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Archive for August, 2011

It was like it was August, 1969 all over again. Nine years old, I was in the 4th grade; it was my first day at a new school, in a new home, in a new state, and I was nervous. My mother had been to K-Mart, probably spending my father’s whole paycheck on all of our school supplies. At the time she had three kids in school and three at home, she appeared to be a whole lot happier about me going to school than I was.

Who knew?

Three new pencils, a spiral notebook, an eraser, a 24 pack of Crayola crayons, and a small bottle of Elmer’s White glue. In three weeks I would be cursing the easy flow spout, helplessly plugged up with small pieces of red and blue crey paper that some genius had stuffed in the bottle as a dyeing agent; transforming it from it’s familiar white emulsion to a psychedelic tie dye purple. It was years later that I finally made the connection that the friendly looking little bull on the label, probably represented the hooves of the friendly little bulls processed inside. We had rehearsed the route with  several dry runs from our house to my new school before it went into session, so that when the first day of school arrived I was ready.

So it felt strange to feel a similar twinge when I got up yesterday morning. It had been a while since I’d set the alarm for 4:45 a.m. but I didn’t have any trouble getting out of bed. The night before I’d set out my work clothes; on the kitchen counter I had several piles of keys, my employee access card, one pen, a Sharpie, and my pocket screw driver. I was ready to roll.

As I made my way into the living room and flicked on the overhead light, the dog who was splashed out on the couch, gave me the same “What the H*ll?” look that my wife did when I turned on the lamp at my night stand. Begrudgingly she gave me some room on the couch as I laced up my work boots. It was not unlike the reaction I get from my wife when I climb into bed and she yields to me my small patch of memory foam real estate.

Stuffing my pockets with keys, a pocket knife, and choking down my blood pressure medicine with a pomegranate juice chaser I made my way out the door. A quick pat down to confirm that I had my pen and Sharpie, I glanced to the dog who had returned to the dream she was in before I interrupted her, I closed the door turned the dead bolt and I was off.

Driving in Denver morning traffic takes on a “24 Hours of Le Mans” feeling to it, and the month off had softened my reaction times. Having made the transition from the entrance ramp to the 70 mile per hour traffic successfully, I turned on my radio; it seems to help calm my nerves as some fricking ass**** is trying to drive up my tailpipe… I needed calming.

Lefthand at 11.30 on the wheel I settled in, instinctively I felt my shirt pocket a quick reassuring check to see that every thing was there… crap I had forgotten my Texas Instrument TI 35 XA Scientific Calculator!

Images of 1969 returned as I made the corner and walked into the school playground… crap I fogot my HotWheels Lunch Box and thermos! We were probably in for a long day.

Talk to you later.

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My wife and I were driving down the road the today discussing… daydreaming, about ways she could supplement her income. Something to bring in some cash if the day ever came that she had to pull the plug… my plug, yeah it kind of worried me too!

I struggled to vanquish the morbid nature of the events that might be leading up to her need for financial stability and tried look at the upside. I had images  running through my head of hand knitted socks, little handmade snow boarder skull caps. I know of some women that make jewelry, or put up jellies and jams and sell them at craft fairs, or card, spin, and dye their own wool, some even going so far as raising their own flock. Cottage industry type affairs with labels that say “This garment was crafted with love, by Jann.”  You know, the kind of thing Grandmas might do.

As I describe my plans for her financial security, I notice it had become awfully quite on her side of the vehicle. I was  getting the feeling we may not be on the same page. Knowing that I was not following her path, I figured I’d better ask her what her thoughts were, I mean it was her dream not mine.

“I want to start a cemetery”. I reached over to the volume control on the car radio and turned it down, I could have sworn she said, cemetery. I tried to keep my eyes on the road, all the while fighting the urge check her pupils for a brain dysfunction.

“A what’?

“A cemetery, but this one would be different.”

I tried to keep my sarcasm to myself. “What, one that didn’t have dead people in it?” I really wanted to go with that, but since we had already had an argument this morning about a Jon Stewart video clip, that I lost, I figured I better hear her out.

“What do you mean by different?” It was hard, but I got the question out there.

“Well this would be an all natural cemetery, and wild life preserve.”

I swerved barely avoiding a pot hole in the road. I think I was the only one that saw it coming.

“What do you mean all natural?” I was intrigued. I mean I’d heard of all natural fibers, all natural ingredients… but all natural graves?

“You know, no wood coffins, just a hole in the ground, the body is wrapped in a cloth and buried. No grave makers either, people could come to the cemetery and find the spot were their loved one is buried using GPS coordinates. I’d rent them the handheld GPS, kind of like Geo-Caching for the dead”

Your loved one is planted here.

Thank G-d for the red light! “Honey! the city wouldn’t allow it!” At this point I hoped she was joking. I can usually tell when she’s joking. She looked at me blinked once looked forward and nodded, “The light’s green.” This didn’t feel like one of those moments.

I tried to reason with her; “Honey, there’s zoning and permits, where exactly would you put this all natural grave yard for the dead”.

“All I’d need is five acres, I could build a little house there, put in a garden, and set up a game preserve, it would be perfect. The city wouldn’t even have to know. Oh!, and I’d need a backhoe.”

A backhoe? Oh honey, you’re going to need a whole lot more than that.

Talk to you later.

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“Come in Heparin One, do you read me. This is Hou-ton -alling”. The radio chatter in my helmet is intermittent. I rap the side of my head with the palm of my hand, hoping that the useless gesture with somehow improve the signal inside.

Houston can you hear me?

“Maintain the Enoxoparin at 300, but increase the feed of the Warfarin from 5 to 15. We have got to reduce the viscosity of the circulating fluid faster!”

“Roger Houston; holding 300, and increasing feed to 15″.

” Heparin One… has the Lisinopril stabilized the internal line pressure yet?”

“Roger Houston, line pressure stable and holding at acceptable levels”.

“Roger that Heparin One.”

“Oh and Heparin One?”

“Yeah Houston?”

“When you get back to Edwards in November… we need to bring her in to check your rear seal.”

“Roger that Houston.”

I feel like I’m piloting a space shuttle for the first time, awkward, second guessing myself, my reactions, and all those in charge. I don’t know how my in-laws do it, visiting the doctor two to three times a week adjusting medications, tweaking  pacemakers. When did all this become second nature for them?

I promised myself that I wouldn’t turn this site into “AJ has a pulmonary” but I keep finding myself getting caught up in it’s tidal undertow as it draws me out past the breakwaters. Frantically I flail my arms around in a feeble attempt to return to shore, only to draw the attention of some patrolling predator.

Today my wife and I are going over to our daughter and son in-laws home, to see their new puppy. Definitely not a grandchild, but I’m sure we should be able to dump enough doating accolades on the 8 pound kibble cruncher to feign  enthusiasm.

I’m just in a grumpy mood today I guess. Picking on puppies, arguing with my wife over some stupid U-Tube clip that I haven’t even watched. I think I’m just tired of all of it; the visits to the doctor, the examinations, the blood tests, the thing is, I don’t see an end to it yet. Tuesday another test, and a week of more self injections. They don’t hurt they’re just… a pain. Tomorrow I return to work for the first time in 4 weeks  and I think I’m a little nervous about that as well. I’ll be glad when I can get off this ride.

“Houston… this is Heparin One, hey we’ve encountered a little turbulence ahead.  What you say we back off on the stick a bit, and grab a cup of coffee.”

“Roger that H – One… but use the paper cups will ya, we don’t need any mishaps up there, remember last time!”

“10-4 Houston… H – One out.”

Talk to you later.

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DAMN IT!

How the heck did this happen! I’d been on the look out for ‘it’ for the last ten years; and yet like the unanticipated crash of a seesaw being released at it’s apex, with me on one end, I suddenly realize I’ve moved beyond middle aged.

I think in part it was the accumulative affects of working with the law firm Schmeckle and Peck; who so skillfully assembled our Last Will and  Testaments, assigned my  Power of Attorney to my wife, and legalized the termination clause in my Living Will. The one that allows the UL rated cord to be pulled and severed from the G.F.C.I. outlet next to my bed, which drove home the fact.

Now wait just a minute!

I’ve never noticed it before, but over the last several weeks the question has come up way too often. They don’t even address the question to me! “Mrs. Gest? Do you have Medical Power of Attorney on your husband? Does he have a Living Will”? The admissions administrator causually nodding his head in my direction like I’m some sort of 6′-1″, 300 lbs carrot laying on the examining table! My wife sighs in relief: “Yes, yes he does.” What the hell is she relieved about! The whole affair made me very edgy as the poignant words from my Living Will peal through my brain, like the bells that tolled in the streets of Cologne in 1351. “In the event I lack the descional capacity to accept or reject medical or surgical treatment… my wife can pull the plug”! It was like a scene straight out of “Murder She Wrote” and the History Channel all rolled into one.

I told you I was watching too much daytime T.V!

There have been other signs of cresting that hill. The books on the kitchen table  “Property of The Aurora Public Library”, with their block letters printed in red ink along the fore edge of the publication; sporting catchy titles like “Death and Dying”,  “Is There A Life After Death”?, and her favorite “Shiva, the Jewish Ritual of Mourning”. Up until now I figured it was just all background noise, heck my father in-law is 87 years old.

But last Friday afternoon, before I was hit on the head with that stainless steel bed pan, my wife and I did something… well, it was just creepy. We went window shopping for cemeteries. Don’t ask me how I got hood winked into that one, I always thought of that as one of those things only old people did; kind of like discussing bowel movements with their loved ones, don’t get me going, that question has been brought up way too often as well!

Comforting in a creepy sort of way.

Oddly enough I enjoyed this shopping experience. There were no uncomfortable inseam measurements, and I didn’t have to exit a fitting room in my socks to see if the trousers were hanging properly. As we strolled through the graveyard, I felt like I was at Costco looking at the items on the shelf comparing the labels. It was as if I’d returned home after a long absence;  recognizing the Hebrew script but not being able to put a name to the face.

Today as I went driving by ‘Oldtimer Acres’, I caught momentary glimpses of octogenarians playing bingo through the pane glass windows. Their images slightly obscured by the reflections of automobiles as we went speeding by, I let out my own sigh of relief. Not yet buddy, not by a long shot!

Talk to you later.

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My ride home from the hospital should have been like any other; but leftovers from an anointing by my opiate angel had me drifting in and out as I struggled to maintain clarity, preventing this trip from being like any other.

I remember taking a concealed sigh of relief when the E.R. Doctor said; “Well, we’ve ruled out a heart attack.” I grimaced a bit as I drew a shallow breath into my aching lungs, the second ampule of morphine hadn’t quite completed its magic, as it slowly melted over me like butter on a hot pancake.

G-d I love pancakes

The unfamiliar word “embolism”, flew at me like an attacking Starling from a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie. If only I had watched more Grey’s Anatomy with my wife… maybe then I would have grasped the nature of the diagnosis. Embolism, it didn’t sound like heart attack, that was a good thing; so when I commented “Well that’s good, I’ve been off work for 3 weeks with this foot (pointing to the offending appendage) and I thought I’d be going back to work on Monday.” It was posed in the form of an announcement, with the verbal tone of PLEASE!! It seemed reasonable, it was Friday night no more pain in the chest, I finally felt like a well buttered pancake, life was good and I was ready to go!

Three weeks on the mend from a self inflicted coffee cup wound. I had WWII down pat, go ahead ask me any question;

Who made up the The Weimar Republic? Answer: Bad guys.

Next topic, Matlock; What was the name of the first private investigator who worked for Ben Matlock?  Answer: Tyler Hudson.

Bonus round: What was the first name of J.B. Fletcher’s  (Played by Angela Lansbury) dead husband? Answer: Frank.

Yeah, three weeks in front of daytime T.V. had turned my brain to mush, the morphine sulphate was just the icing on the cake.

The silence in the room had drowned out all but the audible Beep, Beep, every .789 seconds from the monitor over my right shoulder, a DOS green line spiking in rhythm with those relentless  beeps as it traveled across a black screen. It was the only tangible truth that I recognized that the Doctor was right; I wasn’t having a heart attack!

If there was one of those stainless steel bedpans in the room, I think my wife would have handed it to the E.R. Doctor who would have gladly gonged me on the head with it. The only thing holding him back was that it would have been pointless given the circumstances, and the two vials of morphine now coursing through my brain.

The doctor shook his head. I’m not sure if it was his disaproval of my  suggestion  of returning to work, or his feeble attemp to grasp my reality. “Mr. Gest”… I hate when someone in authority uses my sir name; I akin it to your mother using your first, middle, and last name, when you’ve done something stupid, like starting the patch of weeds on fire in the back of the elementary school.

“Mr. Gest, you have a pulmonary embolism, I don’t care how long you’ve been out of work,  if we don’t treat this now, it really won’t matter”. He looked at my wife, figuratively handing the stainless steel bedpan back to her. I believe they got my attention.

It was now Sunday, drugs with names like Coumadin and Lovenox are now my new best friends, while terms like self injections, and bleeding out hide in the wings, potential villains in my very own Shakespearean tragicomedy.

Denial is a curious thing; by our own ignorance it can make us appear invincible, while in reality it is often our greatness weakness.

Talk to you later.

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What a way to make a reentry. I feel a bit like D.B. Cooper poking my head out from the pines along a deserted mountain road somewhere near Wall-Drug, checking to see if the coast is clear. Three months… not a peep, that’s way too long.

As I mentally sort through the stored material from my long hiatus, I feel out of touch, and out of step. I want to jump in and begin recanting times and dates, but feel overwhelmed by the task.

Setting things into motion.

I’ve recently experienced something akin to the butterfly effect, it’s remarkable how one clumsy moment can change so much. Take one ceramic coffee cup, a warm Sunday morning on the front step, and a pair of bifocal glasses, yeah I got some of those too; combine them together with an ill timed step and I set into motion a series of calamities that only Buster Keaton could appreciate.

It happened so quickly, yet when I run it through my head I see it unfold in slow motion. I knew the coffee cup was there; I placed it on the concrete step just seconds before I got up to get a plastic bag for a neighbor. Flower seeds, she wanted seeds from some of the flowers in our front yard. In her thick German accent; “Ya… Ya, dat vood be goot, I vood like sum of doze”. I don’t even really like her that much, her stupid little dog poops in my yard as she wheels up and down the sidewalk in her recumbent three wheeler… stupid dog.

So like some over sized garden gnome gamboling back from the meadow, I returned from the kitchen with a zip-lock baggy pinched between my index finger and thumb, I must have looked like a…. never mind.

I hate bifocals… a set of stairs can quickly become a step into the great unknown. It reminds me of when we were kids; we would grab the picture framed mirror down from the wall in the front room and hold it at our waist, directing it’s polished surface to the ceiling while we walked from room to room. Gazing into the reflection, we would giggle as we stepped over door frames that were never there, and inched our way around the ceiling fixtures placed in our path. We would scream like passengers cresting the incline of the worlds greatest roller-coaster when we stepped out the front door of our house into the  abyss of a clear blue sky… yeah you had to be there, you probably had to be 9 years old too.

I approached the front step, plastic baggy in hand, gamboling remember?…and punted my empty coffee cup down the three concrete steps, breaking it into three or four semi circular throwing daggers. I’m not sure if it took a lot of grace and finesse, or just blind bifocal-fricking luck to time the breaking of the cup to coincide with the placement of my rubber soled sandal… but SHIT THAT HURT!

Two emergency rooms, severed nerves, nicked tendons… canine fecal matter, three weeks off from work, and enough antibiotics to kill all the Ebola virus in Zaire, the butterfly that set these effects into motion had one evil sense of humor.

This story continues with words like thrombosis, and embolism, and terms like medical power of attorney, and living will… but hell if I use up all that material I won’t have anything to talk about next time!

Talk to you later, soon I promise.

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