The Hearty Boys

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The day is almost here … when I bring my new heart home. We can make merry, make mirth, and make blueberry margaritas.
Until then, however, please remain patient and and remember us in your thoughts. My rehabiiation lasts about a month. And my beloved’s stress is never-ending.

Shalom

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A New Season’s Hark to Last Season’s Heart

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This calm and still Wednesday morning has become quite the glorious herald to the new spring, hidden from view just around the corner. Like my recent nausea, the clouds have reluctantly dissipated, as relief peaks through a nebular porthole as if to softly whisper “I’m here!” The most critical of change is often slow to root and even slower, to soothe.

I know better than to foolishly tempt or tease fate, or (more importantly these days) allow it a loop in which to slip one of its “holy” bad or cruel jokes. To welcome blind change, without direction or guidance, is often destructive, self-defeating, and certainly foolish.

For that reason, today I celebrate patience and compassion, and the intertwine of the two. It saddens me that so many Americans have given up on the “honorable” and decent path. They prefer a quick fix. They want answers. And, most of all, they want to bolster their assets and checking account now.

To many of those, any change is indeed a better alternative. But is it? It frustrates me that, yet again, this nation is on the verge of yet another potentially foolhardy “throw the bums out” tirade, antsily stomping its feet. May I remind you it was one such repercussional tantrum in 1972 that first plucked Jesse Helms from obscurity as he appealed to voters’ sense of xenophobia and bigotry.

Not to fear, my friends, I will stifle my partisan leanings and neatly tuck my soap box away,for now. We all will be bombarded with such messages and images over the coming weeks. But I am scared. There are simply too many loose cannons and over-armed gamesmen out there.

Today, I shall celebrate what is good in the world, as I mourn what we have killed. I will definitely smile with relief as my mind’s eye catches Jon fumbling in the kitchen and reclaiming control over his own health.

But I will cry at the thought of the children that were callously thrown away by society. I will cry for their tormentors who were taught by their parents to hate. I will cry for my peers who say “oh, how awful!” and immediately turn the television to “Dancing With the Stars” to learn of Marla’s fate.

Today, I shall celebrate the still and bright skies, as I mourn those who wade through flooded streets. Or those who wonder why there are no birds circling the feeders, while air raids circle above.

Today, I celebrate Jon and the Twelve Noble and Apostolic Pusses of Marklewood, as I mourn those who are alone or isolated. I shall cry for children whose fear and isolation is so profound that they jump to “safety” from a bridge. I shall cry for those many, many individuals who go for days without human contact, and suffer the worst of society’s disconnects.

Trust me, I am neither a naive, cock-eyed, or a short-sighted “pollyanna”! I am broke and unemployed; follow politics far too closely; and have recently succumbed to these damned maladies of mortality. But I am a happy person.

I am comfortable with myself. I attempt to almost always do the right thing. And I have a partner, family, and friends who are nurturing, compassionate, and like-minded. “Like-minded”, by the way, has little to do with religion or politics, as it is more clearly defined by both reveal of our souls and our over-simplified levels of compassion.

So as I shall soon flip my desk calendar, I take a deep breath. I’ll look ahead in grand manner. October is always a grand month, illustrated by cascading leaves and previews of the season’s “sweater wars”. It is a handy month for both catching up and getting an ample head-start.

First things first. Let’s get through spring and the ever tardy April showers. Autumn’s harvest will gladly make a housecall in its own sweet and due time. By then, surely it will be the appropriate time to trade in “last year’s heart”.

And I love Thursdays! And I love the rain! And I love the Universe’s snappy unfold of the passing seasons!

It’s all good, Lillian.

May all of us have a lot to smile about this evening and tomorrow. Proceed with kindness and grace. And remember: being happy and content never means that you must forget how to cry. It is often tears that cleanse a nation’s spirit.

(Image: “Marinero” by Femke Hiemstra, 2012.)

Accepting Fear’s Exception

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I used to keep a journal filled with thoughts and doodles. It became obsolete over twenty years ago. At that time, the most productive and motivating outlet for self discourse was via email.

An afternoon of scribbling, without so much as a blinked scan’s proofread, made way to an equally-quick click of the always-busy “send”!

Years later, specifically in 2010, this very blog emerged from an raw, emotional heap of isolation, fear, exhaustion, and confusion. Tartuffe’s Folly, in a private way, became my salvation. The entire email option at once seemed silly as I had found a legitimate outlet.

The process of posting helped extract and explore my optimistic nature. Since then, I’ve been far more emotionally fit and my own best “hope junkie”!

Except on certain days, that is. Days like today. My thoughts drift into my rarely charted recesses of pragmatism and realism. To many folks, such talk is morbid and symptomatic of some evil neurosis.

But as they say in the deepest of Southern back alleys: “That don’t make no never mind.”
My 851 days of waiting for a new heart have given me all too much time for reflection. Now that I’m in the hospital until after the transplant, there’s no escaping the truth.

What if a donor heart is never procured? What if I don’t survive the surgery? What if my body succumbs to rejection impulses? After ten weeks in this room, my list of queries and hypotheticals continues to grow.

I’m in no way a “Pollyanna”. If I was a terrific candidate for the procedure back in December 2013, time has only eroded those odds. On some Sundays, the odds seem fated for only a fifty percent recovery.

Of course, my beloved and I can discuss the subject … but only insofar as neither of us becomes melancholy.

I know of two friends with whom I can share such intimate thoughts — a friend from college days and one from New York.

There are no definitive answers, no sure things. But if, in my most investigative deconstructions, I indeed have such thoughts, it likely suggests one thing.

I’m scared.

And today, in my most roundabout and rambling manner, I now can admit it to myself. I’m scared.

Mind you: broaching this discussion with a family member or close friend may yet be several Sundays ahead. But not now.

Similarly, I never shared my journals or my “emails to myself”.

Everything is a process these days. What better day than an April Sunday for a review?

(Image: “Vanitas” by Fernando Vicente, 2008.)

De-Coding “Code Blue” Blues

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I used to feel persistent pangs of guileless guilt if I allowed myself a smile at the wrong time, wrong moment, or in plain view of the worst of witnesses. True, such dark humor might even evoke a hearty, albeit inappropriate howl. But propriety and sensitivity hold all the trump cards in polite company, whether strangers or intimates.

That credo certainly is true in several hospital situations. Now that I am an insider with 57 days accrued on this tour alone, i can reveal in confidence and without corroboration:

Mere mention of Code Blues is usually discouraged. One doesn’t ask details about this morning’s PA cries of “Code Blue, Outpatient MRI Imaging” or this afternoon’s drama-ridden curiosity, “Code Blue, Dental Clinic”!

I was just dying to ask, but I didn’t. In a dentist’s chair? While getting a semi-annual cleaning? A blog post was circling my iPad, unsure if it was perhaps too soon to land.

Dammit. It’s a tragic waste of good material. Of course, it’s even sicker when one’s writer’s block hovers far from therapeutic on a lonely third floor Cell block.

The Big Warden keeps throwing me bones, apparently those rife with Arthritic Osteoporosis and beyond examination.

Oy.

And then there was Tuesday, March 15 at approximately 2:13pm. I was listening to my Hospital A-Go-Go playlist. Between tracks 3 and 4, doctors and nurses and bears (“Oh, my!”) starting rushing the Bastille that is my room.

Dazed, a young resident (from a different unit) asked one of those verboten questions. “You’re okay, aren’t you?” He turn to tell the others in relief: “He’s not coding!”

At that point, I heard it. “Code Blue, Anderson 37##. All available personnel, Code Blue, Anderson 37##.”

Holy Heparin! That was my room. If I was indeed “coding”, it was news to me.
The same announcement was repeated twice before it was corrected, but not before the news had traveled across my unit and back.

At that point I had been an impatient patient for over six weeks, and 84 shift changes. The nurses on this floor, for the most part, all know me now by name, med-chart trivia, and specific peccadilloes.

“Mr Sieber! That’s Mr Sieber’s room!” They were caught off guard and startled.

I, of course, was dying to ask.

Perhaps, there’s a better, more genteel phrase that I could use.

I didn’t find one. I never asked about details. At least not until the following day.

Yet another code, but of the mannerly ilk, suggests that I first ascertain the other patient’s condition, assuming his/her survival.

Wednesday afternoon, I could no longer suppress a smile.

The little smile became a guffaw, and at no one’s expense … not even Medicare’s.

Thank God.

I was simply too weak to genuflect.

(Image: “Tunnel of Love” by Henry Koerner, 1947.)

A Fine Day for a Good Friday

imageWere tomorrow Friday, my thoughts might be somewhat more relevant and my posting, timely. I apologize for my internal clock which has newly changed batteries and yet seems to be skipping beats to make a point.

The best of Friday felicitations from the sandbox, my friends. For some of you, tomorrow is a reflective holy day, a solemn step toward pending joy.

For others, the day becomes a euphemism as the start of a process, an ultimate new beginning, a resurrection if you will. For most of us, it will be a Good Friday indeed … regardless of its definition or intent.

And for an unlucky few, the day becomes unfortunate and simply a day of thus-pegged and rather pixilated irony.

However you may interpret, plan, or simply allow your day to unfold, may it be what you want it to be. And, more importantly, what ever you NEED it to be.

One lone Friday is but one day. 
I will spend my day in my own manner. I shall pay silent homage to Easters past and those folk who anxiously laid my foundation, and its many subsequent refurbishes.

Henry and I will revel in the brilliant relationships that grace my life today.
 It is those connections that fuel my soul, give me hope, and define my humanity. They also keep me stocked in sweet iced tea, okra pickles, and fresh pineapple.

My soul, my hope, and my humanity (as I humbly understand them) are going to make the most of the day and I shall call it a good Friday.

There is no such measure of time that is “JUST” a day. All days have measure and worth. Believe that!

What ya think, Lillian? Dark chocolate “peanut butter” truffles? Fruit-shaped marzipan? Jelly Bellies?

Doctor’s orders!

(Image: “The Last Supper” by Adam Lister, 2014.)

Notes From 3702: A Problematic Paradox to Feeling Better

In two days, My current hospital stay will pass the six weeks mark. The day will go unnoticed except for the Cardiology panel’s likely reassessment of my options. There are always at least two schools of thought and a rogue opinion that weigh in.

While I appreciate the time and consideration of so many dedicated professionals, I am nonetheless a tad hesitant and uncomfortable that many pertinent decisions are reached by contentious consensus. Mortality is never an easy issue.

That all dressed up and now said, I am more energetic, stable, alert, and (Hark, I sense that wretched snare-drum roll, Lillian!) nauseous. That suggests an oft overlooked perk to deliria, fever, and being just South of “out of it”. One is too groggy to either care or remember.

Spank me silly, Mr DeeJay. If I take an Adavan, put on my earphones, and listen to Mott the Hoople or Sir Bolan, will I …?

Will I stop analyzing, start distracting those inner voices, and simply embrace a transcendental approach to time management?

Oy ve. There is so much to forget, especially with one less hour in my late night.

“One less egg to fry!” Methinks this new approach is working, MAYBE.

Check back in one more month.

(Images: “Suite Basque” by Ignacio Goitia, 2016.)

The Enclosed Card

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Henry. Henry. Henry.

That silly puss! I awakened from my early afternoon nap and, in a jolt of jubilation, discovered that a virtual bouquet was resting on my hospital table.

Today is a gusty and balmy 78 °F. Yet my skepticism, if not reason, sought proof that Spring was indeed in the Green Room waiting for its fifteen minutes.
Our host suggested otherwise but it was alas time for good tidings of gardens.

Tightly bound buds. Easing effulgent blooms. Proud firm stems. Oh. Those floral town criers!

Henry sent me flowers. I can now see for myself.

You, gentle reader and Ye of Green Thumbs, may scoff at a puss’s folly of such a curated image.

But Henry curls up in a cock of feline righteousness. Whiskers permitting, he’d surely feign a grin.

Correspondence and greetings of all types are now all but fully replaced by the phenomenon that offers E-cards.

I’d share other tidbits of this new web-world, but I am late and need to redirect.

Forgive me. It’s time for Henry and me to Skype. He’ll soon settle in for another viewing of Sunday’s Downton Abbey.

Courtesies of the Ladies Crawley, Doodle is now painfully aware of etiquette.

(Images: “Lilies” by Irma Stern, 1944.)

Up, Up, and Away: The Menu’s Small Print

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It’s 6:45 am. I’m running on empty, yet raring to go.

The nurses are no longer urging me to at least try to get some sleep. Perhaps later.

Right now I might just indulge myself and order a mid-century, farmer’s breakfast: two fried eggs, sausage, grits, rye toast with cream cheese, and an iced coffee. Yes, the hospital permits such decadent items, on the rare “pre-transplant” occasion.

Then, for the rest of the day, I’ll just feel as though I’m living within the context of a Fifth Dimension songbook.

Of course, I may struggle to stay awake for tonight’s Downton Abbey finale.

Prodigal Soon Seeks Passage on That Midnight Train, Georgia

Full title: The Story of Griselda, Part III: Reunion Artist: Master of the Story of Griselda Date made: about 1494 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

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I am loathe to admit that, after a month in the hospital, I am cranky. Worse yet, my gratitude is shaky.

Cabin fever? I should only have that much room.

I am dizzied and speechless that I face another six weeks on IV antibiotics, backless hospital gowns, lack of privacy, and using a portable urinal.

My beloved and Henry are home refeathering the nest without me. Now that each hour has become so precious, I’d rather spend them in “my” world, “his” world, our humble Marklewood.

Please, don’t misjudge my tone to be depressed, desperate, or, at the very least, a bad sign of something a-brewing.

At 1:00am in 3702, my rant is now passing, at least for a few more weeks.

If you stop by, please try the Black Bean Soup, London Broil, or the Shrimp/Grits.

Fondly,
Raleighwood’s Reverse Prodigal Son

Priming My Pump and Spacing My Pacing

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My daily routines, regimens, peccadilloes, and freedoms are all quite vulnerable as of late. I have been in the hospital for two weeks and am still baffling the cardiologists and Infectious Diseases doctors.

My pending prognosis is no closer to fruition than I am to having “six pack” abs. My thus-far fourteen days in the Acute Coronary Care Unit has now kicked into typically-Tarheel high gear: thirty blood cultures, daily x-rays, twelve doctors, sixteen nurses, and three sleepless nights.

The specialists have yet to ascertain the source of this damned blood infection. There are, however, two schools of thought. (There are always two schools of thought regarding the diagnosis/prognosis continuum.)

It now looks as though the faulty L-Vad and its accompanying Drive Line are hosting this bacteria. That dormant pump has set up some sort of intraveneous Pill-a-Palooza.

What is there to do? I shall be riding in 3702 until that VERY DAY on which the Cardio team excitedly wheels me down to the O.R. for preparation. Of course, I’ll be delirious and silly and most definitely incoherent.

As the various anesthesias seize my consciousness, I might just start the long process of naming my new heart. It’s a Marklewood tradition to name the nameless and breathe life into the lifeless.

I shall be home soon. We’ll fry up some chicken, skinless chicken. And you and I can catch up and “dish the dishy”.

Maybe … if the stars align and all goes according to Doctor Sheridan’s expectations.

Shalom, Lillian

(Image: “The Naked Man” by Joseph Hirsch, 1959-62.)

Hospital Hopping and Pondering Lent’s Bent

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Thank you, everyone, for your kind prayers, generosity of spirit, encouragement, and altogether inclusive and heart-felt nurturing. They have all helped bolster my faith for those intense and scary days ahead.

Your wonderful cards, messages, and Facebook greetings have provided such a positive distraction at a time when I face certain fears and thoughts of mortality. I am humbled. I cherish greatly those moments in which I can “ditch that nagging little voice within” and simply frolic and make merry.

Oh yes. Let’s not forget the upbeat and zany responses on that other social network by Claire, Deb, Andrew, Elena, Suzanne, Twilla, Mitch, and Heidi. Forgive me for singling just a few folks. I just wanted you to know that I do indeed read all of the comments, emails, and private messages. It just tires me to write.

And then there’s that erstwhile Siri. My voice recognition cannot understand my squeaks and empty syllables. I constantly remind Siri to at least enroll in night classes at Miller-Motte or ECPI.

Shalom, friends, on this wintry and Carolina Blue Monday from 3702. Give my best to Lillian should she be at Bea’s Booking Bee.

(Image: “Tale à la Hoffmann” by Paul Klee, 1921.)

The Night Before the Morning After

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A half century of habit is never easily booted. Friday nights still prompt me to emote with both internal squeals and sighs. And on Sunday nights, I still get that awful tightness in my stomach.

You probably know what I mean. You almost certainly experienced the same undeniable feelings. Sunday night always preceded Monday’s return to school. And I was always the odd sort who even loved school.

Saturdays just ended far too quickly.

Of course, I am on the short side of 60 and have been out of high school since Mr Ford was President. And I finished college before Mr Reagan ever moved East.

Like most adults, that anxiety continued into my working years, even when I worked on weekends.

It magnified once my schedule allowed me to maintain a more conventional schedule. Moments later, or so it seemed, I was on permanent disability. I no longer need experience any Sunday sinking feelings.

It has been five years and I still get that feeling. I still remind myself of my silliness and smile politely to my Id. The games we sometimes play are governed by odd rules, at least in the humble opinion of this odd sort.

Yes, tonight was no exception. I did, however, go into Downton Abbey knowing that I could dance until dawn. That is, that might be true if I were neither without inclination nor energy.

Ah, I allowed this post to spill into February, thus tainting the celebration of Black History Month and the birthdays of Mr Lincoln and Mr Washington.

I best dock my pay right now, Lillian.

(This 1962 painting, “Lincoln for the Defense” by Norman Rockwell, made me smile earlier. Initially, the oh-so-subtle colors aroused me in less than subtle ways. However, on second thought, it might’ve been the suspenders.)

Three Regrets: My Heart’s Latest Disconnect

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Wednesday Night, 10:32
UNC has a heart and Dr Sheridan has accepted it for me. It is being flown in during the early, early hours of a wintry dawn.

Transplant time! We are off to UNC Memorial Hospital.
Please take care of Jon and Henry.
Oh. Oh. Oh. What should I pack? Can I keep my own socks on?
“Rush. Rush.”
Oy ve.

Thursday Morning, 9:07.
Update:
The surgeon, Dr Brett Sheridan, and the transplant team on duty did not think the heart was up to par. It just wasn’t viable. My cardiologist, Dr Rose-Jones concurred, in abstentia.

So back, back to the wait. A mere “DAMN!” is inadequate. Very. And the nurse even shaved me from neck to knee. Under and over, in and out. Oy.

It is what it is. And don’t say a Fire Drill.

Sign me:
Sleepless and Heartless … and not quite “en route” yet to Raleigh.

Thursday Afternoon, 4:52
I do not know what to think. All I know is that I’m thinking it.
We are still not home yet. And we are now unprepared for this alleged and possibly most wretched winter advisory.

I stand corrected: It is what it isn’t, neither less nor more.
“Earache, My Eyes.” Actually, it’s my neck. Six attempts to place a Swan Catheter into my Carotid Artery have left two bruises and various pricks. They will, however, place “among my souvenirs”.

A Cheech & Chong reference means absolutely nothing these days. Don’t worry, Lillian. And please let Cousin Eve know. She has yet to open Facebook’s window for a peek.

It’s My Shadow’s Schedule, Not Mine!

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It is a sad, sad state of assorted sordid affairs when one identifies and defines each distinct day of the week. Labels in life are often dangerous, judgmental, or misused. Life and our thousands of traditions, thoughts, reactions, and answers come with neither constructive instructions nor a wee-set of warnings.

Yet, over-simplifying one’s explanation can actually lead to over-simplifying one’s life. I am there and have been since May 22, 2013.

Nonetheless, I build each day with those entries that are either distinctively crucial, meaningful, or entertaining. Yes, they can skip across a continuum from absurd all the way to crucial. Thus, my week here at Marklewood has become an illustrated collection of Zeniths and Nadirs.

Every Monday, my home health nurse Michelle stops by to: check my IV and re-dress its entry area, take me vitals, and conducts the quickie INR prick. She forwards her reports to the UNC Transplant Team, most notably to both of my cardiologists.

My beloved and I schedule all of my doctor visits for Tuesdays and his for the remaining days. Since mine usually involve driving to Chapel Hill, we make a day of it. And we almost always make every effort to stop by Merritt’s Grill for the very, very finest BLT in the Americas. To say “world” would be expressing gross exaggerations and might skew an analysis or two.

On Wednesdays, I usually sleep quite late. Preparing a manly supersized iced coffee, I then take it, some rye toast, and my iPad into the living room. I rarely then ever leave the living room, that is until Jon and I watch Jeopardy together upstairs.

After we eat dinner, we usually continue with the TV on, while we separately “type away” on our iPads. His Siri can be described as a submissive and easily confused man. Mine is a headstrong woman who autocorrects with incorrect spellings and responses. Education is so important even within a fictional narrative.

My Thursday is usually unstructured: a day of writing, reading, and posting. Kindly add to that an evening of Big Bang Theory, Mom, How to Get Away With Murder, and Elementary. Also, I see my therapist on every third Thursday … if I am up to it that day.

I define Fridays simply as SciFi Fridays. JON’s SciFi Fridays. On the other hand, I’ll listen to music, watch videos, or engage in more interactive web activities. Bless the Beasts and the Earphones!

Saturdays belong to National Public Radio and its roster of witty chat, games, and stories. Programs include: Car Talk, Wait Wait .. Don’t Tell Me!, Dinner Party Downloads, and Prairie Home Companion, among others. They flow seamlessly well into “after dark” TV programming, on PBS.

Surprisingly, Jon and I vary very little in our Sunday activities. It can be a make-up day for any missed NPR shows from the day before. Fast forward to 9:00pm. It offers a rough and tough battle between Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, and The Walking Dead … or any combination therein.

Spoiler Alert! On these ambient, dim (not yet twilight) days, the weekdays unfold quickly with ne’r a variance. Yes, it is shocking and usually excruciating to admit. Time tends to heal itself, while my beloved and I unsuccessfully court change.

I shall update you after my heart transplant. But only after I’ve gone to the Outer Banks, submersing myself in the divine salty water. I always find such swims are not unlike Naval Baptisms, of course with a hologram of Monsignor Dolan officiating.

I shall update you when my sins and illusions have been washed away.

But yes. I guess. I have digressed.

Shalom.

(Image: “Young Napoleon at the Military School of Brienne-le-Château” by Jacques Onfrey de Breville, 1908.)