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

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.)

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.)

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.)

Cold Cream (The ‘D’ is M.I.A.)

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Henry has been sleeping under my chin as I lay in bed imagining an improbable but increasingly craved beach romp. He usually has a fresh scent with a hint of lavender. Tonight, though, was different. Weirdly so.

He smelled just like my grandmother Dorothy always did. But that puzzled me and left me theorizing: Henry hasn’t used cold cream in years. And it so defined “Dodie” who incidentally had graduated from Oberlin in the early 20’s and later worked for the Smithsonian Institute. That perhaps was where she learned to neatly archive her secrets.

She was arguably the moistest person I have ever known. I used to mumble to my sister: “Quick! Secure the paper towels. Get the loofahs to a secured location.” I often thought that she could definitely befuddle the Brawny spokesman.

My mother called my grandmother only as Dodie. Just to bug her. Ah the tales of dysfunction always simmer this time of year.

It may just be time to get out the very dusty Pressure Cooker. I shall name it Dorothy Helen in memoriam.

Making Angels in the Evening Rain

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This afternoon in the first minutes of Raleigh’s Rush Rush Hour, Jon and I were calmly headed to Chapel Hill for my bi-monthly transplant evaluation and check-up. We had no expectations as to the outcome.

In other words, we had made that medical pilgrimage so many times (perhaps, 75 or so) in two years that any conjecture could, if not “would”, range from the totally obscure to the painfully generic.

My fear was that my extremely wonderful cardiologist, Dr. Briony Peony-Smith (not her real name), was regrettably poised to admit me to the hospital to finish the undetermined wait for a heart. However, despite my essentially bed-ridden limitations, my extreme shortness of breath, and my inability to focus, I am “still, yet, and again” otherwise able to continue depending on Henry and Jon as my caregivers.

I can still hear my eighth grade French teacher, Mr George Bright, enunciating that most general definition of encore. Yes, we love those random nostalgic gems that make us smile. I thank God that I don’t experience any shortness of breath while perusing that mental year-by-yearbook account of my life as a Catholic boy in North Carolina coming of age in the early 70’s.

In addition to a constant unfold of “sentimental journeys”, my immediate prognosis includes: a very restricted diet; extreme and non-stop nausea; an almost absurd inability to stay awake for more than hour or so; and a physical inability to talk. One might add that I can no longer rub my stomach as I pat my head with the other hand. Or perhaps I won’t share such.

I can still drink regular coffee, even though our “K-cup dependent” Koureg gets an F and has withdrawn altogether.

I can still eat ice cream. Hooray. Hurrah. We shall, one day soon, miss Edy’s Grand Gourmet Mocha Chip, Harris-Teeter’s Banana Pudding, and Turkey Hill Peach ice creams.

I still have Wanda, the mega-channeled remote control.

And I can still wake up each morning, glance over at my beloved nestling with our charmed and charming puss, and smile.

Despite all the bleak days, wretched finances, and wellness obstacles, I love my world. My friends. And my family.

I just wish Jon and I had more closet space.

(“The Fallen Angel” by Salvador Dalí, 1950’s.)

The Visual Disturbance I Found Inside My Robe Pocket

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A Brief and Late-night blurb from my robe pocket:

I was discharged late Friday, a week ago. Since then, Jon has been doting on me. His attitude hovers somewhere between clinical pragmatism, life-love devotion, and boyish wonderment. He’s also the strolling minstrel. And at least once a day I believe that his surname might just be Ratched.

While my healing continues, I spend my days revisiting more on my family and friends. Of course, I try to be appreciative and and less needy than some, the latter being a platinum-wrapped new goal. I shall work on it.

My discharge papers included a list of maladies about which someone somewhere seems to think that I complained while in the E/R. The funniest is “visual disturbances”. When I returned to my recently uncharmed life, I asked around. No one at UNC, nor of my home health team seem to know what those disturbances look like. It must be a Wake Med term for a Wake Med acknowledged and sanctioned condition.

Visual Disturbances? Are they anything like Trump’s toupee? Or America’s Funniest Videos? Or perhaps not unlike legendary automobiles the Vega, the Gremlin, and the Santa Maria? (Forgive me, Gentle Readers. I meant the Pinto.)

I am still laughing although not aloud.

And for now, I shall sleep in Slumber Land. If the future has become a static obstacle course, I must have faith that these sensitive Arms of the Universe will make us conflict-ready soldiers.

I do believe that Art will.

(Image: “Little Nemo in Slumberland” by Winsor McCay, 1906. That’s the illustrator’s spelling, not mine.)

My September Shaming by Sister Ed

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Pondering these late September misstepped days of repair and salve, I have experienced a flashing of good Old-Fashioned Psychic Kodachromes. The half-century throwbacks left me thrown back fer sure. My heart was instantly charged with memories, as well as myriad questions concerning my Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade classes.

I have no memories at all of any first grade and second grade experiences at Lenox Elementary in Chapel Hill. None whatsoever! It’s as if I went from Kindergarten directly to Catholic School. Rather than spend years of therapy, I prefer dream that I skipped those grades, cherry-picked by Dorothy Maguire as an extra for some outrageous film parts.

Well, it could’ve happened … until the nuns censured me at age nine. “I was visualing your inspiring words. I would never daydream, Sister Edward.” I wanted to call her Sister Ed. Finally doing so at age 59 gives me no joy. She did, however, amuse me in other ways and anecdotes.

Sr. Edward Patricia had hidden a lockbox in her healthily pumping heart. The well-known warm and grabbable gorgeous girth protects and doles tools as we need them. And she guided fourth graders away from damnation.

That Sr Ed, formerly Pat and once Edward Patricia, sure was a doozie. She left her hormonal days as Pegeen Riley far, far behind her. Years later, she would pace the classroom, protecting her reluctant students from the world’s evil. She would guard the soul only to devoir it on a moist Saturday. While I’m sure mine wasn’t very innocent, my soul and I fit the remaining criteria quite amply.

I’m now like a bird. It suits the era’s tone. Ignorance keeps me safe and buys me time and a full set of dangling keys and pen-knives.

Please note: Details of the horrific peanut butter and jelly sandwich (c1965) have been held back for fine-tuning. Seriously.

(Image:  “Midnight Lullaby” by Dilka Bear, 2013.)

Acceptance Seems to Suit Me

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Young Man, it’s beginning to look as though we made it. The ideal lover must’ve skipped a few decades. I found him waiting for me when I neared fifty.

I no longer remember the litany of traits that he absolutely had to possess. Nor  do I recognize the unshaven, long-haired man who sternly looks back at me when I blow the dust off my razor.

Those previous relationships did little to prepare us. That’d be doubly so if the scorekeeper knew that my mind’s eye no longer compares or ranks or bandies the random regret around the sunroom.

Love gave my decades their Smiling Faces.

As he listens to NPR in the next room, my Beloved is wailing, albeit internally: “Oh, woe is me!” or “Oh, woe is he!” The over-enunciated names, the coy smiles, the romantic affectations no longer matter.

The anti-Christ is unable to fill my water glass with that delightful and most Southern of familial combinations. Guilt. Fear. Desperation. Dread. Emptiness. Of course, those feelings linger. I reckon that they always will. They, however and hardly ever, grab a chair and bully me with unspoken intentions.

My heart has reclaimed all of those well-intended moments from that ever-so-sweet sweet Icelandic boy.

The bigger, more boastful loves need neither resolution nor amends. The players are gone, having packed up the world before today and, perhaps, stacked boxes inside one of those millennial “Pods”. I don’t care. I can’t care

My heart only has room for today. And I’ve already given Jon any “Power of Eternity”.

I am ready for the ceremony and its pomp-less jubilee.

That would, of course, refer to both my pre-transplant and my post-transplant hearts and my ability to call them up for circumstance.

Young Man, save a seat for me near the front. Acceptance

(Image: “Untitled [Thinker]” by Esao Andrews, 2006.)

Blue on Blue

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Late night or early morning? I guess it really doesn’t matter.

In either case, I’ll probably sleep right through “Wait. Wait. Ask me Another” …  again.
Damn. That classic Saturday afternoon NPR show has become a staple of my Saturday afternoons.

Now, that would be a rather large “damn” compared to a tiny “damn” … like the one I screeched earlier this evening! Let’s just say that particular one involved Jon, a television, and Wanda, the remote control.

That episode led to a 45 minute long internet journey. Henry rolled the mouse, leaving the cursor prompting me to a page devoted to our ever-gilt guru, Gustav Klimt.

I figured it would drive me to curse or, at least, stir with some degree of distraction. My alter ego’s Id did share a tidbit: the beautifully and soulfully-executed patchwork of colors bore me just a little. (“She said …”)

I do enjoy Gustav Klimt’s murals, however. They stir my loins … this one especially. (That innocent lip-twixter refers to the mural not my loins.)

It would look great, albeit it dreadfully out of place, somewhere here at the humble home I share with my beloved. Frankly, I’d awaken each morning thinking “I’ve died and gone to Biltmore”.

Damn. Damn. Damn. We couldn’t even get it into the house to start in the first groggy place!

Ooops. There, I’ve said it again, Mr. Vinton. You too, Mr Carter. Please accept my untethered apology for my blasphemous lyric-sampling of your 1960’s gold records.

It’s late. That actually translates to: it is four o’clock without so much as a yawn.

(Image: Mural from Vienna’s Old Burgtheater, Gustave Klimt, 1889.)

Figments Floating High in Mr Kelly’s Sky

 

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I believe we can fly. I don’t use “we” as a pronoun of political, poetic, and regal ambiguity. I refer simply to you and me. As we.

Of course, we’d need a gust of hope and an aquamarine sky. Sometimes, those images segue into my dreams at night and, when I wake up, I’d swear I was conjuring actual memories. That is, unless my dreams were to involve heinous aircraft crashes or surreal chases.

I have had the air travel phobia since 2001 when I saw Tom Hanks’ “Castaway”. I innocently mistook quiet for safety. My eyes were glued to “said screen” just as the jet crashed into the ocean.

As for the high energy chase dreams, they are probably just like everyone else’s. Someone or something is in increasing pursuit of my tattered robe. Just as my ass is almost theirs, I either awaken in Coach on an Eastern Airlines shuttle to New York. Or I’m flying above the ancient Pin-Oaks and the sodium-inspiring light posts.

Hours later only the essence of such flights remain.

But my midlife optimism doesn’t end there:

When I am sitting outside, staring at the sky, I imagine that I am some sort of silly sprite who hops from cloud to cloud. I might be singing. I might be walking with an old classmate. Or I just might be watching … what, I don’t really know. It’s a grand notion so beyond my ken, that its very definition is static, unknown, or incomprehensible.

So here I sit, on an old and extremely worn green leather chair. I ramble on and on. Managing my own figments allows me control of what I see when I close my eyes later tonight.

I believe we can fly.

A Patient, His Plea, and That Presumptous and Ever-Hasty Auto-Fill

imageWhen anyone says “Look at the bright side!”, I cringe, albeit internally. The comment is simply dismissive of that pesky dark side.

Such a suggestion may probably prematurely bring any conversation to a halt. On both the other hand and the friendly walking shoes, the conversation eventually opens that Election ’16’ door, as we spend the afternoon counting the steps on the rickety stairs ahead.

I fell Monday afternoon. I fell again two minutes later. I just missed the curb outside my Physical Therapy gym. My clothes were covered in musty moist mulch. Anger and Fear stepped forward into the dangerous land of metaphors,. Those often wayward phrases should be substantially isolated and restricted to Section E of the newspaper.

Do I tell my cardiologist and embrace the risk of her insistence that I be hospitalized immediately? Do I tell Jon who’ll likely call my cardiologist out of worry and what not? Do I remain mum and deny those moments?

There is no bright side to becoming more symptomatic of physical deterioration and the abrasive weather of time.

I just turned 59 and I became lightheaded and rather “vacant”. I tumbled face forward into a cement sidewalk. As I was righting myself, I did it all over a lousy second time.

At that point, Jon drive up and, yes, I told him everything. I shared my frustration. And I begged him not to tell Dr R-J. I want to stay at home a little longer.

I still need to download some books, teach Henry to skype, and actually shave. There are many things I want to do and remember before I am admitted to UNC memorial Hospital to begin my yet undetermined wait for a heart to become available.

That is, a living, pumping heart. Please put a hold tag on it, one with my name on it. At that time I promise to hasten anon. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

And once again, my friends, I took another tumble, this time down the stairs. I was carrying a few plates, a cup of coffee, with my iPad under my left arm.

Coffee splattered in each direction although mainly on me. The dishes fell to the bottom step. But I clutched that precious personal operating device. You know the one.

Yes, I Refer to the skinny one with the annoying voice that says most often: “I don’t understand the question.” Or “there is a state trooper 500 yards ahead.” Don’t get me started on the curse of Auto-Fill and Siri’s poor handling of grammar or treatment of proper names.

You know what I mean. It’s one more voice singing that “three part” and terrifying harmony.

Please allow me to wait … at home … with my beloved. Thank you for your time and consideration, Gertrude.

Deconstruct the Dogma, Lillian, But Never Trade an Icon

I was looking at 1st Dibbs as I often do when I’m blue and a little blasphemous. Most of the pricing is on the absurd side, and they assume it’s their serve. Today, I turned to items that left me with neither words or mere utterances.

Icons from both the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches can now be found on e-Bay, Craig’s List and, of course, 1st Dibbs. Starting at or near $25,000, they will surely soon be listed on Close-Out, Sidewalk, Promotional, Annual and most final Sales. A Founders Day Sale is a given.

eBay and Amazon probably offer free shipping to further entice less parochial consumers with the intent to snare a QVC devotée or more-or-less the epitome of a all-around shopping addict.

Methinks a lot of Sales Managers will soon carry Rosary beads. Hell, they’ll probably even recite Hail Marys while they unpack shipment of men’s thongs or “Adult” merchandise. Or while carefully packing one of said icons to return to some little old lady, or as Henry and I say: “woman of a certain dotage”.

Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly fascinated with these Icons. Some are just beautiful, if not “D-I-V-I-N-E”