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More about the big I …

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WARNING! GEEZER TALKING ABOUT HIS MALADIES AHEAD!

Sunday dawned overcast and cool today and I stumbled into the kitchen to start the coffee maker,  then weigh myself, took my blood pressure, sugar, temperature, pulse and oxygen.  Stuck myself with an insulin needle, filled my coffee cup and ate a healthy cardboard cookie made for diabetics, then went into the studio to check the day.

But Snookums quickly poked her head into the doorway and announced that she was up, and I could have coffee with her if I wanted.  Translated, that means get your butt in here and spend some time with me.  So, I dutifully padded back to the kitchen table for conversation and took her vitals while we were conversing.

I have been remiss in that, but it is a very necessary morning ritual for us. And this morning I let us run out of coffee cake.  That is near the unforgivable sin in this household.  So sometime today I have to run into town and pick up a couple of them from the bakery.

However, a new medical service from my health insurance wants to stop by and examine the two of us.  I am not sure who they are, but like another service provided to me, it sounds like anything but health care.  They don’t dress wounds, they don’t change catheters, they don’t do blood draws.  But they come by every four months and take our vitals, apparently. 

I am already enrolled in another health care service that pretty much does the same thing, but if I am running a fever, apparently, they will come by and take my vitals.  Or I can make an appointment at the clinic and see a real doctor.  I am not averse to nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants, and sometimes actually prefer them.  But I don’t need my vitals taken four times a year by them.

Snookums is still making progress, but it is by millimeters instead of yards now.  I try not to be impatient with her, but sometimes it slips out of me, and I’ll speak sharply to her.  All my anger does is confuse her and I really need to stop doing that.

And now the cardiologists are suggesting a heart pump sometime after January.  He says it will really help with the reduced pumping capacity of my heart.  I am mixed about this, and if Snookums hadn’t had a stroke, I would have just said enough.  But now I need to be around for a bit longer because … well … I need to be around.  When I meet again later this month with him, I think I’ll tell him to start the process. It isn’t as invasive as open-heart surgery, apparently they do it with through a small incision, and the recovery doesn’t require a hospital stay.

… and one day follows another in my little corner of paradise.

Good morning!

Shabbat, Bill Collectors, Rain and Rest

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Shabbat dawned sunny but a bit chilly, for us, anyway.  The latter rains have come to the dry pampas but blew on over to the northeast yesterday leaving everything a bright green and fresh smelling.  That part of it is great … the waving fronds of weeds mocking me isn’t so great.

But today is a day of rest, and I put mowing out of my mind, along with a growing list of house maintenance items.  I spend all week ignoring my chores, and then on a holy day of rest, I want to do them all in one day.  I am a failure at religion, but I keep trying to live up to its tenets.

The neighbor bought a new motorcycle, and rather than ride it, he sets in the yard and guns it.  I like bikes ok, but after ten minutes of hearing it rev, I start getting a headache and contemplate if I can put a hole in his engine block with a 30-06 without putting a hole him.  They frown on shooting anyone but robbers and burglars here.

Snooks is at a plateau now, and at some moments she is almost normal, and at others she can’t recall anything more than six seconds past.  But I can tell her the same joke everyday now, and she thinks it is funny.  So often I want to ride to her rescue as she fights with the remote control, and usually she gets it after struggling with it.  But a few times she has pulled me out of bed to turn off the TV and black box.  I keep reminding myself that we are not even into a full year yet.

I have noticed that if she doesn’t take an honest nap in bed, she has more problems.  But she has never been a ‘napper’, and sometimes it is all we can do to talk her into it.  More difficult things like counting by twos and fours gives her problems.

And she is a sucker for telephone spammers.  One day a salesman showed up for a roof repair, and I had to send him back home.  He protested he had an appointment, and when I told him that Snooks just can’t handle pressure now and told him yes just to shut him up.

And now we get incessant calls from Medicare plans since this is the enrollment period.  For a long while now, it has been people from Pakistan and India making the calls, but just last week, I started getting people with Asian accents.  They want to talk with Leeendahh … and I tell them she is unavailable and will never be available to them.  A couple of them got very nasty about it, but frankly, it makes my day when I unhinge one.

But Snook ALWAYS knows that on Shabbat, she listens to a podcast from our old congregation in Denver.  She remembers how to find it and log on.  So, a lot of her memory problems are contingent on her interest in the subject.

Bruce and Amber have really risen to the occasion, and prepare six of the evening meals each week, and clean up afterwards.  And I haven’t horked off too many of my debtors as I try and get their bills paid in a timely manner.  But that is going to be the subject of another post, when I can start laughing at my mistakes.

So on this day of rest, I write, I muse, I play games, and I remember what this day is, and the mystery of it.

Good morning!

Rain, Computers, and Wisdom Come

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Monday dawns wet and rainy as I sit down to my new PC and bang out an original blog entry.  It starts by putting something down and seeing what happens.  Sometimes I get diamonds, and sometimes I get rust. I never know until I post it.

I am decompressing now from the latest emergencies and things are starting to fall into their natural order again, although my life has changed greatly. Exercise becomes a staple in my morning routine, albeit partly cloudy skies prevented me from venturing out to the rehab unit this morning. And when I am done with them, my insurance company pays for my membership in planet fitness.

I can hardly contain my joy.

So much has changed, and so much remains the same. Gone are the mornings that I grabbed a cup of coffee and padded down the long hallway to my studio. Now I start the coffee (usually), weigh myself, sit down at the kitchen table and prick my finger for my insatiable glucose monitor, take my blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature, fill my syringe and stab myself in the belly.

All this gets dutifully noted in a spreadsheet to make the visiting nurse happy

Then I get to do vitals on Snookums, less the glucose and stabbing.

A little small talk, some raisin bread toast, more coffee, some coffeecake, and an unbelievable assortment of medications finishes that ritual, THEN I can pad down to my studio to do studio things.  Like blogging, musing, and napping.

I am so off of politics, and that used to make up half my posts.  I don’t know what I want to make the theme of my morning posts on.  I spend a lot of time pondering the nature of God these days, and He does reveal much if you ask.

I spent much of my young adult life learning of God and how to obey Him and discovered that I simply was not up to the task of obedience. It just isn’t in my nature.  So, these days I simply want to know his mind.

I think back to a time when I was on a number of self-improvement attempts, but that life was always six inches beyond my grasp.  After a time, I quit reaching, and spent more time musing on my predicament.  I finally concluded that it simply wasn’t in me and never was going to be me.  I had reached my limit.

Oddly, that was a comforting conclusion. Like a child watches his father, I began watching God and often I imitated what I saw and childlike mimicking what I saw. I didn’t always get it right, and often did foolish things, but as I matured, I became more like him.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am light years from seeing God and doing what he does.  But from my new perspective, things became clearer, and I could just ignore obscure passages in scripture until revelation came.

There is a wisdom that come with age, sometimes. And sometimes age brings even greater folly.  I continue to have both experiences, but over time, my actions have improved in such an easier way than trying to bulldoze my way into it.

And so the new dawn changes into a late morning.  When I post this, I can get on with getting this brand new whiz bang computer up to speed.  This is my first post on it, and I am happy with the speed that it has.  I can hardly wait until I get my new games installed.

So while my world outside is drippy and wet, I sit in the warmth of central heat and say good morning!

One Last Update

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As a young actor, loaded with hopes and promises many æons ago

Snookums has made the rounds of specialists now, and all we can do now is wait.  She still is improving day by day, but there will be a three-year hole in her memory, and her short-term memory is still a problem.  The mind is a mysterious and complex thing, and I don’t know how those who study it can conclude there is no such thing as intelligent design.  I don’t know how many coincidences it took for brain development in intelligent animals, but I am convinced that it is statistically improbable for it to be an accident.

Regardless, the damage has ceased and the long road to recovery has begun.  We are having wonderful conversations on aging and death with our coffee.  It sounds like morbid talk to outsiders, but for us it is preparation.  We shan’t escape death, at least in this age.  On the other side of it, there is hope, if not actual belief.

She is still wondering why this had to happen to her, and I don’t tell her how relieved I am that she is asking why.  It tells me she understands her predicament, and we can start moving on to face this challenging part of life.  It is a path we can’t share with others, and at the end, it is a path we can’t share with each other.  Oddly, we are at peace with that.

I am thinking this will be the last of the updates, though I will comment on her recovery from time to time in my other postings.  We move forward by millimeters instead of miles, now.  Each day is a day that we are called to activity.  The future doesn’t exist.  The past doesn’t matter.  And that is enough.

I used to spend time chronicling the excesses of politics, but now I don’t want to talk about it.  The bell has struck.  The door has slammed shut.  What will be, will be.  I can’t stop it.  I can’t change it. But know this, it isn’t going to be good.

So on this autumn morning with a weak sun shining out my window, I turn my thoughts to more pleasant things.  My own little selfish world. 

I have a new PC sitting in a box that I need to install, but it doesn’t seem to be a proper activity on the Shabbat.  I am excited about it, though.  It is powerful enough to do all the things I wish.  I sit here and imagine how I am going to arrange things.

However, for today I muse.  I write.  I pray.  I read.

Good morning!

How Rusty Slays Dragons

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Sir Rusty, the dragon slayer

Rehab! (long, unedited version)

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I don’t know why it is that physical trainers think they must be chirpy, but one met me at the double doors of the cardiac rehab section of the hospital.  I was still puffing hard from my walk from the parking lot.  The hospital is also a teaching campus and is a huge facility.  I was feeling smug because I have handicapped plates on the car, and I can park in those spaces with impunity.  But not at this hospital.  They have many handicapped spots, and they are quickly filled. 

But today I was fortunate find a spot that was closer to my door than the stickered spaces, and I took that as proof that God indeed does love me.  Not that it was so unbearable today.  Autumn has arrived in the Texas pampas, and you can feel the chill in the air.  Yeah.  A true Texan feels a bit chilly at 72°.

But back to the cardiac torture chamber.

The first thing that happens is one of the ever-perky rehab people meets you at the door, gets your name, pull your wireless cardiac monitor and marches you back to the nurses station to take your vitals and wire you up.  She assured me that in time I would know how to do that myself.  Then you get the twenty questions.  I lied a little about a couple. 

“Has it been two hours since your last cup of coffee?” she asked.

 “Yes”, I lied. 

“Did you eat breakfast?” 

Well, I did have a slice of coffee cake with my coffee, so I said, “Yes.”

“Did you get a fasting glucose reading?”

For once I didn’t have to fib. “Yes”

“Is this your first visit to a cardiac rehab unit?” 

“Yes” I lied again.  I had been in the same facility 15 years earlier and left before I completed the regimen.  It was extremely painful experience because the doctors still hadn’t found the precise point of the heart pain I was having.  I was starting to think that I was a slacker.

But now that the pain has been taken care of, my only remaining concern is the COPD.  Most of my life I could power past fatigue, but now, when I reach that point, I am done.  There are no reserves to call on, so I approach this phase of recovery with great tepidity.

Recumbent Cross Trainer

They then sat me on what is called a recumbent cross trainer.  It exercises the arms and legs, and you can vary the effort  between your arms or legs.  My left leg is very weak, and I would work it until it started shaking, then use my arms to give the leg a break.

The trainer told me to do 15 minutes on it.  So, I started peddling.  I did stop often to get my breath, then continued past the 15 minutes until I reached half an hour.  The trainer stopped me at half an hour and asked me how I was feeling.

“I am just SO ecstatic!” I replied, trying not to overdo the sarcasm.  I think I failed.

“I am going to have to watch you a bit closer” she retorted.

Then it was back to the nurses’ station to get the vitals and remove the heart monitor.

“You’re done for the day!” she chirped.

“I guess you failed to kill me today” I quipped.

“We get another two chances at you this week” she shot back …

Remembering Aspens and Big Love

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I don’t know how many of you have had the privilege of standing in a quaking aspen glade when they are in full color, but it is both mystical and magical.

It feels like even the air is flooded with golden light in the hushed Autumn. The birds have flown south, the grasshoppers, crickets and cicadas have all burrowed in for the winter.

The only sound you hear is the clapping of the leaves as the mountain breezes set the leaves to quaking. It sounds like soft applause.

I was on a spiritual retreat in the foothills of the front range of the Colorado Rockies one golden autumn when I first laid eyes on Snookums. I was stunned. Unfortunately, she was there with her boyfriend, and surprising to some, I do actually have ethics. One does not hit on another man’s woman.

Most of the attendees were couples, and just three or four of us weren’t. So after meals and seminars, I spent most of my time alone, absorbing the golden hues and silence, and drinking camp coffee that one of the other solo attendees kept hot and ready on his campfire. I really don’t mind coffee grounds in my teeth, and there is something about coffee made cowboy style that makes it taste like heaven. I sipped his coffee while I sat on a log by a creek than meandered through the glade, and pushed away thoughts of Snooks.

I worked for her boyfriend from time to time, so I sat with them through many of meals and lectures, but I kept the conversation banal. Still, I wasn’t able to stop myself from furtive glances in her direction from time to time. So a few weeks later, her boyfriend called me to help him sneak out of their house so he could pursue a torch singer. I knew the singer, and knew where her heart was. And it wasn’t with the boyfriend. But I willingly helped him load his truck with his tools and belongings, and waved bye bye as he drove off.

I never pursued a woman until I met Snookums. I wasted no time calling her that evening and consoling her. Frankly, she didn’t need much consoling, but that is another issue entirely. We began attending lectures together, and I made sure that I called her every night before she fell asleep. I wanted my voice to be the last thing she heard that evening.

It wasn’t long before moved the friendship up a notch. It was a mere two months since the retreat in the aspens that I moved in, and we got a rent-a-preacher to make a house call for the simple wedding. It wasn’t always bliss, I brought quite a bit of baggage into the marriage that needed to be left somewhere. She even had to get some counseling. But in time, we grew together. I don’t know when that happened, but one day years later I woke to the realization that we had indeed become one.

I am writing much of this post from a Starbucks inside huge medical school complex. Pretty odd, when you think of it. The CEO of Starbucks said publicly that he would be happy if no one like me came into one of his stores, and I willingly obliged.

But today I put all that aside as I waited for Snook to finish her cognitive testing at the neurological clinic. I could be with her the first hour or so while the psychologist got the background material, and I was glad for that. She has forgotten all of the period between her two strokes, and has no recollection of her stay in the hospital. Then I was shooed away while they did their testing.

So I sit here and remember the girl that I married. She still peeks out at me from mirthful eyes. I hear the young girl in her quick but subtle humor. We have become one flesh.

Re-awakening

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The political silly season is upon us again, and partisans on both sides are getting more strident in their posts and comments.  I have resigned from the discourse.  My mind is made up and I need no further rhetoric.  With me, it is easier to thread a camel through a needle than it is to refrain from politics, and comment on religion, to use a religious metaphor.

Well, there is the weather.  In Texas, we have gone from an unbearably hot summer to a miserably hot Autumn. But recent rains have broken the drought, and the verdant weeds on my one acre of paradise are mocking me, daring me to mow them down.  They will soon be abused of that insolence.  No, really.  Soon.  Maybe in the next day or two.  Maybe three.

Ill health is another.  Quite frankly, I am feeling much better than I did for the preceding five years.  So good that the cardiologist is sending me to cardiac rehab, where they put you on an exercise machine and try to kill you.  If they fail to do that, the next time they speed the machine up.

Snookums had both mini-strokes and a major stroke and is on the long road to recovery.  A speech therapist has been working with her, and now she is reading some, and seems to be much better at complex tasks.  Monday, she goes in for a full cognitive assessment that will take four hours.  I am anxious about that.

But her recovery from the point she left the hospital until now has been remarkable.  I admit that the day I brought her home, I was so discouraged.  She constantly inquired about things that she asked just moments earlier.  She could only hold about five words in her mind.  I wasn’t sure that she was going to improve.  The speech therapist got her to reading her Kindle again, and how to enlarge the type and turn it to landscape mode.  Snooks hates the work she must do, but I see small improvement after each session.  So perhaps she will be moved back from senility to functioning. 

This week I think my niece and her are going to try and make challah bread for Shabbat.  Snooks was doing that when she had her stroke and ended up crying with burned fingers and burned bread.  She went to the hospital later.  If this works, it will be a milestone in her recovery.

And the days go by in my geezerhood.  Once you earn the title of geezer, there is only one title left to earn. RIP.

So as I consider my lack of better alternatives and relearn to write again, I bid you a pleasant good morning.

  Burial is an odious chore

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My youngest brother who recently lost his wife posted this.  Most of these are clever inventions of writers writing little sermonettes, and this one may well be one of those.  It is a little too pat for me.  I note that it is unsourced, so I feel free to re-post it.  It illustrates a bitter truth to me.

When I have lost someone dear to me, I start wondering if I am on another planet as others laud their memory.  My soul goes flat, and effusive comments, while well-meaning ones, grate on me.

I prefer to do my grieving in silence and alone.  Death is not something we should love.  We should hate it.  Burial is an odious chore.  I long for a time when death does not exist.

What true love is:

“My parents were married for 55 years. One morning, my mom was going downstairs to make dad breakfast, she had a heart attack and fell. My father picked her up as best he could and almost dragged her into the truck. At full speed, without respecting traffic lights, he drove her to the hospital.

When he arrived, unfortunately she was no longer with us.

During the funeral, my father did not speak; his gaze was lost. He hardly cried.

That night, his children joined him. In an atmosphere of pain and nostalgia, we remembered beautiful anecdotes and he asked my brother, a theologian, to tell him where Mom would be at that moment. My brother began to talk about life after death, and guesses as to how and where she would be.

My father listened carefully. Suddenly he asked us to take him to the cemetery.

“Dad!” we replied, “it’s 11 at night, we can’t go to the cemetery right now!”

He raised his voice, and with a glazed look he said:

“Don’t argue with me, please don’t argue with the man who just lost his wife of 55 years.”

There was a moment of respectful silence, we didn’t argue anymore. We went to the cemetery, and we asked the night watchman for permission. With a flashlight, we reached the tomb. My father caressed her, prayed, and told his children, who watched the scene, moved:

“It was 55 years… you know? No one can talk about true love if they have no idea what it’s like to share life with a woman.”

He paused and wiped his face. “She and I, we were together in that crisis. I changed jobs …” he continued. “We packed up when we sold the house and moved out of town. We shared the joy of seeing our children finish their careers, we mourned the departure of loved ones side by side, we prayed together in the waiting room of some hospitals, we support each other in pain, we hug each Christmas, and we forgive our mistakes… Children, now it’s gone, and I’m happy, do you know why?

Because she left before me. She didn’t have to go through the agony and pain of burying me, of being left alone after my departure. I will be the one to go through that, and I thank God. I love her so much that I wouldn’t have liked her to suffer…”

When my father finished speaking, my brothers and I had tears streaming down our faces. We hugged him, and he comforted us, “It’s okay, we can go home, it’s been a good day.”

That night I understood what true love is; It is far from romanticism, it does not have much to do with eroticism, or with sex, rather it is linked to work, to complement, to care, and, above all, to the true love that two really committed people profess.”

Peace in your hearts.