Saturday, September 29, 2007
Yesterday morning it was clear Dad was sick; Mom called early to say he was up and dressed all by himself, confused about what was going on, withdrawn, and non conversant. She asked me to stop by on my way to work. By the time I got to their apartment, the medics had been summoned by the staff who thought he perhaps had suffered a stroke. Not. The answer was clear from the chest Xray which was done in the ER an hour later; there, lighting up the right lower lobe bronchus was a strip of metal about an inch long, in the shape of 4 teeth!
Foreign body aspirations are fairly common in the very young. The classic case is the toddler who sucks a peanut or coin into the lungs. We are taught in medical school that the foreign body almost always goes into the right lower lobe bronchus owing to the anatomy of the bronchial tree; the path is a direct shot down the trachea and into the rather steep take-off of the right lower lobe bronchus. It's all about the path of least resistance and gravity. In the elderly, there are plenty of cases of aspirated dental appliances but owing to the large size they can get hung up in less desirable places like the the vocal cords or trachea where they obstruct air flow. We should be grateful these teeth flew farther downstream. However, in the process of sitting there for who knows how long, Dad developed the predictable pneumonia beyond the blockage. The lungs don't appreciate the assault of all those oral bacteria. Is this too much information for you?
And so, I was once again impressed by the prompt and professional care he received from the colleagues that I work with regularly. It wasn't long before Dad, who was considerably better with a little supplemental oxygen, signed the consent for a bronchoscopy and ultimately had the teeth snared out of his lung and plopped in a plastic cup...."You'll want to take these to his dentist", the doctor said. Indeed.
What next? How can we ever know what adventures and misadventures are coming our way? These are times when things are predictably unpredictable for us all.
By the way, Dad said "ok" for me to share these films; a dramatic finding and classic radiographic finding.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The last time we made pudding was the summer of 1998, I think. We gathered at the Jameson house in Seattle to learn the fine art of preparing the suet laden recipe with Bama at the helm, teaching one and all about this delectable (to some) holiday essential. The pudding from that last preparation has lasted until now and tradition has it that we must incorporate what remains of the old into the new. It is amazing to ponder all the bits of pudding from past years that live on. This batch will surely carry us well into the next decade and because it will likely be the last time Mom supervises the creation of Christmas pudding, this one will be special beyond the usual.
Yesterday, recipe in hand, Mom and I made the first dent in the process by ordering the two cups of suet at QFC and purchasing the raisins, currants, walnuts, and candied citron. The butcher was ultimately accommodating, but a bit suspicious of our request for a pound of beef fat and initially said, "we don't do that". When my 90 year old mother looked at him and allowed as how in past years a woman butcher at the same QFC was happy to provide two cups of suet for her Christmas pudding I could feel his resistance melting away. "Ok," he said, "I will fix it for you; come back tomorrow morning at 10 to pick it up." And today, I picked up the suet which resembles very lean cooked turkey breast if you just look at it quickly. But it feels like fat to the touch. We will have to push this suet through Mom's old metal meat grinder as I didn't have the courage to ask the butcher who had already packaged the fat in saran wrap to undo his work and run it through the industrial grinder. Not surprisingly, fat is free for the asking. No charge; just get out of the store with it and don't tell the manager.
I'm not sure when we'll tackle part two which is the assembly and six hour steaming of the pudding. Hopefully there will be a date in October when as many family as can or want to participate will be able to stop by to stir the pudding in the kitchen at Arapahoe. It is said that good luck comes to all who stir the Christmas pudding before it goes into its steam bath. And so, we shall prepare, stir and steam the 2007 vintage pudding soon. Then, we will enjoy the finished product in December 2007 when we gather again as a family to celebrate the season and the fact that we are indelibly linked one to another. Here's to tradition and holidays shared together!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Yesterday's entry about the "Granny Factor" segues nicely into a post about the general term "Granny". This is clearly a very positive word in my vocabulary. I don't recognize the negative connotations: the implication of aging, being "over the hill", or no longer being capable, agile or strong. In fact, I honor the word; it is both amusing to me and an accolade. Even though I am not yet a grandmother, when and if I ever am, I want to be known as "Granny". In fact, there are some who already call me this; notably a best friend of Chris's dating back to kindergarten days. Whenever "Topher or Toe" (as I call him) comes in our front door or sees me he faithfully acknowledges our meeting by saying, "Hey Granny, how's it going?" I love it. To be Granny is at once feisty and wise, familiar and loving. What's not to like?
As for Denny, he is affectionately referred to by Chris as "Gramps" and by Topher as "Slick". He prefers the name Gramps (over others that have been tried through the years, like Grumpa or Grunt, obviously less desirable although perhaps descriptive at times). I guess he too has picked his name for if/when we get to that place in time where grandchildren exist.
So, here's to all the cool Grannies around....remember Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies? She kicked butt.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
For years we have respectfully and playfully referred to Virginia Maher as "Granny". "Granny" never cared for pets be they feline, canine, or any other species that might co-habit a household. Given her disdain for four legged friends, it amazes me that Denny ever grew up with a dog in the home ("Pepper", the hyped up beagle) since Virginia held firm that there would be no pets. How it happened anyway is another story for another time.
Despite "Granny's" dislike of cats and dogs, for some unexplainable reason cats and dogs always gravitated to her, enjoying physical closeness and begging for any return of affection. Years ago, our cat "Bubba" invariably latched onto "Granny" whenever she was in our home, following her about and sitting beside her on the couch, inching closer and closer, hoping for a kind word or a pet, neither of which he ever received. But, he never gave up. Neither did "Sasha", our dalmatian. I wonder if they felt "Granny" was a potential convert or perhaps they had more malevolent intentions to torment her. Whatever the case, the attraction of these pets for a more than ambivalent human companion we called the "Granny factor".
As for Denny, he loves dogs but cats he only tolerates (although, deep down, I wonder...). After having pets in our home for years, when Sasha and Bubba passed on, we were "petless" for over a year until we adopted "Boo" from the McGrady household in June. Boo was to be Kate's companion but rather immediately he latched onto Denny. Although Boo graciously accepts affection from one and all, it is obvious
that he has bonded with the man of the house. This is the " Granny factor" all over again. We have to laugh and I swear, Denny really does like cats for all his rants and raves about another beast in the house. Welcome to the family, Boo.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
After three years of dormitory living, Chris decided to rent a house in Ballard for his senior year at SPU. He moved in shortly after returning from his trip to
Several days ago it was “Babi Ketjap” night. He brought the pork loin and we supplied the instruction and the exotic and not so exotic ingredients to create this family favorite. This recipe has been prepared and enjoyed literally hundreds of times in our family from special occasions to very ordinary meals. The dish became a favorite dating back decades when Mom attended an Indonesian cooking class taught by a Dutch woman in
Saturday, September 22, 2007
to the way they have to live than other things do.
Here the oak and silver-breasted birches
stand in their sweet familiarity
While underground, as in a black mirror,
They have concealed their tangled grievances,
Identical to the branching calm above
But there ensnared, each with the others’ hold
On what gives life to which is brutal enough.
Still, in the air, none tries to keep company
Or change its fortune. They seem to lean
On the light, unconcerned with what the world
Makes of their decencies, and will not show
A jealous purchase on their length of days.
To never having been loved as they wanted
Or deserved, to anyone’s sudden infatuation
Gouged into their sides, to all they are forced
To shelter and to hide, they have resigned themselves.
The New Yorker, September 24, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Eagerly, I am about to launch the newest chapter in my adventures in blogging on Born in Aruba: “I Remember” is the title for the latest category. Before just jumping into the first installment; I want to pay homage to the originator of this title. My dear friend from Cornell days, “Perry” (aka Doug which is another story in itself) is a true gem in my life. We have kept our connection alive for 35 plus years despite the distances and intermittent months/years of relative silence between us. By now I know that he is with me always, a phone call away and will continue to be a physical presence in my life from time to time when we can manage a real visit. He lives in
Perry has a marvelous talent with words. He writes beautifully and often speaks a language that is pure poetry. He is gifted. We laugh about this because years ago as we sat in the same freshman English class with Professor Elledge, we walked away from the experience with vastly different impressions. I loved the class, Perry hated it. Did that have anything to do with the way the class affected our GPAs? Perhaps. But, if one easily agreed upon good outcome emerged from the chance assignment to the same freshman seminar, it was that Perry and I met and forged a new, and lasting connection. I firmly believe we would never have crossed paths otherwise. My life is enriched by this wonderful man I call Perry (aka Doug).
Thursday, September 20, 2007
What it is about the brain that allows memories from the past to shine through crisply, brought into the present moment by a visual reminder such as driving by the location where something occurred years ago and suddenly having a clear memory of the event? What is it about her brain in particular that summons these older memories so accurately and yet cannot imprint and hold onto a simple schedule, appointment date/time, or when and how to take medications? The dichotomy is striking to me as I live through these days with Mom who becomes more impaired by her lack of short term memory daily. As frustrating as it is for me to go over the same information again and again, it must be worse for her as she acknowledges that her mind is slipping.
The other day as Mom and I drove downtown for her doctor’s appointment, we passed by the jewelry store where at Christmas time 1991, she, Dad, and I walked in and had them repair the band on one of my rings. I remember this because it was cold and dark at 4:30 PM when we walked into the store after a hectic drive through December traffic. The bent metal shank of the ring was quickly repaired. Mom remembered this clearly too; the ring in question was originally hers, given to her by a beau (well before Dad) and then given to me as a teenager. She recalled this memory easily. Then, on the way back from the doctor’s appointment we were headed north on
But in the present moment, her mind is bound up in anxiety and confusion. As an example; she goes to Trina’s salon for a wash and set weekly although the date and time changes depending on my schedule. This week the appointment was for Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 PM. I told her and I wrote it on both the calendar on the refrigerator and on the dry erase board next to their door: “Trina 4:30 PM, pick up at 4 PM”. I also reminded her of it again in the morning when we chatted on the phone. However, at 3 PM she called me, “Aren’t you coming for me?” I couldn’t resist. I directed her to the wall board reminder…..”What does it say?” I asked. She said “Trina 4:30 PM, pick up at 4 PM. Sorry. I’m so sorry to bother you.” And then, I felt badly. But, it’s just so hard and there is nothing I do that seems to make her appointments less stressful. Even the reminders by phone or the written words on the wall board; they just don’t make the difference.
I am trying to accept this as the “new Mom” but it is difficult. She is a woman who has always been on the ball, one step ahead of the rest of us, organized, precise, and the accurate keeper of details, especially dates and times. I will take a deep breath and love her for the way she is and the way she was. She is my Mother.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Go In and In
Go in and in.
Be the space
between two cells,
the vast, resounding
silence in which spirit dwells.
Be sugar dissolving on the tongue of life.
Dive in and in,
as deep as you can dive.
Be infinite, ecstatic truth.
Be love conceived and born in union.
Be exactly what you seek,
the Beloved, singing Yes,
tasting Yes, embracing Yes,
until there is only essence;
the All of Everything
expressing through you
as you. go in and in.
and turn away from
nothing that you find.
From Poems from the Heart of Yoga by Danna Faulds, 2002
This morning I found myself back at The Yoga Studio in Magnolia. I have been going there off and on for years but in recent months my attendance has been spotty, probably because my focus has been on training for the Triathlon. It's time to get back into regular yoga classes again. My body and mind always feel better after yoga. I am committed to going once a week now as part of the maintenance phase of my "stay in shape" goal for next year's triathlon.
Lee is my favorite yoga teacher. She is compassionate, wise, intuitive, and observant. Her calmness infuses each class and she always reads to us during shivasana, usually poetry. This was today's selection and I particularly love the idea of exploring the space between two cells. That space is infinite and so am I.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
There's no denying that autumn is coming. The light "changed" over a month ago. This phenomena catches me off guard each year, seeming to arrive sooner each season or else I may just be more astute to the subtle beginnings. I defy anyone to really describe just what it means for the light to "change". Although I've heard others describe it in various ways such as a "softening of the light", there are no words in my vocabulary that adequately capture what I see on those bright mornings in mid August when the light rather suddenly turns the Seattle skyline into a new place. This phenomenon is purely visual; words fall short and never seem to stand up to exactly what we witness at this time of year.
I often feel a sense of despair when the light changes, dreading the arrival of shorter days, longer nights and the end of the pumped up energy of summer. This year however, I feel an acceptance and welcome the turning leaves, the cooler air, the low hanging clouds. Bring it on.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
"The phrase perfect storm refers to the simultaneous occurrence of events which, taken individually, would be far less powerful than the result of their chance combination. Such occurrences are rare by their very nature, so that even a slight change in any one event contributing to the perfect storm would lessen its overall impact."
Today I feel as though my own personal perfect storm is brewing. Three separate and independent stressors all converging on me at once......I'm trying not to get too invested in any of them or at least not to let myself go nuts, although I easily could surrender to the madness.
First, Mom called me at 3:30 AM confused and not feeling well but not sick enough to warrant getting out of bed to assess her or take her to the hospital. Dad, while trying to get up to help her at 6:30 AM apparently fell at the end of his bed. I'm told he didn't hurt himself but all of this will be checked out later; I'm on my way over to Merrill Gardens after work today.
Secondly, I am the only physician in clinic today and have the entire sub specialty hospital service as well. This has gone better than I had thought but today is the start of my weekend "on call duties" as well. Medicine never (ever) sleeps and things are brewing.
And finally, my dearest daughter decides that a road trip with a girlfriend from Spokane to Bellingham is in order despite my protests (and whines). I've been told in no uncertain terms that I simply must "get over" my anxieties and give her freedom and space to live her life. Ahhhh, I give her so many long, long leashes and this one little issue of mine (road trips, car trips, freeway driving, night driving and the like) has become her number one desire of late. So, I have relented reluctantly and she is now underway, in her friend's large (and hopefully sturdy) Mercury Mountaineer SUV. She calls me 10 minutes underway and says, "Mom, how do we get to the freeway?" Groan. And then, the absolute icing on the cake of insanity...."Oh, now I see the sign for I-90, Mom but....which way do we go, East or West?"
Am I making my perfect storm story clear enough?
God bless me.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Ahhhhh, I found this breathtaking photograph of the Natural Bridge at Colorado Point on the Internet yesterday. The view is unusual in that it is taken at eye level, right down at water's edge, a place I've never dared venture for fear of huge waves and inherent danger. The waters look amazingly calm but waves and foam likely boiled up moments after this photograph was taken. That's what Colorado Point is all about; unpredictable wind, water and wildness.
When I die, I would like my ashes turned free at this Natural Bridge in Aruba. It is truly one of my most favorite places on the planet. I never tire of the contrast between volcanic rock and restless water. It is said that well below the surface, the waters are calm. The contrast between the wild and the peaceful coupled with the ever changing beauty as the wind and waves carve a new landscape appeals. And, since I've never had the courage to ever walk across the bridge or get anywhere close, I'll need to wait. Hopefully, it will be a long, long time.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Twice in the past weeks we have watched expectantly as blooms matured hoping that they would not drop from the stalk prematurely as some do. I photographed this bud last week, hoping that our trip to Vancouver Island would not conflict with opening night for the bloom. But, it did. We returned to the spent blossom hanging limply as they do after their few hours of glory. Several weeks ago, we anticipated the first bloom in our Seattle history and misjudged the timing; we missed out but in that case through sheer distraction. We were home that evening but just went to bed without thinking to check on the bud which typically bursts forth just before midnight.
Missed opportunities? Clearly. I wrote about the first time I missed the big event last month and was probably overly dramatic, sentimental and hard on myself when I noted........"This (missing out on the blooming) is a symbol of my life right now; obsessed with worries, pulled from the moments of joy, unable to lose myself in the beauty of the fragile, single moments of magnificence for this quiet, yet wild beauty. I feel as if I have been asleep to the movement of life, the fantastic river of breath and death. And so it is."
This time I feel less distressed; there will be another chance to watch the show. Even though there was no human audience, the show went on as they all do. We are all such a small part of the big picture anyway.
Monday, September 10, 2007
In daylight hours, adventures awaited us with trips farther out Highway 14 in Port Renfrew, a remote fishing village. We hiked to Botanical Beach to view tidepools and found a small cafe in the middle of nowhere to enjoy a surprisingly tasty lunch. The next day we drove into the village of Sooke (pronounced Souk), home to a provincial park with trails through forests leading to rocky coves and inlets. We saw several deer, water fowl, seals, and in the distance far out in the Strait, the orca whales swimming together. There were people on the trails and by the surf but what struck me was how quiet and untraveled the paths seemed. My camera did its best to keep up with the changing scenery.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Denny and I are just back from a wonderful four day trip to the rugged southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. We enjoyed the ocean beaches and forests, the awesome food, local wildlife, and the remoteness of being "out there" without cell connection, internet, or television. We allowed ourselves to relax into the unfolding moments, the gorgeous weather and new experiences. I used my birthday camera to capture many of the high points.
I could have used another couple of days away but just having this time to breathe deeply, slow down, and see the beauty was therapy. I will write more tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Last night I tried to re-create the Discovery Park Blackberry mojitos as a little treat for Denny and me at the end of a long day (see post from 8/25/07). They tasted a bit "off" to me; I couldn't figure out why but it wasn't like they were awful. We managed to each drink two. Perhaps it was the blackberry puree becoming a bit old in the fridge or too much club soda or not enough sugar and lime. Nonetheless we drank them and I photographed them.
Mojito making is a sticky mess and I left the clean-up till later only to learn that Denny took on the job. After all was said and done, the real discovery in these "Discovery Mojitos" was learning from Denny that I had made the drinks with crushed basil leaves instead of mint leaves...... I must have been very distracted (see yesterday's entry regarding Mom's pills) not to notice the difference between a basil leaf and a mint leaf. Perhaps something like Mom mixing up her AM and PM medications?
I wouldn't recommend basil Bojitos (as Denny called them). They just aren't as good, even with a shot of fresh blackberry puree......
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I awoke to rain on the deck and the sounds of neighbors getting their children into cars, ready for their first day of school. It felt like fall with the rolling, wet clouds and a slight chill in the air.
I spent the day doing errands, on the road and at home; ironed half a dozen shirts for Denny, mailed a package to Laura, deposited checks at the bank, bought more cat food, swept the kitchen floor, watered the plants, and arranged for our new gas furnace to be inspected next week.
And, in service to parents, I scheduled a doctor visit and hair appointment for Mom, ordered refills on prescriptions for both Mom and Dad, brought in trash and recycling bins at Arapahoe, made a call to Crista Assisted Living to request information, and then prepared macaroni and cheese, green beans, sliced cucumbers, and a small blackberry cobbler to take over to Merrill Gardens for their dinner. They usually eat in their apartment for the evening meal and their choices are limited; they so appreciate a home cooked meal, no matter how simple. We ate around the kitchen table at 5:15, early for me but very much their routine.
Before I left for home, I reviewed again with Mom her night time medication regimen and pointed out the "Tuesday PM" label on the pill case which cues her to the evening pills. She has become so forgetful and confused by her medications in the last week; it's an obvious sign that the stroke she suffered recently continues to whittle away at her cognitive abilities and memory. After she forgot to take her evening pills on Sunday and spent a restless, anxious night, I decided that I'd try to phone her around 8 PM to remind her about the pills. Last night this worked well; she retrieved the pill box, the water and took the "PM" pills while I stayed on the line.
But tonight when I called I was too late; the medications had already been taken. And, they were the wrong medications, the "Wednesday AM" pills. Mom became so upset by the error that she put Dad on the phone. That made matters even more stressful as they started to argue over the details of what had happened. At that point I told Mom I'd come over and sort things out. It's not a huge deal but it is frustrating to all of us when routines that had been straightforward and smooth are now sources of concern and endless confusion. It's just another example of how complicated the most simple tasks can become and a sign of just how much help they need to navigate through the days (and nights).
Mom, Dad, and I managed to make the best of the situation this evening; we had to laugh (or try to halfheartedly); what else could we do? I decided to re-arrange the pillbox so that all her medications are taken at night only; no more morning medications. Just one time a day to take meds....perhaps this will work, perhaps not. Why didn't I think of this before?
And so, I am now back at home. The house is quiet, the rain has stopped and it is time to finish this blog. This quite ordinary day was not exactly memorable but it was important. Perhaps they all are important.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Well, I can't resist writing about the Triathlon again. After all, it was two weeks ago right now that I was pedaling my bike furiously in the drizzle across the I-90 bridge passing and being passed by other women cycling forward towards the finish line. It was a grand day as I lived the peak of my physical stamina, in awe of what I accomplished.
But, this brings me to Triathlon Traditions; one old and one new this year, one global and one very personal.....
For years, Denny and I have hosted the "night before" high carbo load dinner the Saturday evening before Sunday's Danskin Tri. The menu is always the same: he makes his famous spaghetti with meat sauce, sweet corn, Caesar salad, garlic bread and for dessert (my contribution) blackberry cobbler made with berries from Discovery Park. This year we celebrated in the same style with four generations of family. We were fortunate to have Laura's boyfriend handy to take the family photograph in the living room after the meal. He took a number of shots but in all of them there is always someone either blocked from view or in motion as they try to hang onto the lively three year old boys. That's what makes the photographs all the more precious. Here we are, all nineteen of us with Mom and Dad in the center of it all.
And now for the new (and personal) tradition. I purchased a new lip gloss the day before the Triathlon. Slim, gorgeous color, easy to apply.....and best of all, a good place to keep it at the ready for just the right moment. I had the lip gloss as part of my "T-2" gear along with my racing belt and sunglasses (which were not required on that cloudy day) carefully arranged for a timely pickup at the end of the bike leg. After racking my bike and losing the helmet, I donned the race belt with my official number and slipped that Wet n Wild Mega Slicks "Red Sensation" into the rear pocket of my Zoot Tri suit. The pockets are designed for small essentials like keys, carbohydrate gel packs and the like but a lip gloss fits in there just fine. You laugh? Go ahead. I knew just when and how this lip gloss would be applied; just after the huge hill and before the last quarter mile before the finish line.*** And so, a tradition is born. I want to always cross that line with my lips glowing.
***not all that crazy. Check out the book by Geralyn Lucas entitled Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy