Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cherries and Maple Leaves.....

It was about this time, two years ago, that Mom took the fall that ultimately took her home. There's a two month blog-gap between the first December  (General Health Updates....) and my annual kidney transplant update post (Four Years....) that was utterly taken up by her hip fracture, hospital stay, nursing home transfer and decline.  (By the way, my brother offered the nickname "BamBam" for JuJu's baby - it never stuck - they all call him Bubbies. I have no idea why.)

Time passes.  The raw emotions that follow the loss of both of your parents (and one of your best friends) in less than a year don't really go away, exactly.  They just hit less frequently.

Sunday afternoon I wrapped Christmas presents.  Don't judge me - there are a lot of grandkids to keep track of!  I'm pretty efficient.  Wrap, label, add to the list.  Wrap, label, add to the list.  Wrap....

My dad adored chocolate covered cherries.  I'm not sure why - personally I think they're pretty gross - but he loved them.  So every year, I would buy him a box.  Once, when Curlygirl was very little, she started eating his cherries before he could even get the first one:  I had no idea she like them.

So, every year for nearly 20 years after that, I bought and wrapped TWO boxes of chocolate covered cherries.  Until last year.  I don't actually remember if I bought them for Curlygirl then, but I bought them this year.  And wrapping only one box just made me cry for a few minutes.

Next day: 

First, the background.  When Citygirl moved out west to learn wine making, she sent my Mom a picture of herself holding the biggest autumn maple leaf I've ever seen - far bigger than her head. That picture sat on my Mom's dining room table, and she commented on it at least once a week over breakfast.  The photo went with her to the nursing home, although she was too out of it to really notice at that point. I remember picking it up with Mom's 'personal effects' a few weeks after she died.

So, walking into work, still a bit tender from the Christmas memories, I spotted an absolutely enormous maple leaf on the sidewalk, not as big as the one in the picture but monstrous compared to what we usually see on trees here, and, BLAM, I was sitting at Mom's table, sorting pills and drinking coffee while she ate her peanut butter toast and chatted about whatever thoughts were wandering through her mind at the moment.

Weeping as you come through the door of the office is bad form.

Grief is a funny thing.  You can be fine - truly FINE - and then. Then.

Oddly, someone today randomly mentioned that I seemed to be handling my Mom's loss well. He's facing losing his own mother and isn't at all sure he'll do well. It left me at a bit of a loss as to what to say.

There's no real point to all of this, and it's a bit out of place in the gratitude month concept, except...I'm not UNgrateful for grief, truly.  I've met people who would happily dance on the graves of their parents, and who grieve only for the sadness that was their childhoods.  The things I miss are happy things, good things, grateful things. My life hasn't been all sunlight and roses, but my parents did their best to give me better than they had, and I miss them.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grocery Stores....

Today was stock-up-on-everything day.  Beginning at the Farmer's Market, moving through Aldi's, Walmart and Price Chopper (in order of ascending price LOL), there was really nothing that we could have wished for that we couldn't have found.

Of course, our wishes are modest.  We aren't looking for fresh truffles and two carat diamonds.

But we could have had live lobster.  We bought mangoes and pomegranates. We could have had any of an almost unimaginably large number of luxuries without driving more than five miles from home.

I remember life in Pakistan.  I lived in a wealthy neighborhood (lower upper class, if you will). The family had one full-time servant, and at least three part-time.  We could afford to but enough water to have a flower garden and a lawn in the middle of our desert city.  There was a refrigerator, and we fired up the hot water tank every morning for (brief!) hot showers, saving the grey water for the lawn. But shopping?

Once a week a bazaar sprang up in a dusty grassless field.  There were a lot of things you could buy: Clothing, undergarments, cloth, towels.  There was food also:  Garlic, spices, two or three types of fresh vegetables, some canned goods. Fresh yogurt in large open clay bowls. Fresh chicken as well. Well, actually, LIVE chickens that were slaughtered and plucked on site while you shopped. Nothing like flying feathers to help you work up an appetite....

The entire place was a transplant recipient's nightmare.

Farmer's market food requires a couple of extra minutes of preparation.  Cut the tops off the carrots.  Snap the Brussel sprouts off the stem.  Make sure you didn't bring home any little green worms with the broccoli.  But even our most inconvenient food is easier to work with and far more plentiful than what the majority of people all around the world deal with day-to-day.

I'm grateful.


Friday, November 10, 2017


I remember the heat vent upstairs in the house I grew up in.  It was in the hallway, by the windows.  If there was another source of heat for the bedrooms up there, I don't remember (although I don't recall ever being cold, exactly).  I DO remember standing over that vent in my flannel nightgown on more than one Christmas Eve, warm and waiting....

I remember the steam radiators in my old apartment in Buffalo.  They were slow to get going, but once they did, they'd fog the windows with warmth...

I remember the beach house that I lived in during medical school.  It had only one heat vent for the entire tiny house.  The last person to bed opened everyone's bedroom doors to let in some heat, and the first one up closed them to keep in the quiet.  All THREE of us would stand over that vent in our nightclothes to warm up...

Today was our first really cold day of the season.  When I went out to walk the dogs this morning there was a gust of cold wind, the kind that makes your nostrils pinch and your throat shut tight so you can't breathe for a minute.  It soaked into me, and lasted until now.

But now I am sitting on the heat vent in my living room, with a blanket to keep any of the warm air from escaping.  My fingers and toes are finally warm, and my ears can't be far behind.

Thank God for the blessing of warmth.


Thursday, November 9, 2017


I will never, ever stop being grateful for the blessing of a good pedicurist. As I’ve aged I’ve come to realize just how much pain I’d be in if I hadn’t found someone I could trust to keep my ingrown toenails in check. I mean, who wants surgery for that when there is a more pleasant alternative?

It seems like a small thing. But I am an absolute baby about pain, honestly. Having let things go once to the point where I need the less-than-tender mercies of a podiatrist, I RUN to get a pedi at the first pinch now. And the plus? Pretty toes.

Hey! No one said that all gratitude needs to be profound! LOL.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Puppy Love....

How can I not be grateful for our dogs?  Simon is going to be 15 this spring, and he still greets every day with a smile.  Larry's age is an open question, but he's 10 if he's a minute. He's proudly learned how to play for what appears to be the first time in his life over the past year since he moved in with us.

And then there's Capone.

He's hysterical.  He's adorable. He's loving to me, and a world-class jerk to his brother dogs.

While we were trick-or-treating with the grandkids, I stopped to say hi to an enormous GoldenDoodle on a neighbor's porch.  "He's so calm!"  "Yeah, he's pretty good."  I told him my dog's not so good with crowds of people in costumes.  "I think you've seen us walking. I have the Shrieking Beagle."  "Oh, yeah - I know that dog. He's, uh,.....cute."

Yeah, pretty much everybody knows Capone LOL.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Headache Meds....

I missed yesterday's gratitude post:  I came home from work with a puking light-avoiding headache after another day of struggling with our recently installed 'new' electronic medical record system.  I wasn't feeling grateful.  Or up to typing.

But in the (subdued) light of (medication-hungover) morning, I am grateful for the medications that brought that headache from Oh-Dear-God-Take-Me-Now to Pretzels-Are-Dinner-Food-Aren't-They over a period of a couple of hours.

I'm grateful for the medications that I take daily that took away the daily headaches that came with hallucinatory auras.

I am NOT grateful for the new operating system.


PS If you see me today, remind me to call in a refill of my migraine medication. I had to borrow Babygirl's last night.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Safe Havens....

I've been fortunate that for most of my life I've had a Home.  I lived in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, moving into my childhood home when I was a toddler and into a house just outside of town in my mid-teens. I left for college, and returned for a couple of years afterward. And then I became a nomad.

I moved dozens of times during medical school.  If it didn't fit in my Toyota Corolla, I didn't keep it.  I moved from one hospital to another every 4 - 6 weeks.  I lived in Long Island, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Detroit, and Buffalo, sometimes moving 12 hours between the end of a shift on Saturday and the start of another on Monday.

I've been where I am now for almost 30 years.  This is MY kids' home town (which still seems odd to me).  I don't have to move again unless I want to.  It's Home. And for every time I have to leave with Babygirl to park ourselves in some hospital elsewhere, there is an endless sense of safety and relief when we get back.

For those of us who have been uprooted and thrown from our safe havens, finding Home is a miraculous and wonderful thing.  It isn't a place, necessarily:  It's the knowledge of belonging.  Every once in a while someone will ask me about some bit of local history and I'll have to admit that I'm not 'native' here, but I belong nonetheless.

I looked ahead on my schedule for the week, and I have a new patient. She's a brand-new baby, whose mother I cared for when SHE was a brand-new baby, and that is just another aspect of Home.

Gratitude for our safe places, amen.