Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alien Footprints?

This is the sidewalk at my parents' condo. As the snow first began to fall and was just a dusting, there were dainty little cat footprints trailing down the steps. The next morning, after lots more snow, this is what they looked like. I had never seen this before and was a little freaked.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our Christmas Tree Angel Also Wishes You a Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Strange Duties of a Teacher

Tonight I had to quickly whip out a recommendation letter for a former student who is jobless, desperate, and suddenly opting for grad school.

His first name: Christ.

The pronunciation rhymes with "mist," but still, it makes for a difficult letter to write. Some bits of it:

Christ was a student in my Introductory Poetry Workshop last spring semester.

In addition to his writing talent, Christ possesses a long list of qualities that will make him an exceptional graduate student.

I would have loved to have had Christ as a student for another semester, and I can only hope for more students of his caliber in the future.

When it got really bizarre, I decided to just go with it:

Political science is a passion of Christ’s (I can’t believe I just typed that, but I’m leaving it in) and if given the chance, he will thrive in a program where he can immerse himself in the study of it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost Two Weeks Now

Apart, that is. My mom and dad.

Mom's healing process is so glacially slow that it's like watching an inchworm pinch upward from the down-end of a teeter totter to the end that's in the air, then try to push with all his might to get it to teeter. Or would that be totter?

It's likely that she'll have to have this back surgery where a neurosurgeon injects a kind of "cement" between the compressed vertabrae in order to spread them out again. From what I've read, it's becoming pretty common. But...yow!

Whatever she needs, we'll get through it. When our family circles the wagons, we're pretty tough.

On another topic, my grades are done!!! This means I can now look at the list of things I need to do during the 27 days left on my semester break, and become overwhelmed, and do a little woe-is-me dance, then recover, then start to check off the things that I can manage to do (since I have no magic healing wand to help my mom), including:

1. Find yet-unfound box of winter hats and scarves I haven't seen since we left Phoenix.
2. Make a dent in the revisions for the yet-unwritten book I worked on all last summer.
3. Watch some yet-unwatched DVDs with Scott.
4. Go back to the gym I joined and and add some variety to this yet-unvaried elliptical boredom.
5. Finish Christmas letter and email it.
6. Write recommendation letters for three students who annoy me more each day.
7. Resolve never to write another recommendation letter.
8. Make sense of this flurry of words I'm lost in, in about 9 writing projects.
9. Pray more without any words.
10. Stop being so obsessively connected to lists.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ten Days

That's how long it's been since my mom has seen my dad. The last time they were apart this long? World War Two.

When my brother Dan and his wife stayed with Mom for 2 days this past week, Dan went to feed our dad his lunch and took a couple of seconds-long videos on his cell phone of Dad. He asked Dad to say "Hi Katie!" (Our mom's nickname.) There was Dad's face, sweet and pitiful and almost without expression, except for the slightest I'm-too-worn-out-to-care perplexed look. Big pure blue eyes, combed white hair, looking into the camera, trying, as always, no...just since he's been in dementia, to do as he is told.

It took two tries, and prompting, for him to barely whisper "Hi Katie." And I don't think he knew who "Katie" was. He knows her as "Kathleen." In fact, Dan first said "Say hi to Mom." This doesn't work at all. When I used to kiss Dad good night at Shiny Meadows and say "Mom will be here to see you tomorrow," he would sometimes say "My mom?" And I would look into his eyes and say "No. Your mom has been gone a long time." (45 years). I learned quickly to say "Your wife, Kathleen, will be here to see you tomorrow."

Think of it, though. He wakes up in this immobile life, this meal, sleep, meal, confusion of a life, and his mother is there, standing next to his bed. "I've missed you so much," she might say. "I'd like you to spend the whole day with me." Big pure blue eyes, combed white hair, looking at her. Happy, very happy, to do as he is told.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

House Call, Grading, Drugs

My mom's wonderful and very understanding doctor came to see her today and stayed 45 minutes. God bless him.

It is his opinion that she has compression fractures in her back. These are not something that can be detected on the X-ray. But they are the reason for the agony. Basically, this means that her vertabrae are smooshed together. Not good.

New drugs were prescribed. A different pain patch, one that lasts three days and is an opiate. That, along with half a Vicodin and, if needed, an anti-nausea pill. All the Motrin and Tylenol have been ditched because of bleeding in her stomach.

My brain is inventorying all this as fast as it can, trying to take the Legos of obsessive worrying and build at least something quaint, maybe a fountain in the shape of a moose. He can spew out a stream of water under which I will place all these final portfolios from my students. They will be soggy and meaningless and ungradeable. This will be a pity.

Is there anything in the world more frustrating than knowing someone you love is in pain?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Grading Begins

I made my deadlines for final projects way later than any other instructor I know. Most papers were due last week. Mine are due today and tomorrow. I purposely give myself that space to prepare mentally and to spend hours watching DVDs so I can get all numb in the brain and want to read words again.

This time, I'm completely preoccupied with worry about my mom. Her pain is not letting up. It is a pushy, intrusive bitch. The pain pills have failed, the giant pain patches have failed, the mysterious tingly pain gel has failed, and so has the Motrin/Tylenol/Motrin dance. She's OK when she's lying down, but one has to get up sometimes, doesn't one?

Blessing: Her doctor is actually going to make a house call tomorrow. He did this a couple times when my dad was still living at home, and I am massively grateful that he's willing to do it again. He's the doctor who visits Shiny Meadows once a week, and one of the few I would trust in my hometown. Some of them, I'm certain, obtained their M.D. from a P.O. Box in Bugtussle, West Dakota, along with a free bonus degree in heating and air conditioning and a Bobblehead doll of Ross Perot.

Which brings me to this: prayer. (Actually no. There was not even a glimmer of a segue from Ross Perot to prayer.)

There are many people praying for my mom's healing. Prayer is complicated. I don't understand it and I don't even know where to start trying. But here I am again, eyeing it warily like a tired coyote circling a campfire. Wondering if there could be something of nourishment nearby, something sustaining, or is this just a trick on my senses, however bright and warm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

OK, We Got Through Monday

Tossed out the pain pills that made Mom hurl, and now we've started the Motrin/Tylenol/Motrin pattern along with some giant Lidocaine patches on her back. I'm doubtful that these will help, since they're not exactly made for broken-bone pain. The pain is still the struggle. She yelps from the sharpness of it when she does anything much more than walk slowly. Getting into and out of bed is tough.

Trying to keep her out of bed for at least a couple hours a day in order to avoid pneumonia. I'm happy to say that today she sat in a chair and watched "Dr. Phil" with me. There was a married couple with two heinously awful, screaming, abusive-to-people-and-animals kids. You have never heard such screaming. Total spawns of jackal-demons, these boys. I've never seen/heard anything like them. The mother was clueless and deeply annoying in a Stepford way, and the father was beefy and sweating and crying over his sons.

Mom felt well enough to say "Look at that crybaby. If he had any backbone he'd line those kids out!"

Yes. One small step back.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Update on Mom

The X-rays show that she did break a rib, but probably nothing in her back. It's hard to tell from all the swelling.

Right now her struggle is pain. The doctor gave her some pain pills that seemed to be working for awhile until they made her dizzy and nauseated. Now we're back to Ibuprofen and her pain is significant. It's going to be a long road back. Thanks for any and all prayers.

Like they say: One day at a time.
Like I say: One 5-minute segment at a time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How I Hate the Winter

I hate it more when I know my mom is out driving and walking in it.

This past Monday as she was leaving the nursing home after seeing Dad, Mom slipped on the ice in the parking lot and fell. She laid there in 12 degree weather for about 20 minutes. Finally she called the nursing home with her cell phone (no, I don't know why she didn't do that first) and the girls there came out and brought her in and covered her with blankets. My sister took her to the ER to get checked out. Nothing broken (they only X-rayed her knee since that was the only thing that really hurt), but she got extremely sore all over.

The pain has now gotten much worse. Today she had X-rays and the twisting and positioning for those was agonizing. I know some of you who come to this blog are believers in prayer. I'm asking you for prayers for Mom. Her physical pain is made worse by the fact that she cannot go see my dad. She is very tough for 88, but this has really messed her up.

I'll be going there tomorrow for a few days to do whatever I can, even if it's only to help her relax while I go feed Dad. I'm praying she has not broken a vertebra or whatever other damage one can do to one's back, and that this is just the rough aftermath of a fall. Like after a car accident.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Life on a Grid

It's not that I forget that there are many people who do not live their lives on a semester-based calendar. It's more like I just can't imagine being in that world anymore. I'm so used to my life being cyclical and measured out in 16 week chunks that I have adjusted my brain and heart to go with those pieces.

For example, this is the last week of regular classes at the University. Not even a full week; Wednesday is our last day. And next week is finals week. Since I teach writing classes and never have final exams, I instead come up with deadlines for the big thudding writing projects I've assigned. So, after Wednesday I'll have six days "off" until I get the pile of papers to grade. A few students do turn them in early, but not many.

There are mixed blessings here. I get six days to brace for the avalanche that is about to pound down on me, but I also get terribly, almost irreversibly out. of. the. notion. for grading. My brain takes off for Boca Raton to sit in the sun with old hoarse-laugh ladies with skin like brown-speckled eggs. I plant the legs of my Adirondack chair into the sand and don my Gucci knock-off sunglasses and jump into the my-vein-doctor-what-a-face-he-has conversations with little concern for the shovel-full of prose and poems on the way.

Then. SPROING! The delicious little beach scene flaps open like a Jack-in-the-box and out comes the big head of Academia to grind me in his jaws and jettison me back to the unfinished business I left behind.

What a mediocre escape fantasy that was anyway. The real daydream would include, yes, the beach, but substitute Scott for the Boca Ratonettes and add a hammock big enough for two. And no deadlines.

I'm not there yet, though. This is the almost-there part of the semester. I am a hyper little terrier, wagging at the door, anticipating the glorious moment when it opens and I can bound outside to blissfully roll in the dead bird that is my six days off. It is a smelly Nirvana.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What's That Coming from the Sky?

There are about 6 inches of snow on the ground! I always have mixed feelings about snow. It's pretty, but I hate messing about in it. If I can stay home, it looks prettier. But then I still have to worry about my mom driving in it when she goes to see Dad at Shiny Meadows. Today my sister drove Mom to see Dad. I am so grateful.

Scott does not have mixed feelings about snow. As we both stood looking out the kitchen window at it today, he said "I couldn't hate snow more even if every individual flake was a cockroach falling to Earth."