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#2197: Willa Cather to Roscoe Cather, August 15 [1942]

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I find just as you did, my dear brother1, that it is very difficult to make my legs behave properly. I remember that when I first saw you in San Francisco5, the thing that most shocked me was your hands. Well, mine shock me a good deal worse just at present. When I came into the hospital, the day before the operation6, I weighed 114 pounds, and I'm sure I don't weigh nearly that much now. Of course, for the first four days they fed me entirely through my legs and arms. I couldn't keep anything on my stomach. But really, I don't remember those days as disagreeable, though they were hard for Edith7 because I whined so for water. But I have no sharp memories of discomfort – just of a soft, warm, lazy stupor and a sense of being awfully grateful for not having to care about anything – a kind of release from all likes and dislikes, from sunshine and shadows, which makes me feel quite sure that dying, when one comes to it, must be a rather pleasant affair. If one has lived a pretty full and pretty hard life, I think one will have had a plenty and will feel a kind of satisfaction in slipping out of it. Enough is enough of anything. But, of course, one mustn't tell these things to the young, and I expect that within a few weeks I shall be quite delighted with life again.

I know you would have been with me if you could. As it turned out, the only people who were nearby to support Edith through the first difficult four days (when I was really unconscious all the time) were Ethel Litchfield8 and, strangely enough, Yehudi9! He arrived in New York10 to play his Stadium concert11 the day before I came into the hospital, i.e., two days before the my operation. He called me up in his usual jolly way and wanted to know whether I could have lunch with him. When I explained the situation he wanted to know whether he could come to see me on Saturday – the day after the operation.!! I asked whether he had ever seen anybody the day after an abdominal operation, and told him I didn't wish him to begin on me.! Well, he was to have played in Philadelphia12 sometime the next week, but the Thunder God began to break the Philadelphia stadium to pieces every other night. Workmen repaired it all day, the management would telephone Yehudi to come over, he would get on the train, and by the time he got to Philadelphia, Lightning would have knocked a big hole in the auditorium during a ten-minute thunder storm in the afternoon. So the soloist would ride back to New York on the night train and sleep in his own rooms. This sort of thing kept him dallying around so long that we actually had our delightful morning together eight days after my operation, and it was such a delightful morning. He is a different boy when he is on vacation and not playing a heavy winter schedule. I never saw him so rosy or his eyes so bright, and he had so many funny stories to tell that it quite lifted me out of my rather gloomy state. He had taken Edith out to lunch several times and had telephoned every day to know how things were going, so that I really felt a kind of support in his being here, as if he were a young brother or some one on whom we had a right to call.

Of course, one gets awfully bored and one hates oneself for being so weak in body, but for two days now I have been allowed to go to my bathroom and I sit up for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon. Each day I will make that time longer, and tomorrow I will begin to walk about the room a little.

Dear Roscoe1;

after dictating the above notes to you, I had a queer sort of set back and could keep no food on my stomach for two days. I am going home this afternoon but will be in bed for a few days longer. Gall-bladder operations play Hell with your stomach. I hate all food—a little nausea most of the time. Margaret13 must have written you that the weather has been frightful.

Lovingly Willie
FROM CATHER 570 PARK AVE.3, NEW YORK CITY2 Mr. R. C. Cather1 First Savings Bank of Colusa Colusa, California4 NEW YORK. N. Y2 AUG 15 1942 3 PM Personal