People mean well... They really do... But sometimes...

I don't know how many of you out there have had the unfortunate experience of being hospitalized or have had to have undergone any kind of treatment or suffered through an illness for an extended period of time. Here's to raising my glass in hoping that it doesn't include the vast majority of us.

"You look good."

I know most people are just trying to be nice when they say that. Maybe that's because they don't know what else to say or don't want to say something along the lines of "You look like shit". Maybe they just feel awkward being around somebody who is sick and that's the easist thing to say. I'm sure that in most cases, it's meant to brighten the other persons spirits and make them forget about their plight for a little while.

I think it was two weeks to the day after open heart surgery that I made my way out to the local watering hole to drop in for a minute or two and say some hello's and catch up on anything that was important. I purposely went during the dead hours between two and four in the afternoon when the lunch crowd was gone and the happy hour regulars hadn't yet made their grand entrance. The few heads that were there turned in my direction and as the look of recognition hit their faces, I knew I had made a mistake. I was making them uncomfortable in one of the few places that they went in order to seek comfort. Hands were shaken and gentle hugs were exchanged and the litany of "You look good(s)" seemed never ending.

Then there was that awful awkward silence that ensued that some people have when they're around sick people. Pregnant pauses, tongue tied and unsure of what to say next, you could feel the conversation come to a halt. I think I choked down a glass if iced tea before I told them it was time for me to hit the bricks. You could almost feel the relief come back to the room when the door closed behind me and the last words I heard were that "Hey man, you look good!"

I can only imagine the conversation that might've taken place the minute I was out of earshot. How I looked like death warmed over or any other analogy that seemed appropriate.

After a couple of weeks went by, I had the courage to ask one of the bartenders how bad I looked when I tried to make my triumphant return. Her reply was something along the lines of that my complexion reminded her of a freshly emptied ashtray before you had the chance to wash it. She said she was afraid that if I stuck around, I might run some other customers off and cut into her tips.

Now that's the kind of honesty I can appreciate and I think I fell in love with her in that exact moment.

I still have my share of bad days when I don't feel like getting off the couch and wish that they'd left me on the table. I think it borders somewhere between self-pity and depression. Those days are getting fewer and farther between as time moves on. I can almost look in the mirror and see little pieces of me coming back on a daily basis.

People have pretty much stopped telling me that "You look good" and our conversations have returned to the more mundane things in life like football, women and politics.

I'm almost back...