Tuesday, December 31, 2013

30 Days and Counting

Well, that was a long break.  Longest I've taken in quite a while.  It's been hard, when the only thing I can really think to blog about is my dad.

My dad, who is still on a ventilator, and whose magical "30 days in ICU" coverage is about to expire.

Just like that, the financial security he's worked so hard for is gone.  His wife is talking about selling the house, except they've (mostly he's) hoarded so much stuff that it's not likely the place could be made sellable. Between cats, cigarettes, and junk, I can imagine just how bad it is.  Plus, it's not a great area.  Their mortgage is paid off, but refinancing won't touch this--at 14 days, they were already over 200,000 dollars in medical bills.  I don't say "medical costs" because we all know there's a big difference between what that shit COSTS and how much they BILL.

Medically, he's not improving as much as I wish he would.  They've still got him zonked out of his gourd with Versed, and still have him tied to the bed to keep him from tearing things out. Apparently, he keeps squirming down to the end of the bed, which has caused a large friction sore on his leg where he keeps pressing it against the railing.

What a mess.

I haven't told anyone in the family, and that's by request.  I'm not happy about it, and yet I can totally understand.  The fear that certain relatives would descend upon his wife and take what they can while he's incapacitated is not unreasonable.  Fact is, I'm the only child of his he wanted informed.  There's a reason for that.  I'm torn, I admit--part of me wants very much to tell people so they'll have their chance to make peace, if that's the way they want to go.

Except they can't--he's drugged to insensibility and on a ventilator.  There's no communicating anything, no making peace.

I'll find out in the next few days what happens next.  After the 30 days in ICU expires, he's got coverage for 45 days in a long-term care facility.  The nearest Veteran's place is 2 hours from his home.  What a total cock-up.


 Spent Christmas day and the day after in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  Had Christmas dinner at the Publick House, then hit Higgins Armory Museum the next day.  Today is Higgins' last day ever--they close their doors for good tonight.  That is a tragedy, it's devastating.  If you never got there, you missed something amazing and magical.  There's never been another Higgins-type place in the States, and there likely never will be.  Thankfully, we got there early--the crowd was amazing, and the power went out in Worcester ten minutes after we left.  Imagine if we'd shown up late and had the power go out!  That would have broken our boy's heart.

I nearly cried in the gift shop.  Higgiins wasn't just a museum, it was an amazing mix of classroom and training, history and play, and the people who've worked there have really put themselves into it fully, and they're hurting.  I'm hurting for them.  And I'm hurting for the grandkids I don't even have yet who won't ever get the chance.


In addition to Higgins, we spent a little time in the Old Burying Ground in Sturbridge.  Would have spent more time, but it was 20 miserable degrees.  Who knew it got so cold in Massachusetts?  My first time there in the winter.  Now I know why I've stayed away.  I actually managed to hit my stride and warm up while photographing, but hubby wound up frozen to the core and hiding out in the car with the heater blasting.  I don't blame him--usually it's me, but when outdoors, I get that cold, then BURN of the extremities (Reynaud's, I believe it's called), which actually serves me pretty well in some situations.

On our way home, we hit two more cemeteries--East Norwalk and Mill Hill, though Mill Hill was a mistake--we'd meant to hit Pine Island, but missed.  Both cemeteries were for genealogy/family history purposes, as my mom's ancestors were original settlers in Norwalk.  Got a lot of good pictures, and even more bad ones.  Sad we missed Pine Island, but it turns out we're related to half the folks in Mill Hill, too.  Stopped in Philly on the way home for Pat's King of Steaks (our boy finally had one, after years of eating hot dogs there, and he loved it!), then wound up in traffic hell on the 95--all southbound lanes closed, they detoured us at a snail's pace in a huge loop out and around the accident.  Had to stop in DC for hubby to hit his office for something, then home.  Didn't get home until after midnight.


Here are some graveyard and road pics:

I figured her out, but it took some work!

Sturbridge Old Burying Ground

Frigid beach near Norwalk

Pretty nice for a rest stop parking lot near Hackensack.

And that's about it, I guess.  Well, except for a HUGE thumbs up for the folks in Utah who've managed to get married this past week!  Yes, the governor and his skeezy new AG will drop millions into fighting "gay marriage," but they are totally on the WRONG side of history here. Congratulations to my friends who've been married, and to my friends who've performed the marriages.  You're blazing new trails my friends.  Love you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

To What Purpose?

Here we are, 12 days out, and my dad is still on a ventilator.  Vague promises of weaning him off, but fact is, he's still having food jammed down a tube.

Did I tell you they knocked out one of his teeth while intubating him?  His wife was very concerned, didn't know where the tooth had gone.  Feared he may have swallowed it.  Which is probably the case.

Things sort of blend together, so I don't know if I mentioned he's been moved to a long-term care facility. Step-mom doesn't think he's being "warehoused."  But then again, she thought he'd be home last weekend, too.

She wants to call today, in ten minutes, in fact, so I can "take part" in a meeting with doctors and nurses.  I have no idea what use I may be.  Considering they've got that crap-assed "VOIP"-type phone service, all cut-outs and blank spots and echos and voices cancelling each other, I get the feeling this is going to be a total wash.  What do I ask (provided they can hear me)?

Are you warehousing my father?

How many tens (or even hundreds) of thousands has 12 days of ICU already chewed through?  Have you bankrupted him yet?

Is he ever going to be able to be HIM again?

Is he going to go home in anything but a wheelchair or an urn?

If his lungs look good, his heart function is improving, and his color improved, why do you still have him sedated out of his gourd and on a vent?

What were the results of the CT scan you performed two days ago?

Really, that last one is the only one for which I can imagine getting a real answer.

He is never going to recover from this--it goes against everything he's cobbled onto that bullshit facade of his. That "I'm healthy as a horse (hack, hack, hack), I don't need to see a 'mechanic,' I'm the strong one in this marriage/family/neighborhood/town" crap.  And it is crap, and I've always recognized it as such.  But I had no idea he had a umbilical hernia so large it affected his pants size (I have one, too, but mines about the size of the end of my thumb, and I've had it for 16 years).  Apparently, NO ONE knew he was diabetic. I'd asked about it, but he always made it sound like diabetes was something that happened to sloppy fat people (like me), not to strong, healthy guys like him.

Except, it turns out, my dad is weighing in at over 250 pounds. And, while he likes to brag he's 6+ feet tall, fact is, he is not.  Closer to 5'9.  I was struck by how NOT tall he is when I saw him back in 2003.  I can't imagine he's gotten taller.

Just got off the phone.  It's sounding like the ventilator may be a "forever" thing.    It's already been 12+ days, and he's still at 20/60%.  So it's time to look at a tracheostomy.  While the doctor did say that doesn't necessarily have to be a permanent thing, fact is, he sounded like he was talking permanent.

Thankfully, my medical jargon filter is still mostly intact.  Here's a refresher.

What a mess.  Apparently, "Lungs look good" was something they said to my step-mom to reassure her that the didn't find any clots or cancer.  Fact is, his lungs look like utter trash--severe edema, and the nether regions utterly worthless, at least right now.  "Air space issues," the doctor said.  He's on Lasix, and I did ask to make sure that the Lasix is entirely for the edema and not for blood pressure problems.  It is.

Here's a little something about Lasix and pulmonary edema, if you're curious.

In the blink of an eye, huh?  Just two weeks ago, he was, in his own mind, strong as an ox.  Now his wife is having to bend his arms and legs and they're working to keep him safe from bedsores.  He hasn't been able to speak for almost 13 days.

His wife says he smiled when he heard my voice.  That's something, isn't it?

If you're still smoking, stop.  Because this is what you have to look forward to.

I don't see how he's going to survive this.


Back to a little bit of regular blogging--we bought an incredibly sad, ugly tree. It's not as hideous as the Charlie Brown trees, but it's pretty sad.  But it was cheap, and cheap is important right now.  Maybe decorations will perk it up.

Our trip to Higgins for that one, last time (they close forever December 31st) is going to be . . . miserable.  Hubby's boss wouldn't let him take an extra day (even though he's got "use or lose" leave out the backside), so we're going to have to drive for 7 hours, stay one night, hit Higgins the  next morning, then drive BACK another 7 hours.  That sounds like pure hell to me.  We'll be taking the dog and, because it's so cold in Massachusetts, we'll have to take turns going out to the car and running it to keep him warm.

Doesn't that sound fun?

Prepping for the "pre-surgical" appointment for my biopsy.  They moved the physical up by 2 weeks, not happy about that.  Gearing up for the "statins and metformin" battle.  Because doctors aren't happy if they can throw drugs at you, and the more often they can make you come in, the more money they can get from the HMO.  Do I sound jaded?  That's because I am.  I am so close to canceling this biopsy entirely.  Four physician copays plus the surgical center copay, Plus any scripts.  

Plus anything that goes wrong.

I'm scared to death that this guy's idea of a biopsy is different from mine.  Markedly different.  He wants to put me under with Versed.

Same stuff they're using to keep my dad sedated with the ventilator.

And the final bit of fun?

I think that root canal is failing.  In fact, I feel pretty confident of it.  And our insurance won't cover a "retreatment" until 12 months have passed.

So I'm likely losing that tooth.  After sinking 500 bucks into it.  Let's hope it doesn't take the other teeth around it with it when it goes.

Oh, and one last, funny thing.  I think I got "out-atheisted" at the Christmas tree lot last night.  Guy handed us our ugly tree, and I said, "Merry Christmas."  Because hey, no skin off mine and I felt pretty confident of my audience--North Carolina hills tree farm?  Guy paused for a moment, and then said, "Happy Holidays to you, too."

Hmm.  Either I miscalculated, or he's been told not to offend anyone by being non-specific.  Either way, I felt I'd been outdone.

So hey, Fancy Festivus, huh?  Snappy Saturnalia, too!  Yummy Yuletide!

Or whatever does it for you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Positivity Diminished

My step-mother's optimistic predictions of "home by the weekend" have fallen hard by the wayside.  My dad's been transferred to a "long-term care facility" that specializes in weaning people off respiratory assistance devices and getting them moving again.  My dad is still intubated, still on a ventilator.

And still sedated, though he appears to watch television for long periods.

My step-mother is now making "five or six weeks" noises.  But fact is, she has no idea.

On the bright side, he hasn't had a smoke in nine days.

On the not-so-bright side, their home is a hoarder's paradise.  Like stacks so high you have to shimmy along the wall in some rooms.  I have no idea how this is going to work out.  But if he recovers enough to come home, he's going to utterly lose cohesion.  At least if she goes through with her plan to call in a cleaning company before he comes home.

Let's hope their long-term care insurance is as good as its promises.


Speaking of health care and the like, I'm a hair away from canceling the biopsy for my arm.  The stinking hoops they're putting me through for a BIOPSY.  They want full blood work (CBC and CMP) an EKG, and they want to knock me out for it!


Which means another appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks), an appointment with my PCP (25 bucks), the surgery center (100 bucks), another appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks), then ANOTHER appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks).  

Plus, the PCP's office made me move up my appointment by two weeks so that they'll have time to "refer me to a specialist," should anything be wrong with  my bloodwork.

A specialist?  How about a screw all y'all, this whole mess is OFF-alist?  

I hate to sound all crotchety and stuff, but it's a racket.  I'm tellin' ya.  I've had 42 medical appointments in 2 years, and most of it has been utterly unproductive and unhelpful.  

And devastatingly expensive.

I don't imaging this "pre-surgical physical" is going to go anything but badly, because I WILL not then schedule a 'regular physical' afterwards.  Blow me--a CBC, a CMP, and an EKG?  That is ALL you need from me for a year.  It's your job to advise me, but it's MY job to decide what to do with that advice.  And maybe, just maybe, what I want to do with that advice is . . . nothing.

Let me go to hell the way I want to.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We used to have a name for this

Back when we were young and uncouth and terribly lacking in tact.  


My Dad isn't dead.  But he's 76 years old, been in ICU (listed as "critical") for six days now, and he's still intubated.  Talking to my step-mother, I discover that he's been winded and struggling for a long while now--a couple of years, at least.  He'll almost certainly try to pin this on something other than smoking, because that's what addicts do.  I know, I was one.  He'll blame it on the bug bombs, he'll blame it on some respiratory bug.

If he ever gets the chance to talk again, that is.

His eyes are open sometimes now, but she says he seems to be pointedly refusing to look at her. Maybe embarrassment, maybe fear.  He's painted himself the strong champion of the relationship, and maybe finding himself in the role of her last two husbands who died long and hard in hospital is more than his ego can take.  That he's intimately familiar with just how horrible that was for her (and them) is hanging him up.

Or maybe he's not as with it as she thinks he is.  She did say that one tear came out of his eye yesterday.

She's suddenly talking about how she thinks he'll be home for the weekend.  I'm not sure why she's that abruptly and wildly optimistic--nothing the doctors have said would seem to call for it.  And if he DOES make it home, fact is he's a 76-year-old man who has chain-smoked for 65 years,  is now 70 pounds overweight, has a heart that's only pumping at a fraction of capacity, and has been suffering from undiagnosed diabetes for who knows HOW long.

The only way this works is if he gets it in his head to redirect himself and make a new start.  And that's if he ever recovers enough to get home.  He's a determined guy when he sets his mind to something, but convincing him that not smoking and not eating whatever he desires is something he WANTS is a whole 'nother animal.  I can see him going down in a Zippo blaze of menthols and Philly cheesesteak.

Cross your fingers.  It won't help anything, but it'll make me happy to think you cared enough to take that moment. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I think my Dad is dying

He's in hospital, congestive heart failure, heart attack, and wildly uncontrolled (and, until now, undiagnosed) diabetes.  If he dies, the whole family, who has not just written him off, but has actively hated him, will descend upon his widow like a swarm of blow flies.  I can't even post to Facebook about this because there are family members who might see it and then make it their special task to head down there and turn things upside down.

And I can't afford to get down there.  I spoke to him the night before they took him in, and he sounded so awful.  I was pleading with him to see a doctor--a "mechanic" as he calls them.  Had him talked into it, I thought, he spoke of the new little clinic down the road and how he'd been wondering how they were.  That night, he found himself so winded that he was turning blue.  My step-mom called an ambulance, and he's been unconscious since.  Intubated, on a ventilator, in ICU, critical condition.  They knocked one of his teeth out intubating him.  His wife sits with him, reads his beloved New Yorker to him.

They say his heart's pumping at about 10% capacity.

My Dad is going to die.  I'm not feeling at all optimistic.  And if he does, I have no way to get my little family to Georgia to help my step-mom.  No way to get down there to keep her safe from them.

Unless we cancel Christmas.  We'd planned on spending one night in the cheap little motor lodge in Sturbridge, Massachusetts so that our boy could go to Higgins Armory one last time before it closes forever (at the end of this month).  We have scrimped for that, planned to drive the 400+ miles just so he could have that one last trip.  It's THE Christmas gift for all of us.  One night in a cheap  motor lodge, one day at Higgins Armory.

I could cry more, but I fear my heart would flip into full arrhythmia mode.

What I wouldn't give for a "Secret Santa" this year.  Just one with three round-trip train tickets to Atlanta and a few bucks to keep us fed on the way.  I don't know how to ask for help, I don't know how to ask people to give.  But man, it is shaping up to be a miserably bad Christmas.  A devastating one.

I love you, Dad.  Please come back from this.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chronicling the Dead Keeps my Mind off the Living

I've been doing all things grave-y lately.  A lot of family history stuff, including scanning old family photos and letters.  I've probably said this before, but I'm going to say it again:

Mark your photographs!

Seriously!  We have stacks of unmarked photos that we'll NEVER really know who they were. We've had a little luck comparing them with records on the LDS Family Search site, but most of them are of folks whose identities are lost.  DON'T do that!

Here are a couple examples:

Zero clue, probably taken in Camden or Philly, 1930s, maybe?

Zero clue--we all agree the lady down front right looks like she could be related.

And my husband's side of the family is no better.  Most of them are more easily traced than mine, but they, too, have a crappy habit of not marking photos:

Mormon Missionaries, one of whom is a relative 
So we know where it was taken, but not who it is.

And then there's this amazing gem:

An actual tintype.  It's not in good shape, I had to "fix" her cheek in Photoshop because a chunk is missing.



In addition to the family history thing, we've been visiting local cemeteries.  Some of the stones, especially the hand carved ones, are really wrenching.  All backward letters and misspelled words and heart.  So much heart.

Plus, I've been cataloguing some English and Welsh cemeteries as I come across the headstones online.  I started in Herefordshire, hoping to come across something related to my husband's family, but got caught up in the history of it.  I now know that the Caroline Spooner was the largest Barque ever built at Aberystwyth.  That's "A-bur-uh-stew-uth."

If only someone would pay me to archive stuff like this.  Because I'm good at it, I love doing it (I do it for FUN), and it's important.  Except most folks don't think it is important.



Speaking of cemeteries, headstones, and the like, I've been noticing how, even in death, women are marginalized, they're minimized, they're lost to history because, so often, their "maiden" names are not included on the headstone.  So Margaret Griffiths gets married, becomes Margaret Davies, but her headstone only reads "Margaret Davies," or worse "Margaret, wife of Hugh Davies."  

Like she's just an aside, an afterthought.  As though she never was anything but an extension of the man she married.  Descendants run up against brick walls when trying to trace the women in their family's history.  Maybe, if they're lucky, they'll find a church record or census that relays the woman's birth name, but, often as not, that doesn't happen. 

That's got me thinking just how incredibly sexist the whole idea of "maiden name" versus "married name" really is.  Like a woman belongs to her father until some man takes her, renames her, and turns her from "maiden" to "matron." The historic meaning of "maiden" makes this glaringly obvious.  


A big "I wouldn't piss on your face if your teeth were on fire" shout out to those teabaggers on Capital Hill who have, once again, decided to slash my husband's transit benefit.  That's another 50+ bucks a month gone, though they've INCREASED the parking benefit (which we don't receive).  In other words, they're doing what they can to reduce ridership on mass transit so they can then claim that mass transit, which isn't supposed to "turn a profit" anyway, isn't turning a profit.  So they can slash mass transit funding.  So their buddies in the oil industry make more money off the increased number of cars on the road in an already devastatingly traffic congested area.

And they think we don't know what they're up to.  These are the same guys who squeal about some dead birds at wind farms, while protesting the fines levied against British Petroleum for oil spills that killed millions of birds and fish.

Luckily, they're going to give my husband his first raise in four years.


Mmm hmm.  You can torch your damned teeth any ol' time, guys.


Still wandering around with a temporary crown in my face.  Which has the other side, where I have no molars, raw and sad because that's where I've been chewing.  Scared to death that, despite all the assurances that we have enough credit with the dentist's office to more than cover this, I'm going to go in on the ninth and be told I owe.

We have no money.  Seriously, none.  Which is why I was so careful to confirm, repeatedly, that this would carry no out-of-pocket cost to us.  But I'm scared.  Scared I'm going to utterly explode on them if they try to hold my permanent crown hostage in return for payment they said wouldn't be due.


I'm going to close with a picture of a tree.  Because we live in a place with great trees.  Trees that dwarf and put to shame those sad, scraggly things in Utah.