Magnificent!

This year, we gave up.  No one was willing to host a holiday meal for the entire clan on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Rather than completely throw in the towel, we went for neutral territory – one of the local All-You-Can-Inhale buffets.

Timing was critical – to avoid crowds, we targeted 2:00pm.  Not only between the lunch and dinner crowds, but also during the telecast of a major college football rivalry that was sure to keep many folks home and glued to the sofa-television combo.  It worked.  Plenty of room to accommodate a crew of ten.

Originally, Mom had picked her favorite restaurant – Golden Corral.  Nice enough, if your idea of fine dining involves a metric ton of breading and vats of hot oil.  On Wednesday, she changed her mind and had us assemble at an “upscale” Chinese buffet.  The use of the word “upscale”, however, is relative. 

For the most part, it was a pleasant meal.  i’d reminded my Mom and sister, S, that if they really want my brother T and his wife to come around more often, perhaps they shouldn’t bitch at them to call and visit more often.  Often before saying “hello”.  Much to my complete amazement, neither Mom nor S said a snarky word about it… 

My brother noticed.  As Mom, S and their crews piled into cars and headed out, the first thing he said to me was “It was really nice not to get yelled at for a change!”  Progress, perhaps…

The big buzz at the table was all about the most exotic item on the salad bar – the pickled baby octopi.  “Gross!”  “Yuk!” and “You’re not going to eat that, daisyfae, are you?”*

While chatting with Mom last night, she acknowledged that it was very pleasant for a family gathering.  Seemed that no one had hurt feelings, no overt drama, and there were no tears involved.  But she brought up the exotic fare on the buffet one more time for good measure…

Mom:  The food was good, but the octopus on the salad bar hurt my appetite!  I don’t know why they don’t keep those separately!  I might have been able to eat a little more if those things weren’t sitting right out there when I walked by…

daisyfae:  Ummmm…  You still ate three plates full of food, plus two bowls of ice cream and a piece of cheesecake.  i think you got your money’s worth…

Original illustration from “Charlotte’s Web” – image found here 

* i ate the sushi, which grossed out the entire table except for my brother’s wife.  She decided to try some after seeing the enthusiastic response by the rest of the clan to my ‘bait plate’… i did not, however, eat the octopus.  i like my meat and seafood processed beyond all recognition, thankyouverymuch.

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Her body, her choice

As we process the medical wickets that lie ahead for Mom, the prospect of a potentially terminal diagnosis has come up.  She has made it clear that if she is facing such a diagnosis, that she may want to start smoking again.  So long as she is not on oxygen  posing an explosion hazard?  i guess it doesn’t make much difference.

This is the woman who was smoking three packs a day up until the month before her bypass surgery.  She quit cold turkey, telling us that she wanted to live.  She’s not touched a cigarette since April 8th, 2008, although she keeps a carton in the bottom of a box just in case she changes her mind.

The conversation moved along, and i mentioned that lung cancer, as well as the majority of her other ailments, can be directly traced to the fact that she was a heavy smoker for 65 years.  To which she replied “And I enjoyed every one of them.”

When timing doesn’t really matter.

Happy Thanksgiving!  You’ve got lung cancer!
 
A few people have said something along the lines of “really rough to get such bad news right before Thanksgiving”.  After giving this some thought, i’ve decided there is no particularly good time to find out you have a life-threatening illness.

Sunny day in May?  Dark, dreary and blustery cold day in February?  Columbus Day shopping holiday?  National Lung Cancer Awareness Day?
 
Although not nearly as grim of a diagnosis, i got verification of breast cancer on December 26th, 2006.  That was only because the doctor refused to meet with me on the 24th, Christmas Eve.  When i pressed him, he danced around the availability of the biopsy results, and said something like “I wouldn’t want to have you worried about it over Christmas”.
 
Hey, Nimrod!  i was already worried about it, right about the time i got the call for a follow-up mammogram.  What’s under the fucking tree is about the last thing on my mind this weekend…
 
Let’s weigh out the timing of the news that was delivered to my Mom today.  Probable Lung Cancer vs Dinner at Golden Corral*on Saturday?  You know what?  Once we left the doc, she was feeling pretty good, and asked if we could go to a new Chinese food buffet instead.  She was fairly upbeat once she started telling me about all the different things they have at that new place…

My family does not waste away.  We can eat through any crisis.

As far as a medical update on Mom, the pulmonary doc was being a bit evasive, telling her that the PET scan indicated some metabolic activity that indicated that the mass in her lung is likely to be lung cancer.  But without a biopsy, there is no diagnosis.  Next stop?  Needle biopsy. 

But first?  The buffet…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

 * Given the last two years of disaster, we agreed to meet for a Thanksgiving meal at 2:00pm Saturday on neutral turf:  The trough at the Golden Corral All-You-Can-Shove-Into-Your-Gullet Buffet.  Yum.  When i laid out the family plans, with the backdrop of Mom’s cancer, to my sister in Florida?  She offered to fly back to The Park to join us – but i assured her it wasn’t necessary.  Then we laughed our asses off when she asked her partner “Hey, you wanna fly 2,000 miles to have lunch at Golden Corral? I don’t think we have any of those down here.”

Bicycle built for “Ewwww”

After an aborted bicycle* ride this afternoon, exploiting another weekend of indian summer weather, i was contemplating taking out the motorcycle for another cruise to nowhere.

We returned my wounded bike to the garage.  i asked my bicycle buddy, Studly McRocklegs – who is also my motorcycle buddy – to stick around a couple of minutes to make sure i could get the motorcycle to start.  A couple of tries, a little choke here, a little choke there, and he** coughed to life.

Straddling the crotchety old bastard***, i wanted to make sure he got a good warm up, and wouldn’t stall out on me.  As i revved the throttle, i put on a silly performance for Studly – pretending to be riding that motorized bronco for a bit of self pleasure.

i could barely hear him bust out laughing over the sound of the engine, but followed his glance to the doorway from the garage that leads to my kitchen.  Where my daughter was taking in my performance – displaying a look of the most abject horror i’ve ever seen.

Ya know, i didn’t think it was possible.  But i have discovered yet another way to traumatize my children…

pic found here

* Flat tire – about 8 1/2 miles into a planned 20 mile bike ride.  Oops.  We tried to replace the inner tube, but decided that timing-wise it might work out ok if Studly rode back to the car, and i walked the 2 miles back toward a place we could meet up for lunch.  Worked out ok, but i need to get my fucking bike fixed… Turns out, walking in bike shoes is not particularly pleasant.  Punishment for not performing proper maintenance on my non-motorized two-wheeled friend…

** Motorcycle.  Not Studly.

*** Motorcycle.  Not Studly.

What dreams may come

She’s probably really scared.  And for good reason.

Following Mom’s recent trip to the doc, there were some anomalies in the chest x-ray. Which led to a 3D CT scan on Wednesday. Even though she’s feeling better – far less miserable than she was when i talked to her last Sunday night – she’s now being subjected to a whole lot of testing.

With the results from the CT scan shipped to Mom’s pulmonary doc, he didn’t waste any time scheduling the next round of tests. That’d be a PET scan on Monday.

My niece, DQ, is staying pretty level through all of this – she really is good when the shit hits the fan. It’s when things are going well that her priorities are often out of alignment with mine. But when she called today to let me know that the results of the PET scan will be delivered to Mom on Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving – i was pretty sure she wanted me to say “i’ll be there”.

And i will.

Mom’s maintaining a good front – talking about the possibility that it’s just a nodule or something. But she knows better. Smoking for 65 years doesn’t leave much room for denying the probability of lung cancer.

Didn’t sleep much last night. Endless games of “what if” and virtual flow-charting in my head. Funny thing? We know how it ends. The same way it ends for all of us. And regardless of what the doctor tells us next week? We still need to focus on the “path” Mom takes, or is subjected to…

But it ain’t over til there’s a diagnosis…  Very important not to jump the gun.

Chillin’ with The Hawk

When i’m surrounded with a big ol’ bucket of stoopid, it is sometimes refreshing to immerse myself in the waters of intellect.  i forwarded a “Ten Questions” interview with Stephen Hawking to a couple of my work colleagues, who know that i have a terrible crush on the man*.

But given that my friends also have the maturity of 12-year-old delinquent boys, so much for the waters of intellect.  Naturally, the conversation converged onto this question from the interview:

Does it feel like a huge responsibility to have people expecting you to have all the answers to life’s mysteries?

I certainly don’t have the answers to all life’s problems. While physics and mathematics may tell us how the universe began, they are not much use in predicting human behavior because there are far too many equations to solve. I’m no better than anyone else at understanding what makes people tick, particularly women.

Ninjaneer:  Right.  So how has this guy passed himself off as a brilliant physicist when he can’t score?

RN (sending photo below):  Another day solving the mysteries of the universe while getting hammered and doing a threesome.  Trying to keep up with this guy is like trying to run on the ’85 Chicago Bears.

photo from here

* When sorting out the realm of “what women find attractive”, i have consistently espoused the position that my primary decision point regarding “men i would ‘do’ vs men i would not ‘do'” is intellectual horsepower.  Smart is sexy to me.  My friends, of course, challenged me by asking if i thought Stephen Hawking was sexy.  To which i replied “not only would i ‘do’ him, but i’d ‘do’ him right there on the floor with all y’all watching!”  Talk about a conversation killer….

Crisis Management 101

When my phone rang at 10am, i wasn’t surprised that it was my sister, S.  i still let it go to voicemail.  It’s easier for me to talk to her if i have a few moments to get my head around whatever it is she’s on about.
 
But today?  i knew. 
 
i have been calling my folks on Sundays for over 20 years – now, just calling Mom on Sunday night.  Last night when i spoke with her, she was out of breath, and even more crabby than usual.  It was pretty obvious to me that she wasn’t feeling well even before she told me about the headaches and breathing trouble.
 
We went through some of the things i’d been researching for her regarding her supplemental medicare insurance choices, but she wasn’t tracking.  She said her head hurt, she was tired, wanted me to just come down to fill out the paperwork for her because she didn’t want to deal with it anymore. 
 
From there?  A brief pity party because  no one in the family seems willing to get together for Thanksgiving* this year.  i reminded her that she’s going to spend Thursday with S and her family for a home-cooked meal and some time playing games and watching movies. 

Not what she had in mind, apparently.  “The family is just falling apart…” she lamented.  i told her that i’d have been willing to host the family, but after the debacle from two years ago, i don’t think it would help.
 
Rather than be sucked into the conversation further, i suggested that she get some rest and think about going to see a doctor if she wasn’t feeling better soon.
 
Thus, the phone call this morning from my sister, S.  Mom spent yesterday with S’s clan, and apparently could barely keep her head up during dinner.  Weak, struggling to breathe, and she barely spoke for most of the day.  Earlier in the week, she’d been so weak she was unable to stand up from the wheelchair during a shopping excursion.

When they asked if she wanted to go to the doctor?  She said she wanted to wait until the last week in November, when she’s scheduled to see her cardiologist.  
 
S:  I swear, I don’t think she’s going to make it to Christmas!  Daisyfae, she’s going to die soon!  I’ve come to terms with it…
 
daisyfae:  We can’t change the outcome, but we can affect the path.  Can’t you just call and change the appointment with the cardiologist?  She might need to go to the emergency room even…
 
S:  She says she wants to wait to see the doctor.  This has been so hard to watch, and it’s been SO hard on DQ and BJ.  She says her last wish is for the family to get together** once more.  Last night?  She said she thought she was dying…

daisyfae [interrupting]:  Do you want me to call the cardiologist?  Seriously, if she thinks she’s dying, maybe we shouldn’t wait two weeks?
 
S:  That’s probably a good idea…
 
And so i was able to call the cardiology practice, and get Mom an appointment for 2:30 in the afternoon with the nurse practitioner.  At least someone will be doing triage on her symptoms.   
 
And so it goes….

~~~~~~~~~~~

* Given the number of divorces in my extended family, Thanksgiving was a particularly harrowing day for my trailer park siblings.  They’d have to be in five places at once, hauling kids here, having lunch there, stopping by a grandparents place after that…  We decided a long time ago to ‘time shift’ the family holiday to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  My brother and his wife have been hosting for a few years, but after dealing with some of the shit for the past few, haven’t stepped up to do it again.  After my failed attempt a couple of years ago?  Fuck that.
 
** But that conflicts with my last wish, which is for the family to NEVER AGAIN be assembled under the same roof… because that means i’d have to be there, too (sigh).

Another Trailer Park Wedding

Blast from the past… Triggered by a random conversation this weekend with a friend.  As always, trying to explain why i can’t completely walk away from my Trailer Park clan.  Weddings, funerals and hospitals – often the pinning points in a family.  Mine is no different.

Divorce is de rigueur in my extended family.  When Dad died, he and i were the only two members of the family who had married once – and were still married.  Even my lesbian sister, T, had a 5 year marriage to a Palestinian cab driver she met during the first Gulf War.  Impulsive?  A bit.

When my eldest sister, S, married her third husband, Dad was still alive – but not by much.  He managed to walk her down the aisle, joking with me right before the ceremony – “Third time’s the charm, right?”  He’d done it twice before. 

It was somewhere around 2000, i think.  Dad was at least 2 years in to chemo for colon cancer, and well along the way toward a touch of dementia.  As Dad was walking out of the men’s room to walk S down the aisle, i reminded him to zip his trousers.  Someone needs to watch the details.

But it was a nice ceremony, as far as these things go in my family.  No firearms.  No bickering during the church service.  Not a huge crowd… just a gathering of the families.  A genuinely happy day with no drama.  We all knew Dad was circling the drain, and we wanted it to be right.

It was the reception that i truly enjoyed… Held at a biker bar, with a live band, we had a blast!  There is video somewhere of my entire family dancing to “Freebird”.  i shit you not.  Freebird.  And in the midst of that video is a rather chunky daisyfae, wearing overalls, dancing like a maniac – complete with hair-whipping and air guitar playing.

it’s genetic.  i can’t fucking help it.  Skynyrd.  It moves me…  It always will.

i really didn’t know JK, the man my sister S was marrying.  He seemed ok.  He wasn’t a drug dealing, bank robbing, suicidal transvestite like her second husband.  A fireman.  He looks like a country music star.  He had a job and a car and seemed to really love my sister a lot, so he was ok in my book.

It was a biker bar.  We were having a good time.  Mom even came along for a bit to hang out – always afraid of missing something.  There she was, sitting in a strip mall biker bar, enjoying a beer.  She made the tactical error of complaining about the volume of the band.  This, of course, led us to explain that the best way to deal with ‘band noise’ is to put cigarette butts in your ears.

Featured prominently in my sister’s wedding album are some lovely photographs of my mother with cigarette butts sticking out of her ears.

Yeah. We’re assholes.  She had a good time, though.

Later in the evening there was a moment.  A moment i’d forgotten.  But the moment when i decided i really liked having JK in the family.

It’s a biker bar.  Even though the wedding reception was held there, perhaps 30 of us in the wedding “party”, the bar was open to other patrons.  There was one flaming douchenozzle who had been “flirting” with the ladies all evening.  And by “flirting” i mean “groping”.

Approaching midnight.  i’m at the bar collecting my last Jack Daniels and Diet Coke* of the evening.  Douchenozzle grabbed the strap of my overall from behind and pulled me away from the bar and toward his lap.  My right arm is coming up, palm forward, to push him away, but is interrupted by a much larger arm.  An arm that is sporting bicep muscles as big as my head.

JK has stepped into the fray – from across the room – and intervened on behalf of his new sister-in-law.  Douchenozzle was instantaneously disengaged from my overalls, and launched across the bar into a darkened corner, not to be heard from again that evening. 

i thanked JK, and mentioned that it was nice to have a wingman.  Told him that i’m used to handling these things on my own.  Nice to have a brother.  He gave me a quick shoulder-squeeze, and we were back to our business at hand…

~~~~~~~~~~

*Yes.  “Jack and Diet”.  Suck it.  It’s what i drink in a biker bar.

On Farting Around…

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. informed his wife that he was going out to buy an envelope…

Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet?  And so I pretend not to hear her.  And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.  I meet a lot of people.  And, see some great looking babes.  And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up.  And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is.  And, and I don’t know.  

The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around.  And, of course, the computers will do us out of that.  And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore. 

– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. From an interview* by David Brancaccio, NOW (PBS), Oct, 2005

With the addition of the old motorbike to my life, i have simply added another means of farting around to my arsenal.  Spent a couple hours yesterday riding back roads with a friend, taking advantage of a day off with unseasonably warm weather.  We didn’t have any particular destination in mind, just headed out away from traffic and people.  Once we were pointed in a generally southeastern direction, it occurred to me that there was a dumpy little diner just a little further down the road…

With a hand signal, we scooted right and there it was… The food was ok, but it didn’t matter.  Breakfast for lunch at a hole in the wall for $5 is lovely.  Listening to the conversations of the other folks there.  Chatting with the waitress about her first failed attempt at the regional motorcycle riders class. 

i love my motorcycle.  It has not, however, transformed my life.  It has simply provided me with yet another way to fart around.

i was already pretty good at it.  i do it on a bicycle when the weather is nice.  Riding to the local market to buy fresh bread and veggies, chat up the vendors, and do some people watching.  

i do it in my jeep.  Taking the dog out to the dog park for some ball chasing and butt sniffing.  Taking the long way home from work.  Laughing maniacally when i get caught topless in the rain.

What is SCUBA diving, but farting around under water?  Blogging?  Hellooooo?  Anybody else out there spend a lot of time farting around on the internet?  My gentleman companions are certainly a good time, but when you are not angling toward “forever”, it all really amounts to farting around.

Sometimes i try to remember what it was like when i had purpose.  i was raising children, and that makes you important to someone else, and therefore, gives you purpose.  Getting them to adulthood, in reasonably good intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual shape is pretty damn important. 

Work used to give me purpose.  Now?  It’s just another performance… for pay.  And that paycheck funds an awful lot of farting around.

Growth as a human?  Nice thought.  Read something that expands my mind.  Volunteer work to give something back to the community, or those in need.  Learn something that makes me a better person**.  i do this in fits and spurts, but have no particular goal in mind, no grandiose visions of changing the world, or becoming someone of substance.

What’s the point of this little essay?  That’s just it.  There isn’t one.  i’m happy.  For now.  Just spent an hour farting around at an outfitter store… going to start gearing up for some backpacking.  A little piece of equipment here, another piece there…  Pretty soon, i’ll have yet another mechanism for farting around at my fingertips.

What is life, anyway?  Perhaps just a series of moments, loosely strung together by a thread of time.  So loose in my case, that i could possibly live most of my life out of time sequence, and not really notice.

photo found here

* Like so many tales from Mr. Vonnegut, he was working on this tale for quite some time.  The extended version is captured in “A Man Without A Country”, biographical essays from 2005.

** Whatever the fuck THAT means…

Tales from the road, part 865

Flight from Chicago to Denver yesterday morning.  Shoehorned into row 32 of a 767 Cattleliner – one of the WORST for legroom.

In front of me is a short woman of some sort.  All i can see are nicely manicured nails on a feminine hand against the window before take off, and wisps of a few strands of dark hair peeking above the headrest in front of me.

Yay.  Short chicks rarely recline the seatback so no need for me to fish out my Knee Defender set from my backpack.

Tactical error.  As you have certainly guessed by now, Shorty McFuckyou slammed her seat back before we had leveled off out of O’Hare, pushing my seatback tray into my gut.  This led to a rather angry closing of my tray, along with a few shoves to push her seat up enough for me to stow the SkyMall catalog back into the pocket.

Rather than do the professional, adult thing, and ask her to straighten her seat a little to allow me breathing room, i proceeded to tuck in for a nap – with one of my knees wedged against the back of her seat.  With every shift or adjustment i made, she got a nice jolt from behind.

Mature?  You betcha.  But this is life on the road.  And it’s sometimes a full contact sport.  We do what we need to do to balance the need for public order and civility, and the need to keep our aggravation from leaking out of our bodies in the form of aggressive acts delivered onto the faces of fellow travelers.

This is not a “fun” trip.  This is work.  i’m along for the ride as the “management like object”.  Show we care, learn what our folks are up to, meet their collaborators.  Literally, i am “meat in a seat”. 

My travelmates?  Two “nice” colleagues.  One older and seasoned.  One younger and enthusiastic about life, the universe and everything i used to care about.  The elder gent has done a nice job of logistics – i don’t need to worry about driving, logistics, maps, meeting locations, etc.

Meat in a seat.  Getting paid.  While i was playing the “I’ve Got The Armrest, Motherfucker” game with a large, odorous gentleman on my flight this evening, i calculated the amount of time i’ve spent on my ass so far on this trip.

Day 1 – total time on ass: 8 1/2 hours (4 hour meeting)

Day 2 – total time on ass:  11 1/2 hours (3 hour meeting)

Projected Day 3 – total time on ass 20 hours (8 hour meeting plus transcontinental red-eye flight to get me home early on Day 4)

So the next time i get a cushy, “fun” business trip – somewhere lush, exotic and populated with my Dawg Boy posse, i am going to remember this one.  And check my guilt at the first airport gate…