Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stings and Arrows of Good Fortune

Clean phlegm and pee, it's a dream, it's real, it's real cool. Marty has been clean on both accounts for roughly two months now, for two months she has been antibiotic free, she has been infection free. It’s a world record for Marty. But, please remember the drill, you must now find wood and knock, three times and spit if it suits you.

Marty is fine, Marty's Husband is equally fine, maybe more so. When Marty is good, Great and Wise, UberNurse, and other associated folks are finer than frog hair. It's a fine time to be in Marty's house. I gave her injections of Rochephin for an upper respiratory thing in May; last spring (makes it sound longer). We are drug free for the longest period of time since 2006. These are good things that deserve celebration.

We are still checking, we are still watchful, we are still appropriately paranoid, but we are enjoying not worrying, we are reveling in the relative good health which most of us take for granted. The old saw of "at least I've got my health" is more than an old saw, its truth.

Marty's health, when it's good, makes me feel good. Every morning when I first swing my legs out of bed the first thing to enter my groggy, bed head is Marty. When we have extended periods of feeling good I don't start with a rush of adrenalin every day, I don't dread going to her room to check her vitals, I don't wake worried that the worst is upon us. The sense of relief is physical and real.

Marty is clearly more of herself than ever, every day through her comments, her requests, her one-word orders and directives I see more and more of my wife.

Me, probing for short term memory, "Marty, do you remember what we had for lunch?"

Marty, recognizing the folly in my probing, "Yes."

Me, "Well, what was it?"

Marty, looking at her caregiver and companion, mulling over her smart-ass answer, and then turning to me, smiling, "It's a secret."

You see, she didn't remember, she knows she didn't remember, she doesn't care she didn't remember and her effort was not in remembering it was in zinging me. It's like home, it’s like old times, it’s the best part of nostalgia.

Erica, companion and caregiver and promoter of culinary sin, "I know, I shouldn't have brought the chips but I was in a hurry and thought you guys would like them."

Me, the generous, carb addicted boss, walking out of Marty's room leaving Marty and Erica alone, "It's okay, it's a test for me to leave them alone."

Marty, quietly to Erica, "I want some of the chips, would you get me some please?"

Me, of the hard of hearing, except when people are whispering behind my back, "What, what was that, what did she say?” I asked looking at Erica.

Erica smiles, looks at Marty, Marty looks at her then over at me, thinks for just a tick of the clock and says, "I told her I didn't need any of those chips, so please don't bring me any."

Liar, Marty, my wife, liar, liar, pants on fire.

How could one ever miss the little white lies, the little arrows we all shoot at our loved ones? I don't know, but I do, and the glory of these last two months is on occasion I get to remember and feel those little stings, those little stings that remind me of who I married. Its okay, they keep you awake, aware and in love.

Knock on that wood people.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Death is No Way to Learn

Marty’s father died suddenly after routine surgery, six years ago. He died old enough to have lived a long, good life. He died old enough to see his two children’s successes and failures, he died old enough to see his grandchildren get married, he died old enough to see a lot of the world and know people. He died young enough for his family to see a full church at his funeral and to hear how much he was loved and admired by so many.

I remember sitting in the church for his funeral and I was struck by the outpouring of admiration, real affection and love for this rather gruff, self made agricultural entrepreneur. I heard countless tales about what a good man Arty was and how he had selflessly helped so many. I knew how much I admired him, I knew how much his family loved him, and I heard how his friends held him in high esteem. I wonder if Arty ever really knew how people truly felt about him. I wonder if he knew how much I cared about him.

Do any of us really know how much we are loved? We may think we do, but somehow we always manage to question our worthiness of this love and respect. Is that just me, or is that just Marty?

Confidence in being loved, assurance there are people in our lives who will steadfastly stand beside us and love us through our pain, is hard for some of us to grasp and believe. We rarely get this type of genuine affirmation in our daily life, we rarely give this type of affirmation until we or someone else dies, and then it’s just a tad bit too late.

I think Marty knows, I think Marty knows she is loved. I know she has seen it and felt it from many people. The cost of finding the love, the strokes, is way too high, but she is one of the fortunate who knows they are truly valued.

She didn’t always know; she didn’t always feel that lovable or deserving of love and affection. She didn’t always understand how much the people around her cared about her. She does now and she didn’t have to die to see it, just almost.

Every day Marty is cared for by three very special caregivers who always treat her with respect and admiration. She gets her cheek kissed every time she goes and sees her Doctor, the guy we lovingly call Great and Wise. The nurses and staff treat her like a minor celebrity and someone they genuinely love and respect. She is recognized at restaurants we frequent, movies we regularly attend and is always greeted with hugs and affirmation every time we manage to make it to our church. Marty is touched and loved in ways few experience, and I am sure she recognizes it.

Marty has seen the love of her family and friends, she has been the recipient of the love and care of countless medical professionals and she has earned the admiration of most that come in contact with her. She has been able to see her adult children care for her in ways parents rarely, if ever, see of their progeny, and she has lived to see me love and support her in ways neither of us thought I would be able to do. Knowing is one of the few gifts of the strokes and it comes at a too steep price.

It seems such a simple thing, telling the people we love and admire, that we love and admire them. We are not very adept at having sincere moments with each other. It’s not a small thing, we all want, we all need to hear it, we all need to feel it and we all need to know that the feelings are real, that we are loved. The sincerity of the moment does not require a funeral, it really doesn’t even require a catastrophic illness; these events just help push real feelings to the top. Marty knows that because she now gets to see how people really feel about her, she gets to see they love her, there should have been a better way.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It Touches Her Soul

Marty and I spent an Evening with John Denver yesterday afternoon. She really loves music, she always has. Marty taught me a deeper appreciation of music and she taught our children to love and enjoy all types of music. In her heart Marty is a musician, it’s in her soul and music still stirs emotions in her when nothing else really does.

I never had the same passion for music she did, I never had the same passion Marty did about anything. Because of Marty, I listened to music a lot. We either had something playing on the stereo, or a CD in the car or Marty was playing the piano. Marty is still something of a miracle on the piano, playing with just her right hand. The broken arm and the anti-seizure meds have made it even more of a miracle.

This is probably one area of Marty’s new normal I have neglected. So I made a vow and over the last couple of day we have spent part of the afternoon listening to the music we have listened to most of our lives. We were fans in college and after college; we made our children listen to our music on vacations and other trips and eventually made them fans too.

Marty and I started out with Linda Ronstadt, Heart like a Wheel from 1974. Marty can’t sing along anymore, the synapses in her brain simply don’t fire fast enough for her to keep up with the lyrics. She recognizes the songs, she knows the songs, you can see it in her eyes as she follows the songs, she just can’t sing with a CD anymore. That doesn’t stop me, I can’t sing on key, but I can sing loud and play air guitar or banjo with the best of them and my unbridled goofiness makes my bride smile.

As I sing, as I tap my feet, I watch Marty, and if you watch her very closely you can see her start to slowly let the music and the memories from the music start to tickle her mind. She starts to nod to the music, she starts to mouth some of the words, she starts to feel the music and it begins to be a part of her essence.

We rolled through the first tracks to “Faithless Love”, then moved to “Heart Like a Wheel”, one of Marty’s favorites and soon hit “Willin”, my personal favorite where you get to really belt out, “and if you give me weeeeed, whites and wine, and you show me a sign, …” I love that line.

The next day, yesterday, we sat and listened to all of John Denver’s, “An Evening with John Denver”, from 1975, college years for both of us; we were cool, but not too cool for John. This album, umh sorry, CD, holds great memories for both of us. I listen to these songs and can’t help but be carried back to our past, back to road trips, back to long ago friendships, back to seminal moments of our lives.

Grandma's Feather Bed

Again, I watch Marty, I ask her questions about the songs, I ask her if she remembers; she nods and says she remembers the songs, but not all of the words. We hear several songs but the real toe tapper here is “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” I sing along and it gets to the part where John sings, “I even kiss Aunt Lou, ooh,” and Marty is tracking along well enough to voice the “ooh” with me and John. Her smile as the song rolled along was priceless.

We then listen to “Annie’s Song.” Marty immediately identifies the song and says, “It’s a sad song.” I’m not entirely sure why she thinks it’s sad, it’s a great love song, it was played and sung at our wedding. Sometimes, I think, for Marty, evocative and emotional equals sad. I asked if she wanted me to move to the next song, and she said, “oh no, I like the song, Khaki sang it at our wedding.” Indeed she did.

Music is still a part of Marty, it always will be, and I want it to always be. She doesn’t often show the same depth of emotion and passion she did before the strokes, but it’s still there, running very deeply inside her. It just takes a little bit of effort and some old music to get to it and a practiced eye to see it. I’m still practicing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

That's the Way She Likes It

We are different, yet the same. We see things differently. We look at a building, I see the bricks, glass, and mortar, she sees the form, the design and the color, yet we both see the building where people live or work. I think the different helped us expand our visions, I know the same, kept us together.

We have the same background, the same raising. We both grew in Texas homes with both our birth parents; going to school, church, and eating dinner as a family at night. We both lived in small Texas towns separated by only 300 miles, basically the same geography, the same demography, the same other ‘ographys. But we grew up in different homes, with different views about important things. Different, but in so many ways, the same.

Nothing illustrates the point better than a trip Wendy’s, our favorite of the ubiquitous fast food franchises. Marty’s order was always the same, a number one, single, cut the onions and tomatoes, add ketchup and mayo, extra crispy fries and a diet coke with extra ice. My order, a number one with cheese. We both liked Wendy’s, we just go there different ways.

Marty always knew precisely what she wanted. When she went to college she knew from the moment she started she wanted to be a Speech Pathologist and she did that, me, not so much, I'm still not sure what I want to be if I grow up. Marty has always been bold enough to ask for exactly what she wants, it’s always been important to her. She wants her tots crispy from Sonic, me, I don’t care that much, it doesn’t make that much difference to me.

Different, yet somehow the same has always provided a contrasting sense of tension and an odd cohesion in our relationship. I always, check that, most of the time, I valued the different perspective, the different perception Marty had. I think in some way’s Marty was a bit jealous of my ability to simplify most tasks. Our differences, when nurtured, fed our relationship because we both had the same goal, success and satisfaction in the relationship itself.

I have always envied and marveled at Marty’s ability to frame choices. I often wished that as I dutifully slowed at the traffic light as it turned yellow I could have had Marty’s perception that opened up a whole world of opportunities for her other than the rule bound need to slow and stop. Yes, she could stop, or she could speed up, or she could just gracefully glide through the intersection weaving around the other cars. She always believed in the law, she just didn’t think it always had to be applied in the same way all of the time.

Sydney Harris, a writer and long time columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, noted, “Man’s unique agony as a species consists in his perpetual conflict between the desire to stand out and the need to blend in.” It makes a lot of sense for understanding life; it makes a lot of sense in understanding our relationship.

We exemplify that conflict with Marty “standing out” and me blending in. It’s what we do; it makes us both a better partner for the other, it makes for a better and more productive relationship. We could always depend on the other to balance our natural inclinations.

The natural conflict of different, yet the same, hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth the effort. I know I can be impatient, I know I am naturally inclined to the simple; I know I prefer, “give me a number one.” I also know how Marty likes it, and today, given the last five years, the differences seem like such a small thing. So, when I go to Sonic I say, “Give me extra crispy tots and would you throw in some ranch and marinara with that?”, because that's the way she likes it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm Sorry

Marty has always been fiercely loyal to her family and to her friends. Right or wrong she was on your side. Now, if you were wrong in her view, she would tell you, often in very straight words, but she would stand beside you, protect you, and support you, even when others might fall away, Marty stayed. She hated, got emotionally agitated, and at times over reacted when her friends or family were mistreated.

Her strokes have pretty well burned out a lot of the fire and emotion in Marty. She doesn’t get righteously indignant any more. She doesn’t have the same fiery anger or impatience with incompetence she once did. She still recognizes injustice; she still supports her family and friends, she just doesn't swing from the rafters about it anymore. She is much more succinct, and in her brevity and simplicity is just as eloquent, wise and powerful in her support.

I talked to a friend of ours yesterday. This friend has known Marty for years and I have got to know them since Marty’s illness. They are one of the people who make our life better. This friend adds quality and security to our life, this is one of the people who knew Marty as she was, sees her as she is now and embraces her and helps her be stronger and healthier. It’s a friend who, because of she is and because she does what she does, makes the life of a stroke patient and her husband just a tad bit easier.

In our phone conversation yesterday this friend laid out what had been happening in their life recently. They had been mistreated in a way that anyone who heard the circumstances would find awful. They had trusted and had their trust misused, they had reached out and offered part of themselves and essentially been repudiated for their vulnerability. It’s simply sad to see a friend treated so shabbily. I listened to the story intently, commiserated and sympathized and largely felt inadequate to offer solace to our friend. We hung up.

Marty, as she often does when I get off the phone, said, “What?” It’s her way of saying, "Tell me about it stud" (Loved that line in Grease).

I related what had transpired with our friend and Marty summarized her opinion in one word, “Boo.” I don’t think I have to interpret, but for Marty, who often communicates in one word soliloquies “boo” is a supreme sign of disapproval. I confessed how ineffective I thought I was at sympathizing and offering solace in situations such as this and I asked her what she thought was the best way to help someone.

Again, succinct and unfailingly straight, she said simply, “Say, I’m sorry.”

How right she is. This is not “I’m sorry” because I did something I regret. This is not the “I’m sorry” throw off line to stop the conversation and move on to something more comfortable. This is not commiserating about how you know how someone feels, because you never do unless they tell you. This is plainly and simply telling someone you care, that you wish life had not taken them in this direction, that you are sorry they must experience this type of pain from life.

It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s meaningful, and it’s sincere. Marty always knew how to be a friend; she always knew how to care. She spent years teaching me how to be a better husband, father and friend; and she is still my best guide and advisor.

To our friend, please know, we are sorry.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Calendar

In our bathroom we have two sinks. Marty’s side with all of the cotton balls, q-tips, perfume and other assorted feminine stuff. Mostly, I have left this side alone except to replenish appropriate supplies. My side is the manly side with manly deodorant, manly shaving cream and of course the manly little hairs and toothpaste remnants in the sink. Top this off with smudges on the mirror and you can always identify my side of the bathroom.

The calendar on the wall by my sink is not manly; it’s actually too feminine for a manly side of the bathroom. Marty put it up there and I never really liked it. There’s an old picture of a pretty young maiden that graces the calendar, a young lady with short blonde curls and a kind of turned up nose and rosy lips. The picture is a replica of a 1922 Saturday Evening Post cover. There is a small bouquet of flowers alongside a red and white striped hat box in front of the young lady. She is trying to look very sophisticated as she looks over her right shoulder. She is wearing an Easter bonnet in honor of the month of Easter.

I see this calendar every day we’re here; I see it is stuck on April 2005. I see it when I shave and leave the little hairs in the sink. I see it when I brush my teeth and leave the little globs of toothpaste in the sink. I see it every morning as I step out of the shower and drip water, not on the bathmat but on the floor. I see it and I know the calendar is old, that it is stuck on a date, a date when my life with Marty changed. Marty’s cerebral aneurysm ruptured on April 2, 2005. I changed the calendar from March to April that day, a Saturday five years ago; it is still on that month, that year.

When Marty had that stroke our house was essentially empty for two months and upon return I never gave the calendar a thought, it was just there. I have thought about removing the calendar for five years. I have tried to take it down several times, actually standing in front of the wall waiting for the electrons in my brain to fire and command my hands and arms to remove the thumbtack holding it to the wall. It just doesn’t happen.

I don’t know why I can’t just take it down and throw it away, it makes no sense. I think in some ways I’m afraid to remove it, I think I’m afraid it will change things. I believe in some really convoluted way I think things will get worse when the calendar is gone, that somehow the calendar represents stability, that it encompasses a long past status quo and that it represents the last vestige of Marty’s normalcy. I’m afraid if the calendar is gone it will be acquiescence to the disease, a kind of fatalism I don’t like.

I know the calendar has nothing special to it. I know we have long sense moved past April of 2005, I know intellectually it is somehow symbolic of hanging on to what was. I know all of this; I just haven’t been able to move it, yet.

I asked Marty the other day about the calendar and she pointed out that it was still on April and even she knew it currently wasn’t April or 2005 that the calendar was way out of date. I told her about the power of the calendar and she said we should just leave it where it was, but then she liked the calendar in the first place.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The 2nd One -- Part II -- Pneumonia

The previous post in this series -- The 2nd One Part I

I went back to Providence Hospital early the next day with a real sense of dread. When I left Marty in the ICU just a few short hours ago no one knew definitively what we were dealing with and I didn’t have a clue what I would find when I got to the hospital. I knew it was good no one had called during the night. I thought I had learned a lot from the previous stroke and hospitalization. I really didn’t know what all I didn’t know.

Marty had made it through the night comfortably. She had been monitored and well cared for in ICU. I figured she would be in ICU for a while, I mean she had a stroke, right? The ICU meant she would be under the constant watchful eyes of the best nurses, right? Wrong. We waited for a regular room to become available and then moved. The constant watchful eyes became my eyes.

We moved to a regular room, we had more tests; we got the definitive results, a run of the mill ischemic stroke as opposed to the hemorrhagic stroke six months earlier. One with too much blood, one not enough blood. It was good to know for sure, it was awful to hear the truth.

All of this happened to coincide with one of the few times Marty’s regular doctor, Great and Wise, took a weekend away from work. His partner took call for him that weekend. Marty had been doing pretty well given her weakness from the previous assault, she was reasonably lucid, starting to try and eat and already beginning what would turn out to be a long, tedious, heart wrenching program of rehabilitation. Then the pneumonia came.

Marty got really sick, really fast. They started her on two very powerful antibiotics. As she got sicker and as her blood pressure dropped the decision was made to move her back to Intensive Care. As I think back I’m pretty amazed at how fast all of this transpired and how truly clueless I was. I thought I knew about the medical milieu, I thought I knew how to deal with the hospital, I thought I was experienced. I really knew nothing about what we were facing. In this case my ignorance once again protected me. Sometimes if you can postpone reality it helps with survival.

In all of that has transpired with Marty there have only been three times when a doctor came to me and tried to prepare me for the worst. Great and Wise’s partner came to me, told me what was going on, what was going to happen, and then said, “I don’t know if she will make it.” The words kind of washed over my numb brain and left me speechless, a condition which just doesn’t happen to me. I simply didn’t know what to say or even how to react. I don’t think I really believed any of this was happening to us, it was all much too surreal.

ICU can provide a needed break to caregivers because in some, in this one, the visiting hours are limited and strictly controlled. The worst part of the ICU is you feel completely helpless and out of control, you are separated from the one you love. I was completely dependent on the snippets of time I got to spend in Marty’s room and the information the good nurses would and could provide. I hated not having constant access to Marty so I could see her condition with my own eyes, I did not like sitting outside of the ICU waiting for the next time the doors would open, and I did not like having to leave my wife alone through any of this time.

Marty’s blood pressure was and is today one of the best indicators of how ill she is. In this case it was precipitously low for her. To top it all off she was clearly allergic to one of the antibiotics she was taking and broke out in a horrendous rash all over her body. This seemed to bother Erin the most, she hated seeing the ugly, painful looking red splotches on her Mom and she hated that she just couldn’t get people to take it seriously.

The worst time occurred one afternoon when I was waiting for the appointed visiting time. I hated the waiting because I never knew what new calamity had hit Marty since the last visit, I hated the tension, I hated the surprises that waited, and I hated the suspense of waiting outside the doors. This day they were late opening the doors as all of the families waiting to visit patients were piled up waiting to enter the ICU. When the nurse came to the door she motioned for me to come with her. She explained the delay, Marty’s blood pressure had dropped so low they were afraid she wasn’t going to make it.

When I walked into her room Marty was very pale, her feet were elevated and they were pouring as many IV fluids into her as they could get. She was barely able to speak and recognize me. I bent over and whispered in her ear, “Don’t you leave me now.” She whispered very quietly, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Days later and the antibiotics started to beat back the pneumonia and Marty slowly began to wake up. I learned that if I stayed quiet and out of everyone’s way I could stay with Marty outside of the regular visiting hours. Occasionally some cranky nurse would make me leave, but for the most part they left me to my own devices and let me stay around and hold Marty’s hand.

The rash from the antibiotics still looked horrendously painful and irritated. Benadryl was given and cold packs were used to help relieve part of the misery. Marty’s overall somnolence was the only saving grace; she essentially was too weak to care and too tired to care. Being ill, having a stroke, is exhausting, and all Marty wanted, what she most needed was sleep.

Then one evening, kind of out of the blue, mostly because there were patients with a greater need for an ICU bed, Marty was moved. It was something of a miracle I happened to be there that night and watched and followed as they moved her out of the ICU. It was good to be leaving but I knew from experience we were leaving the comfort of constant medical attention and Marty’s family would need to be with her 24 hours a day now. I was already tired.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marty Passes a Stone

We had a good June; actually we had the best June we have had in four years. Marty has been infection free for five weeks (I’m knocking on wood even as I write) which is the longest she has been off antibiotics and feeling well since she had her second stroke. It could all go to hell in a hand basket tomorrow. But, on this day, on the past 40 days, Marty has been well and that makes life good.

We’ve taken full advantage of this respite in illness and participated in life and daily living. We made plans and we actually got to live those plans. That's very cool. We saw a niece marry a Brit’, we saw horses without wieners, we sat with the family for photos and we celebrated independence with the whole family.

During prolonged periods when Marty is feeling good I find a sense of comfort, a feeling of being able to handle our life, really starts to creep into my mind set. Life feels easier, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are not running to the doctor or the hospital trying to figure out the latest ailment or most recent health issue. It doesn’t take long before confidence starts to come back into your life and you start planning more and looking too far down the road. Then God, or whoever or whatever is really in charge of life, decides to, as Jeff Foxworthy said, “whack you in the ass with a boat paddle.”

We had plans; you know those things, to celebrate the 4th at our lake house with the whole family. We went on Thursday. That’s kind of our routine; head out to the lake, pack in some groceries and start to chill out before everyone comes for the weekend. We got there about 4 in the afternoon, in plenty of time to get everything put away, eat supper and enjoy the evening.

We sat down to eat a supper of my version of goulash with a side of tomatoes and avocados about six. I was sitting to Marty’s left; Nikkie was sitting on her right helping her eat. Since Marty broke her arm we have to be much more involved in helping Marty eat and drink. Marty turned to look at me and I immediately noticed the right side of her face had started to swell, actually it had moved well past started and was swollen, she looked like the mumps had snuck up on her face and found a home on her right jaw, just under her ear.

My job in these situations is to max out my anxiety meter. Now, I can’t really show it, but I can damn sure feel it. I start to sweat a bit, I can feel my heart rate increase, my breathing becomes shallower and I start ticking off all of the things I know might have just happened. In this case, it was a very short list, Marty had never done this.

Marty wasn’t in any real pain, the swelling was there but it wasn’t red or painful looking, it didn’t feel hot to the touch and she continued to eat and breathe fine. We checked her blood pressure and her oxygen were normal and of course, I hovered, because my appetite for this grand meal was gone, replaced by anxiety and adrenaline.

I called our good Great and Wise and when I told him what had happened he too was puzzled. He did have another piece of the overall puzzle in that he confirmed via Marty’s blood work that she did not have an infection. I told him we were coming back to the ER in Waco; this was just too different, to unusual for a brittle patient like Marty. Different and unusual are not good things for us.

The 90 minute trip was uneventful and the swelling in Marty’s jaw started to resolve a bit. I didn’t care, this was simply too weird and we went to the emergency room for the first time in over a year. Our absence for the ER is another good thing and is mainly attributable to the work of Marty’s Doctor and his staff; they really try to keep her out of the hospital.

It was one of those rare nights; it was about 9 p.m., that we got checked in and through triage in about 30 minutes. The ER nurse came in checked Marty over, agreed that her face was swollen and said a Doctor would be in to see her. A young Doctor with the first name of Giuseppe, not a common name in the Heart of Texas, came in, asked questions, looked Marty over, gently touched her jaw, said, “that’s impressive,” and “I know what this is.”

Dr. Giuseppe gave it a long name I can’t really remember but essentially Marty was passing a stone through her salivary duct and had managed to back up saliva from her parotid gland. I told the Dr. I had seen some stuff over the last five years and that I didn’t doubt his expertise but I had never heard of anything remotely like what he was describing. My experience told me when Drs. gave a weird and surprising diagnosis it wasn’t a simple deal, it would be a big deal, I started to sweat, again.

Dr. G then massaged my anxiety a bit by saying it was something he had seen many times and wasn’t dangerous. He prescribed lemon drops or some sort of really tart food like a lemon which would cause Marty to salivate and cause the glands to contract and push the offending stone through the duct thus clearing the backup and the swelling. I actually think Marty had already passed the stone as the swelling had continued to resolve.

After a bit more examination, some lemon swabs in her mouth we left the ER about midnight. By 1 a.m. Marty was bathed, in her bed getting ready to sleep. It took me a little, actually a lot longer, to wind down and find sleep. The next morning the swelling was all but gone and we packed up again and headed out to the lake for the weekend.

We had a great weekend; and with the memory of the stone in the salivary duct firmly in mind I made a conscious decision to quit looking too far down the road, again. I, we, are incredibly grateful for the recent period of good health, we just don’t need to get too cocky because as soon as we do, as soon as we start thinking too many normal thoughts, we get whacked. Humility, living day-to-day, is a lot better than getting hit with a boat paddle.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

There and Back Again*

We didn't conquer Smaug or find any "Lord of the Rings" but we did go, there and back again -- to Dalhart, that is. We had a good, uneventful, but full trip. For us, uneventful is a really good thing. Did I say it's a long drive to Dalhart from Waco?

We made it to Dalhart Friday evening, Marty riding in the back of the van the whole way. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express I pointed out to Marty the addition of two life size palomino horse statues in the front of the motel. They are really quite striking with their gold color and their raised chests and front legs high in the air. Marty, as is her custom, pointed out the obvious, "they don't have any genitalia." What a great way to start our visit.

We always have to eat at least one of our meals at a local steakhouse called Bar H. It used to be really up town, it was a K-Bobs. Now, it's got a great salad bar inside a Conestoga wagon, has a really big chicken fried steak, and soft-serve ice cream. We met some really good friends there for supper and Marty, as she normally does, had the small version of the chicken fried steak.

The next day we introduced Noah to Great Gran Jean at Coon Memorial Nursing Home. I think GG Jean was a tad bit over stimulated by the Noah and the Lyle and the regular grandkids all barging in on her perfectly good nap. She met Noah, she met Lyle and that was that. We left with promises to return before supper.

For lunch we went with another set of friends and our whole clan to another local restaurant. Marty rarely even looks at a menu but did this time. When I asked if she wanted a sandwich, she said, "No, I want a chicken fried steak."

I tried to talk her out of that, "How about a hamburger?"

"No, I want chicken fried steak."

"How about a grilled cheese? You ate a chicken fried steak last night."

"No, I want a chicken fried steak," she insisted.

This went on for a couple more tries on my part; Marty would not relent. Chicken fried steak it was, again.

That afternoon we made it to the cemetery to see Marty's Father's plot. Marty really likes wind chimes and she once told me when she hears a wind chime she hears the voice of her Dad. This visit we hung a small chime on a shepherd's hook at Arty's grave. It's a little bit odd to have a wind chime at a west Texas cemetery but I think Arty would like it; Marty does and I like that.

We went back to see Marty's Mom right before supper. She was more alert and much more engaged for the afternoon visit. We all crowded around her room and just talked, visited and watched the baby crawl on the floor and get rug burns on his sweet knees.

I asked Jean what she wanted to be called, now that she was a great grandmother. We tried great grand this and great grand that, offering her alternatives. Our kids always called her Nanny and thought we she go with Great Grand Nan, she thought and puzzled on this for a while before saying, "I don't feel like a grand or great anything, I think I want to be Less Nanny." She kind of giggled as 85 year old women do and we all laughed and enjoyed her joke.

That night we went back to the Bar H for supper so the kids could get their genuine taste of Dalhart meat. As we sat down at our table and looked at menus I looked at Marty and said, "Not chicken fried steak again?"

She looked at me, smiled, and said, "Yes, I want chicken fried steak."

I looked at her, started to argue with her, my kids looked at me and as a chorus said, "let her have what she wants."

Of course I relented, there are so few times we splurge with what we eat and even fewer times where Marty says, this is what I want. Her insistence, her stubbornness about the chicken fried steak was the old Marty and we always like it when the old Marty rears her head, like when she points out the sexless horses at the Holiday Inn.

The next day we left for the back part of our journey, back to Waco. Nine hours in the van, again, we were there and back again. It's a long, flat drive interspersed with very typical small Texas towns and the object is to make good time without getting a speeding ticket. We made good time.

When we pulled into our driveway in Waco I had road fatigue and was glad to be home. I crawled into the back of the van to move Marty into her wheelchair and I asked her if she had a good time. She said, "Yes, but get me out of this car." I couldn't agree with her more. Didn’t I say it was long way there and back again?

*with credit to Bilbo Baggins, one of my favorite Hobbits