Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go and the Stories You'll Hear

Welcome back to this week's tour of the infirmary. Today we take Val's mom to get eight stitches removed from her face. A simple feat, you might think. But you are forgetting that we're talking about Val and her mom, out on the town, together again.

Mom hopped into T-Hoe with a bouffant to rival early Dolly Parton. "I didn't put any medicine on my face today. I figured I could do that after I get home." I could not even see Mom's incision. She had that hair all teased up with a silver metal rattail comb so it made a protective layer over her cut like a cone of cotton candy.

"That's probably not good for it. Those hairs are getting stuck in the stitches."

"That's all right. Those stitches are coming out."

In the waiting room, a pharmaceutical rep had the nerve to sit in the chair right next to Mom. Mom had already turned her body toward me, and the rep had turned away from Mom as well, to type into her drug-selling device. Mom fiddled with her hair on that side, twisting it and forming a barrier.

"I swear! Let it alone! What if you had this? THIS? This Frankenstein scar on your throat like me? That looks like my head is about to fall off. If you had that, you would part your hair in the middle, and tie both sides together down under your chin, like a beard."

"No I wouldn't. I would wear a scarf."

"It's ninety-five degrees out there! Deal with it like I do. A scar's a scar. It's part of you. People get used to it. Own your scar. If it was that big a deal, you should have asked for a plastic surgeon."

"Well, you have to understand, this is major surgery for me. It's the first time I ever had stitches. Except for the time I had that operation on my breast." She whispered that last word.

"Oh, and I suppose that didn't bother you at all. That you flaunted it. 'Look! Look! I have stitches! See my stitches?' Yeah. I'll bet you plopped it right out there for all to see."

"Yes I did." Mom sometimes gets a bit horsey when I take things too far.

She was called in, and I followed. She said I could. But when I instructed her to say, "Oh, you come in with me," when called, she refused. "You can come in if you want. But I'm not going to say that." Hmpf! I guess I DID go too far.

I had told Mom that the doctor would probably not take out the stitches himself. That he has people to do that for him. She said she would demand that he do it himself. That demand flew out the window when he popped his head in and told his nurse to do it for him. She was a tiny little thing with silky black hair (not unlike that of my sweet, sweet Juno--I wonder if this gal likes raw eggs) wearing fuschia sweatpants and a black knit shirt. So much for scrubs around the office.

"What ARE you?" Mom asked. Perhaps a bit politically incorrectly. The little gal had an accent.

"What do you mean?"

"Are you a student? A nurse? A nurse practitioner? Why do you do these things? Have you done them before or are you just learning?"

"I'm a nurse. I've done it before. Yesterday I had the BEST-LOOKING man! I had to clean out his ear. Still. I can look, can't I? I'm married, but I can look."

"Oh, when my late husband was in the hospital for heart surgery, there was a doctor who came to talk to me that was so good-looking that I didn't hear a word he said."

Fuschia told Mom to climb up on the table and lay on her side. She picked up the scissors the doctor had given her, and a pair of long tweezers. There was some debate about whether Mom had six stitches or eight. Mom proclaimed eight, but Fuschia said six. She was having a devil of a time getting ahold of those stitches.

"They are in so deep. Your skin has grown over them."

"What if you can't get them out?"

"Oh, I'll get them out!" Fuschia went off for better scissors, and returned with a pair that had curvy ends. "This should do it." By the time she was done, eight stitches lay on the exam table beside Mom. "I'm sorry, honey. I know that hurt. It's bleeding a little bit because they were grown in. Let me put some gauze over that for now."

Mom was a bit nervous, being back on her blood-thinner. It didn't help when Fuschia wiped with the gauze, and Mom saw it come away red. Fuschia put some alcohol on more gauze, and laid it on the side of Mom's head.

"Just lay there for a minute. You think THIS is bad? Let me tell you about the time I had stitches. All of my male relatives are ministers or preachers. I decided that I wanted to be a preacher, too. So I climbed up on the dresser, and was giving a sermon. I was walking back and forth, preaching." Fuschia walked her fingers along the edge of the supply table, back and forth, prancing, stomping. "I got to the end, and my foot slipped off the corner like THIS! And both feet flew off and I landed RIGHT ON THE CORNER! Do you know where I had to get stitches? RIGHT HERE!" Fuschia pointed to the area where her right leg joined the rest of her body. "Image a doctor taking stitches out, with his head right there! I was only twelve years old."

After we left the office, Mom said, "I really like her. She tells it like it is."

"No wonder. You two are just alike! You never know when to stop. Some things just don't need to be said."

Of course I had to tell that story to The Pony on the way home. His response?

"Ay yi yi!" With a palm to his forehead.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cat On a Hot Wood Porch

How have I enjoyed my summer? Let me count the ways. Um. I can't even get to "Number one..." Oh, wait! That's right. I haven't enjoyed my summer. Except for the being alive part, that is. I guess the glass of summer really is half-full.

Here's what a summer should be:


Yeah. You might think that some skunk ran up on the boards Hick had left over after patching the soon-to-be-walked planks around by the kitchen, and laid down and died about a week ago, and is now bloated and ready to explode. But you would be wrong.



You might think an errant child invaded the grounds while we were away, and left his stuffed animal as a calling card. But you would be wrong.

You might think an obese capuchin monkey escaped from a lonely old woman who bought it on the black market to make a monkid out of it and feed it french fries and dress it in frilly frocks. But you would be wrong.

That is our extremely obese cat, Stockings, snoozing as he does for about 23 hours and 45 minutes each day. He was kind of on his back, with his feet balancing his rotund body to keep it from rocking back and forth in the breeze like a barrel bobbing over Niagara Falls.

THAT is what a proper summer should look like. Summertime...and the snoozin' is breezy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goosing the Gander, OR, The Afternoon of Living Dangerously

Hey! Remember how I have been kind of recuperating all summer from my unfortunate three-day hospitalization, having knocked a bit too hard on death's door?

And remember how I have not been able to sleep past 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., depending on Hick's whim of how much rest he thinks I've indulged in between my usual bedtime of 2:00 a.m. and his departure for work?

Get this! Today, Sunday, Hick made sure I was up and moving by 7:30. Yes. I know that's a Rip-Van-Winkle age for my sleep habits. But still. It's SUNDAY! Just because Hick goes to bed with the chickens at the crack of dusk, and slurps up sleep like a five-year-old on a cherry sno-cone...that doesn't mean I am ready to get up when he does to admire whatever shack he's building, or watch him cart his auction bargains from Pacifica to Gator. Or, most often, to observe his tail lights as he drives to town for a clandestine breakfast under the guise of getting a four-hour haircut.

Well! Take a whiff of THIS fine kettle of fish! Hick was in and out, puttering around doing a great big deal of nothing, calling The Pony to hold something while he screwed it (something metal or wood, I'm hoping), and waiting for Genius to return from an overnight swimming trip so they could chew the fat about his new phone. I went to town for some provisions for Genius to take back to his basement apartment and wrestle the landlords' Husky for, and some meat for Hick to grill for supper.

No sooner had I returned and put away the groceries and plopped down in the La-Z-Boy to rest my weary knees than Hick crossed the threshold in a dramatic, wide-open kind of way that invites flies to partake of our hospitality. "I feel sick to my stomach," pronounced Hick.

"Do we need to go to the ER? Are you having a heart attack?"

"No. I feel sick to my stomach, I said."

"What did you eat?"

"Just a breakfast platter from Burger King."

Let the record show that Burger King is not in Backroads proper, but down the highway a piece in a neighboring town. Let the record further show that the time was shortly before noon.

"I'm going to lay down and see if I feel better."

Let the record show in detail that Hick had already enjoyed a full nine hours of shut-eye before getting up at 7:30 a.m.

With the assurance that the Grim Reaper was not Hick's little shadow, the thought dawned on me that I had been forcibly yanked from my slumber, while this snooze glutton was now having second helpings. Not on my watch. Val, like karma and Mother Nature, is a harsh taskmistress. I waited about ten minutes, time enough for Hick to make himself comfortable and nod off. Hm. I had not yet changed out of my town clothes. So I opened the bedroom door on the way to our bathroom to slip into my raggedy attire, and saw Hick, or at least a large lump under a sheet with a tube to the breather running under it.

"Hey! Remember all those mornings this summer that you made sure I was wide awake before you left for work? THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!" No. I'm not proud. But I felt like a teakettle releasing steam. Like the boiler at the Overlook Hotel right after Jack Torrance dumped it so it wouldn't blow. Fair is fair. Said the goose mentally to the gander. I might have hear a "hmpf" evaporate through the sheet. I went about my business of clothes-changing, and gathered myself some lunch and descended to my dark basement lair to inflict my annoyance on the blogosphere.

At 3:00 p.m., Hick hiked all the way down the 13 stairs to ask why I had done such a thing. Was it really necessary? Yes. Yes, it was.

"You know how you felt when I barged in and woke you up? Well, multiply that by 60, and you'll understand how I have felt all summer long. Except that you just went back to sleep for another three hours."

"It's not like that at all. I WAS SICK!"

"Yeah. So was I. I needed rest to recover, and I got none. All summer."

"Well, you should have gone to bed earlier."

"YOU should have gone to bed earlier! THREE HOURS earlier!"

"It is totally different. There was no need for that. It's not the same at all."

Sadly, there's no enlightenment for the gander, and no rest for the goose.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can a Handyman Get Malpractice Insurance?

I called Mom last night to see if Chatty Handy was still there.

"Oh, no! He left around 1:00."

"Did you pay him already?"

"Yes. I had one more job for him before I let him go. One of the closet doors in my bedroom is off the track. I used to be able to lift it back on the rail, but the wood is so heavy that I can't do it now. He put it right back on for me."

"Are you paying him by the job or by the hour?"

"I don't know. I paid him $210."

"I guess that's all right. But if you were paying him by the hour, you got cheated. He could have been done in an hour and a half instead of five hours."

"Oh, it was well worth it for all he did. Those other people I call want so much more to do these things."

"Were you satisfied with his work?"

"Well, I haven't been up on the roof, and the furnace isn't running in the basement, and we'll see about that foundation crack when it rains. But he DID show me a picture of the work he did around the chimney."

"And you believe that's really a picture of YOUR roof?"

"Stop. Don't make me laugh. Yes, I believe him. But it seems like every time he comes out, he's always asking ME for the stuff to work with."

"What did he patch the roof with?"

"Some metal that was down in the basement, on the work bench. It was like folded over flat metal. He said, 'This will work just fine.' So that's what he took."

"What about that foundation crack?"

"Well, I had bought some stuff a while back, thinking I could do it myself, but I have not had a very productive summer. So I gave him that, and then I gave him a baggie, and he cut the corner off to squeeze it out. "

"What was it? Did it come in a bag? In a bucket?"

"Oh, it was a powder in a container, like a Cool Whip container, and he brought the rest of it back to me, and he had even written the date on it so I would know how old it was."

"How can you not know how you paid him? Didn't you agree on that before you hired him?"

"No. But he always writes up a bill and goes over it with me so I know exactly what he's charging for."

"Yeah. That's a surprise. I guess you didn't pay attention."

"I looked at the amount. Then I got him the money."

"You didn't let him see you get it out of your safe, did you?"

"No. I had put some bills in the back of my checkbook. I asked him if he wanted cash or a check. He said, 'Well, I'll take either one you want to give me. A check is fine. But if you have the cash, I'll take that.' So I started counting out the money, and he said, 'Oh, I don't want to take all of your cash. A check will be fine.' But I told him, 'I have ten dollars left, and that will last me until I can get to the bank and cash my little check I get every month.' I wasn't about to let him know I had more money than that."

"Never a simple answer from that guy."

"While I was counting out the money, he was sitting at the kitchen table with me, and he said, 'That part of your face there will go back to normal after the stitches come out. It won't have that big bump on it.' That's the part I was telling you about that I think sticks out."

"WAIT! He was commenting on your face while you counted the money! That is not appropriate. I swear! Did you let him run his dirt-encrusted hands over your stitches? You just don't know how to get rid of that guy. Maybe you should hire him to come back tomorrow and put on your triple antibiotic ointment."

"Oh, don't get me tickled! He's gone. I paid him. Now I can call the guy who wants to buy my truck. He said he would come out and get it. That I don't have to take it to his shop."

"You need a chaperone. Full time. I'm going to talk to that neighbor across the road."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sometimes, Gab is Not Necessarily a Gift

My mom is having some work done. Not the fake facelift that her doctor told her he was doing on her face when he carved off her lingering lesion. No. Actual work. On her house. She has a guy she calls for these odd jobs. He works on his own, sometimes with his son, and he has a truck with his name and "Handyman Services" on the side.

I call him Chatty Handy.

He's the guy who replaced the silver aluminum drain plug thingy in my mom's white family-room bathroom sink with a blue one. She didn't know until after he left and she went in to check on the job. He's also the one who asked her for a check to take to the lumberyard, and she refused. She showed him! She rode along with him and wrote out that check herself.

Today Chatty Handy was scheduled to fix three things. The DISH man had told Mom she had a leaky hole in the roof near her chimney. Mom said there was a crack in the foundation under the windows to her family room. The furnace in the basement does not blow hot air the way it used to, also according to Mom. Chatty Handy was due to arrive with his son between 8:00 and 8:30 this morning.

I called Mom to see if she needed anything from the store. I was going back to tend her stitches, having removed her bandaid yesterday and slathered her with triple antibiotic ointment. I also told her to keep her hair off those stitches, and fished a cap out of her hall closet to keep her from wearing a hairnet kind of shower cap thingy she wears when she cooks. When I called around 9:00, she said she had been in the yard talking to Chatty Handy, who was going up on the roof. What they had been doing the other 30 or 60 minutes, I'm not sure, but I suspect they were chewing the fat.

I did not arrive until going on noon. Mom was not sitting on the porch waiting for me as usual. Nor was she standing in the door, asking if I wanted help bringing in the bananas and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls I had picked up for her. I grabbed the bags (of course I got her a treat of Fiddle Faddle and a can of beer nuts, because she's my mom, and she's housebound for a few days) and went on in.

Well! Chatty Handy was standing right there in the kitchen, jawing away, and he SCREAMED that I had scared him to death when I came in. Let the record show that the big wooden door was open, and all I did was click the latch on the full-length glass storm door, in plain sight of them, to walk in. That is my right, I think, as the new Thirteen-Dollar Daughter.

Mom kept trying to scurry Chatty Handy on his way so we could get down to wound care. I had groceries suffocating under two winter coats in the back of T-Hoe. Chatty Handy does not pick up social cues very well. He kept on with a long-winded tale of some stroke victim without the use of her arm, and how one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, and how there is medicine that can do wonders with a stroke if given within one hour, and how with rehab, this lady might actually recover and be better than before, because that's what happens when a person survives a stroke. I'm shocked that he doesn't just chuck this whole handyman business and go on the lecture circuit with a medical team.

Finally Chatty Handy made an exit, as I kept my head down, not engaging him, readying a box of bandaids, a tube of triple antibiotic ointment, a roll of paper towels, a cup of water, and a drinking straw. "Hey! I have a boo boo on my hand? Think I can get a bandaid?"

"No." That's it. Not engaging. I did not even look toward his hand. It could have been hanging by a sinew, and I would not have treated him. I thought he was just joking. He can get his own wound care specialist while he's hanging out with the stroke team.

No sooner had I started wiping away yesterday's ointment than Chatty Handy returned up the steps from the family room.

VAL: "Am I parked in your way? Do you need to leave?"

CH: "Oh, no! I still have to fix that foundation and the duct work in the basement. I guess I'll do it better if I take my tools." Chatty Handy headed out front to get his stuff from the truck. Who knows what he'd been doing for four hours. Talking, is my guess. He must have gone around the front of Mom's split-level home, because we were happily without his company for a good five minutes.

I was just rinsing soapy water off Mom's stitches by dribbling water from a drinking straw when I saw Chatty Handy come in the sliding doors off the family room patio. Up the steps he came. "I just wanted you to know that I filled in that crack. I used the baggie you gave me, and cut off the corner, and squirted it in the crack. I dug as far back as I could and pulled out all the broken stuff. I have an ice pick that I used. Here..."

MOM: "Oh, you used an ice pick? No! You don't have to show me."

Chatty Handy dug into his tool bag and brandished the ice pick like it was a prize-winning large-mouth bass. "Yeah. You should be all right unless you notice your carpet getting wet. Or a smell, like mildew or mold."

MOM: "So it will be fine unless I smell mildew. I'll remember that."

CH: "Just between you and me, we've had a bathroom issue at home...that's all I'll say...but I told my wife, 'Quit spending so much on all those cans of air freshener. Just buy one of those wicks and set it on top of the air conditioner.' She said, 'Won't the dog bother it?' And I said, 'If he does, then he deserves whatever problems it gives him.' You know, you can also buy those filters to put on a furnace that spread a fresh smell."

MOM: "So it should be fine?"

CH: "Yes. I'll go to the basement now. That will give that patch time to set up."

VAL: "MOM! Don't engage him! He'll only talk more!"

MOM: "Well, I didn't think I was...but he just goes on and on."

I had finished rinsing, and was fanning Mom's face with a folded paper towel to air dry it before applying the ointment. Here was Chatty Handy yet again, standing on the steps to the kitchen.

CH: "Did you kick up the thermostat like you said?"

MOM: "Oh, yes. It's on 78."

CH: "That's good. I don't want to get blasted in the face while I'm working on the duct. I'll let you two get on with your visiting."

Let the record show that I was FANNING MY MOM'S FACE WITH A PAPER TOWEL. It's not like we were having tea and cucumber sandwiches.

VAL: "MOM! You are an enabler. You don't have to respond. Be quiet, and he will get uncomfortable and stop talking and get back to work. You are both enablers. You feed on each other. I swear. You two will still be here in a year and a half, him working on those three jobs. I am going to have to call your neighbor across the road, and have him come over here and put a stop to all this visiting."

The end is coming tomorrow. IF Chatty Handy is done.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baffling Val Thevictorian

I am in a state of confusion. Yesterday I read a story about a three-year-old boy who rescued an elderly man who was locked inside his car on the church parking lot.

Yeah. How can a man get locked INSIDE a car? He said the automatic-locker-thingy had been malfunctioning. But that does not explain how the preacher was able to open the car door from the outside. Also, why was a three-year-old running around by himself? I read that story over and over, trying to make sense of it, but I cannot. You can give it a try here.

I was almost certain I was missing something in the story. You see, I have been a bit lax in my concentration lately.

I swear I read a headline that said: "Sandra Bullock Comes Face to Face With Shark After She Saw Him Stood Outside Her Bedroom Door." Okay. Major problem. The first thing I had an issue with was the "stood" part. Really? Shouldn't that have been "standing" instead? I chalked it up to coming from the UK Daily Mail. They talk funny in their writing over there. Then it hit me that what was "stood" outside her door was a shark! Dang! Where does Sandra Bullock live, anyway? Get back from the coast, girl! There was even a picture, like a split-screen kind of thing. Nobody was actually there when it happened, to capture Sandy and the shark in one frame. How wacky would THAT have been? So I looked at the photo, and I said to myself, "Val, that is NOT a shark. That's a man. What's a man doing where a shark should be?" So I read the headline again. Oh. It didn't say "shark" stood outside her bedroom door. It said "stalker" stood outside her bedroom door.

Well. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that little slip of the eyeball.

And just before that little shark/stalker incident, I was reminiscing with The Pony about his three-week sojourn at Missouri Scholars Academy. The Pony had a stack of flyers that were given out each evening, listing the activities to choose from during free time the next afternoon. Some were quite interesting.

"Look at this one! Making Ethiopian paper heads! I'll bet that one was interesting. Did you do that one?"

"Um. That says BEADS. Not heads. Making Ethiopian paper beads. That's a little different. I did not go to that one."

Huh. I guess there's nothing left to say but, "Nevermind."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Infirmary Called. It Wants Its Bandages Back.

The report from sick bay is in. Both Val and Mom survived their respective procedures today at the hospital.

As you may recall, Doctor scheduled Mom to come in on his day off to slice that growth off her face. He said he was doing us a favor to make it the same day as my repeat lung CAT scan. Never mind that I had been planning to drive Mom for her face-slicing, and she had been planning to drive me for my tranquilizer-enhanced CAT scan. We're the O. Henry pair of the medical procedure world.

I swooped by to pick her up in T-Hoe, leaving The Pony on Mom's short couch to soak up high-speed internet and eat donuts. Her appointment was at 10:00, so I went up the elevator with her when we got there at 9:30, and kept her entertained until I had to go back down to radiology for my 10:30 appointment. Mom signed in and sat down, but I insisted that she go peck on the window and make sure Doctor was actually there on his day off to slice and dice. "Oh, he's not here. Yes. He knows he's supposed to be here for you. But he's not here." No further explanation. Mom assumed they meant that Doctor was running late. She settled down a bit, but I could see that she was nervous. I hated to leave her there, but radioactive dye and a magnetic donut called to me. We agreed to meet downstairs in the radiology waiting area when we were done.

Then the conundrum. When to take my tranquilizer? Doctor had prescribed a tiny pill. Ten tiny pills, in fact. I must be in for more procedures. Anyhoo, he had told me to take one an hour before the procedure. Hmpf! I took a practice one a couple weeks ago, when I had an appointment with a specialist, and it started working in 10 minutes, and by the time one hour had passed, I was as sober as Carrie Nation. So at 10:15, I swallowed that tiny tablet of 0.5 mg of lorazepam. I was called to the desk for ID and insurance info. Then I waited. And waited. At 10:45 I was taken back to the magnetic donut room.

That was a bit shocking, because I thought I would be in a side room, or go to the lab for my IV needle. They have to shoot in saline, then radioactive dye. That's what they tell me. I don't look. The minute I recognized that magnetic donut room, I looked at the floor or the eyes of the IV inserter. Not at the magnetic donut. My anti-anxiety tiny pill had kicked in after eight minutes, and had now leveled out. I was able to refrain from running screaming from the room. I signed some papers. Laid down on that narrow metal bed that gets sucked into the donut. A technician put a pillow wedge under my knees for comfort. Told me to put my arms above my head (like I was going down a big water slide, I suppose), and to listen for the recorded lady's voice telling me what to do. Like inhale and hold it.

Then, horror of horrors, that narrow bed began to move! I did not remember that from my first time from the ER. My eyes were closed then, and now. I guess with the IV morphine and Ativan back then, I made myself believe that I just laid there and they got their results long-distance from that magnetic donut. I could sense that I was in it. Then it spit me out. The guy came and said the dye was being injected. Yeah. I felt that rush. Then I was sucked back in and told to take another breath and hold it. I could heard my heart pounding. Lucky for me these tests only last about one minute once they get the dye in and feed me to the donut. Whew! Free at last!

The IV gal removed my needle and fixed me up with gauze and that tight stretchy non-tape stuff. Look!

She used my favorite color without even asking. And not a drop of my thinned blood spilled! Glad that's over.

Next, I had to find Patient Records, so a copy of the results could be sent to my lung doctor at MoBap, even though he can access my records online. That meant I had to stand in the hall waiting for the patient ahead of me to send her records in private. I used that time to sober up from my little white pill. I had no sooner returned to the radiology area and sat down than Mom got off the elevator. We used our reunion to admire each other's bandages. She had a long beige bandaid stuck vertically in front of her left ear. We staggered back to T-Hoe, and picked up lunch for The Pony, and a frozen custard for ourselves.

Next medical visit for me? Monday. Two of them. For Mom, Tuesday to get her stitches out.

This has not been the Summer of Val that I had hoped for. But at least I'm still here to complain.