Thursday, December 30, 2004

Travel Guides

Today's newspaper had an item about a pseudo-travel guide called Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry, that is either very funny or not depending who's reviewing it. I have been doing my own on-line travel investigation of beautiful Rochester, Minnesota. My parents arrived there today by transport ambulance to spend time touring the hallways of the St. Mary's Hospital part of Mayo Clinic. This is not funny, by any review, but it is a relief that the Mayo staff is on the case trying to find the answers to her persistent intestinal questions. As a long-time Prairie Home Companion listener, I can't help imagining her Minnesota gastroenterologist as Dr. Noir, G-I Guy.

As a library junkie, I couldn't help clicking on the library link of the St. Mary's website. I will ask my dad to stroll to the library sometime to see the stained glass window. While Dr. Noir is performing tests of a gastroish sort on my mom, my dad is going to need some stress relief and exercise.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Night Driving

One of the photos in the Mayo Clinic history site set me off on a night drive in memory country with my dad in the '54 pea green Chevy. The photo shows some of the Sisters of St. Francis who started St. Mary's hospital in Rochester. The photo dates back many decades before my memory, but steam heat and nun garb didn't change that much. My memory is in black and white, which is somewhat strange anyway. It's probably a composite memory of several trips with my dad in the Chevy, just as Peter Coy's picture book is a composite trip. The story doesn't connect with children, but the illustrations connect with former children of a certain vintage.

I was probably four years old when we went "night driving" from Lincoln to Norfolk. I was riding shotgun to keep my dad awake on the 120 mile drive. We were going up to the hospital so Dad could see his grandmother or one of his aunts. He taught me to whistle on the trip. We stopped for gas. Dad let me choose a treat from the vending machine. I picked the Hostess Sno-balls because of the soft fuzzy pink appearance. About one bite into the dyed coconut and I swore I'd never eat coconut again! It's not cotton candy or Barbie's feather boa! It's almost as nasty as black jelly beans and goldfish crackers, but those are different stories for another time. It was nastier than the smell of dead skunk for miles and miles.

When we got to the hospital it was very late, well past visiting hours, and besides I was a little kid. Back then you had to be at least twelve to visit a patient. While Dad went upstairs, the nuns took me down to the kitchen and fed me some chicken noodle soup. Did any of this really happen? I'm not sure, but the pea green 1954 Chevy and the Hostess Sno-ball were definitely real.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Filling the fridge and freezer

Labels for the Tupperware.

Spent last weekend cooking to help both Mom and Dad put on some weight!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

CR Best Buy Rating

Once again I am thankful for my Consumer Reports online subscription. I just researched best buys for single handset cordless phones for my dad. I got an easily-understandable explanation of all the gigawhoozies and other excess techno lingo that cuts to the chase. It's nine degrees in Lincoln, Nebraska this morning. I've saved my dad a trip to the library and leaving my mom home alone while he locates this information himself. Now he will just whip over to Shopko and pick up one of the recommended models comfortable in his choice. One small step for man, one giant technological leap forward!

Flight Attention

One thing I've discovered this year is that I really enjoy flying now that I am not responsible for anybody but myself. All the stress of maneuvering little boys through concourses, keeping track of "The Special Bunny", keeping them from disturbing other people was so draining, that the fun of a trip was rarely worth the ordeal. Now it doesn't much matter if the plane leaves on time, if the plans change, if silly people with oversize carry-on bags block the aisle. I don't much care if the TSA folks go through my purse three times looking for a non-existent pocket knife. The only thing that bugs me is that some airlines only serve Pepsi instead of Coke.It's time for me to beam up. Fritzi and I say teary good-byes. Howie drives me to the airport in the cool sunshine. He lets me out to check in with Northwest and confirm that my flight is on time. He parks and comes into the terminal for more good-byes and hugs. Standing still while he walks out the door is one of the most difficult things I've ever done.By the time I ride the escalator upstairs and take off my shoes for security, the weather has changed. Low snow clouds have blocked out all the sun. Drizzle is hitting the windows. Passengers for the 1:05 flight to Minneapolis are grimly determined. They have no plane. They are making friends with strangers. I think of "The Outcasts of Poker Flats". Their plane might arrive eventually. Some have created a card party, others a pity party.The 4:05 flight is still allegedly on time. Minutes tick by. I finish my wonderful library book by Stephanie Kallos. No announcements are made, but it becomes clear that flying in and out of Minneapolis isn't going to happen in a timely fashion. A worn-out farmgirl changes my ticket. She's been doing this for hours. I will fly a United link into O'Hare, my old nemesis. Then I will find an American flight to DFW. Fine. I can handle it. Time's not a factor. I've spent three and a half days in a different galaxy. My priorities have been rearranged. Sitting in an airport wrapped in a parka and reading a paperback seems like the only thing out there. Breathe in. Breathe out.The descent into Chicago is pretty trippy. We fly over residential areas with outside Christmas lights and displays. I consider waving back to waving Santas on rooftops!Let it go. Let it snow. Let it go.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A beautiful sunset from the backyard in Lincoln.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

It's not beans

The magical fruit is the one that can help get my mom back on track, or tract. I have great faith in bananas even though I am personally allergic to them. They are the very best things for babies and grownups with upset innards. They are also the thing to eat if you want to weigh enough to get into the Army. My dad ate a bunch of them before he went for his Army physical. He was very cute and skinny in those days. He was the age my own sons are now, so I worry a lot about our Rummy's No Exit adventure in Iraq. This is how to make gluten-free smoothies:Place one peeled banana in the blender. Add 4 oz. or more of plain yogurt. Add 1 T powdered milk for extra protein. Add 4+ oz. milk or juice. Throw in frozen fruit--5 strawberries or 8 peach slices or 20 raspberries (any combo). You can also throw in one peeled kiwi, or 1/2 peeled orange, 1 ring of pineapple, 1 fresh mango, or just about anything fruititious. Make sure you added the milk or juice.Start with the low speeds on the blender, then slowly accelerate through all the speeds. Baby, you were born to be wild! Eat it with a spoon or sip through a straw. Freeze the extra for a home-style sherbet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bobbie Gentry Strikes Again

My mom says that while she was in the hospital, frequently groggy and dozing, and sometimes mighty wacky from the steroids, she became tormented by the song, "Ode to Billie Joe". Oh my gosh! I feel her pain! I've been attacked by that song in times of extreme stress, emotional frailty, and physical weakness. It it cruel and unusual and sticks in your brain like rubber cement. [And remember how jars of rubber cement had those built-in brushes?]I come from a long line of people who worry in the middle of the night if they can't remember all the Seven Deadly Sins, Santa's reindeer, the Disney dwarfs, and the weird names of my maternal great aunts. That is why I have little notes in my bathroom drawer, and probably why my dad always "carried his brains in his pocket". If insomnia provokes "the lion sleeps tonight" when I can't, I can go in the bathroom and look among the scraps of paper for my brain cues:
Malachite is a symbol/charm for balance.
Onyx is a symbol/charm for protection.
Jack Bruce was the third member of the supergroup Cream.
"The whole nine yards" refers to the length of machine gun ammo, not football.
Sloth, pride, anger, gluttony, covetousness, envy, and lust are the Seven Deadly Sins.
Uncompliant is a medical term for patients who ask a lot of questions.
The great aunts were named Loy, Effa Dale, Billy, Vin, and Alice June.
My grandfather's name for a meal concocted of leftovers, cold cuts, creepy miniature pickled ears of corn, herring, and sardines, was "catch-as-catch-can". William Safire explains that the term means "haphazard, unsystematic, hit-or-miss." Originally a sport wrestling term, it later had a sexual connotation.
The reindeers, of course, are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen, Comet, and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Should you need those lyrics to figure out what Billie Joe was throwing off the bridge, please click on In the meantime, just FYI, Wee-Mo-Whip is not a non-dairy whipped dessert topping.

Elevens through tears

Howie says he will cry tomorrow. He asks us to all stop and think at the eleventh hour of November eleventh. I will be wearing my dad's pin representing the 406th Infanty Regiment of the 102nd Infantry Division. The regimental motto is "To the front." I will be holding all the sons and daughters in Fallujah in my heart and prayers. May they all survive to be octogenarian veterans.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Scooped pumpkin guts

It is a day to be grateful for "courageous little souls" and for the support of strong silk webs woven by many small spiders working together!

I love all of your reports about your folks... I feel as though they are part of my own family, and I'm "teary" or "elated" right along with you, depending on the news of the day. What brave and courageous little souls are Howie and Fritzi, handling all of the various events that have come their way in the last couple of months. What a brave soul you are, Nancy, as well. To be so far away at this time in their lives, has to be an ache beyond compare. Please always know that there are so many of us with you on this journey and if thoughts count, you all are wealthy...Happy Halloween .

Friday, October 29, 2004

Cross your fingers

If there are no major snags Mom will go home tomorrow. The Gastro Doc says there has been sufficient progress. Mom's had no vomiting for several days. Dad thinks he
can do a better job on the celiac diet than the hospital kitchen. They sent Mom
a bowl of noodle soup, crackers, and a dinner roll for lunch.

The floor nursing staff was having a "tailgate party", not actually in a parking
lot, but there on the floor, with chili and hot dogs. They invited Dad to join them. While he was there, the head nurse of the floor asked him how things were going, and he told her that Mom's lunch was screwed up again. He very nicely and effectively lodged his complaint just by honestly and thoroughly answering her question. The head nurse was going to talk to the dietician, and Dad thought heads might roll. A big "Gluten-free celiac diet" had been written on Mom's blackboard. Dad thinks the nurse will send the dietician up to talk to them, or perhaps to listen to them.


Dad reports that Thursday was a "pretty damn good day". Mom did a lot of walking, including trips to the floor lounge to read the newspaper, and to get some magazines. This is the first time she has been interested in reading the news in all this time. She especially wanted to find more news stories about the quadruplets that were born in the same hospital sometime this week. An aide had taken her down to the nursery window, but the quads had not been on view at the time.

Mom's attitude was good, and she was aware of dates and appointments. She is relieved after reading the bushel of mail from Medicare and Mutual of Omaha about the benefits paid on her first spell in the hospital. The expenses are being well-covered. Phew!

Mom is also into orange sherbet when she is still hungry after her meal, and we love hearing she has that much of an appetite. Also, she is sitting up much more. It is tough keeping track of all the doctors in the internal medicine and gastroenterology partnerships. Yesterday the internist decided Mom needed more potassium, and the gastro guy determined she needed more manganese (or the other way around). Rather than having her choke down giant pills that might not be tolerated, they hooked up the "pick" IV and gave her the potassium and manganese
that way.

Dad was on hand when the young gastro doc of the week made his rounds yesterday. He said they must get all these electrolytes in balance before Mom can go home. Dad asked what the status was on all the different lab and blood tests, including the ones sent to Mayo and to California, and got a full report on all but two. He said every one of them had come back either inconclusive or negative. This is good, but doesn't give us any more indication of what caused all this. A bit later the doctor stopped back in and reported that the last two tests were also negative/inconclusive. So, as Dad says, we still have nothing to hang our hats on but that one little biopsy that maybe showed celiac/sprue.

I am disgusted that the hospital kitchen is still sending inappropriate foods to Mom. This seems to be the weak point in all the staff and care she has received. Mom is with it enough to not eat what could contain the gluten, but it is ridiculous that she is still receiving hamburgers in buns.
Both the folks are caught up in hearing Rochelle's trick-or-treating plans with her kids. I think this woman provides a huge service of comic relief and laugh therapy for patients.

Dad's dermatologist reported back on the biopsy of a small growth on his cheek. "DR ZIT" has been taking care of Dad for thirty-five years. Dad's little growths on face, ears, and hands are always precancerous minor deals. The doctor cleans them out with a laser. Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat! That is why I've been reading a cute book about going fishing with a tackle box AND A HAT to all my preschoolers this week. It's called "A Good Day's Fishing", by James Prosek.

Dad is going to check on possibilities for Mom to vote Tuesday. She has a perfect record of voting in every election. He still hopes she'll be home before then. And that's all the nort spews, as Tank McNamara used to say.

Transfusion for the support crew

I know this is probably a late response since this news is already one day old. I hope things went better today and I do appreciate your daily updates. I got a letter off to your folks today (after writing in the plane yesterday). I'll try to do another one in Seattle since it means a lot to them to get mail, I know.

Boy, it is really discouraging to see our folks not be as independent as they would like to be. The things my mom tells me remind me of Halma Mastalir when I first got married and moved to Pierce. The tone of voice, the fraility and the lack of coherence are all what I remember so vividly of Halma and now I'm experiencing it in my own mother. Keep your sense of humor and strength and that way we can hold on to some sense of stability.... Otherwise, we might drown in it. Your folks are very strong and stable, so I'm sure they will maintain, but it is hard. Always enjoy hearing from you...


Sorry I didn't get this written up after I talked to Dad. He said the results of the transfusion were already showing. Mom was discouraged, though, because she lost her breakfast. It had been several days since she had any nausea. She was given her before-breakfast pill after breakfast, and that caused the problem. Dad was very ticked off about it.

The doctors seem to be getting a handle on the steroids and blood balance. Her blood pressure is up, which is good. She still has the edema from the fluid retention. Her appetite is good. She is clear-headed, just discouraged.

Mom's not aware how whacked out she was on Sunday. At one point she saw bugs coming out of Dad's shirt pocket. I am creeping out thinking of the 1991 movie of William Burrough's "Naked Lunch":

Dad was having an Arbys with barbecue sauce and a side salad with Santa Fe Ranch dressing (to get his greens). He had mowed the leaves again yesterday afternoon from Bob's damn sycamore. We all know Dad's not kidding much when he says if those big leaves fall off the tree and hit you they can knock you out.

Dad had scoped out a place at the other end of fifth floor with a big window. He and Mom walked down there to look out over all of Eastridge with the fall foliage colors. Mom knew what she was seeing, where the swim pool is, etc. After the walk she sat up awhile with a blanket.

The transfusion process was started about five p.m. Tuesday. It went slower than expected, and after eight Mom was having some distress, coughing and gagging. She told the nurses it felt like "someone is sitting on my chest". They called in the head nurse for the floor (she is the one who did the research on the drug interactions with the steroids) and after a nurse conference they solved that problem. Mom did have a rough night after the transfusion, though.

Dad said last night would be a good night because Mom's "favorite team" was on. No, not the Red Sox--Nurse Sally and Rochelle, the aide who got her all calmed down Sunday night. Also Sera was on duty, and she does the very best showers and shampoos.

Dad and I talked about Mom's discouragement. I think it could be as related to the steroids as the earlier aggression, and suggested having a psych nurse visit with Mom. He thinks the head nurse of the floor is the person who fills that role, and he will look into it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Bon appetit!Mom polished off a three-egg omelet with ham this morning. In the five years I worked in the Bryan hospital kitchen, I don't remember ever serving an omelet. I'm thinking Steven and I will be having omelets tomorrow morning! Maybe with hash browns. Maybe I should set my alarm a bit earlier. Of course, when I make omelets they turn into "scrangled eggs" (as one of the boys used to call scrambled).

The Compassionate Internist took Mom off the IV today since she is getting plenty of fluids orally. She actually has some edema from fluid retention in her normally slender ankles. Good-looking ankles run in Mom's family from her mom's side. We may be Rubenesque elsewhere, but the ankles are slender. So, let's hope the fluid retention is on its way out!

Mom has been clear-headed since Monday noon. (I am still waiting for the Arby's to arrive for dinner, though!) The Gastro Doc reduced the steroid dosage by half, then by half again. This week there's a new Gastro Doc on call at the hospital. You can't tell the players without a program in this large medical group. He's the one who has Mom on the steroids. Now he says she must have a blood transfusion to get everything "in balance". The transfusion is being done this evening over a three to four-hour period. Dad says it is one unit of blood. I wish I could supply everyone involved with the lovely plastic vampire teeth we've been handing out to the kids in our classes this week.

Mom is still on a gluten-free diet, but none of the doctors are sold on that celiac/sprue diagnosis. They feel that results from blood samples sent to Mayo Clinic and to somewhere in California will soon come together to give a clear indication of the cause of this whole mess.

Dad is pleased because the snowblower is back home from its $100 tune-up (once per decade since 1984), and ready for winter. Hope he doesn't have to deal with snow any time soon, but he is prepared. We didn't talk long, as he was on his way to the basement freezer to snag a microwave dinner to nuke before he went back to the hospital. May we all be coping so well when we are 81 and a half, as my preschoolers would say.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tripping on steroids

It's 7:18 my time. Just got off the phone with Dad. I had tried at 5 their time but no answer either place. Got a brief report from Nurse T. because the operator intervened. She is very
sweet. Then I caught Dad at home at 6:30 after I got home from picking up the kids at soccer practice.

The skinny: T. expected Mom to go home today but then they changed dosage of a medicine that was confusing her. (I found out later that was the steroids.) She thinks she is doing great and will go home tomorrow.

The skinny from Dad: Yesterday went to pot after he talked to you. It seems the steroids built up too quickly in Mom's body and she was getting strange. The rainbow incident magnified. For example, she was waiting for Arby's for dinner. By the end of the day she had gone on so many walks that they couldn't keep her in her room. She got really cranked up, dressed herself, and got ready to go. Dad said he caught her trying to go to the bathroom by herself. She spilled some water and was trying to clean it up, etc. She was furious with Dad when he wouldn't let her stroll up and down the halls. Dad reported the behavior and asked for help. Rochelle (a hero!) came on duty and sat down with her for a long time to calm her down. Another nurse went to work researching the relationship between the steroids and other meds. She worked with the Rx and doctors and they decided to cut the steroids back considerably. By the way, at one point Dad found Mom in a wheelchair at the end of the hall because they had captured her before she
went down the stairs. That's when they put her on a tether system so that she wouldn't stray far before an alarm went off. But Rochelle was terrific all evening and took great care of her. (Dad thanked her profusely today.)

Dad went home feeling useless and exhausted. Got to bed at 10 and slept OK. This morning he was dreading the return to the hospital but found her in good shape. The doctor had cut the steroids by half and then later today they were cut by another quarter. They can't cut them out altogether. (They also switched them to a pill form for fewer side effects.) They need to monitor her progress before she can go home. Gastro doctor and other doctor were going to confer tomorrow morning and send her home if they had a consensus. Dad thought another day in the hospital would be good for her after the steroids slow down. Those steroids are nasty. Grandma S. had a terrible time with them. They help but they need to be monitored. Very frustrating for Dad, but typical side effects from everything I have heard. Before he left the hospital at 5:30 today he and the nurses got her into bed for some quiet time. She has been sitting up and walking all day (trying to get in shape to go home!) and he knew she was tired. He also said her feet were swollen. So he was going to let her rest before dinner and then return. He went home for a beer, a little dinner, and then will go back to see her. He asked us not to call so she could have a quiet evening. What a trooper he is! He was even polite to the neighbor boys who knocked on the door to ask if they could play in the yard while he was on the phone with me.
Dad confirmed thatMom is just about 160 pounds. She has put on several pounds in the hospital but is still way down from August.

That's all I can think of right now.

...and it explains the behavior of many athletes!

Strutting her stuff

Mom's been out gallavanting around the hospital corridors today and viewing somebody's wedding photos down at the nursing station. I talked to Nurse Tiffany when I couldn't catch Mom in her room on several tries, since I thought she might have changed rooms. Tiffany said she was doing really well and will go home in the next day or so.

Mom said the Gastro Doc on call this week was amazed at how much better she looked than yesterday. He told her she can go home tomorrow if she doesn't throw up before then. She is tired of the hospital, and the dinging of the IV and all the other noises.

Dad said Mom is much more "feisty and energetic". She is also looking in the mirror, combing her hair, etc., now. He found some wheat-free crackers for her soup, and she is excited about that.

Dad used the mulching mower on part of the backyard this morning, which was why I couldn't catch him either. He didn't want the leaves to get too deep, because the mower doesn't work then. He had a great visit with H. yesterday, and also with my brother, who offered to come down today. They asked him to wait until next weekend.

We are off to a soccer game now with that good news.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Isn't it romantic?

Dad and Mom went for a date about four this afternoon, strolling down the corridor, with Mom holding onto her IV stand. Dad says this is the first time he has taken a walk with Mom without a hospital attendant/chaperone.

I'm sorry to report that Mom still has vomiting and diarrhea especially when she has to swallow pills, have blood drawn, or other have other activity or tests. She doesn't want to read because it is too complicated getting back support and bifocals aligned. She had an abominable snowman CAT scan Wednesday that didn't show anything. The doctors are as frustrated as we are. They have added steroids to the mix of things she is taking for the bacterial infection of the small infection. Her diet is still gluten-free. Her blood tests are going to Mayo and to California, but not showing anything.

Dad is discouraged because Mom is confused and can't keep a sense of days and nights and time. She is sedated for some of her tests. She reports seeing a rainbow when there hasn't been one. She is very enthusiastic about a card from Jeannie with Morel mushrooms on it. She continues to have great rapport with the hospital staff.

Since my sister will be in Lincoln for Thanksgiving, the folks want me to come at a different time. I told Dad the story of how I resented the beautiful plants I received in the hospital when one of the boys was born because the plants were making too many demands for my time and nurturing (and dang near talking too loud) when I was so exhausted and depressed. I wanted the folks to know that I understand when the change of the slightest variable seems overwhelming.

Dad has spent a frustrating time trying to renew his TRAK mobile phone and get a new card and secret number. After losing sleep about it for a couple nights, he finally got a real nice real person who fixed everything up after he told her he was 81 years old. He's also been to the dermatologist to take care of four spots on his hand and one on his cheek. I am completely impressed this evening at how he is coping with all these changes.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Talkin' 'bout my generation

I would agree with you – I’m sure it is especially hard trying to keep things under control from 1000 miles away – I was right here and I found a few distraught moments trying to stay calm with my mother. I reorganized my pantry last night between 9 and 10 p.m., so I’m sure that is a control issue as well! Geez, if you don’t laugh you’d end up drowning in tears from the frustration of it all! ... Tomorrow I am moving my mother to a 1 BR apartment... I know what you mean about halos! There are some dear people that keep me going when I can’t seem to anymore. H.

Nearly everyone I know is coping with aging parents, and with children leaving the nest. Sitting down to lunch together involves nearly as many discussions of digestive issues and diapers as when our children were babies. Our parents seem more fragile than our children now, and maybe more controllable! Somedays I want to smash my guitar or set it on fire.

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to d-dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

The Who

Holding her head up

Just had a call from Dad to bring me up to date. It was a good day. Mom has more color and pep. She is sitting up, and "more interested in holding her head up." * The endoscopy/colonoscopy found two small polyps and took biopsies with some sort of Tupperware melon-baller. It's very sci-fi fX.

Mom wants more and different foods, and all meals stayed down today. She went for a little walk down the hall.

Uncle B. called Dad "late" last night. Mom had a card from her brother today. The hospital "ladies" stop by all the time to visit Mom. I am ready to issue them each a golden halo!
Gastro Doc and the Compassionate Internist have reviewed the breath hydrogen report and found it abnormal, indicating bacterial overgrowth somewhere in the intestinal plumbing. Mom's antibiotic treatment may continue for quite awhile.

Dad went to some senior citizen hangout and had creamy cole slaw, clams, and mashed potatoes for supper. He picked up some apricot kolaches at Hi-V for breakfast tomorrow before his appointment with the dermatologist about his skin cancer (the fairly mild kind that doesn't spread).

I have completely torn apart the living and dining rooms to rearrange furniture and clean. A little corner of my life will be under control.

I'm doing lots of venting these days. Tell me if you don't want the updates, and I will completely understand. I feel like taking Dramamine for the turbulence, and I thank you all for your moral support. I think we would all like to return our tray-tables to the upright position and prepare for landing.

*Just two months ago we expected to be sitting together at the Santa Fe Opera production of Don Giovanni!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Photo shoot tomorrow

Just got off the phone with Mom. The CAT scan showed no signs of nerve damage that would throw her into this state of chronic vomiting. My thanks to everyone for not saying, or letting me say, "Oh, my God...brain !," today. This week the doctors have also ruled out any kidney damage, and Addison's disease (which my grandmother and JFK both had). Tomorrow she is going to have the scope that involves swallowing a teeny-weeny camera to see if there are any Sports Illustrated swimsuit models in her small intestine. In the night her blood pressure got down to 90/36, but it is better now. She might be strong enough to go for a little walk with her walker and a nurse aide this evening. There doesn't seem to be anything I could accomplish by being up there. The short phone calls with Mom, and the very long ones with Dad seem to invigorate both of them. That's me, the human Snickers bar. If I thought she would get the joke, I'd tell Mom to put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

O, Best Beloved, Where Art Thou?

My copy of The Just So Stories is missing in action. I have so many stacks of stuff at home and at work, and it's just got to be here somewhere. Rudyard could probably explain that CollageMama "humphed" instead of filing and putting things away ever since the work began, and she will just have to deal with it. And wouldn't Rudyard be a good name for a junkyard dog?

I am one of the world's luckiest inhabitants. My mother rocked me in the yellow Eames rocking chair when I was tiny, and read Kipling to me in the mornings after Captain Kangaroo and the Arthur Godfrey Show ended. Arthur Godfrey had a ukelele, and the Captain had Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, the ping-pong balls, Mr. Green Jeans, the Banana Man, the Magic Drawing Board, Bainter the Painter, Dancing Bear, and stories. Oh, what wonderful, gentle stories! Caps for Sale, The Littlest Snowman With the Red Candy Heart, Ping, Make Way for Ducklings, Millions of Cats, Stone Soup, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel!

I put together a whole curriculum for a summer art/drama camp about Australia because the Captain used to sing "Waltzing Matilda" forty years ago. I still wish a jolly swagman would sit beside my billibong and eat marzi doats and doesi doats. Some of my strangest nightmares may have origins in the Magic Drawing Board's version of "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." Bob Keeshan was the genius that defined my childhood, even more than Dick, Jane, and Sally.

I even saw Captain Kangaroo IN CONCERT! Yes, at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium. It was a totally big girl event. A babysitter was engaged to deal with my brother and sister. I'm nearly fifty, and I've never felt more grown-up than going to that event.

When a story begins, "O, Best Beloved," you know you will be traveling in a special jungle. It is the same as, "Once upon a time," but without the shining armor. I am sad when people reduce the Kipling experience to the thumbnail plot outline. Kipling is all about language; words, wonderful words, swirling in dust storms across the outback or wallowing in the great grey-green Limpopo River, more patterned than a bicolored python rock snake, and absolutely feeding my "satiable curiotity"."O, Best Beloved," the stories would begin, and my mom and I still call each other Best Beloved (pronounced Bee-luv-Ed). Did I obsess that I would be spanked by adults as the Elephant's Child was spanked by his aunts and uncles because of his endless questions? Of course not. Did I go out and paint myself with fingertips dipped in mud like the leopard? Well, only that one time, and I'm almost over feeling guilty.
Monday wasn't too great for Fritzi, and she ended up very limp. In the morning she had a CAT scan that took a lot of time and strength. They are looking at the part of the brain that controls nausea, which is scary, too.

The fish served for lunch was icky, but she ate her applesauce and tea. She talked to the doctor about her dry cough, and got something for that. Dad says Robitussin, but I don't feel he actually knew what it was.

Because the orchid was dying, Dad talked to Louanne at the garden center(over-watered), and learned Dick had to cut short a trip back east to return for laproscopic gall bladder surgery. Mom is very fond of Dick, Dad's delightful golf buddy whose wife passed away last year, so this was upsetting. Dick is on sixth floor, so Dad visited with him for a minute.

Mom lost her supper, and ended the day weak.

Someone is picking up the snow-blower for a tune-up/oil change. Dad had a Philly cheese steak with the works for supper. He says they are due for a good day today. Please send good vibes everybody, and for Dick too.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Runza sounds good to me!

Talked to both the folks at the hospital last evening. Mom said she would be at the hospital at least until Wednesday as some doctor has ordered a two-day stool series (lab test). She is on a diet of"fully-cooked meals" now with "double fat", but she says she can't eat enough to actually get the double fat. Dad had been to Runza. They had talked to both Aunt Bev and R.

I could tell how frazzled Dad was when he told me on Friday night,"Do you know how many meals I have had to eat with someone throwing up in the next room?" I hope he enjoys some quiet meals this week. M

I realize that a blog about intestinal problems is an odd place to promote a fabulous Nebraska food called a runza. Just get over it, because runzas are to Nebraska what White Castle, Steak'n'Shake, and Krispy Kremes are to their areas of origin. I hope runzas get their turn in the spotlight and all over the map soon.

Nebraska foods

While searching for information about runzas, I found this fun slide show of Russell Stovers candy plants.

I used to know the secret codes in the chocolate swirls so I could find a caramel every time.

The original Runza Drive-In on the way to Pioneers Park.

Ask any Nebraskan about pizza, and they will tell you "Valentino's"!

Kind of scary, but it tastes like home to me.

Miller and Paine's tearoom served the best macaroni and cheese and cinnamon rolls on the planet. I even worked in the bakery department at the Gateway store for a short time and got very sticky putting fresh baked cinnamon roll dozens into plastic bags.

There weren't any good photos out there of Weaver's potato chips or Skyline Dairy's Swiss Almond ice cream.

And now that I'm on a roll, what about the donut machine in Ideal Grocery?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Through the bugs on the windshield

So there I am driving on back roads this afternooon, seeing coyote, deer, many roadrunners, countless scissortails, gorgeous red earth, blonde and pink grasses, white cotton, vultures, and my hawks. I'm heading back toward Dallas from Lubbock on Highway 82 to Seymour, then on deserted roads to Archer City. Outside the window there is poverty, decay, erosion, promise, creation, renewal, ripeness and light. "Carmen" is blaring, and cleansing quiet tears are streaming....Must refill the windshield wiper fluid!I'm not good at crying. Tears rarely come to the surface without whacko hormonal assistance. If they did, maybe I would view life through a cleaner mental windshield.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Lubbuck interrupted

Guys--I called the fifth floor and talked to the nurse, Tami, at about 9:50 p.m. She said Mom was asleep, stabile, and being rehydrated. She had only one lose stool after she was admitted, or at least on Tami's watch. A gastroenterologist had been in to see her. I will call Dad in the morning and find out if I need to fly up as soon as I get back to Dallas.

Tech Tour and Travel

Got to Lubbock and had an early supper with Mike. Then we walked all over the Tech campus and visited. It was great to get a sense of his place finally. We hung out at his apartment when the mosquitoes drove us away from campus. Before settling down to sleep I checked my email:

Nancy et al - 5:35 pm Don't want to interfere with your weekend but...I just got off the phone with Dad. After a doctor visit he took Mom back to the hospital this afternoon. She has lost twelve pounds since she got home. Dad had just returned home when I called.

I got a long report about the day and then the scoop at the hospital. Very low blood pressure, continued diarrhea/vomiting has led todehydration."Old home day" there. So glad to see all their friends and our heroes. Mom is settling in and they are getting things rolling fast. Dad feels like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders. He feels very confident that she will get the best care possible there. He sounds relieved just as he did the last time he took her to the hospital.

Call me if you would like more details. M

Friday, October 15, 2004

The family photo portrait arrived in Lincoln yesterday. Dad got all choked up trying to describe how it just "broke him up" and was such a tear-jerker when they opened it. Fortunately, being a tear-jerker is a good thing this time.

Dad went to the gastroenterologist's office before eight this morning to pick up six days of samples of Welchol to replace the gritty powder that Mom had been mixing and drinking. The grit usually brought on the gags. Now she has to keep down three tablets twice a day taken with meals. We'll see how it goes. They are getting more insistent about doctors and nurses returning their calls in a reasonable time frame. Amen! Welchol, and the grit stuff before, are actually cholestrol-lowering medications, not a bulking intestinal med like Metamucil as the folks had believed. I wish they would ask more questions, but I know how it feels when you are getting the "My time is very valuable" vibe from a doctor.

I am leaving for Lubbock now. Have a good weekend, everybody.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

True grit

Mom managed to go from 11:45 last night to 4:00 this afternoon without a "major disturbance" This is a new record.

Tomorrow the folks will call the doctor to ask about alternatives for the metamucil-ish grit that seems to be the culprit for setting off the heebie-jeebies. I told them to ask about alternatives for taking pills on an empty stomach before breakfast, too. Mom gets "too hungry" while she is waiting the prescribed length of time before eating. We all know about "too hungry"! Kind of makes me want a Hershey's Kiss, lemon drop, or Kraft caramel.

Mom called her sister using the cellphone, and brought her up-to-date. The folks are enjoying a good watermelon. Fresh fruits are a big part of her celiac diet. Fritzi is also enjoying hot tea and taking walks outside. Dad is warming to his role as the chef.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bureau of Weights and Measures

There's been a bit of confusion in Lincolnland due to my mom not wearing her hearing aids. Dad asked Mom what size Depends to buy, and read the size options to her. She heard "weight 150-160 lbs." He really said "hips 50-60 inches". That would be the reason the Depends weren't really very effective! I asked if she had tried wearing them with suspenders. It is good to know they've got the right size now, and that they were still on sale at Shopko!

To my sons--When I get that old, you have my permission to find some humor in the situation, as I certainly intend to! Also, stock up on duct tape...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Asking for help is healthy

Just got off the phone with my dad. Offered again to fly up, but Dad doesn't think I should. Things were better today. Mom isn't limp like she was before she went into the hospital. When she has a problem she fights back. I am impressed with the ways they are adapting and problem-solving. They are also doing better about calling their doctor's nurse, or calling the
1-800 number of a food company for ingredient info. They are even open to calling the parents of my college friend to ask about gluten-free food products even though they don't know them from Adam & Eve. They are using the available resources better, is what I'm saying. They are out of the mind-set that you only ask for help as a last resort.

My main frustration is that they don't have a cordless phone. In fact, they are the last people on earth with a rotary dial wall phone in the kitchen. They do have a Radio Shack push-button phone down in the basement. If I could, I would have the phone company out there installing the right kind of wiring and phone jacks for a cordless phone with caller ID.

N - I second that emotion. I called twice yesterday and let the phone ring10 times the first time. I decided they were outside or Dad had his hands full. When I called again 30 minutes later and it still rang forever I got worried. It seems that Dad was in the shower the first time and on the floor doing exercises the second time. He got up too quickly and arrived at the phone dizzy. Madness. At least Mom used the cell phone to call R. from the bedroom.

I thought Dad was feeling "in control" yesterday. He seemed to have had a good rest and was ready for the new day. I gave Dad a pep talk about using resources as well. I told him it was important to call doctors SOONER rather than later. And reminded him to be straight with us. (He said Mom didn't want him to give you all the scoop about the bad day but he told her he wouldn't operate that way. Good.) Anyway, he seemed eager to just ramble a bit and I was happy to oblige. You run an awesome support system from afar!!! We are grateful. M

No bowl of cherries

Mom had a bad day Wednesday, and Dad said he was "run ragged" doing laundry and shopping for Depends. Mom had a bad night's sleep that got her started coughing. As we all know now, the coughing leads into the vomiting and diarrhea. She was also complaining that her "tongue felt wet". Dad says they are being very careful to keep her hydrated this time, and now have some anti-nausea suppositories since she can't keep the anti-nausea pills down. The Depends are "insurance" so she has the confidence to go to the doctor or take a walk. Things had improved some by the end of Wednesday, and she kept down Royal Anne cherries and jello.

Being old is the pits.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah

It was a lovely day in Lincoln, according to Dad. Days are all looking more lovely through the glow of gratitude and relief. Mom walked all the way to the corner and back, then sat outside to enjoy the fresh air. She went to her internist, had a very encouraging exam, and doesn't have to go back until November fourth for some fasting blood work.

My folks are enjoying planning their meals, and incorporating the gluten-free restrictions without much trouble. Tonight they were cooking pork chops and homemade hashbrowns. Mom had taken charge in the kitchen, feeling confident she was up to it and could produce a superior result. Heck, I wish I was there for dinner!

Strumming on the old banjo.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Mission Control

Home again! Howie reports that the Two Week Endeavor has landed. Bringing Fritzi home went smoothly.


Looks like Mom's going home today. She is getting unhooked from everything, bathed, dressed, and instructed by the dietician. Medicare just bought her a walker. She's still waiting for the gastroenterologist to come in on rounds before her departure will be official. The internal medicine doctor has suggested that she may not need her blood pressure medicine anymore. She's been off it for the last two weeks, along with her thyroid and cholesterol medicines. The doctor also told her to cut her cholesterol Rx dose in half. So, it is a day of good news!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Free Low Fat Diet Aid

It sounds like a headline from a supermarket check-out tabloid, but it's for real. It's even free.
Yes, free! No prescription needed! Just close your eyes: My mom is in the hospital, and she is getting better, I'm thrilled to report. The amount of fluids she is receiving through her IV has been halved now that she is eating and drinking liquids. She is still receiving fat through the IV, though. We all realize that we need some fat in our diet for our bodies to function. Looking at a clear bag of the ugly lipid stuff hanging from the IV stand and dripping into you is a real turn-off, though.
Mom enjoyed bacon, scrambled eggs, banana slices in orange juice, skim milk, red grapes, pineapple, strawberries, and honey dew melon, and an especially nice ground steak patty! Her IV amount has been halved. She is receiving fat through the IV, which she says is very ugly to look at. (Just a little diet visual for the rest of us!) Her meals are gluten-free until the blood test results are received. If she stays on that diet the hospital dietician will teach it to my folks.

Mom is walking without a walker, and doing some exercises. Gastro Man II told her she was not going home today, which was a relief to her. They do expect that when she is released she will go home, and not to a rehab center. Someone came in to explain various home help services that are available. Oh, the barium progress test from Tuesday didn't show anything.

The nurses have just been fantastic. My hero list is growing. So, as Dad reported, we have "high hopes". Neither of us could remember how that High Hopes song went, and I'll be haunted, no doubt.

Diving the shipwreck

This whole situation with my mom in the hospital has made for lots of introspection. It was a surprise to find I am strong and centered enough to be sad without becoming overwhelmed by and mired in the sadness. That seems to have brought up many other sacrifices and losses of the last 15-20 years for which I was always too afraid to grieve. The grief work still waited. It has been like discovering a bottle in a submerged shipwreck, bringing it to the surface, and uncorking it.....

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Comic relief

Mom had turkey and mashed spuds for lunch, and bland fish for supper! So far everything has "stuck the dismount" as they say in gymnastics broadcasting. This is the first solid food in at least three weeks, so we are very excited.

Mom spent over three hours in the imaging center doing a progressive small intestine check involving consuming barium. It was an "ordeal", but she stayed "bright-eyed and bushy tailed", according to Dad, and took some walks while she was waiting. There aren't any results yet. Sunday's abdominal CAT scan results were inconclusive.

The Gastro Man this week really doesn't agree with a celiac disease diagnosis. Only one of the biopsy slides from the colon and stomach scopes showed celiac-type cells. Also, Fritzi is over her urinary tract infection. She has lots more pep, color, and strength, and is moving better. Her nurse aid buddy takes her for walks. The folks are also very fond of all the night nursing teams. These sweet folks stop by to say howdy when they aren't even on duty in Mom's ward. They are definitely my heroes this week.

For comic relief a student in the nurse's aid program was assigned to be Mom's special buddy assistant. This seems to have been an adventure in supreme unprepared bungling, but both Dad and Mom kept their senses of humor. Mom finally told the young woman that she was absolutely not to bathe her or comb her hair since she didn't have enough sense to wear rubber gloves when dealing with the catheter. This was also after watching the woman start over repeatedly trying to change the bedsheets. If this had been reality tv she would have been fired. The supervisor for the training program apologized at length. I think the experience actually did Mom a lot of good. Makes me think of Inspector Clousseau. Reminded me as well of the bumbler that was sent to give me an eye exam when I was in early labor with Mike. Ah, teaching hospitals...

Keep sending good thoughts. It's a long trip from mashed potatoes to sauerkraut!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Better news

Mom had a stomach CAT scan Sunday afternoon. Based on the results of that, she may move to an outpatient status in the next couple days. A blood sample is being sent to California to test for celiac disease. My brother drove down for a pleasant surprise visit. All in all, she is feeling much better and stronger.

I called Mom at 4:30 her time. Just wanted to hear her voice which sounded stronger and clearer than it does at home. Talked briefly and she told me that she got choked up when R. walked through the door.

We are glad that all the bad stuff had been ruled out. I told Dad to call me if he wanted to give us a more in-depth report but he said I had heard all that there was right from the horse's mouth. So he is going to take the evening off from the phone. M

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Special Diets

I am frustrated with the kitchen at St. _____'s. They keep sending my mom the wrong meals. The kitchen being my only medical area of any knowledge, I want to grab the dietician's ears and snarl, "It's not that #$#$Q@# complicated to send the right diet! Do I have to come up there and put on my hairnet?!?" When she was supposed to be on cream soup and pudding, they were sending meatloaf or pancakes.

Celiac diet

Hi! Talked with Mom last night, and she sounded better, very clear-headed. She's a bit down contemplating the possibility of learning a new diet, but says she will do it if that is what is necessary. One of the neighbors had been in to see her, and to bring Dad some good coffee cake. Then Mike talked to her mostly about what he is cooking at his apartment. I know that was a big boost to her.

I talked to Dad this morning. He had a good talk with another couple in the neighborhood. I'm sure that was good for him. He is feeling pressed for time to make his hospital visits, pick up meals somewhere, take care of stuff at home, and make phone calls. He reports that Mom is still having diarrhea. She is also feeling chilly a lot. She is sitting up more in bed and in the chair, and is walking with the therapist. She is having broth and juices. She likes the young internist from her doctors group who has been visiting her the last few days. She thinks he is quite the comic telling her about how he just got married, and how his wife is buying all his clothes now. This internist is more sold on the idea that the problem is celiac disease than the gastroenterologist is. There are no further tests scheduled at this point.

The folks are pondering which rehab facility she should go into when she is eventually released. This is not an iminent concern, though.

Thanks to all of you for the celiac links and diet information, support and suggestion. I have printed out lots of info to mail to Dad.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Better Coping Through Caulking

I haven't been able to blog much this week, and I feel weird. Blogging's like an exercise routine. When I miss for too long I feel grumpy right down to my toenails. My mom has been in the hospital back home since Sunday. She had been through a prolonged spell of nausea, and was dehydrated and weak. My dad was exhausted from taking care of her. Things are getting better now. Mom is rehydrated and able to eat some soup, although still on an IV, and is pleased with the care she is getting. The therapist has her up walking now. Dad is rested, but worried, naturally. He's able to get more information from the doctors now, and the doctors are starting to figure out what has caused this problem. We are all relieved that the diagnosis isn't as scarry as it might have been. So I spent my week on the telephone getting updates, feeding my questions to Dad, and disseminating information to other friends and relatives. By the time I sat down to watch a bit of the video of Bizet's "Carmen" I would conk out in the chair.

Why "Carmen"? That will be a different blog.

Why is it when we are stressed our tolerance for little stuff goes down? All week my disgust with my shower caulk has escalated. So I spent my Friday off in a crazed mode hacking and pulling out the old caulk, getting stains off the tile grout, and going to the hardware store. I can't change the situation for my parents, but, by golly, I can change the appearance of my bathtub!

Mike drove home from college, and did the actual caulk application. His hands are steadier and stronger, and he can even read the tiny print instructions on the caulk tube. We talked about his plans to change his major. He told me after he graduates and gets a job, he will help me repair and improve the condo so I can sell it and move wherever I want. I used to think I would live here forever, but I have days when I want to live in an urban loft or a small older home like my Grandma's. Anyway, Mike is a great kid, and he gave me a much-needed boost. I'm so glad he came back for a visit. My shower looked fantastic this morning, even if I couldn't shower in it. I trudged upstairs to the teen bathroom to shower. Next thing I knew, I was tearing out the gross caulk in that shower, and running back to the hardware store. Now the day is winding down, and I even have new caulk in the kitchen, and around the lavatory. A little part of my life is clean and orderly, and my effort will be visible for awhile. It's time to call Dad for today's update.

Not an acronym

Sprue is a "chronic, chiefly tropical disease characterized by diarrhea, emaciation, and anemia.
This is interesting to me from a totally backward, nonscientific, etymologic aspect. I was intrigued to find that the word "sprue" had a Dutch origin according to my favorite dictionary that my aunt and uncle gave me for high school graduation. Makes me wonder what tropical hellhole Dutch sailors colonized and how many survived the disease...Celiac Sprue refers to abdominal problems related to improper digestion of fats and wheat proteins.

Thank you for that explanation. I called Dad several times yesterday to try to catch him so he wouldn't be worried about having to fit in a birthday call. I finally caught him last night and he gave me the long rundown. He is trying so hard, but it sure takes a toll on him. It is painful to listen to him try to come up with the word he needs -antibiotic, catheter. This is obviously traumatic for him. I have to remember how old they are. Poor guys.

Anyway, I am up to speed. A friend's son was incorrectly diagnosed with the gluten allergy last year and she was able to find the appropriate resources, recipes, etc. to make the diet not completely inconvenient and unpleasant. Mom would have to give up a lot, but it would be a project for them! M

Friday, September 24, 2004

Today I feel frustrated being so far away.

My mom went for a walk with the physical therapist down the hall using a walker today. This is the first time she has done that in well over a week. She is eating her soup, and sometimes her jello. Her new IV connection is "pretty radical" according to Dad. Up to four different potions can be connected and regulated at a time.

The gastroenterologist reports that one of the colonoscopy/stomach scope biopsies indicated a gluten allergy. My dad wants me to research something called S.P.R.U. on the internet. Mom also has a urinary tract infection, which isn't surprising when she was so dehydrated, and also had that catheter blockage. She will get antibiotics for that through the IV.

Now that Dad is rested he is meeting with the doctors, asking questions, and getting better info. He is worried Mom may eventually have to move into a rehab facility, rather than come home. She will certainly be in the hospital through the weekend. She is getting bored enough to have tried to turn on the tv in her room, but not bored enough to put on her glasses to figure out the remote control.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Banana pudding

Hi, again! I am glad to report that Mom is doing better today. She coped well with the assorted roto-rooter medical procedures, and had a good sense of humor when I talked to her. Dad said that she was much stronger, and they were both encouraged. She was very pleased about the balloons, letters, and cards she had received, so I want to thank everybody for being so kind.

Mom also ate some bland tomato soup and a few bites of banana pudding, and it stayed put. This is the first real food she has eaten since about 9/12. She is still getting fluids by IV.

Dad and Mom are both so enthusiastic about the care and the personnel at St. ___'s. They did not have a report about yesterday's abdomen ultrasound, or any other lab results. Perhaps since the Gastro doctor ordered those tests, he will have to be the one to bring the results.

Thanks so much to all of you for your concern and support. I appreciate your love and good vibrations. (Yes, it's a Beach Boys moment!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Being old is not for wimps

This will be Mom's third night in the hospital. She is still nauseous. Her internist has called in a gastroenterologist. Today she had an ultrasound on her abdomen. She also had a painful problem with her catheter. Tomorrow she will have a colonoscopy and a stomach scope. Those won't be pleasant, but she will probably be sedated for them. Dad said they hadn't had any new lab reports today. I am trying to get him to be more proactive for her. I'm feeding him the questions they need to be asking. He saidMom specifically doesn't want any flowers, as all smells aggravate her nausea. She always appreciates letters with updates on your lives, guys. Dad appreciates short phone calls as long as he isn't hungry at the time.

The Pick

Things are going better today. Dad is very upbeat. Mom is getting a new, improved type of IV connection near her shoulder. She will also get a new mix of nutrients in her IV. The gastroenterologist has explained that the lab samples and the ultrasound did not indicate any problems. The purpose of yesterday's colonoscopy/stomach scope procedure was to look for indications that an infection has resettled in the intestines from somewhere else in the body (like from the root canal dental problem in August). They will have those results in a couple days. Mom will be staying at the hospital at least until those results are received.
Thanks for your continued support. We will be at soccer tonight until late.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Dad reports Mom is getting a lot of fluids through her IV, and has a good attitude, steady vital signs, and better color. There's no indication of when she might go home. I'm sure the doctor will want her to keep down solid foods before she leaves. Dad slept ten hours last night, and hopes to do the same tonight. He sounded better. I relayed the info to my sister who knew what was going on, and to my brother who didn't.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Becoming AnchorWoman

Nancy - I just got off the phone with Dad. I had been calling all afternoon and not getting an answer. I did not want to alarm you so I just kept trying. When I tried the last time he had just walked in the door from the hospital. Now he is talking to you so I didn't want to call. Just want you to know how frank he was with me. Didn't seem at all surprised that I knew what had been going on. I suggested that he not fatigue himself by calling us both with reports. I told him that I would depend on you for information unless he wanted to call me for some specific reason. He is trying to conserve his energy, stay fueled, and get lots of sleep. I told him I was very proud of him for making this move and also for knowing that HIS health was very important. That's why I don't want him to have to make multiple calls. Keep me posted. I will write Mom a note after I feed the family. So nice to have a long chat with you last night. I have missed that. I don't like email for correspondence because I do so darn much business on it. Would like to talk to you more. Hope you got some sleep last night. I am afraid that perhaps you spent your day calling Dad and were worried just as I was. Sleep well tonight. She is in the right place! Love, M

Zombies and potions

Dad has finally taken Mom to the ER this afternoon after a phone call with her doctor. She is now admitted at least for tonight, and on an IV to get her rehydrated and get her potassium level corrected. She has had a very thorough interview and exam by one of the doctors from the practice of their long-time doctors. The lab tests so far have not shown any bacterial infection, and this situation is no longer thought by anybody to be connected to the dental root canal problem. It is hoped that by feeding and rehydrating her with the IV, she can disconnect from her prolonged nausea syndrome*.

I also hope that Dad can get some sleep, as he has been "on duty" way too long and is a walking zombie. I wish I could have convinced him to do this Thursday when I first got an indication of how severe the situation was**. We had another long phone call last night, as Dad was really needing support and a sounding board.

*I'm not sure of the exact term. Basically, Mom had gotten into an automatic reflex of coughing and gagging whenever she ate or drank anything. This reflex fed and then was fed by her anxiety in an ugly spiral. Dad and I are both hopeful that if the doctor can get her to relax and rest her innards enough to stop the nausea pattern she will be okay.

**My dad tends to minimize problems. I'll never forget all of us gathered around five-year-old Steven who was hurt rolling down the hill in the backyard. Steven was lying there with his arm bent at an impossible angle, and Dad was telling me that it definitely was not broken. Dang. I'd seen a lot of broken arms by then, and it was mighty broken!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Buckle up, you guys!

I've been traveling with four invisible vicarious companions on this solo trip. My parents love frequent updates, and my bosses want juicy details. Enquiring minds want to know, don't ya know? I feel like the star of my own reality show!

Monday, August 16, 2004

New Mexico

This is a new era. I can stand on a sand dune next to 150,000 year old volcanic rocks marked with six hundred year old petroglyphs while talking on the phone to my mom in Lincoln, Nebraska about my parents' dental problems and the funeral of their old friend. I can check back with Mike about the malfunctioning smoke detector while I empty sand from my shoes in the parking lot. I can nearly crash the rental car when the cell phone starts playing the Toreador Song when I am on the exit ramp from I-25 to Bernalillo. I'm into a very quiet journey, traveling solo, speaking rarely, listening to birds and rustling grasses. Even in my normal life I get discombobulated when I receive a rare cell phone call. I am the Maytag repairman of cell phone calls. Thank heaven the call is from my dear summer intern/assistant, so she understands that I am technologically challenged. Her news is great. She and her boyfriend are going to use the opera tickets that my parents couldn't. It will be fun to share the special occasion with friends, and it is a relief that I won't have to stand outside the box office trying to find a buyer. It's so amazing how everything is flowing on this trip.


Checked in with my folks. Howie had lost an inlay. This is on top of Fritzi's root canal nightmare. I would have loved sharing this vacation with them, but am so relieved that this latest complication occurred back home.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


It's really going to happen! I am going to meet my parents in Santa Fe in August. We have talked about this for a long time, and we are really going to do it. They will drive there in a leisurely fashion, and I will fly there with the wonderful free ticket I received for my birthday.

Once we meet up, we will take it slow. That's the Santa Fe way, right? We will go to the O'Keeffe Museum, the International Folk Art Museum, maybe Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, and Taos. My dad wants to see some of the acequias. The engineer is still curious at eighty-one. I am hoping to go to the Santa Fe Opera, perhaps for a performance of Don Giovanni. I have been curious about the opera in Santa Fe ever since my aesthetics professor, Nelson Potter, first talked about it in 1975.

We have the whole summer to fine tune the plan. For now I need to figure out the plane ticket. What a delightful gift for all of us!

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Crockpot worries

Talked to my folks this morning. They reported that their plan for the day was to clean the
maple twirlies out of the gutters. Dad would go up the ladder, and Mom would stand at the bottom to catch him, I guess. This was not a reassuring image.

Mothering teen boys has given me some practice with going about my day and letting worries stew in a little crockpot all their own. I don't have to watch the pot or stir it, and the worries usually turn out okay. This crockpot approach let me go on with my errands and swimming, even though I knew my eighty-one year old Dad was up on the ladder. Like a teen boy, he's going to do what he wants to do.

My mom must know about slow-cooking. She left me a phone message that they had completed the gutter endeavor without incident. They have a bumper crop of soggy twirlies that will have to dry before they can be bagged for the trash.