Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Dad's Journey: A Room with a Different View

It is now a little over two months since the world my dad lived in, ceased to exist. While the past two weeks have not produced any major changes, there are quite a few little ones...and none of them are good.

My mother is with him every day for lunch, my sister-in-law visits mid-afternoon and I take the dinner shift. Dad has no clue how lucky he is to have family visit every day. After a week or so, you get to know a lot of the residents, even if it's just to say hello in the hall. So many have no one. Most are thrilled to have a stranger pass them and ask how they are feeling. The first week I was there, I smiled at a woman as she sat wheelchair bound in the hallway. Perhaps thinking I was laughing at her she screamed at me "this is not funny." Never one to let something like that go, I said "excuse me..." her reply was the same, so I told her I was only trying to say hello. Her face changed immediately and now that woman is the first to greet me everyday. As the weeks go by, it is sad as you watch the visible slide of a few. But it is another chapter of life. This is not an apartment complex, this is where old people go to die.

Dad has a cough now. X-rays showed nothing serious. A lot of small things are bothering him. He is scared because he knows every little setback in his frame of reference, is a big one. We needed to have his room changed this week. His new roommate was a younger man who required the room to be a lot cooler than my father could handle. It is the end of June and he sits in his undershirt, long sleeve t-shirt and sweatshirt...with no AC on. This move has brought on a whole new level of anxiety. The nurses and aides are different. The view out his window does not provide the same view of the birds flying in and out of the trees. No longer can he cope with any change in his routine. From the minute I walk in, he asks about what clothes he will wear to bed and what clothes he will wear in the morning.

His appetite is non-existent. One reason we want someone to be there for every meal, is to be sure he eats...something. Last night, even ice cream...the one food I thought he would never grow tired of, did not bring him any joy.

After my mother's visits and again after mine, we talk of his condition. This past week the description has changed from "he was good today" to "he was ok" and as he was last night, "he wasn't good." There hasn't been a good day in a while. So, you do what you can to make his life tolerable. As he struggles to find the words to explain his problems, you hold his hand and offer as much comfort as you can.  There is no talk of his coming home, he is fully aware that is not possible.

He loves going to therapy each morning, it gives him hope that his body can regain some of its use. He fears, as his body grows weaker, that he will soon need to give that up.

As the weeks turn into months, more and more I miss him. Though I see him daily, any meaningful conversation is impossible. Our family's SOP has always been sarcasm. That is something that now is lost on my dad.  Still, I treasure every visit.

Love you Pops.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When The Words Stop: Nora Ephron

"I'll have what she's having."

That infamous line from "When Harry Met Sally,"  not only brought a new commentary to women's sexuality, it also defined how many female writers felt about Nora Ephron and her career.

Everyone knows the scene from the movie where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a crowded restaurant to show Billy Crystal's character how easily a woman can fool her man. The middle aged woman at the next table in complete deadpan, recites that memorable line.

Ok, so this was 1989 and while the women's movement had decidedly changed things for the better, that one line was a game changer. In thoroughly comedic fashion, Nora Ephron had every man who was dragged by his wife or girlfriend to that movie, questioning his sexual prowess. She wasn't saying, she was just saying.

Her life and career were remarkable. In a male dominated film industry, she not only wrote with the best of them, she also directed. And, she did it all with a tongue-in-cheek approach and the eye of a cynic. She wrote about her life, as so many of us do...she just did it better. A lesson she taught was tomorrow is promised to no one, so take your life by the balls. She did.

Writing takes skill, discipline and a lot of perseverance. Creating a successful career with your writing is a dream for most of us. Nora Ephron walked the walk, and along the way became an inspiration.

Her words will be missed.

Easy journey Nora.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Just Shut Up

As I write this, I am sitting in my doctor's waiting room and typing this on my iPhone. Any typos are not mine...I'm gonna blame it on autocorrect.

Now, my doctor is always behind schedule, so it was no surprise to see that I would be waiting awhile.

Walking in, I notice a man and woman talking from across the room. Actually he was the one talking while she basically listening. It took me quite by surprise to realize this was the man I was waiting for my entire life. He was...the man who knows everything.

I sat down and tried hard not to listen but it was no use, he was so loud and annoying you could not tune him out. And of course my earbuds were at home He ranted on about everything from germs, medical drugs, the Kennedy's, legionnaires disease, the longevity of roaches, bedbugs, and rats, to climate change and the inability of the human body to adapt...all on 15 minutes.

This woman who apparently made a major faux pas by indulging him in the first place, could manage one or two words before he started again. Now I view my time in a waiting room as if I was on a plane. Avoid eye contact, keep your head down and look busy

Well, he has just announced the Dr. Is an hour behind schedule. Since I need to be out of here in 50 minutes, it looks like I may be skipping out on this appointment.

He has now been on a roll for close to 45 minutes. If I don't leave soon, I may stab him in the eye.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summertime: Does It Need To Be This Hot?

So here's what's wrong with summer. It just gets too damn hot.

When we were kids, there was no better word in the English language than the word "summer." I for one, could never understand why grownups did not have the same enthusiasm for those three joyful months, as I did. Now I understand. Summer is not quite all it was cracked up to be. The thing we as kids loved about summer, was the word that usually came right after it...vacation.

Summer vacation. There it is. I can almost feel the tradewinds blowing...except I really can't. No longer do I await with intense anticipation for the last day of school. Nor do I book 3 week vacations to exotic locales. No, mostly I just sweat...and get bitchy...bitchier. And so does everyone else around me.

I work from home, so thankfully I don't need to commute in the heat anymore. But I still remember the days when I lived in the city and those evening rush hour subway rides were an assault on all the senses. No, today I expect my only outdoors excursions to be taking the dog for an afternoon walk and going to see my dad around dinnertime.

My dog doesn't like the heat very much either. I know she's gonna give me a look later on that says "what the hell are we doing out here?" I will then gently remind her that this stroll is all about her, and I would be much happier if I was sitting inside the AC blowing in my face.

The up side of summer?

Ice cream. Sure you can eat ice cream all year round, but it never tastes as good as it does in the middle of summer.
Concerts: Outdoor shows are great if it doesn't rain and if it's not
Long Weekends: Nice, but not enough of them. Technically Memorial Day weekend is not in the summer, and the 4th of July, well it's on the 4th...whenever that is.

So, as I will hiding inside my air conditioned bunker for the next few days, don't expect any exciting posts (do you ever?) about a new event in my life. If I can't see something outside my window, I'm not gonna know about it. Wishing you all traffic free highways and uncrowded subway platforms.

Now if I could only do something about the afternoon dog walk...


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Talking Baseball: Yankees Baby

Haven't talked baseball for a while, so let's catch up.

I am a Yankees fan...there I've said it. Yes, I hate the Red I've said before, they can all go suck an egg. I have been a Yankees fan since...well let's just say, Ron Guidry was not only a smokin' hot pitcher, but damn that man looked hot in those pinstripes.

Yes, I take winning as a god given right.
We are the Damn Yankees after all.

The Yanks are currently on a 10 game, yes count them 10 game winning streak. Three sweeps plus one. One of those sweeps was against the NY Mets. Now I live with a Mets fan, so interleague play can get a bit....shall we say testy. He was not at all amused as I brought out the broom after the last subway series. Well, he can suck an egg too.  Yankees Rule.

And have I mentioned, our know the greatest closer of all time, is out for the season. Yes, we are doing all of this without Mariano Rivera. nice.  It's called stepping up to the plate. Suck it up and get the job done.

I am painfully aware we are not even at the All-Star break, and anything can happen. But, what the hell...time to crow.

This weekend the Mets and Yanks face each other again. Don't expect another sweep, but I will keep my broom handy, just in case.

A woman and her broom...a witch.
Or, what's that other word it rhymes with....yeah that's me.

Go Yanks.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day: I Hope

I've spent a lot of Father's Days with my dad. Unless there is a miracle in the making...this one will be the last.

So today, I'm just going to relive a few memories with my dad. In no particular order...

Family Vacations: When we were real young, we would drive to Florida every year. Along the way, we stopped at various tourist attractions. His favorites... serpentariums. A zoo for snakes and other vile things like them. He loved it. For years I thought my brother did too. Apparently he did not. Funny how it took 40 years for us to figure out those little detours were my dad's way of paying us back for being pains in the ass.

We all loved to swim, a motel with a pool was a must. Finally getting to the ocean, while staying at a motel with a pool...was heaven. He never grew tired of playing chicken with us or pulling me across the pool as I held onto his swim trunks.

There were countless museums, which we all enjoyed...learning was fun. There were the games in the car, these were the ways before video games, so keeping the kids occupied was a necessity on a 1300+ mile trip. The many hours looking for the South of the Border signs. anyone who has driven down from North Carolina to South Carolina knows about this...and most likely did the same.

Halloween: Over the years, Halloween was less and less important, but as a little kid I remember my father had a really large black rubber glove...kind of a big monster's hand. When kids would come to the door trick or treating, he would stick the hand from behind the door and scare the shit out of the kids. Today, he would probably be sued for his behavior, but as a kid back was way cool.

The Twist: Remember the old Chubby Checker song, well he did enjoy it. There was one Sunday morning when Chubby was on a TV show singing it. Well dad was busy dancing in the living room, while the bacon he was cooking in the kitchen, burned to a crisp. This story is legend in our family.

The Guitar: My dad had a guitar when I was little. He didn't play it very well or very often. But there were a few songs he knew, and once in a while he would sing to me. My favorite: Jamaica Farewell, the old Harry Belafonte song. To this day, I tear up when I hear it.

Eating: The man once lived for it. It is now such a struggle to get him to eat, someone in the family makes it their business to be at two of his three meals at the nursing home, to encourage him. But not too long ago, especially at family dinners, he would sit, at the head of the table, and just eat...never join in the conversation.  If he was talking, he couldn't be eating. Hell, he could talk to us anytime...but food was only served at specific times. He savored every bite, especially desserts. Even now, he will eat dessert...I think he feels it is his duty. So we let him have as many as he wants. Any extra calories are welcomed at this point.

His Eyes: So blue, so clear and so full of pride as he looked as his family. From my brother and I, to my dear sister-in-law who has always treated my parents as she did her own, to his beloved granddaughter- the one person to make his eyes smile, to my other half and to his extended grandson, to my mother...his reason for living, those eyes looked at all of us with more love and pride than one would think possible. Those are also the eyes that now show fear and lack of focus.

Later today I will go to the nursing home for a visit. What his condition will be when I get there is anyone's guess. But I will take the moment for what it is...another memory to hold onto.

If you still have your dad, don't hold back from telling him you love him. I make sure it's the last thing I say to him when I leave each night, because in my case, it might be the last chance I get to say it.

Happy Father's Day.

Love you Pops.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's Been a "Bear" of a Day

I gotta tell you, this day is starting off strangely. Maybe it has something to do with the black cat that ran in front of my car, as we drove into the lake community last night...

Woke up at 4:45, not unusual. After a quick minute with Mother Nature, went back to bed...not really expecting to fall back to sleep. But I did, and it was a 'you're gonna have a wild dream'  sleep.

At 6:15 I woke up again. The dream still vivid. An extremely large black bear was in my yard. This bear did not look like the normal black bear, which are normally chubby with fat necks. The dream bear was thinner with a very long neck...and really big.  And aggressive. Normally pretty docile, most bears will run away before they will confront you...unless there are baby bears involved. Well the dream bear appeared to be one large, pissed off male.

He looked at the firewood rack and knocked over the full cord. Oh man, somebody is gonna have to re-stack that wood and that someone won't be me. He then tangled with a wild turkey who had the bad luck of coming across one highly agitated Yogi. As I watched with my dog, she began to bark...instantly getting the bears attention. Instead of running away at the sound of the barking dog, the dream bear gave me the evil eye and started to walk in my direction. Shit scared...I woke up.

Time to walk the dog.

Now, the lake community has lots of wildlife: deer, hawks, giant woodpeckers, snapping turtles, wild turkeys and bears. We see the bears from time to time, but not on a daily basis. A few times during the summer is about it. Usually they are just bouncing through the yard or crossing the road. We've had one scary encounter with a momma bear and her two cubs...a story for another day

Normally when walking the dog early in the morning, I actively look for bears who are on their way home after a full night of foraging. This morning, I totally missed the small bear who was snacking on some household trash he had dragged into the woods. The dog however, did not.  As the dog barked wildly, the bear ran farther into the woods. The encounter was a little unnerving, but luckily this bear wanted no part of me or my crazy dog.

Was it a coincidence that 10 minutes after dreaming about a bear, I have a close encounter with one? Or, am I starting to acquire a new psychic ability? I can bearly contain my excitement.

If I could only dream of six numbers
...maybe tonight.


Friday, June 15, 2012

An Animal Tale

Friday...getaway day. But not so fast. First had to take my mother to the oncologist...things seem to be good in that department, do banking for another cousin who is hospitalized, Shop Rite, bread store, gas, vegetable store and... a quick pop into CVS.

I really only needed some Advils for my ever present stress headache, but let's see what else is on sale. Now if I had remembered when I was in Shop Rite this excursion would be unnecessary, however let's face it, my brain is on overdrive these days.  Add in all those brain cells I've killed along the way...well, what was I saying?

Anyway, I ended up in the snack aisle...who doesn't? Now it's lunchtime, I know I have nothing in the house to eat, the food for the weekend is on ice in the car...just grab a bag of pretzels or something.  Passing the cookies, I see the old familiar box of Nabisco Animal Crackers. You know the one that looks like a circus car and has the string handle. Gee, I haven't had animal crackers in a really long time, why not.

Then I saw the price. Are you kidding me? $2.57 for a box of animal crackers. Shit, on sale in Shop Rite I can buy a whole bag of Oreo's (the most perfect cookie ever invented) for $2.50. Has the world really gone this insane? Of course, they are on a shelf which is low enough so every little kid that passes it will ask mommy to buy it. At $2.57. Crazy.

Needless to say, I bought some honey wheat pretzels and went on my way. As I am writing this. that bag of pretzels is getting empty. I just looked at the number of servings in this bag...3.5 oops my bad. Probably not the best lunchtime choice, but who the hell cares.

It's Friday, heading out to the lake and the mountain, a music night tomorrow and a chance to recharge those  brain cells that are only damaged..

I think I ate too many pretzels.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Dad's Journey: Six Weeks In

It seems, the while the bubble has not yet burst, it has developed a slow leak.

The past two weeks have been fair to good in my father's world. His therapy has been going well, his appetite has been enhanced through pharmacology and his motor skills had been improving. Until tonight.

My mother visited in the afternoon and things were good. By the time I arrived to spend dinnertime with him, things had gone decidedly downhill. Asleep when I arrived, he awoke with impaired speech and very little energy. After his vitals were taken the reason for his condition became clearer. His blood pressure had dropped to 91/55.  For a man who has battled hypertension the last 25 years, this change is extremely alarming.

Getting him to eat dinner was not as hard as I thought it would be, but it amazes me how his taste preferences have changed since he became a nursing home resident. Water, for example, was always drunk at room temperature. Once he became a patient, water needed to be cold drinks are on the shit list again.  Ice cream however, remains a perennial favorite. We try to bring him foods we think he would enjoy, to supplement the one-step-above-crap food he is served daily. At this point anything he eats is ok with us. He once weighed around 175, yesterday his weight was 108.  A UTI and thrush are the latest assaults on his tired body. Everyday, it seems there is another danger lurking.

While I haven't had another exceptional visit like the one I had when he was in the hospital, (Enjoying The Evening Light With My Dad) before being transferred to the nursing home, there have been many good visits. There have also been some very bad ones. Tonight was somewhere in the middle.

It was a rainy day today, kinda the way I felt inside.

Love you Pops.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Victoria's Newest Secret

For the last few months, I have been receiving coupons in the mail from Victoria's Secret. $10 off any bra, so much off a specific dollar amount and oh yes...a coupon for a free pair of panties. Free, as in nada, nothing, take 'em and walk I like free. I do no longer like Victoria's Secret however.

Now there was a day when I would walk in and purchase an item or five. Those days, like the great woolly mammoth are long gone. Mainly, I can't get past all the garish colors. Occasionally, you will find me in a color other than black or grey, as in blue jeans or jewel-tone sweaters...but hot pink has never been in my wardrobe.

And then there's the prints. They give me a headache. Don't like them, don't wear them, I don't even want to see them.

So venturing into VS for any reason that will cost me money is not something I choose to do with any frequency.  But there is that FREE coupon. So the past few months the free coupon has expired before I had a chance to get to the mall to redeem it. Yesterday I found myself in a mall, with my coupon...all ready for a quick VS in and out procedure.

Since the coupon was for a specific type of panty, I just thought I would ask the cashier where I could find the free "booty."  Well, much to my surprise the female cashier was flanked by two guys, working on god knows what, but doing it while holding women's underwear. Since when did they start hiring young, tall, good looking men to work in a women's lingerie shop? Huh.

I asked one of the young men where I could find my freebie and he walked around the counter and escorted me the the right ones. Well how about that service. And as I picked out the color which most suited, I was thinking about whether VS is now in the hook-up business. I mean these guys gotta get hit on on a daily, if not hourly basis. All these young...and a few older women coming in looking for sexy undergarments, asking questions to the male sales help. And who are these guys desiring to work there? interesting new phenomenon has occurred.

After the female cashier asked if the free panties were the only thing I wanted today and I answered "yes," she kind of sneered at me. I couldn't care less. She wrapped my no-cost item in pink tissue paper and placed it in a tiny VS pink shopping bag. Done. In and out in five minutes.

Leaving the store, I wondered if this new guy selling underwear thing is in all the stores, or if I was just lucky to find the perfect one. I think I need to find out.

This may take some time and effort, but it's all in the name of research.

I hope they send me another free coupon next month.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

I just saw a story about a woman who has seen Jesus... in the mold growing in her shower.

Yes indeed, Chyenna Richards from Houston is all over the news showing off what she perceives to be the face of Jesus growing what must be a longer beard everyday, right there in her filthy shower.

Now call me crazy, but if my shower has become some sort of biological experiment, I am not calling in the media for a look-see. I am running to the supermarket for the largest bottle of bleach available. Apparently Ms. Richards has no issue with living with one shitload of bacteria slowly crawling up her walls. AND, neither do her neighbors, who have called her house "blessed."  Are you kidding me...blessed.  I'm thinking I would call it disgusting, but I digress.

So here's my question. Just how long do you live in a toxic environment to protect this delusional vision? At some point either people are gonna start getting sick or...Jesus will start to become just one large black fungus.

What the hell is wrong with these people? Find God somewhere else and wash the damn walls.

In a comment, film critic Roger Ebert pondered whether the ebay sale prospects on the Jesus mold might be limited. That in itself is another sad commentary on the "I've seen the face of Jesus fill in the blank game."

Ok, listen up people. If Jesus is coming ain't gonna be on a gross bathroom wall or a grilled cheese sandwich or a fish stick. Eat your food, clean your shower and do unto others...

Doesn't that just make a hell of a lot more sense?

Wow, isn't this an interesting potato chip...