Archive for the ‘non compos mentis’ Category

As if you don’t have enough to do as we enter this holiday season, I have every intention of compounding your life by asking you to join me in celebrating the days leading up to Thanksgiving which, as I understand it, is considered to be our official entrance into the silly season of holidays. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or some other day or days of gift-giving and merriment, or whether you just sit back and say…no, you’re not allowed to say that, here are some pre-holiday events that you might wish to consider…for what, I don’t have a clue, but you might wish to consider.

Today, for instance is Sunday, November 19, 2017, four days before we carve the bird…or whatevah. It is also known as, “Have a bad day” day. This day has been created by those wonderful folks…no, not those folks, by the wonderful folks at Wellcat.com. Go ahead, look ‘em up. In a way, I rather like it. Yesterday, as a friend and I were leaving the gym, she yelled across the parking lot, “Have a nice day.” Since we often banter back and forth, I responded, “Don’t tell me what kind of a goddamned day to have!” She just chuckled and continued on to her car.

Continuing on from yesterday, today is Absurdity Day. So, if you are, as Steve Martin proclaimed, “a wild and crazy guy” or other person, go ahead and do something absurd. I already did. Last week I was in Wegman’s. A man was emptying trash into a larger trash bin. He stopped me and asked if I was wearing compression stockings. I told him that I was…nice guy…we chatted for a few minutes, and I checked out…of the store…whew! Later in the week, I had to order a few more pair of those socks, and I thought, “What the hell, get an extra pair and see if you can find this guy again.” The socks were left on the front stoop last night, and I managed to locate the guy this morning, gave him the socks, and wished him Happy Holidays…kind of absurd but it felt pretty good. So, get your butt in gear and go do something absurd. Don’t let this day pass you by.

Today is also Beautiful Day as well as Universal Children’s Day. No one seems to know who, what, when, or where Beautiful Day originated, but what the hell, every day is a beautiful day if you can get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you’re greeting the sun, the rain, the sleet, snow, or hail, your feet hit the floor and that make it a Beautiful Day. Universal Children’s Day is another story…and I quote, “In 1954, the UN General Assembly recommended that all countries should establish a Universal Children’s Day on an “appropriate” day. We are not sure, but perhaps each country did….at various different dates during the year. The resolution was adopted on November 20, 1954.”

Tomorrow is a ‘twofer,’ that is, we get to celebrate False Confession Day and World Hello Day. You really have to think that first one out carefully…like…don’t walk into your local police station and tell them you just robbed a bank…not wise. You could, however, walk into church, go into the confessional, tell the priest that the Mother Superior over at Saint Whoever’s is hooking at night…although, on second thought, I wouldn’t do that unless I was certain I could outrun the priest. “World Hello Day was created in 1973 by Brian McCormack, a Ph.D. graduate of Arizona State University, and Michael McCormack, a graduate of Harvard University.” It was at a time when war between Egypt and Israel was raging. These two men thought it would be a great idea just to say hello to ten people – ten strangers if you will, just as an expression of peace. Not a bad idea…until you get flipped off by a white supremacist.

This year, November 22 is the day before Thanksgiving. About now, you need a break, something that will take you away from the chaos of getting ready for tomorrow. You should be doing something for yourself. Here are some recommendations (not in quotes, but I did copy them from Go For A Ride Day.)
• Take a sleigh ride.
• Ride a horse.
• Ride a horse-drawn carriage.
• Snowmobile rides are always “cool”.
• A bicycle is a great, way to ride and exercise.
• A boat ride, if you’re in a warmer climate.
• Doesn’t a plane ride to a sunny vacation spot sound like fun!?
• You can’t ride in my little red wagon. Okay, you can ride in it.

Had enough yet? Of course not. November 23, 2017 is Thanksgiving. I guess we’re thankful that we finally shot enough Native Americans, took over their lands, rounded them up and put them on the shitiest land we could find, so now we can celebrate. Naw, I’m not really bitter…wait, yeah, the more I read about how they were treated, I’m not certain this is a celebratory day. It’s also Eat A Cranberry Day, National Cashew Day, National Espresso Day, and my personal favorite, National Tie-One-On Day.

Since you’ll probably be camping out at Walmart, Best Buy, Target, or some other retailer, I don’t have to tell you that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It’s also Buy Nothing Day (yeah, right), All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day, and Evolution Day, this last in honor of the day on which Charles Darwin published his highly controversial Origin of the Species, which is probably why we celebrate All Our Uncles…aw, forget it.

Thanks for tuning in, and have a wonderful week. Remember, if you see me on the street, you can still say, “Hello,” even if it isn’t Tuesday.

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I really like my University of Michigan clothing. My son has sent me a sweatshirt and heaven only knows how many different T-shirts in maize and blue emblazoned with Michigan swimming and diving on them. In fact, it was just such a combination of sweatshirt and T-shirt that I was wearing Tuesday morning as I prepared for my morning exercise routine at Planet Fitness. The muscle ache on the right side of my chest and in my right shoulder, I attributed to lifting one too many weights.

At the gym, and before working out, I sat at one of the client tables in one of the hand-shaped chairs, feeling that this shoulder and arm pain really weren’t getting any better. “Aw, to hell with it,” I thought and headed to my car instead of to the bike awaiting me at the gym. Home I toddled, laying down beside my sleeping partner carefully in order not to rouse her from slumber. After a few minutes of restlessness, I decided that the pain might just not be the result of a muscle pull or tear. Time to get this checked out.

At 6:15 in the morning, one does not go to the local physician. Instead, I took the direct route to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. In a situation not dissimilar from going to the dentist for a toothache only to have it disappear just before you get there, the pain began to subside…and I began to feel like a damned fool. Nurses came and nurses went. Doctors came and off they went. Blood was drawn and it too disappeared into the ‘who-knows-where’ cloud of something or other.

“I’d like to run another test,” said the attending physician, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. This one, I knew, was to determine if there was somewhere, floating around in this magnificent 81-year old body, a nasty little thing called a blood clot. These are fine unless they happen to wind up in your brain where they can cause a stroke or in your lungs where they can cause the ultimate step.

“The scan is clear; the x-ray is clear, but the blood enzyme is borderline,” said the doctor. I was acutely aware of what he was saying, having been through three prior heart attacks. “Are you saying this is an infarction?” I asked. “No, he replied,” obviously impressed that I could use such a terrific technical term – no dummy, this kid – but the troponin level is such that I think we should do another test. I will pause here to tell you that enzyme testing is an excellent way of diagnosing whether or not what the patient is experiencing is heart related or not. The only problem is that enzyme tests have to be performed six hours apart. By now, it was getting nigh on to noon and that meant that it would be well into the evening before the results were known. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t care to spend any more time in a hospital than absolutely necessary. They’re filled with germs and sick people and they are real morale busters. “You want to admit me, don’t you?” I glared with steely eyes (like that?). “Yes,” he said, with a look that matched my own. After arguing the advantages and disadvantages, I had to admit that his case for staying was somewhat stronger than my own arguments for leaving, thus I was taken to a bed in the main hospital, prepared for a sleepless night. Who the hell can sleep in a hospital?

Sometime after dark, this same emergency room doctor came smiling into 543A and proudly announced that my enzyme level had risen, thus indicating a heart “concern.” Translation: You have had a heart attack and we have stabilized you. Okay, that was heart attack number four, but the first one where any semblance of pain had occurred. Heart attacks are funny things. They don’t always behave as we have been told time and time and time again. Pain is not a necessity. Radiating tingling in the left arm doesn’t have to happen. Symptoms of a heart attack are all over the place, bear witness that the muscle ache (I thought) was on the right side, not the left, and while the muscle ache extended to the shoulder, it hardly “radiated” down the right arm. Still, it was a heart attack.

The following morning, there was no pain and I was ready to get in the car. It was over and all was right with the world, right? Young doctor whozit abused me of that idea early on. “We’re sending you in town for a cardiac catheterization,” He said. For those unfamiliar with this procedure – I had been there and done that so was fully prepared (yeah, right), a needle is inserted into the femoral artery [mistake one] in the groin and is threaded up through the heart, looking for blockages. If everything is clear, so is the patient. If a blockage is found, it is cleaned out and a stent implanted. A stent is a tiny piece of wire mesh that is used to keep the offending artery open. “Piece of cake,” I thought. “No pain; everything should be clean and clear [mistake two].

Late Wednesday afternoon, I was taken by wheelchair to the “cath lab.” They prepped the groin area and when the surgeon came in, he announced, “We’re going through the wrist.” I had heard of this procedure, but the radial artery seems so much smaller than the femoral that I didn’t understand how this would be possible. In addition, having a probing needle thrust into my wrist was not something to which I was looking forward. “Don’t worry,” said one of the nurses, “you won’t feel a thing.” While I was conscious throughout this ordeal, she was right. Whatever Kickapoo joy juice I had been given put me on cloud 9 and 10 and 11…good stuff.

I have no idea how long I was on that table, but it seemed like forever. When it was all over and the lights came up, I remember asking if everything was clear. Hardly, replied some doctor from somewhere. It seems that one artery was blocked 99.9 percent and a few others needed some plaque removal. Ergo, I was one lucky sumbitch that a doctor in the emergency room at Newton-Wellesley refused to let me make a fool of myself and go home.

To Doctor Adam Lurie; to Ryan Flanagan; to Doctor Colin Hirst and his team; and to all of the wonderful people I met at both hospitals, thanks for your dedication, patience, warmth, and understanding. Nursing care at both hospital was fantastic and guess what…I even liked the meatloaf lunch I was served just before departing for home on Thursday…in my Michigan sweatshirt and T-shirt.

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The wordsmiths who are in the know add new words to every new publication of Webster’s finest. One of the latest is ‘okay,’ and I guess that’s alright, but it’s still a bit ‘slangy’ for me. If we are to become a nation where only American is spoken, it will make it more of a bitch of a language for immigrants to learn if they wish to become citizens. We can’t say that we speak English; we did at one time, but over the past three or four hundred years, something happened. It seems we didn’t believe that ‘honour’ required a ‘u’ any longer; as a matter of fact, the poor ‘u’ left a great many words in the English language. We even changed letters from our original tongue, mixing ‘s’ and ‘c’ and God only knows what else. However, my concern is not with how we have Americanized the tongues of our ancestors; no siree, Bob – what the hell does that mean, anyhow – but I would like to add “didjaevah’ or ‘didjaever’ if one is from outside New England. It just seems a better abbreviation for “did you eveh” or ‘did you ever’ if…you get the point. Linguists of yore are probably spinning like tops in their graves at the mere thought of further destruction of their lexicon, but, what the hell, they’re dead so what do I care.

Be all of the above as it may, “didjaevah’ jus set ‘n watch the world go by outside yer winda? Didjaevah? Lord, but I can just hear Sydel Sokuvitz, Professor of Management Communication and dear friend, screaming, “You cannot destroy language in this manner!” as only Sydel can say it. I can see my high school English teachers, Gert Ellsworth, Victoria Howarth, and Agnes Lioy getting the coven together to haunt my every dream from this moment on.

Let us move on from this hauntingly boring discussion. The reasoning behind it will appear later. First, let me describe our family room. It is approximately sixteen feet long and twelve feet wide…a decently sized room. One wall is made of stone and reaches a point at the top of the cathedral ceiling. It has a gas fireplace and two small, thin windows…this is one of the short walls. The long walls hold two things: one consists of three floor-to-ceiling windows…not all the way to the peak of the cathedral, of course; let’s be somewhat practical. From the couch across the way, one looks out on a small patio and a portion of the back garden. In that garden is an azalea bush, many, many different types of lilies, roses, pansies, daffodils, and several other flowering plants that bring beauty and color as a view from early spring to mid autumn. The eave, which extends under the roof, is also visible from the couch. It is filled with bird feeders of every variety…from a three-tiered pagoda, a protected dome, a log drilled for suet, hummingbird feeders, and several others which define decent description. It’s probably unnecessary to describe the remainder of the family room. Oh, sure, the perquisite 42” flat panel television sits in one corner and at the other end of the room is a lounge chair, but these only interfere with our discussion.

In the winter, we are treated to blue jays and cardinals and a few other species of hardy souls. Squirrels feed on the seed that is thrown onto the snow and every so often twenty to thirty turkeys show up for some cracked corn and other goodies that my partner keeps stored away…she loves those turkeys. As an aside, I should mention that some have been coming to be fed for almost three years. They first arrived as nineteen chicks or poults, along with two mothers…and you’re bitching about twins…get over it! Rather than calling them with, “Here, turkey, turkey, turkey,” my partner opted for “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Think about it; hell, they don’t know who or what they are; give them a name no one else will use and who knows, they might just get used to it….and they have. Today, when my partner goes to the back door to feed them, they immediately and with alacrity disperse. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty” will draw back any who were here as youngsters and that’s generally enough to bring the rest of the crowd. What a sight to see from the couch. We have video of them jumping in an attempt to reach some of the bird feeders. We have still photos of them staring straight at us. There are even a couple who will peck at the windows when the food supply is running low…greedy bitches! That’s the year round crew. The spring is a different story.

Around April, the migrating crowd returns. It’s the return of the snowbirds, but ours deserve the name. There are finches of every size and type. To me, the most beautiful is the gold finch. The male is covered in yellow and black with the yellow predominant; woodpeckers of all types and sizes attack the suet log with gusto while starlings, red-winged blackbirds, and hundreds of others vie for seeds of every variety.

Didjaevah just sit and watch birds for a while…see, you knew that word would reappear. I don’t mean as one of those professional bird watchers with the Nikon 5000 with the three foot lens that will allow you to see individual raindrops on a feather. Didjaevah watch birds feed one another or, as the cardinals seem prone to do, kiss a lot. Didjaevah watch squirrels fight over a single peanut or publicly do what you wouldn’t allow your children to watch on late night pay-per-view. When it doesn’t matter to you what you are watching through those huge windows, anything can bring a smile or a chuckle. It’s life as seen  in the raw. When mother sparrows have brought their young to be fed and teach them how to do so; when turkeys carefully walk around the smaller birds, but still get their fill; when the blue jays squawk because the squirrels have cleaned out the peanuts, this is when you can get enjoyment from simple things. There was a time when the television would be on, blaring Sports Center or the Today Show or some other “mind-numbing” garbage…and, occasionally, it still is, but watching what goes on outside by own windows really gives me an appreciation of nature. Oh, and you should be aware that all of our squirrels are Francois because several have something of a French flair about them and pencil-thin mustaches; all chipmunks are Chester, all though I really can’t tell you why; rabbits are “fru-fru” and that, too, has me stumped. The cardinals are O’Malley’s to honor a Cardinal of the same name. Since they mate for life, perhaps we’re being a bit sacrilegious, but I’m not certain we’ll wind up in Hell just for that. Every species has a nickname of some sort…blame my friend; don’t look at me.

You may well have your own “didjaevah” for one thing or another. I have many, but watching those birds ranks up near the top. Pay no attention to the semi-literate who further abbreviates the new addition to my personal Merriam-Webster. If the attempt “jevah,” they are obviously from a lower class and should not be trusted, particularly when speaking of birds.

Ah well, back to the padded cell.

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As if I didn’t have enough problems in my life, now the computer…or at least the AOL portion thereof, is telling me I may have a number of “senior health challenges.” I don’t know who the hell they thought to whom they were appealing in this ‘informative’ [note tongue firmly in cheek on that one] piece, but it most assuredly wasn’t those of us in the elder bracket. Hell, we already know the challenges. It wasn’t for those who are about to become elderly; they don’t want to hear about the problems they may be facing. And it sure as shootin’ wasn’t the younger audience who are totally unaware of the fact that they are not immortal, invincible, or inviolable and don’t want to hear otherwise. Fortunately, they did this before St. Patrick’s Day, so I could go out and enjoy my corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes with plenty of butter and those darlin’ little carrots!

They tell me that if I can make it to 65, I’m probably going to live another 19.2 years on average – who the hell came up with the .2 is beyond me, but you know these statisticians…they do remarkable things with figures these days [almost as good as the plastic surgeons]. I’m told that if I eat a healthy diet…there is so much controversy about what constitutes a healthy diet that I’m not certain anyone knows precisely what ‘healthy’ actually means anymore. On the one hand, someone says, “Don’t eat meat;” the next day a new study comes out that states, “Meat is a good source of vitamin B.” Then you hear, “Don’t drink alcohol;” the next week it’s, “Be sure to have one glass of red wine a day.” Next time you look, someone is telling you to eat more fish; then another research project tells you that fish is bad for you because of all of the mercury and something called a PCB, whatever the hell that is. I often wonder who exactly pays for these studies. Is it the united meat growers; the red wine distillers, the fishing lobby, or some idiot who cut open a striped bass and found a thermometer? I’m only partially kidding on this one, but what the heck is a healthy diet. Sometimes I feel like Popeye, the sailor man, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam…so I eats what I eats and that’s all I eats.” Obviously the last part is an add on, but it fits, so go with it!

I was delighted to learn that the number one condition affecting people 65 and older is arthritis. According to Dr. Marie Bernard, the deputy director of the National Institute on Aging, arthritis affects over 51 percent of the adults over 65. I would advise them to start looking at people over 35 if they really want to see arthritis in action, or just ask anyone who has ever played high school or college contact sports. Most will tell you what time the rain will arrive because of their arthritic joints. Arthritis is the least of my problems.

Number two on the least is certainly nothing new. It’s been the number one killer of adults over 65 years for as far back as I can remember. When I was a smoker, it was the disease the doctors said would probably kill me. I’m speaking, of course, about heart disease and it calls somewhere close to 600 thousand people each year in the United States. I’ve survived three heart attacks and have five stents in my heart. I’ve been lucky. It doesn’t mean that a heart attack won’t kill me, but it does mean that I exercise a great deal, get a good night’s rest, and try, despite the Popeye quote, to eat healthy meals.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the USA. You and I know of at least one cancer death either in our family, in the family of a close friend, someone at our workplace, or wherever, but it has touched everyone in America somewhere along the line. It killed my Dad, my grandparents, and finally, it killed my wife. It is a horrible, horrible disease. I volunteered for an organization that, in 35 years, has raised over 410 million dollars to fight this disease. This is only one organization; there are hundreds across the country, and we have not been able to find a cure. That doesn’t mean that some cancers haven’t been beaten; they have. The problem with cancer is that it seems to mutate, take on a new form and defeat the cures we keep finding. We can probably all say that we’ve known too many people with cancer. If we can add that we also know someone who has been cancer-free for over a decade, we should thank our lucky stars.

Older folks are highly susceptible to respiratory diseases. Smokers and ex-smokers face the real possibility of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease…whoopee, I have both. These make me and people like me (a) former idiots if we’ve quit smoking; (b) idiots if we haven’t; and (c) more vulnerable to pneumonia, which is a major killer of senior citizens.

I intended to make this piece as light-hearted as possible, but it appears I’ve drifted into a more serious vein for which you have my apologies. However, over 5,000 adults over 65 die each day in our country, so there’s nothing really light-hearted about any piece dealing with us old farts. Whether it’s from Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, diabetes, the flu, falls, substance abuse, obesity, depression, oral health, or even poverty, we do face many challenges. What really irritates the daylights out of me is the lack of concern on the part of so many of our children. I hear about it from others when working out at the gym; I experience it on a regular basis with my own kids. The idea of the consanguinal family where family members care for one another seems to have become old fashioned and outmoded. I bear some of the guilt for that with my own family, but not in the manner in which I hear about it and experience it on a daily basis.

If there’s one single point to be made here, perhaps it’s to remember that everyone you love is serving a life sentence. As that sentence comes closer and closer to its eventual outcome, take the time to learn about the person. Take the time to care. Take the time to understand the challenges they face and that, one day, you too, will have to face. As I have aged, I have developed an insatiable desire to know more about my mother and father. Years ago, I loaned a small tape recorder to a young woman who was, as a high school project, doing an oral history with her 100-year old grandmother. When she returned the recorder she had only one request: “May I keep the tapes?” she asked. I don’t know whether or not she bought a recorder on which to play them, but she knew that she had captured her grandmother’s voice on tape and that meant a great deal to her. I still find handwritten notes that Joan left…recipes, notes in the checkbook; old pieces of paper with questions about the house. Her voice I can still conjure up in my head, sometimes, but I do wish that I had a recording of her voice. Think about that the next time you’re going to visit an elderly relative. Will you remember their voice when they’re gone?

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Aha, oho, eureka, and all that good ‘stuff;’ here we are back in the time of William “The Bard of Avon” Shakespeare once more. This time we are listening to Puck, that mischievous elf from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he decries, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” We will not criticize, dramatize, synthesize, or even analyze what he is actually saying [about the lovers], but the pintsized elf makes a damned good point.

It appears that ever since we learned to rise up and walk on two feet – thereby negating the need for Johnson & Johnson band aids for the hands – man has been behaving foolishly throughout history. Take fire for example; you just know that some damned fool was going to cook his hand or foot before he discovered that it was a pretty good thing over which to cook dinner or into which one could toss enemies. We think the smokers of today, who flick their cigarettes out the window and into the forest, thus causing the destruction of tens of thousands of acres, are spawn of the south end of a horse going north; it’s a wonder that earth survived the first fire users. Doesn’t it make you wonder if anyone ever tried to eat a burning stick…oy, oy, oy!

I like to picture the person who invented the wheel, standing at the top of a hill, ready to test this new thing. At the bottom of the hill is his buddy, getting ready to stop it from rolling on forever. The only problem with this is that the wheel is made of stone. It may weigh fifty pounds; it may weigh 500; it doesn’t matter. This mortal at the bottom will receive a very rude awakening when he steps in front of this stone wheel to stop it…clunk. While the steamroller – not Mannheim – would come about several hundreds of Centuries later, we must assume that the mortal at the bottom of the hill was, indeed, a flattened fool and that this was not exactly a “eureka moment” for him.

Who was the first mortal fool who had the idea to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Adventure, no; foolish, yes, but in 1901 Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to successfully ‘barrel’ down the falls and survive. Annie was hoping that this misadventure would bring her fame and fortune…and it did…for a while. However, she died a pauper twenty years later. For those who read Remember Who?, it answers one of your questions.

Walter Camp is considered to be the “Father of American Football.” I think it’s quite possible that if Camp were alive today, he would echo Puck in declaring those who play the game to be fools of the first order. I say this with all love and affection for watching the game on television. Those who declare, “Oh but you don’t get the true feeling for the game if you’re not there!” Thank you very much, but I can probably see the game much better, not to mention the fact that I’m not freezing my ass off or sitting so high in the stands that the players look like ants and that the only way to differentiate the teams is by the colors of the uniforms. While the fools in the NCAA and the NFL are coming to understand the price that players pay, it certainly doesn’t appear that they are willing to make changes to protect these players. America is a violent country and football an exceedingly violent athletic event.

Nowhere is a person viewed to be more a fool of the first order than when he or she decides to run for a political office that will take him or her to Washington, D.C. for the performance of her or his duties. Time and time and time again, politicians publically demonstrate the truth of the hypothesis that those who want the job the most are those who are most unqualified for it. After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated to 60 Minutes Charlie Rose the drone delivery program the company is working on, he went on to explain all of the complexities involved with FAA regulations among other issues. The next day, Massachusetts’ junior Senator Edward Markey spoke to the media explaining that the program could not hope to happen for years because of FAA regulations. Excuse me, Senator, but Mr. Bezos explained all of that on 60 Minutes. It’s just another case of a politician who would prefer to use his head for a cork for his butt rather than use it for intelligent analysis.

It was back in 1969  when Lawrence Peter and Raymond Hull first introduced the Peter Principle which, when defined, states, “The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. … “ Following 40 plus years of employment in higher education, I can state without fear of contradiction that nothing could be closer to the truth. Friends who have worked in law, accounting, engineering, town governments, etc, ad infinitum have regaled various and sundry other friends with tales of remarkable stupidity…the classic being, “We never have time or money to do it right the first time, but we always find the time and the additional funds to do it over.”

Scientists constantly question whether or not there is intelligent life “out there.” Frankly, I have to agree with those who believe that there is, somewhere, in some galaxy, a life form that so far exceeds the intelligence they have already seen on this land of milk and honey that they believe we are beyond redemption; that we are neither trainable or educable and, therefore, decline at all costs our dreary attempts to contact them. Perhaps they echo Puck and say, “What fools these mortals be!”

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I think I’m in the early stages of dementia.

You think I’m kidding? Dementia is not a subject about which I would try to make jokes. Illness is not funny, particularly an illness that very slowly drains you of the powers you once had. My mother in-law had dementia. While it was pneumonia that actually killed her, her mind was long gone before the disease hit. She never even knew that her husband had died. The doctor told us that part of his death was probably caused by his determination to take care of her at home rather than put her in the care of professionals. Watching her waste away so slowly was not only torturous, it drove us away from going to visit her.  As examples I would offer that first she thought Joan to be her sister; then her mother; then her grandmother; and then a complete stranger. After our visits, Joan would sit in the car and cry. It would take a day and a half for her to recover from those visits…and they became fewer and fewer. It was easy to find some excuse, flimsy as it might be, not to visit Anna.

I have a couple of friends who are going through the problem right now; one is my age; the other is nearly fifteen years younger. In both cases, it’s the wife who has the illness – funny, I was going to say “problem,” but dementia isn’t a problem, it is an illness. Webster defines it as “a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.” That’s not completely accurate because it’s a term that really describes various symptoms of “cognitive decline such as forgetfulness,” according to Medical News Today, “but is not a clinical diagnosis itself until an underlying disease or disorder has been identified.”

“Dementia is a collective term used to describe the problems that people with various underlying brain disorders or damage can have with their memory, language, and thinking.” When the majority of people think of dementia, the first word that comes to mind is Alzheimer’s, but it’s only one of the mental disorders that come under the heading of dementia.

Why do I consider myself in the early stages category? Good question…what was the question again? Now I am trying [and failing once more] to be facetious. Seriously, I have trouble remembering things. For example, there was a time when I – he said with great braggadocio – had no problem with putting words in logical sequence. It was no problem for me to write long passages without repeating adjectives or nouns or adverbs. My lexicon was vast. Uh-uh, not any more. I find that I have trouble stringing several sentences together in a cohesive fashion…and it is truly maddening. My car keys and wallet appear to grow legs or wings and aren’t where I usually put them. Of course, with a new puppy in the house, the kitchen table probably isn’t the safest place to leave things where they were usually left.

I find myself recognizing faces to which I can’t quite put names. Is this the onset of dementia or is it, perhaps, a function of age. After all, we know that we brain cells begin to die off when we are in our twenties and that cognitive ability does decrease with age. As a consequence, I’m torn between seeing someone whose name does not come to me until after we part company and calling it dementia, and merely saying, “Nah, that’s just because you’re old.”

Brain cells can be sped on their way to death by something such as a brain injury. If you happened to see the recent revelations by Brett Farvre  former Greenback Packers quarterback, or Tony Dorsett, retired running back of the Dallas Cowboys, you are aware that brain cells can be killed by sports injuries. Farve indicated that he didn’t remember his daughter’s summer soccer season while Dorsett admitted that his memory loss is increasing. Does this mean that we should ban football because of the head injuries? Hell, no, because if people elect to play sports, they are going to get injured somewhere along the line. Soccer is considering helmets for some levels of the game. Hockey went to wearing helmets years ago; unfortunately, ice and helmets don’t mix well, and concussions are still part of the game.

Let us not condemn all athletic competition as the major contributor to the death of brain cells leading to dementia. Heck, shaking your head rapidly from side to side is enough to cause a reaction that can kill brain cells. Other things that can kill them include most illegal drug use such as cocaine, meth, or ecstasy; sniffing paint isn’t a good idea either. Drinking too much water or allowing oneself to become dehydrated, eating junk food, smoking, steroids, and even not getting enough sleep are contributing factors in brain cell death. Where do I get all this stuff? It’s quite easy to do research on the Internet if you have the interest. When I began to consider what I felt was happening to me, I did the research. Happily, I’ve found that the majority of my failing brain issues can be explained (a) by my age and (b) by youthful indiscretions that are probably better left undetailed at this time. I will say that smoking and alcohol abuse were certainly contributing factors.

Do I really have dementia? No, probably not. What’s going on with me doesn’t seem to affect my daily life in a severe way, which is one of the warning signs. I don’t seem to be having any trouble working with the spread sheet that governs the manner in which money is spent on a monthly basis, and I can still balance a checkbook….if it’s becoming a problem, that’s another sign of dementia. Misplacing things like the wallet and keys may be a first sign, but remember, new puppies will make you change where you put things pretty damned fast, and so far, I still remember where everything else is…just have to get used to putting the wallet and keys where ‘Widget’ can chew on them!

I think I’m going to stop worrying about whether or not I have dementia. After all, excess worry and stress can also kill brain cells. As long as I can remember my way to the gym and how to put words on paper in some semblance of order, I guess I’ll just continue to do what I do and enjoy the time I have left.

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What the hell is going on in politics today? In New York we have wily-willy-waving Weiner. In San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner is suing the city because he was denied sexual harassment training. In Washington, Rand Paul is calling potential presidential opponent, Governor Chris Christie the ‘king of bacon’ while Christie is calling Paul  (a) dangerous and (b) something akin to ‘the pork barrel master.’ Shouldn’t Christie, if he’s the king, be calling Paul ‘the queen?’ Oops, maybe that’s just not right. Meanwhile, back at the Senate Office Building, John McCain accidently goes through a door where the President is meeting with Democratic leaders, says “Excuse me,” and reporters from around the nation’s capitol begin touting it as a major story. I agree with Senator McCain on this one – don’t faint –when he tweeted, “Get over it.”

I really don’t know which of these American political tit-for-tats is more embarrassments. That we have reached this point in government is something for which we should all be ashamed. After all, we put these idiots – with the exception of you, Senator McCain – in positions of power. Weiner got waggled out of Congress but didn’t quit his dong-dinging. The fact that this guy has been asked to drop out of the race by everyone except God just isn’t getting through his head. I’d say that a lobotomy is in order but apparently he feels that this type of controversy is good for the polls. It’s a possibility that Weiner gets turned on whenever his chief spokesperson, Barbara Morgan, goes on a potty mouth rant. Sorry, Barbie but calling an intern a “slutbag, twat, and c*nt” demonstrates a remarkable lack of political understanding. Time you learned that in any political game, what you say in your sleep is fair game for rebuke.

San Diego’s 70-year old Filner, a former 10-term Congressman, is beyond laying the blame at someone else’s door. The man’s a ‘groper’ and a ‘grabber.’ This is the 21st Century, ‘Lil Booby;’ Sexual harassment has been around much longer than you’ve been in politics and don’t try to feed your constituents the bullshit that you didn’t know that what you were doing was wrong. Perhaps that’s why you’re divorced; the wifey got sick and tired of watching you play grab ass with every young thing that came – pardon the pun – within reach of your horny hands. Telling a woman that she should work without wearing panties also goes just a bit beyond sexual harassment. I understand you’ve admitted that you “have a problem.” Gee, ‘Headlock Bob,’ isn’t that what Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper, used as a defense. Ah, I guess if that’s what you’ll admit to, I have to ask how many run-down houses you own.  That may be unkind but not half as unkind as what you’re doing to the citizens of San Diego.

It seems that the feud between NJ Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is nothing more than an opening salvo between two 2016 Presidential contenders. Christie’s weight and his weight loss will undoubtedly become a point down the line, just as Paul’s crazy and ‘really, really dumb’ idea to cut off aid to Egypt will also be mentioned. When your own party tells you they’re not with you and beats your ass by an 86-13 vote on the foreign aid to Egypt proposal, you know that your views need some rethinking.  Paul has made enough mistakes in the Senate that it’s a wonder he isn’t gagged the minute he enters the chamber.

America is a great country…in spite of those we elect to public office. First-term Senator, Elizabeth Warren sent me a letter the other day; a form letter to be sure but it also contained a sheet of stickers, similar to what teachers used to give the good little girls and boys in kindergarten. The stickers bore the face of the President, the Democratic logo, and some other nonsensical patriotic red, white, and blue decals. The plea was to give money in order that the Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate. The appeal was juvenile and pathetic. Cutesy doesn’t work for me. Yes, I’d like to see a Congress where the Democrats are in charge for the next couple of years, if only to allow Obama to get some much-needed legislation enacted through a Congress that has more to do than pass 20 pieces of largely useless laws in the first six years of this President’s term.

God Bless America, but certainly with reservations about some of the people who run it.

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“…and how is your lovely wife,” he went on, and before I could say anything, he was talking about all of the wonderful times we had at the beach and how he loved being around us because we always seemed so happy and what a wonderful woman she is and how lucky I was to have found a beautiful, intelligent woman as a life partner…and on and on and on. It’s called ‘oral diarrhea compounded by mental constipation;’ at least that’s the way in which it was explained to me.

When he finally began to run down and had to stop to take a breath, I informed him that my wife had died nearly five years ago. That stopped him momentarily…but just…and he went on to describe her taste in reading materials, in this and in that until I’d finally had quite enough. Since he never bothered to ask how she died or what happened or any of the questions which might have been asked, I figured, “fuck him;” I’m going to have the fun that Joan would have wanted me to have with this supposed friend we hadn’t seen in twenty years prior to her cancer.

As he was jabbering on, I quietly said, “Yeah, it’s really tough when you go for a swim and a shark comes out of nowhere and just chomps down; what a bitch. It was really fascinating to watch the feeding frenzy with the bluefish and all the others though.”

Gotcha, you son-of-a-bitch!

Have you ever seen someone’s eyes bug out; I mean, really bug out, like you thought maybe they were going to leave their sockets and roll down the cheeks into the mouth that had already dropped to the person’s chest…it’s like this huge ‘O’ just waiting to catch the eyeballs, but you know they won’t quite make it because of all the nerve endings and shit, but that’s sorta what it looks like? The clouds stopped moving across the sky; the wind died down to nothing; the trees stopped their gentle blowing; even the waves stopped making noise when the broke on the shore…I was on the beach with some ‘real’ friends when he had stopped by. Even they had been momentarily stunned by my declaration of death.

“But….how….what….when…sharks…bluefish…but…what…” How to describe it…the wind went out of the sails, perhaps? A professional place kicker had walked up behind him and sent his balls some distance away to an imaginary field goal? Mike Tyson had put all he had into a gut shot? Any of those descriptive gems pale by comparison to the look on the face of our chatterbox faux pal. In addition, if he had had a summer tan, it was now ghostly white.

Without waiting, I went on…”Yeah, you know how Joan liked to go for her morning swim about 50 yards out. I was just watching that beautiful stroke and then BAM, that shark picked her right up out of the water.” I pointed at my two friends. “They were here; they can tell you what it was like; man, it was just something to watch. You know how blues can smell blood in the water. They joined in so fast, it was enough to make you wish you had a rod ‘n reel!”

I’d gone over the edge with the “rod ‘n reel” bit. If I hadn’t thrown that in, I could have had him for oh, maybe another hour or so, but that last bit gave the entire thing a loss of credibility.

He just looked at me for a moment. Aside from the fact that he insinuated that my mother was pedigreed; he didn’t put it quite that way; and that my father was an unknown factor, he also expressed concern for my psychological wellbeing and while I have never heard of a sick fornicator, I supposed there could be such a thing. While my friends were rolling around on their blanket holding on to their stomachs and trying to avoid laughing hard enough not to pee in their bathing suits, I withstood the harangue with a perfectly straight face. He finished with “…and when I see your wife I’m going to tell her exactly, exactly – in case I didn’t hear the first one – exactly what you said.”

“You can’t do that,” I told him.

“I most certainly can,” he huffed, “and you can bet your ass I will.”

“My wife is dead,” I said.

“You’re a goddamned liar,” he replied.

I suppose there might have been some justification for his skepticism, and perhaps I was a bit of an ass myself, but his pomposity at the outset had just gotten to me. Don’t come up to me after twenty-some-odd years and pretend that we’re big old buddies when we were never all that friendly in the first place. My real friends know exactly how my wife died; how she outlived the doctors’ predictions; and how she valued quality of life over quantity, and how one doctor told me and some of his colleagues that if he was ever in a foxhole, he’d want her beside him because of her toughness.

So I told this so-called friend the story. But you know what…he just walked away after he’d heard about her battle. He never once said he was sorry for the loss or offered condolences. After that, I was really glad that I’d had my fun. If I ever get back to the beach, I doubt I’ll be seeing him. Gee, ain’t that a shame!

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I said that I wouldn’t be writing for a while….however…

…The sun hasn’t quite hit the horizon yet; who the hell am I kidding; the sun hasn’t even begun to approach our horizon at 1:30 in the morning. Yep, that’s right; I’m actually writing this scary piece just on the am side of midnight.

I have had eleven surgeries in my life, the last one just last year…and that was to put a stent into a triple ‘A.’ That’s what they – you know, the ones who are known as ‘professionals’ – call it. We laymen refer to it as an abdominal aortic aneurism. It’s the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, largely because it often goes undetected. Unless you happen to be having an ultrasound or some test that includes an inside look at your gut, chances are you wouldn’t even know if you have one…ain’t that a bitch! But, anyway, that’s behind me. That one was done in the morning, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. This one’s different.

I can’t sleep. I went to bed around 7:30 last night because I wanted a good night’s sleep;  are you kidding? I lay there  tossing and turning like a bloody dredel at Christmas time…wait, those two just plain don’t go together; ah, what the hell; let’s be ecumenical about this. Anyway, around 12:30 I woke up from my less than satisfying sleep. I figured that if I couldn’t get back to sleep by 2:00, I’d get up. Two’s not a bad time, right? Toss, turn, toss, turn; are you seeing a pattern here?

At 1:30, I said…you don’t need to know what I said; let’s just say that I got up. Evidently, the computer would like to sleep also, because I couldn’t win a damned solitaire or any other kind of game…the computer was “against me’” it was “out to get me.” Paranoid, me, paranoid? Nah, nothing like that. A little ‘tetched’ in the head, maybe but paranoid, hell no!

At 3:30, I finally said, “That’s it!” Of course, no one was awake to ask, “What’s it?” but it was it. My significant other is a light sleeper…snores like a freight train, but is a light sleeper. I tiptoed into the bathroom, stripped, and turned on the shower; waited for the water to become reasonably warm and stepped in; damn, it felt good. While it was exceedingly difficult to restrain my operatic excellence, I managed to control myself and soaped up, rinsed off and was out in about ten minutes – I told you it felt good; a ten-minute shower for me is like the 45-minute showers the kids used to take; gimme a break, will ya? I even toweled down as quietly as I could.

“Ya’ll right?” I heard as I slipped on underwear and shorts. “Sorry, honey,” said I. “Shhh, I’ve gone back to sleep,” she responded, and I swear that in less than ten seconds, the train was back on the track and speeding away. I figure I’ll shave around 5; have to look good, ya know?

By now you’re probably thinking you know what’s going on, right? Yes, I’m going for the big dozen in surgical procedures this very day. You see, my right shoulder has been bothering me for over a year. Upper body workouts have been a bitch, but two Alleve in the morning and a couple at night had been keeping things relatively calm. Several weeks ago, they stopped working. I went through the traditional x-ray and MRI “stuff” and then went back to see the orthopedist. When he pulled the MRI up on the computer, I said, “Uh-oh, looks like it’s time to sand and sew.” He agreed. I have a number of bone spurs in my shoulder; one that is pushing up under the clavicle and another that seems to be tearing away at a tendon. Can you ask, “Hey, stupid, how come you were continuing to work out?” or any other derogatory questions that will embarrass me no end? Whatever it is, you’re right; I violated Voltaire when he commented, “Common sense is not all that common.” Thanks, “Volty;” rub it in a little more.

I have no idea why I’m concerned about this. Same doctor worked on the left shoulder five years ago. He’s just switching sides. How do I know he’ll be doing the correct shoulder (notice I didn’t say “right shoulder,” because it is the right shoulder but if I just left things…ah, ta hell with it!). I’ve even requested an anesthesiologist I know, and I have great faith in my surgeon. What could go…oh, no, no, no, one never, ever says that. It would be the kiss of…whoops, can’t use that one either. Well, you get what I mean.   As I said last week…”See ya when I see ya!”

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… I miss my mind the most.” So many writers and lyricists have used that quotation that poor old Sam Clemens must be spinning in his grave. That’s right, it was Mark Twain who gave birth to this quotation. Hell, for all I know it could have been Judas. That would certainly piss off a lot of Christians. “Hey, I didn’t know what I was doing; I lost my mind for a moment there; next thing I knew I had thirty pieces of silver in my purse!” Ooh, that’s really harsh.

It doesn’t matter to me who said it; I’m beginning to live it. I kid thee not. I’ve reached the point in my life when I can take the United Negro College Fund slogan a couple of ways. Their campaign went, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” There are times when, knowing that I’ve lost my mind, I wonder if I really just let it go to waste. Then I take a look at my mid-section, and I realize that a waist has, as least in my case a terrible thing to mind.

In all seriousness, I am just realizing that I actually came all the way down the hall to go to the bathroom; wound up checking my e-mail – of which there was none, and then began to write. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the bathroom now before an accident occurs.

Do, do, dee, do, do, do….

Oh, okay, I’m back now. Let’s see….oh, yeah, okay…Mark Twain…United Negro College Fund…Oh, that’s right, my mind. I really am getting old. When I got up this morning, I was going to the gym. I fed the dog, went out with her while she did her duty, sat down in a soaking wet chair and suddenly remembered that we had a bitch of a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon and evening…how the hell do you forget that? After we came back into the house, I took a look at the kitchen table and noticed that I hadn’t taken my morning pills…I wonder if tying a string to my finger would remind me to take them each morning, but then I think of the noon and night pills and figure, “Screw it, I’ll see them sometime and the fact that the pill container will still be full will remind me to take them.” Someone puts them on the kitchen table after dinner each evening. I’m assuming that it’s me, but who the hell knows.

So, the dog has been fed, gone out to do her duty, I’ve taken my pills, started to write, remembered the bathroom and have no clue as to why I’m back at the computer. Guess I should go back to the family room and try to figure out what’s next…

 …Time to watch the morning news. As I relax and toss my legs up onto the coffee table I notice a black stocking rolled down on my right leg. Oh, right, that’s the under cover for my leg brace. Ah, now I remember; I was going to the gym. Well, maybe that’s why my sneakers that were beside my bed when I got up this morning are now in the kitchen…that makes a lot of sense. Wait; what’s that? The Red Sox beat the Braves; I listen to that story for a couple of minutes but something is nagging at my ‘mind;’ oh, that’s right; I have to go to the bathroom…again. Getting old is a bitch; your kidneys seem to filter more and your bladder gets smaller!

Coming back from the bathroom, I notice that the light is on in the room in which my computer is located…Juli’s not up. Was I in there; must have…oh, yeah, the Thesaurus is on the desk. I must have been looking for something. I hear the television going in the family room, I turn out the lights in the ‘computer room,’ and head back down. You have to understand that the family room is off the kitchen. As I’m passing through, I notice my gym sneakers, again see the black stocking, and so it’s off to the gym.

Ooh, looks like I went to the gym without finishing this. Now that I’ve reread it, I guess…well, hell, I don’t know what I guess. Had a good workout at the gym but all the people with whom I usually work out had already gone. I didn’t think I was that late.

As I was saying, of all the things I’ve ever lost….????

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