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Tu B’Sheva, 5703

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Tu B’Sheva, 5703

A celebration of the rebirth of trees, and it would be my Jewish birthday this Sunday.  I’ll not bore you with a litany of spiritual events that surrounded my life so many times on this day, but each of them profoundly changed me.  Even during those times G-d and I were at loggerheads.  He was ever the gentleman, persistent with me, but never overbearing.  On this day, alone in an attic of an old house in Denver around midnight on Tu B’Sheva 1582, I yielded to him.  He has remained faithful since then, even during those times doubt consumed me. He stayed the perfect gentleman.

May I keep that same respect for those who haven’t found him.

Because the Hebrew New Year is synced with the ripening of grain, it “floats” every year and doesn’t occur on the same day on the Gregorian calendar.  It is NOT my observed birthday this year, so no well wishes are needed!  I just wanted to talk about it!

First you take a deep breath.

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How can I break bad news remotely? | The BMJ

Well, I got the dreaded 8am call from my pulmonary specialist, and I inherited two genetic maladies.  Emphysema and COPD.  One was very serious, but I don’t remember which one.  Being the google maven I am, I did my research, and the prognosis isn’t good.  I had smugly thought I had aced the test.  So, some very expensive meds are ordered, but with insurance, they will only be about $45 a month, and that is hardly bankrupting.

Years ago, I had speed read a book called First You Cry by Betty Rollin about her reaction to that sort of call informing her of a malignant breast tumor.  I didn’t cry, but I did take a few deep calming breaths, and realized I didn’t have to do all the preparations today.  There is time to exercise, to dream, to read, to solidify family connections and to prepare Snookums.  I think I have at least one good summer left in me, and I am going to make it a good one.

But I do need a plan, an outline if you will.  Papers must be notarized, codicils written, useless items given away/sold/junked.  I will simplify my life to better tend to the important things.  My eyes are good, my energy is enough to run errands, my mind is sharp enough to write.  I have a hoarding instinct, though by comparisons to others, a very mild case. But  I don’t think I am going to need new stuff.  Stuff has suddenly lost its hold on me.

I fret most about Snookums.  It is like deserting her at a time she needs me most.  So much to do in that area.

I am putting fiction on the back burner and avoiding “coffee” posts if they are too mawkish.  It is a time of introspection and not regret.

That part is odd.  It is true that God shows old men more of his mind than he does young men.  When I was young, it was my ability or lack of ability to follow his rules.  Today, I just want to watch him and marvel, and I don’t care whether I follow a rule or not.  At this stage in life I am not likely to get in too much trouble by just drifting along.

So that is the update.  I don’t know where these little missives will go at this point.  I do want to chronicle this adventure, but I want to stay positive and upbeat.  I do not fear death, but I am not overly fond of dying.  Keep in mind that the prognosis is about five years out, and even then, the odds are still six out of ten that I’ll make it past five. Being a gambler, those aren’t such terrible odds if you already have a pile of chips in front of you.  And boy!  Do I have a pile of chips!

Good morning!!

A Curmudgeons New Year!

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Well, the New Year has begun warmly today with a high of 72° and a very slight chance of rain.  I am glad because I have been trying to write 2022 on my checks and official documents all of last year.  I must have been unconsciously wanting the year to be over.  2022 brings hope with it, though I am a pessimist by nature.  Set the bar low enough and you aren’t disappointed.

Recovery is still coming along slowly, but I do think the physical therapy is helping.  My therapist is slim and trim, and in her 50’s though everyone would guess early thirties.  She comes twice a week to torture me back into physical health.  I do feel a bit of progress that helps keep me out of depression at my sorry physical shape.  My upper body strength is pretty good, but my legs won’t carry me far.  Stamina is my main goal now, but the brief walking exercises take it out of me.

 This is the first morning I woke without nausea.  What a blessing that was!  I am weary of post-prandial and morning sickness.  Next up is a visit to the pulmonary clinic for assessment, then to the urologist for another look at the bladder.  Hopefully the catheter comes out then, but if not, it’s the rooter-rooter curse us old curmudgeons men deal with. 

And lastly, the sleep clinic people for assessment.  I haven’t forgotten how to breathe since I left the hospital, so I suspect that much of the apnea was caused by the high-powered drugs I was getting.  But a breathing machine also recorded several episodes where I stopped breathing but because it would breathe for me, I didn’t awaken.  It was heaven for me, so a CPAP machine is looming large into my future.

The New Year’s celebrations were kind to the mutts this year, with Tic wrapping himself around Linda’s head, and Jenna being clingy, but surprisingly calm.  She sometimes works herself into seizures, but flashes of light from lightning upset her most.  The fireworks weren’t accompanied by flashes, so she was more settled.  ‘Becca da Beagle isn’t bothered by anything other than me sitting in her chair.

It feels good to be driving again after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.  Unfortunately, I developed other physical maladies after getting cataract surgery, so the driving time had to postponed.  Poor old Bucephalus, as I call my aging Dodge mommy van, had a dead battery and I noticed one brake was dragging, so it is off to the mechanic early next week with him.  My hearing aids need to be serviced after that, then  my two riding mowers need transporting to the mechanic as soon as Bucephalus is back in shape enough to pull a transport trailer.

So the New Year begins with a full task list.  I hope my legs hold out long enough to get all that done …

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year, and a pleasant good morning!

MzMuse and Coffee

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Well, here I sit, staring at a blank page on the word processor.  I have been a slacker when it comes to writing.  But I am OK with it because I met out the punishment for my laziness, and I rarely harm myself.

Fiction is dead to my brain.  I lay in bed and let my mind wander for new themes, but all I do is rehash the old ones.  I even drug Mz Muse out of retirement, and she simply agreed with me that I am a sluggard that is too lazy to even shovel food into my face.  She has ever been a fan of mine.

One of my adopted mentors, Gene Amole (of blessed memory) was a columnist with the now defunct Rocky Mountain News.  WWII vet who refused to glamorize war and was hyper-critical of Hollywood’s portrayal of it.  His biggest gripe was that men died silently when wounded.  Having taken part in the assault during the Normandy Invasion, his recollection was that the wounded were screaming in pain before dying.  Hard stuff.  But Gene also owned a classical music radio station in Denver and hosted a morning show.  Often you would hear birds chirping from an open window in the cramped studio.  How I miss that radio station, and how I miss his curmudgeonly posts on political hubris.

But to continue, his muse was an imaginary “idea fairy” that he had conversations with and would write down their conversation.  The idea fairy wore a ratty tutu and sat on his typewriter.  Yes, Virginia, there was a time when word processors did not have spelling and grammar checkers, and if you made a mistake, you had to cross the lines out with a pen and rewrite them.  He would post his conversations unedited, and you learned that the first draft of his column was a horror of typos, grammar errors and lousy formatting.  I took the idea of the idea fairy and made my own muse.  MzMuse.

MzMuse is a dour, frumpy middle-aged woman with hideous tastes in clothing.  She is modeled after an old boss of mine who was hardnosed and generous at the same time.  She wears a pink Rayon™ blouse, a brown woolen pencil skirt that sometimes shows the tops of her hose and the garter snaps.  Yeah.  Pretty dated.  But she is mine and I love her.

MzMuse

However, I decided to not resurrect her for this little missive.  I want to go somewhere with it, but the destination still hasn’t presented itself.  I am looking for something to kickstart my writing now that I am feeling better than I have in many years, though I am left feeble and easily winded by the ordeal.  I did not know that I was so damaged.

Onwards

Usually when I sit down to write and do not know where I am going, I put something down.  It can be nonsensical, or a peeve, or just an observation that kicks off the essay.  I am more of an essayist than a novelist.  After five hundred words or so, I have said all that was necessary.  But today, this is what has come to my mind.  I had hoped that I would have started a new tale rather than mull over my sad fate.  But it is what it is.  A writer writes.  If he does not write, he is not a writer.  So, write I shall.  Even if it is just a coffee post ..

Good morning!

On the Mend

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On the Mend Card by Alison Friend - Two Bad Mice

This is merely an update for family and friends, and if you find it boring and tedious, I shan’t be offended if you move on to more entertaining posts. One cannot always write for his larger audience!

The Foley catheter is still in.  The earliest I see the urologist is Dec 28th, but I have grown used to having it in. Not having to get up in the middle of the night to piddle is one blessing.  I am still getting crystalized clots from time to time, so maybe it is for the best. 

The stents were the real blessing in this ordeal.  One pain that I had long believed to be GI problems turned out to be heart pain, and I am sleeping through the night pain-free for the first time in many, many years.

I am still very weak and rising for that first cup in the morning is another ordeal. I have learned to sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before padding into the kitchen.  By the time I get a cup from the cupboard and pour it, I am weak and winded.  A few steps more and I collapse at the kitchen table.  I have a scale there that I need to weigh myself each morning to decide if I need to take more diuretics, and after a few sips of coffee, I weigh myself.  Then it is out with the blood pressure cuff, the pulse oximeter, the thermometer, and the glucose meter.  When I get all those measurements done, I have something to eat.  Lately, I have been off my feed, and either a couple of pieces of toast, or sometimes a glass of V8 juice, I am ready for the meds.  That is followed by nausea, and I pad down to my studio to check on the world outside my virtual and real windows. After I am up for a while, I become marginally stronger and can shower myself.  Today I might try to drive for the first time in a couple of years.  The battery is toast in Bucephalus, so it is boost it, and try to drive down to Walmart for a new battery.  I am not sure right now if I have the confidence to do it without Snookums being along.

I am starting home physical therapy this week to try and get myself strong enough for cardiac rehab.  Cardiac rehab is done at the hospital, and the parking lot sits at the bottom of a hill below the entrance.  I don’t think I could make it up the hill at this point.  So, it is home therapy once a week until the holidays are over, then twice a week for as long as necessary.

January, February, and March will be a round of follow-up visits and ending with a sleep study.  I developed apnea in the hospital, probably due to the high-powered antibiotics and sedatives.  I was afraid to sleep because I would wake up not knowing how to breathe.  So they put me on a CPAP machine and that stopped that. I haven’t had that severe of an attack since I left the hospital, but I suspect that a CPAP machine is in my near future.

And that’s the health update ending in annus domini 2021 … may the upcoming year be a better one.

As one wag put it:  … the moment you realize that 2022 is pronounced just like 2020 too …

Tedious Update …

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I hope this the end of my hospital/near death stories.  You probably hope so too!  This is to update those of you who are interested on a few things that I omitted in my earlier facebook posts. 

I went to the ER after a week on antibiotics from my personal physician that didn’t seem to help.  I foolishly took time to make that decision a week to see if the medicine worked.  It didn’t.  It was procedure time, and when I went into the hospital, they were on me like bees on syrup.  My kidneys had shut down, my heart was in constant arrhythmia and the docs later told me that I probably would have died had I waited until Monday like I first thought.

I had been having problems with urinating for a few months earlier but put off seeing the doctor until it was more convenient to me.  Yeah, I know.  Stoopid with a double oh. So, the night before I was going to call the doc again, in straining to pee I could feel I broke something, and finally told Snookums to drive me to the hospital.

The doctors were on me like bees in a hive.  The ER doctor hovered.  The urologist on- call inserted a large foley catheter, as I howled in pain.  The Cardiologist on-call was on the spot and had me hardwired into the shocker.  I am happy to report that I didn’t trigger the shocking machine.

They debated much on the medications I was given.  Some of the cardiologist’s meds were at odds with the urologist and vice versa.  They rinsed my bladder for over a week or two, but since I lost all track of time, I am sure I got the sequence and times wrong. 

But to continue.  You know you are in trouble when you see nothing but doctors around your gurney saying OMG! Huge clots flowed out of the Foley and into the bag.  The doctors sounded like fishermen comparing the sizes of their catch as each stream of clot oozed out into the clear tubes.  They couldn’t believe that I waited that long to come in.

I hovered between deep sleep and periods of lucidity while my bladder was rinsed of blood clots and other detritus, and somewhere in all that I went into the cath-lab for four stents.  It was painful as all hell which was unusual for me.  My other balloons and stents didn’t hurt like that.  But what I thought was indigestion for the last many years was angina.  Finally, after years and years, success with that!

I was then wheeled out to the recovery room in intense pain where the nurse offered me Tylenol® and I went off on her.  I feel a bit guilty of that now, but I felt that my pain wasn’t being addressed.  Finally, the Cardiologist gave me fentanyl and the pain sort of subsided to the back of my mine but didn’t totally disappear.  To this point, the doctors don’t think that was from the cath, but that’s where it started, so I am assuming they bruised something near the backbone.  They gave me topical pain killers, but they didn’t stop the discomfort.  But in time, that did go away near the end of my stay.

Then I forgot how to breathe when I fell asleep.  I have suffered for years with night paralysis, but it never effected my breathing.  But waking up trying to remember how to breathe frightened me.  They put me on a CPAP breathing machine, and that solved the breathing problem, and the heart pain.  I haven’t had that happen since I left the hospital, though, but a Sleep Study looms big in my future.  

I was discharged two weeks later and have felt pretty good except for a time when the Foley was clogged, and I went to the ER to have it changed.  I failed the pee test and I expect that the old Roter-Rooter of the prostate also looms in my near future.  I can’t say I am fond of that idea, even though I have been assured that it is relatively painless. Doctors seem to have a different standard for ‘discomfort’ than I do.

Physically I am very weakened.  Just the 30’ walk to the kitchen tires me.  Recovery in that area is going to be a long time routine, and I am not so sure that I am up to it.  I am tired.

So, thanks for the prayers! I couldn’t believe how many people where praying people, including a couple of nurses!  I am sure that is the reason I have come out of the experience reasonably well.

Thank you all!!

The Scrub Down

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We can only tell so many near death stories without bad luck catching up to us. I dodged that bullet that had my name on it again.

I originally wanted to describe an event that happened to me when entering the hospital.  I wish I were an artist and could paint the picture that is in my head because I can make the words describe that sublime moment of humiliation.  I manage tragedy with gallows humor, and that is very disconcerting to other people, so I save that sort of humor for a few people that I know can handle it. I have decided to break the tale down into short essays and see if I can return to the original story with a freshened view.  I really want to tell it, but it must be more polished before I post it.

It is not a very sanitary story, so if bodily processes and gore upset you, go no further.  You have been warned.

The Scrub Down

See the source image

I had been in the emergency room around three hours as doctors irrigated out blood clots from my bladder.  My body was shutting down when the ambulance brought me in.  I was not aware that I was in such serious trouble.  I just thought I was having the usual male curse of a swollen prostate.

Several doctors were standing around commenting on the huge clots.  You know you are in trouble when one of the doctors say, “Oh my God!” as each huge dollop of clotting exited into the plastic bag hanging off the edge of my gurney.  I was a star.  Everyone stopped by to see the fluid draining.  They had never seen that much clotting before.

But the release of the pressure was a blessed event, right up there with an epiphany as I laid there on the hard pad of the ER gurney.  The doctors were still busy figuring out how to restart the kidneys and fighting the arrythmia in my heart. It appears the treatment for the two problems were in opposition to each other, and they were doing a ballet dance of controlling medicines and reacting to lab results.  When I was stabilized some six hours later, they transferred me to their Level 1 Intensive Care where each patient had their own nurse, and the rooms were large enough to allow several medical specialties room to work on the patient at the same time.

Waiting around the bed were six nurses, each armed with an orange scrub brush mounted on the end of a short handle.  I was very unsanitary at that moment, and I was really humiliated at the body filth.  But this small squad of petite scrubbers did their work over every inch of my body with military-like efficiency.  When finished they all turned at the same time and exited single file from the room.  It felt good laying on the soft mattress and clean sheets, and I let my humiliation slowly bleed out. Modesty and dignity had to go into storage.

A-musing midrashim

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A bright day awakens me this second day in September.  I turn off the cassock filter, lower the bed, turn off the portable AC and plod into the bathroom for the morning ritual.  It was empty, and I knew it would be.  Annie always waited in there for her morning breakfast and would greet me as I came in to share her space with her.  But I had steeled myself and knew she would not be there this morning.  Still, the daylight was a bit bleaker, and I paused to let the moment wash over me.

And such is life.  As it is for the pets I have loved, so it is with us humans.  Dogs don’t sit around like I do and muse over the fate of their kind.  Each day is each day, and unlike me, they greet the day as it comes.  They don’t tick off the days as they pass.  Some of the Holy writs mention that the animals know God, and they thank him for every act of kindness.  Even in the meanest of circumstances, they never complain to God that life is unfair.

Do pets go to heaven?  Frankly, I don’t know.  The writs are silent on that point, but I have my doubts that they do.  We have them while we have them, and when they are gone, they are gone.  And Heaven mourns their passing just as we do.

Mankind suffered the same fate as animals after Adam’s poor choice.  And I believe that is why God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins.  Adam became equal to the creatures he once ruled over.  To the animals, Adam was the same as God.  They didn’t know the difference between Adam and God when they looked upon Adam.  But now Adam was like them, and they didn’t see God when they looked at him.  He was just another animal to be feared.  Man’s life was transferred to blood, and blood returned to the ground.  And so did man, just as the animals.

But there is a deep and arcane mystery in all that, and it is a musing for another time.   

Maybe.

Obit: Annie-Annie 4:30PM

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Some of you may not want to read this.  I am not going to gloss on about euthanasia or offer up any gentle platitudes concerning it.

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What bone cancer looks like …

Annie-Annie.  Or Annie as we normally called her, came as a stray puppy who was abandoned and lived off night crawlers and bugs.  She followed Linda and Sherry home one day while they were walking the neighborhood.  She was emaciated, and I didn’t think she would live a week then.  I was not for keeping her, but the women persisted and so we slowly brought her weight up.  She had a lot of problems with her knees and had surgery on all of them.  I think it was because she was thrown out of a car.  People do that down here.  Drive out into the country, throw the dog out and drive off.

Like most labs, she was stoic and seldom complained.  Watching her these last few days when you wonder if it is time or not was hard.  She can rest ok but moving is painful and slow.  We just could not let her continue to suffer and made the decision to call the vet and make that last trip.  It is almost time to bring the car around and load her as I write this, and I swallow hard, press my lips, and force myself to do what needs to be done. We already received more time with her than we originally thought we would.

Thanks to Sanchia and her generous giftings of CBD oil which I am convinced gave us those precious months, but it is time.

Afterwards:

They ALWAYS give you that last long look

It is something I never get used to.  My other dog owning friends talk about euthanasia as something peaceful and even beatiful.  But for me it is anything but peaceful or beautiful.  The vet comes in, the vet assistant holds the dog, the vet sprays the site, inserts the needle, and the shot is given, then everyone tries to gently lay the dog down as it relaxes from the lethal compound.  Her ears went up, the doc listened till the heart stopped, seconds later she weakly tried to howl twice in reflex, but didn’t have the strength, and once again the doc checked her eyes for reflex.  She was gone.  It was over in ten long seconds.  I killed her.

Yeah, it was necessary.  It was time.  But it wasn’t easy, and I don’t think it is supposed to be easy.  I don’t feel like I was there for her.  I don’t think she crossed over any rainbow bridges into that beautiful dog park in the sky. 

4:35 PM Wednesday, September 1, 2021, I killed my beloved dog.  Humanely.

We are not living in blessed times ….

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He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

This is one of the more mysterious passages in the Book of Revelations.  It was the first passage that captured me at the beginning of my walk of faith, and still calls to me almost fifty years later.  It says of itself that it is a summation of everything for the saints.  I chose the King James version because it is the most common version, and not necessarily the translation I think is the correct one.

It has been translated many different ways, and each translation believes it is closely adhering to the original.  Even among Bible expositors that I admire there is much debate.  When a passage of prophecy is obscured such as this one is, I believe that it points to a future time and is a prophecy for those people at that time.  None the less, I ponder it.  I mull over it.  I have dreams of it.

One of the views is that it is best translated, “Those who lead others into captivity must go into captivity: Those who kill must be killed.”  I do not reject this view entirely, but it is problematic to me.  There is no doubt that the church today has little, and we hold fast to what little we have.  We certainly do not labor with the power of the first century church.  I attribute that lack of results to apostasy and unbelief.  So in essence the church today is blind, and it leads the blind. And we all know the proverb about that. 

Another view is translated, “Those who are destined for captivity will go into captivity. Those who are destined to die violently, will die violently”.  I am more in accord to this view, but still not totally wed to it.  Still, we have been compared to sheep being led to the slaughter.  Slaughtering, no matter how humanely done, is a violent act. 

So I wander from one pole to another, and read the news.  I believe this mystery will be revealed in the days of most of my readers.  The fulfillment of prophesy lies at our door.  We are not living in blessed times ….