Archive for June, 2005

Jun 29 2005

Published by under Uncategorized

I don’t think I’ve watched as much teevee in the past 20 years as I have in the past couple of weeks. My Mom always has the tv on (ironically, since my parents would hardly let us watch any tv when we were kids) in the hospital, even though she’s asleep half the time. It seems rude to read, so I just watch tv with her, whether she’s awake or not.

The result of this is that I’ve really gotten into ER, about a million years after the rest of the world. There I am, just doors away from a real ER*, watching it on tv (back-to-back episodes at 10 and 11!). My sister, who works in a real ER, just rented the first season on DVD, and when we’re done at the real hospital, we go home and watch the tv one together. Is that weird?

One thing I definitely know is weird is pet food commercials. The makers of these gross-out fests seem to be laboring under the delusion that dogs and cats shop for their own food. No self-respecting cat I ever met would deign to do such a mundane errand, and dogs never know what’s good for them, so the people end up doing the buying.

News for pet food purveyors: We ain’t gonna eat the food. So close-ups of gelatinous brown chunks don’t make us want to buy them. It makes us want to blow them. Got it?

*There’s some debate in my sister’s hospital about renaming the Emergency Room the Emergency Department, since it’s more than one room and everything else is a department. And the ER staff I’ve seen here are nowhere near as cute as the ones on tv. Go figure.

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Jun 24 2005

And they call it puppy love

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Warning: Extreme puppy cuteness….you have been warned….click at your own risk….

Rumor had it that one of the nurses at the hospital had puppies at her house. Five week old Labradors, to be precise. Now, we all know that rumors can be ugly things, but this one turned out not only to be true, but there wasn’t a trace of ugliness about it. See for yourself:

Exhibit A; and

Exhibit B.

Here they are, being nursed by their mama (when she got tired of it, she stood up, and they rolled around like little fuzzy balls).

And here they are, getting ready to pile up for a nap.

Happiness truly is, as Charles Schultz so famously remarked, a warm puppy. Or seven.

6 responses so far

Jun 22 2005

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How to be very, very unpopular:

Sleep in Mom’s trailer.

Wake up early, yanked out of sleep by the prospect of visiting the trailer’s official resident in the hospital (I have now spent enough time there to recognize the nurses by their voices – no visual aids required).

Go to bathroom at sister’s house across the yard.

When exiting bathroom, scare the friend who stayed over last night and was on her way into the bathroom, unaware that anyone else was awake.

Friend says there is coffee in sister’s house. Already made. Just sitting there seductively.

Given the looming hospital visit and the unbeatable allure of caffeine to the uncaffeinated, go in house.

Entrance announced by three large barking dogs.

Barking wakes up sister, who is famously unable to get back to sleep after she’s woken up.

Sister comes downstairs and asks, “When you almost never get up before 10 in the morning, why did you have to pick the morning of the day I’m starting three 12 hour night shifts to get up early?” (Note: she’s an Emergency Medical Technician, so it’s not like she’s just going to the office to play with paper and pens.)

I say something about coffee. She’s so scary I’m afraid to answer what was almost certainly a rhetorical question. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to say that I pretty much get up by 8 most mornings.

She points out that there’s coffee in the trailer.

“But not already made,” I tell her.

She looks at me with great disgust and says, “You know better than to come in the house.”

Now I do. And you do, too.

6 responses so far

Jun 20 2005

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It’s not only a small world, it’s positively minuscule:

The World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm really is. You may not believe it, but there is irrefutable proof: the walls of the restaurant are covered with postcards from visitors from all over the world. What induces people from Holland and Venezuela to visit the little town of Cloverdale, California, I have no idea, but they do. And when they do, they eat at the World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm, just like me.

On my last visit, I noticed a postcard with an English stamp on it. On closer inspection, the postcard proved to have been written by none other than my sister Beth, who lives in England.

Later the same day, when checking into my motel near the hospital, the clerk, on learning my last name, asked me if Jonathan was related to me. Now, in my brother’s younger, wilder days, I wouldn’t necessarily want to admit the truth, but now that he’s a respectable pillar of the community, I’m pretty fearless about the general public knowing he’s my brother.

So I fessed up, and then asked her if she knew him as a firefighter or a teacher, and she said, “Neither – I’m his dental hygenist.”

2 responses so far

Jun 17 2005

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I got a ride to the hospital with my brother-in-law this morning. Riding with him is like an amusement park ride, as you are tossed around his truck while he careens around curves at high speed. It almost (but not quite) eliminated the need for caffeine. We stopped off in Mendocino to get caffeine, where I discovered that I had no money at all, not even change, so he had to buy me an espresso, too.

I must be running out of brain cells. Yesterday I kept trying to open the car trunk with my house key. It took me three tries to figure out what was wrong. Now, if I could only get a brain transplant…

I went to the Safeway after they carted my mother off to chemotherapy and got a) money; 2) the latest In Style magazine. I confess that I bought an embroidered skirt with tiny mirrors on it in Berkeley last week, but I promise I’m not turning into a hippie.

4 responses so far

Jun 15 2005

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My sister Beth is on her way back to England this morning. We sent her on her way with a merry little earthquake as an after-dinner treat. I have to say you feel the earthquakes more in a little house in the country than you do in an apartment in the city. It’s quieter, however: more shake, less rumble. Beth found it a little unnerving, though personally I’m more disturbed by the Giants’ seemingly unending losing streak. At least the Yankees are doing badly, too. Maybe neither of them will make it to the playoffs this year.

As the night turned to another bright day, heralded by the seagulls and sea lions and the anxious voice of the foghorns, I wondered if Jonathan or Beth was lying awake, too, and thought of Megan, who was working yet another long night. I wondered if our mother was sleeping her narcotic sleep, or battling her fear and pain. I thought of the long, strange journey that had brought us together yet again under the California stars. Our paths started together, diverged – sometimes by thousands of miles – but we always come back together.

3 responses so far

Jun 14 2005

Published by under Uncategorized

I had been warned of the hazards of country driving, including how cows have to be scared straight by cattle grating in order to keep them in order. However, they never seem to be on the road. They are spectacularly unadventurous, and merely watch you with no particular interest as you drive by. Now, if you were a bale of hay, or a salt lick….

Live cows, however bored, are much, much better than dead deer. I came around a curve (the roads up here are curvier than Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe) and saw a dead fawn right in my way. It was too late, and too dangerous, to try and avoid it, so I actually drove right over the poor thing, squeaking with horror. I will never forget that horrible bump. I drove for a while with my hand over my mouth like the girly girl I am.

My fawn fright was nothing compared to my sister Beth’s early-morning brush with the Reaper, who was probably on his way to the hospital, too, to see if he could finally persuade Mom to come with him (he didn’t, as usual). Beth was driving across a bridge which is more than 100 feet above the river, and infamous among the locals after a logging truck jacknifed and went straight over the edge – and the driver survived*.

Anyway, Beth became aware that the idiot behind her was trying to pass her. The idiot was not aware that a logging truck was bearing down on his side of the road, so Beth, showing remarkable calm and judgment, braked hard enough to let the idiot pass her and the truck and live another day. The logging truck driver, undoubtedly recalling the infamous accident, was gesturing and swearing as he passed my sister. So both of my sisters were life savers that day, and only one of them needed coffee.

*My brother was one of the firefighters who rescued the driver. He said he’s never heard anyone scream like that. The community rallied around the driver, and little pails were set up at various stores to collect money to help with his hospital bills. Some guy actually got caught stealing from the collection pail at the Gas’n’Grub, and was arrested. Who says small town life is boring?

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Jun 12 2005

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This bright, sunny Sunday afternoon, the church bells are ringing out. I wonder whether they are calling out for worship, a wedding, a funeral? A beginning? An end? A comfort? Hope? There’s something about a Sunday afternoon that’s always a little melancholy, invoking thoughts of homework still undone, the week-end at its end, the duties in the week ahead.

I think of my mother, still battling the disease that will eventually win – and there is no winner when it’s your own body that’s attacking and killing you. I think of my sister and brother, who have borne this almost unconscionable burden for more than two years now: watching the woman whose body gave them life destroy itself. This in the wake of our beloved father’s death. It is truly amazing what the human spirit can overcome. I love and admire my siblings – including my older sister, who has tirelessly crossed the Atlantic and the entire US of A to help shoulder the burden and give us the gift of calm – more than I can ever say. They are nothing but courage and love.

I think my mother is surviving by a combination of stubbornness and fear of death. I do. I feel the echo in myself. I’ve always been afraid of death. I’m afraid of my impending orphanhood, much as I wish for my mother to be released from her pain and fear. I don’t want to think about the present or the future, with all the fear and uncertainty. I want to remember the past, when I had my parents and my grandparents, and it seemed that nothing could go wrong.

5 responses so far

Jun 10 2005

Birthday BBQ

Published by under Family,Jessica,Special Occasions

On the other hand, there were a flock of birthdays to celebrate, not just Mine (Megan’s on May 25; Mine on June 4; Erica’s on June 5; Caleb’s on June 3). So Meg threw a big barbecue for us, starring fabulous grilled veggie kabobs, grilled shrimp, turkey burgers, and two works of art disguised as cake, made by the multi-talented Erica.

This is Megan’s cake. Called “Key Lime Trauma”, it features an ambulance going to the rescue of an overturned car. Fortunately, this time the blood is chocolate. The blue-flecked meringue is the ocean. For those of you who don’t know, Meg’s an EMT.

My cake, however, was a glorious chocolate mocha dream, covered with buttercream and roses. The rose in the middle is called Sweet Jessica….

…But this is the real Sweet Jessica, Erica’s daughter and greatest work of art.

And this is as maternal as you’ll ever see Me.

6 responses so far

Jun 08 2005

Bad Birthdays

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I really need to do a better job with my birthdays. Recently, they have gone from bad to worse:

The One After Dad Died
My first birthday after Dad died was also my 40th birthday, a landmark birthday for most girls. Farewell, lovely youth! Hello, getting older and older. Dad and I had planned to go to Italy together so I could be in Pompeii and Herculaneum on my birthday, thus being surrounded by things that were older than Me. Instead, I stayed home and rode the bummer.

The One in the Hospital
Last year, I spent my birthday in the hospital, with a friend who needed particularly nasty and invasive tests, a ride home, and room service while recovering. Though I was truly glad to be able to help, it was not at all festive.

The One with the Hospital and Too Much Driving
This year, Mom had taken a turn for the worse just days before my birthday, so we all flew to her bedside (literally, in the case of my sister Beth, who lives in England). But she swerved out of it with the enthusiasm of a kid who finally gets to borrow the car for the night. She was comatose the first few days I was here, but now has recovered to the point that she is demanding to be taken shopping. While I can certainly understand this, it isn’t practical when you’re unable to stand or walk, need intravenous morphine or dilaudid every 2 or 3 hours, and have a catheter, along with broken ribs from the sheer force of the cancer at work. She also has tumors in her brain and liver. The Reaper calls her “The One Who Got Away”.

After spending the morning with Mom, I got to drive 3 hours to Santa Rosa, wait 2 hours in the blazing sun for the movers to bring more stuff to Mom’s storage (which took all of 10 minutes), and then got to drive the 3 hours back. Not at all festive, and quite exhausting.

I think the answer is to stop having (or noticing) my birthdays. Maybe I won’t get any older. I’m certainly not any wiser.

7 responses so far