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Ostomy Memories of a Small Town


For fourteen years, I lived in a little town of 350 or so people without anyone knowing, for the first seven, that I had an ileostomy. This was a blue-collar area, working men and productive women, and it actually was three small towns in a row that were related by politics, religion, and – just as frequently – by family. There were about six or eight primary surnames in the towns that contributed to the majority of the populace. I had an office in the middle town, just four miles from the town where I lived, and managed to become acquainted with many of the lifelong locals, despite the fact that I was not related to anyone, didn’t attend the church, and was the only Democrat within a circumference reachable by a tank of gas. All the men had garages and sheds and barns filled with every tool imaginable, and they knew how to use them. If a plow or a backhoe or a tractor was needed for a job, they always seemed to materialize from somewhere, and everyone knew exactly how to run them too. My own knowledge of tools being limited to distinguishing hammers from pliers, I was often helped out of a jamb by a willing neighbor with the know-how and the equipment for what I needed. After living there for seven years, I ran into ostomy complications that necessitated re-doing the surgery that I’d had for forty-seven years. I never mentioned to anyone, of course, why I was in the hospital. The two women that worked in my office, both life-long locals from two of the primary families, apparently weren’t willing to live in ignorance regarding my health status. I think one of them got to a relative that worked in the hospital. So much for HIPAA. In hindsight, how do I know? When I recovered and returned to work, I walked in through the door and both of them looked directly at my belly. Hindsight isn’t a superpower.

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