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Friday, November 18, 2016

Nocturnal Musings

The other night I overheard the most unusual conversation. I can only assume I was half-dreaming, half-awake.

From downstairs I heard a little voice;

“Mimi...Mimi.”

“Wha---What is it Ike?” , came a groggy reply.

“I can't sleep.”

I was about to awaken LB, but I was uncertain what her response would be. Besides, I was absolutely mesmerized by what I was hearing.

“So I have noticed...what's up?” Mimi replied a bit cranky sounding.

“Well...I was thinking. Remember that 'lection a week or so ago?”

“Of course. How can anyone forget?”

“Yeah! I am so glad to not have to hear any more ads! But...what's next?”

I was amazed! All the while I thought these two had the attention span of a zucchini, they were actually paying attention!

“Well, hmm... this is your first Presidential election! I forgot! Being 13 in dog years and about 86 in human years plays tricks with my memory. The current President will finish his term of office, and the President-elect will take the Oath of Office on January 20 of 2017. That is called the Inauguration”

“Uh-huh...but there are so many upset people! What about the Electrician's College?”

“The what?? OH! You mean the Electoral College! Yes, that is a uniquely American institution. It is not literally a college, but rather a means to ensure citizens in less populous states have a voice in choosing the President.”

“How does it work?”

“Each State has a determined number of Electors. That number is based upon 2 Senators, and the number of Congressional Representatives that State has. For example, Ohio has 16 Congressional districts/representatives and 2 Senators. Therefore, Ohio has 18 Electoral votes.
The District of Columbia, although not a State, has 3 Electoral votes.”

“Why did they do that?”

“A concern of our Nation's Founders was the prospect of more populous areas essentially controlling the elections of President. The less populated and rural areas would not have as strong a voice in determining who their leader would be.”

“Confusing....”

“Yes, it is not perfect; but we don't live in a perfect world. Yet without this system, our elections would be controlled by only a few states.”

“Oh, so people in the smaller states get a voice.”

“Exactly, Ike.”

“But, some people want to change all this.”

“Yes, there are some. But it would not be an easy thing to to. See, the Electoral College is insulated by the Constitution. Specifically in Article II, section 1; the XII and XXIII Amendments.”

“Can it be changed?”

“It can, by a new Amendment being passed, or ratified, by two-thirds of the States.”

“Let's see... 50 States... two-thirds...”.

“Thirty-three States, Ike.”

“Wow...that's a lot!”

“Yes. That was by design, as the Founders wanted to avoid the Constitution being tinkered with willy-nilly. While many Amendments have been very, very good; they still wanted the citizens of the United States to think long and hard about how we are governed.”

“Hmm.... I know I am pretty young and haven't seen as much as you; but it seems like America is able to handle a lot.”

“Yes, she sure can Ike. This country has been through, and made stronger because of a lot.”

“What do you think the future will be?”

“This reminds me of a bit of history. In 1787. the Congressional Convention was held in Philadelphia.
It was kept in very strict secrecy. The raging debate among the citizens of the fledgling country was what would we be? Would we have a king to rule over us? Or would we be able to choose our own leaders, with power coming from the governed, not the governing. Finally, the Convention ended.
As the delegates were leaving, a Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia called out to Benjamin Franklin; 'Well, Doctor. What do we have? A monarchy or a Republic?' With no hesitation, Franklin replied 'A Republic, if you can keep it.'”

“Hmm.....'if you can keep it'. Think they will?”

“They have so far, Little Buddy. I am confident they will for some time.”

“That's good to hear. Thanks, Mimi.”

“No problem, Ike. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Silence settled over the house. I shook my head in disbelief. Incredible! Mimi was absolutely right in her Constitutional references! Not to mention the anecdote about Franklin! She must have stumbled upon some of my History textbooks.
Then, a little, tentative voice

.”Mimi? Why is the moon so bright???”

“Oh Ike! I'm tired. We'll talk tomorrow.”

“Okay”

Soon, the soothing sounds of canine snores lulled me back to sleep. I sure wish LB wasn't such a heavy sleeper. She'll never believe this.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summertime, LB and Baseball

Friday July 15, found my Lovely Bride and me with our BFFs Jim and Flo (no, not the insurance lady Flo) five rows behind home plate.  Being a beautiful Summer evening with mild temperatures, and gentle on-shore breezes it was a perfect night for baseball.
As we relaxed (as much as one can in hard plastic seats) heckling opposing batters and pitchers, my thoughts drifted back to exactly one year ago...

You see, it had been 5 days since LB’s heart attack. The circumstances were bleak. Since we are talkin’ baseball, one could say she was in the bottom of the 9th, down by one run, 2 outs with a 3-2 count.  LB was in a very, very serious state.

The “pop” of a fastball connecting with the catcher’s mitt brought me back to the present. Apparently, the majority of fans disagreed with the ump’s call, judging from the chorus of cat-calls and boos. I glanced at my watch; 7:50 P.M.

My thoughts immediately whisked me back to a cramped “Family Consultation Room” at our local hospital which was within eyesight of the ballpark. 

 There, seated about the little room were our two daughters, one of our sons-in-laws, BFF Flo, and our son and daughter-in-law on speaker phone.
We were meeting “Dr. Idiot”, the half-baked (or half something else, your choice) neurologist for a “where do we go next” chat.

My recollections and notes from that day indicate that LB was wakeful and responsive in the morning. I don’t recall just how she was responding; only that she was. We anxiously awaited the report and pronouncement based upon his earlier evaluation.

This particular doctor has the warmth, charm, and charisma of a deceased carp washed up on Lake Erie’s shore.  With that in mind, the reader will have a much better grasp and feel for the ensuing conversation.
I could go into details about LB’s condition at that time. I could go into minute details regarding her treatments up to this point. But, I won’t; primarily due to None-Ya Regulations and protocols. Suffice it to say she was in the bottom of the 9th, down by one run, 2 outs with a 3-2 count and needed a walk or a safe hit.

Calls of “Heads Up!” filled my ears as a foul ball caromed off the railings of a loge.  Things settled down in the seats. I asked LB if she wanted anything, and we discussed the game. We were both somewhat dismayed by the opponents 2 run homer. It was painfully apparent our starting pitcher had quickly gotten into trouble. With no action in the bullpen; it was going to be a long start. In fact, the poor kid gave up 6 runs in 3 innings.

There we were, listening as this bespectacled slight man explained the extent of the neurological injury and damage she had sustained.  Questions were asked, text book answers given-all to our utter dis-satisfaction.  He rather rudely explained how there had been no appreciable progress and she had failed the apnea test for the second time.

Dr. Idiot discussed a “life” spend in very long-term, very intensive extended care facilities; being kept alive by machines, and fed through gastric tubes. A life with no response or very minimal interaction was facing us.
As softly as he could deliver it the message was clear- we need to strongly consider ending life support.

Fortunately, our daughter Shannon had spent a great many hours researching studies involving other patients in similar situations as LB. While the evidence was not numerically large, statistically it as very compelling. People who were given a couple more days to recover prior to any drastic measures being taken had a very high survival and recover rate.

He reinforced his position by stating there is no possibility of LB ever recovering to independent neurological function.

While we were at odds with one another, I told the man no decisions would be made until after the weekend. That was on Wednesday evening…

A commotion at the plate drew my attention. Our catcher took a foul tip to his knee, above the shin guard. All eyes were upon the young man curled in the red dirt, the trainer crouched above him as members of both teams looked on.  The announcers had even stopped their constant chatter. After several minutes, he was helped to his feet, and limped toward the dugout to the applause of the crowd.

On Thursday the 16th, another apnea test was performed. I was by LB’s side coaching her to breath in, breath out, in-out; after three inhalations she was on her own. No ventilator machine! She had a man on base!

Later that evening, her very good, competent cardiologist performed a very successful heart catheterization. She had an RBI triple; the score was now tied!

Friday the 17th, after more than 24 hours without needing the ventilator, the tube was removed. After 7 days, she could open and close her mouth, speak a few words, smile and laugh.  It was shortly after that when I leaned over her bed, stroked LB’s hair and said “I love you.” A whispered “I love you.” brought more joy to me than words can ever express.

The Captains dropped their 9th in a row.
LB continues her winning streak.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dim Bulb

The other day a light bulb burned out. Oh I know this is hardly momentous or worthy of note. During the course of my life, I have had many bulbs burn out- physical, intellectual, metaphorical. The event of a bulb burning out is as exciting as…well… a light bulb burning out. 

What was somewhat eye-opening, however, was the quest for a new bulb,

See, the bulb which died was an incandescent type. The type Tom Edison perfected, with a tungsten filament, a blown glass top, and threaded metal base for the appropriate socket. If I am not mistaken, the bulb was part of a four-pack, procured at the local Wally Mega-Store. The pack may have cost about 3 bucks. I can’t say definitively; it was several years ago.

Seeing the decedent was the last of the four-pack, I set off in naivety to replace the bulb with another of its kin. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Wally didn’t have any similar bulbs on his shelves, nor did the handy (not really a) Dollar Store. Visits to the 2 home centers favored by NASCAR car drivers yielded the same empty handed results.

In a last ditch effort, I popped into the local Mom & Pop hardware store. Certain my hunt was over, I wended my way to the light bulb aisle. And, there on the shelf was a large, empty space. No where could I find a good old-fashioned light bulb! They had passed away. I had not even seen the obituary.

From what I can gather, in a well-meaning, but ham-handed attempt to save the world as we know it, our over-reaching, “the public is too dumb to manage their own lives” Government…  I mean, the imminently wise, well intentioned kind folks who oversee our every move, have determined that Tom’s time-less design is evil and must go.

Rather, we must use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, complete with little bits of ground water and soil contaminating mercury.  And, we get to pay about 5 times as much.

“But they cost less to use”; I can hear the whiny little voices.
So… I can look forward to First Energy sending me a big refund check for over-payments I have made. Sure, and it will be delivered by a flying pig.

“But they last so much longer”; continues the mantra.
Well, lets look at that. One said “expected service life 22.8 years”
That is a better than even chance the danged thing will out-live me! What am I supposed to do, list the light bulbs in my will?
“To my son, I do hereby bequeath the light bulb in the TV room lamp. To my daughter, I leave the bulb in the laundry room. To the pain in the rear neighbor whose car alarm goes off at 2A.M., I leave the bulb in the upstairs hallway, which should crap out in 6 months. Let him find an EPA acceptable disposal site for the stupid thing!”

Have you tried to figure out what size bulb you need? In the old days, one simply got a bulb of the desired wattage, 25, 40, 60, 75 and so on. Now you have to determine how many “lumens” are desired.

I realize a lumen is a measure of light, but how does that correspond to watts?

If the packs were labeled as “bright room”, “sort of bright room”, “mood lighting”, and “candle in a coal mine”, you would have some idea as to what you are getting. As it stands, one is taking a stab in the dark.

I took my $7 light bulb home, and ceremoniously placed it in the eagerly awaiting lamp. With a heavy sigh, I switched it on.

With a shake of my head, I was grieved thinking of our Founding Fathers. I am quite certain they had no intentions of a government which leaned so heavily upon its citizens.
Certainly, they never envisioned a government mandating how we illuminate the dark.

I wonder… is Miss Liberty’s torch, casting the Light of Freedom to all….acceptable to the micro-managers?

I have to admit, a part of me hopes it isn’t.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Back---I hope

This evening, I undertook something which had been long set aside.
As my Lovely Bride lies dozing in the other room, the evening tasks have either been completed or put off until tomorrow, I unscrewed the cap of my new fountain pen and----commenced to write.

For too long I had avoided this once self imposed noble obligation. I told myself I was too busy ( I am), I was too emotionally drained (I was), and I was too exhausted ( I am). In reality, I was afraid of what I may discover about myself. And I still am---somewhat.

Which brings me to here and now, gripping a pen while my arm throbs with pain- and trying to make sense of the past eight months, as well as indeterminate future.
Wait…”arm throbs with pain”. What??

I could go on about how three weeks ago I had fallen victim to a very carefully laid canine booby trap. I could tell you how Ike had cunningly, skillfully hidden a chew-toy under the corner of his blanket at the exact time I would be passing from the kitchen to the living room. I could bring you to the edge of your seat describing the sensation of landing fully on my side; complete with swirling birdies, stars, and flashing lights in my head. I don’t want to bore you with the comical trip to urgent care and the final diagnosis of a sprained right elbow and shoulder, torn ligaments at the shoulder, and a chip off the femur where it joins with the pelvis. I could go on about the shoulder and elbow injuries causing pain when my arm in one position too long; such as when writing or using the keyboard. I could go into all that—but why bother?

Rather, I have been thinking of the great things which have happened, and continue to occur. Due to HIPPA regulations and NunYa* Rules (which trump HIPPA), I won’t go into details about LB’s sudden illness and the long road back we have traveled together.

Frequently, the word “miracle” is bandied about for all matter of things. Such as “I was hoping for a close parking spot, and a miracle occurred. There was one!” or “I didn’t study for the calculus test, and was praying for a miracle. God sent a thunder storm which caused a loss of power and the test was postponed.”

However, when LB’s cardiologist, her primary care doctor, nearly all the Cardiac ICU nurses, her physical therapists all say she is “a miracle”, who am I to argue?

Part of the on-going miracle was her returning to our home in early January. The on-going miracle is her remarkable physical progress; from being totally supine in bed, to a wheelchair, a walker, and now a cane. For the time being; she is determined to be free of this as well.

A miracle is her speech; from a very limited vocabulary in August, to being fully conversant, not being monotone or halting while speaking.  The little things, such as there being no damage to her heart muscle after a very, very devastating heart attack. The fact there is no damage to her optic nerves; something our eye doctor affirmed in virtually unheard of following severe brain injuries.

Are all things fine and wonderful?  She is very susceptible to viruses and bacteria until her immune system regains its former robust state.  There are little things; the odd memory popping up out of context of time and place, the sometime involuntary hand movements, the (most heart breaking to me) expression in her beautiful blue eyes of puzzlement; as though she is trying to fit the pieces together but can’t quite find them all yet.

I think of all the changes I have undergone. I am probably well on my way to a degree in Pharmacology, Social Work, and Physiology.  I have become the Monitor  and Dispenser of All Things Prescriptive. I also take on the role of Therapy Cheerleader and Coach (as conditions warrant). I also have the title of Medical Records and Billing/Payment Administrator.  When unable to find anyone else to do things, I am Dietitian, Food Service Staff, Laundry/Housekeeper, and Dog Wrangler. Come to think of it; I have yet to find anyone else to do these.  Hmmmm.

Oh yeah… I still have this crazy little thing called “a job”.

Yet, I have learned that so many things once so utterly important are actually insignificant. I have learned the intangibles of Life far surpass the tangibles we focus upon. I have learned to not take too many things seriously; for it can all change in a moment.

I think of how LB and I will be seeing our 43rd Anniversary on the 10th---and how thankful I am to be coming back to our home after dinner; and not leaving her at a facility. Or worse, having to  place flowers on a grave.

And I think of how 8 months is about 3% of our time together so far; a pretty puny amount. Suddenly, eight months doesn’t seem that long. As I told our Pastor the other day; “This is not permanent, it is not eternal.”
So, this is enough for now.

Besides my arm is becoming very bothersome.

P.S. Please keep LB in your prayers. Thank you very much. JEH


*NunYa---“Nun Ya” Business.