I Must Remember This

Is there a term for the inability to remember any details of a precise recent memory of a long-buried recollection? Yesterday, and again today, on two separate occasions, two different flashes of memory from my childhood popped into my head. Both occurrences involved events or emotions I feel quite certain I had not thought about in fifty or sixty years; maybe more. And both were crystal clear for several seconds. Yet, almost as soon as I recognized them as real—legitimate snapshots of fleeting moments in my life—they were gone, leaving only a deep imprint in my brain of the absence of a clear memory. I know only that those memories were real; but I do not know what they were about. I do know, though, they did not involve life-changing events; they simply cataloged moments of experience. They were neither especially relevant nor particularly irrelevant. The experiences were like sorting through a huge box of old photos and seeing a couple of pictures that expressed the mundane reality of an unimportant activity; like a photo of a child sitting on a swing set or standing proudly next to a misshapen sand castle on a stretch of empty beach.

Even though I am confident the two images that flashed through my mind were, indeed, mundane and not otherwise meaningful, I think they expressed to me something profound about my early life. And maybe, if only I could remember them, they would help explain who I am today. Those two concepts are at odds with one another; I know that. How could a fleeting memory of a meaningless experience have such a potentially profound impact on one’s personality and/or the way one’s life has played out over five or six decades?

How, indeed. Maybe I’m making far more of what may be only a misfiring synapse than it deserves. Maybe that’s all those memories were; misdirected nerve impulses that ricochet off of artificial memories. Artificial memories do exist; I’ve had more than my share of them. I remember events that never happened—could never have happened. These memories are similar in many respects to déjà vu. According to an article in Scientific American, déjà vu might be explained like this:  “We encounter a situation that is similar to an actual memory but we can’t fully recall that memory. So our brain recognizes the similarities between our current experience and one in the past. We’re left with a feeling of familiarity that we can’t quite place.” Perhaps that sort of error in memory processing can explain my two strange “memories” from my childhood. Or, perhaps not.

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I spent four and a half hours with my wife yesterday, helping her eat some “thickened” chicken broth and some vanilla-flavored Greek yoghurt. The pureed chicken breast and whipped potatoes she asked me to order went untouched. In fact, she claimed she did not ask me to order them; but when, after the order-taker on the other end of the telephone asked me whether my wife wanted gravy, my wife responded to me that she did. I hope a more appealing meal appeared after I departed. I thought I had to leave by 3:30 in order to get to return a “wedge” (used to help position bedridden people to avoid bed sores)  to the Village Health Mart; as it turned out, the wedge had to go to the pharmacy, not the medical supplies store. Long, convoluted, uninteresting story. At least I got it returned and, if all goes according to plan, will see a $46 credit on the credit card I used for the purchase. (I bought two; only needed on…a smaller one, at that.)

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Despite promising myself I would make congee today, I did not. Instead, I made a chicken and rice dish last night, using the Instant-Pot. I ate more chicken and more rice last night than I should eat in three days; apparently, I was ravenously hungry. I have had only coffee this morning. That probably will suffice; I’m still digesting from last night’s glutton-fest. I ate while I watched another episode of Deadwind. I’m beginning to understand a few words in Finnish. Give me another season or two and I may be able to successfully converse with the locals after I move to Helsinki. I think I might enjoy a job as a Finnish homicide detective. This assumes, of course, the television series portrays (like American television) absolutely realistic experiences.

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I took a pause from writing to shower and shave, take the trash to the street, and drive to the post office to pick up several pieces of mail. Most of the mail was marketing materials of no interest to me. When I got back to the house, my sister-in-law came by to borrow nutcrackers and to have a cup of coffee. Her coffee maker died. Until a replacement arrives later this week, she will rely on me for a cup each morning. She says the replacement is orange (she could have chosen teal or one of a couple of other colors). The one she bought has no water reservoir; it produces a single serving based on the amount of water one pours into the machine. And that exhausts my knowledge of her replacement coffee maker, soon to arrive.

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If the universe is properly aligned today, I will get a haircut before the day is out. First, I will go to the hospital to visit my wife and will take the magazines, etc. I promised to take yesterday, but left on the kitchen island, instead. When I returned home yesterday, I put them on the passenger seat; I wish I could set a reminder to myself to pick them up and take them inside once I arrive at the hospital. I do not trust myself to think clearly enough to ensure I take them inside. Whether I get a haircut today or not does not matter a great deal. I can live with my shaggy, unkempt look for a while longer. If my hair becomes sufficiently annoying, I am capable of using scissors to remove the offending strands, stopping them from dangling in my eyes and tickling my forehead.

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The sky is brilliant blue this morning and the temperature is just a tad over fifty degrees. A long sleeve shirt, sleeves rolled up a bit, over a t-shirt is adequate to keep me comfortable.  It’s almost a quarter after nine, five hours into the day. I should have accomplished more thus far this morning. But what do I really need to do? The house needs cleaning. That will wait, though. It will still be here—ready for vacuums and mops and other implements of housekeeping—when I return. Whether my mood will support the need to do housekeeping remains to be seen.  Off to face the day.

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Listening to Whispers

After six nights in ICU, and just after I arrived at the beginning of ICU visiting hours, nurses transferred my wife to a regular floor yesterday afternoon. Her blood pressure had stabilized enough, without the aid of IV medications, for the hospitalist (I assume) to judge her safe to remove from 24/7 close monitoring.

The process of readying her for the transfer was fairly lengthy, involving the removal of heart monitor lead wires from her. It also involved the extraction of a main line (the entry point for multiple IV drip lines) from her neck, among other wires and tubes tethering her to monitoring devices and sources of medication delivery. After she settled into her new—much quieter—room, she was able to order some food and drink, though not precisely what she wanted. Her diet is, for the moment, restricted to pureed foods and thickened liquids. The reason is that the muscles for swallowing have become weakened; until they regain adequate strength, she had a very difficult time chewing and swallowing food. So, for now, she can get roast beef, ham, beef patties, turkey, and other meats, but they are in the form of purees. And her cold tea comes, thickened, in a sealed container in response to the aphagia. I hope that affliction is short-lived.

I stayed with her well beyond my intended departure at 4:30, leaving around 6 or thereabouts. She watched a rather interesting baking competition program on the Food Network, apparently enjoying the efforts of contestants to create complex Christmas cookies and such stuff. We talked a bit, too, though I still have a hard time hearing her, because her voice is so weak.

Last night, as I was watching another episode of Deadwind (I’m taking a break from Bordertown), the land line rang. It was my wife, calling on her cell phone; a truly happy and unexpected event! As far as I know, she has not used her phone at all the entire six days she has been in the hospital (I took it to her a couple of days after her admission to the ICU), so it was a pleasant surprise to hear from her last night. She said she would call me this morning to let me know when she wants me to come visit (regular visiting hours are considerably longer than the hours available for ICU visits). And she wants me to bring some reading materials and her sudoku puzzle book. I hope this sudden burst of energy and interest portends the start of a strong recovery. Crossing my fingers.

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The only downside of hospital visits these past six days has been the inability (and lack of energy) to plan nutritious meals for myself. I have not wanted to thaw food that I have neither the time or the energy to prepare when I get home, so I’ve been winging it. The pasta night before last was fine, but otherwise my meals have been either snacks or one-component dinners, like last night (a quick-thawed cube steak cooked rare on the stovetop). Several members of my church had planned a “meal train” which involves preparing and delivering a full meal several times a week, but my wife’s sudden trip to the ICU derailed that train (I should be punished for that) for obvious reasons. People still want to help, but uncertainty about when I will be home, among other things, makes food preparation and delivery impossible to plan. That notwithstanding, I need to get in the habit of organizing quick and simple-to-prepare and nutritious meals for myself. It’s not hard; I just have to get in gear and do it. A single short trip to the grocery store will enable me to get all I need. I think today is the day for that trip. So, it is done; the plan is in place.

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One of the episodes of Deadwind last night introduced me to a phrase and a concept I find fascinating. The episode’s title is Whisper of the Stars. The phrase, in the context of the Finnish series, is an awfully macabre one, but its origin is not. A book of the same title, by Janine Scott, addresses the phenomenon. An article from Wall Street International Magazine has this to say about the experience, in relation to an exhibition held in 2014 at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, London.:

The name of the exhibition, Whisper of the Stars, comes from Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in Eastern Siberia, where the extreme winter cold creates a strange phenomenon. When the temperature drops below the mid minus-50s Celsius, a soft whooshing sound can sometimes be heard, like rice or grain being poured. This noise is caused by the moisture in one’s own exhaled breath turning to ice crystals in the cold dry air. The native Yakut people call this the whisper of the stars.

The phrase, quite apart from the phenomenon it describes, appeals to me. For me, it conjures ideas based not in physical realities but, instead, in magical dimensions beyond my understanding; the idea tests my certainty about the physical world, suggesting a connection between the universe beyond me and the world I see and experience daily. It’s almost mystical, which flies in the face of everything I believe. Odd, that.

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The word “whisper” has an odd appeal to me. I use it in such different ways, depending on context, but no matter the context, it has an inexplicable magnetism about it. Different words have had that same allure for me over the years. The words change; their draw ebbs and flows, but certain words seem to have an unusual charisma for me for a time. Eventually, their attraction fades, but for a while they occupy my mind and capture my attention in ways I cannot explain. I just find them attractive and thought-provoking. Whisper is such a word, for now. I’ll reserve the word to serve as a character name for a piece of fiction I will write one day. Whisper Kneeblood, perhaps. A relative of Calypso Kneeblood, the man I model after the man I sometimes wish I were. Maybe. Maybe not.

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Though I did not wake up as early this morning as I did yesterday, I was awake long before I got out of bed at 5, though “awake” might be stretching it; I was between dreams and fantasies and wakefulness. I distinctly remember noticing that I had left the light on in the master bedroom closet; I distinctly saw a shaft of light spilling from the vertical gap between the door and the frame. But when I actually got out of bed, intending to go turn out the light, the closet was dark. I flipped the switch to make sure the light had not burned out; it came on. The light had not been on, but I saw it quite clearly in my threshold consciousness. But, obviously, I did not see it at all. One’s mind can play convincing tricks on itself.

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Again, I wish I had made congee last night. I will add that to my to-do list for this evening; I hope to pay attention to it. I already feel the satisfaction of having a nice warm bowl of congee in t he morning. I’ll flavor it with ground pork, fried shallots, green onions, soy sauce, Sambal Oleek, and over-the-top amounts of freshly-grated ginger root. I could do it this morning, but I won’t, will I? No, I’ll probably poach an egg, instead. Or maybe soft-boil an egg. If I don’t get in gear, I’ll do nothing of the sort. So, enough finger pumping for this morning. On to tackle the day.

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When Confusion Meets Indolence

Whether the culprit was the 6.5-ounce can of minced clams, the remnants of the week-old half-can of diced tomatoes, or the similarly aged half can of tomato sauce that went into last night’s pasta sauce for dinner, I do not know. Or maybe it was the Italian spices or the crushed red peppers. Perhaps none of them deserve blame. Something, though, has been causing my stomach to growl and gurgle these last few hours, beginning sometime around 2:00 a.m. I finally gave up my attempts to get back to sleep around 4:30, when I arose to discover I had not organized my medications for the week. Rather than do the work then, I opted to put off taking my meds until I feel more fully awake and alert. So, I went in to the kitchen to make coffee. There, I realized my lethargy is not new; it began last night, when I casually rinsed my dinner dishes, rather than wash them. They waited for me in the sink, scolding me for being lazy last night and demanding I take action this morning. So, I washed the cookware and put the dinnerware in the dishwasher, punishment for failing to take appropriate action last night. I hate waking up to dirty dishes in the sink; I have only myself to blame.

Pasta takes far too long to cook. Twelve minutes can seem like twelve hours when one feels ravenously hungry and inexplicably exhausted. And the twelve minutes begins only after the water begins to boil, a process—from turning on the heat to reaching a rolling boil—that seems to last as long as adolescence. It’s a good thing I like my pasta al dente; if I liked it soft and slimy, I would still be waiting.  The right time to cook pasta, I think, is early in the day, long before one plans to eat it. Then, when it’s time for dinner, it can be popped into the microwave with a few splashes of water and, presto, it’s ready in a flash. At least that’s how I envision it. I don’t think I’ve ever reheated pasta; I tend to enjoy it cold, if it’s not freshly prepared.

Food was on my mind sometime during the night last night, either in my dreams or while I was battling my growling innards. I was wrestling with a decision on how to cook meat loaf; if I permitted it to spread out, it would not fit in the oven, but if I did not allow it to spread out, it would be too thick to cook throughout. I think it must have been a dream; it makes absolutely no sense. The night before, I was in a similar nonsensical situation; sitting in a rowboat in a placid body of water, viewing a glass and steel elevator at the water’s edge. I do not need irrational dreams to complicate my life; it is complex enough without them.

Last night when I got home from visiting my wife in the hospital, I was quite tired. Even though I stayed only three and a half hours, it seemed longer; probably because she was asleep most of the time and I simply sat at her bedside, occasionally reading or rereading email or just fidgeting. A nurse told me it’s possible my wife will be moved to a regular floor, out of ICU, today. That’s assuming her blood pressure remains in safe limits without IV medications. The nurse said my wife did not require the medications for most of the day yesterday, a good sign her sepsis is healing.

I took a container of watermelon balls to the hospital, hoping to give my wife something she would enjoy eating. When I got there, though, someone (a dietician?) was evaluating my wife’s swallowing, trying to figure out what causes her to cough when she is trying to eat or drink. The woman doing the evaluation told me my wife, for the time being, should eat only soft foods and liquids that had added texture until her aphagia has been addressed. My wife has grown so weak, she said, the muscles she uses to swallow have begun to atrophy; those muscles need to be strengthened before she can safely swallow food that must be chewed. Ach! My wife cannot get a break from all this!

The haircut I did not get several days ago still eludes me. Today, Monday, is a traditional rest day for barbers, so I will not get my haircut today, either. Tomorrow is iffy, in that I do not know what to expect from the hospital; the doctors may opt to release my wife, rather than keep her on the regular floors. I just don’t know. Better, then, not to make any plans; that way, I will not have to cancel them.

My fantasy life seems to be in odd bloom lately. Mostly, it plays out when I go to bed, before I go to sleep. I envision myself in a secluded and remote location, in a private lakeside house; the lake is private, too. It belongs to me. The architecture of the house combines mid-century modern with contemporary design. I feel safe and alone. A small dog keeps me company. I am lonely, but I cannot figure out why. I am not asleep during this fantasy, but not fully awake and aware, either. It repeats with some regularity, though the location varies slightly from time to time. And, on occasion, I interact with visitors, though I cannot recall who just now. Sometimes, in my fantasy, I work crossword puzzles. A day or so ago, one of the clues was “carefree.” I wrote “insouciant.” I think insouciance was a “Word of the Day” recently, so that explains that; it’s not a word I would have remembered from my own vocabulary. I probably will not remember the definition a month from now.

Lazy. That’s the way I feel at this moment. The idea of shaving and taking a shower does not appeal to me; too much effort is involved. But I will do it, nonetheless. I have to get it over with. First, I’ll have something for breakfast. I wish I had made congee last night; congee strikes my fancy this morning. But it takes too long and too much effort. So, I will have something simpler; like cereal or a banana or a protein bar, if I can find one. Lethargy. Laziness. Sloth. My photo appears beside each of those words in the New American Dictionary of Impoverished Emotions.  Enough. Absolutely enough.

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Drifting

It is true; anxiety has the capacity to sap one’s energy in much same way as insomnia and lack of rest can drain one’s stamina. One’s reserves of vitality and strength can bleed away, almost unnoticed, simply from anxiety. Both mental and physical energy are subject to anxiety’s power to siphon off vigor and intellectual acumen. We know these things from a cerebral perspective, but when we experience them, the knowledge sinks in. It tends to stick when the real world offers undeniable verification. A tangible example: last night, I began writing what would be today’s post, while the details were fresh. But instead of writing a little and then saving the draft to be finished this morning, I hit “Publish” instead of “Save Draft.” It’s a little thing, but it illustrates (for me, anyway) how anxiety or simple tiredness might lead to far more catastrophic outcomes. Think, for example, of an overtired Navy officer on a submarine, practicing responsibilities for launching retaliatory nuclear missiles in the event of an attack. That is, of course, an extreme, dramatic example, but it emphasizes how anxiety might result in horrendous unintended consequences.

As I ponder that awful scenario, another one—more plausible and more likely—comes to mind. A tired, overworked nurse, working a twelve-hour shift, administers the wrong medication or the wrong amount of the right medication to a patient. The outcome could be just as individually catastrophic, though on a smaller scale than one involving the launch of nuclear missiles.

The outcome of my simple mistake—publishing instead of saving a draft blog post—does not begin to compare to the horrible effects of my examples. But it illustrates the continuum of the impacts of anxiety (I’ll assign anxiety, more than overwork, as the cause of both awful events). I think the spectrum of anxiety is just as complex and just as long as the color spectrum. Much of human experience can be compared to the color spectrum; almost everything in our experience takes place in degrees, both in intensity of understanding and in impact.

I look back on what I’ve written and wonder if my words offer yet more evidence of the potential for anxiety to cause confusion or disorientation. Does any of what I’ve written make sense? Does it have any discernible purpose, other than to attempt to excuse my mistake in posting a draft instead of saving it? My mind is jumbled this morning. It was just as scrambled last night, as I watched an episode of Bordertown. I kept drifting off during critical scenes, springing awake after the fact, requiring me to replay several minutes of the program to get my bearings and understand what was happening. Finally, after completing the episode, I turned off the television and sat there, thinking about whether I wanted to start another one or go to bed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I became aware that I had drifted off again while attempting to make my decision. This happened more than once. Finally, I called it a night and went to bed.

This morning, fog enshrouds my neighborhood. It’s impossible to say whether we’re simply covered with a cloud, while the air down the hills on all sides is clear, or whether it’s a foggy morning all the way around. My sister-in-law will be over shortly to borrow a stand mixer; she can tell me what the weather is like in the “lowlands.” In the meantime, I will force myself to look at online news. I do not know why I feel compelled to know what is going on in the world around me; I cannot control it. I cannot even react appropriately to it. But I think I should know. I’d rather watch the two woodpeckers outside my window; they either are engaged in battle or in a mating ritual. Whichever it is, it’s fascinating to watch. Maybe I’ll wait on the news.

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Nourishment

Yesterday’s visit with Janine was shorter than the day before, despite my intent to boost her spirits with some of her favorite treats. I took watermelon, sherbet, and cranberry juice to her, but she was in no mood to consume them for the first three hours, when she opted to sleep, instead. Finally, she consented to have some watermelon, but only about half of what I had for her. And, then, she agreed to eat some sherbet; it had thawed, in spite of my best efforts with an insulated carrier and blue ice. Still, she had a few spoonsful of the melted goo before suggesting I dispose of the rest. I left the cranberry juice and two frozen containers of sherbet (given to the nurse immediately upon my arrival), which were labeled with Janine’s name and put in a fridge/freezer somewhere in the bowels of the ICU.  By 4:30, I decided it was rather pointless for me to stay, in that I would be sitting next to Janine while she slept, so I opted to head home while still daylight.

The nurse told me Janine had eaten virtually nothing again today. Janine says even the smell of food makes her cough. Neither the nurse nor I can understand that. Somehow, some way, I have to insist that she eat nourishing meals, at least enough to provide basic life-sustaining nutrition.

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Delinquency

The postal carrier, day before yesterday, delivered an unpleasant surprise. Apparently, I somehow had missed an earlier notice, a few months ago, that property and personal taxes were due before October 15; the piece of mail bearing that news notified me of the oversight and informed me that I owed a delinquency penalty. Not much money, but too much, nonetheless. At any rate, yesterday morning I pulled out the checkbook, made copies of the tax notices, and headed to the tax collector’s office to pay my bill. I could have paid online, but the transaction fee was an absurd $57, which I refused to even consider paying.

At the tax collector’s office, I went inside to pay my bill, where a long line of people stood waiting to do the same thing. I stood in line for about twenty minutes, listening to an idiot in line behind me complain bitterly about the “socialism” of having to pay property taxes and his outrage at having to stand in line; if he were in charge, he said, he would “run things” far more efficiently. Just before my place in line reached the entrance to the office where taxes were to be paid, I reached for my checkbook. It was not there. I looked around me; no checkbook on the floor. “I must have left it in the car,” I said to myself, and left my precious place in line, knowing when I returned I would have to wait another twenty minutes or more to get to the place I lost. I went to my car and searched for the checkbook; I could not find it. “I must have left it at home,” I said, as I drove away, thirty-plus minutes away. When I got home, I parked in the driveway and conducted another thorough search. I found the checkbook, lodged between the console and the passenger seat. Apparently, it had slipped out of the console on a turn and found its way to its hiding place.

Angry with myself, I snarled and took the checkbook in the house. I called the tax collector’s office to verify that I could write a single check for both property and personal tax. Then, I completed the check, prepared a self-addressed and stamped envelope, and drove to the post office. I had opted not to do this earlier to save the cost of a certified, return-receipt-requested, letter. I was unwilling to make another trip to the tax collector’s office; I was, though, willing to pay the $6.95 fee to avoid making that trip. Bah!

My plan had been to go get a haircut after I paid the taxes. But, by the time I went through the process I just described, it was too late. I had just enough time to buy and eat a fast food lunch, then drive to the hospital, arriving just a few minutes after visiting hours began. My wife asked me, after I had been with her for two or three hours, to stay longer than I had originally planned (I intended to leave at 4:30). Of course I readily agreed; I left at about ten minutes before 7:00, the time visiting hours end.

Shortly after arriving my wife’s tiny room in the ICU, a nurse entered and told me I would need to don protective gear, consisting of a thin plastic/latex robe and nitrile gloves. She said my wife was in isolation because of her diagnosis of clostridioides difficile (C.Diff.). I did not bother to tell the nurse, who had not been there the two days before, I had not been asked by other nurses to wear the gear on those days, even though the diagnosis had been made on my wife’s arrival at the ER; I simply did as I was asked. The fact that two sets of medical professionals approached the reality of contagion in such different ways reminded me that medicine remains as much a human endeavor as a scientific one. As is true of so many aspects of our lives, context plays an enormous role in how we behave.

A few hours into my visit with my wife, she asked me to call her sister. That was among the only times my wife seemed truly engaged during the visit; it was good to see her at least modestly animated during the call. Afterward, though, she returned to what seemed to me a combination of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Both she and the nurse told me she had not slept well the night before. She had thrown up shortly after being given one of her medications shortly after I had arrived, she said, and that experience robbed her of strength, as well. During my visit, she had another bout with the heaves; a nurse called a doctor, who prescribed an anti-nausea medication. The nurse said all the antibiotics my wife was being given could cause nausea.

By the time I left last night, my wife had told me things she would like me to try to bring to her today: watermelon, ice cream/sherbet, and cranberry juice. I have the first two at home; I will stop at the grocery store this morning to try to find the latter. The need to keep those items cold for the trip to the hospital rules out a trip to the barber shop again today. That’s all right, though; “urgency” and “haircuts” do not belong in the same thought bubble.

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The sky this morning is a gentle mix of cerulean blue and soft white. As I look up through the trees out the window, orange and gold leaves against the sky seem to define my sense of what Autumn should look like. The dappled light filtering through the thinning canopy of leaves reminds me of my favorite Japanese term, komorebi; English should adopt that word or create a new one that translates the Japanese concept precisely.

The forest floor is littered with millions of leaves, appearing collectively as an intricately textured sheet of light brown and tan. The spots where sunlight touches them are bright; in the absence of sunlight, the shadows hide the texture and reveal only dark, indistinguishable shapes. It’s interesting to me that, every morning, the ground and the rocky outcroppings look different; they are the same every day, but my eyes and my imagination change them, as if I am seeing a new view with each new dawn.

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I must go to the Post Office again this morning to return a package that was left at my door yesterday. I mistakenly ordered a box of size small latex gloves on Ebay; within seconds of realizing my error, I contacted the seller and asked that the sale be cancelled or replaced with a size large. Two days later, I received an email, telling me the shipment had already been processed and could not be recalled. I would have to refuse it, after which my payment would be refunded. So, I will ask the Post Office to take the package and return it to the sender. I should pay closer attention to what I am doing. I am allowing my distractedness to amplify my little annoyances.

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It just occurred to me why I feel such hunger this morning. I did not have a proper dinner last night. I opened a bag of Trader Joe’s elote-flavored corn chips when I got home last night and munched on a few of them, but did not take the time to prepare a meal. Instead, I plopped down in front of the television for another episode or two of Bordertown. At 10:30, I awoke on the couch in a state of confusion; I have no idea how long I had been asleep, but I think it may have been more than an hour. I’ll have to go back and find a scene I recognize from the series to know where to retrace my “viewing.” Before I do that, though, I’ll have a variation on breakfast and will experience another full day; no more television until the evening hours. For now, I’ll start working on the day ahead.

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Halfway Between

Last night or early this morning, several times when I was halfway between sleep and waking, I thought I heard the rumble of distant thunder. But the sky remains too dark to see storm clouds—if, in fact, they are present—even though pink and orange hues creep up into the southeastern horizon, shedding a little light on the edge of the morning.

If I wait a minute or two, the speed of the sunrise will provide an answer to my questions about the state of the sky; I’m impatient, though, so I write my thoughts without bothering to turn to look. Some days—today is one of them—I am too wrapped up in thought to simply observe the world around me. I make assumptions based on flimsy evidence, failing to use my powers of observation to verify or negate my theories. It occurs to me that almost all of us do that. We confuse opinions with facts, beliefs with unverified conclusions; when confronted with reality opposed to our positions, we bend and stretch our sensibilities to mirror our desired evidence. We create alternate environments; the sort of dimensions in which the properties of gravity and light obey our rules, not the laws of nature.

I would like to control reality. I want to bend steel with my mind. Restore strengths with my wishes. Cure illness with a sweep of my hand. Cleanse the air and water of pollutants with a nod of my head. Restore civility to public discourse with a glance. Eliminate poverty by willing it gone. Reality is laden with pain, both physical and mental. Pain cannot be extracted from reality because it is part of it. Like salt dissolved in water, pain becomes impossible to remove without a total transformation; only when the water evaporates can the salt be recaptured, but by then, the water is gone.

The shades on the windows raised, I now see a clear blue sky. No sign of clouds. No remnants of storms that might have produced thunder. So, maybe I was dreaming. Or maybe my thoughts ricocheted inside the emptiness in my skull, their echoes creating the illusion of the sound of thunder, sounds that rattled me partially awake.

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I visited my wife again yesterday in ICU. Yesterday was much like the day before. The doctors and nurses still were attempting to get her blood pressure to stay within normal limits without IV medications. Some success, but not enough to warrant moving her to a regular floor of the hospital; she needs more attention and closer monitoring than can be done on the regular floors. I learned that, in addition to hypotension, septic shock, and a urinary tract infection, her heart rhythm was not normal. In addition, I learned that she had Clostridium difficile infection or C.Diff, an intestinal infection she first had while she was in the rehabilitation facility; there is a question as to whether it is not a recurrence, but a continuation, of the infection she had before.  My wife should not have to face all of these health challenges; no one should, though. The nurse told me that infection does not require hospitalization, though, so when the other problems are under control, I should be able to bring her home; I will just have to administer to her even more pills than she takes now (the number I have been giving her each day is approximately twenty).  Ach! I asked her primary care doctor whether the number could be reduced; she said all of the pills are needed to address various issues.

I will go back to the ICU this afternoon at the beginning of visiting hours (unless I learn that she had been moved to a regular floor beforehand, in which case I will go earlier). Assuming I go the ICU, the probability is that I will spend most of my time watching my wife sleep, interrupted only by a short time trying to coax her to eat a fraction of the lunch left on her overbed table. But maybe, like yesterday, I can get her to watch a little television; yesterday, she watched portions of a couple of episodes of Bones. I don’t think I’ve ever watched that show; I found it more entertaining than waiting for my phone to alert me to incoming email.

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As usual, my evening last night was spent watching another couple of episodes of Bordertown. My immersion in the Finnish crime drama has prompted me toward a shallow exploration of the city in which the series is set: Lapeenranta (called Villmanstrand, in Swedish), Finland. Lapeenranta, located on the shores of Lake Saimaa (Europe’s fourth largest lake), is less than twenty miles from the Russian border and about 120 miles from St. Petersburg, Russia. The city’s population is roughly 72,000. According to Wikipedia, Lapeenranta is the second most-visited Finnish city, after Helsinki, by Russian tourists. Again according to Wikipedia, the city is the site of Lappeenranta University of Technology and Saimaa University of Applied Sciences which, together have approximately 13,000 students from 68 countries.  I wish I could upload an image of the city’s coat of arms, but WordPress is being uncooperative.

Watching television series and films set in other countries, especially in countries and cities generally unfamiliar to American audiences (at least to me), is an illuminating experience. I think Americans often think of other countries as being less advanced than the U.S.A. when, in fact, many of them are far more advanced in many respects than we are. A relatively small city (compared to most “major” American cities) like Lapeenranta is quite sophisticated and is a hub of commerce and tourism. I gather many shops include signs written in Cyrillic letters to encourage and welcome Russian tourists. The city actually is closer to St. Petersburg than to the capital, Helsinki, by a few miles. I’ve written before (I think) about our one-day excursion into Helsinki, following a conference in Stockholm. We took an overnight cruise ship from Stockholm to Helsinki, spent the day walking around the city, and then took the cruise ship back to Stockholm that night. Another one of our too-quick explorations of distant destinations.

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It’s nearing 7:30 and I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee, now cold as ice. Still unshowered and unshaven, I define slovenly. Eventually, I’ll get around to looking and feeling more presentable. But I wonder whether I will feel it. Yesterday, as I was nearing home from my hospital visit, I noticed how brightly colored many of the trees were. And it struck me that even though I noticed their brilliance, they still seemed somewhat dull, as if their brightness and color was not enough. That’s how I feel this morning; even after I shower and shave, I won’t feel clean and fresh and ready for the day. But maybe I can change that dismal attitude if I force myself to think about all the things for which I must be grateful. Yes, I’ll attempt to force the issue and make today worth experiencing.

 

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First ICU Visit

Visiting hours in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) are 1 to 7 p.m. I was there just before visiting hours began, so I had to wait a few minutes before I was allowed to go upstairs to visit my wife’s bedside. I stayed until around 4:30, when I decided to leave so I could avoid driving into bright headlights after nightfall; it’s not that I can’t drive at night, I just prefer not to and it’s safer.

While I was there, I spoke with my wife a little and coaxed her to eat about three or four bites of the lunch that was sitting on her overbed table, untouched. A few bites of whipped potatoes, one bite of roast beef, and a bite of the apple crisp dessert was all she was willing to eat. The nurse said she had left her breakfast untouched, as well. Most of the time I was at her bedside, my wife’s eyes were closed and I suppose she was asleep most of my visit. She was awake when the nurses changed the dressing on the line in the vein on  her neck and when the two nurses suggested I leave while they bathed her and changed the sheets on her bed while she was in it.

The multiple diagnoses on admission, the nurse told me, were hypotension (extremely low blood pressure) and septic shock, which was brought on by a third issue, urinary tract infection (UTI). Dehydration, too, played into her discomfort and weakness. The UTI is, I think, her third experience with the malady since she was admitted to the hospital in mid-July. Septic shock can be deadly, so calling 911 to get her to the hospital was, in  hindsight, a very good thing. I take no credit for that; her doctor’s nurse sent me an email, telling me the doctor recommended my wife be taken to the ER for evaluation.

During the time I visited my wife yesterday, her voice was so weak I could barely hear her. Most of her words were requests that I give her water or iced tea; I held the glass up close to her and slipped a straw into her mouth so she could suck up some cool regenerative liquids. After her bath, she asked for more tea and some dessert (she chose angel food cake topped with fruit); she took only  a sip or two of the iced tea and a bite of the cake before refusing more and falling asleep again.

The nurse told me she would spend another night in ICU while she was being “weaned” of the IV medications that were keeping her blood pressure within healthy limits. Once her blood pressure stabilizes, he said, she could be moved to a regular floor. When she will be transferred there and how long she will be there remains to be seen. I took her cell phone to her, but she seems so weak it is unlikely she can pick it up to dial it; and it’s not within reach, thanks to a short charging cord, but she can ask for it to be handed to her, if she chooses.

Around 7:15 this morning, I’ll try to reach the ICU nurse responsible for my wife’s care to get an update on her condition. The nurses probably do not relish phone calls from relatives, but short visiting hours and incommunicado overnights are almost too much to bear without some form of feedback. I wish there were a less intrusive (to the nurses) way to get updates on condition.

I will return to the hospital, either the ICU or the regular floors, after I get word on when and where to go. In the interim, I will shower, shave, and make myself more presentable to the outside world.

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Thinking in My Sleep

I did not sleep well last night. The fact that my wife is in ICU kept invading my thoughts, interrupting my sleep. And, oddly enough, I was troubled all night, too, by the dilemma of how I will get her home when she is released. I need to have a sling under her, whether she is in a wheelchair or on a stretcher, so I can use the Hoyer lift to transfer her into bed. That may be a silly worry, but it was much on my mind last night and remains. This must be a common problem that hospital staff deals with all the time, right? Surely they will be able to tell me how to do that. It will not present a problem, right? Still, I worry.

And I worry even more about what the medical team learned overnight. I am relatively sure my wife must have been dehydrated; trying to get her to drink water has been a constant battle and I’m certain I did not do enough, especially given how quickly she went through fluids and so forth. And what caused her extremely low blood pressure? And what has caused her periodic hallucinations? A thousand questions and no definitive answers; not even educated guesses, at this point.

The appointment with my cardiologist, scheduled for tomorrow morning, will have to be postponed or cancelled. Tomorrow is the one day this month he will be in the Village, so I’ll have to reschedule for at least a month hence; that, or drive to Little Rock. I doubt I’ll want to do that; I do not want to spend a day away from my wife. It’s just an annual checkup, so nothing urgent. But it would have been nice to get it out of the way. And I have an appointment with my primary care doctor next week to have some skin growths burned off. I may delay that, too. I made the appointment under a set of assumptions about circumstances that are no longer valid.

These minor inconveniences should not even enter my mind, but they do. Perhaps I allow them to fill the empty spaces in my brain that otherwise would fill with much more unpleasant thoughts. I psychoanalyze myself with some regularity; I doubt my diagnoses are even remotely correct. Sometimes, I wish they were. Other times, I hope they aren’t.

Today begins the aftermath of an enormous flood of negativity and an ongoing tsunami of egotistical self-serving actions and lies. I will not let it worry me. Not today.

I hope my wife slept comfortably and soundly last night. I suspect, though, she was awakened regularly for routine medical matters. Perhaps she will be successfully treated for maladies that have caused her so much misery these last ten days. I fervently hope so.

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Dammit

For ten days and then some, my wife has been trying to recover her strength at home, after having been discharged from a rehab facility in which her strength ebbed during her two-month-plus stay. That struggle has not been easy. Today, there was a setback when her blood pressure fell to the point that visiting occupational and physical therapists could not get a reading. After I contacted my wife’s primary care doctor (her nurse, actually), I was advised to take my wife to the ER for evaluation. I called 911 and an ambulance took her to the hospital ER (because my wife is bedridden, I had no way to transport her). At the ER, they were able to measure her blood pressure. The upper number was 80 and below on every reading; the lower number was extremely low, as well. After a short while, a doctor told me she would probably be admitted. Later, another doctor told me she would be admitted into the ICU because her blood pressure was so low and, it appears, was not responding to normal interventions. So, I came home. I did not want to come home without my wife tonight. Although I do not know how I would have gotten her home if she had not been admitted; she needs transport in a wheelchair (I could have gone home and gotten it), which I cannot do in either of our vehicles. I guess I better figure that out before she is released. Dammit. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

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Remembering My Sister

Today, November 2, is my late sister’s birthday. She died on February 19, 2010. On one hand, it seems like a lifetime ago; on the other, like yesterday. On the day of her death, and a few times since, I posted the following words:

She fed people she didn’t know, she gave up her bed for people who needed to sleep, she battled the IRS and Social Security Administration for people who couldn’t do so on their own, but desperately needed an advocate. And they had that advocate in my sister. She was, in many ways, the Molly Ivins of our family; she gave people hell if they deserved it, especially when they had mistreated someone else…the underdog was her pet!

I will always miss her and remember her. She was a role model all human beings could learn from.

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Resurrection of the Beauty of Carnations

Sometimes, when things spring without warning from one’s long-buried subconscious, inexplicable biases become instantly transparent. So it was this morning as I glanced at a vase on the kitchen island. Almost all the flowers in the vase, full of carnations, remain attractive and alive after more than a week. The stem of one carnation, though, had given up. The flower, still pretty, hung upside down from the point at which the bent stem had failed to carry the load.

I should mention that, until many years into my adulthood, I had considered carnations rather unattractive. They struck me as weeds, dressed up in a failed attempt to look attractive. I never quite understood why I found the flowers visually offensive; for some reason I just thought they looked artificial and cheap.

Back to the vase full of attractive carnations, with the one flower dangling upside down in defeat. That vanquished flower triggered a memory from deep, deep in my childhood. It was a memory of leche quemada, a Mexican treat that (in my experience) uses Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk. I loved the stuff, but I think I remember cans of the sweet milk looking worn and tired after being heated in boiling water during the process of making leche quemada. The woman who made the stuff was Petra, a Mexican housekeeper my parents engaged to look after me and clean house while my folks were away at work.

This took place in Brownsville, Texas, so I would have been five years old or younger (we moved away before I turned six). My mother was a schoolteacher and my father was lumber wholesaler, so they had to have someone look after me while they were away at work. Petra lived in Matamoros, I think, a city just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville. She crossed the border every day, I believe, to come care for me. And she made leche quemada as a sweet treat. I loved the stuff. For years afterword, I longed for Petra to come back and make it for me. But, as I mentioned, the cans of Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk looked ragged and pretty shabby after Petra finished with them. I am relatively sure the image of the ragged carnation flower on the can is how I came to view the real flowers as unattractive, artificial imitations of “real” flowers. And that bias, I believe, is what made me find carnations unappealing for years and years afterward. In fact, I think it was when we lived in Dallas (during or after 1997, it would have been), that my wife’s purchase of vases full of carnations that I finally overcame my bias against them. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate their beauty and their tenacity; they last far longer than many other flowers one finds in the typical floral arrangement.

All of these recollections poured from my subconscious this morning before I put away the dishes from the dishwasher and before I made coffee. The speed of memory, often slow and torturous, can be blazingly fast on occasion. And now, I must remember to go to Walmart to buy trash bags and fruits and, if I can find it, low sugar butterscotch pudding. The pudding is for my wife, to aid in swallowing too damn many pills and to make that unpleasant process a little sweeter, a little more tolerable. While I’m there, I’ll try to buy a watermelon (very late for them, but my wife loves the flavor and I think Walmart must have a source for off-season watermelons), some blueberries and strawberries, and maybe a 3-way bulb for a lamp that is, for the moment, dark.

Off I go.

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The Usual Time Compression

Time compresses into an invisible blur. Hours become single-digit minutes. Minutes become seconds. Seconds become fractional measures of experience; they are so brief one hundred thousand units equates to the measure of moments required for a single beat of a hummingbird’s wing. All of these hyper-compressed experiences exceed the ability of my brain to process them. A week has gone by in half the blink of an eye. Yet recollections of those hyper-condensed seven days are excruciatingly long; they take form at the speed of ice-cold molasses flowing down a one-degree slope.

In my mind, the realities and the recollections behave like atmospheric barometric pressure disturbances, one very high and one very low. Thick clouds emerge and crooked fingers of lightning form a web around my brain as the highs and lows dance together, spinning and swirling into tornadic chaos. Pandemonium washes over me like a tidal surge. Then, suddenly, calm envelopes me like a blanket, urging me to relax.  I feel the words, rather than hear them: “You do not have control of this. Your emotions contribute nothing, so release them.”

For a moment, the world is tranquil and I am, strangely, at peace. Suddenly, though, I feel as though an enormous hand has reached through my body and wrapped its fingers around my spine, pulling me backward. It yanks me back into the cyclone and unleashes wave upon wave of turbulent bedlam.

These cyclic experiences take place at velocities exceeding the speed of light, yet their memories replay in ultra slow motion. One week jammed with experiences more numerous than a lifetime of all the moments that preceded them. One week remembered as if every breath took a day and every heartbeat took an hour.

This diatribe does not constitute a complaint in any way. I mean it simply to capture what is happening in my brain. I count on the fingers of one hand, with one left over, how many times my wife has eaten dinner in the past week. I count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she has eaten lunch or breakfast. And she sleeps and sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. I am at a loss as to how to get her to eat more. She complains of gut pains and has signs of illness. Tomorrow, when the nurse comes again, I will ask her many questions; she will give me answers without sugar-coating them.

I have more help now. A helper checked her every three hours last night and did what had to be done when necessary. I slept in the same twin bed I’ve slept in for a week, but move away from the side of the hospital bed so the helper could get to my wife without disturbing me; except for turning on the light, which woke me up each time. I opted to spend the money for 24/7 help for two weeks while I explore options available to us.

I wonder whether the upcoming two week stretch will feel both compressed and extended? Weekends get in the way of exploration; people I want to talk to tend not to work on weekends. I can’t change that. My frustration does not good and has no external effect; it only throws a log onto an internal flame, which will turn me to ash if I let it. I will not. I will relax.

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I received a long, thoughtful, reply to an email I sent to new follower of my blog. I was curious about how she stumbled upon this blog. She explained and gave me a bit of her background, by way of explanation (I believe) for why she found some of my posts interesting. In her reply, I learned that we both have lived in or around Chicago and Houston, the latter perhaps overlapping a bit. Reading about her experiences allowed me to escape, for a time, and to imagine engaging in long conversations with her about philosophies and experiences and how embracing them molds us as we mature. Escape. I keep talking about escape. It’s not escape; it’s respite. There is a vast difference between the two.

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Last night’s all-night care worker gave me the luxury of watching two more episodes of Bordertown. I am utterly enamored with the series. I can imagine binge-watching the remainder of the series in an all-day and all-night Netflix marathon. I won’t do that, though. But I will continue to watch it, as I can, until I can return to Deadwind. I have not checked to see whether Netflix has fixed the problem that made it impossible for me to watch a subsequent episode, but even if not, I think I can watch on my computer. One way or the other, I will.

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My neck and shoulders are complaining bitterly about the abuse they are taking as I life turn my wife to get the Hoyer lift sling under her or to turn her from one side to the other. I may engage a masseuse, if I can find one practicing sufficient care to come to my home, but I doubt it. I just need to let the helpers do the bulk of the work; they are used to lifting and stretching, while I am not.

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I am amazed that it’s already almost 11:30. I thought when I got up this morning that I could write and enjoy a little solitude. The blur of time compression erased that thought without even acknowledging it. Tasks and duties and responsibilities began the moment I awakened. If I had not taken a shower and shaved I could have had another 30-40 minutes, but that’s not enough. Scrambling to find shards of free time for solitude and serenity is a useless, self-defeating exercise. I’ve written enough now, even though it’s much later than “usual.” What does “usual” mean, now?

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A Proper Start

Sources of energy and  inspiration—shafts of bright light piercing absolute darkness—emerge from unexpected places.  They may arise from comments uttered by a close friend who expresses his care or from words sent by someone known only by name and her written words. Darkness amplifies the experience of light. A thin beam of light in an utterly dark world is far brighter than a floodlight on a densely overcast afternoon. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I wish I could see the future, if only to know whether I want to be there when it arrives. I might as well wish I could have lived during the Holocaust to know whether I would have survived it. The present should command the majority of our attention; not the future, nor the past. We must pay heed to lessons from the past, of course, and we must attempt to create circumstances conducive to a future we can enthusiastically embrace; but the bulk of our energy should be for and in the here and now. Regardless of the dimness of the past or the hazy image of the future we imagine, we should seek that pinpoint of light amid the unknown darkness in every instant.

I wonder whether—a month or a year or a decade from now—I will remember the message I was sending to myself when I wrote those two preceding paragraphs? I sometimes write messages to myself in cryptic codes that, later, make no sense. Usually, though, I can decipher what I meant. Others reading my words, thought, even freshly written words, often cannot. I would not expect them to read my thoughts, especially the ones I opt to keep locked in my head.

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Just one more episode of Bordertown last night; I went to bed early after checking on my wife at 8:30, knowing I would need to check on her again at 11:30, 2:30, and 5:30. I wanted to watch another episode, but I thought better of it. If I had stayed up later, I would have been approximately worthless throughout the night. The positive aspect of watching just one episode is the fact that I have more left to watch in the coming days and weeks. Too much television, even good television, probably is not good for one’s mental health. The tension and violence of Finnish police dramas might meld with the tension and unease of real life, producing a dangerous mix of tense self-injurious moodiness. Probably not. But possible. So, best to keep television viewing to a minimum. I do my best to justify decisions for which I have no real justifications.

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Yesterday’s telemedicine appointment with my wife’s primary care physician got off to a rocky start when the doctor attempted to connect on my wife’s cell phone, instead of mine. The previous afternoon, I told her nurse to have the doctor call my cell; the message did not get through. Despite the glitch, we connected an hour after the original appointment time. The doctor told us my wife’s congestive heart failure (a condition she has had since she was in her early twenties, if not before) is progressing, which the doctor believes is the cause of my wife’s weakness. There is no going back, the doctor said; it will not get better. The doctor said some of my wife’s other symptoms could be related to an intestinal infection; we may find out more with lab work early in the week. In the meantime, my wife’s diet should be relatively bland and relatively soft food. My wife is not eating much (not enough); I will have no trouble with the doctor’s orders. The planned meals from the “meal train” that friends have begun all should be fine, I think; unless my wife’s appetite improves, she won’t be eating much of what is delivered, but she will appreciate and enjoy what little she eats.

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When the sky began to brighten this morning, the southeastern horizon behind our house glowed with such beautiful red-orange hues that I had to stop for a moment and stare. The distinction between the sky and the earth was so crystal clear; glowing embers above a wrinkled purple and black terrestrial blanket, the hills in sharp contrast against the sky. Sometimes I catch myself holding my breath when I view such scenes, as if breathing will cause them to dissolve into a more mundane daylight vision.

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It is well past daylight now and time for me to prepare my wife’s morning pills. A helper will arrive in a quarter of an hour; I want to be ready to start my wife’s day properly.

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Escape to and from Finland

The global chaos surrounding COVID-19, presidential elections, climate catastrophe, mass hysteria and psychoses, and all manner of other horrors fade when I am so focused on what is going on in my own house. The world around me becomes less distracting when every waking moment is focused on the events inside the walls of my house. The intensity of focus can be draining, but in some ways it is its own source of energy. At a certain point, though, I’ve discovered that I need to extract myself from the present. Yesterday, the day continued from overnight with the arrival of two people from the home care agency; the supervisor and the worker who was assigned to us for yesterday and today. After introductions, the supervisor left and the worker helped continue the work I had continued from the day before and that night. Then, my wife’s sister arrived with watermelon she has prepared for us as a treat. Later, a nurse came to take vitals, change wound dressing, and offer advice; she was superb and I hope she continues to return to care for my wife. Later, a speech therapist came to evaluate my wife’s speech, swallowing, and various other aspects within her professional purview; she, too, was exceptional (and I learned that she lives just up the street from us). Finally, a home care worker from the same company arrived to give my wife a sponge bath, change linens, and otherwise refresh my wife’s environment. Later still, after several attempts to entice my wife to eat more and drink more water, the home care agency worker and I put my wife to bed and the worker left. That’s when I extracted myself from the present.

I turned on Netflix and watched a couple of episodes of a Finnish crime drama called Bordertown. Watching it took me away from the present and enabled me to get wrapped up in the drama and action of an extraordinarily well-conceived (if given to stretch believability a bit) and flawlessly-executed television series. It’s another one of those series I am certain I will be sorry to see end. Fortunately, though, it is 31 episodes long, so I have plenty more to watch. Unfortunately, I cannot binge-watch it the way I’ve been watching so many other series of late. There’s just too much need for my attention to the real world inside the walls of my house. But at least Bordertown is there for me when I need to and have time for escape.

I haven’t gotten back to Deadwind, another Finnish crime drama series that Netflix mysteriously refused to allow me to continue watching after I watched ten episodes of the first season (there are two seasons); I’ll have to try again soon so I don’t lose memory of what I’ve watched so far.

My television-watching habits run in waves. First, I was enamored of Norwegian series. Then, Danish. Now, Finnish. (There were several others interspersed between them, but I’m talking generalities, here.) It’s odd how I seem to have abandoned most American-made series. But it’s not really odd; American series just don’t have that noir quality that is so attractive to me. The fact that I’m attracted to noir series may be the oddity.

Last night was not as taxing as previous nights, in that all I had to do was check on my wife every three hours. She rebuffed my efforts to turn her. I should have insisted, but she seemed to be so perfectly comfortable, I did not want to disturb her. Yet I should have; the intent is to turn her to avoid bed sores. I am exploring a mattress pad, an alternate pressure mattress pad, that supposedly reduces pressure points and thus reduces the need for frequent turnings. That will ease my burden and help her ensure a more restful sleep, I hope. We shall see.

It’s time for me so shower so I can face the day more refreshed and ready than I am at the moment. My motley beard needs to be shaved, my hair needs combing, and my teeth need brushing. But, first, I finish the coffee in my cup. Then, back to the real world.

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