Friday, February 12, 2016

I Want a Divorce

from my cell phone.

Yes, O Best Beloved, the thrill is gone!

I am tired of alarming texts warning of the dire consequences of exceeding the shared data plan, sick of unsubscribing from unwanted emails, fed up with apps that constantly scream to be updated.  And quite  done with all the chargers, both A/C and D/C, that either cannot be found or work only intermittently.

I want out of this God-forsaken union, but I hadn't really seriously formulated that thought until the last month, when...

I began having, on an almost daily basis, random images of a 1970s olive green, rotary wall phone pop into my technology-tired brain.  It's not just floating in space, though.  In my mind's eye, I see it securely attached to the wall in my kitchen in the here and now.  I long for this phone like I do for a decadent slice of cheesecake after an especially fine meal.  It is a phone from my childhood.

I remember fondly the way it felt to insert my index finger into the rotary dial and turn and release it. I remember the soothing sound of it whirring back to its starting place, and I remember the luxurious leisure of having seconds elapse before I could dial the next digit in the phone number.

But can we really turn back the clock?  Or the rotary dial for that matter?  Can we ditch our iPhones and still function with the people who keep and use theirs?  I've been pondering this, and I am sure we can.  The question is, will the benefits of losing the mini 'puter outweigh the negatives? Of this I am not yet decided, because for one, pay phones used to be widely available.  If you had need  of one because, say, you had a flat tire on your way to the grocery store, there was one at every gas station and corner store.

Now I see none.

In those carefree days of the public pay phone, I would blithely leap into my car and motor away, feeling confident and complete.  To the grocery store and beyond!  With. No. Phone.

Now, if I forget it, I often turn around.  And I die a little inside.

So I daydream of the old green wall phone and about how I might leave my iPhone balanced precariously on the right front fender of my car sometime soon.

The taste of freedom is sweet on my tongue.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Your Diagnosis, Please (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

I told the dispatcher the pertinent details about my dad, then told her about our electric gate at the entrance to our driveway and asked if I should go down to the road to open it for the ambulance.  She said, "No, give me the code."  I gave her the code and told her that the EMT's would have to get out and re-enter the code to close the gate as soon as they came in, because we have a milk cow who does not generally miss an opportunity to escape.  She assured me this was not a problem and would be communicated to the ambulance personnel.

With great difficulty, I managed to get Dad across the house and back in his recliner.  Emma arrived, which was a great comfort to me.

The ambulance pulled in, plus one EMT in his own Dodge diesel truck.  Soon the EMT's crowded into the family room where Dad was sitting.  I think there were three guys and one lady.  The lady, a redhead, began firing questions at me.

"What's his diagnosis?" she demanded.  I struggled mightily to figure out how to answer that question.  My dad has numerous health issues.  But she seemed to want one diagnosis that summed him up completely--one neat little label that would de-humanize him but efficiently generate a code and a treatment plan.  At least that is what ran through my mind.

I was at a loss.  Her stressful tactics were making it difficult for me to organize my thoughts.  "I can tell you what medications he is on," I volunteered weakly.  I started enumerating them, and one of the guys interrupted.  "He's also taking these," indicating several prescription bottles that he had rounded up from a basket in the breakfast room.

I went over, read the labels, and told him that Dad was no longer taking those medicines.  But the stress of the questions from the lady EMT, the effort of thinking about the prescriptions, and the sinking feeling I got from realizing that he had gone un-invited into another room and rifled through my parents' things just seemed to suck the life out of me.

Then the redhead asked me more questions and asked for Dad's ID and insurance cards.  I got them.

I began to wonder if the dispatcher had sent a SWAT team by mistake.  Maybe this was a drug raid, not medical assistance.

One of the guys asked my dad what year it was.

"1972," Dad answered.  I remembered that was the year Dad bought my mom a Volvo station wagon.  He gave me lots of talks back then about the built-in obsolescence he was seeing in American cars.  That's why he bought the Volvo.

"Who's the president?" the guy continued.

"Oh, I know," Dad said confidently.  "That colored fella."  I stifled a giggle.  He grew up in Alabama during the Depression.  He never has gotten the hang of calling negroes "black."

I tried to tell the redhead that I thought Dad might have a UTI and that his temperature had been slowly creeping up.  She was dismissive of my suggestion about a UTI and told me that they would now take Dad into the ambulance to evaluate him.

Suddenly, I remembered the gate and asked Emma to go check and make sure that they had closed it. They had not.  Luckily, Fiona had not seen it.

The redhead came back in to give me her report on Dad's evaluation.  "Everything checks out fine," she asserted.  "He is not a diabetic; his lungs are clear; his temp is 98.7.  The only thing wrong is his blood pressure is very high.  Of course, we can't do labs in the ambulance, so we'll go ahead and take him to the ER."

I wanted to tell her, "Why, thank you very much!  The only reason I called you was for you to take him to the ER!"  But I bit my tongue.  I told her that his normal temperature was around 97.4 and that 98.7 was not normal for him.  I mentioned again that I feared he had a UTI.

"Has he had a foul smell to his urine?" she asked.

As Dad has some trouble with incontinence, and I wash all his clothes and clean his bathroom, I knew the answer to that.

"No," I said.

"Any burning while urinating?"

"I don't know for sure, but he has not complained."

 "You know, he's 82.  At some point you're going to have to consider that he has Alzheimer's or dementia," she pronounced authoritatively.

Disgusted, I thought to myself, "Ah, she finally provided the single diagnosis that she was looking for,"

Aloud, I said, "But this is a night and day difference with my Dad.  He wasn't like this yesterday.  And one of the new medications he is on can cause UTI's."

She didn't roll her eyes, but she managed to convey the same idea with one condescending glance.  I felt sick, humiliated, and angry all at the same time.  She turned and left.  Feeling slightly disoriented, I walked to the kitchen window to watch them leave, only to find that they had backed the ambulance across our large gravel parking area and into the soft ground of the pasture.  They were stuck.  Big time.  I walked away, shaking my head.  This was a nightmare.

Later Emma told me that she saw the redhead get out and point to our hangar, directing one of the guys to go in there and get a board to put under the driver's side rear wheel.  He did as he was told, but he did not get the ambulance unstuck.  Eventually the EMT with the Dodge truck, who had left earlier, was called to come back and pull the ambulance out.

The ambulance finally left, and I talked with the guy who had pulled it out while he put away his chains.  Emma jumped on her bicycle to go check the gate.  It was open.  She grabbed Fiona on her way back.  As the guy with the truck was leaving, he met Emma returning, and they exchanged a few words.  She was leading Fiona by the haltar.

I went back in the house to collect my thoughts and the things I would need for my sojourn in the ER.  This took about 20 minutes.  As I drove down our driveway, I saw that once again, the gate had been left open.  The EMT in the truck exited the gate without closing it.  I called Emma and told her.  She couldn't see Fiona anywhere on our property, so as I left for the emergency room, she left in her car to look for Fiona.  What a day.

And it wasn't over yet.

To be continued.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Your Diagnosis, Please

Last Sunday was one firecracker of a day.

At breakfast my dad was extremely agitated--complaining about severe pain in his left shoulder and weakness in his legs.  He was shaking all over.  I took his blood pressure, and it was 210/104.

I was afraid he was having a heart attack.   I asked him if the pain in his shoulder was the usual pain from his arthritis or if it was different.  He said that it was different.  I told him that I was going to call an ambulance.  By his reaction, you would think that I had told him I had made an appointment for him to be castrated.   He got so upset, it scared me.

I asked him if he had already taken his blood pressure medication.  He checked his pill organizer and said, "Yes.  Looks like I took all my morning meds and all my evening meds too."

"Oh. My. Gosh," I thought, as my mind raced.  "What the heck is going on here?" I asked myself.  I mentally reviewed the medications that he takes in the evening and decided he would be ok.  It was just disturbing that he had done that.  He is usually careful about his prescriptions.

I was removing the blood pressure cuff when, before I realized what he was doing, he took a hydrocodone (pain killer and narcotic) and a Clonozapam (anxiety).

Because the idea of me calling an ambulance made him so much more upset, I decided to wait a little on calling 911 and focused on getting him calmed down and comfortable.  I put a Lidocaine pain patch on his shoulder and helped him get to his recliner.  With a little coaching on deep breathing and meditation, he soon relaxed.  I was happily surprised and encouraged by how receptive he was to this.  I'm sure the meds were beginning to kick in too.  He asked me to take his blood pressure again.  It came down about 40 points in ten minutes.  He was quite pleased.  He smiled at me and said he felt fine.

Much relieved, I sat down on the couch near him to observe and wait.  He was watching tv, like he normally does.  After about 30 minutes, he asked me to turn on some lights.  The only problem was, he was pointing at an area where there are no lights.  I explained this to him and offered to turn on the ones that were actually there.  Then he asked me, "Do you see those three columns over there?"  He pointed his index finger at the east wall.  I said, "No, Dad, I don't see any columns, just the two windows."

He began carefully describing the three columns to me, and I repeated what I saw: just the two windows.  I began to wonder if the combination of the evening meds, the hydrocodone, and Clonazapam were making him delusional.  They certainly made him cheerful.  And he assured me that he was feeling no pain.  I sat back down.

Emma, on her way to church, texted me to see how Grandpa was doing.  I told her the latest developments.

A little while later Dad asked me if I saw the numbers on the wall and the ribbon that was woven in between them.  I told him that I did not.  I noticed then that although he had the tv on, his headphones that allow him to actually hear it were in his lap.

"Dad," I said.  "Do you know what year it is?"

"2065?" he asked.

"Oh, dear.  That makes you very, very old," I replied.  Because you were born in 1933."

He smiled.  "I think you need to keep asking me questions like that," he told me pleasantly.

At that point I decided I could probably rule out a heart attack.

Emma called me and said that she had spoken with her friend, Angela, who is a nurse in a geriatric psychiatric ward.  Angela said it sounded like a urinary tract infection (UTI).

"Of course!" I thought, remembering a similar reaction by my mom several years ago when she was hospitalized for a stroke.  But I still wasn't sure.  Dad didn't have a history of UTI's and there was still the question of a possible drug reaction.

I told Emma that as soon as she got home to stay with Grandma, I would take Grandpa to the Urgent Care clinic we frequent.  He is much more amenable to going to Urgent Care than to the hospital emergency room.  I can't blame him.  The emergency room is a nightmare for the elderly.

Soon after Dad got up and walked to the bathroom, using his walker as he normally does.  He was in there a long while.  I went to the door several times to inquire if he was ok.  He assured me he was.

When he finally came out, I saw immediately that he was not ok.  He could barely walk, and he was panting heavily.  I told him to sit down on the seat of his walker.  He did.  Whereas he usually picks up his feet when I push him in his walker, this time he let them drag.

I knew my window of opportunity for getting him into the car had slammed shut.  I called 911.

To be continued...

Monday, February 1, 2016

From the Vape Shop to The Mystical City of God

No, I haven't taken up vaping.  My mom has.  Weird, I know.  But she had been using these funny little metal cigarette-shaped e-cigarettes (sorry if I don't use the correct terminology) that had to be constantly recharged and were always having issues because they were such poor quality.  "Smoking" these things helps Mom with her anxiety, so she would get frantic when she didn't have one ready to go.  I would spend ten to fifteen minutes a day checking on e-cigs, trying to get them to charge or making sure they were charged.  It was nuts.  So my son suggested that I get her set up with a nice one that has a tank that you fill up with "juice".  Desperate to be done with the irritating e-cigs, I purchased an Aspire Nautilus tank and a hot pink Eleaf iStick battery last June, and she has been one happy vaper ever since.   She affectionately calls this rig "my puffer."  I call it her peace pipe.  I generally refill the tank every other week, and I charge it every night.  Super easy.

Except for the rare problem: Last Thursday I couldn't get the tank open to refill it.  I actually rubbed the skin on my hand raw trying to twist the thing loose.  With the prospect of no vaping, Mom started to panic.  She dug out this box of mini cigars that she had tucked away, and I quickly lit one up for her.   Then I busied myself with trying to charge one of the old e-cigs.  I  realized I needed to make an emergency run to the vape shop.

The vape shop I patronize is a friendly place with a team of ever so helpful young men at the ready to answer my latest question and/or mix up my juice order.   One of the guys leapt to my assistance as soon as I walked in.  I described the problem, and he immediately wrapped the tank with a piece of rubbery stuff and used some pliers to turn and open it   I was so excited!  And enormously relieved.  Then I went and sat at the juice bar to await my order being filled.  I asked for a recommendation on a pre-mixed juice for an 82-year-old grandma who doesnn't like fruit flavors.

The answer was "Cowboy."

"Fine," I said.  "I'll take three bottles."

They were busy, so I had to wait a while.  This is when my discomfort began, because not less than three people shared a story, amid uproarious laughter, of giving a child an energy drink as a form of lighthearted "revenge" on the parent.  I was keenly aware of being from a different culture from these poor people.  I looked hard at each storyteller and tried to see what had happened to them in their life to cause such thoughtlessness.   I began to feel sad and disheartened.  Finally I got my three bottles of Cowboy and checked out.

Once home, I discovered that my order of the new English edition of The Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda had arrived.  I sat down and began reading Volume 1.

Immediately I was immersed in a world where the love of God was the highest priority.  It was almost a shock after the vape shop.   I soon noticed that tiny moisture droplets were stealthily creeping down my cheeks.  This seems to happen to me whenever I experience a deep moment of connection with the Faith.  It's tears without crying.  I actually think it's more like a signal to me to pay closer attention, kind of like how a hunting dog points when it spots a bird.

When I read that Ven. Mary died on Pentecost,  at the hour the Holy Ghost descends, and that several people heard her last words to be, "Come, come, come," I just wanted to suck the whole contents of the book inside myself in one great draught--my version of vaping, I guess.  What a balm for my troubled soul!   I thought of my friends at the vape shop and how different they would most likely be if they had been born into Christendom like Ven. Mary.  And I deeply regretted not making an attempt to charitably propose an alternative viewpoint to their acceptance of doing harm to a child for their own entertainment.

Photo Credit:  Tradition in Action

Yesterday, I wanted to read again about Mary's dying on Pentecost, but I couldn't find it in the book.  So I decided to google it.  I saw several results concerning her 500 bi-locations to America to convert some of the Indians of the Southwest, including Texas.  I read a 3-part series of articles on Tradition in Action about this, her work as "The Lady in Blue".  And I thought, "Dear Mary of Agreda, we have a whole new tribe of Indians in need of conversion in Texas!"  I was particularly thinking of my dear "Indians" at the vape shop.  I was a little startled at that point, remembering how I refer to my mother's "puffer" as her peace pipe and that the juice that was recommended to me is called "Cowboy".

God really does have a sense of humor.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On My Refrigerator: Handy Dandy Guide to the New Religion of Vatican II

I was cleaning out a kitchen drawer on Tuesday and discovered this long-lost treasure that I had clipped from one of Fr. Zendejas' "blue papers" several years ago, before he left the SSPX and became a Resistance priest.  I had thought of it many times and wanted to review it but could not remember where I had stashed it.

My heart thrilled with its re-discovery!  "Look what I found!" I crowed to Emma.  She immediately whipped out her phone and took a picture for safekeeping.   She knows too well that just because I find something doesn't mean that I won't lose it again.

I began seriously looking over the list last night and started typing it up in chronological order, so I could see the process better.  That's when I realized that a really important change was not even on the list, that being the new rite for Episcopal Consecration, which was instituted in 1968 at the same time as the new rite for Priestly Ordination.

As for the last item, I'm not sure what Fr. Zendejas was trying to say about the New Evangelization of 2013, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI had touted it during their reigns.  I'm guessing he was trying to communicate something about Bergoglio actually implementing the things that JPII and BXVI only dreamed of.  But that is only a guess.

It's quite heartbreaking to ponder the individual items on this list, especially when you know that most Conciliar Catholics have no idea that their religion is not the same one as practiced by Catholics before Vatican II.  Maybe this list can rectify that.  It's a great outline for starting an investigation into what happened to the Church.  I recommend the sedevacantist site, Novus Ordo Watch, as a solid resource.  But by all means, read far and wide.  To get you started, here's a link to NOW's extensively documented post on the new rite of episcopal consecration.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Savory Question with a Hint of Romance

"Can I love my broth overnight?"  dear daughter Emma asked me in a text message this evening after she put Grandma to bed.  Emma had a pot of bones simmering on the stove.

"Oh, yes!" I thought to myself.  "Love your broth overnight and every day!  As long as it's grass fed bone broth, my dear!"

Then her question sparked a memory in my crazy head, and I had to go hunt down the old novelty song, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?

Scary, huh?

But I didn't tell Emma all that.  I just texted back a laughing Emoji.

"Shut up," she said, which made me laugh harder.  She had realized her mistake--that she had typed "love" instead of "leave".  That doubled my fun.

Seriously, though, I don't know how to cook anymore without homemade bone broth.  Give me some  good long-simmered bone broth and some Red Boat fish sauce and some Coconut Aminos, and dang, I can make anything taste good.

My dad got hospitalized on Sunday, and on Monday when I was visiting him, I asked him what he had for lunch.  He said he had some chicken and some carrots and some rice.  Then he looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, "That chicken didn't have any flavor.  It didn't taste like yours."

And I just grinned like unto a Cheshire cat.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I Know What I'm Doin'

One of the best things about taking care of my parents is getting to hear bits about their lives that I would probably have missed otherwise.

Like tonight, out of the blue, my mom told me that her Grandma Thomley cooked fantastic meals on her wood stove and that she always had sweet potatoes baking in there.  She also said that Grandma Thomley picked cotton up until the year before she died at 92 or 93 and that she was a "go-getter."

"She cooked until she died," Mom said.  This gave me pause.  I wondered if I would even want to cook until I died.  Already at age 55, some days I am pretty tired of cooking.

Then Mom remembered that she and Dad stopped to visit Grandma Thomley early in their marriage, and she was cooking cornbread and talking with them.  My dad said, "You better pay attention to that cornbread," and Grandma Thomley said, "I know what I'm doin'," not snarky, just as a statement of fact, according to my mom.  She was in her 80s at the time.

Previously the only thing my mom told me about Grandma Thomley was that she lived in a dogtrot cabin and that when she spied my mama and her twin sister coming down the road to her house, she would start in making chocolate tarts for them, and they were the best chocolate tarts ever.  As background my mom had told me that the extended family always did their hog killing at the Thomley grandparents' home and that when my grandmother experimented with the new-fangled margarine that came out during the Great Depression, the kind you had to add artificial coloring to, my mother would resolutley walk to her grandparents' house to get real butter, because the margarine was nasty.  Some things never change!