Thursday, July 13, 2017

RIP Mom: Why feeling sad is so elusive


I woke up Saturday for the first time in my life without either a Mommy or a Daddy.

I remember thinking I was glad I paid attention when they were teaching me how to tie my shoes.

Mom, 84, died peacefully Friday morning at 8:05. She’d shattered her left wrist in a Sunday evening fall at her apartment. The shock precipitated a cascading raft of maladies that led to respiratory failure involving undetected lung cancer and pneumonia on top of her escalating dementia.

I’d like to thank all those who prayed she’d overcome all her deadly ailments.

I’d especially like to thank those who prayed she wouldn’t.

Her care was exemplary. The first responders transferred her to Latrobe hospital at 7 p.m. Sunday and it only took them five days to finish her off.

I hope you’ll forgive me for deviating from our scripted bereavements.

I know I’m supposed to say I wish they could have done more, that she was still with us, that I’m deep in mourning. And in some ways, I am.

Heck, I haven’t used an exclamation point in seven days.

But, honestly, hers was a very good death and just in the nick of time. She’d been slowly, but steadily and lately dramatically been succumbing to her dementia.

But with our help, she’d been able to live her last seven years on her own and free of all medical intrusions. 

Our fears when they admitted her was how drastically that was about to change.

“Our best guess is she could hang on another six months,” one caregiver said.

I’ll let you imagine just how those six months would have played out.

Instead, it was like she cheerfully surrendered.

We had one very bad night followed by two days of her being alert and feisty enough to make us all smile and laugh. I’ll most remember her in perfect pitch singing songs from “The Sound of Music,” which Josie had cranked on her iPhone.

Then it was two days of watching her sleep, the pulsing vein on her exposed neck growing more and more faint.

My brother Eric was there when she passed. He’d driven solo up from Nashville on  Independence Day and had presciently spent Thursday evening with her in hospice care, the unit to which they’d transferred her the day before.

I called him at 7:50 a.m. He said she’d awoken just once, at 9:45, and tried to get out of bed like she was intent on going on a soulful stroll. Mystics can surmise perhaps she was being beckoned to journey to some other place.

I told him I’d be over in an hour or so.

“Take your time,” he said.

He called back 15 minutes later and said she was gone.

He was alone with her when she died and reported no profound last words.

Lucky for him the situation wasn’t reversed. Had I been alone with her at her passing, I’d have claimed her last words were, “Chris was always my favorite!”

Or maybe, “Bosco!”

I’m grateful for all the kind gestures of so many friends. They uniformly tell me they’re sorry she’s dead.

Me, I’m overjoyed she lived. Truly lived.

She spent part of everyday over the past 84 years either laughing or doing something to make someone else’s life better. She was a true angel long before she became an actual one.

Death is something even basic morons can achieve. But to live and live well in these troubling and divisive times is breathtaking. To laugh, to sing, to exalt, to revel as she did, ah, these are a few of my favorite things.

Understanding these combined factors make it nearly impossible for me to feel sadness usually associated with the passing of a dear loved one.

So, yes, to me it was a very good death.

But an even better life!

That exclamation point felt so, so good.



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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mom's fallen & may not get back up


I’ve been the primary care giver for my darling 84-year-old mother since 2010 when she first began exhibiting signs of mild dementia. In the last two weeks under my primary care, the old gal’s been diagnosed with lung cancer, pneumonia, severe dementia and osteoporosis after falling in her kitchen and shattering her left wrist.

I think I’ve finally found my calling.

Primary care giver? Murder Inc. has nothing on me.

Oh, that poor woman.

She’s since Sunday evening been in the ICU at Latrobe hospital. She’d spent the day on our porch sipping wine and complaining about needing a nap. I took her to her apartment, settled her into her chair and told her I’d see her Monday.

Unlike many dementia patients, she was still capable of living alone, albeit with our daily visits. She can make coffee, work the microwave and — hallelujah — take care of her intimate personal needs.

It was about 7 p.m. when the neighbor from the floor below heard her fall and called 911 and me.

From my understanding, her dementia is rare in that she’s become even more cheerful than she’s ever been — and she used to make Fred Rogers seem like a sourpuss.

I’ve often said she gave me my sense of humor, which means she gave me everything.

On what was to become her worst night since, I guess, a 1982 double mastectomy, she was joking about needing wine and telling the paramedics the pain was a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. If there was pain, it was not at all evident. No moaning. No grimace.

When they wheeled her stretcher past the ladies gathered on the porch outside, she responded to their questioned concerns with, “They’re taking me to the hospital. I’m having a baby!”

I wish I could say with certainty she was joking.

The pain didn’t ding an obvious 10 until two hours later when they gruesomely reset the bones. One doctor gently held her wrist, another her fingers, and together they began gingerly tugging in opposite directions. 

I remain surprised she muffled her screams. Had she not, I wonder if I’d have run like a coward out of the room. Instead, I stood at the end of the bed messaging her feet and feeling sure I’d failed her.

We spent the next seven hours in that room with me trying to patiently respond to her deliriums about the location of her purse, her need for Kleenex, why her arm was in an annoying sling and what all these friendly strangers were doing in her bedroom. Every 10 minutes I’d literally have to wrestle this 104-pound grandmother back into the bed to prevent her from getting up to undertake various missions.

It was all so much pain and absurdity.

I’ve read how some children say they felt God’s divine presence in the death room when a loved one passes. After Sunday, I wonder if the presence I’m destined to most feel will be that of the late Moe Howard.

A chest X-ray revealed a lung cancer and pneumonia. She’s rallied from her Sunday evening lows when the doctor described her status as precarious, but an experienced nurse described her as feisty. She pegged her term at six months.

She has a living will and we’re today looking at hospice options. We have maybe three days to decide.

I told an oncologist about how the sudden onslaught of deadly diagnosis made me feel like I’ve failed my mother. He said: “Did you think under your watch she was somehow going to become younger and healthier?”

I guess in these situations we’re all hardwired to feel like failures.

I remember after a round of petty gripes involving having to devote so much free time to her care telling my daughter that if after Mom dies and she sees me crying she’ll know the only reason I’m doing so is because I think someone judgmental might be watching.

Right now, my fear is if I start crying I may never stop.



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Friday, June 30, 2017

June tweets of the month!



This picture of me in my Tin Lizzy office was taken in '15 by my buddy Brian Henry. We spent the morning doing a bunch from all over this neat old landmark, which dates back to 1750. Sometimes when I'm feeling mischievous, I turn the "9" upside down so it'll confuse any deliverymen or women who come all the way up to the 3rd floor to deliver me an important package. This has never happened not even once.

Follow my tweets @8days2Amish. Have a great weekend!



• My great fear isn't that the Fascists will come to burn all the books. My great fear is that when the Fascists come to burn all the books our collective indifference will have rendered all the books irrelevant.

• In ongoing quest to prepare you and I for the afterlife, I will now devote the next hour to resolving if Heaven has time zones.

• Some men spend days solving complicated problems. I just came up with this: "A burp's just a fart that's afraid of the dark.”

• There will still be traffic in heaven, but there will be no more road rage.

• Those eager to see a hyphen in this sentence will suffer from dashed hopes.

• If violence is never the answer then what's wrong with us that we must again and again keep asking the question?

• Once again a bad guy with a gun is stopped by the same bad guy with the same gun.

• Eternity means having all the time all the time …

• Families are God's way of proving we're incapable of helping even those we love the very most.

• Daughter, 16, said she wants to have a big family. What she means is she wants to choose who's in her family.

• On 73rd DDay anniversary I wonder how they could be The Greatest Generation and still have raised so many jackasses like me?

• ”Eve of Destruction" is most harrowing protest song ever. Lyrics remain relevant. I'd like to hear a current re-release but sung by Muppets.

• William Shakespeare is a famous writer. William Shakesbeer is a guy you don't want to be next to at the party.

• I like that a man whose name is pronounced COMBy has really great hair. 

• Something expert Egyptologists are reluctant to admit: Most mummies were daddies.

• There’s no church in heaven. Purpose of church is to get people to be good so they go to heaven. In heaven, people already good & in heaven.

• I can look at any woman and know instantly whether or not their daddy was a tickler. 

• McCartney was an optimist, cheerfully convinced it would all work out. Lennon a pessimist, grimly sure of eventual doom. Who was right?

• I lied when I said I'd never disdain a prez the way opponents disdained Obama. Difference? My antipathy is based on character, not color.

• The whole arc of human history is bent on turning every luxury into a necessity.

• Always amused when officials at mass shooting du jour rule out terrorism. Like we're supposed to be relieved it's just some white dude.

• Dennis Rodman goes to NKorea & gets American released. Never thought I'd say this, but he brings stabilizing influence to US foreign policy.

• Given it involves our twin unhealthy obsessions of sports/politics I wonder how many are most upset 'cuz they have Scalise on fantasy team.

• Self-publishing book is like home schooling kid. You think you know better than pros & pray your work doesn't result in something moronic.

• Full disclosure: Anytime you see any writer use phrase "Full disclosure:" understand they're about to write self-important BS.

• Missing golfing w/ Dad on Father's Day. Golfing w/ Dad was to me like church is to other people only with beer and fart jokes.

• Many adamant about seeing Trump's taxes. Me, I'd appeal to his showmanship: Either show us your returns or what you look like w/out the wig.

• There are 310,800 hip replacements per year. Question: what do they do with bones. I fear I'm not as hip as I used to be and, well, you know.

• It must have been difficult for cartoonists to animate a bombastic character named Foghorn Leghorn & not show him cranking out a single fart.

• I wonder if parents of boys born above the Arctic Circle ever struggle with the illogic of naming the fair-skinned lads Tanner.

• Was feeling bad about not taking family to the ocean this summer when I realized no biggie. Oceans are coming to us. #climatechange

• In my quest to find people whose names make them perfectly suited for their occupations, I'm now searching for a farmer named Doug Root.

• This is bound to sound naive but couldn't we stall disastrous results of rising oceans by simultaneously lifting all big boats out of water?

• What if you get to heaven & find they were serious about  forgiveness & it's full of folks you with whom you got into Facebook fights over Trump?

• Am disappointed to learn Asheville, NC, was named after Gov. Sam Ashe and not piles of ash. Next question: Was Ashe a tobacco farmer?

• Cosby planning on holding "town halls" on sexual abuse. Now that sounds like it's bound to be a forum for reasoned debate.

• I wonder what kind of bureaucratic mayhem will result if they ever decide it's in our best interests to drug test our nation's pharmacists.

• Given temp trends, I predict within 10 years, our idea of an "adventure vacation" will be anything outdoors & above ground.

• In order to lend cerebral precision to your putdowns, descending order of IQ stupidity is Moron (50-69), Imbecile (20-49) & Idiot (below 20)

• It’s an interesting fact that the more we acknowledge our own human flaws the more slight become our actual flaws.

More
• I never dreamed I'd say this about a Commander 'n Chief, but forget impeachment. The man should be horsewhipped.

• I wonder what Socrates used to say when people asked him if he was ever going to get a real job.




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Monday, June 19, 2017

Cool solutions to melting Antarctic


Alarming news about the rapidly melting Antarctic glaciers has me scrambling for silver linings. They say the inundation of as much as 13-feet of water could swamp global coastlines where 50 percent of the world’s population lives.

Could disaster be averted if everyone in the heartland started digging really deep backyard pools?

The problem isn’t having too much water. Water is essential to human life.

The problem is having too much water where no one needs any more water.

I used to worry Earth was going to run out of water. Now, I worry we’re going to have too much. It’s like every other day humanity must decide whether it wants to die of thirst or drown.

When did life become such a daily disaster film?

Researchers say a Texas-sized iceberg is about to break off the Antarctic. They say this will eventually melt, a prelude to the loss of the icy continent. Fun fact: ants, the most prolific species on the planet, can be found on every continent except the one that includes “A-N-T” in its name.

So everyone is fretting a Texas-sized iceberg is about to break off into the ocean.

I say tow it to Texas!

That much fresh water could turn the arid state into a green paradise. I love the plush Texas Hill Country, but dousing the scrub lands of West Texas could transform deserts into farmlands that could feed the world.

I’ve never been to west Texas, but I understand it’s very flat and unrelentingly nondescript. Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen says it's so flat that on a clear day you can see the back of your own head.

Besides agricultural uses, that much water could serve civic purposes. Texas is full of filthy Texas who could — lather, rinse, repeat — use a good soaking, giving fresh meaning to “scrub” lands. 

I used to think industrial efforts to desalinate ocean water for human purposes just confirmed my theory that humans are nothing more than parasites with personalities.

But rising oceans may make mass desalination necessary.

That’s because a major part of my planet-saving plan will require lots and lots of fresh water. 

I’m talking about saving the planet by — hallelujah — drinking more.

Sure, you’re welcome to wuss out and drink plain water. I’m unsure about the legitimacy of the claim and too lazy to research its validity, but it’s recommended we all drink “8 x 8” (eight 8 ounce glasses of water) each day.

It makes sense. Our bodies are 60 percent water. Again, without the benefit of research I’ll speculate the rest is 30 percent muscle, 6 percent bone, 3 percent compacted fecal matter and 1 percent brain.

Feel free to transpose the last two percentages based on political party affiliation. 

But water is essential. It flushes toxins, carries nutrients to cells and provides necessary moisture — our bodies’ oil — to all our moving parts.

Of course, the real yeoman work will be done by a demographic frequently disparaged as drags on the planet, not its saviors.

I’m talking beer drinkers.

Each beer is about 90 to 95 percent water.

I was too muddle-minded to realize it, but I’ve spent much of the last 35 years helping to save the plant.

Heck, from 1981-1999, I was practically a Superhero.

We can be the wobbly vanguard of a new environmental movement, only instead of bagging sand on flood plains we’d be the ones in the bag.

Instead of spending our bar time discussing things like sports and which weather babes give us high pressure systems in our pants, we could elevate our conversation.

We could talk about climate change and how it’ll effect our bar. 

And we could address the next big problem that’ll be a direct result of solving the last big one.

That being: Where the hell are we going to put all the piss?



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