I’m Not Checking Out Early Like Anthony Bourdain

I walk into the local retirement home to visit my mother in law as she is in for a short stay doing physical therapy. The place has been remodeled within the last year or two. There is even an infused water station with a different flavor every day right next to the coffee bar with an assortment of Arabica bean flavors and light or dark roast. A new sitting area with comfortable modern seating and a glass fireplace. You feel like you are in the lobby of a Marriott hotel. Gone is the old look from the 60’s and the stacked up wheelchairs and the Lysol floor mopping smell. Everyone says “hello”, “good morning” or “good evening.” It’s like they are “Stepford Wives.”

I go to the elevator and get out on the third floor and another infused water station and new wallpaper and new hardwood floors or a laminate. I swear they must have timed aerosol sprayers infusing the air to mask the scent of soiled diapers or bedclothes. The nurses and the aides who have the worse jobs are all smiles and friendly. I’ve even been there at all hours just to see if those smiles change and they don’t.

So far they have me impressed but, all the infused water and air freshener can’t cover up how many people are here. The hallways seem like a mile long and most of the people are in their beds not able to walk or take care of themselves. They are all in what seems to be a 10-foot by 10-foot box of a room. The furniture is as cheap as hell like it came out of a Motel 6. The rooms are bright they have flat screens tvs and air conditioning. They have at least one sitting chair and a dresser and a side table and a small bath with just a toilet and a sink.

I have visited every other day or so on the way home. It’s been about 30 days so far and she has improved a lot and will be coming home soon. But every time I visit I imagine myself there. Sitting in that small room probably sitting in the wheelchair all day starring up at the tv and no interaction with anyone unless the nurse or aid steps in which is not very often as others need more care. It’s almost like a prison. Where can you go? Your family has dropped you off there while they get on with their life as your life winds down. God bless those of us that are somewhat healthy and can take care of themselves.

I am getting a much better understanding of how depression can affect us and why so many people are taking their own lives. I was reading today that Anthony Bourdain took his own life as he was depressed and was afraid of people or his family having to take care of him as he deteriorated. I have even had friends who have thought this also. Last week I also read about a retired scientist who flew to somewhere like Norway where you can choose to end your life with no repercussions.

Some people are lucky and they go along fine into the autumn of their years and leave this world in their sleep. I hope I’m lucky like that but I love life too much to not go out kicking and fighting. Even sitting on the sidelines and watching the world go by is a hell of an experience. Watching a hummingbird fly past you or a butterfly floating by or having an opportunity to hold any of god’s creatures (preferably a puppy) will keep me going for a long time. Keep your eyes open wide folks as the greatest show on earth is right in front of you even in a 10-foot by 10-foot room.

It’s My Son’s Birthday

Thirty-eight years ago today my eldest son came into this world. Being the proud and humbled father on that day I whispered a promise into my son’s ear as I have to my other two children as well. I have kept that promise to all my children. As parents, we go through a lot with our children as their live’s develop. The “terrible two’s,”  The “stupid teenage years” or if your really lucky the “rebellious teenage years” are just a few of the “Times of Our Lives” that all parents must get through.

His mother and I got divorced when my son was just under two. The separation from my son gave me a heavy load of guilt that I have carried with me every day for my whole life. I’m sure it’s something I share with many fathers who have gone through the same thing.  But despite all the mistakes I probably made, this one turned out pretty damn good. I am proud of what he has become as a man though I’m still waiting for the grandson (I have to throw the guilt back whenever I can).

The hardest part for any parent is letting go. You question if you taught them everything they will need to succeed. Or if you weren’t around to teach them, did they learn the right lessons? I got lucky, he had a good mother, a great-grandfather and somehow I had a part. Not sure when I was able to pass on some wisdom but we as parents have to trust that our decisions are right and know that just by leading our lives they learn by watching us. Heaven help, those kids who don’t have a parent to watch over them and give them a good example.

So on this day of your birth my son, I tell the whole world how proud I am of you.That my promise that I made to you, oh so long ago is one of the few promises that I have kept in my life will not be broken. Because of that promise, you are on my mind every day as I mention you in my prayers. May you continue to grow and prosper and may your dreams be fulfilled despite my bumblings as a young father to you.

Happy Birthday, Number 1.

Love Dad

Medical Incompetence Continues

Imagine you are lost in the desert and the hot sun is beating down on your neck. You’ve been without water now for days. Your body is made up of over 60% water. Many of your organs have even a higher percentage than 60%. Your body systems begin to break down. Chemical imbalances begin to come into play as your organs can’t do their job. With dehydration and that chemical imbalance comes the ability to imagine things that aren’t real. You literally see an image that your mind tells you is real. You can’t tell the difference. The pool of water you see in the desert that you are actually drinking is actually sand and you continue to drink.

My wife had been admitted again to the hospital for dehydration (just like in the desert) and the kidneys were shutting down again. Her potassium and magnesium were low and her overall body was becoming an acidic environment. The call came at about 2:00 am and woke out of a sound sleep, it was my wife and she was asking why she was in the basement and could I come and get her. She wasn’t sure how she got there. I tried to reassure her that she was fine and told her where she was even though she didn’t believe me. I told her I’d call the nurse and get her to help her. I felt heartbroken having to hang up and let her go but I had to get a comforting soul to her to help her. That’s where I went wrong. I assumed I was sending someone that could help, someone that would be familiar with this type of situation.

My wife was actually quite calm and wasn’t too worried but basically needed to be reassured that everything was ok. I believe the nurse gave her some sort of sedative and then contacted a psychiatrist to evaluate her. They had done this during the previous hospital 3 months earlier for the same issue. This time it was different and I wasn’t going to learn this until about a week later. I happened to be with her one evening as they were about to give her her nightly pills. The nurse commented that “Oh one of the pills was missing” I asked which one and she rattled off a name which I wasn’t familiar with and then I asked which doctor had prescribed it, to try and narrow down what type of drug it was. She then told me a name I wasn’t familiar with either. It was a psychiatrist. I wrote the name of the drug and looked it up as soon as I got home.

It was an antipsychotic drug that according to the manufacturer is given to people who are acting out and lashing at people. People that can be harmful to themselves or people around them. It’s used to shall we say calm them down. In my wife’s case “calm them down” meant putting her into a “zombie-like” state. When you would talk to her she would be starring off somewhere. She wouldn’t respond to questions right away without nudging her a few times to get her attention. Then she would immediately go back to her staring at the wall. She also didn’t know to feed herself or remember that you were there. She had been like this for a week and really couldn’t do anything herself. I was livid and was at the hospital first thing in the morning and was screaming at them for doing this to my wife without my permission. They stated that I approved it, it is in the patient notes was their response. I said I was never asked about this and apparently they are writing whatever they want in the notes to get them to cover up their incompetence. I told them they were not to give her any more of that medicine and that doctor was to not come near my wife again. They then inform me that my wife was being discharged. I asked if in this state they thought she was fine. They said yes. Later that day the nurse’s aid had to undress my wife and then clean her up and dress her. In the hospital notes, it states that she was alert and completely undressed her self and was able to dress and walked to the bathroom herself.

At home, my wife got lost in our short hallway, didn’t know what to do or where to go. I couldn’t leave her alone. I couldn’t have a conversation with her, she couldn’t take care of herself. I also have the responsibility of taking care of my mother in law who is 86 years of age and has onset dementia and also needs a tremendous amount of care.

I am not retired and still work fulltime. The medical community I relied on was telling me you are on your own good luck. I have no other family to assist me. I sat down and cried alone. It’s been about three years of in and out of the hospital for my wife with me at her side and trying to manage everything. Our general practitioner told me he thought the pills would wear off in a couple of days or a week and she may come back to where she was before. I was lucky, it was two days later and she wanted to do our bills.  She came back thank god. She had gotten down to 96 lbs and was concerned about gaining weight. I can’t imagine how people do this. I was also lucky in that I have an understanding boss.  I’m sure there other people in a similiar boat as I am.  I also can’t understand how much incompetence there is in the medical profession.  Every time I’m in the hospital with my wife I have to correct nursing staff as to how to properly care for my wife. I have to tell them that they can’t give certain drugs to her as they are about to administer them to her and kill her. How I have to educate other doctors visiting my wife that they can’t do what they are suggesting because of allergies and or because of her medical condition due to previous surgeries. They really do not have time to understand their patients and have to make decisions that are life-threatening. I’ve said this before, I believe all doctors and nurses need to be admitted to a hospital for a week and have them rely on other medical practitioners to make decisions on their care and see what can happen. Maybe then they can understand what they put us through when we rely so much on them in our own hour of need.


Smoothie On My Baby Boomers

There was a study done a while ago about how long you needed to do something before it became a habit. I believe it was at least 18 days before it would sink in our brains. Some of my great habits have been mentioned here before. Habits such as Coca-Cola and more Coca-Cola and the urge to have sweet rolls or doughnuts. Oh, the habit of relaxing didn’t take me long to learn either. I do that one exceedingly well. Here’s one that my father chided me for that I remember. Watching the “Boob Tube” or for you younger ones that’s watching TV. Is watching “You Tube” the same? Probably worse. As you can see, most of my habits are pretty lame. I mean, I don’t drink or go “Hot Rodding” with my car or a motorcycle. I don’t go skydiving or spelunking.  Yeah, I’m pretty boring I would guess.

Now some of you may have learned something new in my life recently if you follow me on facebook. After watching a number of people close to me struggle with health issues I decided it was time to do something for myself. The occasional visit to the Emergency Room for what I thought was a heart attack also has brought my health to be at the forefront of my mind. The thought of me relying on other people to take care of me as my health deteriorates was not a pleasant idea to me hence the inclusion of Green Smoothies into my life. It’s been about 31 days now and I believe it has become a habit. I generally drink 32-40 ounces each morning. A friend turned me onto Dr. Brooke Goldner who cured her self of Lupus by her diet which seemed to made of primarily Green Smoothies. You can find her here www.facebook.com/DrGoldner.

For a person such as myself who is a solid “meat and potatoes” guy I am amazed that I have gone to the other side shall we say. I never eat vegetables. I didn’t have my first salad until I was about 25 and it was a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing! How could I not love it? For the last 20 years, I have been about 150 lbs. overweight. My recent torn meniscus in my right knee really put me out of commission and showed me how bad things were and that it could only get worse if I didn’t make a change. So every day I mix 1 lbs of kale and baby spinach, a 1/4 cup of flaxseed, a half lbs of frozen fruit and a banana, a teaspoon of cinnamon and 22 oz of almond milk make me a damn good tasting smoothie that I can handle. Doctor Goldner would recommend I drink more of this than the 32 oz that I drink each day, to begin with, but even with this smaller amount I have lost a bunch of weight, I may be off my blood pressure medicine very soon as I can’t get much lower than I’m at now. All my edema in my legs have disappeared and my shapely legs are back. Dare I also say my skin is also changing. My (what I call) old man bumps on my face are getting smaller and my eczema on my elbows that was a dark scaley purple is almost gone completely. God forbid it but it seems like exercise may be creeping back into my life as I’m slowly being able to do more.

How many of you can say they haven’t seen their belt buckle or for that matter their belly button in over 30 years? Well, I just found out that mine is still there! Hell, if Dr. Goldner can cure herself of Lupus and other autoimmune diseases for her clients with this protocol I can certainly improve my life and those around me if they are interested.

Smoothie on my friends, Smoothie on.



Being A Teenager

At times you may have had the opportunity to interact with a teenager. As we get older we tend to forget what we did when we were teenagers. Or more importantly how we acted or for that matter how stupid we were. Somewhere, they must have done a scientific study as to what happens in a teenager’s brains. Perhaps it’s a chemical imbalance like the term “Raging Hormones” which is used to describe teenagers at times. As mentioned earlier we tend to forget about our past but let me tell you we all have been affected by those ranging hormones.

I believe I was about sixteen years of age at the time of this incident. I woke up one morning and I decided I was going to run away. I really can’t recall what made me feel this way specifically but I got up had breakfast and began to pack my dad’s old army duffel bag with my stuff. At that time my father had been away at a nursing home already for a few years because of Multiple Sclerosis, I was the only boy with three sisters, my mother, and my grandmother. I guess I had reached my limit of being able to cope.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided I was going to go and see my best bud Larry Ruud who had just gone to the University of Southern Illinois. So as I walked out to “go to school,” grandma asked me why I was taking the big bag. I told her it was my gym stuff for school. I said goodbye to grandma who was the only one home and I walked to the bus stop about a half a mile and rode the bus to downtown Glenview where I could catch the Milwaukee Road train to downtown Chicago. The only way that I guess I could get down to Carbondale Illinois was via the Greyhound Bus. Luckily for me, the bus was leaving fairly quickly upon my arrival at the station. I bought my ticket and was on my way. I was lucky enough to sit next to a very attractive young lady. I guess I looked older than I was as she was very flirty with me as I remember. Later on, we even made out for a while but she got off in a small town about five hours into our trip. I think it was another four hours on the bus and I arrived in Carbondale and went looking for the dorms where Larry was living. I believe it was about 6:30 at night or so and Larry was very surprised to see me and I just told him I came to visit. I hadn’t even thought about my mother and sisters. I didn’t think to leave a note. I didn’t call and I didn’t even think they would be worried.

Larry of course who was now a college student and much older and wiser, knew better and called his mother who had already been called by my mother trying to find me. Soon enough though, I was on the phone with my Mom and surprisingly she was pretty calm about it. I told her I needed some time here and she said ok and let me stay. When I arrived home a few days later I don’t even recall my mother yelling at me or punishing me and it was like we didn’t even talk about it. She really let me off the hook.

I had no idea what I would have done if I had kept on going. No thought on how I’d live, how I’d get a job, get around, all this with no thought at all. If that had happened today I would have been an amber alert and everyone in the world would have been looking for me. We wonder how kids can interact with a stranger online and tell them everything and think nothing of going to meet this stranger. I was lucky, many teenagers aren’t so lucky these days. I’ll also bet if you ask them why they left they would say they don’t know, they just felt they had to. I was looking for answers to questions I was asking myself but had no one that I wanted to ask those questions to in my life. So I went elsewhere to look for what I needed, which even then I didn’t know what that was. So my friends let’s keep a lookout out for those young ones that aren’t thinking and teach them how to find the answers they need without having to go on a quest to find those answers themselves alone.