Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stumbling Blocks

I took my red-headed friend, Lois, to Spaghetti Warehouse to celebrate her 74th birthday.

"This is my lucky day!" I said, driving between lines of parked cars to find a space right in front of the entrance door.

Lois, who has difficulty walking, climbed out of my Hyundai and cautiously moved between my car and the next. She stopped and pointed down to the concrete slab, meant to stop tires, which extended between the two cars. Seeing the hazard, she managed to step over, using her cane. She said, "That is a real stumbling block."

"Yes," I said, "Several times I've tripped over one of those and taken skin off my knees, elbows, and my big nose."

It is important to look where I am going. But sometimes no one sees the hazard in front, particularly if it is not something solid, like a big piece of concrete. As Lois and I sat over our lasagna, I did not foresee the stumbling block which would change my life within the next week.

I am content with my life. Usually. I was annoyed with my brother, George, who spent two weeks at my house constantly moaning about his fate. He was miserable. He could not do the things he wanted to do (i.e., go to topless bars, etc.). Like Cher in "Moonstruck", I wanted to slap his face and say, "Snap out of it!"

I did not do or say that. I called my other brother, Don, who took George back to Fort Worth to be miserable in his own house.

Determined to live my own life to the fullest, I picked up the phone and finalized reservations for TWO trips. In October I go to New York City to visit my friend, Gertrude. Then in December I am spending all the money I've saved for the past two years and I will go to India to see the Taj Mahal!

I have various physical problems, but, luckier than most old ladies, none of my ailments cause pain. I lead an extremely active life. I've traveled all over the World -- although this will be my first trip to India.

I never anticipated a stumbling block when I saw my kidney doctor for a regularly scheduled appointment. I sat in the little exam room and waited for my little Indian doctor to sit down in the chair facing me and say, as she has done every time I've seen her, "Your kidneys are struggling just as they have for the past ten years."

Instead, the specialist looked at the lab reports and said, "In the past three months your kidney function has dropped from 20 percent to 9 percent."

"Nine percent?"

I sat back in disbelief.

The doctor patted me gently on the shoulder and said, "You know what this means."

"Dialysis," I said.

That was my stumbling block. I blurted out, "I'm going to India in December."

The doctor's eyes lit up. "Take me with you!"

We talked about my situation. I have an appointment next week for an ultrasound with a vascular surgeon who is to put a "port" in my left arm. It will take two months for that to heal. Baring complications, I can take my trips. Dialysis will begin in January.

Surprisingly, for a person who admits to being bipolar, I do not feel depressed. Seeing the Taj Mahal will be a grand finale after years of going any place in the World I wanted to go and doing whatever I wanted to do.

Then I will spend the rest of my life confined to Garland, Texas, going several times a week to sit in a chair for four or five hours while dialysis cleans my blood of the poisons caused by my failing kidneys.

The doctor says I can spend the time reading and watching television. I plan to take a laptop computer and write blogs. Also, I can work on revisions of those novels that publishers have rejected for all these years. What if they never get published? Posterity will be the loser.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dog Ate My Homework

“The dog ate my homework.” What kid hasn’t tried that on a new or inexperienced teacher? It’s easier than saying, “I watched tv instead of doing my homework.”

I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. Charlie does not eat paper; he tears up newspapers. At the end of the week I put the old tv program down on the tile floor, and he attacks it, shredding it with his sharp little claws. Just newspapers. He does not eat computer paper. On the other hand, I have not offered him anything to eat. For months I have not printed anything off the computer for him to read and disdain.

When people are ashamed, they make excuses. You have done it. I’ve done it. It is hard to admit when we have done or said something we regret.
In March I set up a blog, planning to write about many, many things, dozens of ideas in my head. But now it is the middle of July, and I have not posted a second article.
I have lots of excuses.
  • Excuse No. 1: My kidneys. They are only working 20%. That makes me anemic, and that makes me tired. Too listless to do anything but watch tv. Okay, but every month I get expensive shots to boost my hemoglobin. (I’ll write a blog about that one day.)

  • Excuse No. 2: I’m bipolar. Maybe I’m in a Depression. But I take medication to control that. (Subject for another blog.) Still, some things happened to upset me . . . maybe that’s why I’m so “down.” Except when I stir myself to get out of the house; then I feel fine.

  • Excuse No. 3: I’ve had houseguests: Dan and Jean from Independence, MO. and, a week later, Margaret and Jack from Houston . To prepare for their visits, I moved into the small bedroom, with its twin bed, so the couples could have the double bed in my room. I took down my clothes from one closet to another, emptied dresser drawers, and put my tooth brush and pills in the other bathroom. Of course, I washed sheets and struggled putting the fitted sheets on both beds – a strain on my bad arm, (Subject for another blog: “How Much Stuff Does a Person Need?”). I enjoyed my visitors – they entertained me – I forgot to feel tired. (Another blog idea: Friends)

  • Excuse No. 4: My brother George came and stayed for two weeks. He was sick and needed someone to take care of him. He was NOT a good guest. He worried about the results of a biopsy, complained of constipation, and cried, “Why me?” He would not exercise. He lay in bed all day, asking me to bring him glasses of water. He argued with me about everything. He always was cantankerous, but it was frustrating to try to help him, as he refused to cooperate.
At Baylor Medical Center in downtown Dallas, the specialist told George, “It’s a miracle! The last biopsy shows your leukemia is in total remission! Go back to Fort Worth and see your doctor there.”

I thought George would jump for joy. Instead, he collapsed, said he was two weak to go home. He refused to get out of bed, refused to eat. He said, “Since I am cured, I can do what I want to do, just as I’ve been doing all my life.” (i.e. sleep until noon, eat nothing but cheeseburgers, and go to topless bars.) Finally, after another week at my house, he went home and hired a woman to come in four hours a day to baby him. Now he is doing fine.

Two subjects for blogs: “How to deal with difficult relatives” and “Taking Care of Caregivers.”
No more excuses. I didn’t write blogs because I spent too much time watching “Dr. Phil” and “Cops.” I’ll try to pull myself together and write those blogs and some others: “Why children don’t understand their mothers.” “Misunderstandings at home and abroad.” “Why I’m glad I’m not Amish.” . . . . and several other topics.

Don’t check this blog every day. What I want to do right now is get in my car, go out, and have FUN!