Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
January is coming to a close and not a moment too soon. In the first place, I don't much like January. A year ago one of the local magazines asked me to " give us your thoughts about January." I told them at the time that I had no thoughts about January. At least none that were especially insightful or printable even. They were undeterred by my candor. " Why don't you try reeeeeeeally hard and come up with some? And do it in 500 words and get it here next Sunday."
Secondly, this has been a particularly rough January. My excellent friend Wendy maintains that "bad stuff always happens in January." Bad stuff certainly paid a visit to our little family unit this January with all of Mother's travails. If that were not depressing enough, the weather has exceptionally nasty so far this month. I bet I played golf 4 or 5 times last January. I have touched a club once this month and that was around New Year's. Indeed, the Country Club of Arkansas, whose course I regularly desecrate, has been closed for a week due to the cold weather which required them to put tarps on the greens. That's unheard of around here.
Yesterday, we had a minor ice storm here in the Central Arkansas area. Most schools and businesses closed early although after the initial blast in the morning it wasn't too bad. John and I were going to take his son Clarke over to Catholic High last night so Clarke could witness for himself a historical anomaly: a halfway decent Rocket basketball team. Unfortunately, all high school games in the area were cancelled, although I did see in the paper this morning where Catholic's Principal and Maximum Dictator Mr. Straessle said that Saturday detention hall would be open for business same as usual. Somewhere, Msgr. George Tribou, Straessle's late mentor, is smiling down approvingly.
Although the streets weren't bad last night I decided, along with everybody else in the neighborhood, to stay in. I finished up Garry Wills' new book "Head and Heart-American Christianities," I had some bacon and I found some eggs so I made an omelet. I opened a bottle of wine and I perused what is far and away my favorite Christmas present from last Christmas: A cookbook authored by my old law school buddy Don McCormick.
The work, which he imaginatively named "Cookbook," is more than just the collected recipes of a serious foodie (which he certainly is) it is also a love letter to his daughters Caroline and Annie in which he recreates not only the recipes of the meals he prepared for the girls as they were growing up but most of the various dishes compiled therein (and there are about 75 or so-like I said this boy is serious about food) have a story attached to them.
From the Dedication and Foreword: " [E]very time I think about any of these recipes I think about how much fun it was cooking with the two of you and how much I enjoyed our meals together."
Chicken and Mushroom Gravy: " Annie loves this. The gravy referred to as 'alternative' is the way I made it when you were little but the one with the cream is the one Annie asked for when she was in high school."
Pasta with Red Chicken Sauce: " We ate this a lot when you were growing up because it comes together very quickly and is well-suited to school night suppers. When Caroline wasn't eating meat I prepared the tomato sauce in one pot and the chicken in another, then poured most of the sauce over the chicken, reserving a Caroline sized portion in the first pot, which actually speeds up the cooking process."
Macaroni and Cheese I: " One of the household's favorite TV shows was one featuring Issac Mizrahi, a clothing designer who had his own TV show for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, although he was pleasant enough."
Basic Chicken Soup: " Your mom had a good friend in law school who showed her how to make Jewish-mother-style chicken soup this way. He used to be a prosecutor in San Diego but is now a criminal forfeiture specialist in Marina Del Ray assisting drug dealers recover property seized by the government. Charles Manson had a lawyer too, but I hope he didn't get rich off of it."
And a long-forgotten (by me at least) conversation with me about homemade barbecue sauce: " He adds about a half cup of Kentucky Bourbon-something not too expensive and with that Kentucky edge, Jim Beam. He says he has seen recipes that call for using Knob Creek in barbecue, and I agree with him that to put high-end whiskey into barbecue sauce is wasteful silliness. The editorial board is offering a whiskey exchange program, so if you bought a high-end whiskey because a barbecue sauce recipe called for it, I will gladly exchange Old Crow or Heaven Hill for equal volumes of Knob Creek or Gentleman Jack."
"Cookbook' also contains numerous appendices (?) including "Persons Mentioned in the Text' in which Yours Truly is spoken of in terms that far more gracious than I deserve and a section entitled "Rejected Alternative Titles" such as "Yes, Way," "I Can't Hang On To A Wife But I Can Cook," "George Bush Is An Idiot," and my personal favorite, " Too Bad I Can't Sell This Because Writing Is Lots More Fun Than Practicing Law."
As I type this in my little study, the world outside the window is cold and gray. The weather man says it is supposed to reach the mid-fifties today but it had better get after it if it is going to make it. My excellent friend Rick and I would like to play golf on Sunday but I don't know. Even if it warms up it still may be too wet. But enough of this. January will soon pass. It is best on these gray days to contemplate those things that bring happiness any time regardless of the season. Things like "Cookbook." A more thoughtful and profound testament of a Father's love for his daughters (and in some smaller measure his friends) I can scarcely imagine. His girls are lucky to have him.
And so am I.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
And they say one person can't make a difference.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
" I went to Visions the other night."
" What you think?"
" It was alright. Had to kind of work at it to get a look at some titties. "
" Yeah. I'm from New York. It's a lot easier there. Here, I mean..Jesus...."
" Had to buy a damn drink. Had to pay the damn cover charge. Had to pay the only good looking one to pay attention to me."
"How's your lunch?"
" Spaghetti fills you up in a hurry.'
" Yeah it's good."
" So...you been to Peaches out over by..."
" The Air Base? Yeah. Once. And it was OK."
" Just OK?"
" Well...there was a girl up there that couldn't have been much older than my sister."
" Well, some of 'em look pretty young."
" No. She couldn't have been over 17."
" I mean, c'mooooonnnnnn. It's a titty bar. These girls...it's a job. You got to play the game. Some of 'em look young b/c all of them are on crack or something. I mean get real."
" My sister?"
"I ever see her up there I'll kill her."
" Yep. I'll be goddamned if my sister is gonna do that shit."
I cannot make this shit up.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
On the day that Mother's surgery was originally scheduled I had brought a book to read. Nurse Bob had brought his study materials for his Boards. And yet, neither of us could concentrate enough to read. I guess we were too distracted by worry. So we just talked.
Bob: "So how's work?"
Me: " Picking up. Things are getting busy after the Holidays. What's new at the nervous
Bob: " Not much. Just the usual. Oh! We did have something interesting last night."
Bob: " We got a guy up on the floor that drank himself deaf."
Me: "Drank himself deaf ?"
Bob: " Yeah, it's rare but it can happen. We got him some hearing aids and stuck him in rehab."
Me: " That's enough to almost make you swear off drinking. Almost."
As for me, my hearing, though not what it once was, is still pretty good. One thing you notice about hospitals is that every kind of person in the world is in there. When I go to Conway, I'm either at Hendrix College, my brother's house or the nursing home. It is easy to forget that Faulkner County is still a pretty rural redneck kind of place. And the snippets of conversation I would get here and there from the other inmates were pretty interesting.
There was the group of folks with Midwestern accents talking about breeding Yorkshire terriers. There were a couple of pentecostal looking gentlemen, probably brothers, one brandishing a fine looking walking stick who passed the time arguing the respective merits of Lincolns versus Cadillacs.
Here's an exchange between an elderly gentleman and a female friend. They evidently hadn't seen each other in awhile and were catching up on old news.
She: " Are you still selling cars?"
He: " No. I'm retired from the car lot."
She: " I see."
He: " I am still preachin' though."
And this from a young married couple on Sunday afternoon:
He: " I hope we can get back home in time for the Cowboys game."
She: " What time does it start?"
He: " Three.'
She: " There's no way we can get back by three."
He: " That's not what I want to hear."
She: " We can get back in time to watch the second half."
He: " That's really not what I want to hear."
My guess from the exasperated look on his wife's face is that hubby was probably making a serious rookie mistake. I hope he has a comfortable couch because I bet he got to sleep there. By the way, in case you missed it, the Cowboys lost all because Tony Romo's mind was all befogged by Jessica Simpson. A bad day all around for our hero.
I glanced at daytime television from time-to-time during my stay there. I had never really considered how many "fake judge" shows there were out there. The one I watched involved a dispute between two black drag queens who, at the urging of the judge, ended their differences and reconciled. The show ended with them doing their act in open court for the gallery thereby fully restoring my faith in the dignity and majesty of the law.
Another thing about Conway that I noticed during my incarceration at the hospital was that there is a strong fundamentalist, evangelical presence there that you tend to forget about when your Faulkner County exposure is limited to the high church Methodist types over at Hendrix. Conway Regional is not affiliated with any religious group unlike Baptist and St. Vincent's here in Little Rock. But there were flyers up on the wall in the waiting room advertising lectures from local ministers about various subjects that were scheduled there at the hospital. Indeed, the man that did Mother's surgery-a very nice man who did a good job as far as we can tell- was offering a public lecture on the "Christ-Centered Medical Practice." You certainly wouldn't see anything like that at St. Vincent's or UAMS.
Further, the religious literature on hand in the waiting rooms I spent time on were all of a crazy "Brand X" theological persuasion. Particularly insane was one little booklet entitled "Day of Battle Strength to Stand" published by heretofore unknown to me Basic Training Ministries out of Hot Springs.
This curious little book starts out by stating that "The military is an honorable profession and killing in battle is neither wrong nor sinful. The Christian filled with the Holy Spirit and made strong with God's word should kill the enemy calmly and professionally" (emphasis supplied).
As if that weren't whacked out enough, the pamphlet goes on to describe the US as "God's client nation" and referred to the earthly ministry of Jesus as a PSYOPS mission in the Middle East in which Jesus was killed in battle. If you desire further instruction along these lines please click here.
This nonsense is supposed to sustain the sick and comfort the dying? Which is the point of hospital waiting room literature isn't it? What's going on out there?
Mother was discharged back to the nursing home last Monday. So I don't have to go back to Conway Regional again for, it is hoped, a long time. I left there thinking that some people live in a world that is very different from my own, one in which people watch drag queens on one of those stupid "fake judge' shows and where Jesus is described as a warrior. That's not a bad thing necessarily. It's just not my world.
And I am glad.
To all of you who called, wrote, and sent text messages during the last ten days, you have my heartfelt gratitude. One thing you discover at times like this is you find out who your friends are. I can say without hesitation that my brothers and I are blessed to have tremendous friends and I can't thank you enough for your thoughts and prayers.
As I stated earlier, Mother is back at the nursing home. She is still in pain but she is basically comfortable. Her dementia is far more pronounced post-op than it was going in. We are hopeful that once she is through taking Vicodin that her mental status will clear. We shall see.
The immediate crisis is past and the road ahead is uncertain. But we will care for her to the best of our abilities with the primary emphasis being pain management during however many days lie ahead.
Thank you once again for everything.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
He said he would take care of it. He also explained that Mother is a tough case because she cannot really communicate due to her dementia. Secondly, they try to find that balance between pain management and over-medicating which is always an issue with the elderly. ( By the way, this surgeon used to live in Jackson. He is close friends with one of my little lawyer friends there whose name I invoked without ceasing. Small world, huh?)
Anyway, eventually, the nurses showed up armed with Ativan and another shot of Demerol at twice the strength of the first one. This did the trick. Eventually Mother settled into a deep sleep. John showed up around two and Bob and I left. John called around 10pm to say that she had gotten another whopping shot at 8 and that she was asleep.
I have no yardstick in my head by which to measure all of this. Bob, being a nurse, is able to view this situation with some clinical detachment despite being emotionally involved. Me, I'm a lawyer. I just want to fix stuff.
Bob says they are doing a good job. Mom is a tough case. If they can't keep an IV in her then they will have to insert a central line which will mean more trauma. If they don't get the pain under control she may have a coronary. If they can't get her upright, pneumonia comes into play. You can't hardly give an elderly person aspirin. If you give 'em to much Demerol, well.....
This situation can't be fixed. It can only be managed. I know understand why they use that term so much in nursing now,
I do not see how she possibly be discharged tomorrow. But we shall see.
I'm off to Conway. Give my regards to the Outside World.
Friday, January 11, 2008
They took her back up to her room around 1:00 pm and amped up the Versed in her system with injections of Demerol and some anti-nausea drug the name of which my tired little brain cannot bring to the top. She is in a deep sleep and she won't wake up until 3:30 or 4 am. The nurse told me I was welcome to stay but that it might be kind of boring under the circumstances. So I came on home.
I think it is nothing short of astounding that they replace a hip in 45 minutes. I also think it is astounding that they can replace a hip in a deconditioned 85 year old woman without killing her dead in the process. This was not nearly the ordeal I has steeled myself for.
They will keep her over the weekend in order to make sure that the UTI has resolved itself and to manage the pain. They say they are gonna get her up and walking around tomorrow which I will have to see for myself. They are also gonna give her some PT in the nursing home although nobody believes that she will take up walking again just because she has a new hip.
As for me, if I am still awake at 9 I will be amazed. Spending time in the hospital will wear your ass out. I have been wrapped way tight since Tuesday and I guess that this condition was not exactly classified information judging from all of the text messages that said things like, " Maybe now you can relax." or "I hope you get some rest.' I thought I was more together than that. Guess not.
I will be spending time in Conway tomorrow and Sunday so this is about the last you will hear from me until next week. Thank you for all the calls, e-mails and text messages you have sent the last 2-3 days. It really helped. It really did.
We are realists over here. As Bob said, "Let's face it, this is the beginning of the end. But if we can add a pain free year to her remaining days, that's a good thing."
When they wheeled her out it occurred to me that I might never see her again. I saw her again.
So far so good.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
They are aggressively treating the infection with intravenous antibiotics to keep it from spreading to the fracture. They hope to have it sufficiently beaten down to do the surgery on Friday but we will have to see.
Obviously, this is not a good situation. Mother has inherited her mother's locomotive-like constitution. Her blood work is good and her lungs are clear. They are not going to intubate her. They can knock one of these hip jobs out in a couple of hours. They are confident that she will survive the procedure. But that's not the issue.
As one of the doctors told my brother Bob, "Either this will work or it won't."
The prospects for the long term are typically not good for elderly people that break their hips. But then again Mother is 84 or 85. Her long term prospects aren't all that good anyway.
There is a part of me that would be OK if she would just go ahead and leave this vale of tears before enduring any additional trauma. But none of us know the day nor the hour when we will go away. That is no less true with Mother.
She is stable. She is free of pain. There are people with her and we have hired a service to sit with her from 11pm to 7am. I have genuinely been impressed with the level of care Mother is getting from the staff there. And having a nurse for a brother who is buddies with all the docs up there does not hurt the situation one little bit.
We are doing the best we can. Either this will work or it won't.
My thanks to everyone who has called or written. I truly appreciate it.
And I will be back when I am back. I've talking to PM a couple of times a day. I will ask him to post here to let folks know what's going on.
Thank you once again for all of the kindnesses extended to me and the family.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
My old research and writing professor at Tulane used to say, "If there's a need for it, it probably exists." I cannot for the life of me believe there's actually a need for this particular book by this particular author. But here it is and you can't make it up.
OK. I made that last part up. But everything else is true.
I also may experiencing fever induced auditory hallucinations because I swear I hear chickens outside my window. But with my neighbors you never know.
Will return to this ministry as soon as the Tamiflu kicks in and I am restored to my usual state of vigorous good health.
But, as bad as I may feel right now, I'm doing better than Brittany Spears and her equally trashy little sister. As I asked a friend of mine earlier this morning, didn't those two receive any "instruction in the home" as they used to say? Then again, it would be hard to take away the keys to the BMW for doing coke and Stoli when your daughter is supporting the family.
Enough. I'm off to buy a small handgun.