Thursday, December 31, 2009

You Need to Know

Part of my job when Marty has been hospitalized or when we have gone to a new medical setting is to introduce Marty to the providers. I really think that when the caregivers get to know Marty as a person, get to see Marty for who she was, who she is and what she has accomplished they see her more as a person than a patient. I have told her story countless times.

Marty was born in the far west Texas panhandle town of Dalhart. Her father was a meat packer and eventually a farmer and rancher so she really can cuss. Her mother was a stay at home west Texas wife who taught Sunday school in the Baptist Church so she recognizes guilt and sin.

Marty earned her Master of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Texas Tech U where we met. Coincidentally this is the same university that just fired the winningest coach in their history for giving a young man two extended time outs (yes, I'm bitter). Marty took her degree and worked in various school systems working with young children as we moved around the state.

Marty eventually went back to school at Baylor University and earned a doctorate in educational psychology from Baylor University. From there she worked at a small foundation in Waco that worked with academic family practice physicians to improve their educational skills. She eventually left that job and began training and eventually began her own personal coaching practice. This was interrupted by the death of her father and finally the two strokes which occurred in April 2005 and January of 2006.

Marty is an academic, a talented musician (could play 5 instruments and sang in numerous choirs and groups), a practicing psychologist (not practicing anymore), wife and mother. Mom seemed to be her best and favorite calling as she took time out of her career to raise our kids. She was/is an amazing parent. She was involved, active, sympathetic and challenging to not only to our children but the other kids we met through our church and our kid's activities. As my wife she followed me around the state of Texas as we moved around the state following a career with TXU. She did not like moving, she never liked leaving anywhere, but she always supported me.

None of what I told all of these providers was intended to deify Marty. I am well aware of her temper, her idiosyncrasies and her sins. It just makes no sense to list them. Besides, much of what Marty struggled with in life, the temper; the sadness has been burned away by the strokes. Just know I know Marty was not a saint, she was a person just like all of us.

What I have always wanted to ensure is that all of the people who meet Marty today know what she accomplished and know what she did with her life. It's worth them knowing and it always makes me feel better to say it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Simple and Eloquent

Christmas and Thanksgiving have taken on a different kind of feel since Marty got sick in 2005. It just feels different. Part of it may be the time in our life when we are getting older and our kids are starting to have holiday celebrations on their own or with new families. Part of it has to do with not working every day so there is no time off for the holidays, we're already off. Much of the different feel has to do with working with Marty's new normal.

We never really know from one day to the next how Marty will feel or what we may be facing in terms of her overall health. This year has been good, there have been holidays in the recent past where we weren't able to celebrate or be with family because of sickness or just overall concern for Marty's health and safety. Suffice it to say, traditions of the past have been pretty much chunked in favor of working with our new situation and condition.

This year has been really different. The feel of the holiday has been really different. It just hasn't had the real red and green, white light, ribbons and bows feel of past Christmas's. Even with the snow I really haven't broken out in a spontaneous Christmas Carole all season long. I've done the shopping, sent out cards, wrapped the gifts and even cooked a rather dry turkey on my own. It just doesn't have the same feel. That's okay, it's just different.

We are at the lake this year and we both love that. Marty is doing good from a health perspective and we both really love that. We both really like the colder weather, it finally feels like a real winter, and I really like that. We spent Christmas day with my parents and my brother we really enjoyed that time. The day after Christmas we spent a good part of the day with Marty's brother and his family and we really liked that.

Maybe the holidays feel different because there is always the overriding concern for Marty. Maybe it's because we missed Christmas Eve services at our church. Maybe it's because I did virtually all of the shopping on the internet and eschewed the crowds at the mall. Maybe, maybe, maybe....I just don't know. And, yes, I do know the "reason for the season", got all that and have never lost that.

I suspect the different feel is just part of life's passages and that feelings and views change as we get older and as our priorities are altered by life. I also suspect I miss Marty's Christmas verve. She has always been such a driving force in any celebrations in our life. She has always been an integral part in all celebrations. Her spirit, her passion made Christmas for me. Marty’s spirit and passion have obviously changed.

Yesterday before we ate Christmas dinner with my parents, my brother and Renae I asked Marty if she would like to offer grace for our meal. She never missed a beat and without bowing her head or closing her eyes (I know this because I didn't close my eyes either) she prayed very simply, "Thank you for this food and bless us. Thank you for bringing these friends and family with us here today, we really love it". Simple and eloquent.

Christmas 2009 is different. Not worse, not better, just different. Simple and eloquent.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Marty and I finally broke down and rejoined Sam's Club after many years. I am really philosophically opposed to paying a membership fee so I can spend money at your store, but where else can you get a gross of pretty good toilet paper?

I always thought, in our marriage, Marty was the spender and I was the saver, Marty was the gas and I was the brakes. But, Marty's stroke has been a clarifying experience for this particular paradigm. As it turns out I really shouldn't be trusted with a membership to Sam's, certainly not without Marty's practicality.

Several weeks back I went to Sam's, alone, to stock up on paper products for our house and for the lake house. The house at Richland Chambers is 20 miles from a grocery store so it's good to keep a copious supply of essential goods in stock. I personally hoard toilet paper, you just can't ever have enough, so I figure let's go to Sam's and get a butt load of t.p., paper towels and whatever else we might need in the event of a nuclear winter. So I took the van with the idea I would just load that puppy up with stuff and make a dash to the lake house to unload it.

Once in Sam’s and after I have passed through the super duper security area I focus on the paper products because: A. you just can't ever have too much of this stuff's not like it ever goes bad and C. running out of toilet paper would be a disaster. I load up my ginormous shopping cart with paper products. A little voice then goes off in my head that we need non-dairy creamer. I think I had a discussion about non-dairy creamer with one of the kids and we decided we should just buy non-dairy creamer for the lake house since its like B above -- it never goes bad and the fresh cream stuff does.

Sam's doesn't have a lot of variety; they just have massive quantities of each product, so I get a big six-pack of a generic non-dairy creamer. Now, keep in mind, I don't use any kind of cream in my coffee so I will never use the stuff. Now, also keep in mind, you only use like a teaspoon for a cup of coffee. I'm guessing we now have several thousand teaspoons of a generic non-dairy creamer. Bring on the nuclear winter.

This is where I need Marty. This is where I need her pragmatic and succinct opinion. I can tell you what it would be, "That's stupid, put it back". She would not have spared my delicate little psyche or ego. "That's stupid, we will never use that much creamer, put it back". That's what I need.

Who knew Marty's direction would be something I would miss or at least something I really need. I thought I was the logical, practical, thrifty part of our partnership. Wrong. I need that objective third party practicality that keeps me from going over the edge on creamer.

I apparently need someone to keep me grounded in places like Sam's or HEB or The Academy or your friendly neighborhood car dealership. I'm telling you we built the lake house because we needed a new microwave for our house in Waco (another story), damned expensive microwave. Marty would have let me replace the microwave, the house, not so much.

Marty has always been the person who kept me balanced, kept me in check, kept me humble. It's taken me awhile to figure out how important that check was and is to me. Occasionally she still straightens me out with a laugh, a look or a question like "how much is that anyway" or "we really don't need that".

Bottom line, I bought the dairy-creamer. We will never use all of it. If we ever have a nuclear winter and you have coffee you should come to the lake. I have enough cream and toilet paper for everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Know -- TMI

More news from the colon front, or shoud we say colon back.  Bet you didn't think this would be something you would ever be reading.  Frankly, I didn't ever think I would be sharing colon news.

Actually, it's just a brief story.  I did have a colonoscopy.  If you are over 50, it's a rite of passage and you too should know the joys of the "prep". 

The only thing I can really remember is the doctor saying let's try a test dose of this versed.  The next thing I know daughter Erin and some really nice nurse are trying to get me to stay awake so I can go home.  I don't remember anything, which is great because this kind of experience is high on my list of things unremembered.  Also unremembered that day, how did I get dressed and get home.  Oh well, not to worry.

I got the results back yesterday and everything is just dandy.  I passed this tidbit on to my bride and grumbled slightly because they said I needed to come back in three years, not five.  My wonderful loving wife, who I have supported and cared for said, "Don't worry, you might not even be alive in three years."

Gee thanks darling  what a nice way to end a pleasant discourse on the health of the lower bowel.  But, she's right, I just hope she's not a prophet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Pool

Lubbock Texas circa August 1976 -- long ago and far away.

Larry, newly married, young, innocent in the ways of virtually everything, anticipating his new bride's first birthday as man and wife: "Hey, Marty, what do you want for your birthday?"

Marty, newly married, already versed in the art of emotional complications and complexities looking for her new husband to prove his love: "Oh, nothing".

My first mistake and one of my first lessons in loving the opposite sex. Of course I didn't get her anything for her 22nd birthday, that's what she said......right???

We did manage to get past this major faux pas on my part, it wasn't my first and certainly wasn't my last. I'm still looking for my last mistake.

My instincts told me better, my Momma taught me better, but I listened to my man side, you know, the whole "boys are from Jupiter to get more stupider" part of my brain that said to me, "hey, cool, okay, no problem, that's easy enough."

It's a classic case of the differences between Marty and I, and I think men and women in general. I asked what I thought was a simple question. I got a much more nuanced answer than a young man could understand. I hadn't been trained.

I can't tell you how many times Marty and I ended or entered one of our "discussions" with her saying. "I know this is what you really meant and I know this is what you really feel". And me replying, "Marty, really, I'm not that deep." Nuance is not part of most men's psychological make-up. We have to learn emotional subtleties; we have to be educated in nuance.

Look at emotions like a huge swimming pool, maybe even one of those really awful wave pools at a water park. There's the deep end and there's the shallow end. There are smooth times when the water is like glass and rough times when waves are higher than you can see. See, just like real emotions.

Where are the women? In the deep end of course, experiencing the environment, experiencing the emotions, riding the waves up and down and occasionally asking their chromosomal partner to meet them in the deep water of life.

The men, we are standing tall in the shallow end. Sometimes we will get on our back and do the back stroke in the shallow end and maybe, maybe we might even get to where the water is up to our necks, but we always want to be able to stand up with our head out of the water. Treading water (dealing with our emotions or the subtitles of life) is exhausting.

None of this should be construed to mean women and men are that simple. None of us are. We are all different. We all are standing or swimming in different places in the pool, it's a big pool. We all need to be in different places in the pool, but we all need to test the deep waters sometimes.  Marty, bless her heart, dragged me to a lot of different spots in the pool; turns out I can tread water.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Who You Know

All good streaks eventually end. Even the greats like Pete Rose, Bobby Jones, (what happened to Tiger Woods), John Wooden, Sarah Palin (whew) see their string of victories come to an end. We did too. Marty went seven weeks without antibiotics or any infections, the longest she has gone without some kind of medical issue for about four years. Yesterday the streak was broken and the Great and Wise diagnosed a urinary tract infection.

Marty's caregivers are actually the ones that diagnosed the issue. They know Marty, they know what is normal. They recognize changes in energy, smells, sights, the whole gamut. Renae called it on Monday evening and said we needed to see the good doctor. We actually had an appointment with Marty's Pulmonary doctor, Dr. Rosario, Great and Wise Jr., on Tuesday. (By the way, Marty promised to find Great and Wise Jr. a husband so if you know anyone, about 30 and reasonably accomplished, let me know. Whole other post on this).

What follows appears sort of mundane but is why we can't ever leave Waco. Dr. Martindale, his nurses and his staff are what is right about health care and while some of the simplest stuff is extremely complicated for Marty they never flinch, hesitate or do anything but act with kindness, sensitivity and professionalism.

First, we were able to get in on Wednesday, a minor miracle with some docs, not Great and Wise. Second, the man himself always spends an appropriate amount of time with Marty. He asks questions, reviews vitals, listens, hugs (Marty, not me), thinks and uses wonderful judgment in treating Marty. She has an enormous amount of faith in the man, thus the title Great and Wise.

Next comes Toni, the uber nurse. Toni has known Marty for a long time, even before she was sick and so they go back a long way. It's good to have personal history and connections. Toni can and does everything, including some delicate and all together icky procedures that are necessary but frankly more than any man (that would be me) should have to watch. Anyway, we, she got the urine, ran the test and yes indeedy, little Renae was right on, we have a deluxe UTI. Toni says, "The test strip lit up light a Christmas tree".

Next is how do we treat. The good doctor comes in and says antibiotic. He sticks his head back in and says, thanks to consultation with Uber Nurse, let's give her a shot of antibiotics too, and let's get blood, etc., etc.. They work as a team, they talk to each other, they know the patient, what can I say, we have been blessed with the Providence Family Medical team from Great and Wise to Toni, Wendy, Sarah, Candace, Cara, to Angie, Maria, Staci, Annette, and Dr. Lippe ... what a team. Like I said, Waco will be home, and its home because of these kinds of people.

Marty is a complicated patient. Almost anything with or for her takes longer and requires more time, more hands and more expertise. Marty gets better care every day than the vast, vast majority of people in her condition because we have found people who will take the extra time, devote loving hands, and use their God given talents to help her. We are lucky, but we've always been lucky with this kind

Monday, December 7, 2009

Parents and Children

Marty, Nikkie and I had a very pleasant lunch the other day with a long time friend we should call Sue, because that's her name, Sue.

Sue and Pete are great friends of ours. They moved to Waco about the same time we did, joined the same church and have children roughly the same age as ours. They are the family we would ski with; they are the family we accidently ran into in Washington D.C. one spring break. Sue is our designated third party, she is the local name I put down in case of emergency because I suspect Sue could find you anywhere or get almost anything done. I've seen her do it. All those years as a Navy wife paid off for her.

Sue is the mother of three and is the Mother who, when my 1st grade daughter forgot she needed to wear a dress to school for a concert and Erin could not get hold of either of her birth parents, Erin shanghaied Sue to take her home and let her change. Sue is a fellow progressive in the ocean of conservatism that is Waco. Sue and Marty battled adolescence together. Sue is experienced at most everything, or at least all things we can talk about in polite circles. Sue is one of the world’s great conversationalists, always with a thought or opinion.

Lunch was good and somehow we got to talking about happiness and satisfaction in life. Somehow we got to a point where I said, borrowing from a movie quote; we all will always be both children to our parents and parents to our children, always. Marty always liked to call our kids "faux adults". I suspect my parents still think that about us.

When you grow up, whatever grown up is, you might think your parent's influence would begin to wane. I don't think so. Maybe it's Fathers and sons but I will always be trying to earn and maintain my Father's respect, approval and admiration. It's that important to me. Dad never acted like he was ever disappointed in anything I did, but to this day I still measure my decisions with "what would Dad think".

My father-in-law once told Marty and I that as long as children care what their parents think -- you got it made. Me, I always cared what my parents thought of me, still do. I didn't avoid bad situations simply out of moral direction, but I never, ever wanted to disappoint the parental units.

Sue made the point that when you loose your parents part of the "always a child" goes away. She lost her Mother and Father years ago. I don't know, both of my parents are still alive and I don't know if I will ever feel completely grown up. You would think a GrandPa would feel like an adult, I don't...

I suspect Sue is right to a great deal. But, I have to say, Marty's Father passed away about five years ago and I firmly believe he still has a profound influence on Marty. To some degree, I think she has never given up on her quest for recovery out of respect for her Dad. As I've said before, she hears her Father's words in our wind chimes. I once asked what he was saying through the chimes and she said, "Keep trying, I'm proud of you." Alive or not Arty is still with her and she still wants him to be proud of her.

It's a funny thing seeing your children get older and more mature. It's extremely gratifying to see them work at jobs, start their families and move on through life. I would tell both of them that they have the respect and love of their parents. I would say to both of them they meet our approval. I would say to both of them, just as I'm sure my parents would say to me, I know you will make right decisions about most things, most of the time, and when you don't we will still approve of you and be proud of who you are. I say that as a parent and a child.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Answered Prayer

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration in Mansfield with my family this year. The whole fam was there and everyone was on their best behavior for Noah Robert's maiden holiday experience. As part of our Thanksgiving tradition my Father either offers a prayer or asks someone to offer blessings prior to the feast. This year he asked me, and of course I was more than happy to pray, even though I have a perfectly good niece who is a student at Austin seminary. I prayed and Noah, already a severe theological critic, gave his own personal blessing.

Since it was a kind of spur of the moment I pulled out my standard kind of prayer. I prayed the basic bless this, bless that, thank this, thank that, nourishment of our body kind of thing, a pretty standard meal prayer. But, like a lot of moments, given more time to reflect and having a certain amount of piety and sanctimony in my soul I would like to offer this revised prayer:

God -- Thank you for all of our blessings. Thank you for the older lives extended and for the miracle of the new life that is Noah Robert Kinard. You have blessed us with the great fortune and wisdom of parents who are still with us and strong and parents who can't be with us but have made our lives better. You have let us see new life and with it the miracle that is humanity. Through Noah, you have given all of us the chance to see how our life will move on, through him, without us, and we thank you.

Thank you for the brightness I see in my wife's eyes. When I told you I could handle all of the work, the worry and the issues with the disabilities from the stroke; but I needed help with the constant medical issues, you apparently were listening. I feel such relief that Marty has been infection free and feeling strong for so many consecutive weeks. I can't remember a time in my life where you answered my prayers like this. What a blessing. Thank you for continuing to bring her happiness and continued healing. There is nothing in this world that makes life better than to hear Marty engage and laugh. What a blessing that we have had these extra years.

Thank you for my children and their love, support and affection. I know it may be wrong, but we are so proud of all of them. We are blessed by their presence and blessed by their choices of partners. We have truly gone from having two children to four and we feel your grace and love in bringing all of them to our lives. Children are not always such a blessing, ours are.

Thank you for seeing us through another year of great turmoil. I see our blessings, I understand how truly lucky we are. You have blessed us with a loving family, caring friends, and wonderful people helping Marty and me each and every day.

Help us as we go on these next days, weeks and months to love each other. Help us to understand that what is important to us, may not be important to you, and that our life should be one of living in a way that honors not our self, our small ideas, or our prejudices, but living in a way that honors your true ideals and wishes for us. My words always feel so inadequate, so the best I can do is say and feel -- Thank you.

Amen and Amen