Medical Cage

It started at home but morphed into a ride on an ambulance gurney rushing an almost comatose me into the hospital.

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An antiseptic scent wafted all around me and a dozen hands grabbed at the sheets under the gurney that had brought me to this place and in one swift tug pulled me from the gurney to the waiting white plastic bed replete with pictures of two supine bodies with little arrows over them, one up, one down and a round red picture of a nurse. Then it happened.  One, two, three, and before I knew it I was entangled in a

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hospital cage.  The cage bars were all flexible, colored, and connected to several monitors that each had its own distinctive beep, buzz, or hum. Each monitor displaying colorful numbers one on top of the other and others that all flashed around on the monitors. 75/45, 37, 93, 15. Stretchy cloth tubes hugged around my calves and ankles then inflated and deflated with regimental regularity.  My current condition on display in orange, pink,and  blue, neon. A slender white stick was inserted under my tongue and a cheerful young girl called out 97.4. 

A tall handsome man with a manicured mustache held up a bag of clear liquid that he put on a stainless steel rod which contained several hooks, Then taking my left arm slowly, painlessly inserted a needle into a vein and said to the nurse next to him, “the I.V. is in,” Then the clear liquid bag began to dribble its saline contents into my body. Without missing a beat, a short, stocky nurse with a ring in her nose, started slapping nippled discs all over my body and then attaching leads to them to another machine next to my bed.  This machine produced a ribbon of tiny squares scratched with lines spiking up and down is a crazed, jagged pattern trying to find its way home. 

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This was my home for the next four days while doctors, nurses, my worried Ralph, and super worried Kristen all tried to determine why I tanked with low blood sugar, very low blood pulse, and too low blood pressure.  After almost every test known to man the mystery was slowly untangled, the machines disappeared, the bars of the cages curled up and put on hooks, the lights dimmed, the people left, and I was discharged. Diagnosis: Too much metoprolol for my heart. Don’t’ know how, don’t know why, but I got sprung from my medical cage and was sent home clutching a $15,000 bill.

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Preparing for Widowhood

It occurred to me last year that at any time I could become a widow.   What triggered this thought was the fact that my spouse had broken his hip and was confined to walking with a walker. Overnight I found myself in the position of having to do everything in and out of the house.  My spouse used to run a lot of errands, do most of the driving, and help me with many of those everyday mundane things we do. He’d make my coffee in the morning, get the paper in the driveway, and help with the laundry. He’d hop in the car and run to the store for a quart of milk or pick up the cleaning. He’d be sure my gas tank was full and drive to anywhere I wanted to go.

I now had to do all those things and drive him everywhere which really cut into my schedule. As the weeks dragged on, I got angrier and angrier at the inconvenience this life hoisted on me but I knew I had to find a way to cope. The first thing I did was realize that some of the things I had to do were just for me and I was already doing some of them albeit with help. Things like washing and folding my own laundry, driving to my writing classes, doctor’s appointments, making my side of the bed, etc. You get the idea.  None of them had to involve my spouse.   Once I took those items off my “gripe” list, things eased up a bit.

Then it occurred to me that I had started preparing myself for widowhood.  I began to preface every task with, “If Ralph wasn’t here…”  And then making my coffee and breakfast every morning was added to the list as well as getting the dog clean water and his breakfast. As time wore on I added clearing the table, going outside to pick up the paper, loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, making out my weekly grocery list, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, pumping my own gas, oh my the list kept growing.  I never realized how many things we shared together.

This morning I was up before my spouse and adult child who lives with us. The house was quiet. I scrambled two eggs, added a bit of shredded cheese, made my coffee, fed the dog and sat down to read the paper. It was quiet. Widowhood I thought is going to be like this.  Later, as I made the bed after my spouse got up, I realized I no longer felt bothered by the additional work of doing the things he could no longer do. If he predeceases me I will be forever doing everything myself but I’ll be ready for it because I am practicing being a widow.  It helps. And, thanks be to God, while he isn’t driving any longer, he now makes coffee in the morning, feeds the dog, clears the table, and helps whenever he can. I am grateful for those things he does.  They help too.

Jonathans

When my second husband was courting me after my divorce, he gave me a copy of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull which we both loved and often talked about.  Later in our courtship, he gave me a gorgeous sterling pendant of several seagulls along with a touching love letter.  The letter described our relationship as those of two seagulls who fly together for a while, separate to fly on their own, but in the end always come back and fly as one. True to his vision, although we are often apart in many things and many ways, to this day we always come together in love.

Five years after our marriage, my Jonathan flew far, far away and hurt me deeply. In some respects that old hurt comes back to haunt me from time to as a fleeting memory now some thirty-five years old. It doesn’t hurt as much, but it is an unwelcome visitor. As we were flying back together lo those many years ago, I thought it might be a good idea to give my errant love a Jonathan reminder similar to my pendant.

Our local jeweler crafted two gold Jonathans in flight together and I selected a light chain on which they would be hung. I didn’t want a heavy chain, but a light one that would be a reminder of our linked marriage vows, but not be suitable to represent a ball and chain.  We both still needed that room to go our separate ways from time to time.

Now, almost thirty-nine years later, my Jonathan wears his pendant with pride, enjoying telling others of our Jonathan story and he has never flown so far away since.  I do too. I also have a similar pair of Jonathans on my charm bracelet.  We call them our “logo,” our love symbols. And, I still have that letter along with all his other love letters. Maybe someday my children will find them and understand what binds us together as two Jonathans.

Hate

There are many days that I hate all the hate around us and all the hate within me. I don’t want to hate anything or anyone. I don’t. But I do. A friend once said that if you hate someone think of them as a baby. I tried that. It worked for three seconds. Then that damn baby grew up and I hated it all over again. Hate is the worse glob of shit in one’s soul imaginable. It stinks. It putrifies you. It contaminates everything around it. It smears its ugly brown all over any love you have in your soul until that is all that is left of you. Hate. I was beginning to get that way almost four months ago over the apparent demise of our country’s values.  And then I was cleansed by fire. The fire that consumed more than half of my home. The love that surrounded me was astonishing, overwhelming, unspeakably generous. Strangers even, among the many friends. Suffering that loss and being washed by the love of those around me, washed that piece of dung out of my soul. Almost all of it. Today, I try to post positive things political. Things like, thank God we have term limits on the presidency.  Things like, please vote, no matter what your party. I try to find good in anything, everything. Even the ants in my kitchen (God’s creatures, so I feed them outside with bags of sugar). The dog vomit on my bed (Oh well, I needed to wash that spread anyway). My daughter yelling at me for some surreal thing I forgot I did (She’s just tired, she didn’t really mean it). Looking for love and the good in God’s creation, not spewing hate, is transformative. Try it. 

Fire, Fire, House on Fire

On Sunday it will be two weeks since our townhouse fire. I am convinced that this will mark our life so that everything will now be “before the fire,” or “after the fire.” Life is like that when big things happen, like before the baby was born, or after mom died, or before the earthquake. An irreversible wall of separation from an old life to a different life. 
 
So where are we now? Well, we are settling into our furnished interim condo (just across the street) and friends and neighbors have brought us groceries, meals, clothes, and donated generously to a fund set up for us by St. Peter’s in Lewes or given us cash, checks, Visa cards. We even got a donation to our Amazon account. All of which will help with the large expenses like insurance deductibles and small unexpected expenses like boxes of kleenex. We are amazed at everyone’s generosity and can’t thank them enough.
We have talked to three fire inspectors, three insurance adjustors, Amanda, our project manager from ServPro, who is overseeing the salvaging and demolition. We have moved our handicap ramps for the second time. We have had Verizon install our FIOS for the second time. We have filled out authorization forms for security deposits and started the process to repair our van which suffered some melted plastic areas. We have sifted through the debris to see what could be salvaged.
 
We are blessed that many items could be saved and will be cleaned and restored. Things like china, crystal, flatware, pots, pans, plates, and utensils. A dozen boxes of canned and sealed food are waiting to be put on our kitchen shelves. Some artwork was unharmed, and there are 15 items at an art restorer to see if they can be resurrected. Clothes not so much saved, but then we didn’t have a lot to begin with and in slower lower Delaware we don’t need a lot of fancy duds. Some of our electronics can be restored – we just got our 40-inch TV back, and we are hopeful “Alexa” will make it. Most of our furniture didn’t survive, but it was showing lots of wear anyway. Smoke is insideous and everywhere even where you didn’t think it could penetrate and is almost impossible to remove. Irreplaceable files and papers were saved but still haven’t found our birth certificates or Baptismal records.
 
We have also managed to do some “normal” things like open our mail, get haircuts, stop for ice cream, and do a bit of grocery shopping.  Next week “normal” will be paying some bills, lunch with a friend, and shopping for slacks for Ralph. We continue to feel blessed that we are alive and can still cuddle with our precious Loki to watch Jeopardy each evening. God is indeed good.

Hacked

My debit card has been hacked four times in the last two years. The last time it was less than a month with my new card. Fraud folks recommended a new account number. Said everything would transfer over from the old account to the new account. No problem. NOT! Ralph and I have just spent two entire days calling businesses that were on autopay and auto-deposit informing them of our new account number. I was on hold with two companies for over 1/2 hour, and with two other companies, it will take two pay periods for the changes to take effect. Thus my income from them will be delayed by at least a week while they mail me a check. And, one of my pension providing companies failed to fax me the forms I needed to fill out. That was after waiting 35 minutes 24 seconds on HOLD!   AND, AND…we haven’t even ventured into Social Security. That is tomorrow’s horror story. My God, don’t corporations realize this is the 21st Century and we are digitized, electronified, and can send a message to Tokyo in a nanosecond, but they can’t change a bank account number in less than 45 days? Sorry for the rant, but this has been a horrific nightmare. Oh, and did I mention that when I went to use Quicken and download my transactions from the bank, it didn’t work? Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

UPDATE: First, after waiting about an hour and a half, the Social Security folks couldn’t be more helpful and the change was accomplished in about five minutes. BUT…because it was today, and not yesterday, MY check will be delayed about a week!  A friend said that there may be one of those “Give me your info” thingy on WaWa gas station pumps.  Who knew? Well, I know mine wasn’t hacked that way because the hack last Sunday was made in – are you ready??? – Istanbul, Turkey for – are you really ready???- 27 cents!!!!! SHM till it almost falls off.  Well, after SSA we decided to go to the bank. That was good news. The bank is transferring all our auto-deposits into the new account and letting those folks know we have a new account number. SO, WHY DID THEY TELL US TO CONTACT THOSE FOLKS, CONFUSE EVERYONE, INCLUDING US, AND CREATE HAVOC??? God knows what will happen when I tackle the bank and Quicken on Monday. I’m too busy living my life to do it tomorrow. My head just fell off!  How will I drink my wine?

HNY

Posted by Rita Beauchamp Nelson on Sunday, December 31, 2017

That’s what it has come down to – HYN.  I guess everything is abbreviated these days, IOU, RFLMAO, POTUS, FLOTUS, ACLU, CEO, CFO, HTTP, XMAS, LOL, TTYL, U, R. It almost looks like the original Hebrew language which didn’t have any vowels. If we ever get to the point where everything is abbreviated like that how will we speak? I can see that we could say POTUS or FLOTUS, but how would you pronounce HTTP? Or RFLMAO? Or TTYL? I think it would sound sort of like Hatetep, reflmow, and tetyl. And so maybe in a hundred years we will not be speaking English by TAEL (The Abbreviated English Language).  Sigh.  But then, why should I be surprised? We already say “ta” for “to” and drop the final “g” on “going “or “flying” and many other ending in “g” words . And then we combine words like “want to” becomes “wanna,” and “going to” becomes “gonna.” So, I wanna wish you a HNY and then I’m goin ta bed. TTYL.

History

History means “finding out” from the Greek historia. I’ve found out my former twenty-something body is history. I’ve found out my hair follicles are packing up and abandoning my scalp in alarming numbers. I should be bald by morning. I’ve found out my upper eyelids are sagging, trying to mate with my lower eyelids for no good reason. I’ll be blind if they hookup.

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I’ve found out my nasal passages are collapsing and I snore loud enough to wake the dog, the dead, and God. I’ve found out my once well-formed lips are kissing my esophagus. I can no longer find my upper lip to apply lipstick.

I’ve found out my perky girls have taken a trip south of the border, below my knees.

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All I have to do is lift my skirt to slip on my bra. My sight and hearing are gradually joining the ranks of history. Who are you? What did you say? I’ve found out all my fat cells are attending a convention in a conference center called The Abdomen, nicknamed The Belly. Breakout rooms are in my butt, lovingly referred to as the two lower cheeks.

I’ve found out the sensation in my lower legs is history, appropriately filed under “N” for “Neuropathy” in the Library of Congress. Doctors tell me my hips and knees are okay, but someday they’ll be history, replaced with titanium parts that will eventually be found rattling around in my cremains. Sadly, my bladder muscles are history, now requiring me to plan every journey from toilet location to toilet location. My tonsils, gallbladder, appendix, uterus, and ovaries are history, leaving me one by one, presumably to visit the annals of history wherever the hell that is. I’m almost empty inside. I’m caving in outside. And as for having sex? That is ancient history.

STOP

My heart is saddened and sickened by the violence and hatred witnessed this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. There are no words to express my horror at these turn of events. Here. In America. In a place where diversity forged this nation.  Where diversity still forges the future of this nation.  I understand that as immigrants fled persecution in Europe and came to America, many native Americans suffered and that is a horrifying consequence of occupation. I understand that to the end of amassing great individual wealth, slavery was an accepted, even promoted, tool. We were wrong in our approaches to these abuses, and if we could repeat the past perhaps we would have done it right.  Made peace. Not enslaved people. Loved each other. Gotten along. Merged together as one nation. But, history is like that – you can’t go back.  You can’t change it. You can’t make a wrong right or change a thing. You can, however, learn from history.  If we let these people so filled with hate continue on their path, this great nation is headed for a Hitler-style Germany where only the select white are acceptable. How many millions will die? Latinos? Jews? Blacks? Middle-Easterners? Gays? Transgender? Lesbians? Men, women, and children of every race other than “white.” Do you see where this going?  We cannot allow this to happen. Our nation and governance must do everything in their power to shut down this evil. We must each speak up and speak out against these haters. These evil ones. These instruments of the devil. I know, I know, they have freedom of speech.  Let them speak out from jail. I know, I know they have the freedom to gather, to protest, to speak their minds. Let them gather in the exercise yard in jail. They must be contained. They must be stopped. What we don’t have in this country is a right to injure another person, either physically, psychologically, or emotionally, and these hatred-filled espousers of white supremacy are hurting people and hurting our country.

STOP. JUST. STOP.  PLEASE, IN THE NAME OF GOD.

And, if you don’t believe me, watch this!

https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/8/16/16155942/charlottesville-protests-nazis-vice

Awareness, Announcement, Acceptance, Attitude, Aftermath

In most situations, there is an A, B, C list of instructions on how to do what.  In being a parent and discovering your child is transgender, I like to think there are several phases.  We all have heard about SARA – Shock, Anger, Rejection, and Acceptance at an unwanted event or death.  I prefer to think of discovering our child is transgender in the five A’s – Awareness, Announcement, Acceptance, Attitude, Aftermath.

The awareness is when we begin to suspect that our child is different. Maybe we don’t know what to think at first – maybe they are gay, or lesbian, or a cross-dresser, or whatever. The awareness is also the phase when the child themselves know that where people are pigeonholing them is not who they are, regardless of what is between his or her legs. A boy says he is a girl. A girl says she is a boy. Parents need to look for early signs that their child may be transgender and be gentle with them, ask age appropriate questions, and finally allow the child to announce his or her gender.

The announcement is next: A boy might suddenly say, “Mom, I’m a girl,” or vice versa. There is always shock. Being transgender is something that happens to other people’s children, not ours. It is simply human nature. When we take our baby home from the birthing place, we expect the gender will remain the declared gender at birth. Today, more and more we know that is not necessarily so, but still…

Acceptance of having a transgender child will come at the pace appropriate for both the child (or adult) and the parent. For many, especially fathers I have found, this can take a very long time.  Learning new pronouns, seeing your very masculine son show up for dinner in a mini skirt and high heels, or your very feminine daughter show up in a tie and suit with a short haircut takes massive adjustment. And, it takes a strong attitude adjustment on the part of everyone. The parents, of course, but also the transgender child who must learn that acceptance by not only family, but friends and even strangers is not automatic and can take years.

A positive attitude is key. Everyone involved will have to develop an attitude of deep patience and forbearance. An attitude of listening, learning, and loving. Unfortunately, there are many parents, families, and friends with a negative attitude who turn their backs on their transgender child. Hopefully, with much love, understanding, and education all of these children will be held closely and with respect within the family and our society.

Finally, there is the aftermath of being transgender and living with a transgender person.  You’ve always called “her” “him.” Your son has a very masculine body and now has boobs and wears skirts and makeup.  Your son’s voice is a girl’s high pitched voice. Names are changed. Many differences.  But, the most disturbing aftermath is the discrimination, the bullying, and the violence they suffer. One person told my daughter she should die. Transgender folks are murdered at an alarming rate. Suicide is high among them.  They are picked on, profiled, and persecuted. It must stop.

My book, Always Kristen, chronicles my journey through the five A’s and beyond and is available at Amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.