Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Day in the ER

My excuse for not writing much this week? Spending a day in the emergency room.

Usually when people ask me how I’m doing, I respond by saying, “Well, I haven’t been in the hospital for seven months!” (or however long it’s been.). This is because it seems that every six months I have some sort of crisis. Usually it’s my heart medication that does a good job most of the time, but once in a while the electrons get the upper hand and send my heart into overdrive.

Sometimes people call their hearts “tickers”. Unlike most people, my heart really does tick. In fact you can hear it if we are sitting in a quiet room. There it is…the noise that resembles a dripping faucet. That comforting sound is produced by a mechanical mitral valve that I had installed in 1999 during my second open heart surgery. In the first go round, the highly regarded surgeon I chose tried to repair the valve, but it didn’t work. I picked someone else to go in and make it right.

I come by this problem honestly, with an uncle who’s had the same operation and by my mom who had two tissue valve replacements. She died in 1998, just months before my own cardiac travails began. I always wished I could say, “Mom! I understand what you meant—look! I’ve had the same thing done.” I’m sure she knows and one day maybe we’ll compare notes, but when I get to that point, who really cares about such things?

Here on earth, I’ve had many 911 calls and ambulance rides to the hospital, but they have diminished in frequency since my pacemaker was installed a couple of years ago. Unlike my valve, it doesn’t make any noise, but just sits there quietly working. Someone at work likes to call it my “bottlecap” since it looks like one sitting under my skin.

Yesterday, due to some problem with medications interfering with each other, I spent a pleasant six hours or so in the emergency room. Pleasant, because there were so many familiar faces there, though it’s pretty sad when you know the nurses and lab techs by name. A CAT scan was negative, other tests showed a possible infection, but in the end they sent me home. I have appointments with four different doctors over the next two weeks for various issues, so I should be in good shape soon.

Fortunately, my regular doctor looks out for me and takes a personal interest in what happens to me. What other doctor gives you his home and cell phone numbers? Years ago I started calling him by his first name instead of “Doctor”, which is the sort of relationship we have. One time he had to call me about test results or something and he pretended to be a carpet salesman. I hung up on him. He called right back and played it straight, though I felt bad once I recognized his voice.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Woo-hoo! It’s our 34th wedding anniversary today. We will have a delayed celebration next weekend. Kathy said she didn’t have time to get me a card, so we’ll do all that later. We will be closing on her parents’ house on Tuesday, so we are spending our anniversary weekend getting the house ready.

Various relatives and hangers on were all there on Saturday to move the last of the furniture out. My brother in law rented a big truck and we needed all the space. He made stops at Shane’s apartment, our house and his house, delivering a couch, a refrigerator, a high-boy, a buffet chest, a queen size bed and a stove. We all got several pieces. We still put a couch and two recliners in the garage until garbage day on Tuesday. We laid a big old wooden extension ladder, scaffolding and ladder jacks on the tree lawn and within an hour it was gone. Someone really made out.

We did all this in a driving rainstorm, a prelude to a winter storm that promises anywhere from five to twelve inches over the next day or so. Another typical day of anniversary weather for us. I had just drained the snowblower and hung it on the garage wall to wait for another season. It’s now all gassed up the weekend. We should have known better. We remember our wedding day-- it was freezing cold and snow flurries, even in late April. Even the pink dogwood that we call our anniversary tree hardly ever blooms on our big day, but this year the warm temperatures coaxed it out early, but now it’s about to freeze its little bippy off. (Remember ‘bippies’? They typically freeze off, or are worked off, as I recall.)

Our house is now crowded with more chairs and chests and rockers than we know what to do with. Some things we can use in a garage sale, but some we are incorporating into our eclectic décor.

There were some tears as the final bits of the daughters' old lives were carried out the front door, but we have lots of mementoes. The house has been sold to a young family with two little girls. The realtor stopped over today so we could sign another paper, and he remarked that the new owners described the place as their 'dream house'. What a nice way to close this whole experience, knowing that we are helping to launch yet another family from a house that knew so much love. May they too enjoy all the blessings we had and still more besides as they raise their family in that loving setting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Closing a chapter

You'll never guess. After all that build up to our anniversary weekend and what to do about the ring, it turns out we can't go to dinner after all. You see, we have been in the midst of selling Kathy's mom's house, and after months of dithering around with inspectors and such, all of a sudden we have to close on the house next week. This means we will be moving out all the furniture we had left there and clearing the place once and for all.

We worked like dogs to get it ready to show back in November, and had the living room nicely set up with the sofa and chairs and end tables, and the bedrooms downstairs looking like someone lived there still. Kathy insisted on having a bowl of real apples on the kitchen counter. She would even run over there on the Sundays when she knew there was an open house and burn a scented candle.

When we walk into the house, we still expect to see Nana Anna sitting on the couch in her usual spot, just on the end there, where she could see the TV. So many nights Kathy and her sister Priscilla would stay in the house with her. One night our daughter was in town and volunteered to do a shift. Nana called out to Ann, waking her out of a sound sleep, to ask for some ginger ale. Ann went back to bed, only to be wakened again by Nana, who wanted to tell her she was OK now and the ginger ale had helped.

Upstairs there are two bedrooms. When Kathy and I were first married, we spent time in both of them, living for a few months in the bigger room when I was still in college. The small room is squeezed by the ceiling closing in on two sides. There isn't even a light switch in that room--hope no one notices.

Go into the basement. Here is the half bath that Grampa Lou had put in himself. The walls were decorated with wildlife photos from National Geographic and news clippings about hunting, though the only hunting he had ever done was shooting rabbits as a kid growing up in Minnesota. Over here was the card table where I sat one summer writing my Masters thesis in 1973. Around the corner is this other room, there is the bar and the glass shelves behind where the bowling trophies sat. I've seen photos of the family gatherings held down in that finished basement.

Back into the kitchen. How crowded it was when we all showed up for holiday meals. What great treats came out of that space, especially patitsa (not sure of the spelling, but it's Slovenian nut roll), and those fabulous Christmas cookies. I remember all the times we sat around the kitchen table trading stories and learning family history.

Fortunately, we sold the house before the snow melted and revealed the junkyard next door. The random piles of rocks and lumber, a dilapidated green house, a broken down car, stagnant ponds--all the property of an alcoholic forty something man who used to beat his own mother. He would also holler at Kathy's parents at all hours of the night. Now I'm not a combative type, but after I heard about his late night haranguing, I confronted him about it the next afternoon and told him to knock it off, trying to embarrass him about bothering old people. I just cut loose and hollered right back at him. Kathy tried to get me back in the car and was afraid the neighbor would retaliate somehow. I figured him for a coward and I was right. He never did it again.

Anyway, it looks like this chapter of Kathy's and her sisters' lives is closing, as their childhood home passes to new owners. And our anniversary dinner is postponed for another week.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dad's forward

My father doesn't forward much, but he sent me this one and it's terrific:

Amish boy and his father were in a mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again. The boy asked, "What is this Father?" The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is." While the boy and his father were watching with amazement, a fat old lady in a wheel chair moved up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order. Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous 24-year-old blonde stepped out. The father said quietly to his son... "Go get your mother."

Ok, here's the plan

First of all, thanks to all who offered advice on how to handle the ring thing this coming weekend.

Ann, and WannaBeMom and Rebecca, I see what you mean, that doing it on the very day would appeal to my “J”.

Stacey, I like the way you think!

I hate to admit it, but Jeff might have something there, doing it at dinner, and Jennifer hit just the right note: suggesting sometime during dinner.

For me the whole thing would be the setting. If I waited until the following day, we’d be caught up in our Sunday routine of going to church, going grocery shopping. I suppose I could hide it in the frozen food section and have Kathy pull it out of the peas and corn in a kind of ‘celebrate the mundane’ of our lives sort of thing. But doing it at dinner, at a certain moment…that’s the ticket. I’ll have a little speech ready and the ring will magically appear.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What a week I'm having!

Since I seem to be staring at a computer screen all day at work lately, I didn’t even turn on my home computer all week. I need to check up on my fellow bloggers to see how everyone is doing. Here is a sampling of my week:

Max came over on Sunday and we had tons of fun outside for a change. He saw the flowers in the front yard and said, “These are beautiful! I call them’ tulips’.” We had to tell him they were really daffodils, and he was OK with that. Later in the week I went to his house and brought some modeling clay as a present, just to see what we could do with it. We wound up making awful reproductions of everyone in the Spongebob cartoon. When I left, he piped up, “Thanks for my treat, Da!” I know in ten years he won’t be that polite, so I’m enjoying it now.

At work one day we were just winding up a meeting, and there were about eight of us in the room. We were telling stories and getting ready to leave, and I was complaining about the tiny print on the bottle of glucosamine we give to Kodiak, the Great Dane/Lab mix we inherited. Out of blue, one of the guys says, “I took my dog’s medication for a week before I realized it.” We all just roared at that. “Do you have a strange affinity for fire hydrants now?” You can imagine the things we threw at him. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t leave the room for a few minutes.

We had a nice email from daughter Ann today. She had had her first job interview in Ireland and told us all about it. While the meeting didn’t go all that well, she is smart enough to gauge a business model and recognize a loser when she sees one. This company had only one client. She’s already been burned by a similar situation in the US. The one bright spot for me was that I knew all the places she mentioned in her letter: the train station, the mountains, the towns. I must say I felt like quite the world traveler.

Now I think I’m getting the flu and may just stay home tomorrow. Fortunately I’ve stocked up on library books for just such an occasion.

One last thing: I’m taking a poll. Women only may respond. (OK, Jeff, you may respond, but I may discount your opinion.) Here’s the deal: Our 34th anniversary is coming up on April 24. We are going to dinner on Saturday the 23rd. I have this really nice diamond ring I plan to give Kathy. The question is: should I give it to her at dinner, or the next day (our actual anniversary day)? Thanks for playing our game.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

He must have come straight from Heaven

Max was over today for couple of hours, and we spent the whole time in the backyard. We pulled out the basketball outfit we bought him last year and realized it was time to raise it up to four feet. At first he didn't like it and said he wanted it lower. We explained that we couldn't do that, but that he should give it a try. Sure enough, he was able to get the ball up and into the basket. He spent the afternoon racing all over the driveway and backyard, tirelessly, as only a toddler can. I was right there after him, as he would come perilously close to tripping over the dog's leash, or the storm drain, or a shadow on the concrete. His laces came loose on one sneaker, so I stopped him so I could tie them up. As I bent over to fix them his sweet little voice said in my ear, "I love you,'re my best friend!"

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Max and Ann

Max and Ann
Originally uploaded by careerguy.
Here is Max and Auntie Ann. She was his favorite because more than likely, she brought a dog or two with her on her visits. Now we have Kodiak full time, and Ann is on her way to Ireland. We may see her again at Christmas time. We'll see Max tomorrow, so we are consoled.

But it is only April...

We hit 72 degrees today. It felt wonderful to walk outside without a winter coat, scarf, and gloves, trudging through slushy mush on the way to the garage. I was able to clean out the flower bed in the backyard, scraping up the dead leaves and detritus left by winter.

It seems like an especially hard-won spring this year. Kathy’s mom died in September, so we had our first winter holidays without her. Her mom’s birthday was in January, another special day to remember. Then of course we had over 100 inches of snow. It seemed that we woke up most mornings with a fresh layer of two or three inches to clear off the driveway. (I’m a fanatic about getting down to the concrete after a snow. If you drive over it, the stuff turns to ice, am I right?) And the wind—it never seemed to quit this winter, battering the house from every direction, and freezing your ears if you weren’t careful outside.

Now we could finally be climbing out of those frigid icy days. Now you see people who’ve been holed up in their houses for the past five months doing the same springtime things you’re doing. The motorcycles have reappeared, with helmet-less riders that the ER nurses call “organ donors.” Children have flooded the streets with kickballs, baseballs, tennis balls—all sorts of things coming at you as you drive down the road, including the youngsters themselves.

Now I can take Kodiak in the backyard, tethered to a long leash, and he can protect his territory with his deep throated woof, while I sit secure on the deck with a new book.

How does one blog in the summer? My usual summer plan is to park myself outside and read books until it’s too dark to see. I wonder if I can keep up my blog responsibilities: writing and keeping up with friends’ blogs when I don’t have to sit trapped in the house by howling winter blasts. It will be a challenge.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

But the dog seems to be settling in.

Kathy and I drove to Chicago this weekend to pick up our adopted pup--Kodiak, an eight year old Lab/Great Dane mix. Our daughter can't take him to Ireland, and the deal with the next door neighbor to take him fell through. We had lots of fun as always, eating too much, as always. When we arrived on Friday afternoon we picked up daughter Ann and we all went to lunch. We paid with cash (this is an important detail, sometimes called a 'clue'), and left the restaurant sated at last, since we hadn't eaten anything for about nine hours. As we drove out of the parking lot, Kathy said, "John, isn't that your wallet on the hood?" And so it was. My wallet must have fallen out of my jacket pocket in the parking lot, and some kind soul picked it up and placed it on the hood by the windshield wiper. We said a quick prayer of thanks and blessed our unknown Good Samaritan. I stopped the car and Kathy plucked the errant accessory off the hood and gave it to me. All the credit cards, cash, expired auto club cards and quite active bank cards were all there. For the rest of the trip, Kathy kept asking me, "Do you have your wallet?" I can't ever be trusted again.

Apparently we missed a ferocious snow storm while we enjoying springtime in Chicagoland. Cleveland got about six inches of snow, breaking our old record for total snowfall. It all melted by the time we returned today, but we still didn't miss all the fun of the storm: the power was out in our neighborhood! We had no heat, no lights, certainly no computer until about half an hour ago. The waterbed is too cold to use tonight, so we're in the guest room.

Time to catch up on all the blogs I've missed reading.