Friday, July 31, 2009


I know it drives Marty nuts but I am constantly quizzing her. First, I'm trying to figure out how she feels and she is not always the most forthcoming about how she is feeling, talking helps me hone in on what's going on with her. Second, I want to challenge her brain a little, exercise her cerebellum a bit. Third, it's a pretty good way to make conversation with someone who has had brain damage. Last, and maybe most important, I still kind of like to drive her a little nuts, it gives her a sense of normalcy.

The questions are always pretty routine. Where were you born, when were you born, what are your kids birthdays, where do you live, that kind of stuff. All of this pretty routine information she has retained, but it depends on the day as to how quickly and how accurately she answers all of them. As to where do you live, we have lived in a lot of places so that's going to be a bit confusing from time to time. Some days she is dead on, other days its Hillsboro or Muenster or for some really weird reason LaMarque (I have no idea).

I'm not sure why, maybe it's all of the Facebook name 25 this, or 20 of that, or answer 5 of these questions to determine your true sex, but I began thinking of our own five senses and what are the things that most stimulate or please each of these senses. I took some time to sort of figure that out for myself but as part of my "drive Marty nuts" campaign I wanted to ask her, to really kind of drag this information out of her for all of the reasons previously listed. It wasn't hard, she answered all of them willingly and quickly.

Touch -- Marty said being with her kids. I interpret this to mean having Matt and Erin around kissing and hugging her. She loves, not being poked, but physical affection from her family, friends and most of all her children. For me -- I can't just have one thought -- so, I really like the cold spots in well worn sheets and pillow cases and the soft touch of a woman's hand on my cheek (any of the cheeks will do).

Smell -- Marty never paused before saying fresh, clean linen. How simple, how true for her. She always loved this. Me -- it's hard to beat the smell of fresh cookies being baked but I really like the smell right before a cold front brings rain. It smells clean, crisp, new.

Sight -- Again, Marty never really hesitated when she said being outside and seeing the grass, the shrubs, the flowers. This surprised me a bit because Marty was never much of an outside kind of girl, now she does like sitting out on our back patio looking at the fauna. Because I am such a visual creature it was hard for me to pare down my list; but being in the mountains and seeing a completely clear piercing blue sky, or seeing my wife smile completely, or watching the sun set almost anywhere I have ever been all really top my list.

Hearing -- Marty immediately said, "hello, how are you". So how does that fit? Well I think it's a couple of things. For one, for Marty to greet people like this as she often does it makes her feel normal. She also said it's because she wants to be recognized, greeted, treated normally. Sounds like Marty. For Larry, again, it's hard to limit, but first and foremost comes Marty's laugh, it's the best. I also really love the first measures of Led Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven, and really deep, big wind chimes.

Taste -- Marty likes almost anything that is sweet but her first answer was pudding and fried chicken, both of which she really likes but not what I would have suspected. I suspect Diet Coke is way up there too. For me it almost has to go to food. I love the taste of sweet stuff and salty stuff and savory stuff. I like it all, but chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream and a really cold watermelon is outstanding. The more esoteric answer would have to be a first kiss, there's really nothing like it, is there? Sorry kids, I know the thought causes you pain.

So what does all of this accomplish? Very little really. It's kind of a fun exercise to make you think about those things in your life you really enjoy, you really love, that really make you enjoy the things around you. Some of those, in fact most of those, are really very simple. In the final analysis maybe simpler is better. Let us know what your five are?

Monday, July 27, 2009

His Name is Really Melvin

Okay, I did it. I admit it. I am ashamed and I know all of my liberal friends and the people of the country will be, well, let's just say, a bit disappointed. I'm not sorry I did it. I did it because I thought it was best, I thought it was best for everyone from the east to the west and from the north to the south. I really thought it would help save this country for those of us who really love it. To hell with the rest of you, and you know who you are.

I forged the President's birth certificates. Yes, I know, I'm sorry. It was me. It was only to help him get elected. It's not like he's not American, he is. It's just that he was really born in Enid, Oklahoma and how can you get elected to anything if you're born in Enid, sorry for those Enidians. And no, his name is really not Barack Hussein Obama, it's really Melvin. No last name, just Melvin. Again, can you see my point, would you vote for Melvin from Enid Oklahoma?

It started very innocently more than 40 years ago. I was just 15 but I knew there was going to come a time when we would desperately need someone to nationalize our health care, impose socialist economics and buy Chrysler. You could see even then that Chrysler and it's union minions would have to be bailed out, they were just paying too much of a living wage and providing health care, it was just too much.

So yes, I did it and I would do it again. I meticulously forged the certificate of live birth to show that Melvin was Barack Hussein Obama born in Hawaii. It just sounded so much more exotic, and that name, it was just too catchy even back then. The birth certificate was easy, getting the Hawaiian newspapers to forge the birth announcements and change all of the archives was harder; but when I told them about the spread offense for the University of Hawaii they thought it was worth it.

You all may laugh and think why go to all of this trouble. Well, part of my evil plan was to instigate the whole birth er movement. What better way to completely discredit all of the honest intelligent thinkers of our time. I knew if we just gave these patriots a sniff, just enough to get their intellectual curiosity peaked, they would take the bait and decide this guy was from Kenya, he wasn't American, he was African. And boy were they wrong, and now the world will know it. And my real plan of discrediting all of these world class thinkers and conspiracy wishers came true. They all sound nuts.

Oh -- and while I'm confessing, I also have to admit that I'm the guy behind the impending paper plate scandal. Sean Hannity just called and he's on to me. He's going to expose me as the guy who developed the technique behind packaging paper plates so that you can never get just one, you always are using two or more plates. To hell, to hell, I say with the environment and the consumer, I'm making more money when you waste those plates, ha ha ha (do your best evil laugh here).

For those of you disappointed in my subterfuge, I'm sorry, it just needed to be done. It was time for a change and Melvin, oh sorry, I mean President Obama, was the guy. So tell me, would you have voted for him if you knew the truth??


A long time ago in a land far away --- Okay it wasn't that far away but it was a long time ago -- I think about 1986 when my lovely bride gave me some valuable advise neither one of us took very well. I repeated the advise to a lot of people, I repeated it with passion, with fervor, but until our life changed I just couldn't heed the advise.

Back in '86 I was a stalwart Texas Power and Light employee. I had been very successful and the company had treated me very well. I had gotten every job I had interviewed for and was moving up the proverbial career ladder. I pledged allegiance to the green of T P & L every day. Then reality hit. Corporate America came to central Texas and the company I had been working for changed forever.

I had a good job in Hillsboro Texas that I liked. I worked with people every day, I was involved in the community, I had good employees working for me and I had a certain amount of prestige. Then the company changed the rules and consolidated a couple of departments within our office. All of the sudden I was competing with another guy in our office for the one remaining job. I lost, I didn't get the job. To this day I would swear they made the wrong decision, but it was made and I was in purgatory.

This change shook my core. It made me doubt myself, my abilities, my skills and my worth. That's when Marty hit me with the advise. It was pretty simple, but true, "what you do for a living does not define who you are".

Marty said that who we are is so much more than our job, we are so much more than how we earn our daily bread. We should be defined by what we do outside of work, how we treat other people, how we treat and love our family, how we participate in life, how we commit to others and how that commitment affects the world around us. She said we should be working to live, not living to work. I had been living to work and everything I did orbited work. I had my priorities wrong.

Honestly, I listened to the words, I even used the words over and over again with some of my employees. But the truth is I continued to let my job define me for another 20 years. I was a good employee, I was often times a great employee, I was an ambitious employee and I was a successful employee. I ended my career with TXU at a higher level than I ever thought I would achieve. But, when I left, when we got our corporate divorce, I was relieved. It was time but now that I didn't have my job, my career, how would I be able to define myself, how would I be able to explain my existence to the outside world. When you are employed, that's easy, I'm a lawyer, I'm a nurse, I'm a teacher. Me, I was ---- well nothing for a while and that ain't easy to accept for those of us who have worked all of our life.

And then when Marty got sick her words really came back to me. I still sort of double clutched when people asked what I did, but I knew I was now doing the most decent thing I had ever done. I thought for a while I might be able to teach, but I just couldn't focus enough outside of the house, outside of my new caregiver role, to really give any job it's due. I was doing what I needed to be doing, taking care of my wife.

Should I define myself by what I do now? What would Marty say about that? I don't really know. I don't think any of us are simple enough that we can be defined by something as simple as how we spend most of our time, I think it is much more complicated. I do know what I am doing now is more important to me than any of the work I have done. I do know I am more comfortable being defined as someone who loves his wife and takes his responsibilities to her seriously. Maybe I'm just older, more mature, maybe I finally have my priorities straight, maybe I finally listened to my wife.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Doing Obsession Right

Obsession is defined as the domination of one's thoughts, feelings by a persistent idea or image. I never really viewed myself as having an obsessive personality but I come pretty close from time to time regarding Marty.

Last night Marty got choked which led to coughing, hacking and wheezing for a while. It's not a phenomenon, it has happened before, it's just part of her wrestling with swallowing issues from the brain damage caused by the strokes. It just is.

My normal behavior when things like this occur is to be afraid and feel really anxious as I'm not entirely sure what to do and I'm not in control the way I like to be. There are too many unknowns, too many variables, it's just initially too much for my delicate little psyche. Then the next step is to get mad and try and find someone to blame, somewhere I can vent this very palpable anxiety. And after about 30 minutes of this I start to obsess.

I have to be doing something proactive, I have to be moving forward combating the latest crisis, be they large or small. Panic is never a part of it, action is always the preferred mode. I want to be giving Marty something, treating her ailment in some way, listening to her breathing or taking blood pressure, but moving to deal with the issue.

Last night was very typical. After I had a chance to go through my normal progression past anger and blaming to action I spent the rest of the night listening, poking, prodding and just generally fussing around Marty. After a while this really starts to get on her nerves. She never has like all of the poking and prodding and fussing. At best she tolerates it because it's easier than listening to me vent.

For the most part my particular psychosis has served us pretty well. It means I pay attention, sometimes to the point of aggravation for Marty and others, but I'm aware of what is going on with her. It means I know when something is different for Marty, and the differences in sounds or behaviors have been the key to catching some illnesses pretty early. Bottom line, it makes me a pretty good caregiver but a lousy golfer. I guess that's what was meant to be.

For the first couple of years of this new normal I kept telling people, including Marty, that my personality just wasn't equipped to handle this new role. I didn't ever feel like I was patient enough, tolerant enough, aware enough, or proactive enough to face the sort of day-to-day issues you run up against with a chronic disease. Really, it really doesn't matter whether the role fit or not. You still have to wear it in anyway your head allows. So I obsess from time-to-time.

Oh -- Marty -- she is sick. White blood count is up, not horribly, but enough to indicate an infection. The great and wise has her on an antibiotic and mostly she feels okay but acts like maybe a sinus infection. We will probably never know for sure. We should know by the weekend just exactly what bug we are fighting this time. And so it goes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Moon

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Apollo's landing on the moon. Thinking of this event led to thinking of where I was on that evening. I remember quite clearly standing in our backyard at "The Village" in Colorado City, looking at the moon, pondering life as only a 14 year old boy can. This led to thinking about my youth and where I grew up, which in turn brought me back to Colorado City Texas and the set of company houses my Father's job provided for some of their employees.

When I look back on my youth I realize how truly fortunate I was. To some degree I knew that then. I can remember thinking how lucky I was to live in the greatest country in the world and then I got to live in the greatest state in the greatest country. What a lucky and blessed guy.

What I know now is not only did I live in a wonderful, free country and a great proud state but I had a great family, supportive friends, a reasonable education and a completely idyllic West Texas setting to start my life.

We lived in a small, secluded neighborhood with a group of other families that worked for Texas Electric Service Company in a place we called the Village (not M Knight Shyamalan but close -- ooooooo, it could be really spooky late a night). It was about five miles from the urban mecca of Colorado City and consisted of 13 company owned houses about one mile from a natural gas fired electric generating station.

The houses were comfortable, not huge. They were nice and I suppose reasonably modern for the 50s and 60s though I don't remember much about that. I do remember that we got exactly one television channel, CBS out of Big Spring. So guess what, we didn't watch a lot of television. Our world was outside where kids and pets roamed free.

Almost all of the families out there had kids of various ages. For me the Parkers were the oldest, the Wrights were the same age, the Lees had some of both and we all had an amazing time with unparalled freedom. We ran throughout the village and beyond in the open pastures surrounding the village. We played in the wide open common areas behind the houses and loved it when the occasional cow would wander from the pasture into the back yards.

We spent New Years eve out under the stars with a huge fire creating our own fireworks shows. We played two on two softball, no easy feat, until we were exhausted. We played pick up games of football, but rarely played basketball because none of the driveways were paved and it's really hard to dribble on gravel. I remember large groups of us making the rounds on Halloween without any adult supervision, you didn't need it because all of the adults knew all of the kids. "It takes a Village" really meant something to me, because the Martins, the Wilkersons, the Slaters all knew who I was and what I was doing and they knew my parents telephone number. It was a collective -- oh my goodness -- that's why people think I have these Socialist tendencies.

I had a great life as a kid. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't meant to be perfect, perfect would be boring. What it did was give me the chance to start life moving forward, feeling protected, feeling safe, feeling loved. It's what, as parents, we all want to do. Forty years ago we went to the moon and opened up amazing possibilities just by reaching for it, I hope our kids will find things to remember like that 40 years from now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Heat Bites

It's been an interesting week. In my last post regarding our health exploits I detailed Marty's gastronomic adventures last Sunday. Well, I think the gastro gods got their revenge, because I awoke early Tuesday morning to the familiar call of the porcelain bus, "come hug me, come hug me".

Yes indeed, it appears the antibiotic Marty was taking did not make her nauseated, it was apparently a 24 hour stomach virus. I can attest to the virus, the stomach and the 24 hours because that's about how long I felt really crappy. The good news is that Marty can still take Merrem and it won't make her sick, the bad news is, I really hate the dreaded stomach bug.

Marty had a follow up Doctors appointment on Tuesday, the same day I was knocked out of commission. I know people who get the stomach stuff and just keep on doing stuff, not me. I don't often get sick, but you can't count on me for anything when I do. But, I got good people and Renae took Marty to see the great and wise Dr. Martindale. All things were excellent. The white blood count, which is a good first marker for infection, was normal, and Marty's sodium, which is a good marker for respiratory infection for Marty, was normal for her. Good stuff and she had largely recovered from her bout with the bug.

Wednesday was largely a day for recovery for me and Marty, but we did manage to go see the movie "I Love you Beth Cooper". Very lame, but it started at a time that was convenient for us. If anyone cares about my movie review, one star at best, big sucking hole at worst. Hopefully next week we will shoot for Harry Potter.

Thursday was a bit different. Nikkie, one of our caregivers started to come down with Marty's disease and I sent her home, which gave Marty and I some time for quality time alone. I mentioned this to Marty and she said, "so???". The bloom is off this rose. All was cool, the most excellent German nurse came and removed the PICC line and that went very smoothly. I cooked a really excellent Parmesan crusted Tilapia and then the air conditioner quit.

Being an old grouch there are a lot of things in life that I find aggravating, that really tick me off, that make me the old grouch I am. But I got to tell you, throwing up and being unnaturally hot are really two at the top of the old grouch list. And the best thing is Lochridge Priest, a large air conditioning company in Waco, had been out 24 hours earlier and blessed my a/c as working well. What a coincidence????

A really nice guy with Lochridge Priest did come out about 10 p.m. to tell me that could fix it tomorrow as the house heated up to about 85 degrees. I started to blow, Marty's face was getting red and Maggie, the dog, was panting so I said we're going to the lake because we got air there. Two hours later we are in the big red house at Richland Chambers with the air on 70 degrees and Renae shivering, so sorry.

We came back to Waco Friday after just one day at the lake. The Waco a/c is working fine, none of us have thrown up in three days and things seem to have smoothed out for the week. I think we have finished the latest of Marty's infections and we have discovered a new capability (home IV)that will provide us additional responsibility but more flexibility. Thus is life, thus is our life and today we are okay.

One aside -- the death of Walter Cronkite is really very sad. For those our age he was a credible fixture who chronicled our country's evolution through some very difficult times. We already missed him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Andrew Prada

My young friend Andrew, a doctoral Chemistry candidate at Cornell, has always been one to take sacrificial stands, like saying Duran Duran is the best rock band ever and making zippy comments about my 70’s hair and sartorial splendor as displayed in a picture on a previous post.

Because he raised the issue, and because I was skinny (all things are relative), and because we have the pics here is more fodder for your fashion criticisms. Circa 197? Really, my hair got bigger, not longer.

Now you have to know Andrew. He’s never heard an argument he didn’t want to have. He has always been convinced he knows the truth about almost everything from the Kennedy assassination to the best rock and roll music. But, we all know from the above Duran Duran remark he’s not always right. He is a lot of the time, just clearly not always, and really, my clothes were very cool for the day.

Andrew was in my Sunday school class for four years. He was a young man with wonderful insight and a willingness to discuss said insight. One of my best memories of Sunday school was the time we got into the discussion of Agape, or Christian love and the only way I could think to differentiate Agape love from real love was to tell Andrew it wasn’t the “Rollin on the beach kind of love”. He got that and I don’t think he’s even seen from Here to Eternity with Burt and Debra.

My other favorite memory of Andrew is skiing with him and his family. Both of the Patrick boys were adventurous to say the least, but Andrew topped them all one fine afternoon at a small ski resort in New Mexico called Siapapu. On that day Andrew took more air, jumped the farthest, and landed harder than anyone I have ever seen. The kid must have been 20 feet in the air doing 30 mph when he landed on his back right under the ski lift. It was the nicest I have ever seen his brother, David, be to him, and we heard the best comment ever from above on the ski lift. Just as Andrew started to move a little, some guy from up above says, “Great yard sale, dude”, commenting on the fact that there was skiing debris all over the place from where Andrew had been introduced to gravity. The other thing that struck me was that the ski patrol guy had on nail polish, oh well.

Andrew and his lovely wife Leah (you married up dude) are finishing post graduate education at Cornell U in New York. Since his parents got him through those really rough years I am proud to claim Andrew as one of mine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Caution TMI

For all of the years I have known Marty she has been an anti-puker. You know the kind, we will do anything, we will endure almost anything, we will take pills or other (ahem) things to avoid the up-chuck. It's just that disgusting, it's just that wrong for your body to do to you. Marty hates it and so do I.

Unfortunately, Marty has become something of a puker. Mostly she is not aware that it is about to happen, which sort of compounds the misfortune. She is a real trooper about the whole thing, she is always apologetic, like she could control it somehow, but you can tell she hates this really unnatural, natural act.

Marty has been on a very powerful antibiotic for 15 days, most of this time at home. She has not exhibited any signs of the listed side effects, no rash, no breathing issues, no this or that, we were doing pretty well with the whole home IV administration thing. Her last blood test last Monday indicated some progress but still a slight infection. The recent sputum sample indicated the pseudomonas bug was gone so we had somewhat mixed news, thus we continued the antibiotic until yesterday.

Yesterday, Sunday, Marty blew big chunks after the first IV dose of antibiotics for the day, while she was still in bed. This is one of the many side effects listed for Merrem. (I keep telling Marty at least it wasn't anal leakage, cracks her up every time). Nikkie, unfortunately had the duty and was great at assisting Marty. Mercifully, my allergies are such, I can't smell a thing, so I didn't get sick too.

I talked to the great and wise Dr. Martindale and we both figured we should try and keep on with the antibiotics. Marty took some medicine and slept most of the rest of the day. She did eat a tad bit of lunch and went back to sleep. The 2nd dose of antibiotics was given at 4 pm as planned.

All went well until 6 pm when Marty, bless her heart got sick again. It just ain't right, I'm telling you. This time Erica pulled the short straw and was here and was great support. At this time I made the command decision to DC (cool medical talk for discontinue) the antibiotic until I could talk to the great and wise again.

Marty took another phenegran, drank and ate very little the rest of the day but did sleep through the night.

Please note, there are a number of problems with my bride spewing, beyond the very obvious. It completely depletes the body of fluids and keeping Marty hydrated is always a top priority. There is also the real chance of aspiration, getting some of said chunks in her airway, which will lead to a secondary infection. And last, it is almost always a sign of other issues, though I think this time it's just a reaction to the antibiotic, which is something of a problem in itself.

I know this post probably goes under the category of really gross and too much information but it gives you a real picture of life with Marty. As always she is the center of our world and the one all of us worry about in these situations. It ain't always pretty, but as Jon and Kate used to say, "It's our Life".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It Takes Three

When Marty got sick, when her brain was devastated by the stroke, everything changed. Duh..... Certainly our roles changed, certainly the everyday logistics of our lives changed, certainly our ability to live as we once had or planned changed. Part of the changes were evolutionary, changes that occur for everyone as we move through our journey. Part of the changes were made from necessity because of the physical and mental disabilities to Marty as a result of the stroke.

In some ways the hardest changes for me were the changes in Marty's ability to be a partner in mulling, in debating and in emotional support. Like many things, I didn't realize how important her support, how important her day-to-day psycho-analysis was to me. I have missed most the part of Marty that was unconventional, the part that was unpredictable, the part that was always challenging the conventional way of thinking. I have missed the emotional outbursts (who would have thunk it)and the emotional support, I have missed how she would challenge me on almost any decision.

I miss all of those things that used to drive me crazy about my wife. But now Marty and I have managed to fall in with three new members of our family, Nikkie, Renae and Erica, who together kind of bring some of those things that were amazing and infuriating about Marty back into our life.

Erica, Renae and Nikkie are wonderful caregivers, but they are much more than that. They spend way too much time here and away from their families, for this we are both forever grateful. They make our lives easier, richer, safer and fuller. They are a part of the family. They go on vacation with us, they have Christmas with the family, they celebrate birthdays and worry over illness. They talk to Marty and treat her like a queen, and they all bring something of Marty that was lost in the stroke.

Nikkie has been with us the longest. She was here right after we came home in June of 2006. She took a sabbatical for a while but came back and we are glad. Nikkie is full of fire and emotion. She doesn't say it, but you can see it in her eyes. Nikkie is the one who cried when Marty had a seizures. She is the one who brings Marty's full well of feelings, good and bad to our house. Nikkie is the passionate voice, the one who from time-to-time makes me the angriest, the one who helps me to remember the passion of anger and the beauty of tenderness. She reminds me so much of Marty.

Renae is Nikkie's sister. She came to us during Nikkie's time away. Renae has been with us almost as long as Nikkie and is here the most. Renae is full of ideas, thoughts, suggestions and sarcasm. Sound familiar at all? Renae constantly questions, why, what for, what good does that do? Renae is the resident smart ass, always with the quick rejoinder, always with sharp wit. She sees things and ways to do things I don't. She challenges me to think about what I am doing, she makes me think about every decision. She drives me nuts, just like Marty did, always probing, always questioning, always wanting to be right.

Erica is our newest family member, she is also the oldest. This is actually her third job, the first taking care of her son and husband, the second running a beauty salon. I can't tell you how quickly Erica became important to us all. Before Marty got sick she was moving constantly, when she was awake. Marty had a hard time settling in for a long movie or TV show because she was always doing stuff. Erica is forever doing stuff. She cleans, she picks up, she organizes, she helps keep me organized and I was desperate for the organization. Erica has ideas, she has a wonderful eye for detail , and she, like Marty, is always just doing stuff.

What we have been lucky enough to find are three wonderful women, people who care about others and how others feel. What I have been fortunate to find are three women I can trust with the life of my bride, who I can trust with my own emotions and who I depend on. And, trust me, that's not an easy thing for me. Depending on others is not the strongest part of me.

What these three women have done is to continue parts of my wife that I miss. In their own ways they have reminded me of parts of Marty that were lost, and they have resurrected those parts in their own unique ways. While those pieces of Marty's personalities cannot be replaced, they can be underlined and these ladies, and they do it just by being themselves. God love them, they are our daughters too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just One Joke

Marty loves a good joke, she always has. She was raised in a family of joke tellers. Her Dad, Arty, could tell a million of them, her brother Jerry loved the long complicated joke, and Marty was a real Watkins in terms of joke telling. She can't really remember jokes to tell them anymore, but she loves to hear them, the bluer, the ruder, the nastier the better. What can you expect from the progeny of a meat packer and a Baptist Sunday School teacher?

If you want to get a real belly laugh out of Marty just tell her a good off-color joke. She loves Rodney Carrington, Ron White and in particular (let's all groan together, Larry the Cable Guy). Marty just likes rude, dumb humor, and it's even better if it involves flatulence at all. She will laugh until completely choked up, every time she sees the You Tube video of Robert Tilton, the tele-Evangelist, called the farting preacher. If you haven't seen it, and you like fart humor, Google it.

We were telling our German home health nurse about Marty's affinity for dirty humor while she changed the bandage on Marty's PICC line yesterday. Marty giggled while she worked. Then this very serious nurse turns to Marty and says, "he can't listen, looking at me, but have you heard the one about the naked man walking down the jungle path and comes upon this huge elephant. Both the naked man and the elephant stop and eye each other closely, up and down. The elephant then says to the man, "cute, but can you breathe through it"". So, Marty giggles a little and says, it's just not that funny, then we all broke up. Marty is still very much a smart ass.

Okay, I have one more joke. I'm legendary in my joke telling. Legendarily bad. I can't remember them. I can't get the stories straight, I forget the punch line or I just don't tell it right. But this one, I got cold because it's short and simple. So, what did the three legged dog say as he walked into the bar??? "I'm looking for the man we shot my Paw......." Get it?

If you have some good jokes, leave a comment, I'll read them to Marty, give you credit and keep you posted. It's good to laugh, it's great to see and hear Marty laugh.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Didn't Start Out to Brag -- But I Did

I can't remember the name of the movie, I think it was Dad, with Ted Danson and Jack Lemmon. Somewhere in the movie Jack Lemmon tells his adult son that regardless of how old your children get, they are still your children, you are always a parent. As I have gotten older, as my children have grown up to the extent I can let them (in my mind), I have come to really identify with that line.

Our two children, Matt and Erin, have grown up, and today, time stamp today, they are doing wonderfully. We feel grateful, we feel proud, we feel humbled by their love and graciousness, we feel really, really, really good about our kids.

Matt, the oldest, is soon to be 30 and a first time Father. Matt, I'm here to tell you, you have signed up for a life time commitment. It's worth it, but it's a long term contract.

Matt was the kid who always liked to read, loved music and really had a very adventuresome spirit, especially regarding food, he would try anything, and enjoyed most things. He loved words, still does, and grew up reading the encyclopedia. He was extremely thoughtful and full of thought and a philosopher at a very young age. Matt played baseball, basketball and football, he learned to ski when he was five; but it turns out, math and just knowing stuff, was his passion. I've never known a kid who liked to know "things" more.

Matt was the kid who introduced us to the dangers of bacterial infections. When he was, I think 14, he got hit in the shin with a discus. Somehow, this tiny skin break became infected and landed the young guy in the hospital for about two weeks on IV antibiotics. He got better and we came home. That night his leg became swollen and inflamed. Marty, God bless her, kept watch and kept talking to Matt and me until she made the decision that we needed to go back to the hospital, now. Good thing too. They performed surgery that night on Matt and cut open his leg and removed infected tissue. Our son was a sick little puppy for a while. He came home on IV antibiotics with a central line in his chest. I have always admired him for the courage he displayed throughout that ordeal. It was hard.

Matt went to Austin College where he graduated with a double major in Math and Computer Science. Matt then followed in Marty's and my geographical footprint and went to Texas Tech to get his Masters in Mathematics. I say geographical footprint because I never took one stinking math class in Lubbock. Can you say Hallelujah. Matt then married Sarah, went to work at Raytheon as a systems engineer, and is about to be Father to my 1st grandson, Larry-Bob. What a great guy.

Then there's my baby, Erin. Erin was born in Muenster. Not Germany, but Texas. She was born in a 24 bed hospital in a little German town in North Texas. It was a great place to be born, everyone in the delivery room knew us and knew her before she was born. Muenster was a very cool little town, 1400 people and four beer distributors. We loved it there while we were there.

Erin is and has always been the family do-gooder. She is the counselor, the listener, the girl with the advise. She has my empathy gene and her Mother's gift for problem solving, a very frightening combination. Erin was the kid who broke her wrist, playing badminton of all things. Erin was also a musical kid playing in the band and playing the piano, but her real interest has always been people and why they do what they do. She was never really a girly girl and is probably the best fisher-person in the family, though Matt is catching up.

My favorite story about Erin is when she was at Mo-Ranch, a church conference center, she laid out some guy when they were playing a pretty rough and tumble game. That's Erin, don't ever underestimate her fire, though she will feel sorry for you later. Erin is the kid who did PALS because she wanted to help, she's the kid who volunteered at a local hospital, she's the kid who worked with a social sorority at UT and later worked for two years with AmeriCorp working with Spanish speaking pre-K kids. And now, Erin is a Social Worker in Dallas working with autistic children. That's my daughter.

Now there's also Sarah, our daughter-in-law. Sarah the pragmatic, Sarah the planner, Sarah the organizer. I see a lot of Marty in Sarah. Like Marty, Sarah is plain spoken, she will tell you what you need to hear. Like Marty, Sarah is incredibly capable of doing so many things and she does. Sarah is a Dallas girl and is pregnant with my first grandson, did I say his name was Larry-Bob.

Then there's all of the other kids, now adults, who come through your life and impact you, who you feel a sense of kinship with, who you feel parental about, who you love and want to see continue to find success, love and happiness in all things. Elizabeth, David, Andrew and now Leah, Wesley, Kasie, Erica, Randi, India -- all these kids, all growing up, all making their parents and their sub parents so proud. That's what kids do, that's the best part of always being a parent.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lollygaggers and LBJ

The other day we had a great visit with Dr. LB and her precious (or is that precocious son) Sammy. It is always a treat when they come to visit because Lauren and Dale's children are smart and largely unaffected by Marty's disability. They may be but the don't show it, they are fearless around Marty and always hug her neck and give her a kiss and say stuff like, "Wow Marty, you're talking good today".

It reminds me of how difficult it was for me to be around really sick people before I became somewhat desensitized by caring for Marty. I just never knew how to be around really sick people. I was always afraid I would say something wrong or do something I wasn't supposed to do. I always started out with, "How are you doing", a testament to my southern breeding but a really stupid question to ask someone who is really sick.

What I never understood was the value of presence. The value of just being there, the importance of touch, the incredible benefit of just being a warm body in the room with someone who can't do what they would normally be doing. What I have learned is that you really don't have to say much, stay long, or bring flowers. What I have learned is you simply have to overcome your fears, your discomfort, and just be there, telling a familiar story or reading a magazine article. It's really not hard, you just have to do it. These are the very small gifts we can give.

I see some of Marty's old friends and acquaintances struggle with how to relate to her. Hey, I get it, it's very different, she is very different; she is not gregarious and out-going anymore, she's not going to carry the conversation, she's probably not going to make you laugh when you visit. She will know who you are, she will smile, she will know you are there. Marty is very much aware of what is going on around her and is certainly cognisant enough to know when friends are with her and offering their love and friendship. She is just like many of our family and friends who are chronically ill, they know more about what's happening around them than they communicate.

Anyway, I digress, because eight year old Samuel Baron, the young oracle of Cumberland St told me, he explained that Lyndon Baines Johnson and LadyBird Johnson had the same initials, I didn't know that. And then he used the word lallygag appropriately, regular eight year old prospective Texas Rangers just don't do that. But I knew he wasn't regular because he always, always makes my wife smile, and that's still the best part of my day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An Ode to the Morass

Man you can do a lot of medical stuff at home these days. We came home from the hospital, yesterday, June 30. We came home with the promise of being able to continue the IV antibiotics Marty has been on in the hospital for another 20 days, at home, done by yours truly and his trusty gang of caregivers.

We actually started home Monday but sort of got caught up in the medical delivery, insurance, Medicare milieu. Almost all hospitals today have case managers or Social Workers (my daughter, Erin is a Social Worker, employed by the way), and these good folks go around all day trying to get you out of the hospital and coordinating the myriad of events that sometime must take place to get you home.

In our case this involved finding the right antibiotic, the equipment with which to administer the antibiotic and the home care nurse who would train Larry and gang to administer the antibiotic via the handy dandy little PICC line which was installed (surely there's a better word) Monday. It just got too complicated to do in one day. First we had to discuss with all of Marty's insurers who was going to pay and how much. The end result, no one was paying very much. Fancy that. Then we had to find someone who could actually provide the compound antibiotic, Merrem, the compound part being a complicating factor. So, we decided to just stay Monday night, have the antibiotic at the hospital one more day and retry homeward bound on Tuesday.

Tuesday it worked. Marty's drug plan still wasn't paying for the meds (donut hole you know, if you don't you will when you hit 65) but we found the antibiotic and the case manager lined up the home health nurse to do the training.

As complicated as all of this is -- it worked. Just as promised the company from the DFW area brought medicine and supplies (we are now the proud owners of an IV pole) and the home health nurse showed up right on time. We went through about an hour of training, most of the time spent on sanitary procedures, and I can now, if you ever need me to, can hook up an IV to you in about 30 minutes flat. I don't charge by the minute, it's a flat rate.

I am forever amazed how out of the bureaucratic maze that medical care can be that every thing ever comes together. When we got home everything had been lined up and people really followed through from the medicine to the training. Now that doesn't take care of the financial end of this, but once you say, "I'll pay", people bring all kinds of things to your house.

The nurse training us is from Germany and has a, German accent, fancy that. She is extremely competent and I've been a little afraid to screw up lest I be chastised. We gave the first dose under her watchful eyes; "don't touch that, hold that there, don't pull that, make sure that's clean". Hygiene, sterile conditions are a big deal. We got through the first dose easily and the 2nd dose was scheduled at 1 a.m.. The German nurse came back, she was still a little intimidating, though nice. This dose also went well though Marty kept moving her arm and it took 2 hours to infuse so it was a very late night.

Anyway, all of this is really an ode to the competency of people we often don't think are going to be competent. We think the people in administrative health care are going to reach and strain for mediocrity because we hear so many horror tales. I've seen that up close and personal too. But, it's not always that way, sometimes, most times given the right support, these folks will deliver and perform and out of the medical morass things take shape and good work happens. This was a pleasant experience, or at least as pleasant as it gets.