Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Riddance, first decade of the new millennium

“It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.
The more things happen to you the more you can't
Tell or remember even what they were.

“The contradictions cover such a range.
The talk would talk and go so far aslant.
You don't want madhouse and the whole thing there.”

- William Empson, Let it Go

More things keep happening to me. I’m sitting here in the madhouse trying to decide whether to enumerate my resolutions for the new year and/or decade, or to make my predictions about what mischief will happen next. Then again, perhaps, I’d do better to predict what won’t happen next year. Here goes.

DOB won’t remain on her feet through January. I foresee another fall in darkness, a midnight call, another rambling tale that begins with “I don’t know how this happened…” a trip to the ER, and too much hospital vending machine coffee.

TCG won’t exercise, walk, take any preventive measures to forestall his own mental and physical decline, and accordingly, the gathering dark will increasingly envelop him and threaten me.

UCC won’t make the cut to appear on my new favorite reality show: Hoarders. This is apparently a recognized clinical condition in which the hoarder turns to the accumulation of stuff as a means of clinging to happiness. Which actually, gives me an idea for a resolution. I hereby resolve to use the stuff I have before buying more stuff for the same purpose.

Whatever compassion I may have for the mentally ill, I find I have none for losers diagnosed as hoarders. I have the opposite condition: crumbs on the kitchen counter, clothing draped over doorknobs and even doors themselves, and the alluvial clutter accumulating on side tables and other flat surfaces. These things drive me crazier than I should be, faster than anyone should be driven.

One hoarder on a recent episode was found to have not one, but two dead cats buried beneath the 5,000 pounds of garbage stacked three feet high in every room. Flattened and mummified to resemble cat-shaped pancakes covered with cat hair. Please. I live with roommates that would soon become eligible for this show if it were not for my heroic – but ultimately doomed – efforts to throw out the trash slightly slower than it accumulates. Isn’t there a law of physics that decrees everything is returning to dust and mummified dead cats?

In fairness, it’s two to one here in the Fortress of Attitude. As the inhabitant with the most compos in my mentis under this roof, I am the driver of the clown car that is our lives, struggling to keep this freak show on the road, veering more precariously toward the abyss on either side of the mountain of our collective lives. Picture that early Disney cartoon in which Mickey and Goofy are driving a car pulling an airstreamish trailer.

I think as we age, darkness at the edge of our vision creeps slowly in, narrowing the focus of our thoughts the same way that twilight shadows gather at the end of day, narrowing our vision into a gathering darkness. We can’t think as fast, or as broadly as we did in youth. Our awareness shrinks to exclude first the “complicated” plots of Law & Order episodes, then our ability to distinguish between actual “news” on TV and the garbage that spews from the talking heads purporting to be “opinion.” Next, we can’t distinguish between news and infomercials for exercise equipment, or Big Pharma ads for the latest prescription drugs to cure us of invented diseases like restless mouth syndrome. We have to have things explained at least twice. We gradually lose the ability to pursue imaginative flights of creative and interesting fancy to such heights as those we scaled with youthful energy and vision. In the end, our universe shrinks to fit the surface of our own bodies like a loose fuzzy bathrobe: we lose all sense of charm, ability to make pleasant conversation, all consideration, grace, not to mention habits of personal hygiene and polite table manners.

Eventually, we can’t talk or even remember what happened. We talk aslant, we contradict, misremember, and are overtaken by blind paranoia. We are reduced to the status of roommates in the same madhouse. So, happy new decade everybody. Let this decade go.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

UCC: Did you test your fasting blood sugar this morning?
DOB: Yes, of course.
UCC: What was it?
DOB: I don’t look, I just write it down. I don’t remember.
UCC: Well. (checking) it was 97 today, and also yesterday morning. Do you know why you take your blood sugar?
DOB: Yes…. To write it down. Sure.
UCC: Actually, you’re supposed to pay attention to what it is, and more importantly to eat something if its below 100. Did you eat any breakfast?
DOB: No. I don’t usually have breakfast. Just a cup of coffee, and maybe some toast. But I usually get up around six to feed Sandy. He’s a good boy. Then I take my second nap…
WISIMH: …And the first would be when you slip into a coma caused by low blood sugar?
DOB: …. Then I might have some coffee or maybe a piece of toast.
UCC: Diabetics aren’t supposed to skip breakfast. Here, drink this juice. Remember we talked about this before…
WISIMH: … about a million times. You are a champion idiot. But in all fairness, I’m an idiot too for continuing to be surprised at your surpassing stupidity. And speaking of the stinking undead, I’ve been dreaming of the zombies again. I don’t always escape when they chase me, but I’m beginning to think that might be for the best. Last night, I dreamt I won a spelling bee and the word was exsanguination. That makes us both champions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where’s a Half human/half bull when you need it?

Here’s what I have done for the past two weeks. It feels like I’ve been lost and wandering in a maze, while suffering from sleep deprivation and too much caffeine.

Our latest adventure began with DOB’s latest trip to the emergency room in the wee hours of the night. DOB is now safely back home and in the embrace of her loving family, where her caregivers now spend our “waking” hours each day stumbling around in a walking coma feeding her, negotiating her moves from bed to chair and back, emptying a commode chair in which most (but unfortunately not all) of her piss ends up in the bucket, coordinating with a gang of home health people checking her blood sugar and blood pressure (which, of course, we now do before each meal, so who needs them?). In my free time, I try to negotiate the maze of federal, state, regional and community “resources” for either in-home “personal care” (i.e. changing 3X adult diapers, and providing personal hygiene services that would be burdensome enough if the patient was an anorexic dwarf, but which in this case involve a patient whose flab and folds equal the mass of approximately 3 morbidly obese dwarves.

Prior to our recent venture into the dark, I elected not to do any of this in advance, preferring instead to use my energy to plead that TCG pay closer attention to managing DOB’s blood sugar (he didn’t), or to lobby that he take her ailing 80+ pound dog with the open sores on his appendages to the vet (he didn’t).

In retrospect, this was stupid of me. Now, not only do I have to do all the research, record-keeping, and bureaucratic wrangling, pre-paid funeral arrangements, etc. I have to do it while TCG huffs and puffs in my ear and tells me how much he appreciates my help. The fact is that I’m better at this than he is, but the prospect is more daunting than trying to negotiate King Minos’ labyrinth. At least in the labyrinth Deadalus had the delightful prospect of eventually encountering a minotaur who might mercifully tear off his head and slurp his neck like a popsicle, thereby putting an end to his suffering.

Thanks to the magic of Medicare and Secure Horizons we have all these worthless home care services like a nurse who can take blood pressure and blood sugar readings twice a week and copy down from our three times a day log of same. Nursing services we need like a hobo wino needs a glass of chocolate milk. We now also have a physical therapist and an occupational therapist twice a week for the next two weeks. Like DOB is going to be able to get into her shower stall and actually clean between her fat folds as a result of such therapy. What we do need, and have desperately needed all along, and asked each health care professional who stops by, is somebody to bathe her and change her clothes a couple of times a week. But although rumored to be afoot, we’ve seen no evidence of yet. Thus, the funky unwashed smell continues to marinate and evolve almost to the point of self-awareness. Wait: maybe this is how zombies are made.

Should I succeed in completing the application in for Medical (aka Medicaid in California), and should she qualify, and should we then spend down her savings to the point of impoverishment, we might be able to find a Skilled Nursing Facility (which Medicare and Medical might pay for if we assign the facility her entire Social Security check, and if her primary care doc prescribes as medically necessary) or an Assisted Living Facility (which they apparently won’t pay for, but which ironically is actually cheaper than the SNF and more appropriate to her needs) me and TCG might get a life back and our marriage might survive. Otherwise, let’s hope there’s a minotaur there somewhere, maybe back behind the stacks of new adult diapers and plastic-lined bed pads, or behind the trash can that contains said products after marinating in urine for a day or so.

As it is now, I’m stumbling through the waking nightmare my life has become and wondering how much longer I can keep my actual emotions and thoughts shut down enough to keep from screaming “shitfuck” while hitting my roommates upside their heads with a shovel. Last night, after making her dinner and serving it in her room only to find out all she wanted for dinner was another pain pill, she began for the gazillionth time to demonstrate where the pains were and how they were moving around from front to back or whatever. Without thinking things through first, I said “I don’t…” and almost finished what wanted to say “…give a shit”. Instead I managed to finish: “…think it matters where you pain is. The vicodin will find it”. I then drank too much coconut vodka, had an unsatisfying fight with my husband, and went to bed.

Yup. Need that minotaur.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Swing and a Miss

DOB fell over the other night. We awoke at 2:30 to the sound of her air horn calling us for help. We called 911 for lift assist.

It took until about 3:30 for the ambulance crew to persuade us to take DOB to ER for an x-ray, and for us to persuade them not to also take TCG because of his breathing, gasping, chest-clutching and general dramatics.

Me and TCG finally left the ER about 8:30 the next morning, having taken the doctor’s advice to admit her for further tests to figure out why she fell. Of course the irony here is that stupid isn’t a valid medical diagnosis. Nor, it turned out over the three subsequent days, does it show up on an MRI, a Cat Scan, or in a blood test.

Three nights (four, if you count our vigil in the charming ER suite) in a hospital room turns out to be not only the max her insurance covers, but it’s the minimum needed to disconnect her from any remaining semblance of reason, sanity, continence, coherence or awareness of anything but her moving aches and pains. The x-rays show a broken rib which is probably new, a tiny fracture on T6 which is probably old, and some tiny blood clots in her "brain", evidence of TIA events that are probably also old. Her stinky dog, staying in our side of the house during these nights, had kept TCG up with his whining and crying. As for me, I took a vicodin and slept like the dead.

We’ve been back home for 3 nights. First night, she speed-dials TCG at 12:30. Assuming she’s fallen again, we rush in to find she just wants another vicodin. (Note to self: find out if you can somehow hook a “clapper” up to deliver pain pills on demand.) Between calls to/from doctors, hospital follow-up, and social workers, physical therapists (!) and pharmacists, I went through some of her files to find evidence of regular payments to two different insurance companies, with no information whatsoever about coverage.

Calling for copies of policies, information on claims and surrender values is interspersed with grocery shopping, cooking her meals, testing her blood sugar before each meal, changing her clothes, and emptying her commode chair bucket has taken up the three days since she’s returned home. We’ve also had visits from the home health care nurse and a “placement specialist” who told us we’re pretty much SOL for getting her admitted to a skilled nursing facility or an assisted living facility based on the amount of her Social Security check. I overrode TCG’s offer to subsidize her check by about $1k a month to keep her in a facility. I may have to work for free, but dammed if I’ll sacrifice a big chunk of our meager fixed income to pay for somebody else to wait on her.

Turns out my strategy to expect TCG to take care of these matters was a mistake I’ll be paying for by having to empty her bedpan and change her diapers until the next time she hits the floor. We also learned that she doesn’t use the shower any more because she can’t step over the four-fucking-inch ledge. She gives herself a sponge bath using the kitchen sink and dish sponge and presumably the dish soap, but you’d be forgiven for guessing she doesn’t use soap based on the stench she exudes. And don’t throw up picturing the dish sponge washing her fat folds because the evidence shows she probably doesn’t actually use the dish sponge to wash her dishes anyway. The home health care nurse asked me why I didn’t give her sponge baths and check her diaper rash, and I said it isn’t in my job description. At the time, I was on my knees, trying to pull up DOB’s diapers after a rash check, but I don’t think the nurse appreciated the anger in my voice. I’d rather pick up the used toilet paper DOB drops on the floor after using the commode chair: this apparently is in my job description.

The silver lining is that I learned that the next time she falls over, we will get her to the ER immediately, insist that she be admitted to the hospital, and then simply refuse to take her home. Because I didn’t ask the right questions, make the right noises and/or wear socks that match my sweater, we missed a great opportunity to get her out of the house. I’ve got 2 weeks in the unofficial poll for the next time she falls. Tell Santa I’ve been a good girl.

Friday, December 11, 2009

American Sign Language of Prophecy

Brushing crumbs off your chest can be reversed into the ASL sign for “happy” by brushing up instead of down. If you always make a practice of making your last crumb-brush in an upward direction, you will be telling all deaf people in your line of sight that you are happy. And, I propose that this will make you actually become happy in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way. It might also make you less concerned about the crumbs that always end up on the front of your shirt.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Philosophy of Plumbing

TCG: Just to let you know, I stopped up the toilet this morning. Pretty impressive.

UCC: Ahh, thanks. I think.

WISIMH: And here I was, just musing about Jacques Derrida’s speculation that civilization is not so much about sameness, but about difference, and hello, you come along and gobsmack me with a report about plumbing problems that makes me lean my head sideways like a confused dog trying to translate your meaning when what he hears always sounds like blah blah blah.

Anti-word of the day: heterogeneous
Composed of parts of different kinds; having widely dissimilar elements.
You like ka-ka conversations which makes us a heterogeneous couple, since I prefer existentialism and philosophy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fondue and Fon-don’t

DOB is wasting away, if you can consider short and somewhat less fat wasting away. She says she has no appetite and no longer cooks. Her blood sugar was again in the range of 68, about half of what her doc says is a good place for her. So, instead of making and serving her more soup – the only kind she wants is mush, but I’m tired of blended butternut squash and blended leek and potato soup. Instead of more soup, I made fondue.

DOB: What’s this? (holding up a bite-sized piece of broccoli)

TCG: Broccoli. You put it on your fondue fork and dip it in the cheese fondue, and eat it.

DOB: (Tasting some and finding her single tooth (#23) is not up to the chewable challenge, sucking all the cheese off of it, daintily fishing it out of her gob and handing it to TCG) Here, I don’t like broccoli.

TCG: (Taking the de-cheesed broccoli.) Ok

UCC: Careful. She’s already tried and rejected that piece.

TCG: Maybe the dog will eat it. (He re-forks it and re-dips it in the fondue. The dog too, sucks all the second coat of cheese carefully off the broccoli and then rejects it) Then again, maybe not.

WISIMH: Gaaak! Is there no line of manners and civilized eating you people will not blithely cross?

UCC: (I then watched in a sort of heart-stopping horror as DOB speared two pieces of bread, dunked and swirled in fondue pot, only to remove and eat one piece. Looking inside the pot) Yup: there’s a few orphan bread and veggies in here.

TCG obligingly rescues the lost veggies and bread from the now-steaming fondue pot with his own fondue fork.

DOB: What’s this?

TCG: A piece of sausage, like a slim jim, only bite-sized. You may have trouble chewing it.

WISIMH: And I may have trouble watching you spear and dunk it in the fondue pot, gum it, drool, fish it out of your mouth, re-dunk it, and feed it to your dog. On second thought, that’s probably better than watching you try to get TCG to eat it after you have failed in your attempt to do so. Any food cooked “al dente” in this house is doomed. What was I thinking serving raw veggies? She can’t even chew a mushroom. On the bright side, perhaps this is the foolproof diet I’m looking for. I have somehow lost my appetite.

DOB: What’s this?

TCG: It’s broccoli, you stick it on your fork and…

WISIMH: I must not listen to this blather. Their unique table manners put the "eck" in eclectic, and their eloquent and informed dinner conversation (sic) inspires in me the most inarticulate musings about what can be done with a piece of raw broccoli. I meditate about whether there might be some action I could take that could awaken in them the same unblinking, train-wreck-watching horror I experience sharing fondue with them and the smelly dog. What could inspire in them the equivalent disgust-provoking flights of fancy about my own table manners? Let’s see. How about if I took my own fondue fork, rotated it gently it in my ear to collect earwax, then speared that hapless, pre-chewed piece of broccoli and dunked it in the fondue pot. As Homer Simpson would say, “Earwax and gouda fondue, mmmmm.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Birthday DOB

"Mother, let me congratulate you on
the birthday of your son.
You worry so much about him. Here he lies,
he earns little, his marriage was unwise,
he’s long, he’s getting thin, he hasn’t shaved.

"Oh, what a miserable loving gaze!
I should congratulate you if I may
mother on your worry’s birthday.
It was from you he inherited
devotion without pity to this age
and arrogant and awkward in his faith
from you he took his faith, the Revolution.

"You didn’t make him prosperous or famous,
and fearlessness is his only talent.
Open up his windows,
let in the twittering in the leafy branches,
kiss his eyes open.
Give him his notebook and his ink bottle,
give him a drink of milk and watch him go."

Yevgeny Yevtushenko