The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Simply Do Not Understand

I had such hopes for yesterday. I awoke with a vivid spirit and a happy heart. Although I got up a bit late, and felt a bit rushed with helping my mother through her morning tasks (moving and setting up the oxygen, dressing, bathroom issues, medication issues, breakfast, etc)... there was promise to the day.

I also had a Departmental Meeting to go to. Surprisingly, it was relatively tension free, although it was again 2.5 hours in a very, very small room.

I even had plans to go visit my father-in-law, and was looking forward to it more than I have many things lately.

Unfortunately, the day turned sour quite abruptly and without much warning. My wife has a significant difficulty in dealing with poor moods. Two events over the last twenty-four hours apparently laid a minefield of anger that I had been walking unsuspectedly through.... feeling better than I had in quite a while.

First, during the middle of the night (roughly sometime around 3:30am, my wife woke me from a sound sleep to say she had seen a bunch of people carrying bags toward a parked car that was in the street in front of our house. She wanted me to go and check it out and was certain that they had gotten into our vehicles and rummaged through them.

I quietly groused a bit about this... it was 3:30am, but complied with her request. Of course, nothing was amiss. I retrieved my wife's cell phone from her vehicle, looked to make sure nothing in them was disturbed, and locked all the doors of all the vehicles again. I went up and told her nothing was wrong and My wife has what I consider an extreme fear of robbery at night, or of people roaming the streets and attacking our home. She watches out the window from our second story bedroom every night and is awake at the slightest noise from outside. So, I try to do what she requests in these matters, even though we live in an exceptionally safe, quiet neighborhood.

I then crawled into bed and quickly went back to sleep. Little did I know... but the die had been rolled and I had earned an emotional equivalent of two "ones".... otherwise known as snake eyes...... WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

(What I learned in hindsight during the late afternoon was that I should have came in and hugged her, and talked to her and reassurred her for 15-20 minutes)

In the morning, my wife was aggrivated at another member of our family, and hence felt it was appropriate to give me "attitude" because of the aggrivation she was feeling. I did not do anything to deserve this attitude. She then pulled me aside and was askinig me all sorts of questions about what I was going to do today and what her day would be like. She asked me if she should generally stay around the house other than a few errands and a meeting so that mom would feel more comfortable about not being alone (which is what we had planned for Friday already earlier in the week) or if she should go to her meeting and then stay out and about and then do errands and basically not be at home at all. To me this sounded like she wanted to change our already exisiting plans to suit some sort of differnt thing she wanted to do, so as I had already experienced "attitude" from her, I didn't want to talk much about it and said, "Whatever, it doesn't matter much either way." WARNING!!!! WARNING!!! WARNING!!!! Another bad roll of the dice.

(What I apparently should have known was that my wife was trying to help ME and she was asking this to just reconfirm what we had already said... with just enough moxie and attitude to keep me on my toes).

So I go to work and my Department Meeting and escape back to my office 2.5 hours later. I meet with three students which eats up another hour. Within a matter of a few minutes of finishing with the last student, I receive a phone call from her. The end result is we end up talking (arguing) about why she was upset with me on several levels for the above two items. This takes up another 2.5 hours, and by this time I am tired, with a headache and very aggrivated and unhappy. Of course my wife then tells me that letting out all "these feelings" makes her feel "great", to which I think and I of course feel like sh*t. I don't need to be vented upon like this, especially when I didn't do a damn thing wrong. When I do something wrong.... yes, I will take my lumps and my punishment.... and deserve it. But I DID NOT in this case.

Unfortunately this happens every few weeks. It has been going on for years now. It is frustrating and emotionally draining as hell.

I have tried for years to understand why she feels she needs to do this time and time again. I have finally realized that there is no hope of it ever going away. It is just going to happen for as long as it does. Reasoning and logic do not help in any way, shape or form.

Therefore, after long contemplation (it was already too late to go visit my father-in-law, so I had to make up an excuse of being caught in a meeting to not hurt his feelings), I have decided the only way I can protect myself from this when it happens again (AND IT WILL) is to not play along. I will not talk with her about it until I am blue in the face... as it does NO GOOD. The reality is that the only thing I have control over is HOW I REACT TO IT. I am going to try my very best to react in a different way... to not get into a 2-3 hour discussion/argument where I try to reason out what happened and why... and instead either a) ignore it, b) go about doing my own thing, c) finding ways to not take her attitudes towards me to heart, and d) not trying anymore to get her to examine and analyze why she is doing these things. It does no good, and only hurts me.

I do not know if there are landmines lurking around tonight. But even if one explodes in my face, I am determined to change how I respond from now on. I do not need the hurt or the heartache.


Friday, September 29, 2006


Today I find I need to take a day off to contemplate my feelings before writing about my life. My mind feels too chaotic to even attempt to distill out anything about what I am thinking. Instead, I encourage you examine this article. I find the premise quite intriguing. I suspect it likely is true:

Reasons for G.W.Bush's Speech Patterns

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Who Am I?

Mom continues to make slow, but positive progress.

My father-in-law feels back up to snuff and is enjoying each day.

* * * * *

I feel somewhat numb.... emotionally. It is comforting. It is almost feeling like I am a point where I can start my old life again... starting it over again. This is a feeling I frequently feel after a significant shattering of routine due to some sort of chaotic situation..... often my mother's various illnesses (and this last one was the worst event of chaos I have evermexperienced), my wife's surgery a few years ago, my wife's pneumonia last year.

I do not know if it is just a pipe dream though. Should I try to return to my old (wonderfully beautiful) life of plans for research, writing, and teaching, or should I accept that it is not particularly likely to last for long? Should I simply do the minimum requirement for teaching and let everything else slide? If I do that, will I lose something of who I am, or will I become more free? If I lose myself, what or who will I become? If I become more free, for what purpose? To do more taking care of people?

These questions are serious, I do not mean them in any sort of joking manner. Should I give up the tilting at windmills? Should I give up goals for me as a biologist? Should I just take the easier way out on a day-to-day basis and just simply exist?

I do not know. I have loved my job, my career, my efforts in biology and science. Yet, perhaps I need to give more of myself to my family now?

I really wish I could sort through these chaotic feelings.



Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thank You and Elaboration

First and foremost, I want to THANK EVERYONE for their comments yesterday.... Abbagirl74, austere, Becky, and SF... each of you have been very kind friends to have given me such detailed comments. I appreciate all four of you and your efforts greatly. I have comments for each of you that I list below:

Abbagirl74 - You are very right. Your attitude is very strong, and very much geared towards justice. I appreciate your comments, and find they are quite similar in many ways to that of my wife... also a very strong woman. I agree with your sentiments and suggestions for action, but only in a theoretical world where people would listen, comprehend, empathasize, and react appropriately to my words. I will explain below more why, unfortunately I do not think this theoretical world exists in my situation.

SF - You also are right. Often, however, while the MEANS may be justified (in this case, telling my sisters of their shirking of responsibilities), the ENDS (disharmony in the family) make the value of the MEANS much less and perhaps not worth doing when the ENDS may be so negative. I will explain in more detail why your suggestion seems the most like what I am doing, but that there are also significant differences as well.

austere - as always, thank you for your comments and support

Becky - your suggestion is a wonderful solution, and I would very much like to use that suggestion. The problem, however, is that my mother would dislike that solution very much.... primairly out of SEVERE embarassement to her. I am currently getting two brief visits from a visiting nurse for her a week, a physical therapy session once a week, and an occupational therapy session once a week... but each was its own struggle... an extreme struggle that I still have to struggle to provide every day. A full time nurse (even for one or two days a week) would be exponentially more difficult to get my mother to accept. However, if I start to see some acceptance by my mother of the smaller visits from the other health care providers, I may broach that idea with her.

* * * * *

Now for a further elaboration of my meanings to futher flesh out what happens in the scenerio's I have spoken of for the previous two essays. I suspect that some of my writing, out of trying to put thoughts and emotions down on electronic paper in a "free form" manner, may make some of what I say less complete than it should be.

I do try to talk to my sister's about helping out more, and contributing to the care of my mother more. The problem is that what they think of as care and what I think of as care are two very different things. When I talk to them about needing help, they say "Sure!" to the theoretical idea of helping out. Yet for them to actually accomplish anything that DOES ACTUALLY HELP is a pretty slim idea. Their ideas of helping out are to come over to the house once every week or two and sit with mom and watch Dr. Phil or Oprah and chat. Then they scoot off to do other things. This is usually the scenerio where one or the other also mentions a vacation they are taking, or a trip they are planning, and this then becomes a topic of conversation for my mother to talk about and then aggrivates me and my wife. This past summer, before all the really difficult health issues occurred, I decided to have my wife go with me on a trip to a scientific meeting where I presented research. It was like pulling teeth to get the two of them to figure out how to arrange being with and staying with my mother during the TWO days we were away. And other than staying overnight (which again was difficult as hell to get them to agree to), they spent very little to no time at my home with my mother during the day.

So, I may have misspoke a bit in my previous posts. They both express willingness to help when I do talk to them about it (which I have been doing for a very long time), yet their vapid, ephemeral expressions of willingness to help vaporize into nothingness when real time commitments are asked for. And, hence, having dealt with them most of my life, I know and understand their "intentions" are good and perhaps even noble, but the actual, REAL help they give is virtually nil. It is sort of what I had been speaking of previously about Don Quixote.... the grand fellow who tilted at windmills..... I do not have the energy or ambition to tilt at the windmills who are my sisters anymore. I tell them what I do, when I do it, what our mother needs, and what we go through. They both are all "sympathy" and "assurances" of helping, but nothing ever materializes unless I exhert more energy getting them to do something than I would have expended doing the task(s) myself.

To me, such a situation causes me to give up even trying anymore. They are not bad people, they are at the deepest parts of their souls, kind hearted people. They are just so self-centered and incapable of seeing (or comprendning when I tell them) our needs that it is just easier for me to do it myself. It really is not a "cop out" on my part.... although I can see why you might think so. It is just more exhausting for me to try to get them to do something of real value than it is for me to do it myself. I resent it, but my current method seems to cost less energy on my part for me on a day-to-day basis.

I still do not think I have explained well enough what it is that they are like. But I am so tired I cannot think of any further way to accurately portray them and my ideas of them. Simply put... they are caring, good people.... but they live in a world of intentions. I hope that I am a caring and good person.... but sometimes I complain like hell and grieve and despair and get angry.... because I live in a world of duties and tasks.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Which Method Is Best?

Thank you so very much to everyone who has offered their advice in regards to yesterday's post. I truly appreciate a) your care, b) your willingness to offer opinion and advice, and c) your encouragement, and d) the ability to try to "get the emotions and feelings out" of my mind and onto electronic paper. Without you reading, the value of my writings would be zero to me. Your patience and willingness to read and participate is very important to me.

From yesterday's comments there are basically two different camps to the advice. In the first camp it is suggested that:

I need to take a stand, confront my two sisters, tell them about reality, and hold them to their fair share.

This is contrasted with the other camp that suggests that:

It does no good to confront people so self-centered.

These two camps reflect exactly the two camps my wife and I are on regarding this issue. Yet our courses of action would be very different:

We both are in agreement that their behavior is rude, unthinking, uncaring, and self-centered. We both become highly aggrivated at them for their attitudes and purposeful lack of awareness.

We disagree on what to do. My wife wants me to confront them both, and hold them to their fair share of the work. I on the other hand think it will do no good... it has always been pointless to get them to be aware of damn near anything they don't want to be aware of in the past. Keep in mind, I have had a whole lifetime of dealing with them. If I were to confront them.... the net result would be ZERO change in the situation, and ADDITIONAL work and strife for me to figure out how to confront them, and INCREASED RISK for my mother in that her feelings may be more hurt. I am in agreement with abbagirl74 that I would have to believe my mother is also aware of their rudeness and selfishness. Yet, if my mother were to hear me confront them (or hear their replay of my confrontation), that would only serve to hurt my mother more, for then she would feel more acutely that she is a burden and would even think that from me. I do not want her to have to feel any more pain or hurt... and I do not want to be the cause of it.

Therefore, for me, I feel my only viable course of action is to accept things as they are. My reasons are to keep from risking hurting my mother's feelings. This frustrates my wife because she thinks I can confront them and change them if I work at it. For me, the effort seems too enormous and the risks far to high to do so.

* * * * * *

Moving on from the above developing issue, I can say that my mother is getting stronger each day. The purchased oxygen concentrator should arrive by Thursday. During the last few days it is VERY MUCH MORE OBVIOUS that the home oxygen is helpful and essential to keeping her healthier. I still get angry at the hospital's idiotic testing protocol but at least I found a workaround solution that keeps her safe.

* * * * * *

My father-in-law went home yesterday and is doing well. He was of course very, very tired yesterday (the rigamaroole of getting discharged and getting home is enormous for the patient as well as the family). I am very hopeful, that if I can find a way to arrange it, that I may go visit him on Friday afternoon to chat and enjoy ourselves. I am hoping this will be possible. It would, I believe, do both of us a world of good. I am keeping my fingers crossed.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Better Left Unsaid

It is rare that I talk about my siblings (other than my baby brother, whom I have a special relatioship with), however, today I feel a need to write about some of them.

I have two sisters who live in the same town as I do. Yet, in tersm of care for my elderly mother, it is as if they live in another state... actually another nation. Both of them go blithley on their way through life, without giving much of a rat's *ss about Mom.... and even less about what it means for my household family to help care for an elderly member with significant needs. This has been going on for several years. Unfortunately, my wife and I disagree about this issue (at least, we disagree on the surface... deep inside I believe we agree).

Yesterday, while my wife was out and I was taking care of mom, my sister dropped by and proceeded to tell my mother about a wonderful trip she and her hubby were taking and that they were leaving Monday and would be gone a week.

We (my wife and I) cannot simply take off now on a trip for obvious reasons. My mother needs significant care at this time. When my wife came home and heard of my sister's trip, she was (very justifably) upset. My sister (actuablly both of them that live here) are enormously self-centered, unthinking individuals who do not seem to grasp how much care our mother needs and requires.... and I think their lack of "understanding" may be purposeful to get them "off the hook" in terms of helping out.... it is easier to turn a blind eye to the situation. It irks the hell out of me too, but to be honest... it is nothing new... thatis the way they have always been and will always be. Even if I were to knock them over the head with this information and berate them for their lack of help, it would fall on deaf ears.

The only person it would hurt is my elderly mother. She would see and hear about our complaining to my siblings (expecially if they did acquiese and actually help out more than their very minimal help...both of them would be sure to talk about how "Frumpy sure got upset at me..." to my mother. The end result is that it would simply cause pain for my mother.... and ACTUALLY cause more strife in our household.... for it would be far, far more difficult to care for her if she were sad and unhappy.

This has been a long standing area of tension between my wife and I. She would like me to confront my sisters and get them to do "their fair share". I TRULY would like them to do "their fair share" as well. I agree with my wife 100% on that score... but I KNOW for a fact, that "fair share" will never happen because they are selfish. I want to protect my elderly mother during her remaining time here.

I agree with my wife about my sisters being selfish.... but I wish she agreed with me as well.... that she understood that no amount of hollering, talking, complaining, or b*tch*ng to them on my part will result in any sort of change.

I feel as if I am between a rock and a rock at times on this matter.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

News & Efforts

It has been a whilrwind of activity here. I am bushed beyond belief and so I shall try to outline the important information with details by using a list:

1. My elderly mother was RELEASED from the hospital yesterday. She has lost roughly 25 pounds during her roughly 6 week stay (this is roughly 20% of her body weight.

2. In the end they did not believe she needed rehabilitation even though now she is unable to walk unassisted (without a walker), feels very weak and unsteady, cannot stand from a seated position on a toilet without a 6 inch assist seat, and needs a chair in the shower.

3. In their "test" to assess if my mother needed home oxygen, the hospital staff too my mother off of the 3 liter/minute (minimum) of oxygen she has been on NONSTOP for 6 weeks.... they took her off the oxygen and within 30 seconds had her walk for a minute in the hallway. Her oxygen saturation dropped to 90% and so she did not "qualify" for home oxygen (the home oxygen percentage is 89% or 88% depending upon whom you talk to). My answer is... what the hell happens after she is OFF the oxygen for 8 or 9 hours?!?!?

4. Instead of listening to all the b*llsh*t about the home oxygen, I have decided to purchase our own oxygen concentrator (this is roughly $1000.00). It annoys me to hell and back that this sort of ass*n*ne b*llsh*t happens. It is just another of the many, numerous instances of ineptitude in our medical community... not actually ineptitude... but unthinking, uncaring, unwilling behavior.

5. Overall, my mother is currently receiving nearly 24 hour care from me. I even have a monitor (the style used for newborns) in her room, so if she has difficulty, she can call out.

* * * * *

6. My elderly father-in-law is doing very, very well. He went into the hospital with atrial fibrilation (just like my mother started with), but has responded very, very well to chemical treatment. He actually feels so good right now that he is bored out of his mind just sitting around. They expect to release him on Monday after they discern the coumadin levels he will be taking. I am very happy for him and hope and believe he will be able to get back to normal everyday life immediately.

* * * * *

So, life has been a whilrwind. My emotional range during the last 24 hours has been stretched enormously from having some very happy moments to great moments of fear and even greater moments of saddness. Overall, everything looks wonderful for my father-in-law. My mood changes more erratically about my mother. Some of the time I feel hopeful that she will be able to get stronger and get well, others I am shocked and dismayed at how frail she has become, at others I have anger well up in me at all the things that have happened to her in the last 6 weeks, and then I also feel guilty about feeling very stressed about all the care she needs.

But overall, things seem a bit more positive than they have been. I am thankful for that.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

He Is Doing Well

My elderly father-in-law is doing well. I am very happy.


Friday, September 22, 2006

It Continues

My elderly father-in-law has been taken to the emergency room.


Thursday, September 21, 2006


Apparently, yesterday's post was my 500th effort at writing here. A milestone of sorts. I am too tired to celebrate, however, for I fear my cold has returned.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?

Mom happily is staying stable.

During the course of my mother's illness, I noticed some significant changes in my patterns of sleep. I still average only four to five hours of sleep each night, but its quality is quite different.

Prior to this six week period of her illness, my ability to sleep was very good. I would go up to bed and would typically fall asleep in one to 5 minutes. The dreams I would have were numerous, vivid, typically enjoyable and exciting, and easy to recall with high detail.

During the first three wto four eeks of her illness, my sleep became less restful. I would still be able to fall asleep easily, but the dreams I had became more and more nightmarish in outlook. As the weeks progressed, the details of the nightmares became less and less precise, and they also became more difficult to recall in detail. Yet the feelings of despair upon awakening was extensive and fearful.

During the last two weeks, I have started to have significant difficulty in falling asleep. I often notice the clock an hour or two after I lay dow to sleep. Even more frustrating is that my dreams (and even the nightmares) have disappeared. I see nor feel anything during sleep. I cannot recall even having a remnant of a dream, let alone something vivid, exciting or fun. Sleep devoid of dreams is oddly unrestful. I awake feeling as if I had not slept. I feel utterly exhausted, and it takes several cups of coffee to feel even moderately awake each morning.

I miss my dreams.

Yesterday, I mentioned and linked to my very favorite work, Don Quixote. Actually I linked to the musical about the character. Tonight I have a link to a small regional group practicing this wonderful musical... called and also Man of La Mancha. That book and even the musical (which is comedic) have been so important to me. I truly love the messages from the book and musical and have felt a true kinship with each most of my life.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


This may be a surprising post on several different levels. Things are the same as they have been for numerous weeks now. Still waiting and responding, still not choosing my day but having it chosen for me, yet I have taken a paraphrased line from aptly named serenity prayer that everyone has heard countless times before:

Work on changing what you can, and not on what you cannot.

For me, I believe I have actually begun to take this notion to heart, at least in the ways I can. For me, I have always thought of my role in life as to be that of one of SERVICE to others, service to try to make things better. This has always seemed to me to require struggle and strife... a mental fortitude that would make me feel it was appropriate to agonize and struggle and even hurt myself in order to struggle to fight for the common good.

While noble, I think that perhaps my struggle, my service, my work has not been as far reaching as I would like because I did not recognize its toll upon me and how that toll could, would, and did prevent me from other work I could also be doing.

Tonight, in the face of significant adversity which included the following:

1. Nurses caring for my mother not being able to tell me the medication she was currently taking.

2. Health care workers who at one point in the day saying my mother should be sent to an low-level, long, long term rehabilitation facility, and at other times said she should be sent to a medium-level, multi-week rehabilitation facility, and at still other times suggesting she should be sent to an intensive two week high-impact rehabilitation facility, to still others suggesting that she should just go home. To the concluding comments when I left being... we don't know where she will go or what we will do.

3. My wife feeling "emotional".

4. People at work who kept interupting my precious few minutes where I could actually work and get things done.

Instead of allowing myself to feel the anger, frustration, despair, confusion I typically would feel, I instead tried to work harder, work with less concern for myself, and to try harder to not try to change that which I could not.... basically letting go of the anger and frustration at the ambiguity of the hospital, accepting the emotionality of my wife, and ignoring as much as possible, the chaos of work.

The end result.... basically the same as in the last several days.... pretty darn near NOTHING was accomplished.... but in the same vein, I felt the anger, the stress, the fear, and the worry less than I did as I struggled and struggled.

I have always admired the fictional Don Quixote, the fellow who tilted against windmills. Yet perhaps my willingness to do the same is my downfall? Perhaps I should just stop? Maybe it would improve my life. Perhaps in much the same vein, I should simply stop much in my life... coffee, perhaps smoking my pipe, perhaps the occasional hard boiled egg at lunch, perhaps the occasional drink, perhaps anything distinctive of life?

It does seem easier, more serene, more restful. Perhaps that is the key? Succumb, align, integrate, sublimate?

No more windmills? Perhaps.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Do Not Read This Post

Do not read this post if you do not want to hear significant cynicism, anger, frustration, rancor, and saddness.

When will I simply just give up and accept that this is the lot I have in life? Why do I keep letting blossom in my mind a time where I can feel happy, where life can be casual and calm, where co-workers treat each other kindly and with respect, where relatives bond together in times of crises. A life where my significant other tries to nurture me and I her.

Why is it I cannot have a life where the hurt, the sorrow, the saddness, the grief, and the pain are at least occasionally intersperced with happiness, with perhaps even a moment of joy?

It is now Monday morning, and after the hellacious weekend I have had from my mother and from my wife, all the b*llsh*t I had to put up with from three signicantly assinine individuals in my Department, and all the crap I need to grade prior to my classes, I am not feeling particularly vibrant or happy. In fact, I am downright angry, and more hurt, sad, and tired than I think a man should have to face at any point in life except perhaps at death. In so very many ways, I am close to a point where I want to give up.

I look back at my life a year ago (through this blog) and see a person I miss and long for. I fear that person is dead.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Now I Lay Me...

Yesterday, on the day of the week I stay later at the hospital (I leave around 8:30pm on this day), I went home to find my sister-in-law over and my wife working on heating dinner for me. As has been our practice during this day of the week since my mother has been hospitalized, I usually eat very late, from leftovers from the regular dinner earlier. For reasons that are still unclear to me, my wife wanted me to sit and eat this leftover plate immediately when I walked in the door. I said I wanted to take a shower, relax a bit and I would eat (and reheat) the food later. This made her very angry and she did not speak to me the rest of the night.

Today, my wife still gave me the silent treatment. Until we went to mass that is. Then she told me she was angry that I did not "let her help me". Meaning she wanted me to eat when she wanted it, not when I was ready and relaxed enough to eat. I do not mind eating cold and/or reheated food. I do however, not like shoveling food into my mouth when someone wants, just because that is how she is "helping" me. I merely wanted an hour or so to decompress when I got home from a horrible day.

This evening, when I went to leave the hospital after visiting my mother, I put her inspirometer on the table beside here so she could use it... this angered her as she wanted it on the windowsill (where she would not have to use it). When I bent over her hospital bed and kissed her and said "Goodnight, I love you."

She said, "Not very much."

I left.

It was a beautiful day.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Odds & Ends

Ambivalence overwhelms me at the moment. My mother is holding steady which is wonderful, yet there is talk of a rehabilitation hospital in her future... which medically is good, but emotionally for her is failure... and with her confusion I am fearful she will believe it is a nursing home and not a temporary (usually 1-3 week) place to regain strength.

I ended up simply working through all the tasks expected of me. I did not visit my father-in-law, nor get a haircut. It did not feel right to do either of them.

As a minor point of interest, it is truly obnoxious how some upper middle class and wealthy people denegrate the poor, the working class, and the lower middle class. I have heard enough of this recently that it makes my blood boil.

I am fortunate through my career to be what I would be considered upper middle class in terms of family income. There is no way in hell I would think or expouse some of the b*llsh*t I hear and read about "lazy", "unskilled", "idiot-class" folks. I simply do not understand how or why someone would develop such innane opinions of people because of status or income. I know it is common, but every time I see such bigotry, it shocks me.


Friday, September 15, 2006

What or When?

My mother continues to do well... other than the lung fluid issue. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop and fear it will become something that will reverse her progress. Please hope and pray that is not what happens.

I am in an indecisive frame of mind. A large part of me is exhausted, and not thinking straight. But a small part of me is deciding how to structure my day tommorrow (Friday). Here are the things I must do:

1. Write THREE letters of recommendation for students and for an adjunct faculty member that is hoping for a permanent job at another university.

2. Pay all my mother's bills and mail them.

3. Write two exams for next week.

4. Write and submit two abstracts for a meeting I may attend (or more likely, will have students attend in my place).

5. Attend the long (2 plus hours) Department Meeting.

Then I have options:

1. I should attend a meeting that is scheduled for the afternoon, but is perhaps the most hideous committee I have ever been on. I dread each and every meeting of this group and have attened the last three. Perhaps I can beg off. If I do go, I will then go visit my mother in the very late afternoon to the mid-evening.

2. If I skip the dreaded committee meeting, I could go visit my mother in the early afternoon and by late afternoon do one of the following two things..... a) go visit my father-in-law for a relaxing late afternoon, or b) go get a haircut.

I do not know what I will do. And of course, at any moment, everything could change and go topsy-turvy so I really never have a firm plan.


Thursday, September 14, 2006


My mother is trying, is working to get well. Most signs are positive at the moment, except that there may be new accumulation of fluid in her lung. Prayers and well wishes are appreciated.

While things are mostly positive, I am feeling discouraged. I fear there will never be another simple, calm, casual day for my mother. I so want her to have that again, a time where she simply enjoys the day.

I so want that for my family as well.

I want that for myself too.

I do not know if it will be.


* * * * *

Yet, I feel guilty, like a crybaby for my discouragement, my worry, my fear. There is so much hardship in the world, that perhaps I am just getting my own slice of that "heartache" pie? Perhaps I deserve more horrors? I sure hope not. But, how am I to know? Perhaps I am on an endless cycle where more and more heartache will continue to happen each and every day. Each day will grow worse than the previous. Perhaps that is my destiny? I hope not.

* * * * *

I feel horrible that I cannot fix this. Yet it is unrealistic to even try. I know that, but I do not feel able to to not try. The only time I seem to relax these days is during those occasions when I do not dream nor do I have nightmares during sleep. Waking hours are not about life, but about trying in futility to fix things. In sleep, I can live... when I stop dreaming or thinking.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Short Term and Long Term

The progress my mother is making is again very good today. She has eaten well, has been assisted by physical therapists to walk a few steps, and she seems to have a willingness again to work to get well. Of all of this I am very, very happy.

This essay though has been titled Short Term and Long Term. I am afraid (as was suggested in a comment) that I am beginning to sound like my brother. And is is quite true... I have become much like him... or more truthfully, I have allowed that aspect of my personality that is like his come through more in my writings during this time of severe emotional upheaval. It is more true than I would care to admit that some of the morose feelings he projects are ones that I, myself also feel, yet have learned to diffuse, or mask to allow more "user friendly feelings to emerge. Even though my baby brother has not been writing at all during this familial crisis, he is also feeling the same sorts of anguish that I have expressed.

You may wonder why I am bringing this up right now, when for all intents and purposes things seem to be on an upswing? They are much better right now, for my mother is improving. Yet, I am also feeling a great deal of trepidation. For all the surprisingly intense joy and bouyancy I felt yesterday, I have now returned to homeostasis or balance in my emotions and I see again how delicate and how chaotic her health picture may still become. I so want for her to regain her strength, want for her to come home, want for her to be able to do her normal routines with us and by herself..... Yet, I also know that she is still very far away from being able to do that yet. Will she need to live at a rehabilitation facility for a week or two or three? If so, will that break her spirit again? Will her health issues stay stable, or will the veer out of control any moment like they have done so often during this hospital stay... I guess I felt so happy in the brief short term positive, that looking more at the long term, and seeing how things are still so very uncertain.... even her actual survival is still not a given at this time. When the euphoria of the initial improvement wore off, I felt even more intensely the worry, the fear, the dissapointment at how the whole of her situation still is.

I wish, I so very wish that I could simply work as hard as I could and that would be able to make her well again. It is the way I am used to making things better.... I work, and work, and work and can work until I collapse if I knew I could save a heartache for a member of my family. My mind always assesses a problem simply by thinking "How or what should I do something to "fix" the problem?" In this way, I have dealt with most all difficulties, fears, and hurts... I tackle the problem by working at it, working to fix it, working to solve it.

No amount of work I do makes a damn bit of difference here. My mother may get better (my hope), but she may not (my fear). I now pray, and pray most every moment I am not teaching or at family meals. This constant, unending prayer is my attempt to "fix" the problem... to go to the ultimate physical support staff. I do not know if my prayers help or not, but as it seems to be nearly the only thing I can "DO" to try to work to make this situation better, that is what I do. Sometimes I think I am pretty damn pathetic.

How do I fix it? Is IT my "mother", my "life", my "family", "myself", or all of the above?

It is probably all of the above, plus many other things I should do that I have not yet done.

I feel as if my upper respiratory infection is returning.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


There has been continued progress today. My mother actually was allowed to eat solid foods... and she actually wanted to eat them. She had a bowl of cereal, a peanut butter sandwhich, and also a piece of pizza during the course of the day. I was delighted and very shocked. Tears welled in my eyes several times as I spoke with my mother. Even though her voice was quite hoarse, she was in good spirits and talked in an animated manner. She even willingly used her inspirometer.

If she can keep this up and work with the physical therapist... she will actually be able to come home again. I am keeping my finger's crossed and hoping and praying about this... surprising improvement. I hope that it is real and I hope that it is maintained.

Thank you, for giving me a reason to have hope again.


Monday, September 11, 2006


The ventalator was removed from my mother yesterday evening. It seems to have helped. Along with the new diuretics she was given, she actually has roughly 70-75% of her edema gone. Even though she had a very hoarse voice after the tubing was removed, after an hour or two rest, she actually smiled and wrote that she "felt better". It caused tears to well up in my eyes.

Continued prayer and hopeful thoughts are appreciated as always.


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Nothing has changed of any note. She is still on the ventalator, she is still in ICU. If I look at it as she is not worsening, I can perhaps have solace. Yet, there is not much she can worsen into except death, so there really is not any solace.

She could still recover. She could have a good outcome. I hope to be able to report some hope.... I hope to have that opportunity.

Please pray for her and for us.


Saturday, September 09, 2006


Because of significant fluid buildup throughout her whole body, my mother was placed on a ventalator and is now in the ICU.


Friday, September 08, 2006


I am so exhausted from all the work I went through at the hospital to beg, cajole, and coax my mother to eat, use her insiprometer, and exercise in her bed. I had about an equal number of successes as I did failures. Her condition has stayed relatively the same as yesterday.

I would love to have a couple of bottles of ice cold beer tonight to help me relax a little before I head to bed after this most hectic of days. However, it feels sacreligeous and obscene to have a drink when a loved one is in hospital. Therefore I will of course refrain.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not Much

Not much new to report. It is now in my mother's hands. Things seem to be under control medically, but after roughly 4 weeks of hospital visits, my mother is so weak. She must do three things for herself to get to come home:

1. She must eat and drink. She has been refusing food and drink for so much of the stay that she has averaged only around 200 calories a day. I have tried to cajole, demand, and convince her to eat and drink. I am not sure if she will.

2. She must use and practice with her inspirometer. Four weeks ago, she was at a rather poor 1000cc. I was trying to get her to practice regularly to get up to a goal of 2500cc. Yesterday she could only attain 500cc. Today she only could get 300cc.

3. She must move her arms and legs and move in the bed. She currently does not move other than when forced to by the physical therapist. She must move all day long, at least her arms and her legs in the bed.

I cannot force her to do this. I have tried my best to convince her. It is in her court now. If she did the above three, she would get well quickly. If she does not do them, she will not get well and will die. I cannot control it. Only she can.

I do not know what she will do. I suspect and am fearful she will not try.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I was all set to report that my elderly mother has shown some improvement. Her severe edema has reduced by roughly 1/2. She was more alert and far more her typical self. She even seemed to listen to my advice and actually ate a complete meal for dinner. And, she received and USED an inspirometer today. Her volume is quite low but she showed some determination to keep at it.

So, I came home. My wife greeted me with a brief hug and showed me some food she had waiting for me. She then told me that while she was talking with our daughter, my wife had said that we needed to continue to pray for grandma. My daughter replied that her grandmother would get well, but then would only get sick again.

While I know that she is elderly, while I know she is in percarious health, while I know what my daughter said is true at least in the long term (and is true for all of us in the long term), it was wholly disheartening. It deflated the little bit of bouyancy my spirit had felt during the drive home from the hospital this evening. I did not want to think about the future other than about the process of her striving to become well, and to come back home. I did not want to be thrust into that future... be it in two days after her return home or be it two months or two years. It was not where I wanted to spend my mind's evening thinking about. I wish my wife had not told me the comment and I wish I could figure out a way to easily get it out of my mind. Unfortunately, it is not to be so.

I shall now go to bed, sad, as has been my usual for these past several weeks. I hope my dreams are happy and are not nightmares. During the last several weeks I have had roughly a 75% nightmare: 25% pleasant dreams pattern to my sleep.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Roller Coaster

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing today but you I both damn well knew it wouldn't be.

It started at 7:30am when I was awoken by a phone call from one of my sisters stating that the doctors had visited and said they were going to "cardiovert" our mother at 8:30am. "Cardiovert" is a rather hackneyed term some physicians use to say in a way that "sounds" kinder to the family the procedure of shocking the heart though the skin using paddles that administer a very large current. The procedure is not gentle by any means.... and any person who has seen any medical show in the last decade can attest that the body given such a treatment convulses and arches due to the massive current. It is being done to attempt to convert her heart rhythm from the recently (36 hour previous) returned atrial arrhythmia to a hoped for normal sinus rhythm.

I quickly dress in my usual long sleeved shirt and tie, quickly run a comb through my hair and briefly brush my beard and moustache into some semblance of order, grab my pipe, my pouch, and my lighter, and get into my old truck to quickly drive to the hospital, my pipe and National Public Radio my only companions. I get there at roughly 8:10am and bound into the hospital, and push the button to the infernally slow elevator. The ride up to the sixth floor seems to take longer than if I were to walk it (I usually DO walk the flights when I am here to visit someone when it is not life threatening or when I occasionally visit the neurology library that is on the seventh floor... which has several more medical oriented neurology journals I like to access on occasion than the more traditional research journals in neuroscience held in my U's library). Finally the elevator door opens and I bound down the hall to the ICU.

My mother is puffy and swollen, significant edema is seen through her whole body. I wonder about her Feurosemide levels and suspect they should be temporarily doubled to drain the accumulated fluids. I wish they would work hard to keep her fluid balance in check for 48-72 hours and see if it allows the heart to relax back into a rhythm without surgery or additional drugs, but it is not something they have ever tried in the multiple week stay in the hospital. But, unfortunately, I am not a MEDICAL doctor, but instead have a research doctorate in physiology so my opinions are typically worth less than a pile of horse dung. Regardless, I try to grin as wide, happy and hopeful a furry-faced grin as I can muster as I come into the room to greet my mother. She is rather groggy already, although they have not yet administered the anesthesia, so I simply tell her everything will be fine and that I love her as I bend over the bed and gently kiss her cheek and forehead.

"Raspberry." she whispers quietly, "you're reminding me of your father." She is referring to the smell of the raspberry tinctured burley pipe tobacco that mingled in my beard and moustache. It was one of the several favorites my father kept regularly on hand in his study.

I leave the room and wait in the waiting room with my one sister who had arrived earlier. Other siblings arrive throughout the day, and some live too far away to visit at this time.

The shocking of the heart goes as expected and the physician who performs the procedure (who by the way reminds me distinctly in terms of looks, mannerisms, and voice of Woody Allen) comes in and informs us everything looks "good" and she will be moved (shipped out is the way it sounds to me) to another floor.

We are then told by the nurses that she will likely remain asleep for several hours. Because of this, my sister and I both leave and I ride to the lab to see if I can somehow find some sort of way to organize the chaos that has developed in my once orderly lab. The mental and emotional trauma I and my family has experienced is mirrored in the horrible disarray and mess of my lab. Even my back, back office is in disorder. Papers scattered about, books left open and scattered across the desktops, ashtrays unemptied and filled with the ashes of weeks of pipes. I even found one of the pipes I had wondered where I had mislaid two weeks ago.

I grab a few books, and transfer some files from my computer to a drive I take with me and head home to try to help my wife and to cut the lawn.

When I arrive back in the afternoon, my sister and I arrive at the same time and find my mother has been dumped onto the South 4th floor. Those with any ties to the medical community shudder when a loved one is sent to the South 4th floor. It is known that this floor has the weakest nursing staff, and is a "general" surgery floor but is also the floor with the highest death rate of any in the hospital. My sister and I both grimace and head up to her room as quickly as possible.

We get into the room and my mother is not only asleep, she is very hard to arouse. She is very, very pale, and looks far more sickly than she did this morning. I grasp her wrist and because of the severe edema, I cannot easily locate her pulse. My sister tries as she is better at sensing the pulse and quickly determines our mother's pulse is at 120 beats a minute..... the typically very fast heart beat that she displays when in arrythmia. We both feel fear and frustration.... why is this not being taken care of? Why are we the ones who find this out and not the nursing staff? We look on her chart and there are no records beyond the 10 am reading....over 5 hours before!!!! We quickly pull the nurse away from her chatting at the nursing station and tell her of our mother's pulse rate. She looks slightly annoyed but wheels down a blood pressure cuff and pulse and oxygen monitor. Exactly as we said, her heart is racing again at 120. The nurse visibly tries to arouse my mother who is mostly non-responsive. This sets into motion a series of events that leads to my mother being taken back to the sixth floor.... not the ICU this time but right next to it... in the cardiac wing with significant monitoring of her condition.

We feel more at ease. It takes about 2 hours but when we are allowed back into the room, my mother is lucid and is willing to talk with us. She still has significant edema, and her heart rate is still high, but the cardizam they are administering is slowly bringing the rate down (and hopefully the rhythm back into normalcy). We leave at roughly 9pm.

We continue to hope and pray that there is a good outcome.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Broken Record

I believe it must be getting awfully damn pitiful for you, my readers, to come here day after day and read all the wretchedness that is befallen my family and my loved ones. I wish I knew an answer. This is not how I envision life either. In the last 16 weeks (the summer), I and my family has been involved in almost 9 total weeks where there has been one or another or several different health crises. It frustrates me, makes me depressed, makes me angry, makes me question God and His vision for me.

Am I such a wretched soul, such a bastard of man, a cruel and evil sot that I require all this saddness and heartache being thrust upon me, upon my family? If I am so horrid that it is me who deserves it, why not spare everyone else in my family and instead JUST punish me? In my mind, I keep thinking that is what must be happening. Yet, I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.... but at the same time I never would have wished this much heartach upon a murderer.

It is so hard to put into words, how it feels to lose the sense of control that most of us take for granted in our day-to-day lives. I am not talking about being a dictator and governing each and every little thing down to the last detail. Instead, I am talking about deciding when to arise in the morning, planning what to do on a given day, when to eat dinner, when to end the day. None of those things is actually in my grasp or in the grasp of my family during times such as these. Each and every thing is determined by what the doctors say, what new crisis is befalling my elderly mother, what sudden need arises from out of nowhere.

Today, it is again confirmed that my elderly mother's heart rate is far too high and too arrythmic for them to not do "something". Yet, the "what" they will do is yet to be determined. So again, me, and my family etc are all awaiting word on what next task shall be done so we may figure out how it is going to impact the day and what it means for each of us in turn. I firmly believe my mother needs the ablation surgery to have her heart paced by the pacemaker and not by her own circuitry. I feel this is a far safer treatment than using some sort of nebulous mixture of cordorone and cardizam both of which can be toxic and both of which can exaccerbate toxicity in other medications my mother is taking, and both of which have proven to not bring about any long-term reversal of the arrythmia (atrial fibrilation). I fear the physicians will wait and wait on the ablation therapy and will instead give her some horribly high dosage of the above two medications and it will simply mean 5 or 6 or 7 or 14 days from now she will be brought back to the emergency room, this time with symptoms of toxicity of one or more of her medications.

At mass on Sunday I heard the priest discuss how it is our role to project God from within ourself to others around us. It is a very important and noble role for us to have. I try to stifle my anger, my rage at what is happening in this medical situation, I try with all my might to give myself to my students, to help them to grow in how I can teach them to grow, I try to be a rock, a support for my family. Yet I fail at all of them.

When I go to sleep at night, I must forcibly NOT think about anything that is happening during the last several weeks. If I get thoughts about what is really going on in my mind, I toss and turn and cannot fall asleep. Or worse, if I do fall asleep, I have the most heart-wrenching nightmares that I awaken more tired, more defeated than I started with the evening before. Instead, I have grown over the last several weeks to think one of several very specific thoughts prior to my going to bed. If I can keep any of these thoughts at the forefont of my mind, I stand a reasonable (roughly 50%) chance of sleeping soundly and not having nightmares:

a. remembering times long gone by when I was in graduate school, and life was far simpler

b. remembering times spent with my father, especially those times after he knew I smoked a pipe but when I was still just a kid and we would walk in the woods, and talk and joke and philosophize.

c. remembering the dating period with my wife

d. remembering those first few years when I was a new professor at a new university. The excitement in the air was palpable

e. imagining being gently intoxicated, simply by sitting in a bar, or visiting with my father-in-law.

f. imagining I am any number of literary figures I have admired over the years (such as Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Huxley, or Mellville.

If I can focus my mind on one of the above six while I am in bed trying to fall asleep, the prospects are even money I can get rest.

I have rambled on enough. Be it what may, these have been my thoughts this late evening. I miss my life. I want it back.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

More of the Same Again

My mother is still in the intensive care unit. It seems that her heart rhythms are a bit abnormal again. It is a waiting game, especially during the holiday weekend to see if anything may be done.

I am still sicker than a dog. The heavy, chunky green mucous is still being coughed out in massive quantities. I did take a temperature reading earlier and it was 102.4. My plans are to simply rest, make two brief apperances at the hospital today, try to sleep as much as possible, drink as much water, tea, and diet cola as possible, and if I grow restless, read a book or the newspaper.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

More of...

My mother seems to be holding her own and for that I am very glad. Continued hope and prayers and thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

As for me, I am sicker than a dog. I have received strong antibiotics and codeine infused cough syrup from the physician for my ailment. He did not call it anything specific, but I am coughing out huge quantities of heavy, chunky, green mucous. I also am very sweaty and hot.


Friday, September 01, 2006


My elderly mother is seemingly doing well. Please continue to hope and pray for her recovery please.

Unfortunately, I am afraid I may be getting under the weather. Either I am getting sick with an upper respiratory infection, or it may be simply that I strained my voice after 5 hours of lecturing today in addition to this being the first week of lecturing in quite a while. I suspect that in either result, stress has played a significant role in the malady.

I should know by tommorrow morning if I am sick or simply have strained my voice.