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.)

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

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.)

Wee Hour Ramblings

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It’s just shy of 4am and here I ponder. I obsess. And I explore the metaphysical haze that rises from the February dew and the balmy breezes that stage my fictional village settings.

My beloved and I usually watch television at night. Downton Abbey, Call the Mid-wife, Doc Martin, Sherlock Holmes, Elementary, Mr Robot and an increasing roster of guilty pleasures. I enjoy crime shows (Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU). Jon enjoys science fiction dramas (The 100, Expanse, Extant) that follow absurd storylines and Telenovela-like spaceship shows.

Oy. We both mumble a bit and slip into a hoarse Sotte Voce derision of each other’s choices. Why don’t murder victims stay dead? Half the time we are told ludicrous backstories.

It must be hard out there for an assassin. It happens so often that one of us always predicts: Oh, he’ll be back. Years ago, on One Life to Live, there was once a long-lost brother to a Llanview Grande Dame.

Half a year into his storyline, he was killed off. He drove his sport scar into a the side of a big “Big Rig”. His fate? He was decapitated, reminiscent of Jayne Mansfield’s end. A few years later, that very character just rolled into town to liven up those lost scenes.

Yes, I must be strong. I best avoid CNN. Those 10pm shows of yesterday still prompt my viewing:

Monday was Medical Center Night. Tuesday brought Marcus Welby MD. Oh, how I am indeed becoming my parents with their Hal/Margy peccadillos. Sure, I claim all the differences, improvements, and more recent popular trends. But Polly and I are so much like our parents … except for social skills and temperment.

So, in closing, I confess my more casual trespasses. But I’ve already deeply-analyzed my issues. And that’s when I fall into the Persian Blue abyss that holds my dreams.

I may study the sky … imagining a kingdom of clouds. I seed turrets, fountains, and windows. I find myself trying to peek in. And therein my blog post begins to take form.

And as I stand up erratically, I see faces in the turret.

(Image: by Alan McDonald.)

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.

With the Turn of an ‘E’?

e16bae2c796d3e522c6091412ca44281_fullI obsess about something different almost every afternoon. Today was no different.

Images from TV’s Wheel of Fortune flew past my mind’s eye with puzzles in foreign language. Some were academically terrifying. Others were humorous.

Then there was the endangered Hawaiian, Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, with its repetitive use of both vowels and only eight consonants. I have an admiration for those who are fluent.

And then, for some reason I thought of Wales and Welsh and Torchwood. I remembered those twenty character words with only one or two vowels, and one of them a ‘Y’! Egads and Golly Gadzooks! I just can’t imagine … but I did.

God bless contestants on my imaginary Welsh Wheel of Fortune. And God bless my “make believe” Vanna.

(Image: “Alphabet, I” by Jean-Pierre Alaux.)

The Chess Boys: Everything But Yul Brynner

12289597_1069713003072716_8351927731320183124_nWho among us can forget those Twelfth Night soirées of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s? The limitless Stolichnaya vodka shooters? The dreadful, yet mandatory sing-along with the Original London Cast Album of Chess?

Those, together with a Beluga and fixings station that was not unlike a Wendy’s baked potato bar, made for the merriest of Epiphanies this side of the St Pius X School for the Parochially Enslaved.

Only two of us have survived to today tell the tales, although we dare not phone each other. Even the anti-Christ is long gone. The passage of time has softened the now campy Andersson-Ulvaeus-Rice musical and made it almost listenable.

Except for “One Night in Bangkok”. I imagine it’s in heavy rotation on Hell’s Muzak station. By “heavy” I mean alternated with only “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”, “Endless Love”, and “Playground in My Mind”.

Speaking of the anti-Christ: He’s probably adjusting to the afterlife regrettably arguing the differences between Chess’s London and New York productions. Ad Infinitem.

(PS: Enjoy a Healthy & Happy New Year and Feel Better Soon, Cousin Eve.)

Please Join Us in a Jolly “Julsång”

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The holiday is in its denouement, if not wallowing in its aftermath. Such ripe heathenry is the worst that recovering Catholics can expect from a celebration that involves food.

If I were a drinking man who smoked or a smoking man who drank, this hour would be all mine. The dishes would be cleaned and returned to the appropriate cupboards. Guests would be en route H-O-M-E.

The house would be quiet except for our still-convalescing four-legged Henry. Beef energizes him nicely. Say Steward? Steward, is Henry not indeed a family member in good standing, albeit haunched? Does he not deserve some lean rare meat as well?

Of course, his gift this year is that he’ll likely not have to have his right rear leg amputated. He is extremely anemic, as am I, and as is the rationalization for a Christmas Day standing rib roast. A dear friend from New York made the roast a reality this year. And we were all thrilled.

And we were all thankful. Mind you, I don’t mean the type of thanks our parents encourage us to offer when we’re children. Those are niceties and not false by any means. However, it takes years of making mistakes, crying, overlooking a hug-less child, responding in quick judgment or simply studying others suffer as we would weigh-in on our own woes as well.

I am on the cusp of age sixty and finally on the top of the transplant list, a list that Santa is checking often. Jon has just been diagnosed with Diabetes on top of everything else. We lost our beloved Marigold and Hermione, the latter from renal failure it’d appear.

Nonetheless, Jon and I are thankful that we are both home to enjoy a fine dinner. We are thankful further that, knock on wood, a heart will be imminent. The wait nears three years. And we are thankful to have had the times that we did with those two cats who brought us laughter and companionship.

But it’s late and I digress for perhaps the last time in 2015. I am sitting here at my desk, both thankful and sated. While the Ghost of Christmas Past enjoys a Rusty Nail and a cigar, I’ll nurse my tea and listen to his tales.

And I’ll remind myself that with our pets nearby we are neither alone nor in need of nurture. Of course that’ll be just before I catch Henry rounding the corner … for late night red meat.

Shalom.

(Image: A Still from “Fanny and Alexander” by Ingmar Bergman, 1982.)

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.)

“Gotta Meeting in the Ladies Room”

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No. No. No.
Somewhere near the end of a long list of nearly forgotten Psalms, a suggestion unfolds to “Speculate not, lest …”!

Perhaps, my recall of Sr Mary Edward’s inspirational fourth grade class is compensating and full of shaky, incorrect, or imagined details. Let’s just quietly crawl over those Sapphic innuendos that spark from their first mingle … cocktailed or otherwise.

I find it’s always best to avoid such flammable situations. And to drink plenty of water and speak softly.

Oh, Happy Day!

Besides: Marlene, Anna May, and Leni are undoubtedly up to a naughty, naughty evening.

(Misses Dietrich, Wong, and Riefenstahl.)

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.