A tale of willpower. A tale of stupidity.


My mother is one tough nugget.    


After 65 years of sucking tar, she quit smoking.  Completely.  She smoked her last cigarette about a month ago.  i am in awe of this – having assumed it wasn’t possible to ditch a 3-pack a day habit that fast.  But she did it.  She took Chantix, prescribed by her surgeon, but stayed at the low dose – probably not enough to have made much difference.


This was sheer willpower. 


Where did it come from?  Yesterday she told us that a light bulb went off when Robo-Doc said – “You’re here to talk about bypass surgery.  I assume that means you want to live.  You need to quit smoking – for at least 2 weeks prior to surgery”.  She realized she really does want to live…


So here i sit in the cardiac intensive care unit – having been at the hospital since 5:00 am.  She had double bypass surgery this morning, and things went as planned, with no major blips or surprises – always a good thing when dealing with bypass surgery.  She needed to be at the hospital early for a 7:00 am procedure – and we saw her in recovery around noon.  


The extended family – specifically my niece, DQ – was on top of all of the pre-surgical preparations.  She took Mom to all of the pre-operative testing/visits, handled pre-surgical preparations yesterday, and spent the night with Mom to make sure she was up at 3:30 am.  To give her due credit, DQ is a diligent and attentive care-giver, and it was a great relief to me that she was on the job.  This is what i suck at, and she is very good at…


DQ and her husband BJ brought Mom to the hospital, saving me an extra hour of transit time this morning.  i met them as they arrived.  Mom was in good spirits, but clearly nervous.  After she was plugged with IVs and prepped for surgery, DQ, BJ, my sister S, and her husband J came back to the room to pass the time.  Generally, light hearted conversation, good natured joking and reassurances that all would be fine…


Until it was time for Mom to leave for surgery.  Quick hugs from me and DQ.  S went to take her hand, and then completely broke down – as is her habit* – crying and sniveling and saying “I wasn’t going to do this… waaaaah!”  DQ and BJ started to lose it, and i whispered “save it for later…” but they’d already gotten it together.  


During the long surgical wait, we all dozed, read and stayed busy – J with his iPod, BJ by snoozing on a bench, DQ and S with idle chatter.  Rather than listen to things that might annoy** i stayed busy with work assignments that required low-level attention.  


Three hours after we left Mom in the hands of the medical staff, we had the post-surgery consult with Robo-Doc  – everything went well, no unusual concerns.  i took the opportunity to tweak him.  He asked if we had any more questions, and i asked “what’s up with the damn hospital wireless?” and much to my amazement, he started to diagnose the problem before i waved him off***. 


After we arrived at the cardiac intensive care unit, the gang decided to go for food – as is the habit.  Naturally, i was called back to see Mom just after they’d wandered off in search of goodies.  It was difficult to see Mom on a ventilator, but the staff had prepared us for this.  She was not recovered from the anasthesia, but i was able to go over basics with Mom’s nurse about what to expect for the next few hours/days.  About the time i was booted out, the troops returned from the cafeteria, plates and bags of food in hand.


A friend of Mom’s arrived to just sit with us a bit.  She is an administrator for a local hospice organization, and was knowledgeable about the procedure and general medical issues.  When S once again launched off on her “Dad died because of a routine procedure” discourse, i decided it was time once again to correct her faulty information.  Recounting that Dad died from multiple organ failure due to a 3 year battle with late-stage colon cancer, and not as a result of the palliative “routine” procedure as S remembered, i was met with icy stares, indignation and finally the statement “well, that’s how i see it, and anytime anyone says ‘routine procedure’ to me, it’s going to scare me to death”.


Mom’s friend – a trained expert in dealing with death and dying – stepped in to try to explain to S that the procedure was in fact not responsible for Dad’s death.  This was met with stony silence.  Shortly thereafter, the entire pack headed out for much needed rest, leaving me mercifully alone in the waiting room.  S did not say another word to me…. i guess that’s my punishment for throwing all those nasty facts out there to get in the way of her personal theatrical event.


This was sheer stupidity.


Glad that Mom was the one demonstrating the willpower and S was playing the stupid card for this round.  The prognosis is guarded, but good.  We’ll know more tomorrow.



* Well, she’s fucking consistent, i’ll say that for her… consistently useless in these situations.


** Nervous chatter.  Some of it ‘trailer park-esque’, but i don’t wan’t to throw unnecessary rocks.  It was a bit tense…nervous chatter is as good a way to deal with tension as any.


*** Geeks always rock…

25 thoughts on “A tale of willpower. A tale of stupidity.

  1. df: Our best to your Mom for a speedy recovery. And to you too through all of this. Sorry that your sister seems to be one of those familial crosses that you have to bear.

  2. Bypass #1: once my father has been weened off the sedation and woke up he started trying to coverse with me via hand signals while still on the vent. I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say and only after he was extubated did he tell me that he was trying to find out if he had a double or triple bypass (it was actually a quad) and that he was getting real pissed at me because I wasn’t understanding him.

    Bypass #2: 12 years later, Dad bottoms out while in the hospital awaiting surgery the next morning – result was emergency triple bypass, a valve replacement and a 6 month rehab due to him being so unstable at surgery. Thankfully he is still with us but my sister truly showed her ass during that entire half a year while the good son (me) spent the entire summer with my mom and commuted the 600 miles every weekend back home.

    I’m experienced in the bypass “been there, done that” scenario. Drop me an email if you’ve got any questions.

    Will keep you and your mom in my prayers because geeks not only rock, we stick together too.

  3. Glad to hear that your mum did so well. Hope that her recovery is an uneventful one.

    My next younger sis is good with the routine prep stuff but bugs off when the hard waiting and placating of our mom or dad comes into play. True nerves of steel stuff is still my territory. My youngest sis is useless, consistently since the day she was born and you would think that almost 40 years later I could shrug and let it go but sometimes I would just like to smack her. I am in awe of your restraint.

    Make sure you are taking care of yourself, dear.

  4. rob – thanks. guarded optimism – and everything seems on track. i’m going to get some sleep and see if that resets my “patience” register. i ran out today. need to re-load and suck it up a little for the greater good…

    umdalum – great insights! mom was taken off the ventilator this evening. although she was still pretty groggy, managed to ask me “how long was the surgery?” and “what time is it?” – a mere 12 hours after her chest was cracked open. amazing. And see my reply above – i need a little more patience. She’s trying. We all have our demons – hers just farts and carries a dart gun.

    annie – it’s nice when there are complimentary skills. DQ and i were a good team when we went through this with Dad, and seems we’ve been able to dust off the skills without much difficulty. i still need more patience… trying… but i was very close to whacking her with an IV pole.

    paisley – fingers crossed for your dad. there are miracles performed every day in the realm of cardiac medicine. i have truly been blown away by the current state-of-the-art in heart surgery! take care of yourself!

  5. There are certain members of certain families, that always like to find someone to blame when shit happens …….. I’m saying nothing ……… whoops, I just did – tee hee.
    Good luck to your mother …….. obviously.

  6. Geez. I think we all to a lesser or greater degree nestle the seeds of our own self destruction. That we have a death wish that lives within us. Well until such time as we actually realise that yes, we too may die. Nothing like shaking hands with the grim reaper to catch a wake up.

  7. Here’s hoping all is well. I know it is hard to watch parents age. My dad is 88, and has had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel for years. He was just in the hospital this winter for something respiratory, from which he seems not to have recovered. However, he still lives in his own apartment in a retirement center.

    My scourge is my third sister. Her degree and expertise is in computers and networking. However, every time dad gets sick, she has to butt in and try to influence his treatment. The fact that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and I’ve had 30 years experience in geriatric nursing makes no difference, I am always wrong. And she lets the rest of the family know it. And if she gets smacked down, as she deserves, then she attacks me, personally. Of course, she isn’t speaking to me now that I’ve threatened to sue her for slander or libel the next time she brings up her false accusations.

  8. DP – families + hospitals = drama. repeat. thanks!

    kyknoord – yeah, can you believe how self-absorbed we are to interfere with her emotional masturbation orgy?

    MdW – oh, yeah. i have a repressed self-destructive streak as wide as the Grand Canyon. fortunately, i have a reasonable degree of critical thinking skills, and a good ‘risk assessment’ tool box, or you’d be watching videos of me shooting fireworks out my butt-crack on youtube…

    nm – preparing for another day. roung two. thanks…

    silverstar – sorry your sister uses her expertise in computers to practice medicine. for me the worst thing is when people don’t listen to the patient’s needs! in my Mom’s case, she is pretty good about letting us know what she wants – and our job is simply to make it happen. for example, she’s told us that she doesn’t want in home nursing care – she’s embarassed by the clutter in her house – so it’s our job to make sure she’s sent to the cardiac rehab wing at the hospital, rather than discharged to home. good luck with your dad. and nice approach to shutting down your sister… good luck with that, too!

  9. Well Daisy Fae, I’ really don’t know what to say. Glad everything went good and all. Try not to upset your sis until all this shit is over. She prolly will always use the “routine procedure” bla bla bla. In her little mind that excuse protects her somehow. Let it slide, just let it slide. Then when mom is all better, smack the bitch upside the head or something.

  10. uw – as always – and sometimes i really don’t know why – i find tremendous comfort in your words. i’m letting DQ handle all contact with S, and today was much better. will start carrying a baseball bat after we’re back to ‘normal’.

    MdW – Good point… i’ll need a good gimick… and will do it topless, whatever it is, because topless is simply more fun!

  11. I quit smoking cold turkey at 50.5 after 33 years of heavy tar sucking – but still have the potential for needing that type of surgery – my uber-fit, clean-living, non-smoking younger brother has already had a quad bypass!

    Oh, and I do most things topless – – –

  12. I discovered my inner bitch when I gave up the smokes. My best friend begged me to start again.

    Eish, Dais. As much as our mothers might need the odd kick in the teeth, we’re all just little girls when they’re sick. I hope she kicks back! Mind you, with the evidence of gene pool here, I have no doubt she will. Hard.

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  14. archie – while genetics can suck, at least your current healthy living will make recovery easier if you do need surgery! And toplessness rocks!

    dolce – my inner bitch doesn’t need nicotine withdrawal. she’s a “people person” and is generally right at or below the surface!

  15. Dear Sir, Madam, Alien Life Form

    We are an emissary from Onelongminute.com who has been dispatched to find out if there is other intelligent life in the blogosphere. Jesus Christ in a matchbox… you have know idea who long it took me to find out that there is. Do you know how many dumbo’s, la-hooo-sa-hers and generally brain dead people there are out there? I waded through over a gazillion blogs about colonic irrigation and weight loss; the fine art of DIY and mango pips, oh noetry more bad poetry, and useless opinion in order to find yours. I think if I read one more emo wrist gnawing diatribe I might just have slit mine.

    Anyway. Here I am. There is intelligent life out there after all.

    The years in the cyber wilderness have been worth it! Although I must say I am rather surprised to find this intelligent life form hiding out in a trailer park.

    My message is that the fine folk at http://www.onelongminute.com would be bowled over if you would do them the pleasure of signing up, logging in and doing a guest column.

    Bow. Bow. Scrape. Scrape. Grovel. Grovel.

    The (rather exhausted) emissary from onelongminute.com,

    Ms. Frankly Wrankles.

  16. Ms. Wrankles – i am humbled and honored that an intelligent life form, such as yourself, has proferred such an honor. Due to current events, it may take some time before i can hack up something suitably intelligent, but i shall try. In fact, i’m considering having my belly button surgically removed, which would enhance my “alien” mojo. i’ll keep you posted.

  17. Ms. Wrankles – ooooh, ROCKY! i wouldn’t expect too much. spent some time reading the magic over at onelongminute, and i’m now officially intimidated! y’all are pretty amazing! Bow, Bow, Grovel, Grovel, Lick, Lick, Scrape, Scrape…

  18. dolce – calm down… the boots! i was licking the boots! Although, i gotta say, i’m pretty chuffed about being asked to write something for onelongminute. The more i read over there the more amazed i am at the quality of the intellectual and creative horsepower y’all got!

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