Monday, August 26, 2013

My days in Dialysis

You would think an old woman living in a retirement home, where she did not have to cook, do dishes, or clean house, would have all the time in the World.  Not so.  I am as stressed for time as my children with their high-powered jobs. 

Three days a week have disappeared.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go to dialysis.  I get up in the morning, go down to breakfast, wave my arms around in exercise class, and return to the apartment at 9:00 a.m., when I make my bed, water flowers on the patio, and straighten up the apartment, hoping to get the chores done by 10:45, when I go downstairs to eat lunch before leaving for dialysis at 1l:30. 

I must eat before going to dialysis, as the process takes protein out of my blood along with the poisons.  To restore protein, I eat again as soon as I get home at 4:00 p.m.   Then I collapse.  Dialysis leaves me exhausted.  I sit in the recliner and feel sorry for myself until time for bed. 

In an article in The New Yorker I found a doctor’s description of the dialysis process.  Elif Batuman describes patients “reclining on white chaises, as blood was pumped into and out of their bodies through tubes.  The place where the two catheters punctured the forearm was marked on each patient by an irregular, discolored potato-sized fistula, surgically created by connecting a vein and an artery.  The fistula made me think for the first time about how much blood has to leave the body during dialysis: not a liter or two but all of it, several times over, to the extent that blood vessels have to be hot-wired in order to get it in and out.  Each patient’s blood passed through a long plastic tube and around a slowly turning wheel, which pumped the blood through the machine.” :

Doris’s son was on dialysis for ten years.  He stopped treatments and died four days later.  Eloise’s daughter also stopped taking dialysis.  She lasted for a week.   Both were young, in their 30's..

I am 84 years old.   I have had an unusual and interesting life.  I am going to die within the next few years, one way or another.  Okay.  Until then, I will continue dialysis.   I enjoy life four days a week. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elk Grove and Iceland

For an old lady living in a retirement home who does not get out much, I thought I was keeping up to date with the World.  I watch the news on television.  During long dialysis sessions, I read TIME, The New Worker, and The Week – all weekly magazines that report on everything. 

But sometimes I get tired.  At home I sit in my recliner and watch old movies.  But there is no DVD or Roku at the dialysis center.  I watch dumb things like Family Feud.  And I can’t stand any more unmarried mothers finding fathers for their kids with help from Maury Povich.

Lately I’ve looked for diversion on HGTV.  This week I received a double shock.  Shocked once by a young couple looking for a home in the Chicago suburbs.  Shocked a second time by another young couple moving to Iceland.  I had personal associations with both places.  How times have changed!

I was surprised when the narrator in the Illinois episode said the young people’s preferred location was the “up-scale neighborhood” of Elk Grove Village   In 1960 our friends, Don and Darlene, bought a house in Elk Grove Village.  It was a brand new community with the cheapest houses available at that time, all little frame bungalows.  No basements   One-car garages.  It was definitely NOT  “up-scale” at that time. 

On television I saw streets were now lined with tall trees, giving the town a genteel look.  The little frame houses were still little frame houses.  It was a shock when the young couple paid $200,000 for a house which had sold in 1960 for $15,000.

It was in Grove Junior High in Elk Grove Village that I taught seventh grade for two years.  It was a brand new school.  The first day there were no sidewalks; to enter the building we walked on temporary wooden platforms.  My classroom had no blackboards.  I took a world map from home to teach geography to a class of wild 13-year-olds, no two of whom had ever been in class together before.  It was bedlam. 

We lived a few minutes and a few miles north in Arlington Heights, where Wally built our house, all brick with a custom kitchen.  He did the masonry and carpentry and contracted plumbing, electrical, concrete work for the basement, and the roof.  He let me help lay the vinyl flooring in the kitchen.  I wonder what that little house would sell for today.  .       

The thing about Elk Grove Village was that the houses were basically the same as in 1960.  Only the inflated price was different.   In Rejavik, the capital of Iceland, the whole landscape had changed.

Wally and I went to Iceland in 1975 with a group of stamp collectors.  (That’s another story!)  At that time Rejavik looked like a little town in West Texas.  I don’t remember a single two-story building.  Even the nation’s capitol had only one story.  Without a dome it looked more like an elementary school than a county courthouse, much less like a place where parliament met. 

The people lived in little concrete bungalows with metal roofs (no trees in Iceland).  What I remember best were crisp white curtains in all the windows. 

On television today I saw a completely different city.  The voice on the tube mentioned “prosperous days in the ‘80's.”   The main shopping street, where I walked for miles looking for Wally in little shops, is now a big city thoroughfare with tall buildings on each side. 

Looking for a home, the young couple were taken to several neighborhoods, all having row after row of multi-story apartment buildings, all built of gleaming white concrete.  I felt as if the country town I remembered had become New York.

The young couple were delighted to find an apartment within walking distance of the center of the city.   They paid $200,000 for five small rooms. 

All this made me wonder about changes in other places I visited in my travels.  How about China?  Beijing was primitive when I was there in 1993.   From now on all I know I have to learn from reading and television.  That is never the same as seeing a place in person.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Love Movies

I love movies.  Not shoot-‘em-ups with cars crashing and exploding buildings.  I like sweet, romantic comedies. 

As a little girl, our family went to see the “picture show” at the Tivoli on Magnolia Avenue or the Parkway on 8th Avenue.  We went whatever was on the screen just to cool off.  In Fort Worth in the 1930's, movie theaters were the only places, besides downtown department stores, that were air-conditioned.

My earliest memories are seeing Jeanette McDonald singing “I’ll be calling you-oo-oo-oo to Nelson Eddy in “Rose Marie.”  As I remember, my brother Lyle, a misbehaving a three-year-old, made so much noise we had to leave before the end of the movie. 

On another night I understood that Ramona and the young man were in love without having the faintest idea what the rest of the movie was about.  I was a bit older when I fell in love with Errol Flynn flashing his sword in “Robin Hood.”   Maybe you saw that recently on TCM.   

All this was before I grew up with “Gone With the Wind.” 

Last night on TCM I watched “The Human Comedy”, a movie made in the middle of World War II about the effect of the war on a small California town.  I was a teenager in Fort Worth at that time.  The movie ended at 11 p.m., ‘way past my usual bedtime, with Mickey Rooney’s brother being killed.  I remember the Lowery boy being killed; his sister Ruby was my Sunday School teacher.  I sat in my recliner with tears streaming down my face.  As I blew my nose, I reminded myself, “It is only a movie.”  Van Johnson, the actor, was never in the Army and lived another 50 years.

Two years ago son David gave me a Roku to use watching Netflex programs on my big television.  At the time I told him, “I don’t need that.  I have TCM.”   But television has such poor stuff these days that I find myself watching movies using the Roku several times a week.  

I switched from television to Roku to watch a French movie, “The Well-Digger’s Daughter.”  Set in a village in Provence at the beginning of World War I, it tells the story of a pretty peasant girl who falls in love with a rich, store-keeper’s son.  Afterwards I realized it was a fairy tale, Cinderella in the 20th Century.  A sweet story to make me forget all the dreadful things I see on CNN.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Private Matters

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the government invading our privacy.  Who is really concerned about that? 

Is it someone who calls his accountant for advice on how to defraud the government on his income tax?  Or a cheating husband who calls his paramour to arrange a meeting and does not want his wife to know?  Or someone who calls a drug dealer to set a time and place to purchase cocaine? Or is it people who post outrageous things about themselves on Facebook? 

Those who talk the loudest about wanting to protect their privacy are people who have something they want to hide.

When most of us lived in small towns, it was difficult to keep secrets.  Neighbors kept watch on everything that was going on.  Where everyone knew everyone else, everyone knew everyone else’s business.   

Today most of us live in cities.  You do not know what is going on in the next block.  But with modern electronics someone knows all about you.  Your credit card company knows everything you purchased and how much debt you owe  Your grocery store knows whether you buy steak or hamburger and how many rolls of toilet paper you bought last year and what brand. 

If you watch “48 hours” you saw criminals captured through tracking telephone calls.  Alibis vanish when police prove a man was not where he said he was.  Would you prevent the local police from using this valuable “invasion of privacy”?

With all this in mind, what do you care if the government listens to your telephone calls?  Who cares about your harmless chatter?  What criminal activity are you trying to hide?

If I ruled the World, everything would be a matter of public record.  Everyone would know what everyone else’s income was and how much tax each paid.   According to  circumstances a person would be proud or ashamed.  Wouldn’t you like to know exactly how much money your Congressman reported and where it came from?  

For several years I have been urging President Obama and Nancy Pelosi to draw up a simplified tax code.  I suggested, among other things, that everyone should be required to file a return, even if they owed no taxes.  But that would be the subject for another blog.