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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Doing something

Some of me fell back into place recently. I woke up from one of the four hour, dead unconscious naps a week ago. I lay there a few minutes, listening to the birds and the children and I said to myself, so get up and do something. I sat up and thought about it for a minute. I got up, with purposeful action still in mind, cleaned the kitchen and resurrected the sweater I left off in March.

I have to do a deal of tinking on the ribbing I had finished, and as I picked out stitches I realized I still give a darn about the world, the one around me, and the round one I live on. The big world is in a worse mess than when I left off last March. And, I just realized, the bastards stole my birthday. I was 74 on March 31st.  But, I was unconscious from a craniotomy performed a few days before. Or, it may have been the very day I begged nurses for water. That was not a nice story.

Stephen Hawking says earth is ending, and he’s certainly right. That, actually, is interesting to read about. Not good, but boggling. That’s one big chunk of ice about to break off an ice shelf in Antarticia. That, and its consequences, will happen in my life time. The world will last longer. One of my favorite doctors and I had a discussion about drugs that have an adverse effect over time (name one that doesn’t), and I said “but, I’ll be dead by then.” Bring on the CAT scans. I can’t live long enough for the radiation to kill me.

Meanwhile, back at home, nice drains were installed, seed sown, straw distributed thickly. A violent windstorm the next night swept the straw into huge piles, and sent grass seed to the next county. Laura reseeded and moved the straw back. I bought a reel mower, and Laura has been maintaining the established grass around several local trailers. This is less grass than the miniscule front yard of my childhood home, and it looks nice, all the same height. And, the neighbors say Thanks. Like me, none of them can mow.

I asked management if we could rake the straw, as the maintenance guys don’t seem interested. I also pointed out we are mowing the lawns, so the maintenance guys should stop cutting through the side yard on that nasty riding mower. The entire interview with management went well. 

Laura raked a lot of straw into rows, and management sent one of the maintenance men down to collect it into a huge trash can. I’d said we’d bag it and take it to the curb, so I thought that was really nice. Until the other maintenance man came through, at high speed with the damn riding mower, made half a dozen passes, turfed the new growing grass into mud. He attempted to climb the small hills, failed, and made them a mess, too. This all happened near quitting time, Friday.

On Sunday we bought a roll of several hundred feet of yellow tape. On Monday I took my case back to Management, and my complaint of ruined seeding and turfed hills was seconded by the secretary whose unit is across the street.  She even revealed the maintenance guy uses my yard to “cut through.” I volunteered to reseed, if I could protect the work with tape. Management agreed. My neighbors on both sides helped Laura with the tape. I will have grass or know the reason why. My schmoozing neighbor reports the lawn mower operator is unhappy. All is well.

I rest my case.
Before the cowboy on the tractor came through, it all was lush, like the bit at the back.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Several liberations

I went early to visit my friend, and left, exhausted. To stop at one chair to say a word is to be expected to stop at each, I discovered, and did. My usual twenty minutes turned into close to an hour. Sadly, instead of nailing one of six handicap parking places at the curb (and, I can parallel park!), I had to drive well into the lot to find a place. Getting into the building and back out was a trial.  

Actually, I was dumbfounded on arriving at my floor and finding many men, and wives, moving along. A lot of men visit their mothers on father’s day, I found. Back home near noon, I simply fell on the bed in a daze.  I was so physically tired I had no strength to move the cat, or lift my legs to his other side, so my heels hung over the bed, and woke me several hours later, with my feet asleep.

For a few more minutes I dozed. Then I felt myself leaving the land of marshmallows and cotton. My brain said “You need to get up and do something.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen. Then I took the chair, turned on HGTV, and resumed working on the sweater I put aside six or eight months ago.

Wednesday the sewing machine will be liberated from the hospital, and tomorrow—ta-da—Laura takes the test for her temporary driver’s permit. She is over the moon, and studying from an app she put on her phone. I am so curious to see how she does. She has the booklet, and I do remember it well. We’ll see what sort of app it makes.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The visit

We visited my friend in a care facility last weekend. Laura and I hurried down the hall, smiling at all the old ladies. My friend was so happy to have company. My visits are shorter and shorter every time, because Jean gets tired and frustrated with the struggle of remembering who I am. Perhaps I need to make friends with more people in the hall; so many want to be visited.

I left, ruefully considering the halls are empty, but the walls lined with old women. The twenty years I was a mother, their dad and I got the children to their grandparents almost weekly. When the girls left home, and my dad had passed away, mom came to visit often, and to stay. I visited my grandmother, drove her to family gatherings, even to my dad’s funeral.

(Dad did not like Gram; nursing her family’s insults of him being a “poor shanty Irishman.” Mom intended not to have Gram at the funeral. She told me she didn’t have time to go get her. I did, but didn’t tell Mom, who was surprised. Later, Mom thanked me.) Sometimes you need to get over yourself.

Laura is going to Pittsburgh this weekend, with our friend Kay, who bought the old house. They’re going to Ikea, to purchase either a bed or a table for a rental home of Kay’s. I confess, I no longer remember which, though I suppose they could be interchangeable, in a pinch. (You should avoid brain injuries; recovery is so slow as to be miniscule.)

How to strike up a conversation? Should I pretend to be looking for something I lost? I could find it later. Or just be straightforward. “Hello. My name is Joanne. I’m here to see a friend, but I need to rest a minute. What’s your name?”

I can’t go until Sunday, so any other suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cat comfort

Toby, the cat, cares more for Laura than for me. He sleeps in her bed at night, at her shoulders. If she shuts him out, he sleeps outside her door.  I saved his four week old life, six years ago, and spend fifty dollars at the vet for an antibiotic shot because I cannot get him to swallow the pills. Does that count? No.

My recent life changes find me in bed, asleep, far more than the old days. Sleeping off anesthesia, sleeping off surgery, sleeping off drugs. I get through as much day as possible, then fall in bed, in a stupor, until I get up for the next appointment. This week has been a crummy sleep week, and I’ve hit the bed too often.

Toby quickly nosed out my inert body; someone asleep in the day apparently is a good deal. The first time I felt a warm cat body along my side and a kitty head on my shoulder, I thought “how nice,” and gave him a couple of sleepy eyed back scratches before I went back to sleep.

I woke up stroking his cheek, which turned out to be his hind feet.  “You old faker,” I announced as I sat up, and he rolled into the vacated middle of the bed.

Today has been another day of sleeping between being awake. I just counted my calendar: I’ve had an obligation to discharge eleven of the fourteen days this month. That included today, when I had to take Laura to work at ten and retrieve her at four. I was mostly asleep, around 10:30, when I felt Toby snuggle up. “How nice; he’s put his head on my leg,” I thought, before I slept some more.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ode to hair

This post is for Jenny-O,  pursuing the perfect hair cut.

Back in the eighties, when I was in the corporate world and flew places in aeroplanes, I had the perfect hairdresser. His name was Pierre, he owned the salon, and every four weeks he sent me off with the same perfect shower and go hair cut.

Me, with good hair in the eighties; Jan, who always had naturally curly hair; Beth, about eighteen and gleeful over her illegal Scotch; Mom, the good one.
And so it went, until I moved far away, to be an artist and a weaver at art shows. The old hair cut was a bust; my small amount of curl air dried beautifully in an air conditioned car, and stayed nice in an air conditioned office.  It was a disaster in a hot, dusty tent. Sweaty, stringy, awful. I went from salon to salon to shop, and no one had the knowledge to give me a decent cut for my job.

One day, at the old house, I heard my sister on the back deck, shaving one of the dogs. I went out and sat on the end of the bench until she was done. Then I asked for the clippers, removed the clipper guard, and proceeded to shave off my hair. Jan was horrified, but only for a few seconds. We wound up laughing hysterically as I finished putting a hot, sweaty mass of hair into the trash can.

I had a show the next weekend, and it was one of my best shows to then. My customers thought I was dying, and if they didn’t buy it now, they would never have it. When my hair grew back enough to need my ears lowered, as my dad said, my ideal hair cut came to me. I had any operator cut the sides and back with a size six or eight clipper guard, and “cut the top to match.” I carried on with the same cut well into my township clerk days. Why fool with a good thing.

A couple of years ago, a good fifteen years into the same cut, I decided I needed a new style. It came about because I saw a picture on the internet.  I do not know the woman from Adam. I just swiped her picture to show my current hairdresser.

Mel, who cuts my hair, told me straight up I no longer had that much hair, though it is relatively thick. However, we could approach the cut. And, she did nail it, in about a year. I had good hair this year. Here I am at the gym, in February, I think. Not bad for an old lady with thinning grey hair.

Then the fateful trip to DC; slung down a bus aisle and stopped by a metal box. I think of my mom saying “It’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop!” As I’ve mentioned, I do not remember arriving at the hospital, or anything for the next three weeks. But, someone took a picture of me, unconscious, after subdural hematoma release surgery. I’ve never been able to count all those staples, plus several stitches, hidden in there.

Mel cut my hair when I came home, six weeks ago, and I will go again this weekend. Poor Mel did not know what to do, and I said “Just what you always do, except skip the right side.”

So, dear Jenny-O, be careful what you wish for. I had a great haircut once. For about three months.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Short changed

At the rehab hospital, I was fitted with a leg brace to correct my right foot drop, a major cause of tripping. A fellow came in, plastered my leg, cut off  the form and was gone. It would be several weeks to the brace, so I asked for exercises to strengthen my foot and ankle in my outpatient work. By damn, exercise on the foot machine workes.

In the meantime, I had one more thing to sort out—the pain. My knees hurt and my back hurt worse. I have a new rheumatology doctor, because the old one retired. The new doctor is named Rachel, has wild, frizzy blond hair and two young children. Told her I was there for her to shoot my knees with cortisone, and it needed to be done every 12 to 18 months. We talked it over, we agreed, got it done, shook hands and I was gone.

Now, the damn back. That would be Dr. DeRen. I’d determined his smaller morning dose of Lyrica lasted until noon, and I was adding an oxycodone from my “stash” for the afternoon. He added another small Lyrica for the afternoon (“Because I don’t prescribe oxycodone, you know”), and all was well. Except for explaining it all to my tight lipped primary care, but I had no problems to get solved with her, so all was well.

She did ask me to ask Dr. DeRen to tell her when I would be “normal” again. I told her he probably doesn’t know; he just calls me “a force of nature.”

And, the brace came. I wore is as instructed, half a day then three quarters, then all day, for a week. I am more flat footed than an elephant, and there was no provision to stop my ankle from rubbing savagely on the brace. It was heavy; I could not control its movement. That was worse than toe drop; I did not know where my foot would land against the brace weight. Finally; it did not end toe drop because I’m not strong enough to get the brace firmly on the ground. So, I had heel drag.

The brace cost the tax payers and my insurance company in excess of $1,500.  There was no possibility of a refund to them, but I wanted the manufacturing company to know. The rep and I discussed the brace, and he brought out carbon braces, light as a feather. I tried two, which I could not afford to purchase, of course. Both were lovely, but bothered my knee. That could be modified, he said, but I just left it. Insurance would not pay for a second brace. The rep apologized again. He was sorry, but this was what my rehab doctor ordered and authorized.

Oh, the light bulbs flashing before my eyes. The rehab doctor who was actually a podiatrist, did not involve himself with the fit and function of that brace. In fact, I never saw him. Apparently my daughter did; she said he is the one who said I could not drive a car. The text book “brain trauma equals do not drive a car.” There was no evaluation to see if that was the case. That rehab doctor was not a straight arrow. He kept me in the hospital one extra day, with no rehab services because that insurance was done, but in my room because there was one day left on that insurance.

That’s all I had to talk about tonight. There are good people; there are straight arrows. Then, there are scallywags, and people who find believing them is easier than finding the truth.

I am stunned by the design of this brace, compared to the solid, leg encompassing chunk of plastic I had. This brace is well thought, easy to put on, easy to wear. Hooray for the engineer who designed it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Roll On, Columbia, Roll On

Reading the current news, listening to the current comments, I have hope that America will do what Trump is opposing. Keep building green. I make up little bits of blog in my head. “Roll On, America, Roll On.” That could be so good. And that line, “Your power is turning our darkness to dawn…” Ranks in there with “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Then I lose it, and sit in the drive, smiling at sparrows for half an hour. And it comes to me—I won’t be me again, for a long time, or never. I’m just a jobless old lady, waiting at the cash register, and the kid is off, spending fifty dollars or less on the week’s groceries. I text her, “Some bacon would be nice,” and almost don’t send it. But some bacon would be nice, so I do. She comes through the line for $29.89, bacon included. Looks like a good week.

I have fifty postcards left. I cannot keep a sentence together long enough to write a directive to any legislator. This one just flashed through my mind, to my Republican governor: “thanks for opposing the Paris pull out.” That’s good; I can look it up here and add another line, later.

It’s hard to stay positive; say nice things first. My neighbor with the ring of little children around her called over today, “How are you feeling?”, and I took a deep breath and then said “Better every day.”

Here’s one thing I’m feeling better about. My front garden, which is admired by the neighborhood around, needed dressed with top soil. The last time I had a garden dressed was three years ago; Hamilton spread bags and bags of soil in the old flower garden. He was a natural; all his Irish farming genes sent arcs of soil to settle around the plants. I don’t have the balance to attempt it; every shovel I own is bigger than Laura. The problem often surfaced in my head, and lingered until the cat came along.

We were in Ace the other day, to buy some grass seed, and I had it. "A dustpan," I announced to the clerk, who is also a marching band member, with Laura. “I beg your pardon,” said he. “Laura, you can broadcast topsoil with a dustpan!”, and I demonstrated. She’s a quick study. 

Today we did the garden, then started in on the seeding over the new drains. Management is OK, and the maintenance guys have good hearts, but their intentions barely outrank my own. Several spots need reseeded, from the big storm that blew through right behind the seeding.

Neither management nor maintenance has been back. I wonder what distracts them? Certainly not sparrows. I know the maintenance guys are in love with  the noise and dust of those silly little tractors. Could be that.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Neighborhood News

You know that I like my house, I like my garden, I like my neighbors. 
It's a good place to live.

Here is the afternoon shadow of my water lily sculpture on the house,

and the shadows of done and gone allium on the side of the house.

You know I love this garden out front,
even to the extent of not allowing rude people to park in front of it.

Park rules allow each home to have two unit resident's cars in front, 
and additional cars must go to a common area up the street.

In short, parking is regulated, not a free for all.

The first time someone parked in front of my window, 
behind which I sew and watch the world go by, 
I called the office and the violator got a "ticket" and moved the car.

I got the park rules out of the drawer and re-read the points for each offense,
and the number of points to being evicted.

It seemed a little extreme; so I settled on my way.
Pink tickets.
My pink ticket says the parking places belong to me; 
please ask permission before you take one. Thank you.

So far I have issued one ticket.

Early this week my neighbor asked to park in front of my garden this week.

Management put drains on my side of the road first, 
"to see if they worked," according to the ready gossip.

You remember the drains.

They work!

Now they're putting drains across the street.

I have grass growing and it's time for me to look into a lawn mower.
Electric, I think.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mandevillas and more...summer is here

Laura and I went flower shopping today.
Groceries can wait until tomorrow.
Housecleaning, ditto.

White mandevilla.

Pink mandevilla

Red mandevilla.
Yellow mandevilla, accompanied by a purple dahlia.

A sunflower. Before long I can go face to face to take pictures.

The front garden not too long ago. I'm still trying to get all the plants located and arranged. Those balloon flowers will get a bit more contained tomorrow. The plant under the bench is Stella de Oro. It was getting too big back in the crocus. Now I know what it is, where it is, and how big I intend to see it grow.

I asked the transplanter if she liked it under the bench.
Long pause.
"Well, technically, it's not my garden."
I took that as a "No."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worst funny picture, ever

I’ve complained about bicyclists for longer than I’ve had a blog. On occasion I’ve taken pictures of bicycles on the road, described with some disdain. In fact, the township recently suffered bicycle events that bordered on cataclysmic, if you live in or drive in the township. One is a state law; one a federal ruling. It’s not possible to rank the sublime and the ridiculous, so here they are, in no particular order.

The state of Ohio has ruled bicycles may ride two abreast, and cars must give them three feet of clearance. The visual fulfills sublime to ridiculous on its own. There are posters all over town, all over the roads, of two bikers, side by side, and a car passing. The car’s door is open, to demonstrate a visual of three feet.

Ohio township roads may be as little as twenty feet wide, but generally are thirty feet. That divvies out to fifteen feet per lane, less things like the center line and the berm. Let’s say one polite rider is on the berm; his buddy is side by side, consuming say, a yard of actual road. So, fifteen feet are reduced to twelve. Whoops, less three feet of door, in order to pass, is nine feet. The average car takes more than six feet of width.

You get the picture. Bicycles own the road in townships. Our fine (R) representative, Jim Rinnacci, held a hearing no one knew of until the law was passed. Bikers presented testimony. The testimony has been sealed. The law says that the speed limit on all township roads that pass through a federal park (in the foot note, Boston Township and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are noted as the only roads meeting the standard) will be twenty five miles per hour.

There ya go, folks. For a nice afternoon of traffic constricted bicycle riding, come on down to Boston Township and ride in the national park.

The other day, going to work, I passed a small car parked in a ditch, and across the road saw a fellow bending low, seeming to be looking. This was at the very top of Kendall Road. I slowed to see if I could help, and saw an old man, sweeping the berm.  A definite “do not get involved” situation, and I sped up to 25 mph  to continue on.

Coming home a couple of hours later, I passed the fellow again. He’d worked his way a couple of miles down the road, and only had the big bend at the Boy Scout Camp and past the lake at the golf course, to get on down to Akron Peninsula Road. Definitely under the speed limit.

I could restrain myself no longer. I took possession of the gully where I park to photograph my header tree, and said I had to tell him a story.

This township is overrun by bikes every day, and simply consumed every spring, summer and fall weekend. Years ago I relayed a phone message to the trustees: “It would be courteous of you to keep the berms swept for us.” The answer was, “Sweep them yourselves.” But, he never called back. All these years I’ve waited.

And there he was, sweeping the berms. We laughed, shook hands, and went on our respective ways.

Note to self--pictures through windshields generally are not optimal pictures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not winning this contest any time soon

Between not being permitted to go to work when I could work, then being criticized and more by the troublesome trustee, my six week backlog is not dented enough. The work is caught up, the mistakes are not. My counselor listened sympathetically, and said she would advocate for me. She called the trustee, explained traumatic brain injury, and for her trouble got an earful that included, if I wanted to resign, give two weeks’ notice.

That was a red flag I could deal with. I immediately wrote and signed my letter of resignation, effective that very day, and circulated it. I mentioned I would be in and out the remainder of the month, doing what I could. I’m down to sleeping only an extra four or six hours a day, and that’s been helpful. The stack of mistakes remain, and I think before June 1st, the mistaker will call the mistakees and outline the plan of remediation for someone else to do.

But, the worst thing of all—I don’t amuse myself anymore, and I probably bore all of you to tears, too. I haven’t found a bit of amusement in the setbacks. All the people who understand what they want to understand and not a thing more no longer make me say “Fool. Idiot!”. I don’t want to wait another year.

The good news is, we haven’t settled the blood pressure problem yet. I bought a new cuff. It’s little and cute. I haven’t had a blood pressure problem for so long, I couldn’t recall the difference between a decent reading and an indecent one. I took in the week’s list today, and my doctor said, “These are not good.” They were all one sixty somethings over eighty somethings, and I wasn’t fussed. She was, though.

Years ago, before I had the stroke, she and I had a blood pressure fight. Every drug she tried made me sick, one way or another. Another week and another week, I’m sitting on the table and she’s writing a new scrip. “This is like throwing spaghetti on the wall,” I snarled. “How many left before you get one to stick?” “You’re being referred to a cardiologist,” she replied, and so I have a good one of them, too.

Unfortunately, we could not remember the name of the drug he prescribed. I called the cardiologist’s office to check their records. Diovan, the receptionist announced a few minutes later. Diovan! How could we forget? It brought down blood pressure for six months before the stroke (not related), then we damn near killed me with no blood pressure at all.

The road guys would find me passed out at the desk and call the ambulance. I can’t tell you how many youngsters learned to insert an IV needle because of me. My favorite one whipped the monitor around to face him when I happened to glance over. Must have been a really low pressure reading. I looked at the other two medics watching him, and I told the kid he just passed Bedside Manor on his exam. That youngster now is First Lieutenant for the Memphis Fire and Rescue.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. De Ren

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds…

I’ve known Dr. De Ren for ten years. Back when I had a stroke and no nouns, he was one of the first doctors I saw. He’s a neurologist, and was so young and serious. And Chinese, and handsome, with language skills not more intelligible than mine.  He listened to my noun less speech, or looked at the pictures I drew, and answered my questions. Once I looked at my notes, realized I’d missed an important point and shouted “Bird come back” at the nurse. Probably the first noun I used. The nurse just stared, but Dr. De Ren, outside the door, came back. I looked in the little book just now, and see I wrote “kind” at the end of the day’s notes.

I saw Dr. De Ren for several years, until there was little more stroke business to follow up. When I came back from DC after this pointless accident, I was given a list of doctors to follow up with, or be released. The neurologist was the nice, fat little Italian fellow, who dismissed me and my back pain. But, I already had an appointment with Dr. De Ren, and  knew I could tough it out.

Today Dr. De Ren came into the room saying “You had a terrible accident. Tell me about it.” And I did, and gave him a copy of the little Italian doctor’s MRI of my “perfect” brain. My history with Dr. De Ren began with an MRI of my brain, when he told me the good news was that I had one. I told him my complaints were that I could not stay awake, and the debilitating pain since those neurosurgeons (the swine!) had confiscated my NSAIDS.

“Well, you know, those neurosurgeons cannot stand blood,” he said. “So, they prescribe Keppra. Sometimes they cannot stand blood so much, they prescribe extra Keppra. I see you’re on twice as much Keppra as you can possibly need to prevent a seizure.”

“Why would I have a seizure?”

“Disorganized electrical activity.”

I could see where that might come from. But, “What is a seizure?”

He made fists of both hands and made his body shake, violently.  “It shakes the blood out of the vessels. And remember, those neurosurgeons hate blood! All the extra Keppra is making you so groggy! Perhaps they think you won’t notice the pain if you’re not awake!”

He cut the Keppra in half. We’ll see if I stay awake. He added a tiny bit more Lyrica for the back pain. We’ll see what happens. Lyrica puts me to sleep, too, so I take it at bedtime. I hope it works. It seems a shame to waste being pain free by being asleep.

I just recalled another Dr. De Ren anecdote. My sister had some surgery once, and the doctor feared she may have suffered a stroke. He sent her and her MRI to Dr. De Ren, who evaluated it. The stroke could have happened any time in the past, even when she was born. Absolutely fascinating. He told her the good news was, she had a brain, and he absolutely could not seen in one ear and out the other. Now I wonder about my brain. But the important thing to remember is this: “Those neurosurgeons hate blood!”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How to get yourself back to work after they’ve fiddled in your brain

This current hurdle is not my first time at the rodeo.  I had a stroke a few years ago that hospitalized me for a month, in three separate incidents. I was rather proud of myself for keeping up at work and missing no meetings, but mostly for being independent. I asked the doctor, as I was being dismissed, if I could drive. He considered the question for some time, and then said he could see no reason why not.

I knew my sister was dumbstruck, and I asked her on the way home, what she saw as a drawback. She replied she thought all the cars going by would confuse me. Since I had nothing going for me but a lot of chutzpah, we agreed on a driving test when we got home. I’d drive down the street and back up, and if it was a normal trip down the hills, around the bends, and back up, I was still a driver. It was, and I was, and that was the end.

This time it was not stroke, but a craniotomy to evacuate the hematoma that settled between my skull and my brain. I was kept unconscious for several days, and was routinely handed pain killers. I was not overly conscious of my surroundings for my five week stay, until the last week, when I decided it was time to leave.

At the rehab hospital I was again routinely offered pain meds, but this time for my old back problem. The docs had concluded my lovely ibuprophen, plus all the blood thinners to prevent a new stroke, had been the direct cause of the bleed into my brain that would lead to a new catastrophe.  

I have lived with chronic back pain for ten or more years, and have given the medical profession every possible opportunity to locate the source and end the pain. Abject failure on their part, until I thought I struck a happy balance with a Celebrex tablet in the morning and Lyrica at night. It’s been a happy combo for the last several years, until I woke up in DC and found the Celebrex confiscated.

So, the old protocol began. Try this, try this, try this. But all the drugs were narcotic, and the tiniest dose put me to sleep for four to six hours. The non-narcotics were useless. My back pain continues, debilitating. For the moment I’ve settled on acetaminophen, which barely functions for me. I’m about to begin asking all the medicos again for advice. There’s always the solution of Celebrex and never falling again, but I doubt I could convince a doctor to prescribe it.

Pain was only part of the problem interfering with my job.  My sister and I agreed on the same old driving test when I got home. Sadly my daughter had confiscated my car keys. She claimed it was on the advice of a doctor, and the keys would be returned when I passed a driving test. As the person inside my brain, I was confident of my ability to drive. Her confidence was zero.

I was scheduling doctor appointments, when I came home, and catching up on Laura’s. There were days with two or three, plus work. I tried setting up the Uber application, but failed completely. Beth and Janice decided to split days of the week driving me, until I took the driver test. I just begged for my keys. Both of them have full time employment.

The job that pays mine and Laura’s bills was suffering horribly. I found little windows of time when I could function; sadly, these did not occur at work. I was performing a job I have done for fifty years like a dolt. Sometimes I even put down my head on my desk and passed into pain and sleep. I told my daughter I could not work effectively, standing on the corner waiting for a ride. No keys were forthcoming.

Then serendipity crossed my path again. Early one morning there was a knock on my door from the equipment operators laying the French drains. My daughter had put my car in the street, so she and Jan could use the drive way. It was in the way of efficiently moving their equipment and laying gravel. I explained I had no keys. They offered a tow. I asked for time, and called Beth. Two or three hours later her husband was on my porch with my keys, and nightshirt flapping, I put the car in the drive.

I kept appointments on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday appointment was with the neurologist,  who asked why I was not already driving, as the CAT scan and the exam indicated no reason why I should not drive. The cutest, chubbiest little Italian neurologist high fived me when I said I drove to the appointment.

There has been serious sleeping the last several days. On Saturday I literally slept the entire day. I do recall from past anesthesia, I just sleep and sleep until the last molecule has left my body. It has a purpose, and a price. It makes no difference, if I can tell when I can go to work. Laura and I went this morning. She did my back filing, and I got a large batch of checks ready to run Monday. That will straighten out one third of the horrid mess I made of the job last week, when I couldn’t function.

Normalcy returns. I’ll solve the back pain, and be my old self again.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A fine flowing ditch of serendipity

When we moved in last July, there were some less than wonderful aspects of the house and property, as there always are. One was drainage of storm water. Occasionally I would take the maintenance man by the elbow and point out the defects, some of which were attended to, and most of which were not. Management here was no better, and management “higher up” was useless, which sometimes is the problem with rental property. If yours does not meet these standards, bake cookies, often.

When my next door neighbor and soon to be friend moved in, her tolerance level for less than her standard took her toe to toe with management even sooner than it did me. By fall I was so concerned about her blood pressure I suggested she back off and leave it to me. What happened next shows there is serendipity in more than we know.

I asked Mr. Google several times for an organization that regulated mobile home parks and struck gold with the Association of Manufactured Home Residents in Ohio living in Communities (formerly known as parks)…and so forth and so on, that actually regulates the park conditions. 

To be sure, I called the head of my county’s health district, and got the name and phone number of the Association’s director, to boot. Then, when I dialed the number in the state’s capitol, the director himself answered the phone. It may be that small, or that understaffed, but it was a real talking person, and we had a real conversation.

“Yes,” he said, “we are working hard to bring the last of these communities into compliance,” and “yes, I will have Bob near that address next week. I’ll have him make a call and look around.” Bob picked a perfect day to take a look, because not only did he encounter flooded properties, mine and my neighbor’s included, Bob met the next level of management, looking around the property for the first time in a year or so (according to some other flabbergasted residents). I think perhaps Bob knew who to call and say “Want to walk the property with me tomorrow?”

Sometime during the week, Bob’s boss called me and said Bob had reported that management said the entire problem would be solved by the end of March. This was during one of those spring like days in January. I made a note on my desk pad and proceeded to forget about it.

I left for spring break vacation in DC with granddaughters, not considering the note on my desk pad about drainage resolution, and at the end of March I was comatose, with no recollection of the drainage of my property being corrected. 

When I actually returned home at the very end of April, drainage still was not on my mind. An entire week of May passed before my neighbor, who schmoozes with people and knows things said “Aren’t you excited! They’re starting the drains this week.” And by golly, they did.

Perhaps the universe had me in a coma for a reason, men tending not to work so well when nagged.

Today Dan, the maintenance guy, told me about the pipe with holes under the gravel, and when it settles a bit, they’ll dress the top with topsoil and plant seed. I told Dan that would be great, and not one more word that might sound nagging.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


I’ve not always had decent heath care, but since eligibile for Medicare, I’ve been OK with what I have. I have a small pension from one job that I devoted to health care, and stayed on a reasonable keel for the last  decade. Only this year has my health insurance cost outstripped that little pension. The weakest part of my plan is the rehab, but I’ve always looked around for money to cover that cost, when necessary, and, all in all, been satisfied.

Fast forward to the April weekend when Beth and Ruth drove my comatose self to the hospital in Akron. The hospital, Akron General, has been my standard of care my entire life. In the recent round of hospital wars, it was acquired by Cleveland Clinic, and some company is making a fortune adding an enormous Cleveland Clinic logo at the top, and dropping the other identifiers a line. Imagine how far down the Edwin Shaw sign has descended. That was my destination and I was almost there.

I spent the weekend at General, and was transported to Shaw on Monday morning. After some preliminaries, I was slipped into the therapy production line. Three main venues occupied my days: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I was surprised at the value of speech therapy, mostly about problem solving.

I had not walked in four weeks. The first time I stood, using a walker, my knees buckled. Nor was the therapy as easy a road back as therapy from the stroke. Actually, shame on me for comparing the two. The physios pointed out, over and over, my deficits were stroke residual, not the craniotomy for the subdural hematoma. Couldn’t blame it on the fractured skull. It’s easy to see now; I coasted for ten years keeping even with the stroke damage, not working harder to get ahead.

Live and learn. Haha.

I had one setback in rehab, that still has me concerned and something I must learn more about.  Two of my physios were concerned that my speech was slurring, and I couldn’t stay awake. I returned from every session, skipped the meal and went to sleep. It’s called hyperammonemia. I don’t know if I’m over it or what else I should know about it. The good news is, these two women recognized and reported it. The worst news, in my case, is that it subtracted two good days of physical therapy from my schedule, and this kind of insurance is unforgiving about physical therapy. Nine days per incident and off you go.

I have been working on my own now, scheduling my life. This week coming up I have appointments with the neurologist on Thursday, my same physiologist who was so disappointed with my stroke progress ten years ago on Wednesday, and various others on Tuesday and Friday.

I got a hair cut over the weekend. Melanie had little good to say about Washington General’s sense of style. “They have none, though they did a decent job of parting half to one side and shaving it.” There was no sense in reducing the left side to match the stubble on the right. The left is trimmed and the right must catch up. Pictures may follow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why I recently discharged myself from two excellent medical hospitals. I don’t recommend it highly, but sometimes it’s the required jump start.

I was hospitalized from March 26th through April 28. I was in George Washington Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, though April 14th; in Cleveland Clinic (Akron General) for the April 15/16 weekend, and on to Cleveland Clinic (Edwin Shaw rehab) on April 17. Laura stayed with Aunt Beth and Caroline for the rest of the holiday, then with a school mate for two weeks, then with Aunt Janice, living from her suitcase.

There is no universal hospital system in this country. For all the grand talk of the last thirty odd years, computers do not talk to each other.  Nor do doctors. When my brother-in-law retired, my sister refused to move to southern Ohio for Tom to be closer to his family. Old truck drivers don’t get it; the doctors, the hospitals, the rehab is not out in the corn fields, nor is he. Jan and Tom still live in our doctor central, and amid all their friends.

When I had sorted through enough grey cells, and begun asking questions, I knew it was decision time. The DC doctors appeared once a day, and I realized they were talking to me about not leaving. They would transfer me to rehab in DC. They pretended to, or perhaps actually knew nothing about Edwin Shaw rehab clinics in Ohio. I’ve gone to these since my hip was replaced in 2003. I was there last the day before we left, and scheduled our return for Thursday, so I could keep my Friday appointment.

The fact I had responsibilities in Ohio made no nevermind to the DC docs. I have a granddaughter in school. I have a job. I have a home, with expenses to pay.  I have family and friends. I have a cat. I was well enough to move on to rehab. The DC docs wouldn’t even look up “Edwin Shaw rehab.”

When the DC docs left the room, I called my clinic and had a nice chat.  I left my therapist a message, and  told them I would be there to start rehab on Monday. There were logistics, of course. New patients are admitted on Monday. I was in no shape to spend any time out of the hospital, so I arranged to show up at Akron General, be admitted through emergency on Friday, and on to Edwin Shaw on Monday.

The Edwin Shaw folks were a bit incredulous, but said if I actually arrived, of course I would be admitted. I called my daughter, told her I was being discharged Friday, and could she come down from Cleveland to drive me back from DC.  When she arrived, she fell in with the plan, more or less. Like me, she found the reasons to leave far outweighed any reasons to stay. They are a post themselves.

The DC docs put together some unhappy discharge paperwork, I was rolled into Beth’s car, with Grandma Ruth riding shotgun in the back seat, and we were off. We arrived at Akron General’s emergency room, and politely took our place in line. I dozed, and completely gave up my plan to get Beth and Ruth on their way.  I knew my name and knew I could raise my hand when it was called. But, they would not budge, and so be it.

Eventually I was asleep in a warm, soft bed, with new tags around my wrist and Beth and Ruth back on the road, north to Cleveland. I had home just down the road, the weekend off and the beginning of the next phase of recovery looking decent.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Minors on the town

Good to their word, the girls called Aunt Beth, while grandma drifted through bead land. I have no idea what made the sound I fixed on, but it made the dreams work out. The doctors kept me unconscious for four days. In that time I had a right craniotomy for subdural hematoma evacuation of my encounter with the grill.

I can say this: if someone volunteers to perform my very own craniotomy, I’d probably decline. But, the most pain, post-procedure, was the little slice into a groin artery to thread a drain to my brain to evacuate two hematomas, a nice big one from the sudden stop against the grill, and a smaller one just a couple of months old that I bet a sudden stop against my own cupboard door left. The surgery left me unable to talk or walk, but the nice surgeons drifted in every few hours to tell me I was doing a good job, before sending me back to beads and park rangers.

My daughter Beth came to claim the girls, and her husband Bill came to drive home my car. When they called her, Beth told them to Uber back to the motel, order in a pizza, and not create a disturbance. Oh, yes, and order a new room key with the best story they could muster. Beth checked them periodically, and was satisfied all was well. At least the phone was answered, as expected.

The very next day the girls expressed their disappointment at missing the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin boats by grandmas’ sudden stop. Good for them! Beth took them back to view the marble they missed, before heading back to Ohio, the next morning.

As they left the hotel the next morning, the girls suggested a quick trip to Starbucks, across the road,  and Beth led the expedition. Before the doors closed behind them, the wait staff were out from behind the counters. “There you are! We’ve been talking about you! How’s your grandma? We’re so worried about her.”

“Grandma will be just fine,” Caroline announced. “Mom’s taking us home and coming back for grandma.” Thirteen year old minds deal beautifully with time and place. Beth exited behind a latte and a chocolate with double whipped cream, smiling.

Grandma did leave, a couple of weeks later, though not discharged. It was a fine adventure, and I doubt my grandchildren will realize it for several more years.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Vacation images

For the longest time I just heard the beads, click, click, clicking, and watched the picture forming, building from the bottom to the top. When I was tired, all the beads slid from the bottom and new beads fell to start a new picture. The pictures were Disneyish, but not Disney. They were pictures I’d seen during the day. Cherry blossoms, of course. Children. Families. People who understood the meaning and use of etiquette. People who had no idea.

A ranger would say, quietly into an ear, “This is a national monument, sir. Please remove your cap, take your smoking materials to the other side of the perimeter; take your argument with your friend there, too.  I had to smile; I didn’t remember hearing so much during the day, but there they all were, back again. I smiled. We are one rude nation.

I was tired; the girls and I had been on their feet most on the day. Caroline and I consulted, decided to go back to the Union Station for some supper, and come back to see our last monument, the Jefferson Memorial. They could ride the paddle boats for a bit, then back to the hotel and a good night’s sleep for Mt. Vernon and Montpelier. It was a bit of a hike down the hill to the red bus, but we were among the first on. These red busses fascinated me; on anywhere they stopped and off anywhere they stopped, for a buck.

A look around and I was beginning to sit down, when the bus exchanged its snooze at the curb for a dash to the center lane. I fell to my shoulder and sped pell-mell down the aisle, until my head crashed into a metal grill. I brushed off Laura and Caroline, who were up at once to help. I got up, got to the seat, and took a look at myself and at the bus. “I need to go somewhere to clean up,” I said. The girls said nothing.

The bus pulled back to the curb. Police came on; passengers left. I wondered for a second about their dollars. But the police were down to business, collecting information. We, obviously, were going nowhere. I considered my granddaughters, more mature than minors, but minors nevertheless. 

I picked a policeman from the group, and told him he was in charge of them for the time being. I told the girls the same; the policeman was in charge until he handed them off to a new person in charge. I told Caroline to call her mother. Then I stopped remembering.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Mystery Grandmother

My name is Francis; apparently, some of you know me as France. My grandmother has had quite the adventure and will be telling you about it probably before next week is over, so hang tight. Rest assured she is doing alright. In the meantime, if you'd like, check out my blog at and/or Facebook at You might not have heard about the tail end of my trip, but I came out the other end of my adventure in one piece!

Cheers, Francis

Friday, March 24, 2017

No spontaneity until Sunday

My grandson, Francis, wandered into the Washington DC adventure because our destinations might coincide, and he could use a favor. As you recall, he invited me to lunch to quiz me and assess the opportunity. I heard nothing more, and dismissed the possibility of seeing him, until the package intelligence surfaced.

A week and a half ago he asked if I could bring a package for him. Sure, what’s the plan? He hadn’t thought about that, and since he is a spontaneous kind of a guy, he’d just ship it.

I forgot about it again until his mother called, and explained what he was planning to do, which was to bike the tow path trails from Pittsburgh to DC, ship home the bike and other stray belongings, grab the package, containing among other things, his laptop and his photo ID passport, Uber to the airport and visit his South Carolina cousins on Tuesday. He would find us on the mall via his sister’s GPS.

Sounded like a plan to me; I signed off and forgot about it again.

I followed France several days on the trail via his morning and evening Facebook posts.  I was impressed at his determination. He was in it and would see it through. The snow, the frozen trail, camping several nights in primitive conditions, and then that eleven hour day, slogging uphill in mud, walking the bike. Poor guy came out several miles short of a town with decent food (France likes his decent food), and settled for outback poutine; French fries and gravy, served up in a crossroads bar.

But then it was downhill, and he rolled along beside the Potomac River in sixty degree weather, into his favorite lodging, an AirBnB, very near the National Mall. Good food, nice bed, clean clothes. Teddy Roosevelt thought about his safari porter, and texted me, at 6:30 this morning:

How would you like to coordinate package delivery tomorrow? My AirBnB is right by the National Park.

I smiled and went back to sleep. At 8:30, after a shower, dressing, breakfast, bed making and so forth, I replied:

Tomorrow I am driving to Alexandria VA. Expect to be on the National Mall around 10 am Sunday.

Five minutes later: Alright.

I expect he will be through with sister, cousin and grandma long before Tuesday, and change his ticket for a Monday flight.

The weather forecast is outstanding, half the cherry blossoms survived and will peak this weekend. The weather here was so lovely today that I had the front door open all afternoon. 

Toby was beside himself, between standing on the door closer, and peering through the chink at the bottom. I promised him I will get him an all glass storm door this summer and maybe an interior door with full glass this fall, though  that improvement will be more for me than for him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Of course it’s not over

The sun is shining, the thermometer is just short of fifty, and there are cars in the nursery parking lot.  It’s good for both my expectation and purse that I’ll be out of town for a week. Else I would be looking to buy whatever is out, and add some color to my outdoors.

There is political news. The ACA vote is delayed. The house lost the propaganda value of overturning the ACA on its anniversary date. The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017, must try again for votes.

In the meantime, the House inquiry into Russian interference in the last election is in doubt. Nunes, who chairs the committee, took confidential information to President Tweet. I’ve heard that compared to Donna Brazile passing questions to Hillary Clinton, pre-election. Grow up. Clinton was not the sitting president, and Brazile was not under oath. Scandalous, yes. A scandal, no.
This presidency is costing us so much. Trump sons travel the world on Trump brand business; Melania stays in New York; Ivanka inherits the west wing office and awaits top security clearance. Actually, I think all the Trumpsters are in Aspen this weekend, with a hundred secret security agents. Dumping Meals On Wheels cannot underwrite this expense, even for a day.

A terror attack in London, and its population does what grown up’s do. Gets on. Life goes on. We face down the terror by keeping on; living our lives, believing our beliefs, supporting what we care about, and not taking it for granted. Some more post cards and phone calls do not go amiss.

I enjoyed, and participated in a FaceBook challenge. Paul Ryan had disconnected his office phones and faxes at the beginning of the ACA replacement debate. I took up the challenge to land several tons of postcards in his drive way. Recently the challenge was to mail postcards to the White House, all on March 15th. What better way to have a president wonder about his approval rating and why it’s running low.

My post card stash is running low. I’m currently working on my wimp senator, Rob Portman, to oppose The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017. Something is getting to him. His office phones weren’t answered today.

It’s too soon to hang hope on spring, but not too late to effect damage control leading up to the next election. In the meantime, some kitchen window photos.

Excess rosemary, drying in the egg separator.

 The orchid will be in bloom, when we are back next Friday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oh, the details and the reality

This morning Francis is on the downside of Mountain Top. He says, on FaceBook, it’s a gradual descent into DC. In spite of the mud, he seems intent on sticking to the towpath trail. It has been muddier than he expected. He spent eleven hours on the trail yesterday, the majority of it walking, and fell short of his goal of connecting from the GAP trail to the C&O Trail.

France is on the C&O this morning. He said he would start early, perhaps 2 a.m. It seems he did. He expects to be in DC Friday evening. He can just track his sister’s GPS from Cleveland to DC, all day Saturday. Knowing France, he will spend Saturday biking the National Mall, so he can tell the girls where to go. I’ll let you know if he conquers the road and arrives before we arrive.

I wonder when I emerged from spontaneity? When did I abandon “Get dressed; road trip.”  It doesn’t seem that long. But steering two youngsters and myself through a weeks’ getaway required planning. Looking into visiting Monticello, Mt. Vernon and Montpelier was an education.

Perhaps we paid a small admission fee back in the eighties; I don’t recall. Now you pay the fee and get tickets in advance. But, there’s more. You don’t just show up; you schedule a time. So much for spontaneity. I did some juggling and added extra driving to visit all three Presidential homes in two days, to accommodate George Washington.

The area temps will be in the sixties for the duration of our stay, but rain in the forecast, so I made sure everyone has a raincoat. I already learned the circulator bus for the National Mall is a dollar every time you get on, so I will bring a lot of dollar bills. Then I thought of the regular bus line that will get us to the mall, and made the call. It is $1.75, exact change only. I’ll add a roll of quarters. I think I’ll get hand warmers, too.

Laura and I need to think about efficient packing of the car, since I’ve added the push chair to the luggage. She is charged with getting audio books at the library Wednesday night, while I am at the trustee meeting. Laura and Caroline exchanged texts about the book selection while she and I drove home from shopping last weekend.

Suddenly Laura burst out laughing. “Caroline just gave me a list of books I can’t get. The sexual scenes are too explicit for Grandma.” I laughed, too, and had trouble keeping my eyes on the road, for wiping my eyes.

May, 2007. Bekka, blowing bubbles. Uncle Walt on the ramp. Caroline in pink; Laura in some of her clothes, and France, who couldn't catch all the bubbles himself, commiserates with his father.