Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From a Distance...

I have long since run out of fingers and toes with which to count the number of family gatherings and celebrations that I have missed since we moved here. With rare exception, I can only experience these vicariously through telephone conversations and the pictures that they send me.

I do not remember the last time I was in Southern California for a Father’s Day celebration, and I regret that I missed this one as well.

This one had special significance, because it was the first Father’s Day that our Dad has been great grandfather and the first one that my brother has been a grandfather.

By the time the paterfamilias reaches 91, at least in these parts, there are usually 5 generations present in the photograph. It didn’t work out that way in our family, but I am very thankful that we can at least have a photo of 4 generations. 

I am so excited for my brother that he gets to be grandpa to this little girl. I know he is going to be a great one. He knows how to have fun and have adventures, and she is going to have a wonderful time.

At some point in the distant past, our grandfather, who died in 1986, 2 days before his 94th birthday (my sister went to the facility where he was being cared for with birthday balloons only to find he had just died, poor thing), started a tradition of “pointing...”

when photographs are being taken...

 And the four of us have carried it right on.

Wish I could have been there this time to point too… Maybe next year…

Friday, June 17, 2016

Take it off.... take it all off

Those of us of a certain age will definitely remember the incredibly clever Noxema shaving cream commercial, where a beautiful blond woman urged men to “take it off, take it all off,” and the actor scraped the razor over his shaving cream-covered face in time to the David Rose Stripper music.

This actually isn’t about shaving, but the commercial came to mind toward the the end of our visit with Richard’s long-time friend (R) and his long-time girlfriend (C). R and C have been a couple for 10 years now – maintaining separate residences but traveling together and enjoying each other’s company. We have heard a lot about her over the years and were very happy to finally meet her. We were nervous about what she would be like. She is a lovely woman.

Richard and R met when they were about 10 years old, and both of them are now on the far side of 70, so we’re talking about a friendship of more than 60 years. R left Southern California for Seattle about the same time that we left Southern California in our meandering fashion to arrive here. They skype regularly and have seen each other on occasion over the years, the last time was several years ago.

We did have a nice visit with them. We had a good dinner and pleasant conversation at the restaurant and a nice visit afterward in our hot little house, which was clean enough so that it wasn’t a total embarrassment.

They came back for another hour so the next morning before they headed off to Charleston. 

R had very interesting things to talk about. He has decided to study calculus to keep his brain occupied (I guess!), and he is an amateur astronomer and goes to "star parties" and we chased some rabbits along the way,  but then the conversation took on sort of a surreal quality, and I listened growing incredulity as R and C urged us--with great enthusiasm--to join them on a cruise, which, oh by the way, just happens to be a “clothing optional” cruise.

What?!? Clothing optional? Are you kidding?

“Oh yeah,” he says, “you have to wear clothes while the ship is in port, but once the ship leaves port and passes a certain point, the captain blows a whistle and everyone who wants to, takes off their clothes. And almost everybody does.”

“It's not sexual,” C says. “At first I though it was going to be 20-year-old guys walking around with … well, you know…” she says, “but it isn’t like that all.”

“Let me tell you about Mary (not her real name),” R says. “She is the woman who takes the money and she weighs about 300 pounds…” and he goes on to give a few more details about what the 300-pound Mary looks like without her clothes on. “She’s comfortable in her skin,” he says.

Yeah, well. I don’t have anything against people who want to get together and take their clothes off; in fact, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it if that is what they want to do. Even Christian people get together and take their clothes off (there are a number of Web sites for Christian naturists), and they indeed make some very interesting points about nudity.

But for me? I am not exactly comfortable in my skin to begin with (I could stand to lose about 40 about pounds, if you get my drift), and there would no way on God’s green earth that I would take my clothes off in front of Richard’s friend. I certainly don’t want to see him nude. No, thank you!

The next “clothing optional” cruise they are planning to go on, in 2017, will have a stop in Cuba. They are very excited. We are not excited. I do not believe we will be be joining them.

There will be no “taking it off… taking it all off…”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Visitors: Expected and Unexpected

Aunt Elner’s house was a disaster, with pictures hung all over the wall helter-skelter… and her front porch was a mess. She had all kinds of things strewn everywhere: rocks, pinecones, shells, birds’ nests…
Fannie Flagg, Can’t Wait to get to Heaven
Our house very much resembles the description of Aunt Elner’s front porch. I have collections of birds’ nests, rocks, dead insects, jars of pickled reptiles, amphibians, and embryos, skulls of small creatures, and on it goes, all over the house, not just on the porch. My friend Judy once said she thought she could come and spend some time just looking at all the stuff I have on shelves and window sills because she said she seems to notice something new each time she visits.

Richard’s long-time friend and his long-time girlfriend, who live in Seattle, are due here in the next couple of hours for a visit. They are headed to one of the Carolinas for a family event and decided to stop by here. He has been here before, quite a few years ago now, so he will have some recollection of our house, but I have a bad feeling about what his companion is going to think. Of course I can’t do anything about that but still…

There is too much stuff structurally wrong with the house--part of the ceiling looks like it is going to fall down at any minute, the “fronts” have pulled off several of the drawers in the kitchen cabinets, the linoleum on the floor is cracked and pieces are missing—several remodeling projects that were started have not been finished…so fixing those things is not in the picture, but we have been working like maniacs for the last couple of days trying to make it look a little better than it has been.

Not too much dusting is going on, but the most egregious of the cobweb streamers have been knocked down, the bathroom is cleaned, the floors vacuumed. I am somewhat limited in my ability to do anything because I must get around the house on the knee walker, but yesterday I was working my way around the perimeter of the house with the “webster” and arrived at the kitchen at about the same time that Richard was preparing food at the counter.

I knew what was going to happen as soon as I started in on the curtain above the kitchen counter and sure enough….

“Do you really have to do that right NOW?”

But then something totally unexpected happened… and I would have stopped even if he hadn’t been there because….

“Richard, look up there" said I, pointing to the curtain that I had just breezed over with the webster.

He looked up there.

“Is that a fake spider?” He says in a very surprised voice. It is not an unreasonable question because I have a large fake spider by my computer.

“No, it most certainly is not!”

 What we had there on the curtain, friends and neighbors, was a huge fishing spider.

How huge was it? Well, I wasn't able to take a picture of this visitor, but here is a picture of one that I saw in our basement about 6 years ago.

 The board that it is on is about4 inches wide. Does that help explain why he wasn’t real anxious to let it live with us in the house?

After some discussion about how he was going to catch it and take it outside (and it moved incredibly fast for such a large insect), he eventually caught it in a large plastic bowl with a lid and let it go by the compost heap.

Now I am hoping that no more unexpected visitors join the party

Monday, May 30, 2016

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana
 My father was an automobile mechanic, so I grew up hearing a lot about transmissions and master cylinders and differentials, brakes, valves, heads, gaskets, and the like. The smells that bring back some of the fondest memories of childhood for me are not necessarily freshly baked bread from the oven or cookies or something wonderful cooking on the stove (although of course I love these smells as well).

No, what I remember with the most fondness are the smells my father brought in the house with him at the end of the day—lube grease, solvent that he cleaned parts with—the smells of a working garage where cars are fixed. Even today if I happen to go into the garage where our cars are repaired, it brings back so many wonderful memories of my dad. Well, that’s all to try to explain why I have enjoyed listening over the years to Car Talk, the public radio program hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, or by any other name, Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

Sadly, Tom Magliozzi died in 2014, but the programs continue to air. Tom’s self-proclaimed motto was

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis, or
“unencumbered by the thought process”

which is how I seem to be behaving since last Thursday in connection with my adventures with the knee scooter.

Just to expand a little bit on the scooter adventures, which I wrote about a few days ago.

My husband watches me trying to negotiate myself through the house and shakes his head. “This is too painful to watch,” he says

I suspect he had far more trouble using the scooter in his office than I am having in the house because it is such a congested mess in there, but I didn't actually witness any of this going on—I just heard groans, the yelling, and the colorful language—because about the only time I go in his office is when he calls me in so I can see the spectacular mess he has created (Fort Richard—piles of tubs that have found their way around his chair to the point where he is just about blocked in) or to to hunt down the cat if we have forgotten to close the door to the room once she is in the house for the evening. There are hundreds of places to hide in there and we don’t want to shut her up in that room overnight.

Maneuvering through the house is really is not getting that much easier, but perhaps it will. Especially if I remember some of the mistakes I have made and don’t continue to repeat them. And what are the chances of that? Slim to none?

So much of what I do during the day is unencumbered by the thought process; I mean, if just thought ahead a little bit to what I need to do. For example...  at about 9:30 this morning I decide it is time for a second cup of coffee and to visit the bathroom, so I position myself on the scooter and propel myself into the kitchen. I coast by the kitchen counter, pour the coffee in the measuring cup that I use to it heat it up in, make the right-hand turn to coast by the microwave, pause, put the coffee in and get it going, and then maneuver myself around (which morphs the 3-point "Y-turn" into a 7- or 8-point turn) so I am going into the bathroom backwards (for this reason I find it is better to visit the bathroom before the need becomes urgent).

By the time I come out of the bathroom the coffee is done. I am headed in the right direction for the return trip to my working space—so far so good, except I have forgotten to bring with me the insulated “mini-mega mug” I am using for my coffee. It is still sitting on the 18-gallon tub next to my chair (I have learned the hard way not to leave any liquid where it can spill on the computer keyboard). So, I have to go back into my working space, get the mug, turn around (again, this is excruciating—I almost inevitably get stuck so I have to muscle the scooter around), head back into the kitchen with the mug, transfer the coffee, add the stuff to make it palatable, then turn around (again) and head back to the computer.

Thinking all the while to myself.

This is ridiculous. Use your head next time. Don’t do this again!!

And then at about 1:30 or so I decided I would like some iced tea (it’s sort of a hot, muggy day) and that it might be a good idea to visit the bathroom again. So, I heave myself out of the chair and onto the scooter and wind up at the kitchen counter… wait for it… wait for it… without the mug. So I  get to go through the whole routine again.

Am I ever going to get it? I dunno. I hope so.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Done At Last... Done At Last

We are pretty much all aware by now that there are things we can do––and the things we should not do––to help keep us healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes the genes we inherit from our ancestors stack the deck against us, and all of our efforts to stave off what looks like the inevitable don’t have quite the result we hoped for.

I had known for a long time that I was at high risk for osteoporisis, so I did everything I knew to do to keep my bones as strong as I could. As “Not a Dr Bob” pointed out when he told me the news that I had compression fractures in my upper back and my DEXA scan results were grim – “If you hadn’t done all of that stuff, you might be in even worse shape…”

So he sent me off to see an interventional radiologist about a procedure where they inject plastic cement into fractured vertebrae to prop them up, but he decided I was not in bad enough shape for that procedure at the time so he prescribed a year of a very expensive osteoporisis drug that I had to inject every morning.

There was a great deal of stress associated with this drug, but it didn’t have to do with the injections. It had to do with fighting with the insurance company to pay for even part of the cost, and the requirement that the drug had to be kept cold in the refrigerator. It had to do with increasingly inept UPS delivery practices that had the insulated overnight packages with 3 months of the drug in cold packs being delivered to our neighbor’s house on a day when they were not home and sitting there for an hour or two in the hot sun before we realized the driver had made mistake… or riding around in the hot truck all day long instead of being delivered first in the morning… Had to have backup plans in place in case we had a power failure that lasted more than a couple of hours—and indeed, some friends in town were kind enough to keep the drug for me overnight once when the power went out.

The injections were not a problem: getting the drug out every morning while my coffee was heating, attaching the needle to the pen,

grabbing a pinch of belly fat (of which there was plenty), and pushing the plunger to deliver the dose came to be part of the daily routine.

And then suddenly there was only one pen left in the refrigerator, and before too long I had injected myself for the last time.

The interventional radiologist’s very capable assistant has been in touch, and as soon as the repair on my foot has healed, I’ll be heading back for another osteoporisis drug that has shown good results when used after the one I just finished.

But in the meantime, I’m done at last… done at last.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Foot or How I Learn to Drive the Knee Scooter

You two should write a book about the experiences of having foot surgery. Bet it would be a mix of comical and “I’m seriously going to kill someone.” K.M.c.L.

Behold The Foot.
The phenomenon that occurs when a body part (particularly an appendage) has something wrong with it and becomes the total focus of attention.

My left foot began breaking down a year ago, right about the same time the blood clot developed in that leg. For quite a while I thought that the problem in the foot was a consequence of the blood clot. But I was wrong.

After my husband's Achilles tendon repair in early March, the surgeon who did the operation came in to talk to me about what went on, and I asked him to look at my foot to see if he could tell me if it was a vascular problem or an orthopedic problem. He very kindly agreed to do that (without an appointment!). He eyeballed my foot, grabbed it, and pressed hard near the ankle, and I about went through the roof.

"Does that hurt?" He wants to know.

"Oh yeah."

"You have a flat foot deformity," he says, "that's my wagon wheel."

And so last Thursday he grabbed the wagon wheel and worked on my foot for about 2 hours to rebuild the arch and fix the torn tendons and some other stuff that he explained to my dearly beloved in the postoperative conference who, of course, did not remember most of it.

So far so good, I think. I have not had to take a pain pill since early Sunday morning, so I feel much better because my foot has stopped hurting and the pain medication made me very sleepy and muddle headed. There has been a lot of publicity lately about the problem of people becoming addicted to opioid pain medications, so I get it that it happens. The pain relief was great, but I don't like the way it made me feel, so I am very glad I don't have to take any more.

I watched my husband sail through the house on the knee scooter for about 8 weeks, and complain about it (but it is much better than crutches, he assured me), while he recovered from his foot operation, and now it is my turn to drive the knee scooter while I wait until the new and improved foot emerges from the cast/wrapping (which feels like it weighs about 30 pounds) in a few weeks and continues to heal until I am cleared to walk again. about 8 weeks.

I am gradually figuring it out, but I frequently find that I have gotten myself in ridiculous positions where I can barely move forward or backward and a "3-point Y turn" is impossible and I have to muscle the thing around so I can get going in the right direction. 

We have an incredibly tiny bathroom, and my dearly beloved suggested that if I were to back in, it might make transferring from the scooter to the commode a little easier. He was right -- backing in is no easy feat though and sometimes I am not sure whether I am going to make it in time.

It didn't take too long to realize that running over the toes on my good foot with the scooter was a bad thing, and so I have become much aware of where my right foot is and a lot more careful. I am sure there will be quite a few more lessons to be learned before I can walk again. 

I spent about 6 weeks fetching and carrying for my husband, and now it is his turn to fetch and carry for me. I don't think he is quite ready to "kill me," but the strain is beginning to show.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Imaginary Games

When we were children (we being me, the oldest, two brothers, and a sister), our summer vacations almost always involved a camping trip to Yosemite or another national park in that area of California. This was real camping with tents, sleeping bags, air mattress, Coleman lanterns, white gas stove, hot chocolate made with canned milk, washing feet off in a pail of water before going to bed.

My father had 3 sisters, who also liked camping, and often one or more of them, and their families, would meet us there.

I got along well with all of my cousins, but one who I had a special affinity with was my cousin Richard, who was a couple of years younger than I was but not enough for the age difference to make a difference by the time the 1950s were coming to an end. We like a lot of the same things. We were interested in birds and animals and science and nature in general.

I remember one camping trip at Yosemite in particular, which would have been in the late 1950s, when he was there too. He had dinosaur comic books – not sure what else to call them – fanciful adventure stories of intrepid “cave men” doing battle with the T-rex and other assorted giant reptiles. We read the comic books, played dinosaur, and had a wonderful time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

The first thing I read in the local weekly newspaper (if it happens to be included that particular week) is the Police Blotter. Although I listen to the police scanner while I work, I don’t hear everything that goes on, and finding out what actually has happened on some of the calls I hear is very illuminating. Small towns may not have the murders and very violent crimes found in big cities but they are not free of crime by any means. In addition to routine traffic violations, there are a lot of calls dealing with peace disturbances, loose dogs, domestic assaults, custody exchange problems, burglaries and thefts, drugs (the county I live in is in competition with the neighboring county for meth capital of this area of the state), suspicious characters lurking--that sort of thing.

But on the particular day in question, nestled in between a report of an intoxicated driver at McDonald’s, who was arrested, and a call from a victim who said he let his friend use his debit card to borrow $20 but the friend took a lot more than that, was this little gem.
At 4 p.m., Officer J received a call of a fight in progress at the xxxx Apartments. Upon arrival, it was determined to be a group of children pretending they were dinosaurs
 Pretending they were dinosaurs! I haven't played dinosaur in a very very long time. I wish I could have joined them!