Friday, May 9, 2014

Holy Water or Moonshine

It's been an eventful time around here.

I was going to regale you with a comedic chronicle of my trip to the ER/ED on Sunday, but am still feeling the excess pain which sent me there, so the usual bad jokes and finely honed sardonicism have not shown up to play Muse.

Fred has returned to the Board of Divinity at his congregation of primarily militant lesbian existentialist feminists.  More importantly.  No, not "importantly." (See?  This is the problem of working, not just without a net, but without prancing muses.)  More like... "earth-shatteringly."  What action do these top heavy adverbs modify?  That would be Fred's decision to undertake ministerial training.

That's right.  At some point in the next few years, I'll be living in sin with Pastor Fred.  Minister Fred. Fred, His Holiness.  I haven't hit on the right honorific.

His motivations shift between murky desires to set Those Women straight, so to speak, and a saintly urge to promote a humanist outlook, informed by existential psychology, with overtones of Christianity and, unbeknownst to Fred, himself, Buddhism.  

My role is dicey.  I am dedicated to supporting Fred in any endeavor he chooses to undertake, as well as trying to lead him down various paths of unexpected passions and occasionally pushing him into dark, dank alleys of... 

Excuse me!  I must interrupt to share Miss Phryne Fisher's best line of the evening:  "I wonder where you have to go in this town to find a Latvian anarchist."  

As do I, Phyne, as do I.

Back to our eventful week.  And yes, I have the television on, as, lacking whispering muses, I need the noise.

This is the time of year when the frequency of correspondence between me and my Brother-Unit Grader Boob increases dramatically. (He's an English prof and dubbed himself "Grader Boob" several years back.  It is an odd moniker, but strangely fitting, as he sheds blood, sweat, and tears in the grading of his collegiate writers' scribblings.  I know, as only a sisterly prof can know, that he spends more time on his marginalia and end-of-paper commentaries than the students do in composing their texts.)

We're both tennis fans, and the pent up fervor of the Australian, Spanish, and French Opens bursts into outright fanaticism by Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.  

But, frankly, he's been kind of pissy these past few years, my Grader Boob.  The stress of being strung along in poverty by university administrators abusing their instructors -- keeping them just shy of full time employment, without benefits, but with a surplus of students -- seems to be taking its toll on his good nature.

Just between you and me, Grader Boob is such a... guy.  Throughout the years, he's suffered his share of physical ailments but tended to choose his buddy, the chiropractor, over the medical school on campus.  For the longest time, his greatest problem seemed to be some arthritic changes in his knees due to wearing cheap ass tenny-pumps when he passed every spare minute on outdoor racketball courts -- whose composition was primarily asphalt.  He was quite a talented champion.  Hmm.  He may also have invested in acupuncture, as well as having his spine adjusted, or whatever it is that chiropractors do.  The short version;  Grader Boob is, generally, averse to mainstream medical practitioners.

I don't blame him and admit to possibly influencing him in this matter.  He's often the first I notify of bad medical news, to the point, I think, that his eyes may have rolled back in his head a few times, from frustration.  Or boredom.  Or fear.

Once, the idiots in the ICU allowed me a telephone, so that I could call him to say "Thanks!" for having landed a helicopter on the hospital roof, rappelling down to the unit, entering my cubicle via an intricate channel of vents and weird tubing that let out through one of the ceiling panels over my bed, and extricating me from... wherever the hell I thought I was being held by white-coated fiends. Then, as the story went in my addled mind, he found me a nice B & B in which to recuperate before flying off with his Delta Force friends. I had MRSA pneumonia, had died and been resuscitated twice, was surrounded by staff outfitted in disposable, baggy, yellow gowns, with gloves and scary masks.  To which I responded with a whopping case of ICU Psychosis.  But, as I said, the nurses, who were delighted by my apparent return to sanity, brought me a phone so that I could make a long distance call to this dear Brother-Unit, who did not even know I was hospitalized -- a call which opened with me crowing:  "Grader Boob, I did not even know you knew how to pilot a helicopter!" 

He's a humble person, a loving sibling, and terrific friend.  His sense of humor is such that, no matter the circumstances, I am reduced to puddles of mirth within minutes of our obtuse exchanges.

He's also a wounded man with low self-esteem and an undiagnosed, untreated case of clinical depression.  Okay, well, *I* made the diagnosis, but no actual medico.  Some of his innate sadness comes from what happens to us all -- a lost true love, a troubled childhood, the pain of absence, the burdens of an intellect weighed down by a hypersensitive soul.  Which makes him being a total hoot such a wonder!

Whereas the rest of my family express our genetic trait of moral intransigence by waging war -- on injustice, on unarmed civilians, on anything easily sorted into black, into white, on each other -- Grader Boob turned on himself.  He's never tasted alcohol.  Never tried a cigarette, never tried a joint. He shuns those things that whiff of sin.  After moving every two years or so as a kid, when he landed in a sunny city by a lovely bay to attend college, he vowed to never move again -- and didn't.  Even when the teaching jobs dried up and the hurricanes raged, he stayed put.

As I unleashed my tightly bound memory late last night, I recalled the many instances in the last few years when Grader Boob mentioned being exhausted, yet plagued with insomnia, catching a cold that he couldn't seem to shake, and becoming a bit fed up with fighting plagiarism and indifference to subject-verb agreement. I joked in response, once sending a box full of easy soups, crackers, decongestants, Vapor Rub, and a Harry Potter muffler.  Okay, and a coloring book with a box of 64 Crayolas.

He never told me about going to the ER/ED last October when his shoulder caused him such enormous pain he couldn't stand it any longer.  At least, I pray he did not tell me, because I don't remember hearing it.  As I heard the story this week, they were somewhat dismissive, as health care professionals in emergency rooms can be when faced with what they don't consider a true emergency and in an uninsured patient, no less.

So this overworked and uninsured professor decided to wait until he could afford health insurance via the Affordable Care Act's Market Place.  As he waited, and he waited until March, the shoulder became essentially frozen, and he said it was painful just trying to dress before heading off to demonstrate demonstrative adjectives and the more egregious logical fallacies.

By the time he saw an orthopedic surgeon, there was a visible lump, very painful to the touch.  By the time he had the MRI on Wednesday, the inconsequential "calcium deposits" posited by the ER doctor last October, had become a fairly large tumor.  Oh, and the surgeon noted that there was a problem with his rotator cuff, before sending him to the Sarcoma Clinic of the nearby Cancer Center.

Everyone claims they "had a feeling." I had a feeling, but it was fed by the knowledge that only something serious would drive my recalcitrant brother into the realm of conventional medicine. 

But what's weird is that I had an appointment already scheduled with my fabulous Dr. Shoulder Man for today.  Grader Boob had been tossed into the chasm of confusion that comes with health insurance -- the Cancer Center's Sarcoma Clinic was not in his "network," and he somehow found himself with an appointment for JUNE.  He was, of course, in shock.  He quickly pulled himself together and began working the phones like an insured pro, comforting himself (and me) by remembering that he had his first meeting with his new Primary Care Doc on Friday... and surely he would be able to find him an orthopedic oncologist.  Before JUNE.

Dr. Shoulder Man's PA, a wonderful man named Bob, was immediately helpful, as I assaulted him with Grader Boob's situation before his hand left the door knob of the exam room.  Bob is a good'un, as are all of Dr. Shoulder Man's team. He managed to scoot my ass over to get x-rays before bringing in Dr. Shoulder Man.  I was able to wait until he was injecting me with Magic Juice before my second assault.

My God, there are kind people in this world.

"Do you know anyone in Grader Boob's town -- who is the very best, do you know?"
And what did my wondering ears get to hear but:  "One of the world's best orthopedic surgeons practices there, Dr. Wonder Worker..." He went on to explain the things I was afraid to ask -- how they'd go about the biopsy, how very little can be presumed without those results, as there are some dozen sarcomas common to adults, and his voice was crisp, clear, authoritative, but compassionate, too.  He was quite plain about the likelihood of this being a cancer, and the unfortunate consequences of how long Grader Boob had to wait before getting the MRI.

Smoothly switching to talking about my one prosthetic shoulder and my other shoulder region that actually has no shoulder, we had an exchange in which I proposed ignoring and putting off some decisions.  Slick as satin, Shoulder Man said, "So, I see that denial is a family trait," and grinned before sashaying out the door.

Grader Boob is completely capable of handling all this, of sorting through information, making decisions, and conquering this illness with panache.  I felt like a nosy, loud, interfering dolt as I shot off an email when we got home, complete with links to Dr. Wonder Worker's background, and a satellite map of his location, with his office, gym, and yacht phone numbers.  My hands were cold because I had no idea if Dr. Wonder Worker would prove to be in Grader Boob's insurance network, and my lips were cold because I wanted to touch him, hold his hand, and stroke his longish curly hair.

Wonder of wonders, I got an answer a bit later -- the good doctor, this *best* doctor, was, indeed, available to him.  Wisely, my brother said he'd take the information to his appointment tomorrow, and then would follow the winding trail of bread crumbs.

My two brothers are a wonder to me, a blessing undeserved and continually surprising.  

And they shake me, shake me to my core.  I love them without really knowing them, and do so cognizant that our very existences are a wonder, our relationships, so simple and so complex, practically accidental.

I would do anything, anything, anything to help Grader Boob, to help TW -- if only we three could defeat our inherited intransigence -- and denial, our "family trait."  But we have our wily ways, our shifty humor, words, and that shared ineffable something common to deaf-mutes.

Good night, Grader Boob.  Good night, TW.  I am holding your hands.  If you should need any ministerial services, Fred has set up his work room with beakers and copper tubing, pipettes and kegs 'n such, determined to transform our murky, algae-ridden moat waters into Holy Water. 

Or moonshine.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Mandy Moore

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