A Month of Travel, Part 1

At long last, I am fulfilling the demand of my reader and I’m here to tell you about my extended period of travel this July.  Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Right from the outset I got off to a rocky start.  Because it was domestic travel, I presumed that arriving at the airport an hour ahead of my travel time was sufficient. This is generally what I do and it works out fine, however, I don’t generally travel so freaking early in the morning.  Because it was a last minute booking the most affordable fare I could find had me leaving at 7:30 in the morning.  Michelle picked me up to take me to the airport in plenty of time and I arrived at the airport at approximately 6:40.

I checked in at curbside.  Back in the olden days of yore I was always afraid to do that because I assumed there was probably a fee associated with it.  One trip when Michelle and I were going somewhere together, we were running late, there was a long line inside the airport and hardly anyone outside so we decided to go for it.  It turned out to be faster, easier and freer.  Of course in today’s climate where you have to pay to check a bag, it hardly matters anyway.  I approached the kiosk put my suitcase next to the counter and presented my ID to the ticket agent.

“Where you headed today?” he asked.

“Albany.” I said confidently, a sentiment that did not match my state of mind at that hour.

He began pecking away at his keyboard.  After several seconds he asked me, “Do you have another stop first?  I’m not finding you on the flights to Albany.”

No, I don’t suppose he would.  “I’m sorry,” I told him, “Albany is the next leg.  I’m headed to Tulsa today.”

He smiled and went back to his task.  He found me easily enough after that and printed out my boarding passes and my luggage tag.  When he had finished and I had paid the fee for my checked bag, he handed me my boarding passes and sent me on my way.  He didn’t give me any instruction as to what gate I was going to or what direction to go to get there.  At the time, I felt this was odd and poor customer service.  The rest of my  journey would prove to me that, while it’s still poor customer service, it is not at all odd.  It is just one more example of how courtesy and customer service is a thing of the past.

As I walked away from the kiosk, making my way to the doors to find the security check point I needed to go through, I looked down at my boarding passes to determine what gate I needed.  The first boarding pass said Gate D60.  I looked around for signs to direct me and found the sign directing me toward the gate numbers in the 60’s.  Oddly, there are no letters associated with the gate numbers, but whatever, gate 60’s thata way, thata way I shall go. By this time it was creeping up on 7:00 and I knew that if the flight was to depart on time, they’d begin boarding shortly after 7:00.  I picked up the pace.

Following the signs, I walked down a long empty corridor which ended abruptly with nothing more than doors to go back outside.  Well, dang. If that guy would’ve told me where I was going I could’ve saved some time by staying on the sidewalk.  Oh well. I exited the doors onto the sidewalk and saw a sign posted on a tall orange traffic cone directing through a temporary covered, construction-type “side walk” to get to the gates in the 60’s, still no letters, hmmm… and continued my journey.  Another long walkway led me to an entirely different building around the departures driveway.  I walked in the doors, by this time panting, lacking breath, but there ahead of me I saw another sign for the gates in the 60’s and beyond that I saw a security checkpoint.  I hustled there.

The line wasn’t tremendous but there was a line and it was going on 7:00.  As I stood in line, making my way to the first stop where I’d show my boarding pass and ID, I looked up at the monitors searching for my flight number to see if, by chance it had been delayed and I would be OK.  But wait, my flight number isn’t up there.  What on earth does that mean?

As a rule of thumb, I’m a very anxious traveler.  From the moment I wake up the day of the trip, until the moment I’m in the departure gate waiting for boarding to begin, ticket in hand and confirmation that this is the right gate and flight number obtained, I am anxious.  I have only had one instance in my life where things didn’t work out just fine and as such, I’m trying really hard to rid myself of this habit of fretting needlessly over the maybes and worst case scenarios and instead just go with the flow confident that things will work out fine.  Even if things don’t go absolutely according to plan, they will still work out.

So there I stood, the security checkpoint line advancing slowly, looking at my watch as the minutes ticked by and looking at the monitor and not seeing my flight number, actively telling myself not to worry, that this was going to work out fine.  And that’s when I noticed it.  The only flights listed on these monitors were American Airlines flights.  Well, that’s weird, I thought, why do they only have American Airlines flights listed?  There are other airlines you know.  No matter, at least I know I’m in the right place; I’ll just have to hustle to the gate when I get through security.

I was up next and I walked up to the attendant and confidently handed her my boarding pass and ID.  She looked at them, and then looked back at me.  They always confirm that the photo on the ID matches the individual so this didn’t strike me as odd.  And then she said, “Are you traveling on another airline besides American?”

Duh! You’re holding my boarding pass, why don’t you look at it.  Of course I am! I thought before answering, “Yes, I’m flying on Delta today.”

“Well, this is security for the American Airlines flights,” she told me.  “Delta is back that way.”  She pointed the direction from which I had come.

I looked dumbfounded, I’m sure.  I looked down at the boarding pass she had handed me and began to speak.  “But my boarding pass says gate D—“  And that’s when I saw it.  Right there, on the face of my ticket, in plain letters:

DEPARTURE CITY:  Salt Lake City

ARRIVAL CITY:  Tulsa

The guy at the curbside check-in kiosk had given me my boarding passes with my second flight on top.  Since he didn’t tell me where I was going or what gate number I was looking for, I assumed that the boarding pass on top was the correct one as has always been the case.  Sure enough, the departure gate for my flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City was gate number thirty-something.  I was in the right place to begin with and I had gone far out of my way.

I hurried back down the corridor, out the doors, through the temporary walkway, back into the building and down the long corridor I had started from.  As I emerged from the other end of the corridor, I saw the security checkpoint for this batch of gates off to my left.  I rushed over and got in line, watching my watch, and losing my artificially imposed calm, instead giving way to the panic that was creeping up.  What if this line takes too long?  What if I don’t get to the gate in time?  What if they’ve given up my seat? I was really beginning to worry, and that’s when, as if someone heard my cries, another line was opened up.

I rushed through the process of removing my laptop from its bag and putting it in a bucket, removing the buckle of my belt, taking my cell phone from my pocket and removing my shoes.  All items went into a tub with my jacket and computer bag and I headed through the medal detector where I did it all in reverse.  Throwing my coat over my arm and my computer bag over my shoulder, I made my way to the gate which, fortunately, was not far from the check-point.  As I was approaching the gate, I heard an announcement overhead, “Paging Delta Airlines Flight (whatever it was) to Salt Lake City, Passenger Kevin Riggs.  This is your final call.  Please report immediately to the boarding area or your seat will be given up for a stand-by passenger.”

Fortunately I was just walking up to the counter as he finished his speech.  Not only did I just make my flight but I was in the first row, aisle seat, just the way I like it.

There is, obviously, much more to this story, but as I’m already at 1560 words, I will bring this to a close for today.  More to follow in the coming days.

Stay tuned for a special announcement, unrelated to my travels.

Miraculous Modern Medicine

DISCLAIMER #1:  This post is Rated PG-13.  The following contains content of a graphic (non-sexual) nature that some readers may find objectionable.  Parental guidance is suggested.  Reader Discretion is advised.

DISCLAIMER #2:  Those readers who know me in the real world may find this post to be TMI and may be well advised not to proceed.

For the rest of you:

I had an experience yesterday that I was itching (so to speak) to write about but wasn’t sure how to proceed.  You see, for a while now, I’ve been experiencing a bit of physical discomfort of a… personal nature.  My boo-tay was uncomfortable.  There was itching and burning and tenderness that I hoped and hoped would resolve itself and go away.  It was terribly uncomfortable but not nearly as uncomfortable as what I’d have to put myself through if I opted to seek medical attention.  So I waited.  Surely this thing would work itself out and before too long I’d be all better and wouldn’t have to humiliate myself (because clearly that’s something I’m worried about…)

I remember these commercials from when I was a kid, a woman sitting in a theater, squirming, shifting her weight form one cheek to the other, never wanting to put all of her weight squarely on her seat, the tag line reading, “I shoulda used my____________”

I’m reminded also of the scene in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, when Doctor Evil reveals his dasterdly plan to destroy earth using a special “la-zer” on the moon.  The “La-zer” was created by The Allen Parson’s Project and was labeled Preparation H.  Preparations A-G didn’t go so well, and “on the whole, [Dr. Evil] just think[s] Preparation H feels better.”  On the hole.

Dealing with the discomfort I was feeling, I assumed that I was experiencing what the woman in the theater was experiencing and that Dr. Evil’s “la-zer” would solve my problems.  Over the course of some weeks (a couple months – I really didn’t want to go to the doctor) I attempted to find relief using every version of Dr. Evil’s “La-zer” that was available on the market.  I tried the tubes of ointment, cream and gel as well as the suppository version and wipes as compresses.  Everything helped a little bit, for a little while… until it didn’t.

I spent the first 21 days of July traveling, as you most likely know by now.  There wasn’t a lot of time to think about myself, and not a lot of time to spend dealing with my own issues.  And then there was the flight home.  I spent four and a half hours on a flight from Cincinnati to San Francisco, in a seat that was not particularly well padded.  By the time I arrived in San Francisco, my pooper was not happy.

I continued to ignore the signs hoping for some divine intervention of some sort but the problem just worsened.  Over the course of the week since I returned home I reached a point of not being able to sit still at all.  The itch was constant, stabbing and painful, unbearable to the point of making me nauseated.  Finally, I bit the bullet and made a Doctor’s appointment for yesterday afternoon.

I drove to the hospital with considerable trepidation, not looking forward to my appointment, but realizing that I had to do this if I hoped to get any relief.  I parked the car and went into the medical building to find my Doctors relocated offices.  As I stood in line waiting to check in, I overheard someone else asking and found out that my doctor was running behind schedule.  Lovely, I thought, not only am I miserably uncomfortable and stressing over how this appointment is going to go, but I have to sit in the waiting room for a while waiting for my appointment.

I sat in the waiting room chairs, clinching and flexing, shifting and squirming, trying to ignore the itch and discomfort while I waited to be called back to the exam rooms.

Finally 20 minutes after my appointment time, I was called into the back where they weighed me (their scales are evil and indicated my weight to be eight pounds higher than my own scale said in the morning) and my blood pressure (white coat syndrome gets me every time) which came out to 139/91.  I knew that my blood pressure would be high, due to my anxiety but I also knew that my regular blood pressure is lower and that this number isn’t worth worrying about.  (The doctor did recheck it manually and found my blood pressure to be 105/75 – well within the healthy range.)

The Nurse then took me into an exam room where she input my information into the computer and then after determining the purpose of my visit handed me a folded blue cloth the size of a bath towel, told me to remove my pants and underpants and use the cloth to cover myself.

I did as I was told and sat down on the bed with the paper liner and picked up a magazine to peruse while I waited.  I read the entire magazine while I waited for the doctor to come in.  I sat, naked from the waist down and squirming for 50 minutes while I waited to be seen.

Finally, he arrived and we began our examination/discussion of symptoms and then the moment of truth, the moment I’d been dreading for so long arrived.  The Doctor donned some rubber gloves while I turned and lay down on my side.  And then in a matter of seconds, it was done.  He barely touched me, looked me in the eye (if you know what I mean) and then was done. And then came the first of two moments that I didn’t expect and despite my discomfort made me laugh inside.  Having discussed the use of Dr. Evil’s “La-zer” my doctor asked me, “Have you put anything up there today?”  What a question! Then he asked me, “How do you clean your butt?”  My Butt?  Is that a medical term?

When the doctor walked in and asked me what was going on, I said, “I have a rash on my left Buttock that has been very intensely itching,” and, “A considerable amount of itching in the rectal area that I can only assume to be hemorrhoids.”  The doctor asked me if I “put anything up there” and how I clean my “butt”.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, it seems that I’ve painted myself into an embarrassing corner that I can’t paint my way back out of so I’ll just get to the conclusion by saying that I do not have hemorrhoids (I know you were curious) but some sort of fungal issue.  The doctor gave me some creams to use and this brings us to the miraculous part.  I left the hospital with my prescriptions in tow yesterday at 5:45 in the evening.  I used them as instructed and already this morning, I was better.  I got through the entire day today with no issues, no squirming, and no begging for relief, no afterthoughts of “I shoulda used my…”  No need for Dr. Evil’s “la-zer”.

Thank God for modern medicine!

Ummm… What?

OK.  I know I still owe you people an update about my travels this month and I promise it’s coming but I had to share this.

I was on Facebook a minute ago, doing my daily fish wrangler tournament casts (the only reason to be on Facebook as far as I’m concerned!) and I saw this ad on the side of the screen:

Soul Storage

WTF?

Not Quite the Post You’ve All Been Waiting For

I’ve been home since Tuesday evening and I’ve been going fairly non-stop since then. Two days ago I was threatened with bodily harm, by my bloggy friend, if I didn’t post an update about my trip in 24 hours.  I have already missed that deadline and I’m watching my back, looking over my shoulder and shaking with fear when I start my car.

Since I’m not able to put up the vacation highlights post (it’ll probably be a few installments) I figured I should at least post an explanation of the delay.

My plane landed at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 PM, on Tuesday and then sat on a cross over between the two parallel runways while we waited for another plane to push back from our gate.  By the time my plane pulled into the gate, we off-loaded, I got to baggage claim, found my suit case and I got to the curb outside where Michelle was waiting for me it was after 7:00 so we decided to stop for dinner on the way home.  We ate at Red Lobster in San Bruno where we were served by a nice-looking, lean, tall, soft-spoken Asian waiter and where I had my first alcoholic beverage in three weeks.  After all that time, the fact that it didn’t even taste all that good was inconsequential.

We left there around 9:00 for our trip across the bay and made our way to Oakland where I darkened my own door for the first time in 21 days. As much as I missed being in my own home, sleeping in my own bed and cuddling with my own cat, it felt really strange to be here after so much time away. I stayed up with Mischa while I watched a little television and drank a glass of wine.  I went to bed around 11:00 after an 18 hour day, 9 of which were spent traveling.

Wednesday, I got up around 10:00 in the morning and worked my way toward getting myself out of the house.  I had places to be and things to do, and so I had to fight fatigue and the draw of the many hours of television I have built up in my DVR to get out of the house.  After a shower and dressing I headed out to the AT&T store to buy my new iPhone 3G S.  It was a bit of a rocky experience as their wait list system needs some work, but within an hour I was walking out the door with my new phone, with which I saw an instantaneous improvement over my first gen iPhone.

From there, I violated my own personal philosophy and went to the IKEA to buy a dresser.  My first trip to IKEA was shortly after it opened (the first one in the bay area) and the store was packed.  IKEA being set up as a maze, as it is, I felt like I might be lost forever, I couldn’t get out fast enough and when I did get out, I swore I’d never go back.  For quite some time, I’ve been wanting to buy a dresser. I’ve looked at Target and Wal-Mart but didn’t find quite what I needed. Some time ago, on a whim, I looked on the IKEA website and found JUST THE THING.  But fucking IKEA doesn’t offer mail order, you can’t call and have it ready and waiting for you and run in to buy it and run out again, you have to make your way through the maze and you have to pick up your items yourself and bring it to the register.  It was 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and I walked in the store and saw hardly anyone there.  I was able to walk around the store, look at stuff and make my selection thoughtfully without feeling any pressure or frustration.

It was necessary for me to purchase my dresser this day because my neighbors and I were having a “large item” trash pickup on Thursday and I needed the dresser in order to get rid of a separate piece of furniture.  Suddenly it was urgent, so I bit the bullet and went for it.

I extended the invitation to Michelle to take advantage of the situation to get rid of some things, but in the 21 days that I was away and she was Mischa sitting she never brought her items over.  Since I was out and about anyway I went to her apartment to get the items she wished to dispose of. I returned home around 6:00, off-loaded my purchases and Michelle’s refuse, heated my leftovers from the night before for dinner and set about building my new dresser.  I finished the body of the dresser Wednesday evening and swapped it with the furniture I wanted to get rid of.  After completing my labors for the evening I took a second shower and settled in to watch a little TV while I cuddled the cat.  (He missed me quite a bit.) Thursday, I got up, fixed my breakfast and a pot of coffee, sat down to watch some television and build the eight drawers for my new dresser.  I spent the rest of the day watching TV.

Friday, I had a therapy session at 10:00 in the morning, went to buy the Cadillac cat food Mischa is getting these days and then went to Michelle’s house to do three weeks worth of laundry.

Today (Saturday) I put away my laundry and reorganized my clothes based on my new set of drawers.  After that I showered, dressed and headed out to Target and Albertson’s (I refuse to refer to that store by its real name *cough* Lucky *cough*)And so here I sit now.  When I arrived home Tuesday, I had only 5% of the space remaining on my DVR, now I have 33% remaining.  I had 356 unread posts on my Google blog reader, I now have only 282.  I arrived here 18 hours behind on Twitter; I’m now up to date.

Yes, I’ve been on vacation for three weeks already, but nonetheless I need rest and I had much to get done before I could think about anything new.  So you see, I Eat Snowman Poop, I have really been very busy and it seems clear that I may not have time to get around to writing my very lengthy post or posts about my travels until I get to work on Monday where, as we all know, I have nothing to do.  Please don’t hurt me!  I’m too delicate to bleed!  I promise you’ll get your updates soon!

Break Throughs and The Little Things

I came to Tulsa with a definite agenda that had very little to do with amassing blog fodder or finding good stories to tell (and it’s a good thing, because the good stories to tell are few and far between) but I did think I’d have more time to write blog posts.  For the legion (read as four people) of fans who read my blog with any regularity, I apologize for the sporacity (?) with which I’ve posted.

Tonight though, I’ve been thinking about things and felt as though maybe I should write about it.

You see, I came here with a great deal of apprehension.  The last time I was in the same physical space with my mother, she mistreated me greatly, culminating in her threatening to hit me just for standing up for myself.  When I went home after that visit, I was not at all sure that I’d ever come see her again, and our relationship and communications have been strained to say the least.  When I found out my mother was having triple bypass surgery and was going to need help, I didn’t hesitate to do what I had to, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from her in our interactions.

I won’t rehash the whole thing.  If you’re not one of the four, and you don’t know what’s been going on, peruse my last few posts and you’ll understand.

It’s been a week now, and I’m happy to report that she really is making great progress in her physical recovery.  She tires out easily, though her stamina increases every day.  But she has not been resistant to making the effort to keep moving.  She’s not resistant to taking the medication she’s supposed to be taking and she’s not resistant to changing her diet… exactly.  She refuses to change her diet to what they prescribe but is determined to do what she must to take off the 100 extra pounds she’s carrying around with her and for her, that means a low/no Carb diet.  I think (and hope) that this time, she’ll actually see it through to the end.  This heart situation has been an awakening for her, in that respect.  She means business this time around.  I just hope she continues with this level of determination and finishes what she’s started and maintains what she accomplishes.

Our relationship has held up under the circumstances.  She has not been unkind to me.  As I mentioned in my last post, the real test will come when and if I’m ever around her at the same time as my sister, or my sister’s children.  Historically, she’s not very good at loving more than one person at a time and, well, the males are always the ones to get the short end of the stick.  I don’t know what she would do if one of her children were to have a boy child!

No, she has been kind and non-judgmental and even somewhat complimentary of me.  I expected a big to-do over my tattoos and she barely said anything and didn’t drag it out.  She might even be used to them by now and not even notice them.  She hasn’t said a word about my ear rings.  As I mentioned previously, she may not remember that I haven’t had two all along, but if she does, she hasn’t felt it worthwhile to comment.  This is a good thing.

I have learned some things, gained some perspectives from this visit though.

I’ve realized that my mother’s incessant, never ending discussion of Faith and God and Christianity, all of which are things that are important to me too, are, for one thing her way of coping with her own hardships.  She needs to talk about it, to reiterate it over and over for her own sake.  It is her coping mechanism.  Yes, it makes me uncomfortable, and yes I wish it wasn’t so constant, but it’s not actually hurting me and it helps her, so why not let her have that.

It also occurred to me this week that my mother works for a minister, in an office building full of ministries.  This is not a conventional work place.  These peoples’ lives revolve around ministry.  These peoples’ lives are all about telling other people about God and his teachings.  It stands to reason that they would be in that mindset even when they aren’t “at work”.

So maybe, I understand why they (she) feel the need to talk about it ALL THE TIME.

Maybe it’s not such a big deal for me to listen to it when I’m around them, which is not really all that often.

Maybe it doesn’t matter if I don’t agree 100% with everything they say.

And maybe I should take some of my own advice and just listen to what is actually being said, and not read so much into it.  Because maybe, just maybe, no one is actually condemning me for not believing or feeling exactly what they are saying at that moment.

Once again, there will likely be a post, after I return home, about my mother’s perspective on Faith and where I fall on the Faith Continuum, but for now, suffice it to say, that I am a Christian and I do believe in God and faith and healing.  I just believe there’s a lot more to life than just that and I don’t feel the need to make everything I say and do about that.

My mother is strongly, strongly opinionated about pretty much everything.  She feels like the world is a horrible place where the majority of the population is in the wrong about one thing or another.  She doesn’t hesitate to express that opinion and she’s remarkably emphatic about these beliefs.   She’s staunchly republican and ultra conservative to boot.  She believes that George W Bush was a good president and that Barack Obama is insane, but she’s not open to any discussion on the subject.  There is no other acceptable alternative.

Her mind is made up on just about everything.  She’s certain of her rightness in all things and the fact that most of the world doesn’t live up to her rightness, just gives her that much more piety instead of giving her pause to reconsider her position.  Everything is an opportunity to pontificate about the evils of whatever situation is at hand.  And God forbid I should have and express an alternative point of view.

Seven days I’ve been here, sacrificing my time and my desires to care for her while she needs it.  Don’t misunderstand me; I’m happy to do it.  I’m glad I was able to and I know it’s the right thing to do.  But seven day’s I’ve been here just for her, just for her needs.  And seven days I’ve listened to her rail about one thing or another from one minute to the next.  She thinks she’s merely expressing her views, and she thinks surely I agree with everything she thinks and that what she’s saying isn’t the least bit controversial. Seven days I’ve held my tongue, not said a word while she preaches about her belief structure and seven days I’ve tried to steer clear of any topic of conversation that might set her off.

I’m getting tired.  I’m getting completely fatigued from biting my tongue, from listening to the ridiculous rhetoric she dispenses without responding because in order to respond to her, she’s got to be able to carry on a mature, bi-directional conversation in which she actually listens to what I have to say, and even if she doesn’t agree with my point of view, still honor it and respect me for it.

She constantly interrupts me to refute what she thinks I’m going to say, even before I’ve said it, and doesn’t allow me to finish my line of thinking to see if it might actually make sense.

After seven days of this, I really have to fight the urge to roll my eyes, laugh at her and say, “Gosh, it must just be exhausting being so emphatic all the time!”  I just don’t think she even realizes how frequently she judges what goes on around her, and how disgusted and angry she sounds so much of the time.

My track record with a statement like this one is not too great, so if I retract it later, don’t hold it against me, but I think I may have achieved some sort of a break through…

Most of my life, my estimation of my own self-worth and the worth of just about everyone and everything else around me hinged so much on her opinion of it.  I knew that my belief system and opinions about things weren’t the same as hers and yet, for some reason, I needed her to accept me and my perspectives.  For the first time, I really see that she’s a flawed, damaged being that doesn’t have the ability to do that… and that really is OK.  I don’t need her approval and acceptance to be complete and whole.  It’s a really good feeling to know that.

I regret that conversations cannot be had.  I regret that true openness and honestly can’t exist.  But I see it now and accept that it’s just how it is.

I can’t change her.  I can’t make her more understanding and accepting of society.  I can’t make her see that she is judgmental and demeaning of most everything.  And I realize that in a way, if I tried, I’d be just as bad.  So from now on, I’ll focus on accepting that she is the flawed, damaged person that she is, that she will go on being that way as long as she sees fit and nothing I can do or say will change that.

At the same time I will honor myself and no longer hang my value on her approval and no longer be afraid or ashamed to feel what I feel when I feel it.  I may continue to hold my tongue, because no one is served by starting an argument and I do believe that my silence speaks volumes.

And I’ll continue to recognize and honor the strides she has made:

She is not picking fights with me.

She did not truly judge and condemn me for my tattoos and earrings.

She has not directed any of her political or moral venom at me specifically, even though she must know that I don’t agree with her.

She has not reacted to the fact that I refuse to react to or engage her and her tirades.

Oh and she’s complimented my cooking non-stop to everyone she’s spoken too since I’ve been here.

Progress

This is the end of my second full day in Tulsa, caring for my mother after her triple bypass surgery.  As I haven’t gone to sleep yet, I consider this to still be Friday (past midnight makes it really Saturday, but who am I to heed details?)  As I’m still considering this to be Friday, it has been one week since my mother’s surgery and her progress in that time is simply amazing!  Miraculous even; that’s truly what it is, a miracle.

Last Friday, my mother was taken early in the day for an angioplasty that revealed one artery 100% blocked, one that was 95% blocked and a third that was substantially blocked though no one seems to remember the percentage.  We now know that my mother was having a heart attack, which she believed to be severe acid reflux, for four days.  Over and over again medical personnel at the hospital told my mother it’s amazing that she even survived the attack.

I’ll go into more detail (maybe) at another time about my mother’s belief in “faith healing” and where we do and don’t agree, and how her opinion has been affected by this experience, but the bottom line is, she admits that this experience was the result of her not listening to her body (and the holy spirit) telling her to make changes and that while this was a terrible thing to have happen to her, she is doing as well as she is and feeling as well as she does because she has faith.  I can go along with that.

I left San Francisco International Airport at 7:30 PDT on Wednesday morning, arriving in Salt Lake City a little after 10:00 Mountain Time.  My flight out of Salt Lake was schedule for 1:35 Mountain time but after being pushed back to 2:10 we actually departed at roughly 1:55.  We landed at Tulsa International at a few minutes after 5:00 PM and I called my mother while the plane was taxiing to the gate.  She was just about to leave the hospital and told me that my friend Heather, who was picking me up and I should just come straight to her house instead of going by the hospital.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for what I’d find, but in a lot of ways it was better than what I suspected.  She looked old and pale and tired, all of which I’m sure is to be expected.  She was sitting in a straight backed chair and didn’t seem to be moving much but she insisted she wasn’t in a lot of pain.  I don’t suppose she is in too much pain as she only takes half of a 7.5 mg hydrocodone pill every 4-5 hours.  When I spoke to her during my layover in Salt Lake City, she told me that she gets tired really fast and that I’ll probably have to help her walk everywhere for the first little while.  By the time I arrived at her house she was able to stand up from the chair on her own and walk into her bedroom to use the restroom without assistance.

Thursday, she was able to dress her self, put on a little make-up and fix her hair, and I drove her to her office where she is the sole employee (Office manager, shipping and receiving clerk, and generally personal assistant) to a Gospel Singer and his wife.  Their office is just one of many in the building and the receptionist at the front office was unable to contain her absolute shock to see my mother not only out of the hospital but up and walking around under her own steam.

In her position with the ministry my mother is a signatory on the checking account and she needed to write her self a paycheck. Twelve years she’s been in this position and it still amuses me that she writes the check to herself signs it with her own name and then endorses the back of the check to deposit in her bank account.

We left her office, went by her bank to deposit the check via a drive up teller window, dropped one piece of mail at a drive up mail box and then went to the grocery store where, according to my mother, “Kevin forced me to ride around in one of those motorized carts.  You know the ones that beep when you back up, as if I weren’t enough of a spectacle already?”  The truth is she was pretty tired when we went in, but she needed to be there with me, and by the time we left she was feeling more energized.

I took her home and while I cooked dinner, Salmon and Asparagus with a salad, she rested.

Today, I drove her to her doctors office to have some blood drawn and tested, and then to pick up a new trial pair of contacts and then took her to the nail salon to get a “buff and polish”.  She missed her regular appointment last week and just needed a little something to tide her over till next week-end… apparently.  I brought her back home and while I cooked dinner, she pretended to do a crossword puzzle, while in reality she was in and out of sleep.  She was ready to go to bed at 6:30, but she knew if she did she’d wake up in the middle of the night and be up for the duration so it was my job to keep her up.  I kept her up till bout 8:30 when I presented her evening medications and helped her into her bedroom.  She was out cold by 9:00.

It’s hard to see her like this.  She has bruises all up and down both arms from all the IVs and things, a massive bruise and much smaller than I expected incision on her left leg near her knee from where they extracted the veins they used for her bypass, and naturally, a long incision down the middle of her chest with bruising and redness all around it.

On the other hand, no one expected her to be this mobile and strong this soon and that’s good to see.

Everyone at the hospital told her she was lucky to have the surgeon she did.  He was apparently the best and his technique is different (better) than any of the others at that hospital.  This surgeon doesn’t use a bypass machine.  Somehow he manages to do the surgery without stopping the patient’s heart, which was good to hear because it was one of the things I had been concerned about.  He also doesn’t use staples to close the incision as most surgeons do.  He uses traditional sutures and does such a tight job that until I asked about it, I thought what I was seeing was dried blood at the point of incision and that she didn’t have anything holding the skin closed.  She’s told that due to his technique and handiwork she will have little or no scar on her chest!

Some of the things I had hoped for and mentioned here seem to be quite out of the question.  I suppose it was a bit of a pipe dream anyway, but I had hoped for her condition to be bad enough that she might be open to some conversation that we can’t otherwise have.  She’s much stronger than I expected and all in all she’s actually doing really well emotionally, which also means that she hasn’t changed much in her outlook, I don’t think.

Perhaps I’m not giving her enough credit, though.  I walked into her house (where we were not alone together) wearing a pair of shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt, meaning all three of my tattoos were fully visible.  I forgot until later that I was wearing my earrings.  I was very up front with her and said, “Let’s get this out of the way while there are lots of people around.  You didn’t know about this but…” and I held out my arm and pointed at the superman logo in flames tattoo that is there and then at the black panther crawling up the outside of my lower left leg.  She saw the tribal design on the back of my neck as I turned around and walked away.  She made a comment (in a light-hearted tone) about how silly and ugly tattoos are and why would anyone do that to themselves.  But outside of asking me politely what made me decide to get them, and later what was on my leg (she hadn’t had glasses on to see it clearly) she hasn’t said much of anything and hasn’t been terribly negative about them.  I knew before I got the first one that she wouldn’t like it so I didn’t expect her to be positive, but I’m impressed that she didn’t make a big deal out of it.

As for my earrings, I got my left ear pierced when I was 18, so she already knew about it.  She may have just forgotten that I didn’t do them both then, or else she just hasn’t bothered to get riled up about it.  That in itself is an improvement on her part.

She talks frequently about God, faith and the Bible and I suppose that’s to be expected.  She lives most of her daily life in a circle where that’s the focus.  And it’s no that I don’t agree with most of what she says, I just don’t feel the need to talk about it incessantly, and I don’t really know what she expects me to say in return which is why I get uncomfortable when she does it.

When we were making our grocery list yesterday, I wrote down Diet Pepsi, because the plain facts are, I’m an addict and I can’t go two weeks without any. She said, “Yich, I don’t like Diet Pepsi.  Especially since they’ve become so vocal about supporting the ‘homosexual agenda’.”  That was hard for me to stomach, but I didn’t say anything.  There may come a time when it’s right to spring that bit of news on her even if she’s not receptive, but this is not that time.  She then said, “I just don’t even like to give them my money.  But I will, for you.”  Make no mistake.  She meant, she’d buy my Diet Pepsi, because she knows it’s the one I prefer, not that she’d give them her money because I am a homosexual.  Still I don’t wish to discount the significance of that attitude shift.

For the most part, things have been fine.  I’ve been able to express my opinions with a minimal amount of resistance from her and I’m able to listen to her opinions without getting bent out of shape about what she’s saying…  So far, she hasn’t said anything particularly derogatory about me, which is either progress, or she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.  I believe I’ll choose to believe its progress until I see otherwise.

The next big test will be how she treats me when my sister or nieces are around.  Fortunately, that’s not going to happen this trip.

It’s the end of the second full day.  I’m about to turn in for my third night of sleeping in my mother’s house on a borrowed twin sized mattress on the floor.  The good news is that it is on the floor and so if I fall off of the mattress I don’t have far to go.  Why would I fall off of it you ask?  Because, for the last 10 years I have been sleeping on a queen sized mattress with a pillow next to me that I tend to hug when I sleep.  I guess I better get used to this.  I suspect I’ll have more of the same when I get to New York for my visit with my Sister.

Three weeks on the road, by the time I get back to my own bed, I’ll probably feel like I’m swimming in it… Actually that might be kind of nice!