Laboring in Thought

Since my last post, things have changed. My computer remains in the hands of the Geek Squad, but not for long. Though they cannot figure out why the thing dies and cannot be resurrected for days on end, they say they will return it to me. They claim they will send it to me by UPS, though they stress its handling by the boys in brown could irrevocably damage the already unreliable beast. Ah, I forgot to mention. They’re shipping it to me in Hot Springs Village, for that’s where I am for the moment.

Last week, I decided I wanted to make a trip home for a few days, so after consultation with my niece, we decided I would teach her how to pack my brother’s (her father’s) surgical wound and I would head home for a couple of days, just enough to reintroduce myself to my wife and vice versa, so we would not forget one another’s faces. But the plan was thrown into the ditch when, on Friday afternoon, one of the home health nurses thought the bloody discharges from the wound were too great. She consulted his surgeon’s nurse, who suggested he return to the Emergency Room. So, the plan was dashed. I took him to the ER, where the doctors decided right away that the infection of his wound was not getting better and that he needed to be admitted to the hospital. He would be there at least for the weekend, they said. So, I resurrected the plan. I would drive home, spend a day with my wife, then drive back on Monday so that my niece could return to work on Tuesday and I could look after my brother on his release, whether on Monday or Tuesday or whenever. But on Saturday, after I was well on my way to Hot Springs Village, the doctors finally decided what his daughter and I knew all along; he was getting badly malnourished because he was not eating sufficient amounts of food. He would need to stay in the hospital for at least the remainder of the week and possibly longer. And they decided to insert a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line, which they will use to supply nutrients he needs. According to the attending physician, he could not recover to the extent he needs to even if he ate a diet containing 5,000 calories, so a total parenteral nutrition (TPN) solution is necessary. I am assuming some things here, based on research; no one mentioned TPN, but my research suggests that’s what it is. Though he is also supposed to inject foods regularly to the extent he can, so it’s different from what I’ve read about. The issue arose, though, because he has been unable to eat much since his surgery. That issue must be resolved, long-term, before he can return to his normal self and be self-sufficient. At any rate, the docs say he will be in the hospital for at least a week, maybe considerably longer. I suppose we will just wait and see. I will pack a suitcase and assorted other “stuff” and keep it at the ready so I can head to Houston at a moment’s notice. In the meantime, I’m getting reacquainted with the joys of home ownership, such as fixing toilets that keep running after being flushed, leaky faucets, and a wood deck that remains unstripped and unfinished, despite my month-long disappearance; it refused to care for itself in my absence.

But back to the computer. It was not repaired. The Geeks cannot figure out why it suddenly shuts off and cannot be started again until they intervene in some fashion. And I paid for that service, which got me essentially nothing. Perhaps I need to replace the little monster with something four years newer and let the little notebook serve someone else, if it chooses. So I may look for another notebook computer over the next few days. And, while I’m looking, I may sneak in an annual subscription to Amazon Prime so I can order online and get it the next day. And, as an added bonus, I can get access to Amazon Prime Video, which is home to a series I began watching while at my niece’s house (though I could not watch much due to distractions that drove me approximately crazy from time to time). The series, The Man in the High Castle, is predicated on a different outcome of World War II; that is, that the Axis powers won the war. The U.S. was invaded, with the Nazis taking over the eastern two-thirds of the country and the Japanese controlling most of the western third, with a strip of “neutral territory” between them. The series, set in the early 1960s, seems to be focused on (thus far, at least) resistance fighters working to overthrown the invaders. A man in the mountains of Colorado (the man in the high castle) is somehow responsible for creating and/or collecting a series of films that show that the outcome is not as everyone thinks; that the Allies actually won but somehow convinced people otherwise. That part is very difficult to comprehend at this early stage; I’ve only watched one a half episodes. The series has three seasons (so far, at least) which should be quite entertaining. It’s based on a book (of course) that merits reading, I think.

I remain a non-writer for the moment. I just can’t stay focused long enough to write anything of any consequence. It doesn’t help that I have to borrow computers just to do   things like compose this blog post. But I may have a cure for that in a day or two. A cure for borrowing a computer, not for the paucity of focus on writing. I really do think I may need an extended time off, alone, working on nothing but emptying my head of useless thoughts and replacing them with something of substance. Maybe that will help. But the bottom line is that I feel like I’m unable to focus for more than twenty minutes at a time. And even twenty minutes is a stretch. I’m bouncing off the walls. If I could sequester my creative energy in some way and release it on command for extended periods of time, I might actually write something of which I can be proud. Or maybe not.

On an utterly unrelated subject, an hour after I got back to Hot Springs Village on Saturday, my wife and I went to an “ice cream social” at church. It felt more than a little odd for some reason. Many people didn’t mention that I hadn’t been around for the past month. Others knew, vaguely, that I had mentioned my brother’s health issues, but not much else. Generally, I got the sense that any interest in talking to me was based on my role with the newsletter. I may have misinterpreted, but I sensed that I was outside a sphere, looking in. And the occasional “sincere” expression of concern seemed contrived. Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe I can’t really see through charades.  We opted not to go to church the following day, deciding instead to go out for breakfast, where we ran into some neighbors and had a nice time chatting with them about everything from films they recommend to the unfortunate reality that men do not, in general, allow themselves to build bonds with small groups of other men in the way women bond with other women. Interesting stuff. And, then, later in the day, we had dinner with other neighbors of whom we have grown quite fond. I found it interesting that I feel much more at ease and comfortable with the neighbors than with the church folks. I don’t dislike the church folks, but the relationship with them seems utterly superficial. I had the sense, early on, that we were developing deeper relationships with the church people, but that sense is quickly disappearing. I sense, instead, that church relationships are based on one’s value to the church, as  opposed to one’s value to the individuals who belong to the church. I’m thinking with my fingers, here, so I may have a different perspective tomorrow. But at the moment, I’m not so enchanted with the church vibe as I was a few months ago. I guess the fact that responsibility for “care and concern” is an assignment in the church as opposed to a genuine and organic expression of empathy got me thinking along these lines. And it’s not that I don’t think people in the church don’t have genuine feelings of concern for others; it’s just that those feelings are not particularly strong outside their small circle of close church friends.  Perhaps these feelings an observations all spring from the fact that I am and always have been and felt like an outsider. I’ve never felt truly a part of a group, even a group of writers. I’m much closer to some than to others, of course, but I’ve never felt part of the fabric of “writers” in my sphere. As I read what I’ve written and contemplate what I’ve thought, it occurs to me that my distance from others may be self-imposed. Looking back, it’s extremely rare that I have been very close to anyone. Letting down one’s guard is an invitation to suffering wounds that may never heal. On the one hand, that perspective is sad and isolating. On the other, it’s a modestly protective isolation, albeit an artificial one that doesn’t really block the missiles and arrows and rocks thrown in one’s direction.

It’s after 7:00 am my coffee is now quite cold. I’ll post this, heat my coffee, and contemplate what one does to appropriately celebrate Labor Day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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