The Boston bombings and subsequent manhunt, the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people, the earthquake in China that killed hundreds of people, the flooding throughout the country during this exceptionally wet spring that destroyed so many homes, and on a more personal level, my sore ears from the pressure change in that damned airplane and loss of some hearing, a sister-in-law who is going through renal failure and facing dialysis and a kidney transplant, and a friend’s daughter who had an abortion. And on and on. Can it get any worse?
Monday, April 01, 2013
It’s been over a week now since my ears were pressurized by the the plane ride home from California. In that time the ringing in my ears has continued unabated. Despite a visit to the doctor last Monday, who prescribed an antibiotic to fight off any infection and Mucinex to help get the mucus out of my ears, I don’t feel much better. I fear that some permanent damage has been done and that I will never be able to hear as well as i used to.
This experience with hearing loss gives me a greater appreciation for what those who suffer deafness or near total loss of hearing. Over the past week I have looked on in ignorance of the conversations occurring around me. My wife has had to repeat herself over and over not always realizing that the blank look I was giving her was because I had no idea what she was saying. The television sound has been amped up to wall shaking levels. And I can’t tell how loud I am talking since the sound of my voice echoes and bounces around in my head and sounds to me like a chorus of babbling idiots fighting for attention.
Several times during the past week my ears have “popped” giving me hope that soon all that congestion will ease and I will get back to normal. Until that happens all I can do is wait and hope. And repair the cracks in the walls.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Never again. There is no way you will ever get me on an airplane again. I just suffer too much discomfort during the process.
Flying home yesterday from California was actually mostly routine and uncomplicated by mishaps or bad juju. Our shuttle to the airport arrived to pick us up on time and delivered us to the check in and departure desk with plenty of time to spare. We glided through security without a hitch. We found our departure gate easily and obtained a preboarding pass that would allow me to be first in line to get on board (using a cane gets you a lot of sympathy and extra attention). The plane arrived right on schedule and we boarded right on schedule, we got the two aisle seats we wanted across from each other and settled in for the duration. An interesting side note: on the flight out last week I sat next to a young woman (college student?) and only exchanged the briefest of greetings with no other conversation the entire flight. Just the way I like it. On our return flight who should show up but the same young woman who decided to sit next to me again. I guess she liked the lack of conversation, too.
So now you are wondering what, with everything going so smoothly, complaints I could possibly have about flying. Well, first of all my legs cramped up from sitting so long. The flight was full and very crowded so getting up and walking down the aisle to stretch my legs was out of the question. No amount of shifting and flexing my legs seemed to help. I was a very uncomfortable the whole time. On top of that I had gotten a cold the day before and my head was stuffed up. I wasn’t coughing or sneezing or constantly having to blow my nose, but my head throbbed from the cabin pressure all the way. Then when we began our descent for landing my ears refused to pop as they normally would. Consequently the pressure in my head increased with each passing moment until I thought my head would explode. Actually I hoped my head would explode so I would be put out of my misery. I used all the will power I owned to keep from screaming out in pain. Mercifully we finally landed and the ordeal on board was over. The problem was now I couldn’t hear a thing and could barely walk and keep my balance. And the pain didn’t go away. So I’m trying to walk through the airport staggering and stumbling with my ears ringing and not being able to tell Mary what the problem was because I couldn’t get the words out. I was finally able to tell her what was wrong just before she was going to panic and call the paramedics to deal with me. I knew, or thought I knew, that all I needed was to get my ears to pop to relieve the pressure. But they just wouldn’t pop. Too much sinus congestion from that cold I guess. Luckily our friend was there to pick us up and deliver us home. If I’m going to suffer I want to be at home.
I lived through the night and some of the pressure is gone, but my ears are still ringing and I can’t hear very well, but the pain is mostly gone. I know II will forever associate flying with nearly unbearable ear pain from now on. So getting me on another plane to fly anywhere is going to be impossible. I will stay home and be content, thank you very much.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I am not an enthusiastic traveler. While many people dream of roaming the world, seeking adventure and experiencing exotic cultures, I prefer to stay at home. But if I must experience their same travels, I can simply look at their photos and postcards, vicariously living the exciting times they insist on sharing. Yes, I’m a homebody, and proud of it.
It’s not that I am fearful of flying, or bothered by long drives, I just don’t prefer to put myself through the attendant hassles that inevitably complicate any venture away from home. Airports are the worst offenders, gluttonous consumers of time and patience. Too often airlines suck the life out of travelers, pushing them toward the brink of insanity with their constant price changes, schedule revisions, and cancellations. And, of course, having the airline lose your luggage is a given.
I find it incomprehensible why otherwise intelligent people put up with such abuse just for the opportunity to go from here to there.
Yet, getting from here to there is often an unavoidable necessity. Some travel is required for important occasions, whether happy or sad. So I am willing, on occasion, to venture beyond the comfort of my recliner at those times. Some things override my stated objections to leaving home. The chance to spend some quality time with my grandson is such an occasion. Ezra’s second birthday is enough of a reason for me to get on a plane and fly for nearly five hours.
So now I find myself on the west coast far from home. Any of the hassles and minor discomforts of the trip out here from wintery Wisconsin were immediately forgotten when we walked into the room and Ezra went wide eyed in wonderment to see his Skype image of Bubbe and Papa come to life in front of him. It didn’t take him long to accept us into his world. And it didn’t take us long to wish for time to stop right now. From the moment of his first hug we knew that the time would come when we would have to leave him here and return home. Every second we spend with him is precious beyond understanding. We have seriously debated the possibility of kidnapping him and keeping him all to ourselves. But we will have to be satisfied with our weeklong visit, and the prospect of future visits. I am certainly willing to set aside my distaste for travel when the next opportunity comes for us to hug and kiss that precious little boy.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Lately I’ve become aware of a verbal bad habit that I’ve allowed to become my conversational default setting. My first response to almost any question or comment directed at me is to say “I dunno.” For the past few says I’ve kept track of how often during the day I utter that short phrase. I was surprised and dismayed to find that I relied on “I dunno” nearly two dozen times a day.
Using an habitual phrase or verbal “tic” is a lazy way of conversing. I’ve been critical of people who rely on “uh”, “you know”, “like” to fill out their verbal responses. Such habitual utterings are usually a way for the speaker to allow his mouth to catch up to his brain when confronted with the necessity of verbal communication. In my case I think using “I dunno” is a way to waylay any further questions and to limit the potential conversation that might result from a more specific and meaningful response. I am not usually an enthusiastic conversationalist unless the conversation involves something I am truly interested in. I don’t do small talk.
I realize that “I dunno” is a deflective shield that I use because I don’t want to have to think of a real answer to the question put to me. Most often I am just being lazy. Sometimes I am lost in my own limited world of personal thought and don’t want to be bothered by an interruption that will sidetrack my thoughts. Yes, I realize that makes me selfish and self centered. My private personal internal conversations are more important to me than anything you can say or ask. I admit that makes me a bad person and someone no one wants to be around because I come across as utterly boring and totally ignorant. You can only claim that you “don’t know” just so often before people start to believe you. Then you become the village idiot who is just taking up space at the conversational table.
So I have decided to make a concentrated effort to overcome my “I dunno” habit. One way I thought of to fight this battle is to pretend not to hear. I can legitimately claim at least partial deafness in my left ear so I figure if I make a concerted effort to always be to the right of whoever is speaking to me and expecting a response, I can honestly point to my left ear as the reason for my unresponsive behavior. That way I can just ignore most of the verbal chaff that is flying around me and pick and choose my conversational spots. Of course by now everyone knows that “I dunno” a damn thing about anything since I have convinced them of such with my history of ignorant answers to their questions. So maybe everyone will simply stop talking to me. I can return to my private reveries uninterrupted by conversational intrusions.
Uh, like, you know, that just might work but I dunno.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I think my wife is trying to kill me. I am being pushed and coerced into doing things I don’t want to do and am barely physically capable of doing. No matter how often or how vehemently I refuse to do her bidding, she just pushes ahead with whatever plan has occurred to her and knows that somehow she will get me to do whatever she wants me to do.
For some reason she got it in her head that our bedroom needed redecorating. I disagreed. I pointed out to her that it has been good enough for the past thirty years, so why change now. For some reason that argument didn’t sway her. Every time she would bring up the subject I would pretend not to hear her. But she is relentless when she locks onto a plan and sooner or later she will get her way. It’s like you’re standing in the middle of the railroad track and you can hear that big old train coming and then it rounds the bend and you can see as well as hear that massive unstoppable monster bearing down on you but you just can’t seem to get off the track and that freight train smashes into you and overwhelms your resistance and you end up redecorating the damn bedroom.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done any real work around here other than routine maintenance so I’d forgotten just how strenuous a simple job like removing wallpaper and painting the ceiling and walls can be. Of course the wallpaper paste that is left behind when the paper comes off has to scrubbed off. It’s never as easy as they want you think. Lots of elbow grease and strained neck and shoulder muscles later the paper and paste were gone. So was my ability to move in a recognizably human way. Every thing hurt.
My “normal” is PD slow. My productive time each day is limited to 2-3 hours before I have to regroup. But when I get into a project I like to work it and get it done, so I push myself beyond my limits and suffer for it. She knows that’s what I will do and though she tells me to take it easy, what she really means is get back to work. As this sort of project goes, it always turns into more than originally planned. So replacing the woodwork became part of the job. Repairing the scars on the walls that the wallpaper had hidden was added to the mix. And then painting two coats on everything that got painted topped it off.
All the time she was supervising my work on our bedroom she was plotting how to get me to do the same in the other two bedrooms. Even though she could see how hard it was on this old body to the work, she figures I have at least one more project in me before I kick the paint bucket. I adamantly refuse to do this again. So she threatens to hire somebody to do the next bedroom. She knows I have too much ego to allow anyone else to do work that I mentally can do even though physically it’s killing me. She knows which buttons to push to get me to do anything she wants. All I can do is stand there in the middle of that train track and wait to run over again.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Here are some words I, a blue collar middle class type of guy, never dreamed I would ever say: my favorite masseuse is leaving. Think about that. What that says is that I actually have a masseuse whom I consider my favorite. The implication is that I have or had at least one and maybe several, even many, other masseuses. And now I will have to go through the process of replacing my favorite. I know you are probably thinking “Gee, tough problem to have.” How many of you have even had the experience of one masseuse? Who among you has a standing appointment each week for a massage with any masseuse, let alone a favorite. Have any of you ever faced this same dilemma? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find just the right massage therapist, one who knows your needs and can provide the right care? I know all this sounds like my life is one of hedonism and rampant profligacy. Oh, if it were so.
Rather than hedonistic, my life is one of constant coping and battling the insidious effects of PD. Those weekly massages are just one weapon I can use to stave off for a little longer the creeping decline that my body experiences every day. Massage helps to fight off the rigidity that my muscles want to embrace. The expert hands of a talented masseuse are a great weapon to have on my side. Along with daily treadmill or bicycle exercise and stretching and weight training, I feel like I am doing all I can to stay ahead of the devil that is chasing me.
So, though I never would have considered massage as a regular or routine aspect of my life before, now I fear going on without it. And losing the masseuse who has taken such good care of me for so long is nearly traumatic. I don’t want to overstate the problem, but really it is difficult to find someone who understands what PD is and its effects on this old body. So the search is on for my next favorite masseuse. And if a little hedonism sneaks into the process I will just have to cope.
Friday, February 01, 2013
It just seems that since I reached the milestone a few days ago that makes me officially a senior citizen--my 65th birthday--I should be able to tap into the well of wisdom that accrues to the aged and pass on some valuable nuggets of said wisdom. But it’s not that easy. The wisdom of the aged is not so readily available as I thought. No shocking thunderbolt suddenly turned me into the sage I dreamed I would become once I passed into the ranks of the elderly. It seems that I will actually have to make the effort to dig into the vast reservoir of experience that those 65 years stored along the way to share those nuggets of wisdom that you young’uns will just ignore anyway. I didn’t expect to have to work so hard at it. I am retired after all.
Maybe I’m just a little bummed out at stepping over the line into my 66th year. I guess I sort of expected there to be some kind of magical revelation and a secret handshake that would welcome me into the Senior Citizen Club. Instead, my AARP card will have to stand as the talisman for the Brotherhood of Discounts and Codger Politics. And I fully realize that I will have to adjust my metabolism so that I can be part of the early 4:OOPM dinner seating at the all you can eat buffet and doggie bag distributer.
So while I may not feel any wiser, and don’t particularly feel any older, having attained my seat at the grownups’ table I will do my best to live up to the esteemed title of Old Man.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
After a somewhat lengthy hiatus, I am again seated in front of the computer screen trying to think of something to blog about. Certainly many noteworthy things (at least to me) have happened in the past year or so, but rather than bore myself, and thus by default, you too, with a lot of trivial nonsense, maybe I should reinstate my so recently ended hiatus before this gets out of hand.
It is actually somewhat disconcerting that not a whole lot has changed since we last met here on this blog. The most important thing is that my two grandchildren are becoming real people. They are 9 months apart in age so they are developing closely enough that as Ezra, the older of the two, learns a new skill, we can know what to watch for as Clara follows along a few months behind. What marvelous creatures children are. They trap knowledge as it flashes by and then absorb it into their spongelike brains before it can escape. They listen, they watch, they imitate, they test the limits, and they grow so fast that it seems everyday they need new clothes. The only bad aspect of grandparenthood is that Ezra lives in California, so dropping in to see him requires some advance planning and a lot of money saving. Wisconsin isn’t exactly just down the block and around the corner from California. So I would like to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt and hardy thank you to whoever is responsible for SKYPE. It is the next best thing to being there. Though we can’t reach out and hug him and our kisses mess up the computer screen, at least we can be an active part of his life and he can see and know his grandparents. Clara, fortunately is much closer so we can see her and enjoy closeup the development stages she passes through.
Other than the joy of grandkids, my life has stayed mostly the same throughout the past year. I still cope daily with the inconvenience of PD. But Parkinson disease doesn’t prevent me from doing most of the things I love to do. I still spend hours each day in my workshop/studio creating the things you can see
here. I still go places and do things and see people just like a normal person. Some of those activities may be more difficult at times, but a little difficulty only slows me down, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t stop me.
So my life remains quite the same as before this year rolled on by. I haven’t joined any cults, haven’t broken any laws (ok, so I drive a little faster than the speed limit), haven’t bought a gun (neither pistol nor Uzi will ever be found in my house), still have the same wife, and am still trying to figure out and understand our healthcare system. Has it really been another year with no appreciable progress on that front? I’m as mystified and frustrated as I was at this time last year.
And though the world has seen some of the worst that can happen (killer storms, killer heat, killer drought, killer dictators, killer revolutions,and killers of children) I still somehow feel hopeful for the future that those grandkids I mentioned have in store for them.