Saturday, November 21, 2015

she's back

That huge boulder that has been on our shoulders, holding us down and making our lives miserable for the past 6 months or more, has become nothing more than gravel beneath our feet after Mary's visit to her cardiologist on Thursday. Last March Mary saw that same cardiologist for her yearly follow up after having open heart surgery--a bypass of a blocked artery-- 5 or so years ago. At that March visit the doc ordered a stress test to make sure that nothing new had developed. Of course that stress test showed some kind of abnormality, so he decided she should undergo a catheterization to find out what that abnormality was. That stress test was the catalyst for all that happened afterwards.
The evening of the day that she had the stress test, she began having vertigo attacks that became so severe that I had to call for an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. At the emergency room, instead of vertigo, she was diagnosed with a gallbladder that was severely compromised and would have to be removed. So on Thursday, May 19th, her birthday, she had her gallbladder removed. Then the complications started. Her gallbladder had caused an infection to take hold In her pancreas. The resulting pancreatitis was sever enough to kill her if it wasn't controlled. Mary was one very sick patient. She remained in the hospital for the whole month of June until the infection was controlled and they sent her home for the rest of her recovery.
She was still very sick for the month of July and I had to take a more active roll in her recovery at home, while she struggled to get past the pain. I was flushing the drain tubes she still had in her abdomen daily and trying to keep both our spirits up. The toughest thing I had to do for her was get her to eat. She had absolutely no interest in any kind of food. I couldn't tempt her with anything. Not even her absolute favorite bad-for-you food, a chili dog, could get her appetite up. Having lost over 30lbs during her illness, she had to start eating solid food regularly to help regain some of that weight and by doing so, regain some of her strength, or the doctor was going to put her back in the hospital and feed her intravenously. She certainly didn't want that to happen, so gradually she began eating another bite or two each day.

The lost summer was only one of the depressing things that we were coping with. My health was problematic during this whole ordeal. Coping with PD is difficult enough under normal conditions, but very difficult when a load of stress is thrown into the mix. Add the anxiety that I was feeling about our future and you have the perfect storm.
Though it felt at times that we would never feel healthy and normal again, gradually, day by day, we saw tangible improvement--one day the drain tubes came out, then she was able to walk a little farther and get up and down the stairs, she started eating more and regained some of her strength. When she started communicating again with friends we knew she was mostly back.
But, hold on, remember that stress test that started this downward slide back in May? Mary still had that heart issue to deal with. Knowing that she still had another medical issue ahead, kept us from getting too excited about her day to day recovery from pancreatitis. Mary has always had heart concerns. She was not looking forward to the catheterization because the last time the doctor told her that he was just going to look around inside her, he found that he would have to install a stent to keep one of her arteries open. It would be no big deal, but when he got a look at the stent site he found that a stent wouldn't be possible and instead he would have to open her chest and take vein from her upper chest and move it in place so that it would bypass the blockage. That was a lot more than she bargained for. And though successful, she did not want to go through that trauma again. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that she approached her scheduled catheterization on Thursday morning. Her worst fear was that she

would have to undergo an open heart bypass again because of what the doctor as going to see with his scope. We were very scared of having to start another recovery just when she was nearing the end of the first recovery. We felt she was strong enough to handle the physical aspect of another procedure, but the emotional drain on both of us was nearly more than we could bear. The stress was making us treat each other badly, constantly sniping at each other and arguing incessantly over the merest transgression. Our realistic hope was that she would need a stent and the doctor would take care of that during the catheterization. If a stent was necessary, she would have to stay the night in the hospital. If no stent was necessary and he found nothing else that required further action, she could go home that same day.
Her cardiologist is a positive, sometimes overly cheerful, surgeon who always emphasizes the good that can happen and doesn't dwell on the possible adverse reactions in any medical procedure. So when he came bounding into the recovery room to tell me what had transpired and what the medical prognosis was, I knew it was good news just by his demeanor. He was fairly jumping up and down, clapping his hands and smiling broadly. He was so happy to say that there were no complications and nothing further needed to be done for her. No stent, no new meds. His only prescription for her was more exercise. Her heart is strong. She is back. 

my mistake

Yep, I really stepped on my dick this time.
Some background to my latest misadventure: yesterday we had Stanley Steemer (a wonderfully capable carpet cleaning business that I would readily recommend to anyone with dirty carpets who would rather have clean carpets) in the condo to do their thing on our, until now, neglected carpets. Part of the job that they will do for you is move the furniture aside so they can properly clean the area under the furniture. The only catch to that service is that it is one way. It is up to the client to move that same furniture back into its proper place once the carpet is dry.
WARNING ALERT! Do not entrust the moving of furniture to clumsy or impaired or careless individuals unless you have an exceptional tolerance for furniture shopping. Let it be known that as much as she enjoys shopping for furniture, Mary would rather do so because she wants to, not because she has to. Of course she knows me and my various peccadilloes so well that she made certain that I was properly warned not to touch any furniture when she left the place in my care while she was away for a couple hours.
I probably don't need to tell you that one of my more vexing peccadilloes is my penchant for disobedience. If she tells me not to do something, I will do my damnedest to prove that I don't need her supervision.
That need to demonstrate my independence invariably gets me into the hottest water available.
I swear it was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. I turned off my spatial awareness sense for a lousy second. That one second was all the time it took for the imps employed by the Devil of Domestic Havoc to knock over the glass shaded floor lamp that was in the middle of the room, away from any hazard, where I had put it, reasoning that since there was nothing but a recliner and me in the room with that doomed lamp, nothing bad could positively happen. That's when the recliner suddenly thrust its footrest forward, for no reason at all that I could determine, straight at the innocent bystanding lamp which was exactly the perfect distance from the chair so that contact was made where it would do the maximum damage. That unlucky lamp made a very satisfying crashing sound, that, along with my scream of astonishment that quickly turned to a screech of horror, then a whimper of crushing despair, that taken all together had to be joyful noise to that devil who set the catastrophe in motion. I just stood there, paralyzingly dire consequences racing through my head, wondering how far I could run before Mary returned.
When she returned I did my best nonchalant-just- hanging-out-no-cares-in-the-world-act. Unfortunately, she has this amazing sixth sense (or maybe it's an eighth or ninth sense. She knows every move I make and even some things I'm only contemplating doing) that raises her antennae immediately into suspicion mode, then she shows the raised eyebrow indicating that she's on to something, that something is definitely amiss, and that I am deeply involved, followed by the unwavering certainty that she may have to kill me this time.
As she descended the stairs to the site of the mishap, she gave me the dreaded "I Know You Did Something Bad And Now You Have To Pay" evil stare, her finger pointing at a spot right between my eyes, questioning me with each step, "What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?" I couldn't get a satisfactory explanation out between my groveling and begging her for mercy. "Please don't hurt me, please." I whimpered my response to her query.
"You broke my lamp, didn't you?"
Now, how the hell did she know that? Without actually seeing the scene of the crime, he knew what she would find when she got there. This is one spooky woman I have to deal with.
But now comes the spookiest part of the event. After a vehement, but mercifully brief remonstration, she stepped carefully through the shards of glass that lay between us, and to my surprise, no, astonishment, she reached for me to, I thought, strangle me. But her reach culminated with the tenderest hug I can ever remember her giving me, cooing in my ear that, "It's alright. It's only a lamp. It can be replaced. I know it was just an unfortunate accident."
Like I said, spooky.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

hawks and chipmunks

 I have my favorite place to sit when I eat my breakfast or just want to relax and read.  This kitchen window I look out of allows me to survey both the near and far landscape: the hostas beneath my window that grow along the walkway to the far side of the lake where the trees are ablaze with Fall color.  My perch here at the kitchen table makes watching the changes that naturally occur as we progress through the seasons easy. It might not be the same as active participation in the outdoor fun, but vicarious thrills for me are more accessible and better than nothing. 

The lake naturally dominates the landscape. It is so expressive, showing me at a glance what the weather will be like when I step out the door. It can be calm as an aesthete deep in meditation, reflecting all its secrets back into the air above it, or it can be a wild and uncontrollable beast, roiling its surface with such ferocity that waves with whitecaps tumble toward shore in a frightening dance that keeps even the most avid fisherman ashore, lamenting the passing of another opportunity to be fooled by a fish.

The nearer view seen through that window incites a variety of responses, from annoyance to awe.  Awe is what I feel when the grasses and flowers I see through my window are in full bloom, swaying in the breeze, sweeping the air clean and leaving the fresh smell of newly born buds, soon to be flowers. The annoyance comes from looking at the thousand new tiny crabapples from the tree to my left that have fallen on the walkway and need to swept aside again for the third time that day.  Those tiny orbs make walking on the concrete walkway a frenetic game of hopscotch as we try to avoid dragging the pulp and juice of the stomped on fruit into the house on the soles of our newly red stained soles. But, however annoyed I feel by the crabapple mess, the chipmunks who live in my garden feel even stronger about the dietary bounty those miniature fruits provide.  They (I think there are more than one of them. I can’t really tell.  They all look the same to me and I’ve never sen more than one at a time) feast incessantly on the marble sized treats, leaving neat little piles of leftover bits and pieces on each corner of the stoop. Those cute (I know I’m not supposed to think of those furry destructive rodents who also chomp on my Hostas and tunnel throughout the garden as cute) striped squatters can be seen scurrying around, picking the best fruits for their constant nibbling, and leaving those little piles of detritus they’ve created for me to clean up.  Even though they are a nuisance, I still enjoy watching their industrious antics, marveling at how quickly they can be move. One second they are on the stoop licking their chops, the next second they have disappeared, diving under the mulch into their hidey holes. 

But contrary to what I want to think, my little slice of heaven is no Nirvana. A few days ago my slice of natural beauty outside my kitchen window was visited by the most incredibly frightening creature I have ever seen up close.  If the window that separated us from each other hadn’t been there, I would have joined those chipmunks  beneath the mulch, hoping that concealment would be enough to save my ass. Seemingly out of nowhere, a huge grey hawk swooped down and landed right in the middle of the crabapple strewn walkway.  He was no farther than ten feet from where I sat trying to feel safe with only a pane of glass protecting me.  He must have felt just as safe seeing me there looking at him, because he simply raised his head to get a better look around and ruffled his mottled gray and shiny black magnificent feathers with a ripple of muscles from his razor sharp beak to his highly honed talons. Then just as suddenly as he appeared, he took off with a leap into the air, circled around the tree and came back at me as if to break through the glass, grasp me with those awful talons, and drag me off to a quiet place where he could dine on me at his leisure.  But at the last second he turned his body sideways, giving me the full effect of his daunting prowess.  His wingspan had to be 4’ at least, or maybe I was so startled to see him come at me as he did, that I am giving him more than his due.  Seeing such an incredible natural killing machine so close that I could almost touch him, may be making me exaggerate a bit. But I would hate to be that close to him if he was hungry.  

It’s been a few days since the hawk entered my world. It seems somewhat quieter. There is less hustling around. The aura outside my kitchen window has become like the dimly flashing, far off leftover lightening after the thunder and wind and jagged bolts of furious energy has passed by, leaving the air still charged with possibility.  And I have noticed that either those chipmunks have gotten much neater (there has been no sweeping of the stoop where I expect to find piles of bits and pieces of tiny crabapples) or they have moved on. But I suspect  that hawk has something to do with their absence.

The moral of the story?  There is none.  That’s just the way it is.

Monday, September 21, 2015

diss and that

Here it is, Sunday evening, the Packers are playing (they just scored the first touchdown of the game), we had the obligatory pizza for supper, and our marriage is rapidly disintegrating.  Lately all we do is bicker and snipe at each other.  We spend way too much time together.

Swmbo (she who must be obeyed) has been riding my ass lately, giving orders and then supervising to make sure that her orders are carried out to her satisfaction. Still, even with her supervision, I can do nothing right despite following her instructions to the letter. So this is how our days bump along, jumping from one rut to the other on the uneven path we are living on.

“No, don’t put it there. I told you to put it over there.” Exasperation strained her voice.
Admittedly, I wasn’t listening when she told me where she wanted it. There was a football game on and it distracted me.

“What?! You don’t seriously expect to eat that on the couch, do you?” Incredulity caused the venom to dribble from the corner of her mouth. Not a pretty sight.
Well, yes, actually I do. And I will do my best to make a mess of it with lots of dripping, greasy pizza slop staining the couch in all the most obvious places just because it will piss you off. I was feeling particularly exasperated myself since I, anticipating her admonishment and being prepared for it, was carrying a large towel to cover my half of the couch and she had plopped herself on her half of the couch with nary a towel in sight.
I waved my towel in her face and before she could ask, told her to get her own damn towel.

“I told you to take the van. You know I just had the car washed and it’s raining.” Rain is her kryptonite when it affects her (actually our) car. She gets weak in the knees and nearly hyperventilates if there is a chance that her (actually our) car might get wet.
I was busy watching the neighbor lay new sod around his new patio in the rain when she gave me those instructions.  How could she possibly expect me to pay attention to her when I was so engrossed in the sod laying process?

“How many times do I have to tell you to turn off the lights downstairs when you come up here? She pointed an accusatory finger right between my eyes so there would be no doubt to whom she was talking.  
Ok, so I was in a hurry and had my hands full and something important (I forget what now) on my mind. It’s not like the power company is going to shut us off because I forgot to turn off the lights again.

“Did you put my tops (that’s “shirts” to those of the male persuasion) in the dryer again? If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times that you’re going to shrink them if you put them in the dryer. They have to be hung up to dry.” 
Oh, really? If that’s the case, then all your tops would have to be sewn together to cover you adequately, since I must have dried them those thousand times you told me not to and they are now the size of postage stamps. As long as I’m doing the laundry, those tops are going in the dryer.

You can see that all the time we spend together can breed some discontent with each other at times. We never really get mad. We just verbalIy snipe at each other when we sense an opening that will score some points in the game of life we have played with each other for all these many years. We know each other so well that we know what we can say without drawing blood and what not to say to avoid falling over the edge into No-No Land. 
We both have our little idiosynchrities that irritate us when used to light up the stage for the next act of Bob and Mary’s Great  Adventure.  

For instance, I have what my kids call my “Dad Voice”—gruff, emphatic, sometimes loud, sometimes nasty, and always with an attitude that says don’t mess with me. Swmbo (she loathes that name) hates that voice when I use it on her. It means I am always right even when I’m not, and will brook no contradiction, backtalk, sass or bullshit.  The Voice is incontrovertible and really annoying.  If she had The Voice on her side I would give up the argument immediately just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it for longer than it takes to draw a breath and utter the first few syllables. My two offspring have been irritrievibly scarred by hearing The Voice too often used when they were within earshot of it. I would never have used The Voice on them.  That would have been child abuse and I would be in jail and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But she knows how to stick it to me too. If I start to get to of hand, she adopts her soothing the savage beast persona.She quietly, slowly, soothingly suggests that I take a deep breath or two and go to my happy place until I can manage to conduct myself properly to rejoin polite society.  Irritates the hell out of me. It makes her all superior and holier than thou.  The fact that she is almost always right when she whips that attitude adjustment bullshit on me doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Of course, with all the verbiage careening and colliding in No Mans Land between two prideful, clever, and competitive individuals thrown together on the battlefield that is marriage, there are the inevitable insults that sneak into the fray. I am much too gentlemanly to ever hurl an insult that would point out any perceived deficiency in her character or appearance or demeanor, or that might call into question her perfection in every aspect of her being. 

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for her. She never hesitates to point out my character flaws. Or what she considers character flaws. Misconduct on my part, that is, what she calls misconduct, but what I call joyful living, is a favorite target for her barbed tongue.  She can be quite creative and can sometimes insult me without my being aware that I have been dissed.  But  the subtle, sneaky, outflanking insults that at first seem innocent and harmless, that make you think before you can be sure that she got you again, are the worst. Those are the put downs that creep up on you after the words have faded away and the echo of the words is all that’s left.  Those are the ones that make you wonder if she meant what she said or if you even understood her. 

“Why did you cut the pizza into such big pieces,” she’ll ask. “You know I like  small pieces. I like everything small.” she’ll say with a smirk and a slight emphasis on small. “ Everything.”

Ouch. I think.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The other evening we were just relaxing, watching some nonsense on TV when Mary said, “You know they are not together anymore.”
Her conversation can leave me bewildered at times because her segues, or lack of same, don’t always register as the words pass through my brain scanning synapses.

I glanced up, first at her to make sure she had actually spoken to me (I have very selective hearing), and then up at the TV to confirm in my mind that the comment she just made was rooted in what was happening there. 

“You know they were never really ‘together.’  She was always more into him than he was into her.”  I responded with little enthusiasm.  I’m not one to analyze and critisize  anyone else’s life choices.

“No you’re wrong.” I must have pushed her fight mode button because she was suddenly all combative over this trivial matter.  “She always loved him and he was a jerk for trying to avoid her.” 

“So you admit that they were never a couple because he was always trying to stay out of her clutches.” 

“Well they would have been a very happy couple if he had only cooperated.” She could sense the argument tilting in my direction. I delivered the coup de gras by pointing out to her that they were not real. 

“You know, of course, that they are puppets, don’t you?” I twisted the knife just a bit by adding that he had once been someone’s green sock and she was a concoction of pink foam rubber. 

“Are the Brewers playing?”  She asked as a way of confusing me and thus claiming victory in our little skirmish.  Remember what I said about her segues.  Mary considers any argument won if she can change the subject on the fly, leaving me scratching my head, wondering how we got to this point.  

I was left with the realization that we are really pathetic, relying on the love life  of a couple of Muppets for conversation.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I was just putzing around in the kitchen, rearranging the salt and pepper shakers so that they looked more like pepper and salt shakers, getting the spices in proper alphabetical order, and wiping off the counters so the crumbs you could see there, and which felt gritty, were only a nuisance on the floor where they crunched under my shoes until they sounded and felt like the sand in the neighbors sandbox.  I have probably done the same thing a thousand times.  I like things neat (I’ll get to cleaning the crunchy floor in short order) and in place.  Doing that arranging and wiping fills a basic need that I just can’t ignore. So there I am, satisfying that primal need when my reverie was disturbed by a shriek that, at that moment, was more primal than my need, which is to say, blood curdling and otherworldly.

Luckily I avoided wetting myself from the shock because I recognized where the scream was coming from.  I’ve heard similar sounds in the past when Mary needs to get my attention or has a bug buzzing up her tutu.  This time her outcry was aimed at me.  
“What are you doing, you idiot? What rag are you using?”  She was out of control over what she saw in my hand. “That’s my (oxymoron alert) GOOD RAG!  You only use that on the counters and nothing else, you moron.  You never listen to me (mostly true). You just grab whatever is handy without thinking about what you’re doing. I’ve told you a million times that that is an (oxymoron alert) EXPENSIVE RAG and now you’ve probably ruined it.”
“I thought it was just a rag.” I answered. “It looks just like all the other rags around here.” I was so surprised by her reaction to my innocent use of a RAG, that I failed to come up with a suitably trenchant retort.  
“This RAG is sacred.  You are not allowed to use it ever again.”  She snatched it from my hand and ritually draped it carefully on the towel bar.

“Sacred?”  I was dumbfounded by that.  “Why is it sacred?  Did Jesus wipe his ass with it or something?” I may have gone too far with that last question. But you all know, don’t you, that I was referring to the donkey that Jesus used to haul his carpenter’s tools from job to job.  Mary, however, is convinced that I now have a place all ready and waiting for me in the hottest corner of hell.  And not necessarily for my blasphemy, but more likely for my misuse of that sacred RAG.

deja vu

Deja vu all over again.  Here I am once again sitting sitting in a hospital waiting area, slouched in an over-stuffed chair that threatens to swallow me whole if I should happen to fall into blissful sleep.  This particular waiting area is dedicated to those who need a dose of radiation for one reason or another. This is one of the last stops on Mary’s journey to wellness.

Mary is here for a scan of her stomach to determine if there has been sufficient healing inside that mysterious vault to allow the last drain tube to be yanked out without any new problems occurring. We are keeping or fingers crossed.

If all goes well with this step, then the next step will be t remove the stent that was inserted to handle the bile drainage from her gallbladder.  We are impatiently waiting for the doctor to decide if we can do that tomorrow, or if more time is needed to ensure that the stent has served its purpose.

Whoa, Trigger, I think I hear the unmistakeable sound of our Texan surgeon returning to the corral.  Yep, pardner, that is the clicking of the high heeled cowboy boots he likes to wear. I hope he left the spurs in the bunkhouse today.  Later......

Tex rode in a white stallion, so he had to be bringing good news.  They won’t let just anyone ride the Good Guy horse while wearing the 10 gallon white hat that put the emphasis on the good news he brought along with him.  The tube was ready to come out and he was ready, willing, and able to do just that right then. You remember how I was worried that the tube might remove itself while I was flushing it out and I would have all sorts of trouble getting the job done?  Nothing to worry about.  I could have wrestled that puppy to the ground without breaking a sweat. All that was left of the tube was a piece about the size of the drinking straw in my bottle of Gatorade. But however it made its exit, I am happy to say that we are now tubeless.

One more return to the hospital tomorrow to remove the aforementioned stent, and we can start living normally again.Of Course, there will still be some pain to deal with, but knowing that this is the homestretch with the finish line sight, will make that pain disappear a lot quicker.

hoping the end is here

We never thought the day would get here when we could say we made it over the hump and came sliding down the other side.  Since last March Mary has been battling heroically against all the stomach problems that were piled in her way--her gallbladder was removed, then pancreatitus took over, then infections tried to bring her down, and always the pain, the sometimes excruciating pain couldn’t defeat her.  Today the last little bit of cleanup was done by the surgeon.  He then declared her the winner of this fight that seemed like it would never end.  

Of course we will have to be vigilantly watching for signs of infection returning.  But the worst is over.  Now her doctor has prescribed normal activity, normal eating, normal exercise, normal everything.  Never before have I thought that “normal” was anything to rave about, but, let me tell you, it sounds like heaven to me now. 

It’s time to start living and laughing again. We will do or best.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mary Time

“Come on, let’s go,” I was yelling from the running car in the driveway, trying to get Mary to move her late-for-everything ass, “we’re going to be late as usual.”

“Sorry. I was on hold with Medicare, trying to find out why I owe $490.00 for meds that they said they gave me in the ER,” she explained in her most irate taking-care-of-business voice.

“Did you bother to look at the clock during that frivolous waste of time? You know how I hate to be late for anything, especially doctors’ appointments.” I was whining  I know, but what else could I do? I know for sure that after letting her get away with tormenting me with her lack of timeliness for the past 46 years, I wasn’t about to change her behavior.

“Whenever we have to be somewhere, you start to operate on Mary Time, which bears no resemblance to real time,” I chided her. I was just in a bad mood and looking to pick a fight so we would have something to do during the 40 minute drive to the doctor’s office. 

“You’ve never been on time for anything in your life,” I poked at the hornet’s nest sitting on top of her shoulders. ”And you passed that time-altering gene on to Carrie, whose sense of time is otherworldly,” I reminded her with a little twist of the stiletto.
( Carrie Time is either the most advanced time telling method or the least developed.  Either way, she takes after her mother, who has raised time telling and management to an art, or a handicap for which there is no therapy.)

“”I always get where I have to be, and that’s all that matters,” she responded calmly, not taking the bait.

“Sure you do,” I agreed, “but you’re either a day early or a day late.  Half the time you don’t know what day of the week it is, let alone the date.” I was feeling it now. Unfortunately, her mind was still on that  $490.00 that she would never pay if she could help it, so the argument I was hoping for disappeared into the fog between us.

While she fumed and steamed silently over the injustice of that bill, I tried to engage her in a discussion of the etiquette of timeliness. I tried to explain that it was a show of respect to arrive on time for appointments. 

“Yeah, and when was the last time a doctor respected your time by taking you at the time of your appointment?”  She effectively ended that discussion.  

She then shifted gears and reminded me that she had, more important to her, a coupon for “buy one entree get one entree free” on any Wednesday in August at one of our favorite restaurants.  She had been all excited about that freakin’ coupon ever since it arrived in the mail a few days ago. Mary takes great delight in getting something for nothing, so a coupon that promised a freebie was like manna from heaven.  She had it all figured out.  We would be finished at the doctor’s office by about 4:30 which would give us just the right amount of time to get to the restaurant, take advantage of that coupon, and still get home in time to watch AGT.  I had to admit that the timing seemed like it would work, even if it was arranged in Mary Time.  

Amazingly enough we stuck to the schedule and we were seated in the restaurant right on time.  I had the temerity to believe that this just might be a huge breakthrough in Mary’s grasp of real time.  For a moment I entertained the notion that my life would be different from now on, always being on time with no more shouting from me to “move it!” 

Then the waitress appeared.  Before she had a chance to ask if we wanted something to drink, Mary was waving that precious coupon at her like a victory flag, announcing that we intended to take advantage of the coupon’s promised offer.

The waitress looked at her with an expression that could only be described as pity, and quashed any possibility of a victory dance to go along with the flag waving by kindly pointing out, as if to a child being told the truth about the Easter Bunny, that today was Tuesday.

Mary Time lives on.

good news/ bad news

Don't you just hate it when someone says, "I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first." I can never decide. Should I choose the bad news first and be brave, daring, a man others look to for leadership when the adrenaline is pumping and they need a hero? Or should I play it safe, hedge my bets, live to fight another day by selecting to hear good news? It all depends on the way I feel at that particular moment. The decision is thus left to the ephemeral Fates that lurk in the shadowy corners waiting for the opportunity to mess with our lives.
Today I had the opportunity to be a hero or tempt the Fates. I won't tell you which way I went to get to the information that was some good and some bad. I don't want to influence your opinion of me, either making me seem the hero type, or the wuss that lets the Fates make the determination of his character. I will say that the news was worthy of a hero and/or a tempter of the Fates, so whichever way I went, I could still feel good about myself. And it is all about me isn't it?
Anyway, before I wander too far astray from the news that precipitated this conundrum, I should emphasize that I was having a lousy day; one of those days that happen periodically when I am tired and my meds don't seem adequate to handle my physical shortcomings as well as my somewhat fragile emotional state. I got very little sleep the night before due to Mary's struggle with the still potent pain that was causing her severe discomfort. The usual pain pills weren't handling the pain and she was certain that there was something seriously wrong. Naturally, her pain is my pain and the situation was scaring me half to death.
When the pain meds finally took effect and she she was able to get some much needed relief and eventually sleep, I was left hanging, wonderIng what to do to help her. I spent the rest of the night in that worried state, wishing the hours would move along toward dawn faster than their typical glacial pace. The only hope I had was that she was scheduled to see her doctor in the morning, so if there really was something gone wrong he would handle it. So here comes Mary, all chipper and feeling like nothing unusual had occurred during the past night, ready to get out of the house for her fist social occasion since she got sick 3 months ago. She seemed totally oblivious to me, the basket case standing next to her.
The shape I was in when morning arrived--tense, stressed, and anxious-- dictated that I not drive any vehicle larger than a tricycle, so getting Mary to her appointment would have been problematic if a dear former neighbor (Joanne Parnau who owned the condo next door before she sold it a month ago) had not invited Mary to lunch after her doctor visit, to which she would drive Mary. If Joanne had not set that date up a few days earlier, we would have had a real problem. Instead we received another lesson in good neighborliness and friendly generosity.
I was able to make up for the sleep that eluded me by sleeping the afternoon away, taking quick naps between bits of reading. I was still considerably worried while Mary was with the doctor, wondering what complication he would find that might slow her recovery. I resisted the urge to call her, figuring that if she got bad news from the doctor, she wouldn't want to talk about it on the phone. My worry increased the longer she was gone. She was either still with the doc discussing the treatment she would need for this new onerous malady that had denied me all that sleep, or she was out running around with Joanne celebrating that the doctor had found nothing new and had declared her cured.
When she finally arrived home in the late afternoon , she found me groggy from one of those quick naps that, throughout the day, had helped me cope with the uncertainty and possible actions we would have to take as we continued on the road to recovery. I was ready to sink my fangs into the granite countertop if she didn't immediately recite for me, word by word, what the doctor had told her.
So now that brings us back to the beginning of this treatise. Yes, Mary was the one to pose that
question that has caused me so much angst over the years.
She insisted on teasing me with the news she had. "I have some good news and some bad news. What do you want first?" She was toying with me, treating me like I was a kitten chasing a ball of yarn. By this time I was climbing the

freaking walls ready to howl at the moon and vote for The Donald.
"Just hit me," I nearly begged on hands and knees. I was not about to play the goodnews/badnews game at that point. She saw how I was suffering
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with the anticipation of hearing her news, and so took pity on me, tossing me that whole ball of yarn.
"The good news is that the doctor says I am in great shape, doing very well. There were no new complications to worry about, everything is going smoothly and according to the protocol they

expect at this stage of recovery." She exclaimed, obviously pleased with herself.
She went on to explain that the fluid that flowed through the drain tube in her side (that I was responsible for flushing twice a day) was mostly clear (a good sign) and lessening everyday. The typical timeframe for losing those drain tubes is 3 months after the surgery and she is right on the money with that.
"He says he can remove the tube the next time he sees me," she said, the delight in that prospect lighting up her face, making her eyes shine with happiness.
"That's the good news," she reluctantly announced. "There is one thing to be concerned about, though. Nothing big or too worrysome," she assured me. "But it does involve you directly."
Oh oh, I thought. Here it comes. I'm about to get hammered. I can tell just by the inflection in her voice that I'm not going to like what's coming.
"All right, I'm ready," I obediently stood at attention as I put on my big boy face. "Let me have it."
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and said, "The doctor says that the tube is ready to come out and since he removed the sutures that were holding it in place (he removed those sutures because they were the cause of a lot of the pain that had been plaguing her for the past couple weeks) it's quite possible that the tube will slide out on it's own while your husband is flushing it." She ran through all that without taking a breath, probably so I couldn't interrupt her with any objections.
"That's it?" I scoffed with all the attitude I could muster.
"You know there is no tube that I can't handle. I have yet to meet the drain tube or collection bag that I can't control or bend to my will." I added with unnecessary bombast. I was overplaying my hand a bit so she wouldn't guess how terrified I am of pulling tubes out of anyone, especially my wife. What if I hurt her? What if the slimy wormlike tube slips out of my fingers and wiggles across the floor? I might break out laughing, making her think I don't take the job seriously or that I'm making fun of her? I can only see bad stuff coming from this. Bad news indeed, but not so bad as bad news can be. It's just that, as usual, I will be the one left holding the bag. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

and so it goes

I guess that those of you who have followed Mary's medical ordeal would like a progress report. I apologize for not being more communicative lately, but it just seems that finding the time to do so hasn't been a priority for me. Mary has been home now for three weeks and I can honestly say that she is .......worse now than she was the day I brought home. She can't eat because the mere suggestion of food makes her nauseated. And if she does try eating, it will be in such small amounts that it does her no good. Her doctor says she isn't eating enough to sustain life and the healing process is slower because she isn't getting any nutrients to help her get stronger. His recommendation is that she gets a feeding tube installed to get her the nutrients she needs that she isn't getting by eating the way she has been eating.
The constant enduring pain she has had to put up with has drained her of all strength. The longest walk she has taken is the distance from the bed to the couch. For me, seeing her suffer like this without being able to do anything about it, is emasculating. Worst of all is that she seems to have lost her sense of humor.
So back to the hospital we go. There they installed a feeding tube in her nose and down her throat, bypassing her stomach and dumping the food directly into her intestines. The reason for bypassing the stomach is that that is where the nausea is coming from as the food is rejected.
Now I am a medical tech as well as a nurse and a housekeeper and a handyman and a caregiver and last but not least, still a lover. I now know how to set up and operate a tube pump just like a real technician. Add that to my newfound skills acquired during my time in all those roles. I don't mind flushing those tubes or helping her get dressed. We have a visiting nurse coming twice a week to check her vital signs, but I could do that as well. Three times each week a CNA comes by to bathe her, but I could definitely do that better and promise her it would be more fun.
The only downer we have (besides all the pain and the worry and the stress and the fear) is that this is certainly not the way we expected to spend the summer. We have ignored all our friends out there because we are so wrapped up with our situation that we haven't taken the time to enjoy their company. No one can possibly know just how sick Mary has been. She could have died. We are so focused on dodging that bullet that the people we call friends have been relegated to bystanders. That rude ignoring on our part is inexcusable, but the fact that we only select the finest, most honorable, intelligent, and upstanding people as friends means that eventually we will be forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. Please be patient with us. We will be back once we get rid of this burden that's been keeping us down. 

being home

It's been close to a week since Mary was liberated from the hospital. I'd love to say that I mounted a daring raid on that fortress and snatched her from her bed just in the nick of time, disguised her as a cadaver headed for the morgue, snuck hastily down the back corridors avoiding the elevators, and emerged into the sunlight and found our waiting getaway car roaring and rumbling with urgency. Being the superhero I am, I whipped my cape around me and leaping into the driver's seat, sped away before they knew what whirlwind that was that just astonished them.
I'd like to relate that story as the truth, but the fact is, all it took to spring out of there was one signature on an official looking form. Once that happened they hustled us out the door with nary a wave goodbye or a wish for good luck.
Since being home, Mary has shown some improvement overall, but the gains are slow and difficult. She eats little bits of food throughout the day, not enjoying it, but putting up with the necessity of getting some meaningful calories into her so she can build up some strength. Walking is her only exercise, and she is capable of only short walks around the condo. I've challenged her to walker races, but hasn't taken the challenge as of yet. She has yet to venture outside, so she hasn't yet seen all the blooming flowers and maturing plants that we put in last Spring.
I've gotten quite adept at manipulating the saline flushing syringe that I have to use on her drain tube twice a day. The drainage seems to be lessening ml by ml everyday. I think I will actually miss doing that. I have found that I'm an adequate caregiver, not too easy on her and not a pushover. I like being the one to dispense the pills at the appropriate time. And for the most part she listens and does as she's told. She's still too weak to fight back with any conviction, so I am enjoying my temporary dominance.

I pray that all the caregiving will be short lived as Mary continues to improve. i will gladly cede control if it means she is back to her old self. We're getting there one day at a time. 


Cruel. That's what it is. A broken promise is cruel. Anticipation unrewarded when a promise has been made is the cruelest of all. I feel stomped on, dragged through the mud of disappointment, and left to bake in the steam of realizing that fate (or an especially cruel God) has done it to us again.
Mary won't be coming home tomorrow as they promised. Suddenly her white blood cell count spiked, indicating more infection. Now they are bringing in an infectious disease specialist to look her over and do some more testing because they just can't figure out where the infection is coming from. I feel like they are using her as a lab rat to experiment on.
And Mary is understandably down, frustrated and depressed about this latest turn of events. She just wants to come home and be done with all the poking and sticking of needles. She just wants to be normal again. And I desperately need her here to take care of me. We can take turns being each other's caregiver.
To add more ammunition to the doctors' case for keeping her there where they can monitor her every breath, is the fact that she is not eating enough to sustain life, as her doctor has told her. She just can't stand the thought of food, let alone forcing any of into her mouth and chewing and swallowing it. Until they are convinced that she won't starve to death, they will keep her there.
Yes the circumstances are cruel. The situation is cruel. The disease that has attacked her is cruel.
Life is cruel. When will we be free of all the cruelty?