Empathy Thrust Upon Me

Medicine

Of all the things I hoped to be when I was young, a wrinkled bag of aches and pains wasn’t one of them.  Some while ago, BrainRants, a mere stripling in his mid-forties, published a post about all the pains and strange body noises he was accumulating.  Bloody amateur, just wait till he moves up to the pros.

Through a confluence of good genes, a relatively physical lifestyle, and a modified Mediterranean diet, I am far healthier than many men my age.

Several years ago, a doctor at a clinic remarked to the wife, “You have a lot of things wrong with you.  Nothing that will kill you, but a lot of minor problems.”  Between prescription meds and supplements, she downs 20 to 25 pills a day.  She has a general surgeon who has removed a couple of skin growths, a urologist, a rheumatologist, a podiatrist and an osteopath.  I drive her to a cancer clinic and an airway clinic for monitoring.

Until recently, I was exempt from all that.  I had sympathy for her, but didn’t really know what she went through.  All that has changed.  It started innocently enough, about 15 years ago.  She convinced me to take an antihistamine each morning, for allergies.  Then it was a Vitamin B tablet.  I don’t know what it does.  I don’t ask. I am a husband, Yes dear, Yes dear.

Vampire

Next was Vitamin D, I took a tablet a day.  Last year’s blood test revealed that I am low on Vitamin D.  It has to do with my vampire lifestyle schedule – up all night, sleep all day.  I don’t get enough sunlight.  (It burns!  It burns!)  The doctor insists that I take two.  I take a multivitamin tablet laced with something to keep my retinas from deteriorating.

This year’s physical revealed that I have ‘Old Man’s Disease’, my prostate is swollen.  It also showed that my thyroid is running a bit slow.  Perhaps that’s a small part of my weight gain.  I am now taking medication for both of those.  Only ten pills a day, 9 of them before breakfast, and a heavy-duty pain pill a couple of hours before dawn, to help me get to sleep.  I now take four ‘little blue pills’, and not one of them made by Pfizer – although the doctor did offer me Cialis.

I’m on a call-back list for a Neurologist, from my eye problem of a couple of years ago, but my Ophthalmologist visits are down to once a year.  My long-time Optometrist recently died suddenly, but I’ve found a nice young female replacement.

The duct of a fat gland in my back stopped up and it swelled a bit.  Nothing to worry about – until it infected and grew as big as half an orange, making it difficult to sit or lie down.  It burst before I got to see a surgeon, but now I’m on his call list, because another gland is swelling.

Because of the enlarged prostate, I have an appointment to see a Urologist.  I’d sooner suffer another colonoscopy.  You’re going to push what, up where?  I’m waiting for an appointment with a Dermatology surgeon because I have a couple of suspect skin growths.  I have yet to acquire a Rheumatologist, although the most recent spike of incipient arthritis had me barely hobbling for a week.

I have had empathy for the wife and daughter (and any of the rest of you who suffer these accretions of ‘minor’ problems) thrust upon me.

The most unfair thing about life is the way it
ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot
of your time.  What do you get at the end of it?
A death. What’s that, a bonus?

I think the life cycle is all backwards.
You should die first; get it out of the way.
Then you live in an old age home.

You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get
a gold watch when you go to work. You work forty
years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement!

You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you
get ready for high school! You go to grade school,
you become a kid, you play, you have no
responsibilities, you become a little baby, you
go back into the womb, you spend your last nine
months floating…you finish off as a gleam.

Here’s hoping that my list of pills and specialists doesn’t grow to match the wife’s, but even if it does, it beats the alternative.  (Did I mention that my ass gets sore from sitting at the computer too much?)

Advertisements

Ginter Gardens

Hello there. Do you have lung cancer? Does anyone you know have lung cancer? Then you probably hate Lewis Ginter without ever having met him or knowing who he was.

On the other hand, if you love flowers and plants and gardens and landscaping, you might possibly forgive him.

Ginter 6

Hi there! This is Archon, your unpaid  😦  travel advisor again.  I know it’s already a bit late in the summer, but I have another place I recommend to go. Perhaps keep it in mind for next year. My wife, the gardening guru, and I, enjoyed a lovely day there a few years ago. I’m talking about the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, in north Richmond, Virginia.

Ginter 2

Born in 1824, of Dutch ancestry, originally from New York, Lewis Ginter moved to Richmond when he was 18. He made a considerable fortune, first through retail merchandising, then manufacturing, real estate development, and investments during the Civil War

After the war he got into tobacco and cigarettes. At one time he had a plant with 1000 young women rolling cigarettes. Other manufacturers started using mechanical rolling machines. Ginter designed and had built, even more efficient machines, making him more money, and producing more smokers.

Ginter 7

He was a philanthropist, donating money, often anonymously, to many charities. He created quite a development, outside of the north end of Richmond, for the privileged rich. He had a stream dammed to create a lake for paddling, and had trees and flowers planted. When bicycling became popular in the Gay 90s, he built a cycling club.

Ginter 3

The area around his property, Lakeside Estate was constantly beautified with the addition of flowers, trees and landscaping. When he died in 1897, he left it to a niece to continue his work. She renamed it Bloemendaal, Dutch for ‘Blooming Valley’, in honor of their heritage. She established a progressive farm, and built an orphanage for homeless Richmond children.

Ginter 1

Later she expanded the garden aspect and named it the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. It has six different garden types and areas, including a water garden, and a Japanese garden. It’s a beautiful place, and the sights and smells are enthralling.

Ginter 4

His (later, her) mansion is still standing. There is a magnificent Ginkgo tree, and an olive tree almost as big as an oak. Its huge branches are held together with steel cables to prevent it splitting. We were allowed a partial tour of the inside. I had a small, silent chuckle when the tour guide described the niece’s old age. In the year 2000, the word ‘slaves’ could still not be used, and even ‘servants’ apparently caused some consternation. She finally spluttered out, ‘the people who helped her’, all of whom I imagine were Negro.

Ginter 5

It’s quick and easy to get to, right off I-85. The entry fee is reasonable. Food and drink are available, or, you are allowed to bring your own and have a picnic. It’s a gorgeous, peaceful place to spend a day if you can get there. Click the link above to the Gardens’ website for hours of operation and maps, or access Wikipedia for Ginter Gardens – and post pictures after you get back.

Ginter 8  Stony Man’s younger brother

#496

Ode To CWC6161

Also, OWED to CWC6161

BrainRants was the first blog I found.  When I began infesting it with my random comments, it was from the commenters, rather than his blogroll, that I found and chose other bloggers’ posts to read.  One of the first, and the nicest, was a lovely lady named Candice W. Coghill.  Her blog I.D. is her initials, along with, what I believe is/was her age, twice.

Feeling that only grumpy old male dudes like me were curmudgeons, she wrote under the blog-name, The Kindly Hermudgeon, a softer, kinder, gentler female version.  I was impressed with, and attracted by her comments, and apparently she felt the same about me and mine.  When I got my own site up and running she was a regular reader/commenter, and one of my earliest followers.  It was she who reminded me to add a “Follow Me” widget.

I commented often on her site, which at that time, was largely about her personal life.  That first November, before I was “On The Net”, she participated in the NaNoWriMo, pumping out 2000 words a day for three weeks, and using the final week for editing and polishing.  I offered to refrain from distracting her, but she assured me that my online presence was welcome.  She was the first to send me a blog award, when I’d only published 14 posts.

As a long-term loner, I often have to work at accepting others as friends.  Such was not the case with The Hermudgeon.  She was intelligent, knowledgeable, literate, friendly, welcoming, supportive….the list goes on and on.  We were instant friends.  Despite being a couple of years younger than me, she was almost a web-mother to me, or a loving, caring sister, so unlike the psychotic minefield I shared ancestry with.

She lived in a little Atlantic coastal Florida town which shares my Scottish clan name.  I used Google Maps satellite view to see her frame house on a small inland bay.  I told her of passing almost within stone’s-throw distance as I had driven down to Key West.  I mentioned a central character in a book I was reading, who was recruited from her tiny town.  I told her of finding another Florida woman, half her age, with exactly the same name, a pill-dispensing medical worker, who liked to be called Candy Popper.  Not impressed with that name, she denied being related.

She was very dedicated to becoming a published author and helped many others in their quest.  Later posts were writing tips and tutorials, knitting-circle-type meetings, and real-time addresses from writers who had made it.  This woman was just Industrial Strength support and help to all she could reach.

Sadly, she had developed inoperable abdominal cancer behind her navel.  Many of her later posts told of radiation treatment and chemotherapy, which were provided by a mobile clinic, housed in a medium-sized jet airplane.  This aircraft flew from city to city, with a rotating schedule.  She got to know the doctor in charge, the nurses, and the flight crew.

She told of their care and concern, and how she had trouble working for two or three days after a treatment, because of weakness and disorientation.  She wrote of Doc Magic feeling that things were under control….but then of the ogre rearing its ugly head once more.

Because her blog had become about commercial writing and being published, I didn’t drop in as often as I had early on, but still stopped by occasionally, with a Like, a short comment and a word of support and hope.  Just about a year ago, on July 11, 2012, her posts suddenly stopped.  I dropped in every couple of days, then once a week, then twice a month – nothing.

I did a search, and found a mostly-English blog-site in France, and thought she’d moved, possibly for medical reasons.  When I paid a bit of attention, I realized that it was stagnant, with posts and comments a year and a half old.  Questions to some of her other regulars revealed that no-one had any information on where she had gone, or what had happened to her.

She was a fighter, and she treated me far better than I deserved.  I can only hope that she simply doesn’t have the time and strength to spare for blogging.  On March 20 of this year, I accessed her final post, and left the comment, “Goodbye sweet Angel.  You will be greatly missed!”  My daughter, LadyRyl, also got to know and like her very much.  She joins me to worry and wonder, to fear the worst, hope for the best, and miss this fine lady very much.  I checked her site again before publishing this tribute.  What may forever remain the final comment, is still, “Awaiting moderation.”

Statistics Status Stasis

I’ve seen other bloggers gleefully, boastfully, posting about their year-end WordPress stats.  Much against my own advice and better judgement, I’ve decided to serve up a little tale of my own results.

I don’t remember WordPress presenting stats, last year.  Even if they did, I only managed to get out two posts in late November, and another two in December, before the *Flu To End All Flus* almost ended me, and F….ouled up my vision.  I could barely run the keyboard, much less the WordPress platform.

Over the past year, I’ve improved and increased my output, but still didn’t set the world on fire.  The fireworks on my report consisted of a picture of the kid next door, with a birthday candle in a cupcake.  In my report’s reference to Mount Everest, apparently the cargo plane hasn’t even landed at the airport in Nepal.  If my output were compared to Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill, he’d still only be halfway up, the first time.

Actually, not setting the world on fire with my prose is not a disappointment.  It was neither an expectation nor a desire, when I started.  Veni, Vidi, Vocab.  You came, you read, and you commented, and for that, I am greatly gratified.  I continue to read, and be read by, some interesting and impressive people.

Actually, a couple of things about the daily report, interest and confuse me more than anything in the big year-end wrap-up.  Along with other bloggers, I am surprised by the themes of posts which seem to attract the most views.  Post something about Native poverty, or religious intolerance, and get the usual crowd slouching through, kicking the tires.  Put up a little fluff piece, and have to step back into a corner, to keep from having my toes stepped on.

My most visited piece this past year, was a (hopefully) humorous acceptance speech for a blog award which had been flung at me.  For three or four months, my most-visited day was 71 viewers.  Near the beginning of December, suddenly that same day was only worth 69 views.  Wha’ happun??  Did two of my readers die?!

I offer that possibility flippantly, but, one of my followers is a cancer sufferer, and another is a hopefully recovering drug/alcohol addict who was missing for about three months, because she had a car crash.  Neither has posted in months.  I am concerned!  Can any of you techies out there explain why my reported viewership is shrinking?  I believe I remember Edward Hotspur mentioning that the same thing had happened to him.

The other thing which baffles me, is the new, “so many actual visitors/so many different page-views” daily report.  During one day, when I checked, the report showed 5 visitors, and 6 separate views….yet I had 10 *likes*!  Somewhat later in the day, when my ego drove me to check again, it still showed only 5 visitors….but now 7 different views, even though all views were of the most recent post, and I now had 11 *likes*.

Again, if one of you who understand WordPress workings wishes to explain its arcane actuarial tables, I’m interested, but not concerned.  When I reached my one-hundredth post, I expressed concern about coming up with more blog-themes.  It may have been like driving past a traffic accident, but apparently I entertain a few folks, and was urged to continue posting my digital diarrhea.  I’m now near 140 posts, and occasional ideas continue to pop up.  You’ll not get rid of me easily.  I’m goin’ out typing and tapping….

……Gerry Seinfeld just called.  He said, Enough of the Yada-Yada, Nothin’ already, put this puppy to bed before all my readers doze off.  I just threw this post together because I wanted something time-sensitive.  I’ll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen.   I’ll be back soon with a Christmas-cookie photo spread, and some more serious fare.  A Happy New Year to all, and to all – good blogging.

NoMoWriSo

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  I first ran into it about a year ago as I began blogging.  A lady writer, whose blog I had been reading and commenting on, gave it a try.  I offered to stop bugging her for a month, but she felt she could handle both tasks.

You are expected to produce a short novel of fifty-thousand words, in thirty days, an average of 1667 words per day.  It would be a good idea to get out ahead of that, and produce 2000 words a day at the beginning, to give yourself time at the end for proofreading and editing.

H. E. Ellis has been encouraging me to “write” but the creative muse still hasn’t tasered me.  Perhaps if I come up with a story line, I may try it at a later date.  I’ve published more than twice that amount on this site; it just took me a year to do it, a thousand words at a time.

November is also Movember, when the more testosterone-laden among us, male and female, are urged to grow mustaches as evidence of support for education about, and eradication of, prostate cancer.  Much as I would like to be one of the guys, especially at my enlarged age, I can’t grow a mustache, not unless I shave off the one I already sport, and start all over again.

My father wore a mustache, pretty much all of his life.  I’ve seen photos of him during W.W. II, even before I was born, and he had a mustache then.  Without consciously copying him, I’ve also had a ‘stache since shortly after we were married.  Nothing outlandish, no Fu Manchu, no Mexican gunfighter, and definitely no David Crosby soup-strainer.  I don’t know how guys can stand those things. I hate it when one side of my mouth collapses and follows a bite of sandwich in.

Back in 1965, when I was enrolled in the Adult Education scholastic upgrade course, I didn’t shave for a week.  I came to school on the Monday, and the uptight Accounting professor demanded to know what I thought I was doing.  I explained that I was going to grow in a mustache and a neat VanDyke beard.  Oh no!  You can’t do that!  Shave it off!  It wasn’t till much later that I was appalled at the nerve of this man making judgements on what I could and could not do with my own face.

A couple of years later, after I became a husband and father, I decided to skip the beard, but grow in a mustache.  My wife actually prefers me with a beard, and has encouraged me to grow one on several occasions.  Five years or so after the mustache first appeared, I grew in a big, bushy, Grizzly Adams one, and kept it for over five years.

Many years later, I started riding motorcycles, and the beard came back each winter.  You see it in my Gravatar.  Up here on the frozen tundra, I still rode my bikes nine months a year.  I could put up with the cold, as long as the streets weren’t snowy or iced.  I found that a heavy beard below my full-face helmet kept the cold winds out.

I had three levels of gloves, from thin to insulated thick, because that’s where a motorcyclist feels the cold most.  Snowmobilers often have heaters installed in their handlebars, to keep their hands warm.  Each winter I thought about doing it to my bike, but never got around to it.  As the temperatures plunged, my rides got shorter and shorter, till I was down to just the 15 minute ride to and from work.

One year, December 21 was the last Friday I worked before Christmas.  Since there’d been no snow, I still took the bike.  The coldest day I ever rode was another year when the temperature at 6:30 AM, as I left for the shop, was minus 18 C (0 F.).  The heat dissipation fins on the engine become your best friends when you stop for a red light.

Our son has inherited some of the wife’s Italian genes.  You can’t braid the hair on his back, but he comes well supplied.  I was taking a night, Business Law course the evening he was born.  I went to the hospital after class, and looked in the nursery for my son.  I eliminated all the pink ID slips and scanned the blue ones for one with our name, but couldn’t see one.  As I went down the hall to the wife’s room, I passed this hairy little monster with motorcycle goggles, under a spotlight.  I told the wife I hadn’t seen our cute little child, but had spotted this little Hell’s-Gnome.

She said to get used to it; that was the one we had to take home.  He had been born severely jaundiced, and they put him under an ultra-violet lamp to assist in clearing the toxins.  Ordinary babies just got sleeping masks, to protect their eyes.  With the full head of hair he had, his kept slipping off, so they had to install the biker shades.  With his huge head, the wife had to hold him erect, when his aunt gave him his first haircut at three months of age.

At twelve, his Grade 8 teacher suggested that he shave off his black incipient mustache.  He did, but when he went to high school in the fall, he just let it grow.  By thirteen, he had a better mustache than any of his teachers.  At about twenty, he grew in the Grizzly Adams beard to go with it, and has not looked back in twenty years.

Neither he nor I can do anything for the cause, that we’re not already doing.  So, there you have my twin excuses.  No Mostache growing, no Writing a novel, So what?

Motor City Madness – Pt. 2

Being There

When we checked into our motel, it didn’t take long to find that the shortage of rooms was not caused by college football.  The desk clerk told me that the refinery and storage area ten miles up the highway was having a lot of work done and there were a couple of hundred workers, spread out over the nearby motels.  I knew the refinery.  We pass it every time we come down.  There’s one fifty-foot spherical tank.  It used to be painted white, with stitches on it, to represent Detroit Tigers baseball.  Now it’s brown, with seams, sponsored by the Detroit Pistons basketball team.

The boys had moved in and made themselves at home.  There were five big ten-ton earth mover trucks parked mostly out of the way.  All except for one guy, who managed to neatly back his rig sideways into a little area for five cars.  One room had a barbeque outside on the grass.

When I went down to the office on Saturday morning, there were five of them having bottled beer for breakfast.  Down the balcony, someone, or -ones, had constructed a fairly large web of empty beer cans.  I don’t know how they got them to hang together.  That might have been a Friday night construction.  They weren’t loud and rowdy, and at least they didn’t empty the ice machine.

When I went to the office there was a young female hanging on the balcony rail.  The thought that went through my head was, Sex in a motel room.  But everybody has sex in motel rooms.  Maybe someone was getting small bills to pay her off.  I thought I might get propositioned.  I did!  Just not by her.  As I headed down the stairs I saw a young slender Negro male *wandering*.  It caught my attention.  If motel guests aren’t in their rooms, they’re going somewhere definite.  This kid was loitering.

When I came back up, he was loitering in the opposite direction, away from my room, and said something to me.  Thick lips, he spoke quietly and quickly.  I didn’t catch the question.  The second try I heard him ask me if I was in room 251.  That was the direction he was facing, but not me.  I told him, no!  “Are you sure you’re not in 251?”  “No, my room’s down here.”  As I started to walk away, he sidled closer.  “Can I ask you something?  Are you straight?”  Yes sweetie, and I even brought my wife to prove it.  The next day I told the clerk, and she said, “Oh, that’s why he hangs around.  I thought he was dealing drugs.”  No fuss, no complaints, there’s no reason to call the cops.

These petroleum workers are a specialized bunch, and come from all over the eastern United States. I saw licence plates from Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Florida.  There was also a three-man paramedic crew.  They serve the entire five-mile square city of Taylor.  Like firemen, they’re on duty 24 hours, but don’t have a firehouse to sleep in.  While I was talking to one, the alarm went off and the ambulance and supervisor car quickly disappeared.

The day clerk has worked there for 26 years, and recognized the wife and me, as she does most of her long-time repeat customers.  We went a mile up the road to an Outback restaurant for supper.  They have traded their little flying saucer pagers for rectangular ones like TV remotes.  The booking clerk told me the wait could be as much as an hour, but we got buzzed in, in about twenty minutes.  The grandson liked the Blooming Onion so much, we ordered a second, and he took the leftover home to share….a little bit with his fiancée.  The next morning we made a picnic lunch and headed for the knife show.

The spring knife shows we’ve attended have been in the Rock Financial Center.  Rock recently sold out, and it is now known simply as the Suburban Display Center.  It has five huge halls.  The spring knife show is always in conjunction with a guns and ammo show.  The two groups split the cost, guns at the front, knives in the back.  For one admission, we get two shows.  Even the wife likes to look at some of the old blunderbusses.

The fall show is held by itself in a Knights of Columbus hall, about half the size of the back end at The Rock.  There were 20/25 displays, only one of whom was an actual maker.  The rest were either collectors or purveyors, with one knifemaker’s-supplies vendor thrown in.  Collectors and purveyors are essentially the same.  They both buy knives as cheaply as they can, and hopefully sell them at a profit.  The purveyor does it as a business, to support himself.  The collector only sells when he has reached his monetary investment limit.  He will sell older knives, to be able to afford to buy more, newer knives.

Custom knife makers laughingly call these shows “Rusty jackknife shows”, because of the presence of a lot of cheap factory-made folders.  The grandson saw a good-looking folder and tried to open the blade, only to find it jammed, justifying the epithet.  He did get a new, nice looking, aluminum handled knife for work for $5.  One seller had a box of knives with a hand-printed sign that read:  Any knife in the box for $5 $4 $3 $2 3 for $5.

The wife picked up a tiny cute folder, about two inches long, as a letter opener, for $1.  She also bought a rosewood handled paring knife for $50.  It’s only 6 inches long for good leverage.  The handles are extra thick for better grip with her weak hands.  The blade has a belly, for easy cutting and is made of 52100 type steel.  This is what they make ball bearings from.  It will take and keep a fine edge, but needs to have a slight coating of vegetable oil after each use.

It was a low-stress show, with a low turn-out, and all of the vendors being older folks, willing to take the time to answer all questions and socialize with us.  As usual, I didn’t buy a knife, but, not as usual, I was finished and ready to leave while the wife and grandspawn were still inside, gabbing up a storm.

Tomorrow we go shopping.

P.S.

The ever-busy H E Ellis has a great project going on over at her site.  She’s trying to raise money, and some smiles, for all cancer patients, and one little girl patient in particular.  Drop by her blog at www.heellisgoa.com and sign up to help.