between co-hosts goes like this:

“I’m so glad it’s June.”

“Me too. Does June have 31 or 32 days?”

“It only has 28.”

My wife was nervous about getting surgery this morning. I could tell by the way she was chewing her fingernails when we arrived at the hospital.

My wife is a feisty individual who, aside from being a dedicated fingernail chewer, is not afraid to use strong language during appropriate situations, such as, traffic, national championship games, Bible study, etc.

So when the male nurse, for example, inserted a needle into my wife’s arm, she implied loudly that he had been born to unmarried parents.

After that, we waited for several hours while medical staffers took her vitals, made sure her heart worked properly, examined her blood pressure, and asked vitally important medical history questions, such as, “Will this be a co-pay?”

Then they wheeled her back. I waved goodbye to her.

And now here I am. Waiting alongside other eye surgery candidates. All of whom wear looks of dread on their faces.

I don’t know how anyone could be anything but nervous. So far, we have watched dozens of patients get wheeled into the mysterious back room, then re-emerge after a few hours with bandages, eye patches, groggy looks on their faces, and wearing butt-revealing gowns.

These surgery patients are usually accompanied by escorts who roll them along in wheelchairs. And you can tell the patients are still loopy from medication by the way they affectionately grope their escorts, even if their escort happens to be their spouse.

I do not like hospitals. My current healthcare plan is to remain 2,500 feet away from all medical-care facilities. Because in my experience, whenever you go near a hospital, including to deliver the U.S. Mail, they give you a catheter the size of a fire hose.

A few years ago, I had a minor surgery and I was administered a catheter by a disgruntled nurse named Wilma who had hands like Virginia hams. Wilma was apparently angry with the entire male species, because before she inserted my catheter, she began talking about her ex-husband.

“You wanna know what that FOOL said to me?” said Wilma, as she performed her duties. “Do you KNOW WHAT THAT FOOL SAID TO ME?”

Sadly, I never learned what the “fool said” because I was too busy screaming the Lord’s Prayer.

Although, right now, I’d rather have a catheter installed by Wilma than watch “Live with Kelly and Mark.”

Finally, my wife emerges from the OR. She’s wheeled through the hallway in a chair. She looks tired, and she wears a patch over her eye.

And I’m thinking here of a time, long ago, when they took my wife to the operating room to cut her open because they thought she had cancer. I’m thinking of the way I cried when they took her away from me. I’m thinking of last year, when I had the same sort of biopsy performed on me. I’m thinking of how short life is.

When you’re young, you think life is going to last a lot longer than it actually does.

I hug my wife. I’m just enjoying the essence of her shampoo, and her wonderful smell. And I don’t mean to strive for melodrama, but I love this woman so much it hurts.

“How’d it go?” I ask, squeezing her tightly.

“Ouch!” she says. “Don’t hug me so hard!”

Then she shoves me away and implies that I was born to unmarried parents.

Ah, amor.


  1. Susie Murphy - June 2, 2023 12:34 pm

    Been there, done this. And really glad I did. I hope Jamie has as good an outcome.

  2. Dee Thompson - June 2, 2023 2:02 pm

    BTDT and it is NO fun. I always take a book in waiting situations like that. Praying that Jamie will have a swift and easy recovery. My BFF had the same surgery recently and she is delighted with the fact her right eye is now back to nearly 20/20. I’m sure Jamie will have a similarly happy outcome. Tell her that she should eat lots of eggs because they have an ingredient called Lutein that really improves eye health — or she can take a Lutein pill. I prefer eggs over easy. She doesn’t want another cataract.

  3. Becky Souders - June 2, 2023 5:00 pm

    I still call my cataract surgeries “a miracle.” Plus it was the best light show I’ve ever witnessed. Good thoughts to Jamie and hugs to you, Sean Dietrich, for being there!
    Re: how long life is….. I am 80. I thought getting old would take longer!

  4. Linda Stewart - June 2, 2023 9:50 pm

    My first opportunity and privilege to read your ….. is it “blog” ? The reason I am here is because I started reading your memoir Will the Circle Be Unbroken & saw your website on the back of the dust cover. Because of that cover, I originally thought the book was about the nitty-gritty dirt band of whom I am a devout fan. Anyway, as of today, I am a Sean of the South fan and look forward to more of your entries as well as reading the rest of this book and will look for more of your literary offerings. Best wishes to your wife and I hope her surgery brightens her vision as it did mine. It’s a plum miracle.

  5. Lin - June 3, 2023 3:54 pm

    I just had my yearly eye exam and am safe from cataract surgery for another year. Two of my friends have already done it so I suppose my days are numbered. Hope Jamie’s is successful!

  6. Anne stickney - June 7, 2023 11:36 am

    Congrats to your wife on her new eyesight. When you get older, your “firsts” start being less and less fun- you’re way past first time to drive a car, first kiss, first job. We’re left with first grandchild, first cataract surgery, and first knee replacement. I guess if we’re still above ground and the sun keeps coming up , it’s all good.


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