Whatever Follows

dogwood on LakeviewWhatever might follow in the weeks ahead I have to say this has been one beautiful season, and in spite of the usual vacillations. Temperatures hit the mid-80s one day and four days later we came close enough to a hard frost that a baby maple I see every day took a nasty fright and went instantly crimson. Now as I write, a big wind is muscling around outside,  giving even the grass blades a stern combing-back.

I sometimes hear westerners say our old New England is just all damp and claustrophobic with lowering skies and too-near horizons.  I don’t see it that way. 

Anyhow it’s sure not that way now on these bright tangy days that have us all feeling happy and energized as we kick through the leaves and set out those jolly toy balloons that the world calls pumpkins. My own personal housemate got to feeling so energized last weekend that he climbed out on two of our roofs to prune the limbs of trees that in actual fact didn’t need pruning at all (but that’s just me.) I watched with my heart in my mouth as he executed one deep squat after another while balancing inches from roof’s edge and then extending to its farthest reach a 12-food pole with a lethal sickle on the end and – SNAP!  pulling the trigger. Here he is first contemplating the job…

dpm contemplating the job

And beginning to execute it…

dpm up hi to prune

I sent our visiting houseguest Machias out to spot him in case he started to pitch forward and fall. (Machias is six-foot-nine with a rower’s mighty legs so I thought he could maybe execute a rescue.)

machias spots him

 

 

 

 

But “I’M FINE!” insisted  my mate –

and by some stroke of luck he turned out to BE fine as this triumphant look testifies.

smilin' Dave on the roof w machias

Myself, I attempted no such feats of strength and balance that day. I just walked a few miles, set out some seasonal decorations and reveled in all this beauty.

Here was the sun that day, glowing still strong at 5pm, behind one of our front porch columns….

the porch oct 5pm

Then at the top here was the sun only moments later in the side yard, filtered through our little dogwood…

And finally, out back, here was the sun setting our neighbors’ tree even further aflame.

the neighbor's maple.jpg

All this was on the Saturday. Then, on the Sunday, we had the privilege of attending the wedding celebration of a couple who, together with their families, threw one amazing party.

the wedding of alli & angela.jpg

It took place on a hillside farm with 180 guests on hand to enjoy popcorn and cider, adult beverages of every kind and food that never stopped coming.

in the barn

Best of all, the two brides helped make the music. Bride Alli, from all I can tell, plays every instrument on God’s green earth and her band was playing; whereas Bride Angela, by her own admission not a trained singer, took the mic and spoke of the meaning this one particular song has for them both.  Then, at first softly, and then in full and glorious voice, performed “Hallelujah,”  by the late Leonard Cohen.

Here’s my favorite recording of this wonderful song, that today seems to me to capture all the beauty and longing of earth’s seasons, and even of our own too-short lives.

Advertisements

Some Last Thoughts on the Judge

img_0408Earlier this week I heard some things on NPR that gave me a slightly altered perspective on Brett Kavanaugh: Someone who knew him at Yale said he was always the one standing by the keg hoping to get the girl. “He never got the girl,” she added.

A friend who also knew him from Yale spoke of how surprised he and his friends all were to learn at graduation that he had done quite well, a fact he attested to last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through his whole student career, Kavanaugh said, (rather inelegantly) “I busted my butt in academics.”

And, as we now know, he also partied. Fifteen times in his testimony he spoke of beer. “I drank beer. I liked beer. I still like beer.” He wouldn’t answer when asked if he had ever had so much to drink that he blacked out. With a face contorted by anger at the presumption of this question by Senator Amy Klobuchar, he said, “I don’t know Senator, have you?”

So here’s a man about whom it can be said that he worked hard and he partied hard. Perhaps in his mind, as in many of our minds, he thought that the one thing justified the other. Many if not all prosperous Americans feel they richly deserve the fancy car, the ski vacation Aspen, the commodious house surrounded by wide green lawns, and never mind that others in this country also work hard; work at two, even three, jobs and stand at bus stops both in the dark of morning and in the dark of night. They know they can never let loose and party hard because of the silent judgment directed toward those who have less, especially if they are people of color or people otherwise judged as ‘other’. Think of the still closely-held belief that reveals itself in that old American taunt, “If you’re so smart why ain’t you rich?” That tells you what we value all right. The accumulation of wealth is the primary measure of a person’s worth.

Still, my mind keeps returning to this image of that 19- or 20- or 21-year-old boy who stood so often by the keg hoping to get the girl and rarely got her. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was virgin in high school and “for many years after.” I’ll admit I laughed out loud on hearing that last week in my car but maybe it was true. I know that most of my classmates were virgins in high school, as I was myself. And I dare say most of us stayed that way for one or two years after but not for ‘many years’. By the age of 19 or 20 most of us had begun seeing ourselves as adults and were getting about the business of living. And I do understand that the world was different then. This was in the later mid to late part of the 1960s. But in the self-indulgent, feel-good 80s Brett Kavanaugh was still clinging to his virginity for those many years he speaks of? That strikes me as both sad and unlikely.

I know the Senate will likely have cast their vote to move the nomination forward before I get these scattered thoughts posted. Still, I had to set them down. The Judge’s notions – as well our own notions of what we are entitled to – expose dark trends in our possession-loving American hearts. We want what we want and we’re sure we deserve what we want. And that’s the best way I can state it at the moment.

Can’t Cook, or Clean, or Do Laundry

I still can’t cook, or clean, or do laundry. That’s what the surgeon still says, God help me.

It’s been some summer I’ve been having, as full of twists and turns as the classic Wild Mouse ride that almost yanks your head clear off the celery-stalk of your dear little neck. (Or wait, maybe it’s more accurate to call those twists and turns ‘ups and downs’ in honor of all the Big Boy roller coasters out there.)

The story is, I had one of the tendons in my shoulder repaired in mid-June and it’s kind of sad, because even all this way through August I dread the nights for the pain that they bring. When you’re moving around as you do during the day, see, you’re sort of ok, in part because your movements pump the healing blood up into the site, a badly needed thing since, as I understand it, the shoulder doesn’t have much of a blood supply on its own. Most nights, by contrast, I’m so sleep-deprived I keep thinking I’m the parent of a newborn again,

Ah but the mornings! The mornings this summer have been lovely. This is the view from the guest bedroom, a view I relished every morning as I sat sling-bound in my rented recliner chair. fullsizeoutput_5127

So an undeniable upside has been having the time to look out the window at Nature.

A second downside, however, is I can’t near do near enough walking, since walking any real distance makes the pain in my shoulder worse. (Now if I were a NUN, gliding along on the roller skates my sister Nan and I always suspected the nuns in our convent school had hidden under their robes, it probably wouldn’t hurt much at all.)

But the upside there? I’m getting a LOT of reading done.

A third downside is that I can’t blowdry my hair. Oh, I can wash it, sort of, using my one functioning arm. I just CANNOT lift both arms in the way you need to do to blow it dry. And without blowdrying, my hair looks like a stainless steel  scouring pad after months of use when it loses its integrity and just splays out in runaway coils. I shouldn’t complain about that, I know, because now I get to go to this walk-in salon where I can get any one several operators to style and blowdry my hair FOR  me – and really only once did I get a stylist who gave me a definite Phyllis Diller look.

2007-16081

Fourth downside, and I’ll stop here, I promise:

I can’t wear the contact lenses I have relied on for nearly 30 years. I just can’t get them IN, where I need both hands for that operation and I can’t get my dominant hand anywhere near my eye. I’ve never worn glasses in my life until now and frankly I’m not doing so well with the whole progressive lens thing. But the upside here if I’m honest?  What I’m really doing this summer is getting a whole lot of binge-watching in, and God bless the invention of TV!

So here we are…

 I slept poorly last night, natch, but again this morning I woke to a matchless summer dawn.  Below, the view from my office-that-is-an-office-no-more since I’ve left the column-writing game but is instead just an airy upstairs room that anyone at all can relax in. In fact you guys should come by anytime! I have a fridgeful of eats from the Prepared Foods aisle and I can show you my newly mastered trick of tucking in the top sheet on even a king-size bed using just my own little toes.

(Click on the video if it looks askew. It plays right when you do.) 

 

The Upside of Being on the DL

I think where I last left off in this absorbing tale  I was two days out of surgery and throwing up on my new recliner ‘lift’ chair, an apparatus that still looks to me like a still from a Stephen King movie where somebody’s long-suffering furniture comes alive and goes after its idiot owner.

IMG_0229

Today though, I’ll spare you further grisly tales and say only that there are real silver linings to recovering from an operation. I mean, where would the world be without the caregivers, whether paid or voluntary? Immediately after ‘losing it’ in that grab–the-towels way,  I called two RN friends, both of whom manifested like a couple of  heavenly apparitions, one bearing an analgesic far less terrifying than the oxy the surgeon had prescribed. (And THAT stuff, whoo! You take it and you still have the pain, all right. You just also have a whole lot of other weird sensations too. On oxycodone I felt like a wildly scrambled swirl of hurt wrapped up in a cotton candy cocoon.)

Besides remembering that I was the recipient of a lot of good care in those first weeks spent feebly sitting around in my ice-filled sling I now recall watching a super long, multi-episode documentary about the Roosevelts.  Visitors came and went and I would greet them with  “Look! It’s the Roosevelts!” to which most would reply, in somewhat puzzled fashion, “Ah yes, the Roosevelts.”

I also remember in this early time of confinement actually looking at some of the seeming thousands of catalogs that drop through my mail slot every week . It seems I am now officially, and universally, targeted as a likely customer for catalogs with names such as “A Time for Me”, whose translation might as well be “Make Your Own Damn Dinner,” and “As We Change,” whose primary message is “Of Course WE Like Your New Mustache But Should You Ever Wish to Get Rid of it Our Newly Patented Mini-Taser Will Do the Job Nicely.)  Mostly of course such catalogs are marketing just two main items: (1) Loose-fitting clothing and (2) Vibrators. Who knew?

And look at that: Even setting down such a racy observation shows me that now, with the knife eight whole weeks in my past, I’m at last getting back my ability to smile. 🙂

24 Hours Post-Op

The initial 24 hours following my rotator cuff surgery were event-filled all right, but mostly for the hidden gifts they brought me.  The first gift came when, on returning home just two hours after the surgeon had packed up his saws and chisels, I saw that my friend Sarah had alighted like a benevolent fairy on this house and left an entire meal, along with an array of wildflowers that looked like they were straight from the opening scene of The Sound of Music. She had even set the table with two goblets, a nice wine for David and some sparkling water for me.

I ate it all, if a tad tentatively, then spent that first night quaking with dread over the  real pain that was sure to ensue, while an electric ice machine with a Mr. Snuffleupagus-like snout nuzzled around inside my giant brace.

post surgery sling brace

I’m pretty sure that by morning David couldn’t get off to work fast enough, but THAT WAS OK, THAT WAS FINE because we both knew I had a heavenly host of caregivers – well, two caregivers – arriving at 9:00.

Aisha was the actual caregiver and Gayle was her supervisor. Gayle had come twice before, first to interview me the week before the operation and again several days later to lend me two chairs, one for the shower and one with rails to set over the toilet, this one being designed so that, having sat down, a person could hopefully, with a mighty one-armed effort, stand up again without pitching over into the wall and onto to the floor.

Aisha was from Uganda as she told me, and a more sensitive companion I could not have asked for. I vaguely remember her helping me down the stairs and settling me into the amusement park ride of a reclining lift chair we were told to procure. I recall the two of us speaking at first about Idi Amin and Lake Victoria and later about how meaningful she finds it, in her other job at the nursing home, to sit in the presence of the dying. Weeks after her visit I came upon the notes she had made about her time with me. She called me ‘a wonderful lady’  – this in spite of my exceedingly sparse knowledge of her home country – and added that I was “alert and oriented. “Ask her what she wants you to do for her and she will let you know. She has been a little shaky walking but is generally very strong. The shift is ending now at 3:30, and Terry is resting in her chair. She has had plenty to drink but has eaten very little.”

Eating very little doubtless because within an hour of her departure I threw up and lost not only the breakfast in bed that my mate had made for me but all of Sarah’s lovely food from the night before. “David! Dodson! A bowl!” I yipped to my husband and honorary son seconds before it was too late,  but didn’t they hurry into the living room, the dears, reassuring me that this was no big deal and quickly wiping away all the ‘evidence’.

This was just the first 24 hours of my 50-days-and-counting post-op period and if it will help any other candidates for this surgery I can tell about other days as well. I can’t write in my diary yet – too painful to hold a pen – so this serves as a record for me as well.

In the meantime here are Dodson and David way back in the old days when ONE of them, at age 18, was still just a little shy about open displays of affection. 🙂

Dodson and Dave '90

One Bad Wing

All through May and half of June I knew I was about to have the famously painful rotator cuff surgery, and what I pictured was so bad it practically scared the hair coloring right off my head. Day and night I lived in the kingdom of panic.

HOW, for example, would I go about the so-called Activities of Daily Life with my dominant arm immobilized in the large contraption I would have to wear day and night for six or eight or even (gad!) ten weeks? What about bathroom tasks? Should I be fashioning hundreds of little ‘corsages’ out of toilet paper like the ones we made from Kleenex for our moms when we were kids? I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach over that big sling/brace to reach the ol’ Charmin roll, affixed to the wall on my dead side as it is. 

toilet paper carnations

And what about feeding myself? How would I one-handedly slide a baking-panful of heavy raw chicken into the oven, much less heave a pot of water onto the stove for pasta? How would I even SEE, since I wouldn’t be able to reach my eyes to put in my contacts?

“You can lift a coffee cup and a fork and that’s it,” the surgeon’s assistant had told me a month before Scalpel Time. “You cannot send your arm out to the side. You cannot  lift it to the front. And you, cannot, under any circumstances, reach it behind you. BUT HEY YOU’LL BE FINE!” he crowed gaily. “Just think of yourself as half a T-Rex with one tiny arm!”

As warnings go, these were dire but they were honest too. And once the knives and saws and drills came out on June 14th at two o’clock in the afternoon, I set aside all feelings of dread and got down to the business of getting through.

The surgeon did too. He and his team yanked the two ends of my severed tendon together and stitched it over with what I picture as the kind of indestructible packing tape you use when you’re mailing packages. He drilled and sawed and sewed for two-plus hours and sent me home three hours after that with the admonition that I was not to lie down for eight weeks but rather sleep sitting up, either propped with a million pillows in the bed or else in a reclining ‘lift’ chair.

That was almost seven weeks ago and during all this time I haven’t been able to write with a pen. Even keyboarding hurts like the devil. Oh but there have been  so many things I have wanted to say here, most of them not even about this procedure! I just wanted to get this grisly tale told first.

post rotator cuff 'graffiti'a week post-op

So yes, I’m severely limited still. Flossing too is about impossible, I can’t drive and I couldn’t chop an onion if I wanted to. But just thinking here about those toilet paper corsages has me smiling, and that’s something all by itself. 🙂

 

Call Me Eeyore

eeyore quoteBack in the long-ago 90s I did therapy for six months (a) because I felt sort of busily jazzed up trying to save the world at all times and (b) because my husband thought I should. Maybe he detected a sadness under all my over-functioning I don’t know. I started going all right but every time I went to that therapist’s office I could tell her how everyone else in my life was but not how I was. After a few sessions she told me that as fascinating as my lively tales about other people were, she felt frustrated that I couldn’t talk about myself. If there was sadness underneath all my rushing-about what WAS that sadness? Darned if I knew.

Well LIFE SURE CURED THAT and these days anyway I do know why I’ve been so sad, so off my game, at times so bereft-feeling at times that this mate of mine sometimes finds me standing outside the bathroom door waiting for him to come back out. (I know! Pathetic!)

So, without further talk, here is my litany of reasons for sadness, some general, some specific to me.

  • Like so many of us, I am still sad  that we lost Bobby Kennedy. Fifty years ago this coming Saturday I watched his funeral and well do I remember the quaver in the voice of his one remaining brother as he gave the eulogy,  and the sight of his children crowding around his casket, and the sight of is that widow, newly pregnant with the couple’s 11th child.
  • Again, like many of us, I am sad about the changing climate with its ever-more-devastating weather events. I’m very sad that we in this country are doing so little to ward off what looks to be the very dire consequences.

Less catastrophically,  I’m sad about my own small stuff:

  • I’m sad about the way time is passing so fast. I can still picture the color, style and fabric of the dress I wore the day they buried Bobby, and now I am… how old? I said to my mate only last Christmas, “Just think! In 15 years I’ll be 73!” “Um,” he replied with a kind smiled, “in 15 years you’ll be 83.” Where did it all go?
  • I’ve been very sad that I can’t seem to write much anymore. It just hurts to sit, to stand, even to lie down for any length of time with a spinal column that has come to resemble a Crazy Straw the way it veers right up by my bra-line, then veers sharply left around my hips, then ends with a flourish of two additional veerings that together deliver pain not only to my back but also clear down one leg. Sigh.
  • I’m sad about my digestion-related insides since I now have “bacterial overgrowth” in there, which is diagnosed by having one blow air into a glass tube and send it off  in the mail. That part was kind of fun, to be honest, a little like capturing fireflies – only these turn out not to be fireflies at all but rather a dense civilization of little sea monkeys as I picture them. These tiny tenants  now renting space in there have apparently moved in for keeps, the doctor says, so that for the rest of my life if I wish not to suffer I can’t eat wheat, barley, dairy or really any kind of sugar including the innocent fructose that comes in apples peaches, nectarines and so on. Who wouldn’t get sad on being told this news?
  • And finally, to conclude this tale of woe, I am about to have rotator cuff surgery, which sounds both so picturesquely dreadful and immobilizing that I’m actually looking forward to the adventure of it . More on THAT another day.

So there it all is and maybe that stern therapist was right: I do feel better for having told all this.  Also, there’s a real upside to the thought of being unable to so much as wash a dish or fold a pair of underpants for ten whole weeks. Plus anyway come on: Who doesn’t love sea monkeys?

sea-monkeys