Friday, December 11, 2009

Seeing the New Year in Clearly

I guess you've all heard my complaints that once you reach sixty and get to the top of the hill it's all downhill from there. I'm going to start calling Mac Speed Racer if he doesn't knock it off! He's been complaining lately about not being able to see all those little minute connections that put together the computer motherboards and the rest of that super highway to the Internet. You know, he builds them. The one I've used for the past year is a in made by, not as in Macintosh. It's held up beautifully and I refuse to let him "tweak" it. As it turns out, that's probably the best decision I've made for myself in years. After all, you must be able to see to tweak.

Last week after hearing the umpteenth complaint about how he's just falling apart, can't see and half the time can't hear (like all men he has selective hearing) on the portable phone, I came to a decision. First, I called and made him an appointment at the Optometrists. That appointment was carried out last Wednesday. The news was not good. In fact the news was disturbing to me and I found I couldn't concentrate enough to come in and post anything new. I couldn't make myself want to decorate anything other than the tree. Not only did she find two cataracts that were giving him major problems, there was a suspicion of macular degeneration. I knew that the cataract problem was (generally) easily reversible, but not the other. I knew that macular degeneration could rob him of his sight permanently. He is too young for that.

He is so blamed stubborn about things that I could see the situation unfolding like this. I'd be on the phone to both Good and Evil Sister arranging a kidnapping to get him to the Opthomologist if he needed the kind of treatments for the Macular Degeneration that I've heard about. I'm not saying he's a chicken (who's doing that clucking?) but he doesn't like anything to do with needles and the like. If I told you the lengths I had to go to to get him to have the quad bypass surgery done in March 1999 you wouldn't believe me. No, you really wouldn't. So, I've been understandably nervous all week. Well, the appointment with the Eye Surgeon was today. They took Mac to the back, alone. I sat in the waiting room with my new Ann Rule book and couldn't concentrate on one word. I read the same page three times before I gave it up. In a bit, the nurse came back and got me and took me to the room where Mac was waiting.

He told me he'd watched a video on cataracts and the procedure to remove them. He didn't appear to be ready to run, so I sat back and relaxed. We were laughing like hyena's (laughter being the best medicine) when Doctor Seltzer entered the exam room. Mac's eyes had been dilated (he looked like Kermit the Frog, that's how I knew) and Dr. Seltzer explained a bit about what he was going to be looking for. He asked Mac if he knew anything about Macular Degeneration. Mac told him he didn't, and Dr. Seltzer told him they'd cross that bridge when they got to it. He began the exam.

A few minutes later, we got the good news. There was no Macular Degeneration, but there was a small problem with the Iris that wasn't really to bad at this point (in one eye). But he did have cataracts in both eyes, the one in the left eye being the most pronounced. " And that's the one that has to go first, " Dr. Seltzer said, very matter of factly. He explained that the procedure would take less than six minutes, how it was done and that he would like to do the other one two to three weeks after the first. I sat there with my mouth hanging open as Mac agreed to get the surgery. On December 28th. This year. He rarely surprises me anymore. This time he left me flabbergasted. After all, I had heard the same horror stories from his father about his surgery that Mac had. They were not pretty. They were not conducive to decision making after the hearing of them.

We made the arrangements for the blood work, seeing Dr. Moyd for the pre-surgery exam on Monday, and took the prescription for the drops he'd need and I was still in shock. He was agreeable to having it done. He wasn't making those clucking noises I'm so used to hearing when it comes to major surgery. Okay, so it's not really clucking, it's more like hemming and hawing, but still. So as of 2010, Mac will be seeing clearly for the first time in a long time. That's not to say I'm not hiding truck keys and suitcases...I still don't trust this "I'm going along with everything you say" man. I've lived with him since October of 1968. I've learned his ways. So the surgery will be done. And I've already warned him what is going to happen if he looks at me and says, "damn baby, when did you get old?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Christmas Gift...A Mama story

I made a needed trip to the Grocers yesterday and like a lot of times ran into people I knew or who knew me. I was looking at a particularly nice standing rib roast when I heard a young voice say "someones looking at you." I glanced up to see if I was being spoken to, but saw a teen aged girl looking at my walking stick, which rested in the buggy. She was looking at the face of the Old North Wind which had been lovingly carved into the hickory wood that formed the cane. She was talking to her mother. "Isn't that beautiful, though, " her mother said. I explained that the stick had been a gift from me to my mother Christmas 1999 and that a friend, Pete Barfield, had hand carved it for me. She looked at me and asked, "was your mother's name Grace? I mean, you look so much like a lady I loved named Grace that you just have to be related. " The woman in front of me was about ten years younger than me and I wondered if I should know her. "Why yes, her name was Grace. Do we know each other?" She told me her name and how much she had loved Mama and it all came back to me in one fell swoop. I could feel Mama standing there, nodding and shining as the story unfolded once more in my mind.

I was just fifteen when my Dad was offered the Ruby Clinic. He and my mother had made a decision to leave Washington (DC) and start up a private practice in her home county. Big hospitals and big cities had been our lives for so long, but we children had spent most summers with our Grandparents, so we were not strangers to small town life in any way. We looked forward to being with family year round and excitement filled the house. The feat was accomplished, and we moved into a big old barn of a house that was next door to the school we younger girls would attend. Mama and Daddy worked at getting the clinic furnished with needed supplies and furniture, too. There was an x-ray machine to be had, a surgical suite to be taken care of and three hospital beds for the overnight visits of new mothers and babies. Daddy, being a GP, did it all. This was in the day when bills were sometimes paid by the bushel or the brace, not always money. Anyone who thought we were rich couldn't have been more wrong.

I would sometimes be allowed to help out in the Clinic after school. I often met the patients and knew most of them by name. There was one particularly sweet lady with a little three year I'll call Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith and her husband had been married for ten years when little Giselle was born. She always called her the Miracle Baby. One day in our first summer of living in Ruby, Mama had come home from the clinic very distressed. I remember she went to her room and stayed for awhile. When she came out her eyes were red and swollen. The housekeeper asked Mama if everything was alright. She shook her head, and said no, that one of the patients had cancer and that the news had been so overwhelming to them all that she just had to come home for a bit. Daddy came in for lunch a bit after that. We could tell that he had been crying, too.

For the longest time, we had no idea that Mrs. Smith was the patient. Even in those days, privacy was uppermost in their minds. It was early in December and I had stopped in at the Clinic before going home to do homework. Mrs. Smith was in the lobby and had baby Giselle with her. I noticed that Mrs. Smith had a toboggan pulled down over her head where once long thick dark blond hair had shone. Giselle was dancing around, laughing and playing. Mrs. Smith, her face looking tired and drawn, asked me if I minded watching her while she went in to see Daddy. I assured her I would watch over her and told her not to worry. She petted my hand, smiled and went back to the exam room with my mother.

That night I went into Mama's room to ask her a question. She was in the closet, pulling down the wig box that rested on the top shelf. I have no idea why Mama had wanted that wig when she bought it in the early 60's. It was human hair and styled in a pageboy. It had cost the earth and Daddy complained bitterly when he had discovered the purchase. Eventually he forgave her the purchase indiscretion and the matter was never brought up again. But Mama loved that wig and looked beautiful wearing it, though she didn't wear it that often. Now, the box sat on her bed, she held the wig in her hands and she was calling her beautician. "Bernice, I need a big favor of you. I need my wig washed and styled tomorrow if you can fit it in. I need it by 3 o'clock." Bernice assured her that she could do it and the matter settled, she hung up and turned to me. Her face glowed. For some reason I felt like crying. I knew that Mama was not getting that wig washed and styled for a party. But whatever she was having it done for, it had made her look happier than I remember seeing her in years.

The next afternoon, just before three, I went by the Clinic and there was Mrs. Smith and baby Giselle and so was Ms. Bernice. I spoke to them, Mama told me to watch the baby and Mrs. Smith and Bernice went to the back with Mama.

Mrs. Smith came down the hall, walked into the lobby and looked as near like any treetop Angel as I have ever seen. She had makeup on and a pale lipstick and if I hadn't known it was Mama's wig on her head, I would have thought it was her own hair. The smile on her face lit the room. The door opened, and Mr. Smith came in. Mama had called him to tell him to come drive Mrs. Smith home, because her ride had to leave suddenly. When he saw his beloved wife, the look on his face was beyond description. They left, he carrying little Giselle and holding Mrs. Smith's hand tightly in his. Mama later told me that after the chemo, Mrs. Smith lost her hair and had not been to Church since. She was ashamed at how she looked and frankly didn't want to answer a lot questions. Mama said that she felt her Church family was going to be very important to her in the coming months and she didn't want her to have an excuse not to lean on them.

Mama wasn't perfect, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that I thought she was. We had arguments that could have started off any world war, we had periods of separation when pride on both sides would not give in to forgiveness. But she had a way with people, of reading them and knowing what they needed. If it was in her power to provide that need, she'd move heaven and earth to do it. If at times her own family suffered from her generosity, well she'd make it up to us some other way, some other time. Mrs. Smith died in early Spring. But her last months were not lonely ones, I'm told. No one ever let on that they knew she was wearing a wig. It was the most special Christmas gift that Mama had ever given anyone. It wasn't because of the cost of the wig, but the value of it to the giver. I don't think a recipient of a gift was ever as grateful or expressive as Mrs Smith was, either. I know that at this time of year, I miss Mama most. She loved Christmas. And Mrs. Smith's little Giselle misses her Mama this time of year, too. She told me so yesterday, standing in front of the rib roasts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1st....and so it ends...

I came out of my turkey coma and discovered it is already December 1st. Before we know it, 2009 will have come and gone. Just as I began to remember the correct year to jot down on checks and other things, soon I'll have to start over again but with a different year. It seems unfair somehow, that the days get shorter just as the year comes to an inglorious end.

Thanksgiving was such a success and the leftovers were at a minimum. A pinch of turkey and a smidgen of ham. But there were pies to put in sharing tins to go home with the kids. Poor Mac was only able to keep half of one of the pecan pies and only because he hid it. I tried to tell him I could make another.

No one went to the movies, except in my own living room, where we watched Star Trek 2009 (I loved it) and UP (I adored it!) . So if I take off for Disney World, I suspect I'll have to take the whole family along. It was a wonderful day and one that I will remember for years to come. It was the first time the entire family was together for Thanksgiving in ten years. It meant the world to me.
Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine! Yes, this is this years tree. 8 feet of decorating hell went on, and I've still to tackle the rest of the house. Or the yard. I may leave it all up through January.