Wednesday, May 28, 2014


So apparently, I worried my family with the Memorial Day post. By family I mean Mom and my little sister.

Mom was waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday to have a chat. My sister texted me the contact info of a counselor.

They aren't worried I might hurt myself or others. While I can see that I could possibly off myself, I could never hurt anyone else. And not to brag but hurting myself would hurt others.

The thing is the problems I wrote about on Memorial Day seem so unremarkable: Of course, people in chairs long for openness, and of course, a person with trouble hearing would find loud gatherings hard.

I don't know.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sad Memorial Day

I do not oppose the idea of Memorial Day, but it vies with Thanksgiving for hardest holiday for me.

A lot of it is its timing, I suspect, at the beginning of summer. It reminds me that I will never do so many things -- water-gun fights, sports in weather I love.

And another big part is it involves a gathering. That means talking to people and often not hearing replies. It means often finding your way blocked because so many friends and family have gathered. People are more than willing to move for me, but this makes me the center of attention. Or rather, it makes the wheelchair the center of attention. And I am not saying I do not want people to make way for me, but ...

Another part this year is Claren. I can't help but wonder if this is her last Memorial Day.

Finally, I can't stop thinking about that guy in California who killed people because he'd never been kissed. Hurts my heart, but what makes people react differently? Unlike him, I blame me for my lack of kisses.

Oh well. The day is almost over. Of course that means back to work.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Not a good wheelchair

On Thursday, I got my chair back. The one-week repair took three weeks, but that was not what made my sister describe it as "un-effing-believable." Well, she didn't say effing, but in her defense what happened was pretty ridiculous.

I brought the parts they neglected to take when I left it there three weeks ago, so it took an extra hour because one of the parts was a fender. To put on a fender means you have to take off a wheel, which apparently takes 50 minutes.

When they finished, we just left with it -- didn't test it or anything. I have to go back to get a new joystick, which has been recalled but is back-ordered, so I figured I'd test it over the next few weeks and give them my findings when I get the new joystick.

But when we got home, I tried to buckle the seatbelt and couldn't. They had bent it.

Mom was going to take it back, but when she called they offered to send someone. That was good because I also needed them to tighten a screw they neglected to tighten at the shop and lower the footrests, which they had raised.

My back is hysterically happy to be back in the Invacare chair and my whole body feels better. It still does a poor job of going up bumps, though. Still unhappy about that.

We were not racing! That would be both childish and dangerous. Instead, I was gauging speeds on my Invacare chair, which doesn't have a speedometer.
I thought it might just seem to take bumps worse than my old chair because it is faster. That is the only reason my nephew and I drove down the street together, just so I could measure the speed.

The Invacare chair was slower, so apparently it's shock system just stinks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Depressing and depressing-er

My agency is moving this summer, so we have to pack up by mid-June. Today, I brought home all Claren's paraphernalia.

It wasn't much -- her bed, bowl, placemat and rug -- and judging by the smell under the desk, Claren will always be a part of the office.

As I knew it would, it wrecked me. I felt like crying or throwing up most of the trip home.

Then, I get home, lie down to take a nap, and it hits me: I started at about 15 years ago. That means 15 years full time in a wheelchair. Cheers!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Above and beyond

My knees squeezed tightly together are about eight inches across. The width between the superpole in my bathroom and the wall is about 9.5 inches. So, my knees do fit in that space.

I knew they could from Friday's incident, but I didn't think there was 1.5 inches of excess width. To be honest, I am kind of disappointed.

I came home Friday and went to the bathroom. My ankles, though, weren't feeling it and collapsed when I transferred. My butt landed on the very front edge of the toilet, and my legs went into the space between the pole and the wall.

I tried to slide backward onto the toilet, but my legs were wedged between the pole and wall, and I could not get them free.

I called for help, but no one seemed around, so I called my sister on the phone. She said she wasn't home but my brother-in-law was. And at that point, my almost 11-year-old niece edged tentatively into sight, a hand blocking her sight into my bathroom.

I told her there was nothing to see -- I hadn't pulled my pants down.

My niece then went and found her dad who got me onto the toilet, although I think it took more force than he expected, probably because my legs were jammed into that spot.

He also helped me pull my pants down because my ankles were still acting up when I was on the toilet and I wasn't able to stand up to pull them down.

For her bravery of coming into my room when I was in the bathroom calling for help, I am going to forgive my niece for ruining Thor: The Dark World for me by saying at the beginning, "I really like Chris Hemsworth." Who am I kidding, nothing could ruin a comic book movie.

PS. I am having a chicken-egg moment. Am I writing less because I feel bad or do I feel bad because I am writing less? I fear both are true, and I probably ought to do something about that.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What to do

Claren has a tumor/lesion, something, on her liver.

She was drinking a lot and often vomiting the water back up, so I took her to the vet. Her bloodwork had an oddity in it, so the vet wanted an ultrasound.

She said we could wait and retest the blood in a month, but why wait, I thought.

We had that ultrasound today, and found the reason for all the drinking (the vomiting cleared up already).

Now I am faced with another choice, and this time I am thinking, why not wait?

The first option is a biopsy to see what the thing is. A biopsy is pretty minor, but it is still surgery and I am not sure I want to put Claren through it.

She seems happy, so why go looking for problems on a 12-year-old dog?

Well, the answer is that if the thing was malignant, it would be easier to remove it now. The vet said it looked like it could be removed if needed but acknowledged that that surgery would be major.

My instinct is to just wait and redo the ultrasound in a few months. That'll tell us whether the thing is changing. Of course, if she falters, I'd get her to the vet sooner.

I cannot imagine life without her -- I look for her now when she is not at my side. But I am not sure how much medical stuff to do to an old dog.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tears and laughter

My plan was to write this Friday night, but the Admiral's funeral really killed me. I fell asleep about 4 and fell into a really deep sleep. When Mom woke me up at 7 and asked if I wanted dinner, I was so confused. So I did very little that night.

But now, I am all sorts of invigorated.  (OK, that is clearly a lie. I a awake only because I need to feed Claren in an hour.)

I survived the funeral although it made me think of the large fireman who sat next to Dad at Redskin games at RFK. Every time there was a big play, everyone would stand, and every time he would yell, "Everybody sits, everybody sees." He just didn't want to stand. Being a little kid, I always liked this because I could never see over the crowd.

At the funeral, they processed in with the casket, blessed it, anointed it, etc. At least, that is what I assume they did. I still can't see over the crowd.

Other than that ... standard sad funeral. The wake, though, I had to write down stuff in my phone to remind me of the stories to tell.

It will be no surprise to hear me admit to inappropriate laughter. My family gets it -- laugh or sob -- but I did not want to crack up at  the Admiral's wake.

It wasn't easy.

For starters, I was alone for part of it. This was my own fault. Mom, Dad and I went to the evening wake with a couple. We got in some kind of line -- I wasn't sure for what. Dad was chatting with the other couple and I was talking to Mom. She went to find someone, so I was there kind of alone. It seemed to me the line was to see the Admiral.

I don't freak at dead bodies, but I don't really have much use for them. That's not how I'll remember the Admiral or how I see Gram, who was the last dead person I saw.

So I got out of line. Dad called to me, but I just shook my head and wandered around looking at all the family photos and stuff. Until Mom found me and asked if I had seen the Admiral's  wife. Apparently, the line was to see  the Admiral and his wife. Dang.

I got back in line with Mom. Squeezing back to Dad would have been tough. Plus, I did not want to cut in line.

Mom left again, after ordering me to stay in line, and the trouble began.

Being alone with my brain is rarely a good thing. Claren helped, but she is retired so I can't bring her out in public anymore.

I was getting real sad, and tears would have been bad. I was alone so tears, once started, would be unlikely to stop and  would not be nice quiet tears. It would be monster sobs.

To prevent that, I started thinking of cheery things, and the scene from Wedding Crashers when two of them crash a funeral springs to mind. Oh lord, I am sorry, Admiral.

Then, while I am trying not to bust out laughing, which like the tears would be neither brief or quiet, this woman actually does cut in line, like she totally didn't see me. I almost lost it at this, and then I wondered whether to try to pick her up a la Wedding Crashers.

Fortunately, Mom came back at this point, and I made it through the rest of the line.

Talking to Mrs. The Admiral was tough. I said something to her, and it made her cry. I was glad, which sounds awful, but it told me that my comment was the right thing to say.

I then was done and went to sign the guest book before I left. It was at an inconvenient height and the pen was real skinny, so my signature, which is awful on a regular basis, was particularly bad. It wasn't a signature either; I just printed my name.

One of the ushers was watching, and when I finished he said, "Let me tell you something, that's the best signature in there." He was, I am certain, talking about the heroic effort I took to write it, and I suppose I should have sort of offended, but again I was glad. It was a big effort.

And then I left.

So I made it all through the wake and funeral with neither sobs nor inappropriate laughter ... technically.

In the car after the wake, we were talking, and both popped out. Then at home after the wake, my sister gave me a hug and said "I know that was hard for you," and well, of course, that prompted tears and laughter again.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Admiral

The man who got me out of the pet store died Sunday.

The Admiral, as we called him, put me in touch with a human resources officer named Mickey who found me a  summer job with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Planning, Management and Budget. The next summer Mickey got me a job at the media office of the Navy's Military Sealift Command, where the Admiral had worked until his retirement a few years earlier.

Actually, I still worked at the pet store a few evenings and Saturdays.

We got to know the Admiral when he and his wife joined a group Mom and Dad are in. It is a Catholic group that brings folks together. I think mostly these days it is a group of friends who get together to talk about their families, their problems, etc.  And not to brag, but I am involved in a lot of Mom and Dad's problems.

He had his own kids and grandkids, but I never felt far from his thoughts.

When one of his daughters got married, it was right around the start of the first Gulf War. Being a military wedding, all the guests were called up to active duty, so the family invited other people. That's how my brother and I wound up at a Navy wedding. It was pretty cool. Plus, the groom nearly killed his bride by stepping on her train when they were up near the altar, which was awesome.

I made some comment to Mom about the military getting a bad reputation or something during the war in Iraq. Soon I had a CD of The Navy's work during some natural disaster to show me the good they do.

We emailed some, and he is a reference on my resume.

I always asked Mom or Dad to say hi to the Admiral at they meetings. Invariably, I'd get "The Admiral says hi" back, even if I forgot to say hi.

Mom told me how he was doing poorly over the past few months, and he recently got breathing and feeding tubes. But he seemed to be doing better.

I wanted to see him, to thank him, to say bye.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Help, he squeaked

Most people in my office are not too thrilled to be moving from private offices to a cubicle system. Not me, I can't wait.

Part of it is growing up working in a newsroom, but today I realized another benefit.

I am the only one who shares an office now. It used to be a perk for the other people because they got to share an office with a dog, but now that Claren retired, they're stuck with just me.

So I am in my office Friday. I had to use my  phone, which requires backing away a little from under my desk. No problem.

On the way back under my desk, I got a bit turned -- I blame the backup chair I am in for at least another week -- and I pinched my fingers between the hair and the desk.

And it HURT!

And I was stuck

I turned around to ask my officemate for help. Fortunately, he was coming to help already, having notice my struggles. That was just as well because my loud call for help turned out to be a little squeak because I was in some serious pain.

He was able to help, and my fingers are OK, but in a cube farm I have more helpers.

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