Monday, June 27, 2016

Adventures in Marriage

Each of us wages a private battle each day between the
grand fantasies we have for ourselves and what actually happens. 
Cathy Guisewite
Yesterday was our 45th wedding anniversary. Marriage to Richard has been an adventure, some of the rows have been hard to hoe – full of rocks and weeds and thistles – and some have been lovely and easy to work. We have been through some wonderful times together and some hard ones as well. There have been times when I wanted to throw in the towel and give up, and others where our marriage has been the life preserver.

Would I do it again? You betcha.

Yesterday was not, however, one of our better days. Yes, we had a good experience at church. Our pastor gave another dynamite sermon -- we have been going there for more than year now and have yet to hear her deliver a clunker -- but things were a little up and down for the rest of the day.

Richard told me some time ago:

I am very organized and methodical person who exists in a world of utter chaos of my own creation.

And sometimes he handles the “chaos” better than at other times, and during those "other times" he becomes cross and grumpy. Yesterday was one of the cross and grumpy days. He mostly can’t help the chaos because of his attention deficit disorder, which is getting increasingly worse.

But two good things did happen yesterday: He gave me a beautiful card by way of apology, and he told me is going to see the neurologist, whose name we were given some time ago and who is supposed to be able to treat adults with attention deficit disorder. This is tricky medically because the older adults who need the drugs that are used to treat attention deficit disorder also usually have high blood pressure, which the drugs can affect. He doesn’t hold out much hope that she will be able to treat him. He thinks she will probably just want to send him to a psychiatrist, which he will absolutely not do, but it is worth a shot. Anything is worth a shot if it will help him.

So, we actually celebrated today because our favorite place to eat in town is not open on Sunday.

But now with a full belly and the afternoon tick-tocking away, I am thinking of the older of my two brothers, the serious and sober one, and the hilariously funny one, the one who always insists that we “point” in photographs (which I posted recently) who is right now at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center being prepared for the second operation on his sinus cavity.

He had been having trouble with his left sinus for some time, and during a recent operation to fix it, the doctor removed a mass he thought was benign. But further testing at a specialized laboratory showed that it was an extremely rare form of cancer with an even rarer presentation. This cancer is usually attached to the bones of the sinus cavity and then spreads to the brain. In his case, it was “free floating” and almost certainly has not spread through the bones into the brain. It was a “bad news/good news” sort of a situation.

This operation, which is being done by a specialist, is to make sure there are no cancer cells in the bones. He may lose his sense of smell on that side, and he will have to have radiation therapy. But they have given him a good prognosis. I will not be surprised if he ends up as a case report in a medical journal.

He called me a little while ago, while he and his wife were waiting, just to say “Hi.” I tried to give him an encouraging word. He is basically the spiritual leader of our family, so I feel somewhat inadequate. I botched my quote of the scripture that God will keep us under the shelter of his wings, and he quoted at me Isaiah 55:12: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace...” in reference to what the anesthesiologist was going to be shooting into the intravenous catheter, and we had a good laugh.

The men in our family tend to live long lives, and this brother needs to grow old bones and watch his granddaughter grow up. I am praying that he will.

My sister and other brother will be there in a while to sit with his wife and keep her company. I’d be there too, if I could.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Adventures in waiting rooms

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else
Charles Dickens
As we were leaving the doctor’s clinic after our “two-for-one” follow-up visit for our respective left feet, he turned and said, “You know, that whole deal in the waiting room reminded me of the Group W bench.”

Yes, indeed, it did.

“Group W bench” not ringing any bells? Then you’ll need to get a cup of coffee or something cool to drink, relax, and spend about 20 minutes listening to Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

As with the waiting rooms in most doctors’ clinics, this doctor’s waiting room is usually packed with people. He appears to be the only podiatrist serving Northern Arkansas. No, we don’t live in Arkansas, but it is actually closer for us to drive to Arkansas to see him than it would be to see the nearest podiatrist in Missouri, who is about 90 miles away. He has a lot of patients – too many patients, in fact – and as with most doctors, he is usually overbooked.

But on this particular day, perhaps 8 people were in the waiting room when we arrived.

Although there were plenty of seats to choose from, I ended up sitting in the empty seat next to a woman and her great granddaughter because where Richard chose to sit was on the wrong side of the knee scooter, and I would not have been able to get off and on it again easily and would have had to turn around, which would have put me heading in the wrong direction when it came time for our appointment, which meant I would have had to turn around again...

Richard got out his materials and began working on one of the articles that was due in a few days, and I got out the book I was planning to read, but instead of reading the book, I began visiting with the woman next to me and her great granddaughter. We had a grand old time trading stories about the ailments with our feet that had brought us to the office and other injuries we had sustained over the years and our jobs and all sorts of stuff.

Soon there were only 4 of us who were actual patients: a woman who was sitting with her back to us (I never did see her face) and who was doing something on a tablet, the woman next to me, and Richard. Then, another woman walked in, stopped, looked at us in surprise, and commented she had never seen the waiting room this empty.

She signed in, took her seat, and began to tell us one funny story after another about doctor’s waiting rooms culminating in a particularly hilarious story about being left naked in an examination room, forgotten, while the office began shutting down for the night. And then the other woman who was there put her tablet away and also told a story about being forgotten in an examination room and also convinced she was going to be locked in for the night.

So we offered opinions about what we would do if we were accidentally locked in. That was a no-brainer, we concluded. We’d go to the front desk and use the office telephone to call for help.

Having sorted that out, she began a discussion of the pitfalls of hip replacement surgery  -- sometimes during the operation the nerves going to the feet get cut and then there are problems with the foot (she was wearing a brace for that reason). Turns out the other woman also had the same problem but was using a walker instead of wearing a brace.

Then it was our turn to see the doctor, so we never heard the end of the tale. The foot is doing well, but I won't be able to walk on it for about another month.

That last patient who came before we were called in for our appointment definitely lightened the burden of waiting for everyone there and was a very useful person indeed. She managed to morph the shared boredom and isolation of an interminable wait into a communal event of shared laughter and joy.

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