Monday, May 31, 2010

memorial day

Just now I was looking out my kitchen window at my next door neighbor as he lowered his flag and then properly folded it military style with a calm respect that I found moving. He didn’t know I was watching so he wasn’t putting on a show for my benefit. His private patriotism was more admirable for its solitude.

On this Memorial Day I wonder how often his actions are repeated throughout this country by people like him who proudly fly the flag and respect it in a solemn way. Yes today is a day to remember all those who have served our country during its many conflicts as well las those who served in times of peace. The tie that binds all those many thousands of service men and women is the very service they give to all of us.

I never fail to get goose bumps when I hear our national anthem played or sung. I, too, proudly fly the colors in my front yard year round. Everyday when I see that flag unfurled in the breeze I never fail to think about all those men and women who sacrificed their lives for us and our way of life. I know that sounds a bit corny, but it is true. It may be a fleeting thought and not deeply profound, but the fact that I, and many like me, actually think about our soldiers is the important thing. I have on many occasions carried that feeling of grateful respect out on a more personal level by approaching a service man in uniform out in public and thanking him
and shaking his hand. Invariably that soldier is at first startled and confused about how to react until he realizes that I am sincere. Then he always addresses me as “Sir” and thanks me. A jolt of patriotism courses through me at those times that lasts throughout the day.

A more profound feeling of thanks and solemn awe at the sacrifice of another young life hits me deep in my heart whenever I see another flag draped coffin borne to its final resting place. When the mournful notes of Taps send off another young soul, I have to fight back the tears, cursing the result of war. So I feel it’s important to recognize and thank our young soldiers while we can so that when the next flag draped coffin arrives, that selflessly brave young man or woman resting there will have known that their sacrifice was recognized, appreciated, and blessed. So the next time you encounter one of our finest, please don’t hesitate to offer him or her a heartfelt thank you and a handshake to send them on their way knowing that what they are doing is not just important, but vital to us and our country.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

mission accomplished

Mission accomplished. Yesterday was colonoscopy day. I got through it before I realized what was happening.

They make it so easy for people to get this done that there is really no excuse for avoiding it anymore. I had to get up very early (6 AM) to finish drinking the half gallon of cleansing prep and flushing myself out one more time to make sure that the old colon was sparkling clean. I arrived at the endoscopy office at 9:30, an hour before my scheduled procedure as I was told to do. After a bit of the usual paperwork I was led into the prep room, given a bed, got undressed and put on two of those embarrassingly flimsy robes, one on backward and one on frontward, then had a iv tube inserted in my arm for the happy juice to flow through. Then I lay on the bed dozing for a few minutes when the doctor came by and reassured me that this was really going to happen and that there was nothing to worry about. Then my bed with me on it was rolled into the room where this business was taken care of. The iv with the good stuff was started and before I knew it I was waking up in the recovery room. Never felt a thing.

Mary and the recovery room nurse had to help me get dressed since I was a bit groggy and my PD meds weren’t working yet. But that was accomplished with little fuss. The nurse then helped Mary walk me out to the car, one on each arm holding me erect while I did my best to shuffle along. The first thing I did when we got home was swallow some levodopa to get my body back to some kind of working order. The second thing I did was start to eat anything within reach. I was starving from having to fast for the day and a half before and I was in no mood to be denied food. I don’t know what it is I ate, but I ate a lot of it. Then, just as the nurse told me I would, I crashed and took a two hour nap. That rid my body of the remaining sedative and gave the PD meds time to kick in. When I woke up I good as new. Or as close to normal that I am allowed to get.

So, all in all, the whole thing went smoothly without a hitch. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health which is the important thing. That gives some peace of mind. So now I am good for another ten thousand miles or five years, whichever comes first.

I really encourage everyone to have this done. Colon cancer is a horrible thing to suffer and it is preventable with the proper early screening. If my mother had had it done, she might be alive today. So if you are fifty years old or older, don’t hesitate to schedule a colonoscopy. Do yourself and your family a favor. Mary has scheduled hers for next month. You should do the same.

Friday, May 14, 2010


It’s not the most pleasant thing I have to do, but do it I must. I am in that group of people who may have a genetic predisposition to colon cancer, so in a couple days from now I will undergo another colonoscopy.

I had my first colonoscopy 8 years ago and according to current medical advise, I am due for another. Actually overdue. I am 62 years old and the current protocol calls for anyone with a family history of colon cancer to undergo the procedure every 5 years.

My mother died from colon cancer 22 years ago and her sister, my aunt, died a year later, almost to the day, of the same dreaded disease. So I am considered at risk. I like to think that my mother and her sister were more the victims of lifestyle and diet than any genetic factor, which diminishes any predisposition I might have since my diet and lifestyle are considerable healthier than theirs was. Still, it seems unhealthy to forego a colonoscopy and the peace of mind it can provide when it shows no trace of cancer.

I don’t have any particular fear of doing this. It’s really painless and quick. The anesthesia makes it all go by effortlessly. There are no aftereffects to speak of. So it really is a walk in the park. Except for the preparation you have to go through beforehand.

The colon cleansing process that you have to undergo the day before is the most unpleasant aspect of the whole deal. Drinking the NuLYTELY mixture of Sodium Chloride, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Potassium Chloride, a whole gallon of the distasteful stuff, is the major drawback to this. I wish there was an easier way, but the doctor claims this is the best and most effective way to clear all the nastiness out of your colon to make the procedure most effective. So I will suck it up and drink it all. Yuck.

The only other concern I have is the effect the preparation and colonoscopy itself will have on my Parkinson Disease symptoms. I have to take my meds throughout the prep and don’t know how effective they will be during the cleansing process. I also don’t do too well if I don’t eat regularly and eating is forbidden the whole day before except for clear liquids. I am afraid I will be barely functional during and after that prep time. I also anticipate a bit longer recovery time after it’s all over. I may be worrying needlessly, but I can’t help it. The doctor assures me that I shouldn’t have a problem, but I got the feeling he was guessing. We’ll see.

So Monday is the day. I can do this. I have no choice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

urban wildlife

We live in a typical suburban neighborhood that is fairly densely populated. Ours is a fairly large lot in comparison to others in the area, but by no means big enough to harbor the varied wildlife that has been lately in evidence. This isn’t a heavily wooded lot either so there seems to be no logical explanation for the all the critters that have been seen here.

Just over the past two weeks we have seen in our backyard such visitors as a red fox, a ‘possum and a raccoon. Each spring there are usually a group of ducks that will hang around until the water pool from the melting snow in the far backyard dries up. Deer have been seen along the fence that separates us from the nearby freeway. There are too many rabbits to count (they really do breed like rabbits), and there is the extended family of frisky squirrels that chases around in a continuous game of tag. Thankfully we haven’t yet spotted any coyotes in the area although they have been sighted in nearby communities.

So far we have coexisted with these wild critters without too many ugly confrontations. But it seems that these urbanized critters are getting more and more brazen and confrontational lately. They seem to know how close they can get without entering the danger zone. That danger zone has been getting closer and closer to our personal space though.

Just last evening, shortly before it got dark, a raccoon the size of a watermelon ambled across the deck, turned toward me and gave me disdainful look with those bandit eyes before thumbing his nose at me and disappearing under the deck. Our leashed Jack Russell terrier went totally berserk at the sight and smell of that interloper and was violently demented in her frustration at not being able to tear it limb from limb. And a few evenings ago the biggest, ugliest “possum I have ever seen trotted along the hedgerow between us and our neighbors. Thankfully, it was headed away from us and not toward the rather congenial area under our deck. The sighting of the red fox the other morning was exciting except for the fact that it was obviously hunting and had found a small rabbit it was enjoying for breakfast. Not a pretty sight.

All these various creatures have somehow adapted to life in the city, making the most out of the loss of their normal habitat. We manage to coexist mostly peaceably, but more often now our relationship is strained. We don’t like the destruction they can do to our landscape and buildings and they don’t like us cutting down the trees and shrubs and wild grasses that make up their homes. We would prefer that they find someplace else to have their babies than under our deck and find a different food source than our vegetable gardens and flower pots and garbage cans.

We can and will continue to get along as long as neither of us gets too upset with the other. I really don’t mind too much seeing the rabbits hunkered down in twitching wariness each evening or laughing at the energetic frolic of the squirrels. As long as that ‘possum was just passing through I don’t mind watching him waddle away. And if that fox would be so polite as to clean up after his furry meal so I don’t have to shovel the remains out of sight I would be ever do grateful. It would also be nice if the cohort of critters didn’t actively seek to antagonize my poor little dog by staying just out of reach of her leash or leaving their scents all over the deck while she has a demented fit watching them through the patio door. And I can even tolerate the brazen coon who thinks I, rather than he, am in the wrong place if he would just lose the attitude.