Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fist in the Back

I was home from a long day of work and medical appointments before I understood what was wrong with me. It wasn’t just that Nicholas of Starbucks left the cream out of my coffee, insisting even after I asked that he had indeed put it in. (It was a drive-thru and the color I could see through the slot in the top of the cup looked suspiciously dark. Black, in fact.)

“Are you sure there’s cream in here?” I asked one more time. Oh, yes, of course. Oh well.

No, I finally started feeling the fist in my back last night. I had seen my psychiatrist earlier, a boring man who prescribes my anti-depressant. But even the boring man almost pushed me out of his office after a few minutes of conversation. My time was up.

“How have you been?” he asked after I sat down.

“I’m still walking,” I responded. I explained why just putting one step in front of the other was a small accomplishment for me. Several things had happened since I’d last seen him in the fall. Still, after I told him about the worst weeks of my life, and after he’d nodded a few times, it was time for me to leave. Fist in the back.

On to the nursing home. At my aunt’s careplan conference an hour later, a nurse I’d never met and who has never met my aunt, also gave me a little push. Yes, they really had left my aunt in the same clothes four days in a row. True, we had talked about this previously. Really? Really, we haven’t been brushing her teeth? Wow, hard to believe.

But now, now we have others waiting. Waiting for their turn around the table. Where plans are made and not carried out. Where words mean nothing and caring is cheap. Fist in the back. Time to move on.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reminders Unnecessary

I've been indoors for a couple of days. I have a cold. I'm not happy about it, but I am grateful that I didn't have to board an airplane with it, or take an exam with it, or give birth with it, or address the nation with it.

I'm not superstitious, generally, but I'm wary of complaining too much. It's as though I expect a booming voice to reprimand me. You think that's bad? I'll show you something worse!

Even so, I'm going to toss aside my reluctance and just say it: The year 2008 was not a good year. It wasn't completely awful, but some awful things happened. I'm glad to have survived it, and I'm glad it's over.

I know it could have been worse. No reminders are necessary.

Friday, January 16, 2009


English is my only language. When I want to get a laugh, I retrieve my high school Spanish from (deep inside) my memory vault. "Pasame la sal!" I love to shout (on any random occasion-- I just like the way it sounds). Pass the salt!

And so I don't know if other languages have as many words that have several meanings, though the same spelling and pronunciation.

"Battery" comes to mind. I put a new AA battery in my Aunt Netsy's table clock. She lives in a nursing home. She can't see the one on her wall. I then painstakingly reset the clock. Somehow the knobs on the back had come off. Finally the clock was in good shape again, and she was happy.

When I arrived the next day, the little clock lay on its face on the table. The battery cover was taken off and-- surprise!-- the battery was gone. My aunt hadn't noticed anything, and I wouldn't have expected her to. But, sadly, she wasn't surprised. "People can do what they want to do," she said simply.

If you are at all familiar with nursing homes, you already know the insidious attitude that can permeate even the best of them: Your room also belongs to me. "Me" is the staff. Since I take care of you, I can walk in whenever it suits me, rummage through your drawers if I choose, take your newspaper if I want to read it, and remove furniture without telling you. I can show up with a paintbrush and work in your room without notice. I can change your television programs to MTV. I can remove batteries from your remote control or your clock if I have another purpose for them.

You? You're a body in a bed.

It's not just a battery. It's also battery, as in assault.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sad and Sorry

Last week I spent a couple of days visiting my grandchild. He's nearly three. I loved being with him, as always, but he had a nasty virus that made him congested and feverish. He felt awful. His parents felt awful, too, since they got almost no sleep for several consecutive nights.

My grandson has learned to verbalize his feelings. Over and over he told whoever was in the room, "I'm sad." Sometimes it was "I'm so sad." After a while he expected a response and provided promptings when necessary. "Are you sad?" he would ask. Indeed I was, I always responded. Somehow it didn't seem enough, and so I would direct his attention to my face. I made sure my face looked really, really sad.

Other times he would inquire, "Are you sorry?" I couldn't emphasize enough how truly sorry I was. When I mentioned a telephone call from my husband, he asked "Is Granddaddy sorry? Is he sad?" I answered Yes, and my grandson nodded gravely.

At one point, when the fever was down and he seemed in the mood for it, I injected a little humor into our conversation. Face in hands, I pretended to sob over his plight. He squealed and clapped. More! More! He recognized Over The Topness when he saw it.

One of the benefits of being two is surely the power to direct the emotions of others. I admit it, I was a little envious.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still Salvageable

What can I say? I've missed my blog. I've missed writing.

I closed down Salvageable several months ago. I didn't do it impulsively. I had thought about it for several weeks, maybe longer, and decided that I had run low on fuel. I was barely creaking along and I couldn't stand to be one of those bloggers who posted only once every month or two.

The problem with NOT blogging, though, is that you still have all those thoughts. You still get excited and depressed and angry and silly. But if you don't have a blog, where do you put them? I've tried laying them on my family and friends-- mainly family!-- but it hasn't worked too well. Even a loving family member can take only so much of my ranting and ruminating.

So, it's back to you. Again. Still.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Two times of year cause me to reflect: January and September. But let's forget about January. I've never met a resolution I liked-- or kept-- and I don't like being told what to do, though for pure entertainment, being told what to do can hardly be beat. As I read articles about losing weight, meeting one's soulmate or landing the perfect job, I feel smug and ornery: That would never work! How stupid! No way!

But September is another story. For many years it was the real beginning of a new year. New classes (though most schools begin in August now), new shoes, new teachers and friends. New Sunday School department. New, new, new. Having a September birthday gave the month even more importance. I'm sixteen now! Things will be different!

When our first baby was born on the first day of September, it seemed only appropriate. Finally things were going to be different. I really did have new goals, and I didn't need Parent magazine to tell me what they were. I probably couldn't have articulated them beyond the basic concepts of protect, take care of, and nurture, but I began understanding "new" in a way I never had before.

And so today begins another September. The baby lives hundreds of miles away. Most of my memories have little to do with her current reality, or even with my own. I remember watching her learn to walk, and now she's training for a marathon. I, on the other hand, am contemplating natural remedies for arthritic knees! What hasn't changed for me is the sweet wistfulness, the prayerful longing, and the passion for the journey I began on the day she came into my world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life. As I Know It.

Summer for me has ended, as I went back to work at the residence hall at Baylor last Monday. My computer had been moved from one end of the long desk (it's more like a counter) to the other-- my first adjustment. After that, it was new students, new numbers, new t-shirts, new IDs, and-- of course!-- new freshmen parents! Dutifully they stood in line with their offspring and asked the questions their students were too shy to ask, such as "Should he have brought his own toilet paper?" It was an exhilarating and exhausting week.

Every day after work I drive across town to a nursing home where my Aunt Netsy is living. It has been an exhausting time for her, too. My own fatigue is the result of trying to navigate the maze of Good Care. What is it and how do I help get it for her? My cousin and I talk often and plot our next moves. I am sobered by the inescapable fact that I worked in long-term care for fifteen years, myself-- if it's this tough for me, how do other nursing home residents and family members manage, even survive, it?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hospital, Sweet Hospital

I'm not ready to give up on blogging. I say that as much to myself as to any reader who might stop by even after all these days of No News. I tried closing the blog several months ago, and I missed the idea of having it just as much as, or maybe more than, the actual writing. It's some place to go, you know?

I can't remember a more miserable summer, weather-wise, than this one. I know we've had hotter ones, but the combination of the heat and the humidity and the absence of rain have worn on me. My Aunt Netsy has had a rough summer beginning in May. She broke her hip, had surgery, entered a nursing home for rehab, got a sudden painful infection, entered the hospital and stayed 10 days, and is now back at the nursing home where more rehab awaits. You've just been given the condensed version. She and I both agree that We'd Rather Be at Starbucks.

Frankly her ordeal makes me question my previous desire to live a long life. The extra years seem to come with a price. But I don't think I'm up to examining that subject this morning, and so I'll share with you a few of my observations from spending many hours bedside in the hospital.

1. I do not speak English very well. Why else would the same desk clerk, sitting at the same nurses station, stare at me with fish-eyes as I was speaking, then respond-- every time!-- "Wait, wait, what are you talking about?"

2. It's the little things, that turn out to be big things, that separate adequate nurses from good ones. Sadly, the Adequates are greater in number than the Goods. But in the interest of honesty and optimism, I can't say that we encountered a single Bad One.

3. In Waco, Texas, you're supposed to drink iced tea with your meals. It doesn't matter if you've never liked tea, or if you carefully explain at every mealtime that you would prefer juice, coffee or even water, you will be given iced tea in Waco, Texas.

4. Hospital gowns, though always open in the back, come in an amazing variety of lengths. They are plain and rather stark; Aunt Netsy commented that a crocheted collar on them would greatly improve their appeal.

5. Hospital breakfasts are not bad at all. I've eaten more grits during the past 10 days than I've eaten in my entire life.

6. Medical personnel do not share information with each other. They would much rather have you repeat it over and over. I've been told there is a reason for this, so that they can hear the patient explain her own history, but I don't buy it. I was repeatedly asked, "Why is she taking Cumidon?" The questioner(s) never seemed impressed by my answer of, "I'm not sure, my cousin Kay was the one who took her to those appointments and she's currently in New Mexico helping her husband Dewey build their dream cabin and she's not where I can reach her easily because otherwise I'd call her up right now so that you wouldn't have to read my aunt's medical record or call the cardiologist...." I admit I didn't add that last phrase, but it wouldn't have mattered-- The Inquisitor was already interrupting me to ask the next (unnecessary?) question.

7. There are many different ways of moving a frail, hurting 89 year old from one place to another. Some ways are so much better than others.

8. Being blessed with "good hair" can get a female patient a lot of favorable attention, especially in Texas where good hair is very important. Aunt Netsy has has a frail little body but very, very good hair.

9. Students should not be sent to draw blood from an elderly person with bad veins. It happened twice and was a disaster both times. Let them learn on someone else.

10. Modern medicine has its faults but it is also an amazing process that I am truly grateful for. I was and am in awe of what can be learned and accomplished to help a very sick person.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Day of Summer

It's a beautiful morning and I'm.....not going to work. I'm a schoolgirl again-- free for the summer. It's a welcome benefit of this job.

What will I do?

I'd like to plant some flowers. Start cooking again. Organize and clean out my digital photo library. Blog more often. Send long overdue graduation and baby and wedding gifts. Read more books. Take more naps. Unpack.

I wish my daddy was still here, coming over for coffee every morning. I'm drinking a leisurely cup right now, thinking of him and knowing once again what time gives and time takes away.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Time to DTR

I was in my usual spot behind the front desk at the college dormitory where I work, talking to several students. One was in a new romantic relationship. Things were going well, he said. In fact, it was probably time to talk. The girl he was hanging out with had hinted as much.

"Yeah," responded another student, "D. T. R." I looked at the three other people around me, all of whom were nodding matter-of-factly.

D. T. R. ? Uh, what's D. T. R. ?

Define the relationship, that's what!

Am I the only one who didn't know? Always eager to expand my horizons, I googled DTR as soon as I got home. After getting past Diesel Truck Resource and Data Terminal Ready (and who could care about either of those?), I actually found it.

After considering this delightful new (to me) acronym, I decided that I myself have attempted to DTR. I think it counts, even though I didn't know I was trying to DTR when I did it. And when was that?

I seem to recall it was right before my high school boyfriend dumped me. Coincidence?