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Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

On Friday we left for Mendocino and the celebration of my sister Maryann and George’s 40th wedding anniversary. Despite my illness, the drive from Sacramento to Mendocino was pleasant enough. It was made more tolerable by listening to an audio disk of a book. A book that I had read before and perhaps have even written about here.

It was the first novel in the Arthurian Trilogy by Bernard Cornwall called, The Winter King. Listening to the narrator drone on helped the time pass rapidly. The trilogy is set in the latter part of the Fifth Century about 80 years or so after the Romans had departed Britain and the indigenous inhabitants had begun their devolution into rural barbarism. During this time, raiders from the area around Denmark eyeing the land now made empty by the Roman retreat arrived and settled in the East. They were, at the time of the novel’s setting, driving the Britons before them off the fertile lands and into the mountains. History records a British warlord named Artur active then. Also, there is evidence of a series of battles at about this time between the Saxon invaders and the British won by the Britons that halted the Saxon advance for about 40 years — a fairly long time by the standards of history. The author places the medieval legends back at this time but provides the shining heroic characters with a more gritty and less exalted story than the Medieval bards did.

Anyway, we arrived in Fort Bragg in good order checked into a motel, settled the dog comfortably and left for the Anniversary dinner.

The dinner was held at the Noyo Harbor Inn an attractive fairly newly remodeled hotel overlooking Noyo Harbor.

In addition to members of the family friends of Maryann and George from the East Coast were there also.

Fred and Ellen

F

George and Mary made speeches about the happiness of their marriage and George gave Mary a ruby ring to celebrate their 40th Anniversary.

The following day Naida, I and Boo-Boo went for a walk along the beach and the bluffs.

We then set off to Mary and George’s home for a Barbecue. When we arrived, I was amazed at the additions to their house that had been completed since the last time we were there. They had constructed an all-new patio and garden enclosure at the front of the house. It seemed to bring the house into the garden or the garden into the house I could not tell which.

The Barbecue featured meat and a lovely salmon prepared by Quinn, Katie’s intended.

Several of our friends from Mendocino joined us — Nancy and Duncan, Ester and her husband and a few others who despite the relatively few times were have visited each other, I feel have become as close friends as I have ever enjoyed. There was even a hedgehog who joined us that night. I never really met him in person (in hedgehog?) before.


The next day we returned to The Enchanted Forest. I decided to try driving down Highway 101 and up 80 since on paper it is the quickest drive. Alas, as I feared, the traffic, especially as we approached Petaluma was horrendous.

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST

Monday was my birthday. My daughter sent me three interesting books. Hayden surprised me with a nice gift. Many friends sent me their best wishes through email and social media. Even my grandson Aaron texted me. Naida took me out for one of my favorite things, a root beer float. We went to Mel’s. They even put a candle on it.

Happy Birthday Pookie

Some additional notable events that occurred on my birthday, October 15, during the 16th and 17th Centuries:

1552 Khanate of Kazan is conquered by troops of Ivan Grozny.
1581 Commissioned by Catherine De Medici, the 1st ballet “Ballet Comique de la Reine” is staged in Paris
1582 Many Catholic countries switch to the Gregorian calendar, skip 10 days
1598 Spanish general strategist Bernardino de Mendoza occupies fort Rhine
1641 Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve claims Montreal
1654 Prince Willem III appointed viceroy of Overijssel
1655 Jews of Lublin are massacred
1660 Asser Levy granted butcher’s license (kosher meat) in New Amsterdam
1674 Torsåker witch trials begin, largest witch trials in Sweden, 71 beheaded and burned

All and all, except for Asser’s butcher’s license, those were not very good or notable days.

Note also, on the day I was born in 1939:

1939 LaGuardia Airport opened in NYC
1939 Yeshiva of Mir closed after 124 years

So on my next birthday raise a glass to LaGuardia (The mayor and the airport) and shed a tear for the Yeshiva of Mir.

For those of you over 70 and well into the great decline, you probably already experience this. Even as my body weakens, the voice in my head that talks to me all the time seem always to be as young as it was when I was a teenager. Oh, a bit more cynical perhaps, but every bit as vigorous as ever when I feel I have done something that rises to the level of the barely adequate, letting me know how foolish I really am. One would think that at this age that voice would give up and feebly warble, “I no longer give a damn. Do what you want. Who cares?”

The remainder of the week drifted off to same old, same old. Sitting at home playing with the computer, watching old movies on TCM (not much to write about there) and reading the novels Jessica sent me (One was by JK Rowling using her nom de plume, Robert Galbraith. It was a mystery and quite good). I also went to a few pre-op examinations. And, of course, attended to the needs of Hayden and The Scooter Gang.

Speaking of H, he recently acquired a new mountain bicycle to replace his other mountain bike that he said was inadequate. (He was insistent that I understood that the old bike was an “off-road bike” and not a “mountain bike” — Whatever.) It was quite something — complex hydraulics on the seat and well as the front and back wheels. He recently joined the school mountain bike team along with several other Scooter Gang members.

Hayden and His Mountain  Bike

On Tuesday, I had a stress test in preparation for my operation. A stress test for those who have never had one is where you fast for a day and dive to the lab where they the load you full of radioactive substances, lie you on a cot under great machines that make odd humming and clicking noises and then tell you to relax for the next hour or so. I was stressed out.

And so the week played itself out. Finally, after many phone calls, I managed to arrange an appointment with my surgeons. The growth in my neck seems larger and more uncomfortable. The Scooter Gang has begun to evidence teenage bravado and male aggressiveness. So it goes. Most days I sit in the studio with the Mac on my lap watching Naida tap away on her computer editing her memoirs.

The weekend also passed by quietly. On Sunday N decided to bake a pumpkin pie the way the Native Americans taught the illegal immigrants coming ashore a Plymouth or Jamestown — baking the pie in the pumpkin.

It did not turn out that well because, while emptying the pumpkin of its seeds, we inadvertently punctured a hole in the bottom and much of the custard filling drained through during the baking. It tasted pretty good nevertheless. I wonder if the colonists faced that problem.

On Tuesday, I meet with the surgeons.

Have fun. Be cool. Keep warm. Stay hot.

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So, on Friday we attended “The Sock Hop” at the Community Center in the Enchanted Forest at Campus Commons. Every month there is a themed TGIF party at the Center. This month it was the 1950s. I had been volunteered to bartender and Naida was a cashier. We were in costume. I more or less like a skinny rogue biker and Naida in crinoline and a poodle appliqué on her vest. We danced to 1950s tunes.
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The Biker and the girl in crinoline.

A group of ladies began things by dancing the Hokey Pokey.
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Doing the Hokey Pokey.

Now you may think we live in a senior center. Not so, there are a lot of younger people who live here. It is just the old birds who seem to flock together for events like this.

One old girl came up to the bar several times and asked me to “fill it to the rim with gin.” Senior fun.

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The View from the Bar.

Speaking of fun, a few days ago, while driving HRM somewhere or another, I asked him if he had done anything enjoyable recently. He said, “Yesterday, I thought it would be fun to walk up to random people and hand them a few dollars so they will feel something good happened to them that day. So I did.”

I never did anything like this for amusement. Perhaps I should worry.

A few days later while driving him somewhere, HRM suddenly exclaimed, “I am going to ace history in high school.”

“Oh, how so,” I replied.

“I already know everything about the Sikhs, even how to tie on a turban. I also know the history of Arabia and the names of all their leaders.” He then went on to name the current leaders of the UAE, Dubai and several other states in the area.

“That’s great,” I said. “How did you come by this knowledge?”

“Well,” he said, “don’t tell anyone but, I learn it in class when I am bored with what’s going on.”

“Oh,” I said, “I too used to read history books in class when I was bored.”

“I don’t read books,” he explained, “I get it all on my smartphone.” Then he added, “What do you think the accent of Sikhs living in Australia sounds like?”

Should I worry?

As for my health, The PET scan showed three places with a high probability of cancer. Tomorrow, I go for a biopsy again.

I am now back in EDH for a while. Dick has left for Asia for two weeks and I have resumed my nanny duties along with my ongoing chauffeur responsibilities. Mon, a young man from Thailand, is living there also. His job is to cook and clean.

On the way to school one morning. I mentioned to Hayden that he lives like one-percenters of old with his own nanny, chauffeur, and Asian houseboy. “Yes, I know,” he responded. “Don’t forget you are my lawyer also,“ he added.

Ok, now I am worried.

After I drop HRM off at school in the morning, I usually drive to The Enchanted Forest. There, to spend the day with Naida. She working on her memoir and I wasting time on my computer like I am now writing this. Then about 2PM, I leave for EDH to pick up Hayden from school and with a brief break at the Skateboard Park, drive him home. He to do his homework and me to waste more time.

Went to my biopsy appointment today. Told the Doctor that my previous appointment was inconclusive because that doctor’s sonogram could not penetrate the scar tissue on my neck. This doctor said his sonogram should have no trouble. I then told him that the subsequent PET scan report showed three high probability sites. The Doctor said he thought there was only one.

Then he got down to work and stuck a needle full of Lidocaine into my throat. After fooling around awhile, he said, “Oh-oh there was some air in the needle and it is now lodged beneath your skin. Let’s wait a half hour and maybe it will go away.” And with that, he strode out of the room.

Since the mass is lodged between my muscle, tendon and my carotid artery, I had the pleasure of lying there imagining my sudden death from a brain embolism. After a half hour or so he returned and applied his sonogram to my neck and after some more fooling around said, “I can’t see anything. The air bubble is probably still there. Let’s schedule another try at it next week.” And he walked out.

After dressing, I approached to nurse to schedule a new appointment. She was giggling. After we agreed on a date she said, “Oh Good, a really good doctor will be there then.”

A few days ago on Wednesday, I picked up the entire Scooter Gang and brought them to the house to wait there until it was time to go to the teenage get together held every Wednesday in an overly large modern church complex labeled the Community Church. I do not know what denomination it is, probably Baptist. I know they sometimes like to hide their affiliation.

Anyway, the Gang consisted of five burgeoning adolescents – Haden (HRM), Jake (Big tall longhaired Jake), Graham (the Genius), Tyson (who gets blamed whenever anything goes wrong) and Ethan (the first one to have a girlfriend).
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HRM, Ethan, Graham, and Jake
(Hayden is wearing something he picked up in Dubai when he visited there this summer. He is holding a magic lamp that he also bought there.)

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Ethan has an interesting history. His mother and father had made a good deal of money in a trade that recently became legal which will soon end the growth of mom and pop millionaires as the industry consolidates and becomes a subsidiary of something like General Foods or Coke or some super large drug company — alas, so it goes.

Anyway, about three or four years ago, Ethan’s mom was murdered. His father discovered who did it, tracked him down and beat him almost to death with a large iron rod. Ethan’s dad was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. He got out a month ago. Ethan, who has been living with his grandparents leaves next week to stay with his father for a month or two so they can become reacquainted. HRM decided to throw him a going away party at the house on Saturday.

After picking them up at the Church event, They talked about Christianity and Heaven. Hayden thinks there were many heavens a person lives through, here on earth is the most recent one and the next one is the last. Graham said he was a professional atheist but now he decided to become a Christian —whatever that is.

Okay, now I am really very worried.

After an evening back in the Enchanted Forest, I returned to the Golden Hills to chaperone the going away party. Actually, it was not so much a party — about six or seven boys gathered to spend the night. After giving them the rules of the house — no bragging things, no spilling of liquids on the floor and no getting hurt — they joked with me awhile about the various things that were included or excluded in the rules. For the rest of the evening, they stayed quietly together in HRM’s room except for when they came into the kitchen for Pizza or coke.

The next morning I drove one of the gang, Caleb, home. He lives in the “low-income” side of town, a group of apartments hidden in a depression, behind some trees and on the far side of Town Center. During the drive, I ask Caleb what he wanted to be when he grew up. He quickly responded, “A forensic scientist.” “Interesting,” I responded. “What made you decide to do that?”

“ Well,” He answered. “My uncle was murdered. He died in 7/11. He was one of those people who you saw on television that jumped of the top of the buildings.”

“Oh,” I said. “I am sorry to hear that.” Then, unable to think of anything else to say, said, “Well I guess that will be a good profession for you.” Then, with my feeling like an idiot, we drove on to Caleb’s house in silence.

Well, I finally had the biopsy and now wait for the results. The next day, I met my new primary care doctor, my previous one retired as of September 1. His office is in a gym. Apparently, he doubles as a sports physician He is in his late 30’s and looks more like an ex-NFL linebacker than a doctor. We set a follow-up appointment for next week when the results of the biopsy become available.

After the appointment with the doctor, I rushed to a regular Parent teachers meeting at HRM’s school. The day before the school changed his classroom schedule to separate him from the rest of the Scooter Gang because the teachers felt that the socializing that went on in the classroom was adversely affecting his school work. Although it was done for his benefit, he took it as an attack on him specifically. Frankly, I thought they could have handled it better by reassigning several members of the gang instead of just him.

After the meeting, I was as exhausted as I have ever been and so I returned to the Enchanted Forest and slept through to the following morning.

Ha, Ethan returned from his uncle’s house where his father was living. He stayed only one day there before returning to EDH. He told me his uncles house burned down and so he had no place to live. After a little more prodding the story emerged. He said that the room in the attic of the house where he was to sleep also contained the circuit-breaker for the house’s electricity. His uncle fiddled around with it. He went for a walk. On his way back, he heard an explosion and saw that the house was on fire. He rushed back to the house, woke up his three cousins who had been sleeping in other bedrooms, and lead them out of the house. Almost as soon as they emerged the entire building exploded. It seems that Ethen’s prospective bedroom, the one that contained the exploding circuit breaker also contained 5000 assorted fireworks (yes — 5000) that also exploded and leveled the house when the fire that was consuming the heat of the bedroom reached the fireworks. Ethan seemed relaxed about the fact that only by a stroke of luck he escaped death.

One evening we went for dinner at a Czech-Italian restaurant on J. Street, after which, as we walked down the street we passed a group of young people one of whom said as we walked past, “You two are adorable.” We are now old enough that doing what people normally do is considered “adorable.”

Watched the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing. I do not know about the assault but he lied in just about everything else — a Golden Triangle is not three glasses of beer.

And then the weekend came drifting by as I waited to find out whether I am a dead man walking.
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The imagination and inner force of Shakespeare’s villains stopped short at ten or so cadavers because they had no ideology…. It is thanks to ideology that it fell to the lot of the twentieth century to experience villainy on the scale of millions.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

 

 

 

It has been only three days since my return, jet lag lingers on and worries about my health persist, but hey, I’m home and that’s a start.

As the trip back slowly recedes and disappears from memory, I try to think of the high points that I can write about but, except for tasting with Nikki the various after dinner drinks and chocolates served to First-class passengers on Alitalia’s flight between Milan and New York, nothing comes to mind — except, perhaps, hearing “A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall” and a rousing version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” on the planes audio.

It was good to see Naida again and hear the soothing whispers at night and the sighs of pleasure and feel the handles of home drifting back into my hands.

I guess I should begin by telling about my latest health worries since at my age they have the ability to crowd out a lot of life’s greatest pleasures. It may develop into a saga, maudlin or boring, tragic or comic, who knows.

I came home with a numbness of the skin on my throat along with pain underneath. Yesterday some swelling appeared also.

Today, I visited with my primary care physician, a man not ranked too highly in his profession by either his peers or his patients. At the appointment, he was giddy with anticipation of his pending retirement from the practice of medicine within the next two months and insisted on spending some time with me discussing the travel options available to him in retirement before getting to the purpose of my visit. Following my description of my symptoms and a lot of feeling around my neck and some hmms and ahhs, he said that he thought it could be a blockage in a vein or artery and prescribed a sonogram and a chest x-ray. This, of course, did not alleviate my anxiety because if the blockage is caused by a clot of some kind and is lodged in my vein then it is an arrow aimed at my heart and if in an artery then it is aimed at my brain — the choice between a potential myocardial infarction or a stroke seems to be not much of a choice at all. But what else can I do but go through the tests and wait for my appointment with my oncologist next week and hope that, in the meantime, I do not keel over and collapse somewhere along the overgrown paths that I walk on in the evenings beside the river?

I apologize for writing about my health so much but when we reach this age it is often the most exciting and interesting thing we have going — an adventure, but not one where “no one has gone before” but one where everyone has gone before who have gone before. It may be boring for you, but it is new to me. It’s a lot like being that person early in a horror movie who decides to walk down the dark hallway alone or like waiting for Freddy Kruger to show up for dinner. You can either laugh or scream. I prefer laughing although a good scream now and then can do wonders for your peace of mind.

The next day, I was X-rayed and sonogramed. They showed that neither vein nor artery was clogged. So by the end of the day, I was back where I was before walking into my doctor’s office — with a pain in the neck and lost in hypochondriaville. I now wait a week more before my oncologist can see me and after feeling around my neck and a lot of hmms and ahhs send me off to be probed by large expensive machines tended by smiling people dressed in blue or green outfits and looking a little like the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Walked the dog to the dog park this evening. There are three benches in the dog park each about as far away from the other as can be and still be in the dog park. There were two other people at the park with their dogs curled at their feet. They sat on two of the benches, I sat on the third bench with Boo-boo who promptly curled up at my feet. We sat there unmoving. Time passed, a lot of time. Then one person got up, hooked the leash onto the collar of his dog and slowly left the park. We remaining two and our dogs sat there, silently, in the dusk, until the other person finally got up and left with his dog. I waited until it was almost dark. Then, Boo-boo and I also left and went home. It all felt like an Edward Hopper painting as a slow-motion uTube video. Ennui at the dog park — life in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Naida is off to the California State Fair presiding over the booth featuring California authors with books to sell. The temperature is expected to hit 104 to 105 degrees in this part of the Great Valley. I remain home with the dog, pecking away at my computer and now and then listlessly reading various blogs on economics and dozing off when the words blur and their significance sounds in my mind more like the buzzing of mosquitos than packets of meaning.

Not so good a night though — crumpled part of the fender on the car trying to get into the garage after dinner, followed by scary nightmares that even frightened Naida. Perhaps, I am unraveling. The next day was not so good either. There are just some days like that. But, as the time grows shorter, I certainly can use fewer of them. Perhaps, those are the days to catch up on my sleep.

Anyway, HRM called me to drive him to the skate park. So at about 3:30 that afternoon, I took off for The Golden Hills in my car with the crumpled fender.

The boys were waiting alone at the house. Dick was at work and SWAC, who only within the past few weeks had criticized him for leaving HRM alone as a latch-key kid, was gone to rummage around at the mall. So, I picked him up and drove him and his friend Jake to the Citrus Heights Skateboard Park where some sort of competition had been planned. There they were to wait for Dick to pick them up and take them home.

During the ride, they excitedly told me about their adventures so far this summer. It seems this was the first vacation that had impressed upon them the possibilities and joys of life. They have a few years yet before being introduced to its sorrows.

They talked about their plans to buy two vans after they graduate high school and drive them around the world living off the proceeds of their professional scooter careers and a uTube video program they would produce about their adventures. I said, “It sounds like the Sixties all over again.” They asked, “What’s that?”

It is difficult to comprehend — no, more likely, accept — that to these children The Summer of Love is as far in the distant past as World War I was to those flower children gathered on old Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York on that warm summer afternoon in 1969 — as far distant as “Over There” is from “Bad Moon Rising.”

Imagine, I and those of my generation have lived a full one-tenth of the time that has passed since the Fourth Crusade and the final destruction of what little remained of classical Europe; one-tenth of the time since Genghis Kahn released his hoards to plunder and subdue almost one-quarter of the globe; one-tenth of the time that has passed since the reluctant King John signed the Magna Carter and Marco Polo returned from his journeys to the FarEast. Either we of my generation have lived long or human history has been far briefer than we imagined.

For the next few days, little or nothing happened that raised itself above the gray morass of a deteriorating memory. We ate lunch at a nice little outdoor restaurant where I had an east-African hamburger (chopped-meat mixed with yams and African spices), watched a Tarzan movie on TV where the actor playing the lost earl was so unmemorable that his name was not even listed in the credits and the chimp hammed up all the best parts and I spent a lot of time fingering the emerging lump in my neck and worrying.

One day, I walked the dog along the levee in the blistering heat and the silence. Eventually, we turned back into the cooler tree-shaded paths of the Enchanted Forrest until we came to the small swimming pool shaded by the tall pines and redwoods that I like so much. There we sat by the water in the stillness but for the barely perceptible splashing of the woman swimming laps and the whispers of the breeze through the trees. I waited there until dusk then walked back home. That night, I slept well.

It has been several days since I have written here — not because I have been busy with things to do or adventures and not because life has become so boring that my consciousness has shut down in response, but because just moping around seemed to be as energetic as I could manage.

On Monday, I drove Naida to the State Fairgrounds to close out the California Authors exhibit. It was fun. There were a few other authors there packing up their books while hoards of workmen trundle about taking down the various exhibits.

Later, HRM called and to take Jake and him to the mall. The day seemed to be looking up so I put a turkey feather I had found lying on the ground in the Enchanted Forrest into my hat band and left for the Golden Hills. I looked jauntily idiotic.
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Jauntily Idiotic

I arrived at the house ready to push on but they first had to watch “Sponge Bob” on the TV and finish eating a pizza for lunch. I waited and watched the idiotic animated sessile metazoan his moronic Asteroidea buddy and his dyspeptic sepiida co-worker cavort across the TV screen until the homo-sapiens sapiens adolescents had finished their pizza. We then piled into the car with the crumpled fender and left to pick up the third member of the Scooter Gang, Graham.

The Scooter Gang, HRH, Jake and Graham (Tyson, the fourth member, was busy playing X-box games) asked me to drive them to the mall in Roseville so that they could shop for backpacks for school and some other things that I tuned out in disinterest. At the mall, I sat at the coffee-shop and played on my computer while they shopped. After not too long they gave up, having purchased nothing but some sour tasting candy. They then asked me to drive them to someplace near Denio’s where Jake was to be paid by someone for a paintball gun he had sold in order to finance his purchase of a bicycle. It all seemed fishy to me. The street was in one of the more down-scale parts of Roseville which is saying a lot since up-scale Roseville does not seem to exist. They told me to wait while they went in search of the house of the person owing Jake the money. After a few minutes, they returned with Jake clutching a $100 bill. Do you think I was an unwitting accomplice in some sort of illegal juvenile caper?

A few days later, I met with my Oncologist. After telling him my symptoms and him feeling around my neck, voicing a few hmms and ahhs, and shoving a long tube through my nose and down my throat, I said, “So tell me doctor, am I a dead man walking or will you have to tear out my throat to save my life?” He seemed to be taken aback a bit by that and when it turned out that his office had misplaced the CAT scan I had taken in May upon which he made his previous diagnosis that I was in remission, he began to stutter, explaining that he does not think there is a problem, since everything looks ok inside my throat, but to be on the safe side I should have another CAT scan and biopsy “as soon as possible” to be sure. I then mentioned my numbness on the left side of my face and asked how that affected his diagnosis. He explained that there is a nerve which could be impacted by the so-called “slight swelling” on my neck causing such an effect. I suspect he was guessing.

The next night, I went to the sleep clinic he prescribed when I was still in remission. I do not know why he prescribed it. At the clinic, they wired me all up. I was placed in a room with a double bed that would not be out of place in a Motel 6 except that it lacked a television. They put something around my nose they said would pump air into my lungs but I had to keep my mouth closed or the air would escape and they would have to replace the nose thing with a mask that covered my nose and mouth. Every so often during the night the technician would come into the room and jiggle the wires and things that they had attached to me. I did not sleep well.

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Pookie Wired.

Two days later I had a CT scan followed by a surprisingly enjoyable dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Roseville. Next week comes the biopsy. I now realize getting old is not so different than being a soldier in war or an explorer in a dark jungle somewhere, every step may be your last. It’s all very exciting if you are one of those who finds shitting in one’s pants an adventure. Some people find all this terror something to approach with grim heroism, others prefer screaming all the way down. I am beginning to get bored and more than a little bit annoyed.

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It has been only three days since my return from Italy, jet lag lingers on and worries about my health persist, but hey, I’m home and that’s a start.

As the trip back slowly recedes and disappears from memory, I try to think of the high points that I can write about but, except for tasting with Nikki the various after dinner drinks and chocolates served to First-class passengers on Alitalia’s flight between Milan and New York, nothing comes to mind — except, perhaps, hearing “A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall” and a rousing version of “Try a Little Tenderness,” on the planes audio.

It was good to see Naida again and hear the soothing whispers at night and the sighs of pleasure and feel the handles of home drifting back into my hands.

I guess I should begin by telling about my latest health worries since at my age they have the ability to crowd out a lot of life’s greatest pleasures. It may develop into a saga, maudlin or boring, tragic or comic, who knows.

I came home with a numbness of the skin on my throat along with pain underneath. Yesterday some swelling also appeared.

Today, I visited my primary care physician, a man not ranked too highly in his profession by either his peers or his patients. At the appointment, he was giddy with anticipation of his pending retirement from the practice of medicine within the next two months and insisted on spending some time with me discussing the travel options available to him in retirement before getting to the purpose of my visit. Following my description of my symptoms and a lot of feeling around my neck and some hmms and ahhs, he said that he thought it could be a blockage in a vein or artery and prescribed a sonogram and a chest x-ray. This, of course, did not alleviate my anxiety because if the blockage is caused by a clot of some kind and is lodged in my vein then it is an arrow aimed at my heart and if in an artery then it is aimed at my brain — the choice between a potential myocardial infarction or a stroke seems to be not much of a choice at all. But what else can I do but go through the tests and wait for my appointment with my oncologist next week and hope that, in the meantime, I do not keel over and collapse somewhere along the overgrown paths that I walk on in the evenings beside the river?

I apologize for writing about my health so much but when we reach this age it is often the most exciting and interesting thing we have going — an adventure, but not one where “no one has gone before” but one where everyone has gone before who have gone before. It may be boring for you, but it is new for me. It’s a lot like being that person early in a horror movie who decides to walk down the dark hallway alone or like waiting for Freddy Kruger to show up for dinner. You can either laugh or scream. I prefer laughing although a good scream now and then can do wonders for your peace of mind.

The next day, I was X-rayed and sonogramed. They showed that neither vein nor artery was clogged. So by the end of the day, I was back where I was before walking into my doctor’s office — with a pain in the neck and lost in hypochondriaville. I now wait a week more before my oncologist can see me and after feeling around my neck and a lot of hmms and ahhs send me off to be probed by large expensive machines tended by smiling people dressed in blue or green outfits and looking a little like the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Walked the dog to the dog park this evening. There are three benches in the dog park each about as far away from the other as can be and still be inside the dog park. There were two other people at the park with their dogs curled at their feet. They sat on two of the benches, I sat on the third bench with Boo-boo (the dog) who promptly curled up at my feet. We sat there unmoving. Time passed, a lot of time. Then one person got up, hooked the leash onto the collar of his dog and slowly left the park. We remaining two and our dogs sat there, silently, in the dusk, until the other person finally got up and left with his dog. I waited until it was almost dark. Then, Boo-boo and I also left and went home. It all felt like an Edward Hopper painting as a slow-motion uTube video. Ennui at the dog park — life in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Naida is off to the California State Fair presiding over the booth featuring California authors with books to sell. The temperature is expected to hit 104 to 105 degrees in this part of the Great Valley. I remain home with the dog, pecking away at my computer and now and then listlessly reading various blogs on economics and dozing off when the words blur and their significance sounds in my mind more like the buzzing of mosquitos than packets of meaning.

Not so good a night though — crumpled part of the fender on the car trying to get into the garage after dinner, followed by scary nightmares that even frightened Naida. Perhaps, I am unraveling. The next day was not so good either. There are just some days like that. But, as the time grows shorter, I certainly can use fewer of them. Perhaps, those are the days to catch up on my sleep.

Anyway, HRM (my self-identified grandson-ward) called me to drive him to the skate park. So at about 3:30 that afternoon, I took off for The Golden Hills in my car with the crumpled fender.

The boys were waiting alone at the house. Dick was at work and SWAC, who only within the past few weeks had criticized him for leaving HRM alone as a latch-key kid, was gone to rummage around at the mall. So, I picked him up and drove him and his friend Jake to the Citrus Heights Skateboard Park where some sort of competition had been planned. There they were to wait for Dick to pick them up and take them home.

During the ride, they excitedly told me about their adventures so far this summer. It seems this was the first vacation that had impressed upon them the possibilities and joys of life. They have a few years yet before being introduced to its sorrows.

They talked about their plans to buy two vans after they graduate high school and drive them around the world living off the proceeds of their professional scooter careers and a uTube video program they would produce about their adventures. I said, “It sounds like the Sixties all over again.” They asked, “What’s that?”

It is difficult to comprehend — no, more likely, accept — that to these children The Summer of Love is as far in the distant past as World War I was to those flower children gathered on old Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York on that warm summer afternoon in 1969 — as far distant as “Over There” is from “Bad Moon Rising.”

Imagine, I and those of my generation have lived a full one-tenth of the time that has passed since the Fourth Crusade and the final destruction of what little remained of classical Europe; one-tenth of the time since Genghis Kahn released his hoards to plunder and subdue almost one-quarter of the globe; one-tenth of the time that has passed since the reluctant King John signed the Magna Carter and Marco Polo returned from his journeys to the FarEast. Either we of my generation have lived long or human history has been far briefer than we imagined.

For the next few days, little or nothing happened that raised itself above the gray morass of a deteriorating memory. We ate lunch at a nice little outdoor restaurant where I had an east-African hamburger (chopped-meat mixed with yams and African spices), watched a Tarzan movie on TV where the actor playing the lost earl was so unmemorable that his name was not even listed in the credits and the chimp hammed up all the best parts.  I spent a lot of time fingering the emerging lump in my neck and worrying.

One day, I walked the dog along the levee in the blistering heat and the silence. Eventually, we turned back into the cooler tree-shaded paths of the Enchanted Forrest until we came to the small swimming pool shaded by the tall pines and redwoods that I like so much. There we sat by the water in the stillness but for the barely perceptible splashing of the woman swimming laps and the whispers of the breeze through the trees. I waited there until dusk then walked back home. That night, I slept well.

It has been several days since I have written here — not because I have been busy with things to do or adventures and not because life has become so boring that my consciousness has shut down in response, but because just moping around seemed to be as energetic as I could manage.

On Monday, I drove Naida to the State Fairgrounds to close out the California Authors exhibit. It was fun. There were a few other authors there packing up their books while hoards of workmen trundle about taking down the various exhibits.

Later, HRM called and to take Jake and him to the mall. The day seemed to be looking up so I put a turkey feather I had found lying on the ground in the Enchanted Forrest into my hat band and left for the Golden Hills. I looked jauntily idiotic.
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Jauntily Idiotic

I arrived at the house ready to push on but they first had to watch “Sponge Bob” on the TV and finish eating a pizza for lunch. I waited and watched the idiotic animated sessile metazoan his moronic Asteroidea buddy and his dyspeptic sepiida co-worker cavort across the TV screen until the homo-sapiens sapiens adolescents had finished their pizza. We then piled into the car with the crumpled fender and left to pick up the third member of the Scooter Gang, Graham.

The Scooter Gang, HRH, Jake, and Graham (Tyson, the fourth member, was busy playing X-box games) asked me to drive them to the mall in Roseville so that they could shop for backpacks for school and some other things that I tuned out in disinterest. At the mall, I sat at the coffee-shop and played on my computer while they shopped. After not too long they gave up, having purchased nothing but some sour tasting candy. They then asked me to drive them to someplace near Denio’s where Jake was to be paid by someone for a paintball gun he had sold in order to finance his purchase of a bicycle. It all seemed fishy to me. The street was in one of the more down-scale parts of Roseville which is saying a lot since up-scale Roseville does not seem to exist. They told me to wait while they went in search of the house of the person owing Jake the money. After a few minutes, they returned with Jake clutching a $100 bill. Do you think I was an unwitting accomplice in some sort of illegal juvenile caper?

A few days later, I met with my Oncologist. After telling him my symptoms and him feeling around my neck, voicing a few hmms and ahhs, and shoving a long tube through my nose and down my throat, I said, “So tell me doctor, am I a dead man walking or will you have to tear out my throat to save my life?” He seemed to be taken aback a bit by that and when it turned out that his office had misplaced the CAT scan I had taken in May upon which he made his previous diagnosis that I was in remission, he began to stutter, explaining that he does not think there is a problem, since everything looks ok inside my throat, but to be on the safe side I should have another CAT scan and biopsy “as soon as possible” to be sure. I then mentioned my numbness on the left side of my face and asked how that affected his diagnosis. He explained that there is a nerve which could be impacted by the so-called “slight swelling” on my neck causing such an effect. I suspect he was guessing.

The next night, I went to the sleep clinic he prescribed when I was still in remission. I do not know why he prescribed it. At the clinic, they wired me all up. I was placed in a room with a double bed that would not be out of place in a Motel 6 except that it lacked a television. They put something around my nose they said would pump air into my lungs but I had to keep my mouth closed or the air would escape and they would have to replace the nose thing with a mask that covered my nose and mouth. Every so often during the night the technician would come into the room and jiggle the wires and things that they had attached to me. I did not sleep well.

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Pookie Wired.

Two days later I had a CT scan followed by a surprisingly enjoyable dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Roseville. Next week comes the biopsy. I now realize getting old is not so different than being a soldier in war or an explorer in a dark jungle somewhere, every step may be your last. It’s all very exciting if you are one of those who find shitting in one’s pants an adventure. Some people find all this terror something to approach with grim heroism, others prefer screaming all the way down. I am beginning to get bored and more than a little bit annoyed.

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I made it to Mendocino, but whatever illness it is that I caught laid me low, so I spent almost two days in bed hoping for it to pass while outside the wind and the rain battered the house. It rained ever since I arrived, so I felt it was just as well that I curl up under the blanket and feel sorry for myself. I also thought about Bill and Naida and how much more serious and real were the difficulties they now are facing than mine.

On my last night in Mendocino following a pleasant game of scrabble at which I lost horribly, I made my way to bed feeling a bit better in that the cold, flu or whatever I had been laboring under for the past few days appeared to sit a bit lighter upon my chest.

I stacked the blankets, electric and conventional, to cover me so as no hint of chill could penetrate. For the first time in about a week, I fell asleep without tossing about from coughing and other discomforts.

I dreamt deeply about the events of my last week in El Dorado Hills in that metaphorical, time place and character shifting way with dreams. There even appeared a character who announced that he had just returned from a week of introspection on the Iles of Tikkun who promised to aid me in some way but who I deeply distrusted. It did not matter, it all ended in frustration, sadness, and despair anyway. And so it went on interminably replaying the same things over and over until some stray morning light penetrated my cocoon and I awoke, rolled over recovered my head and drifted back to sleep where shards of despondency attacked my reverie like angry crows. And so I gave in, got up and went downstairs for coffee.

After weeks of cold, overcast and rain, the sun was shining and for the first time in weeks, I went for a walk. I hiked a short way along the Mendocino Headland bluffs and stared down at the turmoil of the glaring white waves breaking upon the dark rocks.

Back at the house my sister and I worked on the business plan for a while and then we drove back to Berkley where we had dinner with Brendan my sister’s son, his girlfriend, a Hastings law student, and two friends. I was pleasantly surprised by a quick succession of telephone calls I received from Jason, Jessica, and Hayden. Whatever melancholy I had been feeling for the past few weeks dissipated.

We all watched the first episode of the second season of “Game of Thrones,” and then George and I dashed off to the airport for my flight back to Thailand.

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The following a tribute to my good friend Irwin Schatzman. It is his last blog regarding his unsuccessful battle with cancer. We miss you cuz!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2010
GLOWING MAN’S JOURNAL DECEMBER 2010

SAY WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD BRAIN OF MINE? I don’t suppose you could refer to it as a “long-lost pal” or the former owner of “a saber-sharp wit”, but there was something there. It got me through quite a few years making things up so I could impress my colleagues and bring home a few farthings. But, I never really won any awards of note with it. In fact, now that I think about it, something seemed to hold back its promise of a larger potential. I just always assumed that greater things were not meant to be, but I suspect it was laziness and trying to enjoy the good life which stifled my growth as a person of some uniqueness.

The Glowing Man got his start in 2009 with the advent of a radiation program consisting of some thirty-three sessions intended to irradiate a tumor that had grown on the left Parotid Gland of yours truly. Actually the bugger had been inside my neck for over thirty years but I had never taken steps to have it removed owing to vanity and it was only when the pain set in that I decided it was time to go and maybe after the operation I might not be uglier than I have always been; One wag suggested that I could claim the scar as being the result of a bad duck in a fencing master’s class.

Being “cancer free” has had its appealing aspects (although that meant I had no spooky condition to talk about and while away the hours with my drunken friends). So I went back to a life of boredom, which included no drinking at all and with no drinking comes thinking.

Last month I was shoved into one of those scanning machines for a test or two and guess what?! I was no longer alone in my skull. The picture of my brain which developed suggested to me that it was almost to be considered as hiding. so ( music roll please) now I glow once more.

Every Monday through Friday morning at 8:15 AM I hop a shuttle bus in Garden Grove and am carried out to Ontario, California where I proceed to get zapped. Only this time it’s a different course and only ten sessions are imposed, at least initially. You see unlike cancer cells not normally visible to the naked eye, the cancerous growths are most visible to the scanning equipment. One large tumor on the back of my brain and smaller ones on the sides of my brain. Not to be outdone, the rest of my body decided to add-on a tumor and installed it in my right lung. There goes any chance I will be able to sneak that cigar after thirty-five years of not smoking (cough cough). On the shuttle bus, each cancer patient tells their story and my telling has resulted in the appellation which I am currently being referred to by my fellow passengers as, “Mr. Tumor Head” – I don’t know how much that beats being called “Mr. Potato Head” but it’s a start.

From 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM we are in treatment flirting with the lady radiation technicians who have to move my stiff tired old body about and grasp me to help me up (i caught on quick)and then it’s back on the bus for the return trip arrival at the starting point about 11:30AM. Not bad timing and while maybe the activity does suck, the time spent doesn’t seem to be enough to consider as having ruined the whole day except for the concept of having to find myself in lovely Garden Grove, and twice in one day.

The radiation is intended to shrink the tumors. Once that is over if it works, it looks like a morning cup of chemo for as long as I want to try to hold the growth of cancer in check so that it doesn’t spread including to other parts of my body aside from my brain and lung. I should still be able to brush my teeth and walk around the block (a final indignity for an aging male – the doctors fearing seizures and lawsuits took away my car keys, so no more driving). If the radiation doesn’t work, well then right now it looks like the party is over; however accomplished, the imbibing of chemo does not sound very appetizing to be sure but I guess it’s something to do in the interest of living better through chemistry, or just living.

Lifespan, shmife span. Don’t know for sure how long I will be around, although soon some ongoing investigation and reports by doctors will be finished and we may have a better idea. Maybe just months. Though 2011? Maybe not. My suspicions are on the short side. But If the chemo doesn’t do the job then the coming months will definitely bring on some changes. But don’t be concerned for me even if your name isn’t “Argentina”. Owing to how I have lived my life, and observations I have made about my existence, even with the threat of cancer hanging over my nose mean that I now strangely find myself content I do not worry. And if the inevitable should appear to be but a few steps or hours away, based upon my experience I am firmly convinced I can make the best of my last days if I want to. After all, I know by now, kid, that dying is easy, it’s living that’s hard.

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