Skinned Knee

Remember when as a young child you would fall, skin your knee or elbow or something. If you were lucky like me you had a mom to check  it out, bandage it up, maybe kiss your forehead and send you on your way. No biggy.


My wife and I went biking yesterday. My first of the year.  I surprised my wife  by asking her to come along. She assumes that when I say I am riding that it is solo. Mostly it is but recently we have not had time  together and anyway every once in awhile I try to keep her off-guard. It’s good for the marriage.

The day started warm for April in Chicago, somewhere in the low seventies. Good weather to watch a high school baseball double header. By late afternoon it had already started to cool off. I under dressed for the ride.

All in all it was a good ride. The legs still work after a long winter of nothingness. Husband and wife were together. Not too windy.

We went close to 20 miles. It got progressively cooler and dark clouds rolled in. Good chance of rain before we made it home. Yet finally here we were within a 1/2 mile of the house. I wanted to get off a busy and potholed street so I made a modestly sharp right turn onto what is usually a concrete path. Yesterday it was a concrete path covered with loose stones. Down, down, down I plunged onto the hard, unforgiving plane of the urban jungle. (Pretty dramatic reading given that the top of my bike frame  is all 33 inches off the ground.)

Three inch by two inch scrape on my knee with a few cuts. Lots of blood. Each hand has torn skin on at least one finger. So what say you. Be a man. Not as if you have broken bones, torn limbs or some serious disease. And yet, I retort, do you know how many nerve endings are at the surface of your knee. Billions. Look it up on Web MD if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, we were still not home and in case you forgot it is challenging to ride a bike without flexing your knee. Each rotation sent screaming pain through my soul and trickling blood down my leg. And no mommy at home to do what mommies do.

Actually, living on my own for a long time got me to the point where I tend to do these situations my self. My wife kindly offered to minister to me but all that could be done was to wipe off the blood, clean the wound, and rub some antibacterial salve on the area. I did. For a couple of hours the pain was intense but I am relatively good with pain, even strong pain, if I know it will go away at some point. My wife  helped by going out to pick up dinner and a movie. I was in no condition or mood to leave the house.

Today only moderate pain except for when I occasionally swipe the knee against something. Then I am reminded about the billion nerve endings. Fortunately the prognosis is good. The patient will survive.

Life Goes On

After a too short period I went back to work.  It was time. I thought I was ready. I kinda was.

It is true that for the living life goes on. I had much support from my wife, son and lots of friends who continued to send cards and notes and to call. All of it thoughtful, sincere, beautiful and much appreciated.

Then there are the people I know but am not friends with.  A few demonstrated heartfelt feelings. One woman who I converse with regularly send a very nice card and gave me a hug when I got back and you could tell she cared. The other extreme were the few people for whom saying, “I am sorry for your loss” was purely a contrived politeness they felt they needed to convey. One did not even look me in the eye as he quickly moved passed me and went sorryforyourloss.

Most fell in the middle. Wanted to say something to a coworker who they are not good friends with. This was OK except that I was not as ready to tell the story of my Mom’s illness and death 20 times on Monday. Boy, people like details. Then they like to tell you about how someone they knew dies. It amazes me how insensitive people can be or at least unsensitive (not that that is a word). Since we just finished the period where I and other Jews are to attone for their sins let it be said that I fall into this category more often than I should.

Beyond all the Mom stuff this was a fairly regular week–if a day of fasting can be considered regular. Work was intense and long. I complained about the lack of underskilled help, spent hours under severe pressure, came home and collapsed. The week ended well as I learned that I had won a new client that I have been chasing for awhile and I attended Senior Night at D’s last home soccer game. The seniors and their parents were introduced in front of the fans.  D played a great game. I am very proud of what he has accomplished as a student athlete.

On to the first weekend and the second week of the rest of my life.

She’s Gone

The biggest disaster of the day happened 15 minutes before the markets closed but had nothing to do with the failed bailout or the stock market. My mom died today.

Mom, or Ma as I usually called her, fought the good fight against long odds. I was there to see her take her last breadth in this world.

It seems even more strange that she left the living just hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Given that she held on for eight days after the doctor told us she only had 2-3 left I would have thought that she would usher in the new year. But she was always thinking of others, especially her children, before herself and she probably wanted us to be comforted by friends and congregation, praying without worrying any more about her condition.

She was warm and strong. She raised four kids, worked and dealt with a husband who contracted Alzheimer’s at 56 while she still had an autistic child in the house to care for. She made sure that at all times that child, my sister Sandy, had the best care possible. This woman who spent much of her early married life as a housewife had to learn to deal with state bureaucracy, find appropriate living facilities for her, raise funds, charm the staff/the many CEOs and even the occasional U.S. senator, and stay on top of everything to ensure that her daughter never fell through the cracks in the system and not only lived but thrived.

She always thought that whatever her kids did was great and whatever help we provided was above and beyond the call. Family was very important to her and this meant not just us but to her aunts and uncles and extended lists of cousins from each branch of the family tree. She loved and was loved.

She could annoy in only the ways that a parent could. She loved to give advice. Into my fifties she never failed to suggest that I needed to be wearing a coat any time that she was cold. But then we were always her kids, in the most loving way that those words can be taken.

I will miss her every day.

Death Is Personal

The news we hear every day contains statistics of death. Suicide bombings in Iraq, military bombings in Afghanistan, senseless murders of innocents caught in drive by shootings, people of fame die often at what appears to be too young. This morning  I read an article of the high but declining murder rate in Brazil. The article talked about murders per hundred thousand.

I do not believe that people go when it is “their time”. I believe that the timing is random and senseless. Yet if we had to think about or feel all of these deaths individually,  the people of the world would be overwhelmed by grief and could do nothing else but mourn. That would be too much. One can be empathetic but need the distance that death as a statistic provides.

And yet it is all personal to someone. To the people who know and love the dead or dying.  Every now and again we should pause and remember that as we read about the numbers. Each has a name. Each was a someone.

Death is personal. Trust me, I am becoming one of the millions of experts created each year.

Its All Bad

I like the phrase, “its all good” especially when people use it sincerely. Those are individuals who take things in stride and generally see the positive side of life.

However, when it comes to my Mom’s health there ain’t no good news. When a liver is not working the way it should no amount of determination and fortitude can withstand the onslaught. She is getting weaker and not all that slowly fading away. The doctors use terms like “in the final stages of the disease”. They are trying a few new things to stabilize her condition for a time. The end, though, is not as far away as I would like.

She spent last night in the emergency room after looking like, but not yet experiencing, death. It turned out dehydration had raised her potassium levels. They fixed her and sent her back. She was asleep by the time I got there tonight but I have been told she was much better today.

It seems surreal but is all too real. I will be writing about her life at some point. Her story is worth telling  but not now. It would seem like a eulogy and she is not in need of that just yet.

Worn Out

Many in my family are showing signs of wear.

My Mom is not happy. She seems angry that she is physically and mentally not what she was. She is not adjusting to the nursing home/rehab facility she is in. She claims the other people who have been there awhile hang together and do not include her. She is tired of not being home, of being bed ridden or sitting in a wheelchair and, I am guessing, being bored. She said to me that she was not made to live this way.

My step dad needs some time off. He is with her all day, every day. It is tiring just to be sitting around. Not much new to talk about after the first 800 hours or so–which is roughly how long she has been hospitalized. Yet he won’t leave her side.

My brother shows up 5 days a week and has a 3 hour round trip commute. He is crabby, angry, frustrated and probably more than a little sad.

It is getting to me too. Between long work, travel and the weight of my mom, I am sullen, crabby and ready to crack far too often. I could barely bike on Sunday. It took over 4 hours to finish 44 miles. I had no energy from the first pedal and barely was able to drag my sorry ass back home. I can’t believe that my annual century ride is in less than 5 weeks. At this rate I may have to seriously consider a lesser distance. We will see what the legs feel like in a few weeks.

We are all singing the blues.


Definition of “Friend”: “Gary”

I have a number of good friends and friends that have done good by me. No way I survive the past 52 years without them. I am very lucky. The latest example happened last week.

I rely on my friend Gary to keep me alive. He is my cardiologist and I have high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. He tends to also be my go to guy for any medical advice and naturally I conferred with him about my Mom.

Early last week he called to get an update. (His one character flaw is that he does not read 48Facets religiously.) I was in a deeply sad mood when he called. I ranted about the care she was getting in the hospital, howled about how the docs do not seem to talk to each other.

At this point it was two days before an evaluation of Mom at which they would decide when she would be kicked out of the hospital. We we expected that it would be only a few days after the evaluation. She had been in the rehab unit working on her strength and functionality. She had been making good progress. From my perspective a stay at a rehab unit in a nursing home should be the next step. I wanted her to be as a strong as possible before going home and we needed more time to assess in-home heath care assistance.

She however, had been adamant about going home. Nothing I or my siblings said made any difference. So back to my call with Gary.

When I shared that she intended to go home he proceeded to give me all the reasons why this was a bad idea. Duh. Preaching to the choir I replied. In my desperate, whiny voice I said something to the effect of don’t tell me, tell her. So he did.

He took time out of his very busy schedule to go spend time with her. He accomplished what I could not. He convinced her to go to the rehab facility. He was uniquely qualified. He is a doc and he has known her since we were in fifth grade. Way to go Gary!

I had left town the day after so I did not hear about it until he left a message for me letting me know that he had tried. Shortly after I heard from my sister that he had been successful.

Gary did not have to take time out of his doctor/father/husband schedule to do this. He could of stopped at lending an empathetic ear to a friend. Actually he could not have stopped there. That is not the kind of guy he is. He is a good guy.

It chokes me up just to write about this. Thanks Gary.

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…


Don’t ever be sick or old and don’t let anyone you care about get sick or old. Definitely do not do anything that requires health care beyond band-aids on a holiday weekend.

I just spend 6 hours in the ER with my mom.

Short background.  Though only 76, her liver has not been working as it should. This has led to multiple symptoms. She looks like a picture of a starving African child. Distended belly, frail, sticks for arms and legs. She can barely walk with the help of a walker, her legs do not want to move. She needs help getting out of bed or out of a chair. It has been like this for months now. Best as we understand from multiple docs is that this is the rest of her life and she can only be treated to make her more comfortable.

Why the ER today. One leg has been getting numb and her ability to walk has decreased further. Her doc is on vacation. There is no where else to go on a holiday weekend. She needs more than the doc-in-a -box clinics that have sprung up can provide. Plus, while she is weak of body, she is still strong of will. I wanted to take her last night but she refused over and over. I was not ready to carry her over my shoulder. Unfortunately, she was in pain through much of the night and that convinced her to finally call at 6 am to have me come get her. My step dad has taken over full time care duties but moving her and dealing with the docs and the hospital is no one person affair.

I was at her house by 6:30 but it was almost an hour before we were able to get out of the house. Anyone who has dealt with and aged infirm parent can identify.

Checked in and in a bed at the ER by 8:15. Then the waiting begins. It was not busy there when we arrived so I had hoped things would progress quickly. I was delusional. Eventually a nurse comes in and asks the same questions the nurse at admitting asked. Sometime within an hour and a half a doctor comes in. Though this hospital and my mom’s doc are all part of the same group, he has no info on her. Therefore, he starts by ordering basic blood work and an X-ray. The blood is eventually taken and the sign in the room promises results in one hour. The sign writer is as delusional as I am.

So you sit. And sit. and sit. You get the picture. Over the course of the next 6 hours promises about next steps are made by nurses but nothing happens. At the 5.5 hour mark the doc walks in, gives us two minutes in which he tells us she will be admitted over night, answers his cell and walks out. At least four times in this version of No Exit we are told they will try to reach her regular doctor who I know is out of town because I spoke with his partner last night who had no more knowledge of my mom’s file than the ER doc or you do.

They admit her, my sister comes for the second shift and I get to go home for the day physically and emotionally drained.