Wednesday, June 28, 2017

There will be dead bodies, no matter which way the Senate swings

I opened the news this morning to a very similar headline topping the page. I wrote a rather bleak post, mostly about me, and, by damn, I intended to publish it.

Now it’s four in the afternoon, and I’ve managed to save the post as a blank page.  And no, it’s not a sign from god; it’s the result of a brain injury. I’m sick to death of the brain injury. I’m sick to death of clerks who don’t know their jobs, and send me overdue notices for bills they sent to the secondary as primary. And, I’m not even a medical clerk.

I am a few visits from the end of my physical therapy medical allowance. I learned there is cognitive therapy across the hall. I signed up. Medical Mutual counts it the same as physical therapy, which I will continue to take. I’m angry. They can come and get me. They can garnish my wages. (That’s a joke.) They can garnish my Social Security. I don’t care. The savings will just go twice as fast. Three years and gone. I don’t care. It’s not my fault I don’t have a job.

Just to stay cranked up, I made an appointment with the orthotist. He can make that brace work for me, or make me a new one. I think that’s most of what I covered this morning. Oh, yes, I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate my hyperexending knee, injury courtesy of a fast trip down the floor of a bus.

I recall the balance of my rant—I’m not going on vacations with grandchildren. They’re well into teenager hood now and are developing lives of their own, so I suppose I shouldn’t gripe too much.

In the meantime, the turfed yard is growing grass, big and small, and pig is happy.

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.