Saturday, July 30, 2011

I hope you're happy, Zeb!

You now have a subject label for my posts, as it seems to be a necessity. Should your ego take a beating in the future, you can come here and click said label, and find all posts after this one that have you mentioned. Then you can sit back and say, "He talked about me!" =)

The big rumor that started flying just yesterday is that Social Security payments might be withheld this month, which scares me silly. It'll mean being unable to pay even partial rent until Becky receives refund money for college, which won't happen until the end of the month. It means struggling through with every bill until then. It means being unable to visit my father on the 6th. It means me, and millions of Americans, getting screwed without so much as dinner at White Castle.

Of late, I finished going through The West Wing. It's as accurate to the politics as it can get before having to pour on a thick layer of drama to keep a television audience glued to the screen. The real job is complicated, non-stop negotiations with hundreds of people, all with their own agendas. Trying to get everyone on the same page is like herding cats.

My followup post wasn't me complaining due to something you said that I felt was AIMED at me. It was simply the truth of the matter: my education on how our government works comes from poorly informed sources. It starts with the public school system and ends with a television show.

Going back to public schools...How many of us learned about the Civil War as being all about slavery? That's what I got out of it. It turns out that it started with States' rights, of which the right to have slavery was an issue, and spiraled out of control when the very first Republican was voted into office. (Yes, "Uncle Abe" was the first Republican President.) There was absolutely no mention of the Southern point of view, with them seeing it as the Second American Revolution. But then history is written by the victors, even when if they insist on writing it incorrectly.

I had this goofy idea some years ago to run for the big chair. I meet all of the Constitutional requirements, and there's nothing in there that says a physically and emotionally ill guy can't hold office. Once I start spewing my political shpiel, I sound like a "conservative liberal." And like everyone else who runs for the highest office in the land, I am of the misconception that I'll be able to run the show once I get there.

That was Obama's mistake. There is no straight line from the President's desk to new policy and laws. Thus, his slogan went from "Yes we can" to "Maybe we could at a later date" to "Nope, we probably can't."

If I were capable of getting into office, and seeing ideas immediately enacted into law, the biggest, most radical change would come from a bit of science fiction. Have you ever read Starship Troopers? (Blessedly, it's absolutely NOTHING like the movie. In fact, the only thing that remains the same are the names of the characters. After that, the movie was a joke.) In the book, the only way anyone can be politically active, even if it's just to cast one's vote, is to serve in the military. Why? The basic gist is that if one hasn't sacrificed his own body for the well-being of his/her nation, then he/she doesn't have the right to run said nation. It's far more complex than that, but...

Can you imagine what our nation would be like if citizens had to EARN the right to vote? Instead of being handed the responsibility willy-nilly, they'd have to put their very bodies on the line and learn the true value of belonging to a country, and a country belonging to them. I can almost hear the screaming now, as those who haven't served and don't want to serve begin to shout that I'm an utter lunatic, followed by the fact that I never served...because I wasn't permitted to. Diabetes is a 4F on the freakin' questionnaire. Serving doesn't make one smarter, thereby making them better to run a country; it simply demonstrates their willingness to do for country what that country will eventually do for them.

I'm rambling, and I'm frustrated. Like many American citizens, I think I could do a better job at running the country than our current leaders...but there's no way "some crippled guy" is going to make his way into office. The great experiment that is America needs an overhaul, and there's no one willing to stick their political neck on the line to do it. What's more, many of who have all the ideas have no actual clue as to how things could get done. Not without running an existential obstacle course made up of lunatics carefully watching out for their political hides.

Which leaves me staring at the calendar and the web page for my bank. Will my money be there on Wednesday, or will I be hopping online and begging for help? I love my country...but sometimes it really sucks to be an American!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another of those update thingies

So, after almost two months, I finally got to see my PCP today. (That's still "Primary Care Physician" and not the drug of old, folks.) My last appointment had to be canceled for some mysterious reason, and the next available date was a month after that. My PCP is a popular guy, and with good reason.

Y'see, my PCP is a doctor that cares. He sits, he listens, he explains, and then he takes the appropriate action.

For example, I've been having a little problem with my foot in a cast for so long. I am under the perpetual fear I'll get a cramp, and when there's even a little room inside the cast, my foot starts trying to work its way out of it. I can't get my foot out; that's the whole point. But tell that to my subconscious when I'm sitting at my computer, doing whatever it is I'm doing. That's a problem unto itself, as I'm supposed to be resting.

So I bring this up with my PCP, and state that while I may be on Xanax for my anxiety issues, that drug doesn't have the skeletal/muscular relaxation that can be found in Valium. If I were to be given a temporary prescription of Valium to address my restless foot, potential muscle cramps, and anxiety, I could kill multiple birds with one pill.

If I make a sound case with my doctor and he'll work with me. If I were to sit there and simply scream, "GIMME DRUGS!", I think he'd have me escorted out by security. He sat...He listened...He agreed with my layman's knowledge of the named drug...And he prescribed it to help me with my current issue. He also gave my oxycodone a 5 mg. boost because of increasing pain in my hips, which we hope to address in the near future. Finally, I'll be getting a referral to a neurologist.

Here's the thing...I have no idea what a neurologist can really do for me. I have a disease of the nervous system. It's degenerative. I'm already on the only drug that I KNOW works. But I'll go because that's what the special specialist wants me to do, and my PCP is in agreement.

Now if you missed my worried monologue some time ago, I had a white blood cell test done that brought about a fear that something horrible was happening inside my lungs. I mean, one glance at the pictures made it seem like the lower half of both lungs had lit up like stars on the blackest night, and that prompted Becky and I have to have a serious chat about what to do if I had any serious illness of the lungs. Fear is a terrible thing to live with, so I did my best to simply ignore it...but not so much as to forget to discuss it with my doctor.

Well, it turns out that it was NOT my lungs. It's my spleen and my liver, which are directly behind the lungs, and they're expected to light up like that because of the garbage they filter out. As for why my bladder was aglow, (what I've been jokingly calling "my uterus"), it wasn't bright enough to cause any concern. Just to be sure, he took a careful listen to my lungs, and they still sound remarkably clear for a guy smoking for 24 years. Go figure.

So for a guy in not-so-great health, I'm okay. I'm still facing several medical issues, but I AM facing them, and doing my best not to let them rule my life.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

After so many weeks of silence...

...Zeb exploded.

Really, you should look at his comments for my last post. There's Zeb all over my blog, and I don't have enough bleach to get all of the Zeb off of it. =P

There's a problem with my last post, in that I'm a part of the partial informed public. There seems to be a distinct left and right side of every political story, with too many people reporting on those sides, and so little being done to actually report THE NEWS! (Yeah, I'm going at the media again.) The idea behind news organizations is to deliver a non-biased report on the happenings of the world. Unfortunately, it now seems that all such organizations have a political agenda, and simply reporting one way AND the other is out of the question.

How much am I supposed to take seriously at this point? How can I possibly discern the truth from the opinion? The only thing I can take away from any news report is the root of the discussion, and everything else is washed away by cynicism.

This whole thing with the debt ceiling, for example. All I know for sure is that the country has a credit problem. Said problem will affect the way we run our government, which will in turn affect the people. That's where all of the information seems to stop, and the rest is filler made up of right and left wing opinion. I practically need a translator on hand to explain to me what on Earth has their panties in a bunch.

It doesn't help in any way whatsoever that I've learned how FOX News does its reporting. I've seen the evidence of their special editing process, making anyone with liberal or left wing thinking appear to be an idiot. For example, a couple of years ago, they took something Joe Biden said, "The economy is strong," and turned it into a, "Hah! Look at that moron" piece. What they failed to mention during that segment is that the quote was made during a campaign speech, and as a stand alone comment was completely out of context. Such practices make FOX look foolish and unreliable as a news source. If they would just stop such lunacy, maybe - just maybe - I'd be able to watch their side of the story without looking toward Heaven and hoping G-d strikes them all down.

I really shouldn't have delved into current events, as I'm not necessarily current with them. I know we're in trouble as a nation. I know we need to do something. I know we're like teenagers with a new credit card and no understanding of how credit actually works, so we use it to its spending limit. And I know that at some point, we're going to have to overhaul our nation's practices so we can clean up our act. We simply can't continue to keep spending money the way we are, as it's going to leave all of our future generations to clean up after us. Such rhetoric is only used during the tough times. Once we're past a crisis, the plight of future generations seems to fall by the wayside, and that's wrong in countless ways.

I'm going to keep looking for my electronic thumb and towel, just in case. Meanwhile, it's nice to know you're still reading, Zeb. =)

Be well, and DFTBA!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is now a good time... panic? I think maybe, just maybe, it is. Because come next Tuesday, the United States defaults on all its debts, and China will come to repossess us. I don't think we'll be permitted to call ourselves the United States of China. They'll probably rename us something those of us speaking American English can't pronounce, and that'll be just ONE of the things that sucks.

On the table are apparently a few things that will affect me directly. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And the truly fun part is no longer knowing who's responsible for what. The Republicans and Democrats have switched sides, from what I've gathered via Jon Stewart, meaning that I'm no longer sure who I should be yelling at. President Obama's idea of calling my Congressman to give my two cents seems about as useful as a of gallon of gas during a house fire.

I don't understand the gripe that the rich have with being taxed. If one is rich, and intelligently so, then there are bank accounts chock full of money. Paying a few extra percentiles of taxes should NOT be that much of a problem, as there will still be plenty of money left in your precious bank accounts. (Or have you all lived the American dream beyond your credit, too, and are now so in debt that your savings accounts are empty?) The lower and middle classes don't have extra tax breaks, so pony up and pay your share too. Call it "the price of being wealthy."

That's all I have for the citizenry. For the government, I have quite a few choice words, like, "STOP BEING MORONS!"

We can start by dumping the penny. No one will miss it. That's a few million dollars no longer spent, right there.

Creating useless agencies would also be a big help. Like the department in charge of trying to simplify paperwork and cut down on paper actually used. by other departments. (I read about it once, but can't find it again to save my life.) The result of creating said department was the creation of even more paperwork. It's akin to creating "the Organization to Organize Organizations." It's probably out there...I just refuse to look, as I fear I might actually find it. Stop the uselessness!

These wars for foreign oil, (and that's what most are them are really about), need to end. Our men and women serving overseas, while serving their country is quite noble, are also costing their country a lot of money. By bringing our beloved soldiers home and we could put a HUGE dent in our country's spending.

I say the next time Congress "votes itself a raise," we strap C-4 to all of them, blow them to smithereens, and start again with people willing to take a smaller paycheck. Better yet...Let's see how their service to their country becomes a greater concern to themselves by reducing their pay to the poverty level. I'll bet you a million imaginary dollars that they'll all start working harder to eliminate poverty, and all associated condition, after that move. And they'll be required to do so without increasing spending on anything connected to welfare.

Run the government on Windows '98, instead of constantly passing on the cost of upgrades to the tax payers!


I'm really not helping much, am I?

I didn't think so.

The thing is that after 2 August, rumor has it that Social Security checks may not be going out to those enrolled. That would include yours truly. Think I did a lot of begging when I started this blog? Just wait until I'm getting NOTHING each month!

The people of this country seem to be sitting back, hoping that the people they voted into office will iron things out and get us back on track. Our politicians, however, haven't been doing very well of late, and so my faith in them is rapidly slipping away. I'm now praying there'll be a check coming my way next Wednesday.

I'll also be digging through my storage containers for my electronic thumb and my towel.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Script and casting issues

Almost sounds like I've sold one of my screenplays, doesn't it? I wish I had. Then Becky and I would be reporting to the world from our modest mansion in Beverly Hills. Instead, my issue is with how the near-future was supposed to go and how it's actually going.

I wrote about the hot pink cast yesterday, and how much Becky is enjoying my emasculation/suffering. She can't help but giggle every now and again after simply glancing at the cast. But her dreams of me living a life of humiliation for at least two weeks may be in peril. There's a little problem with the cast...It might be too tight.

When I arrived home yesterday, I noticed that I could feel the pulse in the top of my foot, as one might feel it if a tourniquet was applied. It's not all that bothersome, as diabetic neuropathy keeps many surface sensations from becoming an issue...but then diabetic neuropathy can reduce sensations that are meant to alert me to there being an issue. So if the cast is actually too tight, and my toes start going cold on me due to a lack of circulation, I might not feel that occurring at all.

Because I was still feeling that pulse every now and again today, I called the orthopedic clinic where the cast was put on. I actually got to talk to Cathy, the cast technician who so gleefully put me in an exceedingly bright pink cast. She explained what I basically knew, but wanted to hear from someone professional in nature. Because of all the padding put into the cast, it should loosen up a bit in those places where it feels too tight. Meanwhile, to ensure that I don't have an actually circulation issue, I'm to elevate my foot for an hour and a half when I feel that pulse...pulsating.

I can't begin to tell you all how thrilled I am at the prospect of doing even more nothing. Sitting or lying about, playing video games or writing when I can get my head into it, is all well and good, but not the kind of thing I WANT to be doing. I'd like to be of SOME use around the home. Being a functional fiance, as well as future father/husband would be...well, nice, don't you think? When I'm being told by medical professionals to be in bed, it doesn't bode well for the future.

Picture it: five years from now, Becky gives birth to our first child. She's been working a hectic schedule at that imaginary place I call "the hospital," so when the baby starts crying in the middle of the night, it really should be MY job to get up and address whatever it is that the baby needs. But I have contradictory orders to be in bed, which leads to a scene in which I get up, head off to the baby's room, and return less than a minute later, the baby silent as can be.

Becky: (astonished) That was pretty quick.
Me: I'm just that good with babies in general...although we'll really want to get the baby checked for a concussion tomorrow, as I hit him/her pretty hard to knock her out like that.

My understanding is that that kind of "child care" is frowned upon. She's not even reading this over my shoulder, yet I can sense her scowl in advance. "Concussions in the name of sleep" will likely meet with the same approval as my campaign of "Booze for Babies." (If you don't KNOW that I'm kidding, then you need help.)

Anyway...I can do my usual sit and write, etc., so long as I don't feel my foot pulsating. Once that starts, it's off to bed to elevate the foot for 90 minutes. Becky remains as loving and caring as ever, which only cements my opinion that I'm engaged to the most wonderful woman on the planet...except for the part when she comes over to me to whack me in the head for my ideas about child rearing.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peace on Earth, good will toward men...

...and women, of course. Unfortunately, I had to keep the women out of it when talking to my father this evening. It was in response to a question about what I want when it comes to family. I had to repeat several times, "Peace on Earth and good will toward men...including my family." By the time my father understood the words, he couldn't connect with the meaning. And so I explained that I want my family without it exploding with drama at every turn. This prompted to him to ask what was wrong with that very idea, to which I said, "Forget it, Dad...It's not something we should go into now." I then pushed the conversation back toward his recovery, which is slow, with no estimate as to when he'll be released from the hospital.

Why was I discussing the family thing with Dad? Because we now have a guest reader to my blog: Stu. (Everyone wave to Stu. (Hey, hey, hey! I see you flipping him the bird, Siege. Stop that.) (And Becky, if you don't put down that pitchfork, I'm gonna force a Xanax down your throat.)) I know he's reading this blog because he said as much when he wrote to me on Facebook. It opened with an agreement about my thoughts on Barry...and then moved on to harangue me about my recent "childish temper" remark. G-d bless short, selective memories, eh?

No, I'm not going to censor my blog posts because my brother is reading them. This is my major tool for keeping my friends in the loop of my life. Big, twisting, nauseating loops. He can always stop reading if he doesn't want to see events as I see them. One could easily point a finger at me for events of the past, saying that my perspective is tainted because I was smack in the middle of it...but then I look and see that I didn't fail to report the less than friendly message I left his wife. I also admitted to being extremely upset when I wrote about it, and how I was being vindictive. In other words, I remained as open and honest as I could possibly be given the circumstances.

The irony of the whole move to TN going bad is that I was offered a place to live, rent-free, and those guys got the money Stu was seeking. Go figure.

This is not a rant. I'm not actually upset anymore about all of that nonsense. It's in the past, and things ultimately worked out for the better. I'm now living with a woman who loves me just the way I am, and demands that I simply be myself. (Oh, I have it so rough.) The thing is that I have no idea what Stu wants. It's very nice that he wrote to me about the situation with our father. It's nice that he's trying to coordinate a visit to Dad with me.

But what appears on the surface is not what I'm seeing in his messages. Not when it comes on the heels of me commenting that he's the executor of Dad's will. For all the good will he's trying to put forth, I get more of a sense that he's trying to be the alpha male. The message I see...? "That's right. I'm the executor of Dad's will. And if you don't play by my rules, I'll screw you over when Dad's gone." I admit that I can become quite paranoid about such things, and perhaps I'm imagining that message. Unfortunately, there's nothing to the contrary. Thus, I'm left wondering what it is that Stu really wants.

Perhaps it's peace on Earth and good will toward men? I wouldn't know it, because his first note has the words, " dare you say that I have a 'childish temper?'" Kind of made it easy, really, when he screamed into the phone and hung up on me, leaving me with nowhere to live.

BUT ENOUGH OF THIS! I have medical news, and it's good.

I saw the special specialist today, and my foot is looking better with each removal of the cast. The swelling is down. It's not red. It doesn't feel as hot as it did. And the results of that irradiated white blood cell test were actually fairly normal. The only thing really earning a separate sentence was, "There is also bladder activity noted." (Guess it wasn't my uterus after all.) After that, there was some discussion of the foot and the possibility of cellulitis, but that's just a note about the swelling, and not the possibility of infection.

Now about the cast...As noted a couple of posts ago, the color of my cast has been something of a discussion amongst those in my life. My podiatrist was looking forward to seeing a green cast, while Becky wants to see me in hot pink. Thus, as we were trying to wake ourselves up with morning coffee, I made a deal with Becky. The plan was to go with green, but if they were out, I'd get the pink. I made her promise that she wouldn't try to influence anyone during the color decision. That's when my luck kicked in, and...Well, guess who has a hot pink cast now. Becky is absolutely giddy with the whole thing, and when I showed it to my neighbors this evening, the mom offered to have her two daughters come by and draw pretty flowers and butterflies on the cast.

Every woman I know is out to get me killed, apparently.

And so it goes. Every two weeks is a visit to the special specialist, and each visit holds the hope of getting molded for a brace. When that's denied, I know it'll be another four weeks of casting, as is the case right now.

Oh...speaking of the brace, I asked what seemed to be an intelligent question during today's visit. If we're bracing one foot, does that mean the other foot should also end up with a brace? The answer is apparently a no. A brace could damage the unaffected foot, while it the affected foot has already had the damage done to it. No need to force a health foot into a brace to bend it in ways it doesn't need to go just yet.

And that's all I have. But before I go...

Stu, if you're reading this, then you need to start being open and honest with me. I'm not playing the drama game anymore. I have enough on my plate, trying to keep my right foot where it is. You want to leave something in the past...? Then don't bring it up. Because when you do, it brings back memories of you shouting like a child not getting his way and then hanging up on me. Instead, try the adult thing and open with an apology, not a speech.

Be well, all, and DFTBA.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Still have too much time on my hands

I don't lay around very well. My brain is far too active for that. Unless I find something to distract me, I will end up thinking. And that can't be good for anyone.

After I posted yesterday, I spoke with Mom. (Not to be confused with my biological mother.) She told me that Dad did NOT break his nose, and that she'd brought him various needs from home. Toiletries and, more importantly, his cell phone. I was forewarned that if Dad didn't pick up, he might be napping.

I hung up and mentally paced a bit, since physically pacing doesn't work so well with a large cast on one's foot. The question at hand: to call or not to call?

I called...and got no answer. Dad must have been asleep.

Then Dad called back. Seems a nurse was in the room doing nurse-like things and he couldn't answer. He told me about the shape he was in, which was officially "banged up." He said there were 24 staples in his head and 24 stitches in/on his nose. (With that number changing from person to person, I'm going to start saying he has over 20 of such things.) And then he shared a nugget of information that had me fuming. The assisted living facility where he and Mom live might be kicking them out because he keeps falling.

Once I hung up with him, I sat here and silently became enraged. I wanted to pull a lawyer from the aether to start suing the place where they live. I wanted to rush to NY and get my face on television, denouncing such a stupid practice. I was willing to camp out just outside their property, a lone picketer against a to let the world know what kind of idiots they are. And the thought that keeps running through my head is the absurd amount of money that they charge each month for the "pleasure" of living there. If they were going to kick my parents out, there had best be an executive standing at the door with an apology on his lips and a fat check in his hand.

Brimming over with anger, I called Mom to get an idea of how big that check should be. I honestly didn't care that my parents had paid for services they had already received. They were going to get paid back!

And then Mom set me straight. They wouldn't so much be kicked out as moved to a facility that can give them the level of care that they need, which their current residence cannot provide. And it's more than Dad having a problem with his feet and legs; Dad, it turns out, is being an idiot.

My father has been a proud, working man since his teens. I can still recall the day when his heart troubles came to the fore. He was at work, grabbing his chest, and when I asked what was wrong, he told me he was having chest pains. I suggested he get to a hospital immediately. His response was, "I still have a few things to finish up. Then I'll go." It's this kind of attitude that he's carried for decades.

When I spoke with Mom, I suggested that it might be time I had a talk with Dad. His depression and anger at getting old is wasted energy. He needs to start focusing on such things as using the walker when he goes to the bathroom. (The cause of his fall was his unwillingness to use the walker for a short trip to the bathroom.) He has to think before he sits in a chair with wheels, and then tries to lean on it to get back up. It's things like this that he's ignoring in his fight against being a senior citizen, and it's things like this that will kill him.

Mom's ultimate concern is that Dad will become more depressed. She doesn't want anyone "bringing him down." The problem with this is that everyone is very busy trying to placate my father. They're trying to cheer him up. And absolutely no one is calling him out on his asinine attitude. He doesn't need to be happy about what I have to say, but I think he really needs to hear it. And who better to explain what it's like to be disabled than his disabled son?

Becky and I are planning a trip to NY in early August. It will be a very long day trip, with most of it spent in the car, but we really can't afford to stay in NY overnight. I tried to get Dad's permission for a visit, but he was against it. Thus, we'll go without telling him. As a friend recently reminded me, "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." Whether or not I talk to Dad...That remains to be seen.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Frustrating as all get-out

I sit here. I lie here. The only good news in all of my inactivity is my notice of how loose the cast has become. It happened with the last one, where the end of my two-week stay in "the red cast" had me with enough room to wiggle my entire foot, and the cast itself felt like an ill-fitted boot. It's a good sign, as it means the swelling is going down dramatically. "Have at thee, Charcot arthropathy! I am mightier than your worst symptoms." I'll be losing "the blue cast" next Wednesday, to be replaced with "the green cast," as suggested by my opposed to "the hot pink cast," suggested by Becky.

It's nice to see everyone having a good time with my chronic conditions.

Meanwhile, my father is sick. He's finding himself in a very similar situation as myself, trapped inside a body that doesn't want to cooperate. His mobility is limited. He's in constant pain. He never wanted to get old and/or sickly. Somewhere in his mind, he would be in as perfect a state of health as is humanly possible until he fell over, dead of natural causes.

I feel as though I shouldn't be here. I should be in a car, driving just over the speed limit to get to let him know that he has a son within driving distance who gives a damn. As opposed to the son who lives five miles away and can't spare any of his precious time to simply say hello. No, the only time Bary would call would be when he needs something. And since he knows our father doesn't have anything to give, (or simply doesn't want to give, in my brother's opinion), he doesn't even all, let alone visit. (Selfish little bastard!)

My desire to save the world becomes my greatest frustration in moments like these. I should be throwing on my tights and cape and flying off to wherever I'm needed, like my father's bedside. I should be there, sitting beside him, making it clear that I don't know how he feels, but that I understand some of the emotions behind how he feels.

And then, going back to my bastard of a brother, I keep praying that my father has had the presence of mind to exclude him from the will. It's not that I don't want more money. Dad's will could vanish in a puff of smoke and I wouldn't care all that much. The problem is that I don't want Barry to be "rewarded" in any way, knowing that he'll likely remain so selfish as to not give a penny toward my father's funeral. Stu and I will be coughing up whatever is needed to see my father's body laid to rest properly. Barry would ignore such a responsibility, making a claim that cardboard boxes in the nearest dump would suffice. (Yes, he's that level of jerk.)

There have also been thoughts of calling Stu. I want to know if he's prepared for our father's death. I mean, my father fell, split his head open, and broke his nose. These are not life-threatening things...if you're about a decade or two younger than 80. Because my father won't be dying of anything like a heart attack or a brain embolism. No, he'll die from something stupid, like an infection in his leg...or not waking from surgery because the fight will have been leeched out of him. Is Stu ready for this? Is he ready to play the roll of will executor? Will his childish temper still be in the way of doing that which is his job?

I feel like I should be doing something - ANYTHING - other than sitting here, waiting for news. I can't even pace my apartment, as I'm not really supposed to be walking on this cast at all. I'd get in my car and head to his bedside if I had a license...or a car...or money for the trip.

Despite all his somewhat large faults, I love my father. I wish there was some way for me to make things easier for him...and it's frustrating that I can't.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The adventures of Psychic Rob

Over 20 years ago, my father's mother - my grandmother - died. It started with an accident. She took a fall down some stairs and broke her hip. While she was hospitalized, a blockage formed in her bowels and she went in for emergency surgery. She never awoke from the anesthesia. She was 80 years old.

My Dad has been falling a lot lately. The problem is with his legs. He's in constant pain from arthritis and swelling and infected sores, so he shuffles along, just like and old man...and his feet get caught on the ground. That's when he falls. And because it's all happening too fast for his 80-year-old reflexes, he bangs some part of his head on anything and everything around him, usually the ground itself.

Last Wednesday, I received my birthday gift from Dad. I get $50 on my birthday, and the same on Chanukah. I actually expected a call from him on my birthday, but he fell on the 9th...twice. So he was a little preoccupied. Still, I called on Thursday and let him know that his gift was received. That's when he told me about his falls on my birthday...and the other falls before that...and how he can barely walk...and how upset the whole thing has him.

Later that evening, when Becky got home from work, I told her about the call. And I made a dire prediction of the future that went something like this: "My father's soul is already dying, and his body won't be far behind. You know how it's going to happen? It's going to be one of these falls. He's going to go down one day and break something that'll require surgery to fix. That's when a team of doctors will surround my father's bed and explain that there's no other way to fix the break. They'll explain all the risks, like having to take him off his blood thinners for his artificial heart valve, along with the fact that he's 80. And with no alternative, Dad will give the go ahead for surgery...and never wake up, just like my grandmother."

I wish absolutely no harm on my father. If anything, I keep praying for the impossible; I want him to get better. But I have to face reality. My boyhood dream of my father living forever simply isn't going to happen. In fact, that's part of my problem. The image of my father from when I was a kid to how he appears now don't go well together. My father was always this giant with the power to do anything. I was in my early twenties when my father gave Barry and I a reminder of just how strong he was physically.

Dad didn't just get mad at "someone;" he became enraged. It was a rare moment, but Dad actually went on the attack, and it was up to me and Barry to stop him. Mind you, at the time my brother and I worked out regularly. No matter what my workout contained, it always included 40 pushups a day - 20 regular and 20 diamond pushups...with my feet elevated onto my bed. So when Dad charged, Barry and I locked arms, then each of us grabbed for the door frame Dad was trying to charge through. We were lucky to keep Dad from accidentally committing murder that day.

He was always strong, my father. Now he's losing the battle with age and gravity. It's been upsetting him greatly, which has been upsetting me greatly. I want to go see him, but he doesn't want visitors. He wants to be alone and miserable.

Anyway, I spoke to Dad, and then made my prediction to Becky.

I was awakened at 10:00 AM this morning by mom. She called to let me know that Dad was in the hospital. He fell on Friday and cracked his head so badly that they had to staple his skin closed. We're now waiting on an ear, nose, and throat specialist (for reasons unknown to me) to consult with my father.

Dad, when I make these doomsday predictions, it isn't your job to try and make them come true.

Be well, all...better than me, anyway...and DFTBA.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A big talk

Well, I've told you folks about that which is becoming a nightly ritual. Becky and I have cuddle sessions each night, usually around the time we're tired enough to shut down all other activities, but still too awake to simply drift off to sleep. I'd been dreading last nights forthcoming session, but knew it was inevitable. And when it happened, I opened fire with all guns a'blazin'.

"We need to talk about what the test today showed in my lungs." It would have been nice to ignore such things. Wait for some doctor to say, "Ummm...Rob? We kind of need to get you into the hospital; an ambulance is on its way." It's almost 24 hours later, and there's been no call. The doctor reading the test has probably checked off a little box somewhere labeled "smoker." Still, Becky and I needed to discuss what to do if the very worst should occur.

The worst, of course, would be cancer. What do we do if it's cancer? Well, I told Becky that I was fairly confident that it wasn't. For starters, my family genetics isn't tagged for it. Cancer, my friends, is a genetic disorder. The only cancer my family seems to be tagged for is leukemia. My brother had it. My Uncle Jimmy had it. And so it would seem that it runs on my biological mother's side of the family, leaving me one more thing for which I can thank her.

Another thing involving a cancer verdict is the fact that no one, absolutely no one, has picked up any signs of it thus far. There was nothing detected back in February, when I had a chest x-ray prior to surgery. My PCP, who listens to my lungs and heart during every visit, has said each time that everything sounds clear. The only part of my blood work to come back abnormal has been a slightly elevated white count, pointing toward infection...

...which is EXACTLY what the test I had yesterday was supposed to reveal. A White Blood Cell Scan using Ceretec is only designed to seek out and light up infection. From the look of it, I have an infection in my lungs and, from what Becky tells me, my gall bladder...not my uterus.

Still, I have policies by which I now live, and screwing around with the serious stuff isn't in me any more. Be open and honest. Prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. These are the things that, without them, I'd probably be a bigger mess than I actually am. I broached the subject as gently as possible, but I didn't hold back. And that means there was one of my dramatic monologues during our discussion.

"If it turns out to be something like cancer, then...well, you've changed my game plan. There was a time when I thought, 'If I ever end up with the likes of lung cancer, I'd simply ask to be kept as comfortable as possible.' I wasn't going to fight it, because I don't have much fight left in me. I've fought with diabetes my entire life. Then my fight was carried on to the complications of diabetes....I was just going to ask for comfort...and then you came along and gave me more reasons to fight. You keep telling me that I'm the best...Well, you make me the best. So I'll fight for you."

With only a lit candle and my voice set to that soft, soothing tone she loves so much, such words brought tears to her eyes. They weren't said to be poetic. They were said because they're true.

So what would I do with a serious diagnosis? My lungs lit up like trees on Christmas, and I'm still smoking?!? Do I need G-d to throw a building on top of me to give me a clue?

No...But look above. You can see where most of my willpower has gone. I'm not superhuman. And if something that serious comes along, I'm going to ask for extreme treatment, starting with the only method I can think of to kill my addiction to cigarettes: I'm going to ask I be put in a chemically induced coma for a few days. Something that serious is going to land me in a hospital anyway. Surely such a hospitalization can be used to help me kick something that has a profound physical and psychological grip on me. "Use a nicotine patch." The patch gives me a rash. "Try the gum." I have a bad habit of swallowing any - and I mean ANY - piece of gum that enters my mouth. "There are pills." Yeah...with side effects that make smoking look like a healthy habit. A few days without cigarettes, with them filtering all poisons from my blood, will help me. And while I'm in the hospital, Becky would be at home, spraying the stench of stale smoke out of everything. I don't care if it takes $30 of Lysol to do it; get the smell out of our home.

And you can bet that I'll be trying to beg my doctor for something like the above on my next visit.

Meanwhile, I'll tell you what I think the test showed. I have a relatively mild case of chronic bronchitis. So mild, in fact, that it doesn't show up clearly in the most common of chest x-rays, and it can't be heard clearly when a doctor is listening for it. And what kicks it into higher gear is my mold induced asthma. Yeah, I don't talk about this one often, as it isn't much of a bother. Give me air that's thick with humidity and THAT'S when I have difficulty breathing. A couple of puffs off on an inhaler and I'm in great shape. I haven't even been hospitalized for my asthma...that's how inconsequential it's been.

As for my gall bladder...I'm starting to think that the gall bladder is going the way of the dodo and the appendix. Many people are losing them, although I don't know what they do without them. Perhaps it's a little bladder infection. Perhaps it'll need to come out. Whatever the case, I'm not concerned with it, either.

Finally, to my sweet, beautiful Becky: You think I'm crazy for loving you and wanting to marry you? Well, there might be prettier models of female out there that are "built for speed." But none could possibly be as loving and understanding as the woman who is at my side right now. Many other fish in the sea? You are that rare catch; the one that makes me boast on a constant basis, telling the world I was the lucky one that to have caught you. There will never be anyone else. I love you!

Happy birthday, my love.

Everyone else...Be well and DFTBA!

Because this post is somewhat serious and scary, I thought I'd end it on a funnier note. Becky and I have run into this, and we can't stop watching it! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ummm...Yeah, okay. That's good.

So, the test is all done. To my surprise, the very first thing they did was a scan of my entire body. And it looks like parts of my innards did, indeed, light up.

I'm going to keep this short, as I could use a little rest, but...Well, the purpose of this test was to see where the white blood cells would run to. My feet...? They appear to be in the clear. But there were several other things that lit up. One appears to be my...uterus? Hey, I know almost nothing about anatomy, so at a glance, it looks almost like I have a uterus and that there's something wrong with it. Becky, however, has made a reasonable argument. I'm male, so it's NOT a uterus. But something in my lower torso isn't happy.

The other parts that lit up...really, really lit up...are the lower halves of my lungs. This might - just MIGHT - be a sign that smoking isn't good for me. But we'll see.

I'm off to get some rest. Be well, all, and DFTBA.

Why I'm up at 4:00 AM

When I have an appointment of any kind, I set it in my cell phone calendar with an alarm that goes off two and a half hours before hand. This is because I need to be able to take meds and know that they're working before I can start "becoming human." I usually wake with an exceptional ache deep within my hip, with the added joy of frequent neuropathy pain in my arms and torso. The event, as marked in my calendar, supposedly ends a half hour before my appointment. Just seeing it reminds me of when I need to be out the door.

This morning, I have to be at one of the local hospitals for a test. We're still checking to see if I have osteomyelitis. My thought on that by this point is that if I had it, I'd be in worse shape. But the special specialist just wants to be absolutely sure. And so the test, which I thought was yesterday, will be done today...over a period of seven hours, with a podiatrist appointment in the midst of it all.

I called a couple of weeks ago to set this thing up, and the person whom I spoke with in nuclear medicine was very helpful. She was so helpful, in fact, that she heard things I didn't say, and set me up for a much shorter test. That was nice, but the wrong test really wouldn't have helped. She scheduled me for a bone scan. I don't need a bone scan. I need a..."thingy test."

I have no idea what its proper name is, but I can tell you what they're going to do. They're going to look for a possible infection in my body by using my own biological functions. They're going to draw 60 cc of my blood and spin it to separate the white cells. Then they're going to take those white cells, add a radioactive isotope, and re-inject them back into me three hours after the blood draw. An hour later, they'll take some pictures of my foot. Three hours after that, they'll take more pictures.

The radioactive white blood cells will be easier to see as they rush to an infection. Personally, I'd love it if they could use this test to scan my entire body, just to address every drop of medical paranoia I have. But they're just going to look at my right foot, as ordered.

The really fun part was when I showed up at nuclear medicine yesterday. Having read the medical codes for both the test and the diagnosis, I thought I'd been scheduled for the proper test. At no time did I use the words "bone scan." But that's what I was scheduled for, and somewhere along the way, during the confirmation process for the test, it was realized I did NOT need said scan, and they canceled the test...without ever notifying me. I was at the hospital, on time, prepared to wait the three hours between being injected with radioactive stuff and the pictures they needed to take. And then to have to reschedule me for this test this morning...It's just a bother.

But my time spent waiting around the hospital, while Becky runs off to class after so much time, will not be wasted. I'm going to attempt to further my efforts to help the diabetic community by seeking out the hospital's diabetic educator. Plain and simple, I'm going to ask, "Do you need someone on hand to scare diabetics straight?" Because I am living the nightmare. I'm the embodiment of everything a diabetic should fear. "Do you want to be poor and unemployable by the time you're 30? If so, keep screwing around with your diabetes. Then you can just like me."

If accepted, I'll fill out paperwork at the hospital for volunteer status. The diabetic educator will have to understand that my availability depends on my ability to feel up to leaving my home for a few hours. Still, if it means opening up and telling horrific tales to save a life, I'm willing to at least try.

And let's not forget the podiatry appointment I have in the midst of this grand test. I've been running to the podiatrist to address this pesky ulcer located on my second toe, smack in between the second and great toe. As an added bonus, the ulcer is surrounded by a callus, which prevents it from doing any real healing. Moisture between the toes also aids in the lack of healing, leaving me to wonder if it just wouldn't be easier to take the danged toe.

Oh, but I know better. Past experience tells me it could take years to get an ulcer to properly heal. Taking a surgical shortcut only puts me at greater risk for infection, leading to the loss of the entire foot. With my right foot already at risk, I don't think I should be setting up my left foot for a similar fate.

Back to the possibility of me volunteering for a moment...When I lived in AZ, I was constantly doing good deeds, regardless of how small. Of late, I've been pouring on a lot of attention to the single mother of two daughters next door, and that just starts to look a bit weird after a bit. Surely Becky has wondered if I'm not somehow falling in love with one of those ladies next door, even as a mere passing thought. I'm not. I am so over-the-moon about Becky that I'd do absolutely nothing to jeopardize my relationship with her. Still, concentrated attention on a woman and her two daughters just starts looking bad after a while, and my nature screams to be doing good things for SOMEONE. If I can set it up where I am convincing other diabetics to not suffer my fate, I'll feel that much better for it.

And now I'm off to have "several gallons of blood" drawn. But first, I need to bust out a crowbar and pry Becky out of bed, which is always a lot of fun.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

De Nile is in Egypt and PA

I am not 44! I refuse to be 44! I cannot, under any circumstances, be 44!

Crap. I'm 44 today.

This doesn't go well with some of the things that course through my mind from time to time. I mean, I'm engaged to a woman who'll be 26 in just a few days. Am I not also in my late 20s? I should be. Then people who know us would have less to talk about. (Her mom had issues with it, but has started taking enough of a liking to me that she no longer "hates" me. And my Dad, for the life of him, can't figure out why I would be with someone so much younger.)

Then, of course, there's the next door teenager Becky and I have decided to hire to help keep our place less of a disaster. She's a cute kid, with the key word there being "kid." At 14, she's starting to become a woman, and that part of my head that refuses to leave adolescence behind wants to know why we can't stare at the cuteness and long to ask her out. In fact, when reviewing the "rules" for her to even be allowed over, I've told the kid that low cut shirts are out. I can't help being male, and unless she wants me staring at her developing chest, she needs to stop flaunting so much skin around it...and her mother was in agreement.

I would also still like to find a gaming group, although this is far from a priority. Being in a college town, it shouldn't be that hard. But I'm 44, and in my head this translates into my wanting "other kids to play with."

Oh, but I haven't abandoned adulthood. I would still rather be working instead of spending my days trying to write whatever it is I'm trying to write that day, as well as not playing video games all day long because that's the only thing I can actually do. Then again, working was a strong part of my youthful experience. It's where I met some friends, making it a semi-social place. I learned a strong work ethic, thanks to my father. And working meant having more money than I have now, which alternatively meant being able to go out and have more fun.

I miss being young. I miss being fit. And while I miss these things, I wouldn't give up some of the things that I now have in my life. I have a woman who loves me more than any other before her, and I love her like no other. While it's only a little bit of space, I have room to breathe financially. And while my health isn't the greatest, all the major parts are still attached, which has been an important battle over the last few months. I don't think I could possibly ask for much more.

Well, I could. Anyone out there have an extra genie in a bottle, or a winning lottery ticket they don't want?

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Friday, July 8, 2011

For a Lack of Eloquence: Writer's Rant 4

I've been contemplating the fact that the complications of my diabetes have been holding me back from writing my book about growing up as an insulin dependent diabetic, The Suicide Note. I believe the word for that one would be "irony." (That means "like iron," right?) As I often lay in bed, thinking about what I could do if I were able to sit for longer periods of time, my mind would wander to all sorts of writing projects. I want to write a fantasy series that has critics calling it the new Lord of the Rings. I want to crank out a science fiction novel that makes the works of Asimov and Hebert look like amateur hour. I want to write a romance that makes women weep with sorrow and joy. And let's not forget the comedy that has people laughing so hard that they can abandon stomach crunches.

But above all, I want to write that book about diabetes. I don't just want it written; I want it published and circulated, in the hope that somewhere, someone will read what I have to say and think, Y'know, I've been exceptionally foolish when it comes to caring for this illness that will be with me until the day I die. And this guy...this "Rob Meadows"...has definitely got me wanting to turn my life around. It's the idea that if I can save just one life, the book will have served its purpose.

My problem when it comes to this particular piece is that I'm perpetually holding an internal argument about the language to use. It's already a difficult task, as I'm describing medically relevant information in both professional and non-professional terms. An example of this would be the way I answer the most common question, "What is diabetes?" Here is an edited version (with a few unimportant snippets removed) for your consideration:

Within the pancreas are approximately 100,000 regions called the islets of Langerhans. This is where insulin is produced, stored, and released. Each islet has about 1000 to 2000 beta cells. The beta cells are primarily responsible for insulin production.

Other important regions of the islets of Langerhans are the alpha cells and delta cells. Alpha cells produce and release glucagon, which is used to raise blood sugar levels when necessary. Delta cells create somatostatin, a chemical that mediates on behalf of insulin by blocking glucagon. Finally, there are the PP cells that release pancreatic polypeptides to control all of the insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin activity.

“How does all of this work together?” It’s like this…If you intake sugar, the regulatory parts of the brain sends messages to the beta cells by way of the PP cells to release insulin. As the sugar gets broken down, the insulin attaches to various cells to allow the glucose molecules (sugar) into those cells. Keep in mind that sugar is a major source of energy for everything in the body, right on down to a microscopic level. If the cells inside your body can’t get their sugar fix, they will force other substances to become energy. That’s very bad.

Those who are active in sports benefit from the actions of the alpha cells. As you run, jump, sing, dance, or what have you, the alphas release glucagon to give you a much needed boost in fuel.

If there is confusion inside the body, however, and the alpha cells try to raise your blood glucose when you don’t need it, the delta cells will release the somatostatin to block the glucagon, thereby allowing the insulin to do its job.

After all that, it becomes quite simple. If you don’t have any insulin, only a small amount of insulin being produced, or your body is unable to use the insulin in your body…You’re a diabetic.

So...? How'd I do? Was that okay? Was it too much on the technical side? Was it "just technical enough," with the ability for a layman to understand it? This doesn't have to pass a medical review board; it just needs to be understood.

Aside from this ongoing war of language use, there are also those parts where I explain some of why I did what I did. The fact is that I was an incredibly stupid diabetic in my past, and am not much more intelligent when handling it now. I'm infinitely better than I was, but still far from what any doctor would call perfect. But I've had more than enough time to reflect on the subconscious reasons behind my stupidity, and there are times when I want to start waxing poetic to do so. Those parts don't fit the style of the writing before or after them, and it just makes the whole thing look like a mess.

Here's the thing...If I get just ONE thing published my entire life, this is the piece. Will I regret revealing some of what diabetes has done to me? Maybe. Do I expect angry calls from family, wanting to sue me into non-existence? Yes.* But overall, This is the kind of comment I'd like to read as a review: "Robert Meadows tells a gripping, emotional tale of his life in terms that both professional and laymen can understand. It is the gut-punch some diabetics need to start taking their illness more seriously, but it is a punch that is delivered loquaciously."

I have a great desire to be eloquent, but at the same time I know that this piece MUST be understood by anyone from virtually any walk of life.

Well...It's been quite some time since I've let loose one of my writing rants. I feel a bit better for it, thanks. Be well, and DFTBA!

* The names of my family members, and quite a few others, have been changed. So should I start receiving angry calls about family members wanting to sue me, my response is fairly simple. "No one knew I was talking about you until you started jumping up and down and screaming about it. You brought all of this attention to yourself. So...good luck suing yourself, I guess."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Less doom and gloom...

...for a change. Y'see, today was the followup visit to the special specialist, and he liked what he saw. The two things that were most pleasing were the reduced swelling and reduced redness. These things indicate that my foot is, in fact, healing.

In the past, I've been told not to go looking up my illnesses online. The lack of filter on the information tends to lead one to see little more than the worst when it comes to such things. "Oh, this an result in an amputation? Well, I guess I should prepare myself for my foot to be removed." This doctor, however, suggested on my first visit that I look up Charcot arthropathy. Hence my linking it when I blogged about it two weeks ago.

Today, he asked if I'd looked it up, and I said that I had. I was then able to ask about the time frame pertaining to my casting. The online information says the period of casting is from three to nine months, with three months being the supposed bare minimum. Well, the specialist believes that my progress today indicates I may just beat the three month time frame. Even the new cast, which is blue instead of red this round, is significantly smaller. I take all of this as a good sign.

Which is, in case no one's noticed, a pleasant change. My birthday is rapidly approaching, and it's usually the time of year when I'm hit by one disaster or another. Look back over the last few years and you'll see my birthday surrounded by illness, excessive drama from my family, and surgery. While being trapped inside this cast isn't exactly the best news, the fact that I'm healing well is. It's almost as though I've left the real world and entered the Twilight Zone.

The worst of the news out of the doctor's office is my need to wear a brace on my right foot for the rest of my days. This will help to keep such flareups at a minimum. I'd been somewhat hopeful that the brace was merely part of the healing process. Instead, it'll be a perpetual need. Still, I'll take a brace over a prosthetic any day.

Then, for added amusement, I had a casting technician who was lots of fun. Becky and I were greatly entertained by someone who could banter as well as we could. Becky even asked if we could take the woman home to keep her. Mixed into the constant joking were things that I cannot repeat, as I continue to fight to keep this blog rated PG-13. Even as such things were said, Becky looked at me and said, "Oh, the things you can't blog about."

It almost makes being chronically ill enjoyable. And if I have to face such horrors regularly, I'll take laughing over crying each and every time.

And that's all I have at the moment. I think I'll take me and my smaller cast to bed to rest up a bit. Be well, and DFTBA!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We can haz cuddlez?

Several nights ago, as Becky and I were starting to gear down for the night, I laid back and asked, "I can haz cuddlez?" She replied with, "Well, at least you don't want a cheeseburger."

But cuddle we did, and we began chatting. Since then, it's become a nightly ritual. My estimate on how much is said between the two of us runs at an 80/20 split, with me carrying a majority of the conversation. That's fine, as she likes to hear me talk. She often tells me that I have a very soothing voice, and that, as she is the glue that holds me together, I am the same for her. After a day that has been particularly hectic, she looks forward to us holding one another and just chatting, be it important or unimportant topics.

While Becky doesn't dominate these moments of relative calm, I am thankful for what she does contribute, as she is learning what it's like to be in a real relationship. Because of the four "great" romances she had before me, none of her exes could be called a "partner."

First there was Dave, the teenaged romance, in which both he and Becky were probably too young to truly know what they were doing. It ended vaguely, with him simply saying, "I guess we aren't a match made in Heaven." He walked off, leaving her to wonder what happened. Mind you, they've run into one another since, and they made polite small talk with as much enthusiasm as one can have with small talk...but there was no communication between them, and she doesn't know to this day what ended their relationship.

Then there was Ed, who believes he's quite the catch. There was plenty of intimacy between them...if you consider nothing but "extracurricular activities" being intimate. Again, there was no communication, except when the time came for the clothing to fly. To me, that's not a partnership in any way.

Following that schmuck was Dan. There could be nothing but communication, as he lived in Puerto Rico. The problem with this idiot is that most of what he presented to Becky was an act. This was all done under the misconception that if he said all the right things, he might have a woman perpetually waiting in the wings should he get lonely. It almost worked, but I saved her from his villainous clutches. (You'd have to go back in my blog to see how I became the hero in that one.)

Now, all of this hasn't been in chronological order, and there's a reason for that. Because the last actual relationship she had, with her living under the same roof as the guy, was Shawn. He seemed so different from the other guys in the beginning, wanting to spend as much time with Becky as possible...and then it became clear that he didn't so much want to be with her as own her. He grew increasingly temperamental, leaving Becky to wonder which of her next statements would set off his anger. It was all about what he wanted, and nothing about what she wanted.

Along comes little old me, who says to Becky, "It's okay to be who you are." She doesn't have to meet mysterious expectations that aren't communicated to her. She's treated as much more that a plaything. She's never lied to. And she doesn't have to walk on eggshells when talking to me. It's a novelty to her, being able to speak her mind and not pay a price for it in some way. But experience has taught her that no relationship is as safe as this one seems, and so she remains fearful of what her words or actions might do to the very concept of "us."

I'm not one for empty flattery. If I have a complaint, I make it, preferably when I'm not angry. And if I make a compliment, it's because it's the truth. Last night, I repeated something that she has a hard time accepting: she's both strong and brave. The reason she remains unable to accept these concepts is because she reacts with tears and/or anger when life is frustrating.

What makes her strong and brave is not her reaction to those emotional things in her past and present. It's what she does after she's cried or raged about events. She keeps moving forward. She keeps trying. She doesn't surrender immediately, as so many others often do.

Her life at this very moment demonstrates perfectly what I've been trying to tell her. After one bad relationship after another, she had every right to give up on the idea of love, at least taking a hiatus from it. But when I came along and showed her that there's more to romance than what she's experienced, Becky went with it and found something wonderful. (I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that she hadn't lost all hope.) In her mid-20s, she decided there could be more to life, packed her things, moved miles from home, and started digging that terrifying hole of debt that comes with a college education. Combining those two, she now goes to school, tackling the somewhat difficult education for becoming a nurse while taking care of her sickly fiance at the same time.

Strong and brave.

So, yes, my sweet, beautiful Becky. As long as nothing is making me physically uncomfortable, like my giant cast or extreme pain, we can haz cuddlez.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Scene from Next Year (and yesterday)


SUPER: June 20, 2012

We slowly pan across the room, first revealing BECKY, mid-20s and beautiful, sitting beside a hospital bed. Next comes ROB, mid-40s and looking somewhat sickly. There are numerous tubes and wires connected to him, and along his right leg, parts are missing from mid-shin on down.

BECKY: Sweetie, you can't do this. You only had surgery last week.

ROB: I've missed it every year for the last three, at least. I'm going.

BECKY: But what if the surgical site starts bleeding like it did a few days ago. You needed three pints of blood.

ROB: I'll bring extra in a cooler or something.

BECKY: And if a last minute x-ray shows the bone trying to grow where there's no leg?

ROB: I'll use any bone poking out of me to roast marshmallows.

BECKY: Can't you at least wait until the prosthetic is ready?

ROB: It'll be over by then, and I'm not missing it again. I made a promise to myself, and you know how I am about my promises.

BECKY: Well, you also promised you'd start taking care of yourself so you'd be with me forever. Remember that?

ROB: This won't kill me. It may hurt like all get-out, with me screaming and crying the whole time, but I'm going.

A young DOCTOR, stern in his expression, walks into the room and looks down at Rob.

DOCTOR: I understand you want to be discharged against doctor's orders. Is this true?

ROB: Yes. I need to get out of here. There's some place I need to be in a week, and laying here is screwing up all my plans.

DOCTOR: You realize that once you leave here, we won't be responsible for what happens to you.

ROB: Don't you people get it? I don't care anymore.I have to go. Besides, I'll have a nurse in training along with me.

He smiles reassuringly at Becky.

BECKY: I'm not going to help you with this harebrained scheme. If you go, you go alone.

ROB: You would have me suffer without you?

Becky appears wounded by the thought.

BECKY: No...No, I guess I wouldn't.

DOCTOR: And there's nothing I can do to change your mind?

ROB: Not a thing.

He swings his one and a half legs over the side of the bed, attempts to stand, promptly gets caught up in the wires and tubes, falls over and hits the floor with a loud, painful THUD!

Immediately, the heart monitor starts wailing its alarm, an IV tube is pulled loose and blood begins to pulse out its open end, and deep, dark arterial blood starts seeping through his bandages.

ROB: (struggling to breathe) Come on, baby. We have to get to the GitP meet-up.

He continues on, smearing a gory trail on the floor behind him, with the doctor simply shaking his head in astonishment.

Let me tell you, that's how I feel right now. Year after year, I express a desire to show up at the GitP meet-up, and year after year something gets in the way. Afterward, as I read the thread that starts expressing the good time had by all, I feel a deep-seated disappointment that I couldn't make it. I'm starting to reach the point where I'm not going to care if I just had a heart attack and am lying in an intensive cardiac care unit. I'm going to the meet-up, dangit, and I'm having fun...dangit!

And then reality sets in. I made an impossible promise to Becky, and she made the same to me. We know it's impossible, but in the spirit of eternal love, we said it anyway. "I promise to live forever." Yeah, it's that level of mush with us, and we couldn't care less what others think. There's just too much love and laughter here to even WANT to leave it all behind.

Which kind of brings us to yesterday's excursion to Wal-Mart. Money was tight, and we'd been running out of a few things here at home. My monthly check arrived early because of the Holiday weekend, so we went to grab just a few things that we needed.

And we "fought" the whole time, from when we walked out the door until we got home.

Now when I say we "fought," I mean we tried to be somewhat mean to one another, but failed miserably. Her ordering me to tuck and roll as we sped down the interstate couldn't possibly be taken seriously with a huge grin on her face. And when she suggested running me down when we stopped for gas, my response, "I can feel all of your love right through the front bumper," got more laughter than any kind of increasing anger.

It really was a lot of fun, feigning an argument that held no true anger. We were already gearing up for it as we got into the car, but my observation on our behavior denoted that it wouldn't really work. "We can't keep straight faces."

It held true. We tried to criticize one another throughout the store, but our threats and insults weren't helped by the smiles we had on our faces. "G-d, woman! Take up the whole aisle, why don't you?" "Look who's talking, with his little scooter blocking the other side completely!" "Just wait until we get home, where I can beat you in private!" "Like I can't walk faster than you can limp with that cast!"

Surprisingly, we got more stares because of the Roll About knee walker I was using. It wasn't until we were exiting the store that we went a little overboard. Becky was still pretending to bust my chops, when I shouted, "Dangit, woman! Why couldn't you wait in the car like I told you!" Heads immediately started turning, but then those who thought we even MIGHT be serious started laughing, when they saw Becky and I were also laughing. Becky then told one woman as we exited, pointing at my cast "I hobbled him before letting him out of his cage today."

Mind you, we didn't need an audience. As we walked out of the store, there were some teenagers collecting money for...something. It was the girl to my immediate left that caught my eye first. She wore very short shorts and a very tight tee shirt. My guess would be that she was all of 15 or 16, but her transformation from girl to woman appeared to be more than complete. As we moved on, I addressed no one in particular when I said, "Oh, girls. It's too bad I'm engaged, or I'd just hand you hundreds of dollars for whatever it is you're collecting money."

Becky promptly smacked me in the back of the head, and none too gently, either...and we just kept the banter going, as well as the laughter, all the way home.

All is as well as it can be, which is relatively good news. I hope the same applies to whoever is reading this, and DFTBA!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fates and Fortunes

I've been given cause of late to contemplate how the Fates have treated me, and the fortunes that have come my way. Or misfortunes, as it would appear. I've been handed plenty to gripe about, what with my foot attempting to become deformed, being relegated to a lower-than-poverty income, and seemingly dismissed to a life of nonproductive activities. Over the last few days, that bone that connects my foot to my leg, the talus, has been aching, sprinkling my thoughts with a fear that perhaps a bone infection remains possible.

This is all terribly frustrating, but then the willful enforcement of perspective turns woe to weal. Looking back, I can clearly see some of the miracles that have befallen me, even if they weren't the shining examples that the Bible hands us as "acts of G-d."

In early 2001, due to laziness on the part of hospital social workers, I was discharged from the psych ward into a state of homelessness. I'd been told that I'd spend a night in a homeless shelter while a room was prepared for me in a boarding house. But when the next day came along, it became apparent that there was no boarding house. And I had absolutely nothing but the few possessions in my bags. Nothing of value that I could pawn, and no money whatsoever - not even a penny.

It was then that Dad came through with emergency cash that he wired to me. When that money was gone, I was astonished by a social worker at the local welfare office. The only housing they had was vermin-infested hovels run by a slumlord who couldn't care any less about her tenants. Said tenants were usually drug addicts who'd sooner kill me for my insulin syringes than give me the time of day. As I tearfully explained my fears and the stress of once again having no money, the worker opened her purse and handed me $5, telling me to get something to eat...which I did.

Time passed, and I often found myself struggling to exist on $50 in food stamps and $45 in cash per month, as given to me by welfare. They were also kind enough to be paying my rent at the boarding house. Thankfully, I remained just healthy enough to engage in what street-folk called "land clamming." I would wander the streets, seeking out discarded cans and bottles, and returning each for their valuable nickel, often coming up with a few extra dollars each day I went out. (G-d bless those careless litter bugs!)

Time passed, with lots of little struggles in between. The biggest and scariest of these "little" woes was that case of osteomyelitis toward the end of my last stay in New York. While it was unfortunate that I'd run into an egotistical doctor in the emergency room that practically handed the infection to me, I was quite fortunate that the doctors in the "quick care" part of the emergency room were able to detect my most serious illness. If they hadn't, it could have meant the early loss of my foot.

Then came my grand move to Arizona, where I thought things would be much more affordable than the New York region. I didn't research my move; I mistakenly relied upon what memories I had of the city of Phoenix. Rent prices had climbed dramatically while I was away, and sales taxes were as bad at those of NY. I had enough back pay of my Social Security to afford rent for a year in advance, as well as furnish my apartment.

But after the first year of living in poverty's version of the lap of luxury, I found myself slowly entering into the greatest financial struggle of my life. By the time I started blogging, every month was a stressful nightmare, as I would discover my monthly funds almost completely gone come the second week of the month. I tried to get in touch with an old friend who'd become VERY successful in the music industry, and he ignored my calls completely.

My panicked messages online, however, did not fall on blind eyes. Several friends, all of whom had never met me face-to-face, leapt to my aid. Jessie, Igor, David, and Nicole, just to name a few, were in positions to send me actual money. I was always tempted to crack wise with these people, telling them that "Bob and Bob's Liquor Store thanked them, as did my drug dealer and the hookers I frequented," but always, ALWAYS felt such humor was in poor taste. Their money went to my needs, and not my wants. Food, rent, phone...I paid these things first. Igor was one of the best, as I'd inform him of the exact amount I needed to get through the month, and he'd send the maximum I could get out of PayPal with instructions to buy some DVDs or go to the movies. Although I struggled every month, I was blessed with a number of angels to watch over me.

Then, as I came to the end of my time in Phoenix, AZ, another angel popped out of the woodwork. I had very little money, and there was nowhere for me to go. Stu, who was supposed to take me in, revealed his true intentions of treating me as an ATM, and moving in with him was swept aside in a childish fit on his part. Siege sent me a message, suggesting that his idea was absurd, but that I could move in with him and his housemates. Then he made the absurd trip from KS to AZ, packed up the car almost entirely by himself, and then drove me all the way back...with only an hour's nap along the way...(and some vines dangling from an imaginary bridge).

The awesomeness didn't stop with Siege. Cody and Ray sat me down on arrival and explained to me that they were aware of my financial troubles, and that I would be charged absolutely nothing while I stayed there. I partial dismissed this idea, as I'd learned in life that "no one ride for free." I bought food, helped pay for household repairs, assisted in the purchase of some wants in the the house, tried to help Ray get his car running, and was almost constantly offering up gas money when I'd be ferried about.

Then came my greatest angel, Becky. I'd given up on the idea of finding love. I was planning on living a lonely life, and I was...okay with that. Life hadn't been fair to me when it came to romance, so rather than throw fits over the cards I'd been dealt, I surrendered to them. I wasn't looking for love, and Becky, having just gone through a rough breakup with an absolute jerk, wasn't looking either.

Accidents happen, even happy ones. We knew each other casually for a year. Then she was single and our humorous flirting took a serious turn. In a matter of months, we were in love, and she made an incredibly long trip from PA to KS to meet me. Things went so well that we not only started officially dating, but became "engaged to be engaged." Months later, we were engaged, with plans to keep that as our status for a number of years. We had room to grow in the relationship, and when I moved in, the growing began. Sometimes it's a bit bumpy, but she's been absolutely amazing, and I firmly believe I'm one of the luckiest men alive for having found her.

What's been affecting my thoughts about Fates and Fortunes, believe it or not, is the Apollo 13 mission. They were men with bright futures, with the rare opportunity to land on the moon. But things went awry - with a number of bad cards dealt to them - and while it appeared that they were doomed, they had their own angels back on Earth to watch over them. As disappointing as it was to miss their landing, it was most fortunate for them to have a large number of ingenious people to see them through every astronauts nightmare.

"Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Hanging on to perspective is sometimes all we have to hold us together. Things could be infinitely worse. I could be living alone, with the loss of my foot an assured event, and everything in my life an extreme struggle. Blessedly, things are otherwise.

And with that said...Be well, and DFTBA!