Mrs. T is still in the hospital in Connecticut, and I’m still visiting her there every day. Some of my visits, however, are easier than others. I got caught in a blizzard driving home from the hospital last week, and even now I get scared thinking about it. I’ve never driven through anything like it in my life—at one point I was sure I’d be spending the night in my car—and as I inched down the road, I found myself thinking, unlikely as it may sound, of Calvin and Hobbes.
I’d long since stopped reading the funny pages by 1985, the year in which Bill Watterson launched his now-defunct comic strip, and it wasn’t until February of 2016, when I stumbled across a Twitter feed devoted to old strips, that I became a belated fan. It happens that Calvin’s passion for snow is one of my favorite aspects of Calvin and Hobbes. I felt the same way as a child, perhaps because we didn’t get nearly as much snow in Smalltown, U.S.A., as I would have liked. As I explained in this space three years ago:
The word “snow” appears no more than a half-dozen times in the memoir of my childhood and youth that I wrote not long after moving to New York…It was in part because of their rareness that I treasured the days when enough snow fell on Smalltown that my brother and I could stay home from school and play in it. My parents, bless them, had the goodness not to tell us that such days were pleasurable only to children. How sad it would have been to know too soon that a time was to come when I would go to considerable trouble to flee them.
Now, though, I’m a man on the far shores of middle age who is married to a woman with a serious respiratory disease, and I find it hard to think of snow as anything other than a potentially lethal nuisance. I wouldn’t trade Mrs. T for all the snowmen in the world, and I miss being a snowbird in south Florida far more than I long for the white Christmases of my youth. Alas, we can’t go back to Sanibel Island until she gets a new pair of lungs. That’s why she’s in the hospital, doing battle with a stubborn staph infection, and why I’m spending two hours each day driving there and back until her doctors decide that she’s ready to go home.
As pleasant as Mrs. T’s room is, it’s still a hospital room, and she’s still eating hospital food. For this reason, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make sure that she had a proper Thanksgiving dinner. A kind friend told me that Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in West Hartford, which is a ten-minute drive from UConn John Dempsey Hospital, was a first-class restaurant that served Thanksgiving dinners, and a phone call established that they’d be glad to pack one up for her. I drove to Fleming’s yesterday afternoon, collected a big brown paper bag full of carefully packed food, and brought it back to Mrs. T. She cleaned her plate.
The TV channels available to Mrs. T in her hospital room are severely limited, enough so that we were forced after dinner to resort to watching The Godfather on AMC in a censored version replete with commercials. But we also listened to two episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour, the delightfully eccentric and eclectic radio show that Bob Dylan hosted on Sirius XM from 2006 to 2009, on my MacBook Air, and considered ourselves well and truly entertained. (If you’ve never heard Theme Time Radio Hour, this column that I wrote for The Wall Street Journal in 2008 will tell you what you’ve been missing.)
This is no vacation, not for Mrs. T and not for me. I’ve already written a couple of columns in her hospital room, and expect to write a couple more there next week. Nor have I stopped going to shows: I’ll be driving from UConn to New York tonight to catch a Saturday matinée of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, then returning to the hospital after the show. I’m as eager for Mrs. T to return home as she is, but so long as she’s in the hospital, there’s nowhere else I want to be. It took us long enough to find one another, and now that we’re together, our plan is to spend as much time together as we can, even if I have to eat hospital food, watch movies with commercials, and drive through blizzards. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to happiness, it takes two.
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A promotional video for Fleming’s Steakhouse’s annual Thanksgiving dinner:
Joanna Gleason and Chip Zien sing Stephen Sondheim’s “It Takes Two” in the original Broadway production of Into the Woods. This performance was taped on stage in 1989: