Unconnected But Insightful Monday Thoughts

Westchester County Airport.I am spending a good part of the early afternoon at the Westchester County Airport. I flew in last night for a meeting that started early this morning. I booked a flight at 2:30 assuming that if my meeting finished on time I might still catch the 12:10. It did, I didn’t. The flight was full. This place is busier than usual. When it is busy it reminds me of a large open air market. People are milling around constantly— not enough seats. Calls to strike bargains are being called out loudly as many if not most of the flights are oversold. The emotions of people who want/need to get on an earlier flight are standing around looking hopeful and then worried as passengers come at the last moment to fill over sold planes. Some leave happy, many leave angry. Some do not get what they want at all.

Governments Do The Darnedest Things. The fun thing is that I am not even going to pick on the Bush administration. Today’s object of amazement is Argentina. Inflation in many South American countries is often at levels that would make USians  revolt (I cannot use the term “Americans” ever since my friends from well south of the border remind me that they are also Americans–South Americans). In fact, inflation is a problem in Argentina today, unless you look at the official statistics. To report the official statistics, every time the price of a product rises too much, it is removed from the price index. Let that sink in for a count of 10. The “logic” is that once the cost of something rises too quickly, consumers will stop buying it. Maybe they did get advice from the Bush administration.

Dry New Mexico Air.Did you know that due to New Mexico state law you cannot get a drink of alcohol on a flight to or from the state? I do not understand how state law controls this. Maybe no drinking while the plane is in the state or in state airspace but the whole flight? I hope, at least, that this appies to the pilots as well as the passengers.

Tour De France.  I no longer care. Does anyone?

Struck By Lightning. I am told that I missed severe storms flying into the NY area last night. At the meeting I attended on guy told of how he was spending a quiet morning on his boat— until it was stuck by lightning. No one injured but the electrical systems were toast.

Laughing Out Loud.The woman next to me on the plane home guffawed loudly and often. She was reading “Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar“.  The cover says it is a book about philosophy told through humor. My next read.

I Really Didn’t Need To See That. A mother with a newborn was on the plane a few rows behind me and to the right. Near the end of the flight I was stretching my neck and when I turned to right I caught the moment between when the baby was finished breast feeding and when the feeding machine was put away. I did not turn my head the remainder of the flight.

How My Mother Is Like Iraq

Both are making modest progress off a low base. The gains are fragile and could easily be reversed.

The above is a paraphrased assessment of Iraq made in The Economist a few weeks ago. I had read this shortly before visiting my Mother on Sunday. The same holds true for her.

Mom looked a little better yesterday. Her reaction time to questions can still be slow and she often gets the year wrong when asked. However progress is being made relative to both speech and physical therapy.  The base is low. She cannot get out of bed or stand on her own. However, she looks a little less like a starving refugee.

For now I can live with progress.

Dignity and Dedication

You do not know what you are made of until you are put to the test. Most of us can do well, show desirable traits when the living is easy. Those who can be strong, cool and dignified when the world is raining down disaster upon them are at a whole new level.

There are examples of people stepping up where there are major disasters such as 911or Katrina. There are also examples of the smaller scale incidents that impact smaller groups such as couples or families.

I have a front row seat to the latter right now. And what I am witnessing are the highest levels of dignity and dedication.

Before my Mom entered the hospital at the beginning of the month she was already infirm. Practically blind, a liver that not even Hannibal Lecter would like, a bloated stomach and legs that were not holding her weight. She needed help getting out of bed, getting to the bathroom, getting dressed getting fed.

Fred, her husband, has sacrificed almost all of the rest of his life to take care of her. He was staying home every day and doing everything that she needs. He has been a full time caretaker for a couple of months now. He does not complain. He does what he does because in his mind this is what a spouse, a person, a mench dos in this situation. No second thoughts. He defines dedication.

My Mom is frustrated that she cannot do the things that she used to do. She is forced to wear a diaper and to be cleaned by someone else. She works so hard to feed herself–her hands aren’t working well and the stroke has weakened her right arm. Being almost blind also kinda hampers depth perception so just seeing where to poke a fork is challenging. She is exhausted by the time she is done. Yet she will not let anyone help her until she just can physically do no more. In therapy she is relearning to walk and to speak.

Yet ask her how she is doing and she will smile and say she is doing as well as she can. She has not let great indignities take her dignity from her.

I can only hope that I will act with the grace under fire and have the ability to do what I must–without complaining –as the two people who are my role models today.

Cirrhosis, And Strokes and Bleeding… Oh My!

I wish this was Oz and I could click the heels of my ruby slippers and things would go back to the way they were. No such luck. My Mom has been in the hospital since July 4. In addition to cirrhosis of the liver, a bad dude when traveling alone, it was discovered that she had a minor stoke (not her first) some number of days before we convinced her to go to the hospital.

Fast forward 15 days and while she is still looking like a starving refugee  and her speech is slow she has been moved to the rehab wing and is getting physical and speech therapy with the idea that in two weeks or so she would be in shape to go home. Maybe walk a little. maybe be able to get outside more than she had been. With some in-home care and therapy perhaps some quality of life. Presumably for years to come. At least that was where my head was.

Today i thought I was lucky because I caught an early flight and got home at 9 pm instead of 11:30. Some lucky day. My sister caught me on the way home to tell me that Mom was back in the regular hospital ward. They could not wake her this morning and that she was low on blood. They put in 3 pints which seemed to help. No blood on the outside means internal bleeding to non-medical types like me. They don’t know why, where the blood is leaking from or even when they will do the tests to figure all of this out. Are they out of their freakin’ minds? Do the test NOW!

Hospitals are not good places to stay if life is your goal. Just after they loaded one of the transfusions my sister realized Mom’s arm was weird colors and bloated. She has had arms thinner than toothpicks so something was wrong. Oh. Mistake. The blood was being pumped into her arm and not the vein. Sorry.

With cirrhosis of the liver, not all the toxins being produced are being filtered. No doc has said this to us but a nurse friend tells us that the toxins are shooting through her body.

Not much to do but scream, cry and wait. I keep hoping that there is some measure of treatment that will give her a few more years. No one has told us otherwise but…

Dallas At 2 A.M.

There are cities where the night life is just waking up in the early morning hours.  There are places in the country where the stars burn magically bright. 

Then there is the place where after your late night plane leaves two hours later on a Sunday night/ Monday morning and you are just happy that the cabs came to the airport within 15 minutes and there was a bed in the hotel room. That is Dallas.

Ain’t Misbehavin’

The last play of the season at the Goodman Theatre is typically a musical. This year is that celebration of the Music of Thomas “Fats” Waller, Ain’t Misbehavin’.

I had very high expectation for this production. I love this music. It was a good but not awesome production.

Admittedly I was exhausted as I often am on a Friday night. The means that all stimuli must pass through a thick morass of a filter in order to get to my conscious thought.

Still it was not just not me. My wife agreed that given all the available musical talent, the singers were just good. During the first act in particular the songs really stretched the singers. Some were clearly outside of their competence zone. In the second act there seemed to be a better match. Either that or they became more relaxed.

Clearly much of the rest of the audience was having a great time. The show has some good dancing, broad comedy and even a bit of audience participation. The woman next to me laughed out loud regularly. I did not quite see what was so funny but I am admittedly a tough audience.

All in all it was amazing just to be in downtown Chicago being entertained two nights in a row.

p.s. I have a record, yes vinyl, of a Clark Terry led group playing many of the same songs. The first song on side one is the Jitterbug Waltz. This version is strictly instrumental which after hearing the lyrics is the way to listen to this song. This particular recording to me is one of the most sublime, beautiful pieces of music of all time.

Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. Live!

WWDTE is an NPR new quiz. On the Chicago station it places late Saturday morning. Fans of the show know that it is taped on Thursday nights at the Chase Auditorium in Chicago. And on July 17, I was there. This was all part of the month long birthday celebration. My wife surprised me with tickets.

The show addresses news of the day, mostly world and political events. Three panelists answer questions from the host while NPR news veteran Carl Kasell (he is about 100 years old) reads questions and provides the prize–his voice on your home answering machine. The game creator t means that Peter Sagal was on vacation and one of the panelists, Adam Felber was filling in.

We laughed for almost all of the two hours. The questions were good, the panelists funny. So was John Waters the maker of such odd films as Pink Flamingo and Hairspray.

They tape for almost two hours in order to fill just under an hour of program. That means that there is a lot of banter among the panelists and among the panelists and guests. They also spend a bit of time re-taping parts which might be as little as a phrase and as long as a couple of sentences. The taping process was as interesting as listening to the show.

Wit, wit everywhere. And quick.

My new plan is to quit my job, go into training and become a regular panelist. I just need mental quickness. And wit.