SINCE MY LIFE is filled with art and artists, I’ve allowed myself to live in a somewhat rarified world, a world of beauty, ideas, philosophy and lofty endeavors. Sort of spoils us, however, when we are sometimes abruptly brought up against the “real” world — as I’ve recently found out. I’d run into a bad patch of physical setbacks, spending the last six weeks or so in a variety of doctor’s offices and at least one full week in a hospital. I’ve been at the mercy of doctors, nurses and care-givers, being prepped, poked, prodded and pricked through all hours of the day and night, and not always being a gracious recipient of all that attention. “Mercy”, however, is the operative word here when referring to caregivers in general. From “specialist” to “attendant”, I’ve found that, to a person, these are very special people indeed, each displaying a level of compassion that sometimes made me ashamed of my too often cranky disposition. I know I’ve tried their patience — including that of my wife, friends and neighbors — by my surly attitude to what I consider as “over-attention.” By nature, I am a solitary person, jealously guarding my privacy, happy that my study has no phone and no room for visitors. My old study (the one that burned down a couple of years ago) had a shade that pulled down over my door with large lettering in magic marker that read “GO AWAY!” I didn’t replace that sign because, by now, everyone who knows me, knows me. I don’t like drop-ins, hovering, or over-solicitous do-gooders. Yet, here I was, for days on end, a virtual prisoner to the needs, whims, duties and business of a never-ending line of strangers. Thank goodness for that “mercy”! I mean, what would we do without those caring souls who devote their lives to the well being of their fellow men? I was going to “get better” whether I wanted to or not! And that was it! Getting my “vitals”, taking my pills, changing my IV bag, and so on and so on, on their schedules ruled the day (and night — especially the night!), my wishes be damned! And, I have to say, rightfully so, because if it was up to me, I’d have given up the ghost at the first sign of inconvenience. And, though I might have damned them to Hell from time to time, I am sure that there is a very special place in Heaven for these over-worked and under-paid caregivers who have to live and work day after day in the real world of sickness and pain. How many of them, after putting up with un-appreciative and crabby patients during long shifts of responding to those irritating buzzers constantly going off, have the time to enjoy my world of art and artists? Of visiting art exhibits and museums, of browsing through colorful art books, of gently floating though a world of beauty, ideas, philosophy and lofty endeavors? So let’s hear it for the licensed nurse practitioner, the R.N., the L.P.N., the C.N.A., the P.C.T., the doctor, the hospital attendants, the technicians, the receptionists — the entire gamut of medical professionals. They surely do deserve our full appreciation and we can only hope that there is a special place ready for them in Heaven. I thank you all for your treatment of me over the past several weeks!