Smaller Mercies (#290)My mom's kind of losing it, you might have figured out by now. I just spent four hours with her and she said a hundred goofy things, many of them to doctors and nurses, who looked at me like I knew what she was talking about.
Some days, it takes all my powers of concentration to untwist what she says and accurately explain to another what she means.
I filled out reams of paperwork for her upcoming surgery, taking way longer to document her medical history than the operation itself will take. Then two nurses and an anesthesiologist questioned her about what I'd written, as if she had a clue.
"So, you're allergic to penicillin," Nurse Ann said.
"What happens to you?"
"I get bumps all over."
"Yes, hives. But it hasn't happened for a very long time...I don't work out in the yard anymore."
Nurse Ann looked at me for the interpretation, as if my mother had spoken in tongues and I was responsible for making her message clear. I shrugged slightly to indicate my ignorance, but I continued to ponder this in my heart.
Nurse Donna took over for round two. "So, I see here you're allergic to penicillin."
"Yes," my mother said. "And I'm allergic to one other thing, too...(Her voice and facial expression both trail off at this point.) But I don't think it has anything to do with surgery."
"What is it?" Nurse Donna asked, but not without cutting a glance to me first.
"That thing that happens when you go outside."
Now they're both looking at me as if I'm Moses just come down from the mountain.
"Poison ivy?" I ask.
"That's it." My mother is all smiles now, satisfied that it only took three of us to make one whole woman.
It was a relief to get out of there. I want to help my mother retain the dignity she still has, to allow her to answer her own questions, to not speak up for her prematurely. But it's not always easy, especially when I sense others are impatient with her ramblings.
On the way through the lobby, I spied the widest wheelchair I've ever seen. I pictured wheeling my mother (no petite specimen) out in it after her knee surgery, and ascertained that it just might do the trick.
"Look at that wheelchair, Mom," I said. "That's what I'd call a double-wide."
She examined it in all its glory.
"So," she answered, "would that be for, like....twins?"
That's all it took to make the day a keeper.
Posted by Katy on 09/13/04
I’ll See It When I Believe It (#291)I'm taking my mom over to the hospital this morning, for some pre-op testing. She's having knee surgery next Monday. (Oh, joy...)
St. Joseph's has added so many wings and buildings that it's hardly recognizable anymore. I had to call over there just now to ask which building we should target.
I could have just called the main number for the hospital, which I've had memorized since we started making ER runs with little kids 25 years ago. But I thought if I looked it up, there might be a direct line for "Outpatient Surgery" or something similar.
I scanned the list of extensions and found the usual suspects: Patient Information, Emergency Quick Care, Pain Management, Outpatient Rehab Therapy, Human Resources, Cardiac Care, and Pre-Delivery Services.
No such listing as "Outpatient Surgery," but I found one that should come in handy when her surgery's over and done.
Oh, wait. That would be "Billing Inquiries."
Sometimes, try as I might, I see exactly what I believe.
Posted by Katy on 09/13/04
Did I Say That? (#292)Doug had a chance to play golf in a church tournament today, and it sounded like too much fun to pass up. I think he felt a little guilty about it, though, because he's been away more than usual recently.
"But I'm really, really going to miss you," he said, in his typical romantic fashion.
"Honey, you should go and have fun," I responded, sounding pretty convincing, if I do say so myself. "Don't worry about me. I'm used to being missed."
Where do I come up with this stuff?
Posted by Katy on 09/11/04
Making It Out Alive (#293)From a man who made it out of a tower three years ago today: "I don't think any of us will ever fully recover. And that's all right...that's all right. That's the cost of survival."
Survival never comes cheap.
Posted by Katy on 09/11/04
The Still Me Voice (#294)I talk to myself a lot. And mostly, it's just to hear the sound of my own voice.
I'm not alone all that much. Kevin still lives with us, and Doug and I both work at home. In fact, I concentrate during the day on not interrupting my husband more than necessary, since he's not one of those multi-tasking whizzes who can carry on a lively conversation with me about the presidential campaign or the hurricanes or the terrorists in Russia while simultaneously composing a sales proposal or doing a little back-end programming on a corporate website he's designing.
So, except for a daily foray of energetic commenting on OPBs (Other People's Blogs), I'm a quiet chick. But as soon as the guys leave and the lock turns on the door, it gets pretty noisy around here. I remind myself of Toy Story, where all the teddy bears and dolls and soldiers come alive as soon as the little kids leave the room.
I start singing "I Need You At the Dimmin' Of the Day" (loudly and badly, and with all the flourishes inherent in traditional Irish tunes), acting out parts of musicals ("I feel pretty, oh so pretty...") in front of any mirror I pass, reciting pieces of old political speeches that make me feel alive ("I have nothing to offer you but blood, sweat, and tears...")and behaving more like the Katy of my childhood than I ever do otherwise.
Some people say it's okay to talk to yourself, but if you ever start answering yourself, watch out. For years, I stopped short of answering myself, carrying on sililoquies with only declarative sentences and rhetorical questions, but I finally gave up the fight.
Now, I have the singular pleasure of being intrigued with both my questions and my answers.
Yeah, you might as well know the truth. I talk to myself a lot. And mostly, it's just to hear the sound of my own voice.
Posted by Katy on 09/10/04
Making a (Nativity) Scene (#295)So I'm in Sam's Club, shopping for Doug's birthday (Happy Birthday, babe!)and I can't help noticing that they've got my favorite aisle all re-done.
You know the one--it's one aisle behind the books, and at this time of the year, they switch it back to holiday stuff. Every year, I manage to find something I love in that aisle, usually a giant teddy bear Santa Claus or something equally endearing.
From a distance, among the animated life-sized reindeer, I spy what looks like a really lovely Nativity scene. The figures are large enough that the scene could be set up on my hearth and look great, scale-wise.
Of course, the characters populating the fabricated creche are white, except for the requisite black king. We all know they shouldn't really be white-white, if realistic probable skin color of the original creche residents matters. Perhaps they should be more olive-skinned or, as some say would be most accurate, black.
As I got a little closer to inspect the tag for the price, I got a piece of political correctness I won't soon forget. There, in black and white (so to speak), were the words "African-American Nativity scene available online."
Jesus isn't a liberal or a conservative, I think we can agree. He certainly isn't a Democrat or Republican, as much as we might wish he'd commit. Lately, when we'd like to hope that God is on our side in world affairs, we've been cautioned to remember that Jesus isn't even an American.
An African Jesus is just all right with me, since I'm not sure the jury is in on this subject. But African-American?
Can someone explain this to me?
Posted by Katy on 09/09/04
Whistle Stop (#296)My sister Bridget, not a President Bush fan, is nonetheless going to be in an audience of his in less than a hour in Warrensburg, Missouri.
And she's pretty darned excited!
The president just finished speaking to a crowd of ten thousand at Lee's Summit High School, and is scheduled to speak in Sedalia in two hours. The local news doesn't even seem to know he's stopping in Warrensburg, but Bridget's got an inside scoop.
Her hubby, Jim, is a Warrensburg cop, who just got pulled in this morning to do security for Bush's impromptu stop.
You heard it here first! While unaware Warrensburgers are lined up along Highway 50 between Lee's Summit and Sedalia, waving flags from the beds of their pick-up trucks, Bridget and Jim will be within arm's length of the man.
ETA: 11:15 am, according to my brother-in-law, who ought to know.
Posted by Katy on 09/07/04
Why Doug and Katy Should Never Skip Church (#297)We've had such an entertainment-intensive weekend at the Kansas City Irish Fest that we end up sleeping in this morning, and missing church.
So we're in bed, drinking coffee, watching Fox News coverage of hurricane Frances. Since we're playing hookie, we briefly discuss assuaging our guilt by making a contribution to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
It doesn't seem like enough, somehow.
Then a Coast Guard officer appears to speak about a rescue they've made in the waters off Florida, and we are drawn even deeper into the plight of those in the storm's path.
"How would you like to be called a Rear Admiral?" Doug asks.
I look at him, pondering his somber eyes until I've encountered the very depths of his soul. I can think of no answer profound enough to offer. He sees that I am speechless, so he completes the thought himself.
"Your rear's admiral-able."
We'd better write a couple of checks.
Posted by Katy on 09/05/04
A Writer’s Motto (#298)Benjamin Franklin said it best. There's little point in me trying to improve upon his advice:
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
And, hey, if you can do and write at the same time, more power...
Posted by Katy on 09/01/04
People Pleasing (#299)What would you be doing with your life if you didn't care what people thought of you? What is it that you really want to do, that you even suspect you might have been created to do?
If you're already doing it, how did you get past being concerned about the opinions, wishes and criticisms of others?
Hey, my dad's been dead twenty years, and I'm still trying to please him. Although I'm starting to think that if the straight A's didn't do it ("Why aren't these A+s?"), it ain't gonna happen.
Put another way, what are you doing with your life, because of the expectations of others, that you'd rather not be doing?
Either way, is there a small step you can take today to move you closer to what you envision for your life?
Life is short, you know, and getting shorter all the time.
Posted by Katy on 08/30/04
Every Season Under Heaven (#300)"Can you believe something so beautiful was created in one night?"
My lifelong friend, Amy, sat drinking coffee with me at my kitchen table. We stared in awe through the patio door, at the enormous spider web which began on the roofline and extended to the edge of the picnic table ten feet away.
If we'd put a song on the stereo right about then, I'm thinking it would have been the Byrds singing "Turn, Turn, Turn." You know, to everything there is a season.
On Saturday, it was the season to marry off our first-born child.
"How do spiders do it?" we asked each other. "And why? It seems like the webs are never there very long. They put all that work into it and then..."
I looked at the clock. "Grab a muffin, girlfriend. It's time to build."
We hustled into her car, heading for the Arts Incubator in downtown Kansas City, where Scott and Brooke would be holding their reception later that night. On our way down the road, the sunshine broke through the foggy dew just enough to reveal dozens of webs like the one in my backyard, all so gorgeous and intricate and amazing that Amy stopped the car several times to snap pictures of them.
By the time we arrived at the gallery at ten, the hands of a dozen friends and family members of the bride and groom were hard at work. Some assembled trays of homemade cookies, others arranged tables with cloths and candles, still others filled metal tubs with an assortment of water bottles and Coke cans--each one weaving a piece of a marvelous web.
By two o'clock, the work was done. We had turned the space into a wonderful venue for the party our children had envisioned.
The bride's parents exchanged looks with us, and smiled through veiled tears. We knew all too well that less than twelve hours later, we'd be tearing down everything we'd built.
Amy and I headed back to the house to get dressed for the wedding. As we drove up the final stretch of road, I saw her reach for her camera again. She slowed the car in front of the two trees along my driveway where just hours ago a perfect web had been spun between them.
"Just like that," I snapped my fingers, "they're gone..."
She groaned, and we both knew we weren't talking about spiders any more.
A time to build, a time to tear down.
A time to hold on, a time to let go.
"Can you believe," she said, "something so beautiful will be created again tonight?"
A time to love.
Posted by Katy on 08/24/04
Tell It to Oprah (#301)Poor New Jersey Governor James McGreevey. If only he was black, he wouldn't have to resort to identifying himself as a statesmanlike-sounding "gay American."
If only he was black, he could just say he's living on the down low and be done with it.
Posted by Katy on 08/17/04
Life Line (#302)If you had to name one line from a book, movie, or song, a single line which has changed your life--perhaps forever!--what would it be?
There's a line in Leon Uris's novel Trinity which I return to daily. It's become a stalwart standard of absolute truth in my rapidly changing world.
In the scene, an old, poverty-stricken Irish mother has just set the table with a humble meal of home-grown very red meat, vegetables, and black bread. She turns to her adult sons and their mistrusting friend from the city--who fancies himself used to finer fare--and says with pride, "Don't be afraid of the butter."
How could that line not change my life? In those few words, I came to know that it's the trans-fats that are to be feared, not the God-given butter.
How about you? Give me one good line.
Posted by Katy on 08/16/04
The Benefits of Heritage (#303)I read the other day that Jesse Jackson was the first person to use the term African American, back in the sixties.
Who knows if it's true? One thing seems certain: Whoever did coin the term probably didn't have Teresa Heinz Kerry in mind.
Check out the fourth paragraph of the article. I thought I paid attention to Teresa's speech at the dem convention, but I missed this.
OK, so she's an African American. By the same token, so to speak, that makes me a Native American.
So her husband secures the African American vote, if for no other good reason than he has an African American wife?
I'm fine with that. I just figured out my kids are entitled to college free-of-charge.
Ain't labels grand?
Posted by Katy on 08/12/04
Yeah, What She Said (#304)One of my very favorite authors, Lisa Samson, who's taking a breather before beginning her next book, reveals this on her blog:
"Woke up at 4 a.m. the morning before yesterday with the best idea of my writing career. Don't you love it when that happens? I mean, you feel like God might have nudged your shoulder and whispered it as you came to consciousness. So much so, you hesitate to even take credit for it. But I'm excited. And after the sabbatical, I'll be ready to hit the ground running. Here's hoping your day is filled with new, great ideas and that God whispers in your ear."
I awakened at 4 a.m. drenched in sweat. Don't you hate it when that happens? The attic fan purred and the room temp must have been 55 degrees or less, if that's even possible in August in Kansas City.
I was on fire, not with fever, but with terror.
In my hours-long nightmare, which I fervently hope did not have its origins with a merciful God, Doug and I struggled to get ready and arrive on time for a wedding. And not just any wedding, of course--the wedding we've waited for since we first started having dreams for our children.
You see, in real life, our oldest son Scott will marry his sweetheart Brooke on August 21. Please join me in praying that my dream had nothing to do with real life.
As terror would have it, Doug and I left the house to pick up some relatives who live far, far away. Until we arrived at their home, I didn't realize I'd forgotten my wedding clothes, jewelry, hair stuff, shoes, and purse.
There was no time to turn back, no open stores, no hope at all except to make do with what these relatives happened to have on hand--not if we were to get to the wedding in time to see the groom kiss the bride.
So I made do. OMG, did I make do...
The whole family of relatives scrambled to my aid, God bless them. Little Logan lended me her tarnished silver stick pin with the "L," and even put it on me. Yes, me. It seems that in nightmares, stick pins are no longer stuck through the bodice of a dress, poked back through the front of the fabric, and topped off with a little cap.
These nights, the three-inch-long pin is stuck in the top of the hand, passed under a vein or two, and popped out near the wrist.
It didn't hurt, exactly, and almost looked attractive after Logan put the matching ring on my thumb.
My hair was another matter. In a premium-channel dream, I'd have gone to the beauty parlor, or had the stylist come to the church to attend to all the ladies in the wedding party. In a basic-cable dream, my daughter Carrie would have run a curling iron through my hair and I'd be thrilled.
In my 4 a.m. nothing-good's-on-TV version, my nephew Brendan handed me his 1/2 inch buzzer and let me have at it.
"Take off some more on the back, Aunt Katy," he urged. Why didn't I pay more attention to the new, sleazy tone in his voice? "...and the top on the left side's way too long. Yeah, that's it..."
By the time the rotten kid led me to a mirror, I looked like an Hassidic Jew who'd lost his religion.
The wedding was about to start and we were hours from the church, so we all piled into my brother's van and plowed down the highway. But what was I going to wear? The sweaty orange nightgown sure wasn't going to cut it.
By the time we pulled up to the church, my well-meaning sister-in-law, Cyndi, and her three freaky kids had outfitted me in an assortment of stuff they kept in the glove compartment for nightmares like this.
I emerged from the van just in time to see Scott and Brooke, all aglow in freshly-thrown rice, climb into a stretch and be chauffered into idyllic married life.
I waved bon voyage to my son and his beatific bride before looking down.
Cyndi had sausaged me into a pair of gold lamme stirrup pants that accentuated my hip and thigh bulges exquisitely. Actually, with the right shoes--and Shaylyn's blue plastic Nike soccer slides weren't the right shoes--and a long tunic, the pants might have worked.
Too bad the turquoise spandex sports bra didn't cut it. Although I must say, the color did wonderful justice to the veins in my stomach.
It was a good thing I didn't let the kids apply any mascara, 'cause I bawled my shaved head off.
I'm not jealous of other people's dreams and I try not to be picky but please, dear God.
Can't I just have what Lisa Samson's having?
Posted by Katy on 08/12/04