Friday, November 8, 2013

fig bars and milk

fig bars and milk
(found under a pile of scrap paper, dated 3.19.2013)`

Última Cena - Juan de Juanes

 i just got an email from my doctor.  he says he is concerned and wants me to "come in."  good thing i didn't check my inbox until after office hours.  oh, and somehow my phone was turned off today.

oh my.

i don't wanna go because i know what that means.

i am quite proper looking today, in blue scrub pants and one of my post-op shoulder shirts, the yellow one that now is spotted due to fred's attraction to cheap-ass laundry detergents like Yowza Powda or some such bleachy blend.  the fashion needs of a shoulderless woman with severe allodynia are complex, so ruining a perfect post-op shoulder shirt is a royal pain. i also had it in the most beautiful of blues but they cut it off me during my last ambulance ride.  i was wide awake, and not coding or anything, they didn't have to grab the shears and destroy my clothes, damn it.  i have one shoulder, just not the other.  and the one i do have is bionic and the titanium again infected with a slimy, scheming network of a bioflim community of bacteria. i imagine it to be like a green, scuzzy, sticky jelly so strong that it's impervious to mean looks, lasers, scalpels, and boiling water.  dip the stuff in acid and it just laughs at you.

you should attempt Bra Wearing with one shoulder gone and the other infected.  go ahead, i'll just hum a few bars while you curse.

doc swore to me that we were just going to aim at "putting out fires." he promised.  he's my i-won't-lie-to-you go-to-guy. but i screwed up, not him. there was a violation of protocol.  i wrote him in the middle of the night, saying i was anxious about some things.  you know, like passing out, not being able to remember sunday, and having my legs covered in bruises despite having declined tante louise's invitation to an alpine ski event.  maybe that's what i did sunday.  and as i was making a downhill run i crashed into a tree, got a concussion, causing me forget the entire outting, bruising my bodacious bod and spawning a spat of g.i. bleeding.  works for me!  it's a plausible plot, even if the Lone  Alp in our region is bald of snow and tante louise just wanted to lounge about the lodge drinking.  hot chocolate. with the little marshmallows.

no one has ever commented on my avatar here [this was composed on a writer's site, not blogger]. anyway, the picture is of two marshmallow trees.  i am THAT gullible. i wondered aloud one day, standing next to my sweet stepmom, drying while she washed, where marshmallows came from.  "the marshmallow tree, of course," she quipped.  i don't get quips, they go zoooom, right over the old profderien's head.  why would anyone lie about the genesis of the marshmallow.

she got a lot of mileage out of product-specific trees with me.  if i weren't rather precocious about human reproduction, she probably could have pulled off having babies arrive via gently rocking tree limbs... or pine cones.

the entire crowd back then enjoyed my many stupidities.  until i was in high school, i thought "mustard" was a dirty word, because that's what i thought they were saying in the good, the bad, and the ugly, every time someone was called a "bastard." i would give someone the hairy eyeball and slur "you mustard" at them, turn on my heels and stalk off, leaving devastation and much confusion in my wake.

there were repeated calls for me to perform the enduring turtles' hit "happy together," especially the stanza that goes "no matter how they toss the tights..."

i was an entertainment package.  of course, the greatest story of the gullibility of the profderien shall remain untold, as it still kind of ticks me off, though it was, i admit, very funny.  i'll tantalize you with the vaguest of hints -- it involves that famous 17th century french naturalist and author, oussama mon chénier.  you probably know the joke.

i know i need to go, go-to-guy is rarely wrong, though it has happened.

i know i need to go, though, not because of his prowess as a physician, but because i am crying.  i only cry when i am very sick.  it has nothing to do with sadness;  it is something that my body does when the level of infection in my bones and the inflammation in my arms and legs from crps get... out of hand.  why would i be telling you about my penchant for cursing people as mustards and singing that old chesnut of tight-tossing and be weeping?  who can tell of marshmallow trees and cry at the same time?

"the candyman can..."

Homer: "Who can take some vodka, sprinkle it with ice, pour it down your gullet 'till the world seems really nice? The brandyman. The brandyman can if you're over 21...
Lisa and Bart: "...or just sixteen in Amsterdam!

i am hot, i am cold, i am sweating, and i am shivering in my softest sweet quilt, all at the same time.  crying, laughing, and reassuring panicky partners that "it's all good!" honey badger don't care!

sweet fred, and la bonne bianca, even sven and his son, cabana boy, hell, why not include the entire cistercian community next door, plus the crack whore sitting on her stoop, taking a sun bath, as serene as i've ever seen her lovely face?  they all, every one of them, know that when i am so rosy-cheeked, laughing, and weeping, we soon will load up ruby, the honda cr-v, tossing in packed bags and wheelchair battery chargers, "just in case." but we are so tired.

i just want to take some ibuprofen.  that's the irony of the whole thing. that's mostly what i wrote to doc about.  mostly.  there was also the anxiety, the insomnia, the pain, the bleeding, the lost day (during which i got lots done, apparently, and was quite the cheerful one, too!). the four fingernails that i've had to pull out, the toes that began bleeding from the pressure of water from the shower.  is it possible the pressure of the water caused all the bruising, too?

a spoonful of sugar and 600 mg of ibuprofen will help the inflammation, which will help the fever, which will stop me from crying and having to ask for help all the damned time.  but no...  even though i am forever stuck on the accursed steroids.


hey... hmmm...

i try to keep the steroid dosage down for so many, many reasons.  but maybe, since i have to take it anyway, i can increase that.  the relief that it provides though is treacherous and false, like the knight in dark armor who will not raise his face plate. face plate?  i dunno.  some of the people around here so lost in fantasy would know.  but i am betting that face plate is close to right.

i will take close to right.

among the many crappy things about the wicked corticosteroid is that while you can leap up in dosage, you must taper down both as fast and as slowly as you can.  good thing that i understand that sentence, 'cause no one else will.  the pain of just suddenly dropping back to your regular dosage, on top of the regular pain?  well, i guess i lied above, because THAT can make me cry, also.  a rapid prednisone taper makes bones hurt like nobody's business. i've never asked or looked into why that is so, but learned it was not folklore the first time they put me on them, 16 years ago.  i think it was only a five day course after which i was to taper down something like 5 mg a day.

"pshaw," i thought.  five days, i'm done, and i felt so much better, too! the next morning found me unable to stand up, calling the doctor (now on the Shit List) who laughed.

anyway, i am pretty much in charge of the dosage and have been for a couple o' years.  one of my dumbest mistakes, and one that i make over and over, is to fail and double the dosage under "stress" conditions.  i am told to double it "when you are sick," and when i stop laughing, i realize they haven't a clue, either.  every day now, i spike to anywhere between 101 and 103, the pain is unmanageable, there's the bleeding, the increasing fatigue, the insomnia -- so when is it, exactly, that i am sick?

staying on an extended elevated dose of steroids is not an option. the people around you would agree, were it put to a vote.  these aren't anabolic or androgenic steroids, no, these are the over-prescribed cheap shortcuts that make you feel better quickly, while ruining your bones, your eyes, your blood sugar control, and your ability to heal or fight off infection.  take them on an extended basis and you've the joy of fat pads and a moon face, ravenous appetites, and blood work anomalies it would take a wizard to decode.

so, clearly, that's the answer.  i'll double up on steroids for a bit and enjoy the fake benefits of a lowered level of inflammation.

or i could just "come on in..." like a spy coming in from the cold.  probably, i am just a quart low, need a top off, some fluids, and my tires rotated.

oops, crying again.  thinking about i.v. access, ports and picc lines that will suck up every liquid within a mile but won't donate a drop of blood, so what is the point?  every stick risks a spread of crps but that sounds like crazy talk to the lab people, who tie tight tourniquets and slap my hands and forearms trying to get thinned out prednisone veins to "stand up." tell them to stop and they threaten you -- "you explain to the doctors why they don't have the labs they ordered." try to explain that it's not a phobia or even the pain, it's the possibility of permanent spread of neurological impairment and they wink at each other.

i don't often remember this and wish it hadn't popped up just now. there is so much ignorance about crps.  i had a bad bout with pneumonia, in 2005, i think, and stopped breathing.  poor fred... he called doc instead of 911, got put on hold, even, before they understood what he was saying and made the emergency call themselves.  all i know is that i got sick on a friday and that sunday night, i said, "i think i'm dying," and the next morning, he thought i was "sleeping in," when in actuality i was taking a dirt nap. i woke up on wednesday in an unfamiliar ICU, on a respirator.

the nurse seemed nice enough, at first, and i was reassured that fred had been there by all the signs posted around the room in his neat handwriting.  "please do not cover legs, please try not to touch legs, please this, please that..." it was sweet and it meant i did not have to try and explain things by pantomime or scribbling on paper i couldn't see with pens i could barely hold.

but then she started playing The Game.  "This here all over your legs?  You ain't been diagnosed right.  I seen this before, up in Podunk County, and it ain't no SRA, CRSPD or whatever you and your husband been told.  This is plain old cellulitis and I'm gonna cure you with some lasix, massage, and epsom salts. First we gotta stop this nonsense of you falling all to pieces just from getting touched.  You almost broke my hand last night kicking at me.  I did not appreciate that, no ma'am."

I thought, okay, this would be a great time for a nursing supervisor, a doctor, a physical therapist, anyone... to come walking in here.  she took fred's signs down, talked about how i had been "psyched out" into believing that something like the fan blowing could cause pain.  apparently, i tried to destroy one of their revolving fans, too, while sweetly unconscious.  i guess they were trying to bring my fever down.  all of which helped explain why my arms were in soft restraints, tied to the bed.

The Game consisted of her holding up her hand, roughly 18 inches from my feet and slowly, slowly inching it closer, all the while spinning her pointed index finger and adding a sound track of "watch out... the big bad mean nurse is going to TOUCH you," at which point she would make a stabbing motion with her index finger.  i couldn't accurately gauge time, and The Game probably could be played in 2-3 minutes but it seemed like a half-hour, at least, while i prayed for fred to come, for anyone to pop their head in.

when she finally did jab me with her fingernail, i was so tense, so afraid, so anticipating the pain i knew it would cause, that i ended up learning how to stop her by default.  she jabbed, it hurt, and add that to anxiety and i was fighting the respirator... not normally a good thing, but it does make every alarm to which you are attached issue tornado sirens.  the heart monitor, because your heart rate spikes, and the O2 and pressure sensors on the ventilator scream holy hell.

most ICUs have at least on respiratory therapist on the unit at any given time, and theirs was in my room with a glorious swiftness.  she could see the panic, i think, in my face, and it turned out that my nurse was on loan from a med/surg floor for a few days, covering for someone who had to take a sudden leave.

i couldn't be extubated for several more days but i learned that my only defense to The Game was to fight the respirator and make every alarm available sound.  that nurse did manage to jab me one more time, but that was when she decided to do it in my sleep -- and even then, i set off the alarms and, out of frustration, i did kick her.  that was witnessed by a hospitalist who kept looking at me quizzically as i continued to go nuts every time she approached.  i didn't see her again, and once i was extubated and recovered my voice -- i used it.  it had been an exhausting and terrifying ordeal.

i wish i had not thought of her or The Game.

i confess to kicking one other person -- same hospitalization.  it was a doctor, don't know who he was or what specialty he represented or even why he was there.  when they had done cpr at the house, they had fractured my sternum -- could not be helped.  but that meant that lowering the head of the bed for any reason caused horrible pain right in the center of my chest, along with a feeling of not being able to inhale.  so we tried to do things like baths and dressing changes, bed linens changes, extremely fast.  the nurses and aides worked like a seasoned pit crew.

in the middle of both a sponge bath and a change of linens, along with a respiratory therapist changing the tubing on the blasted vent, along came this unknown doctor man.  he gasped at the sight of my legs, something everyone with crps appreciates, and without speaking to me, introducing himself, nothing, he dons a pair of latex gloves and grabs my legs -- both at once, one per hand, and runs his plastic hands up and down while i engage in silent screams (the alarms are off due to the bath, etc.).

the nurses and the RT try to get dr. idjit's attention but he is heavy into his fascination with these sexy legs of mine and is continuing to pinch, poke, and i don't know what else.

the respiratory therapist must have seen it in my eyes.

"don't do it," she said, "we'll get him to stop..." but she was too late.

i kicked him square in the chest, as he was leaning way over the end of the bed, and sent him flying backward into the wall.

he took it really well, finally heard the magic "crps," and was immediately apologetic.  had i injured him, i  am not sure things would have ended on such a benign note.  as it was, every time such an incident occured, a cascade of burning neuropathic pain would begin that could easily last 8 to 12 hours, while the "trickster" or the ignorant doctor got to waltz out of my cubicle and get on with their lives, not knowing the wreck they've left, their hit-and-run.

the pain in my left arm is changing and deepening, but i am all cried out.

this is all my fault.  i should not have reached out in the night, should not have complained, should have thought about increasing the steroid dose.  in the morning, i will call and schedule a blood draw, to see if i need a transfusion and just to cover all bases, get the white count, sed rate, and crp.

now... there is the reasonable, responsible, non-weepy profderien..

besides, if i had to kick anyone now?  i'd break my ankle again, plus a metatarsal here and there.

i'm gonna snow myself tonight -- again, i have permission to do so as needed.  all it usually takes is the addition of two percocets, two tizanidine, and as much baclofen as required to stop the spasms.

my mp3 player is all charged and ready to go, with lots more nina simone added, and a new old loudon wainwright the third.  we have mary black and a sentimental selection from serge reggiani.

in case of resistant insomnia -- again -- i loaded one of my favorite compline recordings and i can think of sweet brother william, always the one in trouble at the monastery, who intervened when father anthony and i were warring over communion.

sweet william came to me as i sat in contemplation, a glass jar of milk in one hand and a plate of fresh baked fig bars in the other.  in solemnity did we down all the milk, keeping our dairy moustaches, and with joy did we munch on the fig bars.

and all was well. brother william would cheerfully go back to whatever punishing task had been devised for him, scrubbing the flagstones in the cathedral, usually. i could truly contemplate, watching him, or making it down to the pond to feed the ducks fig bar crumbs.

© 2013 L. Ryan

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Otter Memories: Ode to Joy

photo credit

Slides, wallows, tracks and scat! Oh, my!

I was lost.  
Sometime after having Thanksgiving dinner by myself in a piano bar in the middle of a completely empty downtown Berkeley, and three Christmas dinners with my boyfriend's feuding family components, he and I just took off and hid for a week.  
I held my nose and talked like an adenoidal head case when I called in sick to work.  
"Yeth, ah tink ah will be owt awl week," I told my Department Chair.  We never said Chairperson, Chairman, Chairwoman.  We just called him "The Chair." 
Jeff was a trust fund baby -- feuding family components make for many guilt-induced cash deposits -- and didn't have to call anyone.  He just made abject excuses to his professors, as he was something of a, well, excuse me for telling the absolute truth -- Jeff was a brown-noser of the first order.
"So where are we going, Bright Eyes?" asked my guy, as he lubed whatever one lubes, and checked tires, and cleaned his beloved rebuilt grey Mustang.
I don't know where it came from, except perhaps for my coffee mug.  I'd never even seen one.  Except on my coffee mug.  It was an off white mug, too small, really, for the amounts of caffeine that I required, and my fingers always felt scrunched and cramped by the handle.  But it had an overlay in dark brown and blues of river otters, two, to be precise, floating on their backs and looking for all the world like God's most contented creatures.  If I could get that much joy from a coffee mug, imagine the possibilities were I to meet the real animals. In my head, I thought "and they, me," but darned if I would have Jeff laughing at me before we even left town.
"We are going to observe otters.  River otters and sea otters." I leaned casually against the tarry telephone pole next to the car, as he slid under the chassis doing whatever it is one does under the chassis.  All I knew was that I had tar on my jeans and a splinter in my behind.  
"Okay," he yelled, though yelling wasn't necessary.
I was shocked but had enough gumption to run with it.  We were renting an apartment in the basement of a lovely old home on a very dangerous street in Oakland -- clued into its existence by Jeff's cousin, who was writing his doctoral thesis on national parks and their various subdivisions and subcultures.  Although he very rarely left his easy chair by which he stockpiled Rainier Ale on ice in a huge red cooler, Brian was a font of information on where to find stuff.  Otters were stuff, I reasoned, jogging to his front door.
"Hi ya, Brian, can I pick your brain?" I greeted him.
Still wearing the green flannel bathrobe he'd sported three days earlier, he repeated the offer of three-days ago, as well:  "Rainier?" 
I ignored him as he popped the tab. "Your cousin and I are playing hooky this week, and going on an Otter Quest -- you know, those joyous little bubbling blobs that float down our riverways..." 
"The coffee mug strikes again," he crowed.  He was observant to an annoyance and had often remarked on my otter romance, as I suckled my morning brews.
"So where do we go?  How do we catch 'em unawares, twirling and dancing and cavorting and such? C'mon, I know you know," I cajoled.  If that didn't work, I was gonna grab the cooler and run.
"Well, first thing, Grasshopper, snatch the pebbles from my hand... Okay, okay, just leave my cooler alone.  You can start right over in Marin.  Not much of a trip, but they've got otters.  I don't know about the twirling, dancing, cavorting, joyous stuff.  They're animals.  They do what they do.  You are the worst anthropomorphist of all anthropomorphists."
"Thank you," I yelled, barreling through the bushes to our place, where Jeff was washing up, and organizing atlases.  
"We're not going to the North Pole, Sweet Cheeks. In fact, Brian says we can start in Marin!" 
Did I mention that we could hear Brian from our place?
"River Otter Ecology Project, Tomales Bay,  East Bay Regional Park District, you crazies!" yelled Brian.
We set off.  I was just grateful Jeff hadn't dumped all the maps on me, as my idea of west is left, and north?  Well, north is obviously straight ahead.  On our last jaunt, out to find the former Cat Stevens who was visiting a tiny monastery off the Pacific Coast Highway, I used my unique map-reading skills to take us off road and into a weird realm where llamas ruled...
Jeff coordinates everything.  Looking for Yusuf Islam, we had all his albums, from Catch Bull at Four to Tea for the Tillerman to loud voices-lost-in-the-wind renditions of "Trouble," because I'm a Harold and Maude freak and "Peace Train," because, well, "Peace Train" is just a great song to sing in the car.
I settled into my appointed passenger bucket seat, and inquired about the music.  The CD jewel cases were all a little dusty and none jumped out as familiar to me.  Oh, no, he didn't!
Oh, yes, he did.  He was continuing the fruitless endeavor of training me to be like a seal balancing a ball on its nose, waiting for fish -- he was forcing me to love classical music.  Jeff knew everything about music; all I knew was what I knew, and that was whatever I happened to hear and like.  He said snotty things like, "Actually, that's a perfect foundation!" 
We stopped in North Beach at Sotto Mare, and he had a suggestive number of oyster shooters, and kept winking at me.I munched on olives and cheeses, and aromatic breads, washed down with lemon seltzers.  Anyway, I only got us lost once, when I interpreted a veer eastward as taking a right at the end of the next block...
"The theme of this journey to the otters is joy, as the otter is, for you, at least, the very emblem of joy.  Our music, therefore, is joyful. Please insert, dear navigator, the first CD," said the know-it-all driving the car.
I glanced at the case. I knew this one.  Everyone knows this one.  Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Concerto No. 1 -- "Spring."  I rolled my eyes at Jeff.  He laughed and told me to shut up and listen.  
There was an unusual jam on the Golden Gate and I had to admit, as I watched the ships sailing, felt the wind blowing, then warmed my skin with my eyes closed, that Vivaldi might be onto something.  But the joy was so... light.  So into itself. So tra-la-la and I just knew otters were more than skin deep joshing and trills.  I couldn't say any of that, of course, because I know how dumb it sounds.  I just wanted to see an otter, a free otter, and I fell asleep as fumes built up over the bay, all these cars full of fun-seekers, probably a mess of otter seekers among them, everyone listening to otter joy tunes...
"Psst.  Hey, you... Bright Eyes... We're here," whispered Jeff and I was thankful he knew just how to wake me. "Welcome to Tomales Bay, and to the pretty unimpressive headquarters of the River Otter Ecology Project."  
"How many centuries of old dusty joy music did I miss during my snooze?"  I teased.
"I saved the best for last.  Let me finish this Diet Coke, while you wake up to the lovely strains of... ta da...  Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, sometimes just called the Choral, one of the first choral symphonies, where the voice was counted as an instrument. You know it, I know you do.  It's the 'Ode to Joy,' " and he was so joyous in the telling about it that I leaned back in shade of that gravel parking lot, scent of cedar, scent of pine, and let the well-known song bring me to full wakefulness.
"I do know this.  My mom practically strong armed my sister into having it as the processional at her wedding.  I love it...  I do know this!" 
Turns out those were some serious folk at the River Otter Ecology Project, and I had to sort of put a lid on my whatchamacallit anthropomorphism and walk through exhibits about wetlands and learn that my beloved little otters were carnavores and a bit, well, sneaky.  No, "elusive," that was it!  The focused blond people, brown and muscled, all called my balletic water loves "elusive," like they were talking about joyless creatures into hiding and evading, not cavorting and well, you know, all the joyful stuff I was there to witness.
It was hard to pay attention with Jeff humming "Ode to Joy" in my ear.  They'd made a comeback, it turns out, these river otters.  The experts had set up 11 main sites along a huge swath of the coast north of the Golden Gate and used community spotters and trackers, but mostly relied on motion sensitive cameras.  Get this, the community volunteers?  They're called "Otter Spotters." 
"Otter Spotters," I muttered to Jeff. "Where are my otters, cavorting, playing, loving in the sun?"
My darling dear responded as only he could: 
"Smarty pants," but I loved him keeping notes of odes, chorals, bits of Beethoven joy alive even as the khaki ones handed us the tools we needed as we set out to match our joy with the joy of the free river otters -- Scat Bags.  He grinned.  I grit my teeth.
They explained that we'd probably find two different kinds of scat.  Slimy scat and, um, your regular type scat.  This scat was vital, we were told.
We were told about their research and preservation efforts on behalf of my jovial Lontra canadensis, watched videos, and felt ready to take on these fey creatures.  "When do we get to play with the otters?" I whined -- quietly -- as mid-afternoon approached.
And he grinned.
"Okay, you guys are all set to go looking for otters, hopefully to find some family groups, maybe even some pups.  Hang on to your Scat Bags, remember to hang back, be unobtrusive, to never hinder. Key things: Slides, wallows, tracks and scat!  Leave nothing behind!" 
A khaki blond muscled person then gave us a detailed map, with our chosen sector blown up, and asked which we preferred, bicycles, kayak, or canoe? I looked at Jeff and giggled to see that he wasn't emitting musical notation.  "Bicycles, I think," I told her, suddenly feeling like the grown-up in charge.
We really had a nice ride, tiring, and hard, but so cool, so fresh, such smells.  Moss smell, and music in the trees.  Music was beginning to be everywhere.  Voices, and the beginning notes of water, here and there.
Suddenly the path narrowed to brush and grasses, and we were at the water, an inlet, noisy and buzzing, dripping and dipping.  We dropped the bikes and crept forward, both working the mantra:   "Slides, wallows, tracks and scat!  Slides, wallows, tracks and scat! Oh, my!"
And there they were, my water bug love bunnies.  There they were!  Wallowing in their wallow, munching on some unfortunate crustacean, leaning back in water hay, enjoying their day.  Three adults, in otter barcaloungers.  They'd told us back at the Project Center that if we were a bother, the otters would promptly leave.  If we were okay by them, they'd ignore us.
They ignored us!  Well, there was one of the three, the one in the middle, whose butt kept slipping down into water, and was clearly embarrassed about it, that one... I'm pretty sure he flashed me a peace sign and a quick wink.
Done noshing, they slid into the water as if it were part of them, and began to spin, slowly, slowly, faster, slow again, take a quick dip, get that last bit of crustacean crumbs washed away.  The sun was giving out, they were moving on, but making a show of joy for me, for Jeff, for all the Scat Collectors, first.  I heard some squeaks and laughs, saw rotations of delight, and the beginnings of a low-level game of chase.
They circled back around, and my favorite slick guy raised a claw or a paw in gracious good-bye, took a final synchronized dip, and then made their way upstream.
Our legs were rubber by the time we turned in our empty Scat Bags and quietly thanked our hosts for the education, and promised we'd be back.
Jeff was staring at me, lopsided, like I like it. "What?" I asked.
"Your eyes," he said.
Feeling playful, I leaned into him, knowing exactly what I smelled like, for I could smell the river on him, and mud, and sweat. "What, dah-ling, what do you see in mine beautiful eyes?"
"Joy," he said. "Joy."
We headed south to Monterey, stayed in Carmel, saw otters in the ocean, in the aquarium, but headed toward home early to stop again in Marin.  Jeff seemed to think my classical music education was sufficient for the time-being, and we sang a lot of Bonnie Raitt going north, which is, as everyone knows, always straight ahead.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Aesthetics of Catastrophe, reprise

The Aesthetics of Catastrophe
(first version appeared in april 2012)

Perhaps I miss the point.

I have two appointments today at the "catastrophic care hospital" where I received Ketamine infusions in an effort to conquer some of the pain inherent in CRPS.  There are many people being helped by this treatment there, most with some sort of neuropathic pain following brain or spinal injury or one of the chronic progressive neurological diseases -- but also many folks in the end stage of cancer, stroke patients, amputees with "phantom" pain.

It's a stalwart, funky bunch, with an alternative sense of style, a different notion of bling.

"I like your cane" -- something I hear a lot.  I ditched the utilitarian bronze standard issue for one that is a screaming mess of blue flowers and leafy, leafy greens.

"Where'd you get those shoes?" -- and, oh dear God, if you have neuropathic pain in your feet -- presuming you have feet -- the Shoe Issue is never far from your thoughts.  I only wear shoes when I have to, like during a visit to the catastrophic care hospital, or for a quick waltz in the middle of a nasty parking lot strewn with bits of broken glass and bullet casings -- by the light (not the dark but the light) of the silvery moon (not the sun but the moon).


I loved shoes, loved wearing them, loved Italian leather, loved my legs.  A Top Ten Moment in my young life?  Waiting for a tennis court, feeling myself perused, turning in curiosity in the direction of the stare (always turn in the direction of the stare), meeting a handsome, frank face, hearing:  "Damn.  You've got nice legs for a white girl..."  The shoe?  A Stan Smith, I believe.

Now, of course, I cannot wear a proper shoe and only own one pair of foot-covering, an Old Friend brand "slipper" that literally folds on, with the Gimp's Favorite Aid, Velcro.  It is lined with shearling, the toe is open, the sole is flat, the size huge.  Over the course of the last nine years, I've slowly thrown out my shoe collection and added inevitably earth-toned, garment-dyed, loose-fitting organic cotton clothing, born of no discernible style, and often involving drawstrings instead of pesky zippers or buttons.

Who owns just one pair of shoes?  (If you're about to deliver a sermon that includes references to very poor and/or saintly persons, I hope you choke on it.)

Anyway, I dole out the fashion advice, extending my flowery cane for inspection, modelling my fancy footwear, and I covet, in my turn, their superior wheelchair, or the personal assistant carrying all their excess stuff, filling out their forms.

A person in pain, surrounded by other people in pain, will zero in on anyone who projects a measure of physical comfort, and deconstruct his circumstances, examine her measures and countermeasures, desperate to take away something worth a try.

One day soon I need to record the bizarre scene we witnessed in the pharmacy, where the Gimps gather prior to Ketamine treatments in order to get the "dollar special," a ten-milligram Valium that is supposed to help with spasticity.  {Snort}  I can tell you exactly what happened, but what the scene requires is beyond my aptitude for description.  A young woman, about 25 years old, was ensconced in the most intricate power chair I've ever seen.  Do you know what I mean if I say:  "She had too much chair"?  Too much for her body -- thin but wiry, with good muscle tone, the all of her nestled in what must have been a herd's worth of fleece.  Her face blank, her eyes flashing angry, she was in good control of her upper body, and something made me remember her as in control of her legs as well.  No, maybe all I knew was that she wasn't a quad.  Memory, schmemory.

She was abusing her chair, abusing those of us near her chair, and was being so curt with the pharmacy clerk that some sort of implosion seemed imminent.  Head Pharmacy Dood glowered down upon her from his place on high, under glass.

Using the joy stick on a power wheelchair becomes completely intuitive within minutes of first use, and most are now quite sensitive and require only a light touch.  She was doing zero to 4 mph in jerky lines and semi-circles, those eyes grim and sucking the giddy joy out of the rest of us sickly excuses for deformity.

As waiting was the name of the game, most of us powered down and stared at CNN, ubiquitous CNN, or read the headlines in The Chronicle, comparing them to the ubiquitous USAToday piled underneath the local option.  But scoping out the media became impossible as The Chair Abuser hit her stride.

In an alcove near the check-out counter were several carts ready to be taken out into the larger store, priced, and displayed.  It was an interesting mix of sterling silver jewelry, gift vases, and zippered-and-velcroed nylon contraptions meant to accessorize our wheeled conveyances -- in a vast color array that extended from teal to hunter green.

The Crazy Lady decided that was where she and her oversized, tricked-out behemoth needed to be.  It was doable -- I could have done it -- but I've a hesitant, cautious hand when out in public.  Hell, I file a flight plan with my cerebral authorities when venturing my handy dandy Invacare into tight spaces.  I use hand signals, I organize committees before undertaking a three-point turn.

She barrelled ahead, weaving, almost taking out an able-bodied adolescent, who squeaked as he leapt aside, all floppy.  She rammed the first cart.  The domino effect ensued.  Clearly enjoying her role as Mayhem, she grabbed a few pieces of jewelry, blithely dropped them, rocked her chair forward, rocked her chair back, ran over the jewelry -- the flat, tread-lined pieces of sterling transformed into embedded bling in the institutional gray carpet.

At least five of us stumbled through sentences that died out with our mutual verb choice:  Does she need help, do you think?  She needs help, should we help, how can we help, oh, God, she needs help-p-p-p.

Okay, so I might have tossed in a gratuitous, Damn, but she scares me...

She was moving at a speed far beyond our half-hearted verbiage.  Instead of a controlled centrifugal turn to escape the alcove -- where most everything was now on the floor, and trampled -- she rammed, slammed, smushed and smashed the chair controls as far as each could go in every direction and dimension, she twirled and whirled (but no dervish, she!), and while a part of me wanted to cheer, most of me wanted to cry.

A display -- lip balms, gums, Swarovski crystal-encrusted earring-and-necklace sets, and an odd tray of Original Fruit Skittles --  fell victim to her frantic exit.  I say frantic, but there was no frenzy in her, in the her, proper.

I thought, "She's evil," but I said, "She's new to this, she's angry, and she has too much chair!"  The Ketamine Crew responded with sage nods, with murmurs;  The pharmacy clerk sighed and began passing around the Valium.

Yeah, so.  One day, I will tell you all about it.  Okay, so it was transparent;  It was like being hit across the face with a big, stinky fish posing as a big, stinky metaphor.

I've visited this hospital at least weekly since March.  There are a few things that bother me immensely about the place, but that might have to do with issues more properly situated between my ears.  Most of the time, once the pharmacy trip was done, the forms signed, when Fred and I were just hanging out, waiting to be taken back and assigned a bed -- we were humbled to be sharing air with all those wise-cracking, sweet-hearted heros.

While the hospital is an absolute marvel of technologies and innovation, someone somewhere gets perverse pleasure in manipulating the décor.  Who knows, maybe it's the latest in Occupational Therapy.

The Pain Institute itself is a sudden offshoot from one of the hospital's central corridors.  Well, one of the hospital's many central corridors.  Lost in one of the area's numerous parking structures (think parking deck, but perverted and amplified by Feng Shui for the Disabled), I managed to get close to a bird's eye view of the complex, and while, yes, it's linear, it's also the victim of haphazard planning, possibly by someone trained young on squat little green and red Monopoly houses and hotels.

You know what I mean -- you get on an elevator and already you've the choice to exit via the front or the back folding accordion door, with options for switching to various color-coded floors that have life-altering and destination-screwing walkways, breezeways, or "bridges." There is also a tunnel connecting the Catastrophic Hospital with another award-winning, world-class (I miss Ross Perot) hospital of the regular variety -- though I tend to think that catastrophe is as catastrophe does, but hey, that's just me.

The tunnel also serves as a conduit to some of the larger satellite clinics and prominant private practices located across one of this city's busiest and most famous streets.  Fred and I are very familiar with the tunnel, having many times crossed under the street to get from the regular, non-catastrophic hospital to my Infectious Disease Doc's place.  Ah, the joyous hours there -- trying to get PICC lines to work and cozying up to piggybacks of vancomycin.

We never tunnelled our way, though, to the catastrophic hospital.  You know, that place that is the subject of this story.  Damn, but I run a tight ship.

So anyway, once you've found the Pain Institute within all that mess, you're likely to feel some vague anxiety just by the look of the waiting area.  The layout is linear clutter that screams impermanence.  We theorize that the Institute staff plays with the seating arrangements much in the way some families rearrange their Christmas crèche. [Fred enjoys recreating Stonehenge designs;  He also likes to use alternative characters -- We always have at least one Winnie-the-Pooh Nativity somewhere in The Manor, having bought up a warehouse of Disney knock-off figurines a few decades back -- a shrewd investment,  let me tell you!  Tigger, Rabbit, and Owl make great Magi, while in other poses they can repeat as Shepherds.  Eeyore is a fabulous herd animal or camel, and even once served as Joseph. The dozens of honey pots have dozens of uses, structural as well as thematic.  Piglet, of course, is the Christ Child, with Kanga as Mary.]

You'd think that this institutional waiting room would be limited by the number of its individual elements of design:  two very long sofas, three wingback chairs, and what must be the leftover seating from a dozen or so discontinued dining room sets.  We've shown up for morning appointments, sipping coffee midst sofas placed back to back.  We've then left, had lunch, and returned for an afternoon meeting -- iced tea at the ready -- to find those same sofas separated and holding up opposite walls. The next week, there might be only one couch, and from a completely different design line. We finally figured out that the Institute Design Elves swap the furniture with other clinics that also extend from the catastrophic hospital's main corridors -- "Look!  The Pain Institute's Llama Hide Sectional Loveseat is dressing up things over at the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic!  I think they swapped it out for those sleek, stackable Lego Original Dining Chairs we had stashed by the wat! er fountain.  Shoulda nailed those suckers down..."

I'm tempted to tell some ugly truths about the Temporal Lobe Dysfunction Subcortical Mini WalkIn Clinic, especially what those Klüver-Bucy Syndrome wankers* try and pull.  They may act all meek and mild, but that doesn't mean they don't wanna have intercourse with the sexier pieces of the Pain Institute's furniture or suck on our doctors' elbows (Dr. BlinkALot found that out the hard way when he tried to retrieve the Pain Institute's antique coffee urn.  He claims one of the patients winked at the departing carafe, grinned and said, "Best lay of my life and I didn't even get her name...").  Some lobes just don't take well to being divided.

The truly weird aspect to the Institute's wait area?  Someone tried to make the Institute adhere to a nautical theme, complete with rope-wrapped portholes as mirrors, a series of nonfunctional barometers,and the requisite oars -- jauntily crossed and mounted on the betadine-splashed, sand-colored wallpaper like those giant wooden forks and spoons handcarved by angry artisans with food issues. (Why are there never giant wooden knives?)  As every interior decorator worth his salt knows, strategically placed sails can hide a multitude of sins. Therefore, the Pain Institute has spinnakers;  It has jennies;  It has proper jibs. And, of course, what are you going to do with perpendicular horizontal spars but put up the square rig for which they practically scream?

There's a bronze plaque honoring the design firm responsible for the Pain Institute's décor -- I assume they mean the permanent décor, that part of things that is nailed or glued in place, impervious to Parkinson's Posse and those Fearless Souls in the Diaphragm Pacing Stimulation Outpatient Clinic.  The award must be based on Superior Oddity.  It's not like "Ahoy, Matey" leitmotifs run rampant through this place, catastrophe's home in the urban heart of a huge city.

I'd say roughly 60% of the outpatients bring their own chairs which makes for some interesting traffic issues.  It's tough to figure out whether a seemingly random grouping of wheelchaired people are waiting in a line or whether we all just ran out of battery power in random proximity to one another.

No one comes alone.  We all have "caretakers" -- hired, borrowed, or trapped into it by circumstances of love, hate, guilt, whatever.

I can be brought mentally and emotionally quite low by the mere thought of that waiting area.

But self-pity and fear go out the window, or the porthole, really quickly when my attention turns to the hallway traffic traipsing, limping, and rolling by.

Most of the inpatients are so young, and so terribly injured and altered.  Think about it... who has the most chance of being catastrophically injured?  The young and adventurous, the young and stupid, the young and talented -- the young.

It's humbling, and my rate of bitching and moaning drops to new lows after every visit, however briefly.  I wonder whether it's a change that merits permanence.  I am not sure.

You see families whose lives and histories were altered in the course of a second.  There are almost always trim women chattering away, nimble and tan, walking self-consciously behind their children, who lead these strange parades with walkers, splints, manual chairs, power chairs, crutches -- forearm, underarm, strutters, platforms. Blunt therapists amble alongside, offering advice but not help, providing the will and the wherewithal until the patient can supply his own, her own.  Fathers and brothers are more rare, usually bring up the rear, are pale, and blink a lot.

A couple of the parades we've watched have been of young families, and then the grace of little kids kisses the whole affair.  No one told them the Parade Rules.  Spunky toddlers cannot remember to stay behind the behemoth wheelchair, not to climb on Daddy's lap, not to hitch a ride on the walker frame, not to laugh, not to be selfish.  Children are anathema for sanctimony.

I don't mean to make it sound like every patient one sees is a rad skateboarder or that the families are all impossibly optimistic units devoid of realism.  But there is a difference, hard as it is to describe, between people whose brains and spines were injured while engaged in sport, or driving a car, and the large group representing stroke, chronic/progressive neurological disease, amputees, and brain injury folk.

And many people journey essentially alone.

When I think of the patients who have yet to have a parade, and who might never have one, it becomes too much.  There is, for example, a "pre-rehab" program for those patients who are "minimally conscious."

Yeah, so... So this is the "piece"  that I started on Tuesday, before heading over for my two appointments, and this is what I finally finished this morning, three days later.  In between, I have raged, cried, embarrassed myself, embarrassed others, jerked, spasmed, and hurt.  I mopped, swept, cooked, made lists, did laundry, read two books, groomed cats, and then raged-cried-embarrassed-myself-and- others-jerked-spasmed-and-hurt some more.

I was a total ass during the first appointment, and even though I apologized promptly, it was a tantrum that needed to happen, just so I could get over myself.  The second appointment was a breeze, as my nurse was one of the Ketamine Crew who was pulling clinic duty that day, and the doctor failed to show up, sending his PA instead, whom I much prefer.  Both of those women could probably finish my many sentences with close to perfect accuracy, and better spelling.

One "hugged my neck" upon hearing that my experience there was ending, the other blinked a lot.  I was encouraged to call every few months to see if there might be a drug trial or a new therapy in place or in the proverbial pipeline.

It didn't feel like a failure (whereas it had, earlier, at the first appointment).  I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to try -- to try again and again, past the point most medicos would consider sensible.  That said, I am very sad, and tired.  A little confused.  None of which was unexpected, really.

What I didn't expect was to miss the place, to dream of the maze of corridors and peculiarly specialized alcoves, each peopled by peculiarly specialized men and women.

I sure didn't expect to spend so much time eyeballing Marlinspike Hall's layout, making my various routes around The Manor more wheelchair friendly, learning to not hate my adaptive equipment.

I definitely did not expect this wild urge to have a parade.

© 2013 L. Ryan

The Verbal Equivalent of "Crunch" (in poetic form)

The Verbal Equivalent of "Crunch"

I have been abusing
"screaming ninnies," misusing
it to describe my spastic, spasming,
painful periods of dystonia.

I say that I have the "screaming ninnies,"
which makes no sense at all.

Still, it's a habit,
and I'll likely continue to misuse it for lack
of words that feel right,
that encompass the realities of screaming
bloody murder on a cellular level,
my cells' uvulae all a-quiver,
feeling bat-shit nuts,
personifying inanity,
all at the same time:

You stupid git!
I'm so sick.
Don't roll your goddamn eyes.

You want the pretense:
There is a problem list in play,
and as I work the problem,
solutions will come, the list will end, and voilà,
the problems have been put to rest, put to bed, are gone.

You stupid git!
I'm so sick.
Don't roll your goddamn eyes.

Oh, I am thankful, don't worry.
This poem, or that,
as you know, convert into top-notch
inspirational gratitude
with an at-the-ready daily devotional
doily, or - bate-the-breath -
an honest to goodness antimacassar..

Just pick a poem, any poem, read it, and be glad.
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, I say, in the poem.

While screaming obscenities last evening,
I got tickled,in that Southern way,
in the vernacular of greens and hot sauce.
Giggling, weeping, and yelling,
simultaneously.  (The simultaneity of things
is the rip tide in this, my ocean.)

Curse words are satisfying
but somehow all the seats were pews,
all the books psalters, every top
ten hit a hymn..

So, of course, I called out "shitake mushrooms"
over and over, laughing at such
a honed wit
(because laughter demands
an indirect object).

You stupid git!
I'm so sick.
Don't roll your goddamn eyes.

I can't stop talking when I am this sick.
Or I cannot cease the saying of
the same phrases over and over,
and rarely can I sustain conversation
that doesn't reek of, well, onions.

Oh, all right, desperation. That doesn't reek of desperation.
I'm hungry. I'm so sick,
You stupid git.

Replace "screaming ninnies" and "shitake mushrooms,"
all to lose your goddamn rolling eyes.

When "altered" in intensive care,
I wore the world out with "O, God"
exclamations and "O, Dear God" moans.
The result was one crazy Me
screaming to another crazy Me:
"Shut up! Shut up!
God ain't here right now!"

You stupid, goddamn eye-rolled git,
I am so sick.

Further rumination on ninny would yield little.
then as now.
We should honor, though,
the prominence of the gerund
because this term is, frankly, very
verbal, hyperactive, and
stuck that way, like a gerund.

Yes, exactly.
Like Flaubert's Bovary dancing at the ball,
all in the imperfect.

A waltz, hayseeds in high collar.

The ear must be pleased and satisfied.
There needs to be texture,
the aural and verbal equivalent of *crunch*,
You stupid, stupid git.


This is another conversion of a previous prose piece to poetry (if you deign to accept the label!).  I had hoped that the poetry bug would depart once I left the writing site that kept me sane at the beginning of this year -- but I feel the need returning.  It's sad, as I don't want to abandon this venue, the blog -- but my secret writing desires are, believe it or not, very shy.  And it turns out, ha!  Turns out that I need the camaraderie of my brothers and sisters suffering the same delusion:  We're writers.
© 2013 L. Ryan

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Aging Hands

PHOTO CREDIT:  aging hands

Was it last summer or the summer before, the hallucinatory trial of Casey Anthony?  I confess that I watched almost every minute of it, that it was even, at times, an amusement and distraction.  It got easier and easier to forget the dead baby girl, easier to get caught up in the creative drama of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and some pretty wild witnesses.

I have a dear friend, one of several I've developed over the internet during these years of being house-bound, and then wheelchair-bound, and now, mostly, bed-bound.  She and I can gossip like nobody's business, something that I never even knew I missed until I no longer worked, taught, volunteered, and lived in the world with the rest of you.  At some point during that God-forsaken play at justice down Florida way, I remember writing Diana an email, and saying something like... "Well, there is one redeeming thing you can say about my various families:  At least we've never killed anyone."

I'm here to take that back.

No, no one has died.  Well, yes, of course people have died.  Some just manage to still walk around, breathing.  Some have left the physical world, their ashes taken in by the riptides off of Atlantic Beach. I finally understand the pervasive, perverse interest in Zombie Lore.  The feeling of apocalypse, the incantation of the Last Days that has infected even our elected Congressional representatives.

Right now, I am caught up in thinking and dreaming about my biological mother, Jeanette.  She is, and always will be, a beautiful woman.  She has a mind that I love, and a sense of humor that I recognize as an inheritance, and see in my two brothers -- who will have nothing to do with her.  It clearly beat out our father's sense of humor, which was as close to nonexistent as it gets.  But just as when I talk to Grader Boob and My Favorite Pilgrim, she makes me giggle.

Well, whenever she is not incapacitated.  What incapacitates her?  Things any gerontologist could list with her hands tied behind her back.  Dehydration.  Urinary tract infections.  A disorienting environment.
Constant haranguing and manipulation.  But mostly?  Dehydration and UTIs, isolation, and depression.

Tend to those things -- and it's not hard -- and she's cool as can be.  A riot.  Loves to read, loves to remember, tell her tales of derring-do.  Like any of us.

Unfortunately, it is likely that she should probably not have taken on motherhood as a primary outlet for herself, her life, her intellect.  The same is true for me.  And glancing around at the various progeny, success is not the first thing one notices in the development of the young ones.

I'm thinking we should all donate our brains to some psychiatric institute.

Back in January or February, I called the Adult Protective Services unit in the area where she lives, as she was clearly being misused, robbed, and subjected to psychological meanness and manipulation.  That, and then there was this weird and increasing propensity for her to end up on the floor with broken bones.  It was something that a good daughter would have done a year earlier.

I am not a good daughter.

APS fussed at me -- in the southeastern United States, there is no other applicable expression.  They fussed at me.  Why?  Because I informed my half-sister and half-sister-in-law (does that exist?) that I was going to do it, before doing it.  "We prefer to arrive unannounced," I was told by a woman that had to have a very tight bun and a grey flannel pullover, and a stick... well, never mind.

Then, because -- by that time -- despite a crushed pelvis and spinal injuries, she had been unceremoniously plopped into a very bad nursing home ("and rehab,"  it came "highly recommended!"), where her injuries went untreated.

I've been lied to so many times by her daughter, her son, and the aforementioned step-sister-in-law that I don't allow myself the misery of imagining all she went through.

Essentially, they decided she should die now.  I've been told it was screamed at her, and I bet it was whispered in soft serpent hisses, as well.  "It's time... be at peace... stop all this pain." That old song and dance.

I mean, it's fine for me to have a DNR order on my person at all times, and I'm getting it tattooed on my chest on my next festive outing.  But don't bend the mind of an old woman who has finally fought her way out of the sadness of the grief of becoming a widow.  And don't toss her on the floor, or encourage her to hang out on the floor, or commence a grout inspection, whatever the heck brought her to the hard kitchen linoleum and the cold bathroom tiles.

She lives in a small, insular, almost incestuous town.  Everyone knows everyone else's business.  People cloak themselves in the sainthood of their churches, their Rotary Clubs.  They use social media as if they weren't just meters away from one another to begin with.  It's a messed up place.  I don't know it for a fact, but it's geography puts it square in the middle of meth land.

There are some wonderful people there, taken individually.  Adults and children and tweens and old timers that I'd love to hang with, drink in hand, laughter at the ready, if I were able to drink, and if anything left to tell is remotely funny.

So... she left my life, essentially, when I was around 4 or 5, reappeared from time to time, but in total, since the age of 6, I'd estimate my total time spent with my biological mom to be about 7-10 days, total.  I don't much care whose "fault" that is, or even, honestly, can say that it was a bad thing or a good thing or a "meh" thing.  I had a wonderful stepmother who did the best she could with the raw material delivered to her.

But there is a law.
But there is a law.
But there is a law.
Isn't there?

Do you not, if you are in the position to do so, help helpless people?  Even if, to some degree, their helplessness is a learned response.  Even if, to some extent, their helplessness is a ploy.  Because, after years of self-deception, the helplessness has taken on a life of its own.

I used to say, and may have even recently said, that my mother was reaping what she had sown.

Even so, there is a law.

You don't allow your parent to fall, certainly not over 40 times, in the span of months, and then chat about it with the nonchalance you'd bring to the topic of what nail polish to try next.  You don't embezzle her money. You don't speak meanly to her.  You don't tell so many lies that the hole you dig may as well end in China.

And you don't freaking lie to me about it all.

I should have known.  You see, these people don't acknowledge gifts.  Mostly because they probably "divert" them.  Their children are proud to be rude. (Except young John, in whom I have great hope.  Hello, John!  And get off my blog, young man.)  One child is clearly in trouble.  He's putting on weight, suffering fractures, and has developed encopresis -- for which the apparent treatment is to put new flooring in his room.  I've looked up pictures of him online, and recognize the sadness on his beautiful, intelligent face.

Should I now call Child Protective Services?

No, I think not.  Adult Protective Services, after fussing at me, couldn't act because my mother was in a skilled nursing facility, assumed to be "safe." {sound of forced laughter}

My half-siblings have developed some evil tendencies.  Or they are sociopaths.  I've discovered that they also pretty much abandoned the care of their father, who happens to be one of my heroes.  Why I, of all people, loved him, I don't know.  He emanated kindness and goodness, and his welcome of me was genuine.  What the two halflings don't know, and never will, is that their lies and their evils are as readable as a first grade teacher's sample alphabet.  There isn't anyone left they can con.

Oops.  Not true. The old people around them, trying so hard to help make my mother's situation livable, want to believe.  They can be conned by visiting preachers, by God talk, by pure bullshit.  These two remind me of those famed grifters of lore.  They were patient for a long while, wanting her money.  But when that blew up in their faces, they regrouped and now seem ready to play some new game.

She came "home" Monday.  I spoke with her this afternoon, and she has not slept yet.  I remember coming home after months in the hospital, I remember being frightened of fire, for some reason.  In a hospital bed, rails up, unable yet to transfer myself to a wheelchair, I became obsessed with fear of fire.  Poor Fred (remember, that is this blog's shout-out refrain: "Poor Fred!") barely slept, either, for I heard every creak of the timbers, every acorn on the roof, and everything in me shouted "fire." There is a fear of being trapped in bed, alone.

A wonderful initiative has been made, to give her nursing assistance from a certified home health agency on a 24/7 basis.  Already, I smelled cooptation at work, my half-sister ready to hover, the aide not being around when I asked to speak to her.  But it's just Day Two.

You are likely shaking your head at me.  "People are basically good, profderien," you are saying.

Praise God, I know that!

It's been the salvation of MY life, that discovery.  Anne Frank, sadly, gladly, got it right.  But that doesn't change the fact that the two children my mother last spawned have somehow -- and how no longer matters
-- become ruled by avarice and trickery.

I am an awful daughter.  My mother, who does not know me, just as I don't know her, repeatedly asks why I don't come visit.  I don't feel like detailing that my major victory of the day was walking to the bathroom, having Poor Fred bandage my legs ("Poor Fred!"), and doing a bit of reading.  Woo hoo.  She doesn't remember or refuses to accept what I've detailed in the past -- an incurable osteomyelitis, adrenal insufficiency, avascular necrosis, and what was that other thing?  Hmmm.  Oh, yeah, intractable full-body CRPS.

So I told I couldn't come because Fred had a terrible ear infection -- true enough -- that will require surgery -- also true.

Poor Fred.

And I want to say it again, while it is still true:

 "Well, there is one redeeming thing you can say about my various families:  At least we've never killed anyone."

© 2013 L. Ryan

Monday, November 4, 2013

President Obama, I Love You! A Big Wave to Teddy in the Sky!

We can do better, go farther, make sure everyone is covered, do it right.

Until then, please allow me to grin like the idjit that I am, for my "official" insurance coverage papers arrived in the mail today.  I will have no gap in coverage, I will pay over $100 less per month and half the deductible I pay now.  A weight is lifted from my heart.

Also, my experimental use of Namenda for treatment of the burning-type pain of CRPS has been approved for another year.

Another year.
Another year.
Another year.

I had planned not to bother with another year, at the beginning of this one.  I am still pondering the issue. Should there be another year, I am definitely one of the "lucky" ones.  My misery will not quite bankrupt me; Fred can continue to sneak pastrami to Buddy the Maine Coon; Bianca Castafiore can buy her heart's worth of caviar;  We will be able to fight the next algae bloom in the moat. does work;  It will work;  If the website does not help you, there is now a paper option.

I do hope this country, having set down the right road, will walk the walk and one day move to a single-payer system.  Call it "socialism," go ahead. You could also call it the right thing to do, and over the years, as the kinks are worked out, the redundancies and graft diminished, and human greed reined in?  It will be not just a life saver, but a money saver, too.

Another year?

© 2013 L. Ryan

A cat video featuring pastrami trumps the Talmud

I'm suffering and I'm going to tell you about it.  This helps me.

The "you" to whom I speak is an observant Jew in her late 30s.  Your path has been suitably complex, raised in the traditional laxity of Reform, but then your backup arrived -- a black Baptist gospel choir swaying in a background that only dips and shimmies for moments of Orthodoxy. I don't know your name but your idea to plait your beautiful curly long hair into one humongous woolen braid, worn casually tossed over one shoulder, missed the mark, and is a furry distraction.  The  black sweater, lovely in itself, serves mostly as the perfect matte base for your minor dandruff issues, and you get points for playing up that November has arrived, that leaves are falling, that moods have grimmed us with somber trickery, and so on.

So never mind the hours spent suffering today.  You clearly don't care, Ms. Thang.  The Gemara and the Mishnah, are they more important than the purported primary texts?  Therein lies the answer to everything.

Is it not said, "A cat video featuring pastrami trumps the Talmud, the Babylonian as the Jerusalem, the Rashi as the Rambam"?

© 2013 L. Ryan