Tuesday, December 06, 2011

and then there were two

For awhile we despaired of having a grandchild. Both our children, though happily married, showed no inclination to provide us with the grandchildren we wanted. Obviously we had nothing to say about it. All we could do was wait and hint and wait and hint and then finally outright demand that they get busy, as it were.

Then our daughter and her husband finally saw the light and gave us Ezra, our first grandson back in March. He is perfect. Intelligent, handsome, social, a real charmer. How could he be anything less than perfect with us as his grandparents?

And then our son and daughter-in-law got into the swing of things and, two days ago, provided the most beautiful baby girl the world has ever seen. Clara was less than a day old when I held her in my arms and, charmed by those exquisite blue eyes, promised her that I would do everything in my power as her grandpa to spoil her.

So in the span of nine months we went from worrying that we might never know the joy of grandparenthood to having two, count em, two remarkable little additions to our family. It would be impossible to love those two precious children more than we do. Let the spoiling begin.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

babies and stuff

Babies don’t travel light. It is absolutely amazing the amount of stuff required to bring a baby from home to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a few days.

They arrived yesterday evening from California here to Wisconsin with one small bag for mom and dad and one huge overstuffed and impossibly heavy bag for my nearly 6 month old grandson. That little baby has more clothes than all of the adults around him combined. Piles of diapers await their duty. Stacks of tiny little jars of mashed fruits and vegetables crowd the kitchen counter. Enough toys to stock a good sized daycare center overflow the box that holds them in random order. And that’s just the stuff they brought with them. Awaiting the little prince’s arrival here was a collection of hardware deemed necessary to cope with the care and feeding of one tiny person. We borrowed or bought an infant car seat, a stroller with all the amenities of a Lexus, a contraption called Pack and Play used to house the little guy when he sleeps and keeps him from safe from harm when he is not being held by one of the doting adults who constantly surround him (we called a playpen when our children were babies, but it is essentially just a padded jail cell), a swing to keep him content or lulled into a quiet stupor when the inevitable emotional breakdown occurs, a rocking chair/play chair with toys hanging everywhere to fascinate and stimulate, and other secondary stuff to ensure that we adults aren’t caught lacking the answers to his demands.

And yet all that stuff is put out of mind when we see that beatific smile that lights up the room and makes us turn to putty in his hands. Isn’t it amazing how one little guy can have six adults (mom and dad and two sets of grandparents) so totally under his control, talking baby jibberish to him and making doting fools of themselves? But we are willing and happy fools when we get the chance to hold him and watch him and engage him. Despite the clutter the next few days will be a little slice of heaven with our own special angel presiding. We may have to dig him out from under all that stuff to enjoy his visit, but the excavation will be more than worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

trash to treasure to trash

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That is why garage sales, yard sales, and rummage sales are so popular. When we decide to clear the clutter from our overstuffed homes what better way than to offer that trash,er, treasure for sale to anyone seeking a bargain.

Even though we no longer feel a need for those once indispensable gimcracks and gadgets, someone else just might. That is our hope when we apply a value to those objects and place them on the driveway for passersby to notice and instantly covet. If we guess right about the value of that old can opener or set of jelly glasses we will make a sale and the buyer will leave thinking what a great deal she just got. The fact that that can opener and those jelly glasses will become objects for sale at her own rummage sale next year never enters the equation.

But what happens to those things that for some odd reason nobody seems to want at any price? There is nothing as forlorn as leftovers from a rummage sale. Those pathetic little unwanted bits and pieces of our history suddenly become valueless, destined for the trash bin. A couple hours earlier they were proudly on display with price tags that only hinted at their real value. Now they are deemed detritus headed for the landfill, stripped of any value, odd little curiosities of accumulation.

I had such a rummage sale this past weekend. I made $41.50 selling bits and pieces of junk that I had no more use for. I did my best to con people into thinking that they needed that stuff even though I clearly didn’t. Some of the stuff that I thought people would be fighting over barely rated a cursory glance from the bargain hunters on the prowl. Other things that I included in the mix of doodads and kitsch that I considered space fillers were snapped up like golden nuggets in a prospector’s pan.

What do we do with all those things that nobody wants at any price. Do we try to give the stuff away, donate it to some charitable organization? It seems somehow dishonest to dump those leftovers that no one will buy onto someone else so that the disposal problem becomes theirs. All I know is that I want those once valued treasures now turned to junk out of my life.
It’s nice to free up the space that was once filled with all that unwanted clutter.

Now I will have room for all those treasures that I will find at the rummage sale down the street.

Monday, August 15, 2011

normal

She’s home. Finally. Life is back to normal now that Mary is back to normal after her month in California spoiling our new grandson. She has been home for two whole days. And I’m already offering to send her back.

She is smothering me. She is monitoring my every move. She is supervising everything I do. And she is telling me what to do just in case I’m incapable of deciding for myself what I need to do. She scolds me for working too hard cutting the grass and trimming the bushes. She reminds me to take a nap so that I don’t get too worn out. She is constantly reminding me to take my meds. She’s even monitoring my email so that I won’t miss any important messages. You know, normal.

I know I said I missed her while she was gone. But I my brain must have been filtering all that stuff. Yes, I love her dearly, but I’m checking airfares.

Monday, August 08, 2011

taking care of baby

Well, my month of pseudo-bachelorhood is nearly over. Just a few days left before Mary comes home from California, leaving her grandma duties and baby Ezra behind. None too soon I have to say.

I guess I am just not cut out for the bachelor lifestyle. I have always been something of a loner—I am not a joiner—so you would think that being alone for a month would be right up my alley. I am perfectly comfortable keeping my own company. But there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I can stand being alone, even like it most of the time, but being lonely caught me by surprise.

It’s one thing to enjoy doing things I like to do and doing them alone. But I have always had the safety net of knowing that she is in the other room, or about to come home from shopping, or sitting out on the deck reading. And so despite doing my own thing alone, I am not lonely because she is around. I miss her being around. I miss her taking care of stuff. I miss her taking care of me.

So she will just have to adjust from taking care of little baby Ezra to taking care of big baby Bob once again. I admit it—I’m a big baby. And I want her back.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

alone again

I am so out of practice. I am so far removed from living alone. We’ve been married for 42 years this August so bachelorhood is but a distant and indistinct memory. We’ve only been apart for any length of time once before when I was off getting trained to be a soldier. That was six months of active duty in the Army Reserve way back in the early 70’s. Since then we haven’t been away from each other for more than a few days. So, like I said, I am out of practice.

The reason we are separated right now is that Mary is in California visiting our daughter and son-in-law and their new baby, our first grandchild. She will be there for the next month bonding with the little guy. I get to stay home and take care of things here. I am finding out how much there is to do around here that I normally take for granted. And I am learning that too much silence isn’t necessarily a good thing.

When we first discussed this trip for her and decided that I would remain behind, I couldn’t wait to experience the freedom that being alone would bring. All the things I could do, the places I could go to, the fun I would have seemed like an endless list of self-indulgence. But, you know what?
I can’t think of anything now that I want to do that I couldn’t do before. It isn’t like she ever prohibited me from doing the things I love to do. As a matter of fact she more often encouraged me to do those things. And I’m finding that some of the things I thought I would do don’t really appeal to me when you get right down to it. Without her here to share those things they become less exciting.

I guess I never fully realized all the everyday chores and responsibilities there are around here that she takes care of so I don’t have to. Mary takes care of everything from the crucial to the mundane, from managing the finances to watering the houseplants. I am finding out that clean laundry doesn’t just magically appear in the drawers, that the bathrooms aren’t always so sparkling clean, that those phone calls to the insurance company have to be made by someone. I admit that I take for granted that all those things will be done, just not by me.

Mary is an outloud thinker. That is, she says what she’s thinking about while she’s thinking it. The stream of consciousness that results can be annoying and disconcerting at times, but the real benefit is that I always know what she’s thinking. She’s too far away now for that to work. I need to know what she’s thinking so I know what to think. I need to hear her babbling voice in the background on the edge of my awareness. I fear I will lose the ability to filter out all but the most important stuff. I don’t want to have to pay such close attention to everything that streams from her mouth. Yet I miss the sound of her voice.

I know a month isn’t that long a time to be apart. I probably won’t develop any terribly bad habits in that amount of time. I really don’t think that, once she’s home again, adjusting to her presence again will be a big deal. I just wish the separation wasn’t necessary at all. Damn kids. It’s all their fault for living so far away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

golf is life

I am a golfer. I make no apologies for that. I know all the usual arguments against the game—it’s elitist, it’s overly expensive, too time consuming, isn’t always environmentally friendly, and as Mark Twain observed, “it’s a good walk spoiled.” But none of those sentiments can deter me from pursuing the perfect golf shot.

I’ve been playing the game for nearly 20 years now. I started to play again as an adult (I had played as a kid, often with my dad) after stopping playing after real life intervened throughout my twenties and thirties. I picked up the clubs again when my son expressed an interest in playing when he was 13 or 14 years old. Golf is a great bonding game for fathers and sons. As soon as I swung a club again after all those years away from the game I was immediately hooked and instantly addicted. My son is equally obsessed with the game and is looking forward to sharing his love of the game with his first child, who is teeing it up as it were, inside his mother’s womb even as we speak.

Golf is not just a game for those of us who both play and work at it. It is as necessary to our lives as the air we breathe. We play for enjoyment and work at getting better at it so we can enjoy playing that much more. Our game has its ups and downs, its good days and bad days. It is both ego stroking and humbling. Just like life itself. Those days when we play well leave us counting the minutes until the next day so we can play well again. Those days when every shot seems to go awry, when the cup seems to have a lid on it, only makes us more determined to work at improving. Golf often provides a focus in our lives that helps to keep us moving forward.

As a person with Parkinsons Disease, golf has given me another reason to stay in good physical shape. While I exercise and stretch daily as a therapeutic necessity, all that exercise has provided me with the ability to still play the game I love. I may look a times like I should be anywhere but on the golf course (I move at a typical PD pace), but I know I surprise some people who don’t expect me to be able to play as well as I do. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with making a well played shot with your playing partners watching. Especially when they consider you a bit less than able bodied. The truth is, I am stronger and more flexible now than at any other time in my life because of all that daily exercise.

Playing golf well is an ego stroking experience when the confluence of ability and opportunity occurs at just the right moment. Just today I had such an ego boost on the back nine. I had caught up to a foursome of young guys who were doing some serious woofing at each other, betting on who could hit the longest drive. As I drove my cart up to the tee where the last two in the foursome had just teed off and were thumping their chests and strutting around after both hitting rather prodigious drives, they invited me to play through. At a time like that your only hope is to hit a decent shot so as not to embarrass yourself in front of such an audience. So I shuffled onto the tee and went through my usual preshot routine, took a deep breath, and prayed to the golf gods. My prayers were answered.

This particular hole was a 496 yard par five. The longest drive of the young studs was just past the bunkers that are around 250 yards from the tee. I must have done something to please those golf gods because my tee shot sailed past those bunkers and the farthest ball of those young’uns. My ball stopped two yards past the blue 200 yard stake (the stake marks the point that is 200 yards from the green) a good 40 yards past the longest drive that those studs could produce. For those who don’t want to do the math, that put my drive at about 298 yards long. That is prodigious.

I could almost hear their jaws dropping after I hit that shot. But I just nonchalantly shuffled back to my cart as though I had done nothing unusual. Now I am not an imposing guy physically. At age 63, I stand 5’9” when I manage to stand up straight and weigh all of 152 lbs right after a good meal. So for them to witness a skinny little old guy with PD launch such a tee shot had to be either horribly demoralizing or incredibly inspiring. I’m hoping the latter.

That one shot has inspired me to continue playing my favorite game. And while I got the great ego boost from that tee ball, my second shot on the hole was a pathetic pull hook that went about 100 yards, serving me a huge slice humble pie. But the shot I will remember forever is that tee shot.

Ego enhancing and humility inducing, golf is life. You gotta love it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

weather or not

I know that talking about the weather is boring. Almost any other topic would be more interesting most of the time. There is nothing we can do to change the weather, so whining and complaining about it is particularly useless. Still, we persist in raising the topic of the weather as though it was the most important thing affecting our lives. Sometimes it is.

Just this week we’ve experienced some ridiculously extreme weather that has us confused about what season this is. Two days ago we were baking in near 100 degree temperatures that had us sweating just from breathing. Then in the space of a few hours we were bundling up to withstand temps in the 40’s. Rain and more rain has the grass growing so fast you can almost see it. The wind never seems to slow down enough to call it a breeze.

I know we are fortunate that we haven’t been hammered by a tornado as so much of the country has been in the past few weeks. So my complaining about temps and winds and rain seems rather petty. But we all know that what affects us most is what we are experiencing right here and now. The travails of others, while raising empathetic feelings in us, are really more abstract than real when we see them second hand on the evening news. The thunderstorm that rattles our windows and pounds our roofs takes precedence over the storm damage and flooding experienced by those poor souls we see on the news.

So I’m questioning just where all this extreme weather is coming from. The global warming advocates give a convincing argument for that phenomenon being responsible for the blast of bad weather. El Nino seems to get a lot of fingers pointing at it as the main instigater of our rash of heavy rains and high winds and ridiculous temperature changes. I suppose weather scientists can come up with logical explanations for all we’ve been experiencing, but I tend to think more along the lines of “bad karma” being at the bottom of all this.

I really think the weather gods are just pissed at me for all my vociferous whining and complaining about how they screwed up Spring this year. So we are being punished for my outspoken criticism. It’s because of me that we go from dressing (or undressing) for tropical heat and humidity one day to having to bundle up like a roustabout on a North Sea oil rig in winter the next.

Go ahead, blame me. I can take it. After all, taking the blame can’t be any worse than putting up with the crappy weather. And I’m getting used to that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

foul

We woke this morning to another cold, windy, and rainy day just like 15 of the past 22 days. This is getting old now. This Spring has been one of the worst on record as far as temperatures and precipitation go. Usually by this third week of April I have fertilized the lawn and cut it a couple times. I haven’t done either of those yet. By now we have been to the lake and opened the cottage for the season. We haven’t bothered to even think about that yet since there was a snowstorm earlier this week that dumped 8” of snow there. I normally would have played a half dozen rounds of golf so far, but I haven’t even swung a club yet with any real intention.

All this foul weather has bred some foul attitudes and dispositions around here. We’ve been mostly housebound for the past month—not actually stuck in the house but reluctant to venture out in the cold and wind and rain. There are just the two of us in the house and yet we seem to be constantly in each other’s way. She allows the slightest transgression or perceived wrong to get blown way out of proportion. I’ve been accused of such heinous crimes—the toilet seat in the wrong position, failing to turn the coffee pot off, allowing the kitchen garbage to nearly overflow—that you would expect an imminent divorce if not outright murder. I am not without fault though either. I sit at the kitchen breakfast counter nursing a cup of tepid coffee, mumbling mostly incomprehensible imprecations in her direction. I still have the good sense to nod in agreement with anything she says even though I don’t actually hear most of what she says.

We desperately need a few days of sunshine so we can get out of the house and out of each other’s way. We need some spring sunshine so I can tend my lawn and swing a golf club. And we need it soon. Our marriage is on the line.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

art show reception

This evening we attended the reception for the Art Over Adversity Gallery Show for Parkinson Awareness Month. There was a very nice turnout of both artists and their supporters. The show was organized by the Wisconsin Parkinson Association and, by the great response, was the first of many more to come.




Tuesday, April 12, 2011

art show

Here are some pictures of the Art Over Adversity Gallery Show for Parkinson Awareness Month which is installed at the Thunder Mountain Press Gallery in Milwaukee through the month of April. The show was open to anyone with PD or their family members. I was pleased, and even a bit surprised, at the high quality of the art works presented. I guess I didn't really know quite what to expect. The show hasn't been advertised as much as I hoped and the gallery itself is somewhat difficult to get to (it is on the fifth floor with spotty elevator service) but according to the gallery operator there has been good response so far. There is a reception for the artists and supporters on the 21st of this month where I hope I'll get to meet some of my fellow artists. All in all a satisfying event.
The first picture shows my two turned vessels.







Friday, April 01, 2011

PD and massage

I missed my weekly massage this week and I’m feeling it. About three months ago I started getting a massage each week as a kind of therapy to help me stay more flexible and be less rigid and achy.

Parkinson Disease typically affects the PD patient’s muscles because we tend to ignore our physical fitness. It is just so damn hard to exercise when you have trouble moving normally. Exercise becomes too difficult, too much of a chore. Consequently our muscles get weaker and less flexible. Often you will see a PD person shuffling along, stooped over forward, unable to stand up straight because of those weakened and inflexible muscles.

I vowed that I wouldn’t let that happen to me. I exercise diligently every day, usually for an hour or so. I have a regular routine that includes the treadmill, the stationary bike, weight training, and stretching. In summer I ride my bicycle and play a lot of golf. In the inclement winter months I also use the Wii game system to provide some variety in the routine.

And then I added the regular massage to the routine and found it to be very beneficial. The first several weeks I didn’t notice any significant long lasting effects from the hour long massage. But then one day I realized that I no longer had the chronic aches and pains that had become so much of my life. I found it easier everyday to get into the exercise routine because I wasn’t so stiff and sore all the time. So this week when I couldn’t get my regular massage, I noticed the tightening of some of those muscles again. I don’t have any chronic aches yet again, but next week’s scheduled massage can’t get here soon enough.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

welcome

Call me Grandpa. On March 21 our daughter delivered our first grandchild into the world, a son for her and a grandson for us. Both are doing well. I am speechless. I am in awe. I am overjoyed.

The only downside is that they're in California and we are in Wisconsin. Too much distance between us. It is going to be very difficult for me to spoil my grandson from such a long distance. But I will do my best. I can’t wait to get started.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

recovery continued

Here we are, ten days after Mary’s heart surgery. She is doing well, but just as I predicted, she is trying to do too much already. Getting her to relax is nearly impossible. She is supposed to limit her stair climbing to a couple times a day, yet she is up and down cleaning, doing laundry, and just sort of bustling around unnecessarily. Then she gets tired and the pain catches up to her and she gets discouraged that her recovery is taking so long. Long? She is less than two weeks removed from surgery and she thinks everything should be back to normal. She is not a very patient patient.

Mary seems particularly proud of her 8” scar that runs down the center of her chest. She has always been particularly modest, never dreaming of going braless or lifting her top to expose her boobs. Yet she has unabashedly raised her top on several occasions to show someone her scar while at the same time flashing her boobs. Don’t get me wrong, they are wonderful breasts and I have often enjoyed seeing them in all their glory. But she must be channeling her inner hippy and flashing (pun intended) back to the unfettered sixties when going braless was as much a cultural statement as an act of freedom. I’m sure that when she has healed enough that she can again wear her bra, the flashing will stop and she will revert back to her modest self.

We have a visiting nurse who has been here three times so far as part of the surgical follow up. The nurse checks Mary’s vital signs and checks how the incision is healing and generally gives her guidance about what activities she can do and gives reassurance that all is going well. The nurse encourages her to take it slow and easy, but she is preaching to an unrepentant sinner. Mary will do what Mary will do. I try to slow her down but that is futile. Just yesterday she had me driving her to get her hair done, then out to lunch, and then some shopping for new towels. I am trying to be a good boy and take her where she wants to go since she is not allowed to drive yet (I may have to hide the car keys soon to keep her in check). I am trying to be an enthusiastic companion, but let’s face it, shopping for towels was not on my list of fun things to do. Maybe if they were sold in the hardware store…..but I went along and did my duty.

Driving her around and helping her around the house the past couple days has been an even more difficult chore for me than it would have normally been. On Monday I had a root canal scheduled to take care of a very achy tooth. Unfortunately the tooth was too far gone to make a root canal doable, so I had the tooth pulled instead. If you’ve ever had a tooth yanked out of your head you know that there is some nasty pain involved afterward. So Monday evening produced a pathetic display of whining and complaining from the two of us as we stretched out on our matching recliners while popping our matching Vicodin, trying to outdo each other in sympathy seeking. There were no winners.

Right now Mary is out to lunch with a friend who picked her up (no driving yet, remember). Then when she gets home she wants me to drive her around on some more errands. The resting and taking it easy part should be in there somewhere, but it is proving elusive once again. I may need a period of recovery to recover from her recovery. The saga continues.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

she's home

After 3 days in the hospital following her bypass surgery on Monday, Mary is home. Already. I am amazed that she has progressed so far so fast. On Monday when I saw her right after the surgery was done, I had a difficult time believing she would ever recover from such a massive trauma. And on Tuesday the day after she seemed even worse. The pain she was experiencing
was unbelievable. But gradually, hour by hour and even minute by minute, she improved. When she started to organize the hospital staff I knew the worst was over and she was returning to normal.

Now she is home and able to walk around and get up and down the stairs and resume some easy activities. I know she is approaching normalcy because she already has a list of chores for me to do. I might actually do some of them just because I'm so grateful to have her back. The most difficult task though will be getting her to take it easy and not try to do too much too soon.

The tremendous trauma she has endured has given us a new appreciation for life and our time together. Now we are convinced that we will have many more years of to-do lists.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

we can do this

For months I have been after her to see a doctor about the shortness of breath, the fatigue, and the heart fluttering she experienced whenever she would lie down. But Mary adamantly refused to admit that there might be something seriously wrong. She didn’t want to know. She figured if she just ignored it, it would go away. I finally convinced her, or more likely, she convinced herself, that it was time to let the doctor know about the problems she was having.

Mary is very much a take charge person. Type AAA personality. Always in control of everything in our lives. Because of that attitude she refuses to believe that she might be vulnerable to the common maladies that affect us mere mortals. As wife and mother, she is the ultimate caregiver, the rock on which our family is built. So to admit to herself that she might be in need of care herself was a major breakthrough.

So on Tuesday, two weeks ago, Mary saw our family doctor. After his examination of her, he scheduled the usual blood tests, an EKG, and arranged for her to have a stress test to determine if the symptoms she was experiencing were indicative of a heart problem of some sort. Mary followed through like a good patient and had the stress test the next day, Wednesday. On Friday our doctor summoned her back to his office to tell her what the stress test showed. Whenever your doctor tells you to come in to see him, you know there is something not quite right. So it was in this case.

The doctor told her that the stress test showed that there was a blockage in one of her arteries that was likely causing the problems she was having. He told her that he was going to make an appointment for her with a cardiologist to get his evaluation and treatment recommendation. The appointment was made for the following Tuesday. Not wasting any time.

The cardiologist studied the test results and after examining Mary and talking with her for few minutes, told her that a catheterization was in order to determine the extent of the blockage. He explained how he would insert a catheter into the artery in her groin and snake it up the artery to the blockage at her heart at which point he would either leave it as it was if the blockage wasn’t too severe (and treat it with medication) or he would install a stent. The stent would force the accumulated plaque deposits against the artery wall and remain in place to hold the artery open. He emphasized that it was a fairly simple and routine procedure that he had performed a couple thousand times without complications. Being such a minimally invasive procedure, he told her that she would be headed for home the same day after the catheterization was done. He made it sound so simple and routine, but when it is you who will be the patient with a catheter probing your artery near your heart it doesn’t sound quite so routine and simple. And again the cardiologist scheduled the procedure right away for Thursday morning. Like I said, not wasting any time.

On Thursday we had to be at the hospital at 5:30 AM so she could be prepped for the catheterization. Blood tests and medications and other tests were done and after a lot of waiting and a bit of sedation to calm her down and ease her worrying, Mary was finally rolled on her bed into the operating room. It took barely an hour to complete the procedure, but when the doctor came to find me he didn’t have good news to share. The catheterization showed two extensive (nearly 90%) blockages in the artery in such a position that a stent could not be inserted. The cardiologist explained to us that the next step would have to be a bypass. That is, open heart bypass surgery. This was getting more and more complicated. And scary.

The cardiologist then handed us off to the heart surgeon who stopped by around noon to discuss his involvement in this adventure. He explained how he would take the internal thoracic artery and graft it onto the left anterior descending coronary artery in such a way that the blockage would be bypassed and adequate bloodflow would be restored to the heart. Of course at this point all Mary heard was that her chest would be cut open. She was understandably frightened. And again she was scheduled to have the operation only three days later on Monday. Not wasting any time.

The weekend was one of dreaded anticipation and anxiety about what was coming up. Trying to get her to relax and not worry too much proved to be nearly impossible. Mary was convinced that she would have a heart attack at any moment. But she couldn’t just sit around worrying. Instead she got busy cleaning closets. Why closets and why now? Who knows how her mind works. I asked her why she was working so hard at such an unnecessary task and she said, “just in case.” She wasn’t ready to say just in case of what. I’m not sure she knew herself. But keeping busy over the weekend was probably a good idea despite her fear of that heart attack.

On Sunday evening she got a call from the anesthesiologist who would be handling her meds during the surgery the next day. That very reassuring phone call from that very caring doctor did so much to ease her mind and stop her worrying. Her whole attitude changed. She finally accepted what was going to happen and I think realized that this was the best thing she could do for herself. Mary finally came to understand that what she was going to go through was what she needed to live a full and active life again. The bypass surgery was a good thing. She slept fairly well Sunday night.

On Monday morning we arrived at the hospital around 8 AM to be prepped for the surgery scheduled for 11AM. The first person we encountered was that anesthesiologist who had called Mary the night before. He again reassured her that she was in good hands and would be well taken care of. Mary was in remarkably good spirits considering what she was about to go through, even joking and laughing with the staff of nurses and techs who were doing all the preliminary testing. The fact that she was not so nervous and apprehensive made it a lot easier for me to handle the situation. I hated the idea of her suffering and coping with the pain that was surely coming. I would gladly have taken her place and borne the pain and suffering for her.

They wheeled her away to the OR around 11:30. After giving her a hug and kiss and telling her how much I loved her and how proud I was of her for doing this, all I could do then was wait for the outcome. Waiting is most difficult when you have absolutely no control over what is happening. All you can do is banish, as best you can, all negative thoughts and doomsday scenarios that want to cloud your mind. Read, take a walk, read somemore, go to the cafeteria for something to eat, read a bit again, walk to stretch the cramps that come from sitting too long, then sit and wait again. I tried not to watch the clock hoping that that would make the time go faster. It didn’t.

Finally just before 3 o’clock the surgeon appeared to say that the operation went smoothly with no complications or problems and that Mary would be in the ICU shortly and that I could see her then. It was nearly an hour before I was allowed to see her, an hour spent frantically pacing and watching that damn clock. I just wanted to see her and touch her to make sure she was alright. When I finally got in to see her I was not at all alarmed to see all the lines and tubes that punctured her body. I wasn’t concerned about all the blinking lights on the monitors. All that was expected. All I wanted was to know that she was still my better half.

Naturally she was pretty groggy and mostly incoherent at that point, but she knew I was there and that was all I cared about. It hurt me so much to see her in all that pain. I wanted to be able to absorb the pain into myself to free her from it. She was in such obvious anguish and I could do nothing about it except to encourage the nurse to increase the pain meds to help Mary tolerate the agony she was suffering. All I could do was utter meaningless platitudes about how the pain would soon be gone as she started to heal. I can barely imagine what she must be feeling.

Now, here we are on the second day of recovery after the surgery. Mary was moved Tuesday morning (exactly two weeks from that first visit to our doctor) from the ICU to another hospital room for the remainder of her stay in the hospital. They already had her sitting up in a chair and walking a few steps. But the pain has barely abated at all. The Vicodin and morphine she is getting is not helping much. Still, the staff has her up and walking, using the bathroom, and eating. They seem to think she I doing well. And I suppose in comparison to other heart patients she is. But right now she is a long way from being the energetic and busy person we all know. The road to recovery is long and is just beginning. I want her back to normal. I want our lives back to normal. The struggle is still ahead. But we both keep saying that she will be better than ever once the pain goes away.

As Mary has often said when facing a difficult situation, “I can do this.” Yes, we can do this.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PD prop

Although Parkinsons Disease affects those who have it on a personal level, there are some common symptoms that are readily identifiable as Parkinsonian. The small steps and shuffling gait, the slowness of movement, and tremors are a few of the more apparent manifestations of PD. And as individual as those symptoms are, how we cope with them is peculiar to each of us.

The symptoms that manifest themselves in my particular case (especially when the meds aren’t living up to their therapeutic promise) are the typical PD shuffle, slowness of movement, right hand tremors, and lack of arm swing when I walk. And while I am not overly concerned about those symptoms when I am out and about, I am sometimes aware that people are watching me and wondering “what’s wrong with that guy?” I can sometimes sense their impatience with my slowness when they are stuck behind me when entering or leaving a store for instance. I have found a way that seems to negate those negative feelings and tilt those occasions more in my favor. I use a cane when out in public.

The cane does several things for me. While I am not worried about my balance and possible falls (fortunately I am fairly sure on my feet) the cane is a useful prop when I walk because it helps to keep my walking more rhythmic and natural, it keeps the hand tremors at bay by giving me something to hold onto, it gets my arm swinging when I walk, and it elicits just the right amount of concern and patience in those people I encounter along the way. I have found that when I am caneless people get annoyed with my slowness when I am in their way. However, with the cane at my side people are much more congenial and patient, holding doors open for me and smiling while they do.

And since I have opted to use a cane regularly, I feel like I should at least look good while doing so. That is why I have made a number of canes that I use on a regular basis that are very simple to rather extravagant. ( you can see many of them here The canes I use often invite comment from people who are suitably impressed by them. So I get to talk to people who would otherwise avoid me in irritation.

Don’t get me wrong. I would certainly prefer not to have to use a cane. But at least when I do I can feel better about myself and have others treat me better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

catching up

Winter is usually the most productive time for me in the workshop, but this year has been an exception. For whatever reason I have spent less time than usual working in the shop the past few months. I seem to be going through a fallow period as far as creative energy is involved. But still, I have managed to finish a few small things without really trying.

These pictures are of a few small pieces that are made of a variety of glued up scraps found lying around the workbench.

These twig vases range from about 3" to 8" high.


These miniatures are about 3" high.


This little plate is only about 6" diameter. It is made of walnut, maple, and mahogany.



I do have several ideas for sculptures that I want to get to. I just need to stir up the motivation to get at them. Maybe if I can stop shoveling snow every other day I'll have the energy to apply to the workshop. Check back here occasionally to see how successful I am.

Friday, February 18, 2011

in memoriam

Usually when we attend a funeral there are tears and sadness. The departed is spoken of in awed whispers and with a sometimes exaggerated holiness that wouldn’t necessarily have applied when he was still alive. We always want to think the best of our deceased love one, even if it means glossing over the less desirably traits he exhibited through the years.
This evening, though, we attended a funeral that was not so much a funeral as a great party thrown by a dead guy. There were no tears that I saw. There was an open bar and that kept the party atmosphere going. There was a buffet for the hungry. There was a lot of laughter and loud conversation. There were displays of photos and captions that captured the irreverent attitude and outlook that Tom exhibited throughout his 68 years. And while he wasn’t present among us physically anymore, his spirit most definitely was the catalyst that ruled the party. What great way to be remembered.
And while Tom’s somewhat cynical outlook was well known, he had a very decent and understanding feel for human nature. The one thing he said that exemplifies his nature was “You don’t have to love your neighbor. Just be decent.” So celebrate Tom's life along with his friends and family and hoist a glass of your favorite beverage in his honor and be decent to one another.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Super

I have to admit that two months ago I had written off the season. No way, I figured, could they win their last two regular season games to make the playoffs, let alone win three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl and then actually win the Super Bowl. No self respecting Packer fan would have been so skeptical about the team’s ability to win when they absolutely had to. Forgive me. I will never doubt them again.

For some reason this year’s win in the Super Bowl was so much more exciting and meaningful than the others. I grew up in the sixties living and dying with every Packer game. The first two Super Bowls ever played in the sixties cemented the Packers dynasty as the standard for all teams that came after that. I remember those two games like they happened yesterday. Then of course I suffered along with the losing teams of the seventies and eighties, wondering if the Packers would ever return to glory. The nineties and the Brett Favre era brought another Super Bowl win and a loss in the Super Bowl, but at least we felt like we could compete on that level again. However, those two Super Bowl appearances for some reason never really resonated with me. I never bought any memorabilia from those games to remind me of them. In fact for a die hard Packer fan, I have no Packer “stuff” at all. Never did.

How things change. This year’s Super Bowl just had a special quality about it. It must be the way the team persevered through all the injuries and close losses and then winning out when the season was on the brink. They just came through every game when they absolutely had to win. I guess the unexpected result of the season is what made it so special and endearing. I know this Super Bowl is much more special to me because I now have two shirts, a hat, and a mug all commemorating the accomplishment. Now I really feel like a proper Packer fan because I now have some “stuff.”

Now they will just have to do it again next season. I need an excuse to get more “stuff.”

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

another year gone by

Another one bites the dust. A year that is. This past weekend I was reminded that time marches on relentlessly whether you like it or not. I “celebrated” my birthday for the 63rd time.

That’s not an insignificant number. Sixty-three of anything can be a lot or a little, depending on your perspective. Sixty-three cents won’t get you a cup of coffee, but 63 dollars would buy you a nice dinner. Sixty-three friends would be 60 more than really necessary or manageable. Sixty-three days is one day more than one sixth of a year. Sixty-three years is two short of normal retirement age. But age sixty-three feels like the downhill slide is accelerating beyond controllable limits.

I know they say that age is just a number and that you are only as old as your attitude. If that’s the case then I am at least 40 years younger than the trail of years that I’ve left in my wake. I certainly don’t feel old enough to qualify for that senior discount that businesses are willing to give (although I am not the least bit reluctant to take advantage of it). But how I feel mentally is confusing since physically I feel every minute of my 63 years and then some.

The human brain is an adaptable muscle. When exercised regularly it can convince you of all sorts of capabilities that your physical being may not be able to keep up with. In my mind I can still run five miles without breaking a sweat, bicycle a century in eight hours on a weekend, cut my sizable lawn walking behind the mower for three hours, shovel several inches of snow off my 100 yards of driveway without benefit of a snowblower, maintain a single digit golf handicap without a lot of practice, work hard and party hard and do it all again the next day. But who am I kidding? Doing all those things is a dream I won’t let go of even though my PD compromised body says “no way.”

So maybe age is just a number, but my number is a definite 63 now. Attitude not withstanding, there is no denying my 63. Check with me next year at this time to see if that real or attitudinal number changes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

hype and then some

Football fans are mostly used to the hype that precedes the “next big game.” Some games are bigger than others. Those games toward the end of the regular season schedule, when a team’s playoff hopes hinge on the outcome, are particularly fraught with meaning and carry an extra dose of angst for the team’s fans. This season, especially for Green Bay Packer fans, has had more than its share of anxiety inducing games.

Six weeks ago the Packers were teetering on the brink of elimination from the post season. All they had to do was win their final two games against the Giants and then the Bears to qualify for the playoffs. Those two games started the Great American Hype Machine humming along at full throttle.. When the Packers managed to win those two final regular season games the Hype Machine began cruising along into overdrive and hasn’t slowed down since.

After their playoff wins over the Eagles and Falcons the Packers inspired levels of hype never before encountered as they prepared for the ultimate history making playoff game against archrival division opponent, Da Bears.
The level of emotion leading up to that game was unlike anything ever experienced in Packerland. Armaggedon and Judgement Day pale in comparison. The hypemeisters reached new levels. It seemed impossible for the game to live up to the hype that preceded it. But it did.

Toward the end of the game with the Packers clinging to a tenuous seven point lead, the entire football universe was on its feet, taking short uneven breaths, hyperventilating in anticipation of the Bears possible game tying score. With Sam Shields’ interception to stop the Bears scoring threat and preserving the Packers win, there was a sense that maybe the hype wasn’t even adequate for this particular game. That loud sucking sound everyone heard was the collective intake of breath from all the Packers fans around the world finally able to breath again.

So now the next week and a half is again turned over to the practitioners of hyperbole. But after the past six weeks, Packer nation may have finally become inured to the effects of the Great American Hype Machine. Earning the right to play in the championship game seems to have become more important than the game itself. No matter how much the game is hyped, it couldn’t possibly live up to such expectations. Could it?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

therapy continued

I got it. It’s here. My Wii has arrived. And I even managed to get it all hooked up and running all by myself. So for the past couple days I’ve been conscientiously applying myself to learning all the fun capabilities of the system. In the name of therapy of course.

Really though the Wii is a wonderful tool. With PD being able to move without hesitation and with balance and coordination is the daily goal. Stretching and walking the treadmill or riding the stationary bike are necessary activities to achieve and maintain those goals. But those can be very boring activities after awhile, making motivation a problem. Having some fun activities to participate in goes a long way toward maintaining the exercise regimen I need to stay functional. So if I have some fun while doing my exercising that’s just a bonus.

Enough talking. I need to exercise now. I might even have some fun while doing it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

therapy toys

I had an interesting occupational therapy session today. Occupational therapy is concerned with practicing everyday skills. It’s surprising how difficult it can become to use a pen to sign your name or to walk and carry something at the same time or even type on a computer keyboard when Parkinsons Disease is in play. So occupational therapy addresses those everyday skills with exercises that help to retrieve and hone those skills. Those exercises can take some interesting turns and use some interesting tools in practicing those skills. And, of course, the more fun the exercises are the more likely the patient is to do them.

So today, Bill the therapist plugged in the most fun tool he had, the Wii game system. He had me boxing, playing tennis, bowling, and playing golf all in the name of therapy. I surprised myself with my ability to perform credibly in all those games. And it was great fun. I hated to see the session end. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I got home I logged on to Amazon and ordered my very own Wii.

I justify the purchase two ways. First, the therapeutic value is obvious and I am more likely to continue practicing on my own with such motivation. Secondly, my birthday is coming up in a couple weeks and I deserve a really cool present. Now I am like a little kid on Christmas eve waiting for my new toy to arrive. I can’t wait to continue my therapy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

say what?

"core with higher RG value", "increased intermediate differential", "more defined breakpoint", "Cytoplasmic XL pearl reactive coverstock", "increased surface topography", "enhanced friction values", "stronger midlane traction", "extreme entry angle".
These are terms I was made aware of recently when talking to my son. No, he is not a rocket scientist, no am I. We weren't discussing nuclear physics either since neither of us knows the first thing about any kind of physics let alone the nuclear variety.
What we were talking about was his newest toy. He recently bought himself a new bowling ball. All those terms were in the description of the ball provided by the manufacturer. And here I thought a bowling ball was just a heavy chunk of round plastic.
Who knew?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

therapy update

Having been involved in physical, occupational, and speech therapy for two weeks now, I have realized some real improvement in my overall physical and even mental condition. At first I was skeptical that I would see any substantial change over the course of treatment, but now after only two weeks and several sessions with each therapist, I am convinced of their efficacy. Physically the change is easy to quantify. Mentally is a more ephemeral measurement, but the fact that I feel more confident in my ability to function is a definite improvement.

Parkinsons Disease is an insidious invader of your physical wellbeing, sneaking up on you slowly until, before you know it, you are incapacitated in ways that you never imagined. The physical aspects are the first indications that something is amiss. The mental aspects come later when you begin to ask “why.” Once you are aware of the need for physical treatment it is a fairly straightforward regimen of medication and exercise that helps to control the progression of the disease. Much more difficult to treat is the mental aspect of knowing you have to deal with having a chronic disease.

With the physical therapies providing a way to improve coping skills, the mental aspect becomes more positive as well. At least that has been my recent experience with the course of treatment I am getting. As I become more physically capable, my mental outlook is improving. The physical therapy has improved my balance and walking and relieved some of the muscle rigidity that plagues PD patients. With that improved balance and walking ability comes a more confident attitude. That mental enhancement is more valuable than I thought possible. I find that I can’t wait for the next therapy session and the improvements that are bound to follow.