Chilly Scenes From Winter

NOTE: I’m leaving this post as it was written, although I realize now that I was barely awake. I even left it unpublished while I passed out for about 90 minutes, then published without a once-over. It’s riddled with typos, as it should be. It’ll remind me in the future, trust me.

It's cold here, but it's cold everywhere, or nearly, at least in the U.S. I don't feel special. Although we might even get a dusting of snow tonight, a send-off to winter (at least meteorological winter). My wife's birthday, too. She's almost always very busy on her birthday, just a busy time of year, and always has been. Today is a true three-jobber--morning at the university, afternoon staging and directing a troupe of opera singers who are touring with "Barber of Seville," and then church stuff tonight. John and I are having dinner with her at some point, and we'll be with her from 4pm on, although my present for her was delayed and won't arrive until Friday. No one cares, it was just a thing.

And you gotta be impressed that I managed at least a present. She doesn't care about gifts. She'll enjoy going to see the new Steve Jobs opera this weekend if we can pull it off. But this week was getting away from me, and I bought a no-brainer.

Anyway, that's not a big deal. She just wants to make it through three more days of this. She heads out to Texas in a few weeks, and then this sabbatical, and then this trip to Scotland, all things to look forward to.


As for me, I'd been interesting in terms of self-awareness and perspective. I'll give you a quick summary--I did two plays when I first came to Seattle, back to back. The first one (in 1984), I was acting; the second one (1985) I wrote and also acted. Both of these won awards and extended runs, and got a lot of attention.

A year later, in 1986, frustrated with a dead-end job and taking advantage of an offer to participate in a medical hardware company's seminar, I took a management position with a company. I interviewed one afternoon, a good one, and my potential employer was trying to point out a picture of an office with interesting people. She told me that her chief proofreader and general IT guy with a bit of a transportation profolio, given such a small company, was brilliant and had gone to Princeton, but was odd.

And as I passed him afterwards, and mentioned that I'd heard he'd been a Princeton Tiger (and he, in fact, played middle linebacker for them; a former all-state New York football player). He shrugged and downplayed, and then he pointed at me and smiled.

"I saw you in 'Take My Life' last spring at the New City Theater," he said, which gave me pause and made me think he might be a fun friend.

And then a few weeks later, as I was headed out of the office that I was running (probably to sneak into the alley and smoke; this was the 80s), and he was sitting at the front desk, and I called over my shoulder, "Scotty! You've got the conn" and I think that sealed the deal.

On my 30th birthday, he came over to babysit my 3-year-old daughter so we could go out to dinner. He was there for the birth of my son (not in Labor & Delivery, but there soon). He's been independent, cranky, smarter than most people I know, a film and literature and science and math and physics aficianado, although with always being an athlete, at times paid by the University of Washington to run tests on treadmills, etc. Because he was an athlete. Running for miles, biking, scuba diving, joint expeditions of microbiologists who go to Belize and the Caribbean to do research (and more scuba diving). This was his life, active and engaged, and running a pretty large company, essentially, because he wrote all of their software, much of it innovative. He built and maintained that company, but they were a dying field and eventually the company folded.

And now, his cartilage gone, following a total knee replacement that never quite healed or gave him relief, resulting in a limp, he's been challenged by physical limitations.

Other things. I talked to his brother in New York today and we were joking about my friend's puritanism, how he has maybe one beer a year, has never smoked or used drugs, and it very, very resistant to pain medication. As I told his brother, if I was in that much pain (they have to stick a needle into his eye once a day, FOR JUST ONE THING), I'd be relishing the euphoria side effect. I'd be flirting with the nurses and singing quite a lot of ABBA songs.

He just bitches about hallucinating people who aren't there, and sometimes I notice his conversations with these imaginary folks, which seem awfully technical and trying to solve some complicated task. It's kind of funny.

I've seen dozens of movies with him, the two of us, and had my eyes opened to certain classics I'd neglected (never saw "Double Imdemnity" until he brought it over; now my favote noir).

I've seen him less since he moved in, hardly at all in 18 months, mostly to try to minimize the intrusion of another human in this house.

If the surgery went well, that's great (seems like it did). No more knee surgeries, maybe, and with luck they'll get rid of the stiffening and he can at least ambulate without a limp or much of one. He had a benign tumor removed from his intermassenteric area (around the jaw), which resulted in 7th cranial nerve injury and a sagging face (Bell's palsy), Not a huge thing, but it adds to his overall presentation as an ill man.

So, at this point, he's thinking in a couple of days they'll move into planning for a rehab stay, to try to get that knee more functional. The IV antibiotics are still a worry; depending on the length of the course, they may transfer him to an LTAC or other rehab facility. He was talking about a week. This doesn't seem releastic but I wasn't going to say anything, not in his current mental state. Which, to be fair, is far more coherent any most Congresspeople asking questions of Michael Cohen.


And aside from the enormous amount of stress, not just the worry and the constant driving back and forth from downtown Seattle, a lot having to do with my personal psychology and a bunch of buttons being pushed for self-care (I do better; I have some issues, particularly with teeth).

I'm also struggling with the residual of this cold, which wiped out my appetite. A week of less-than-ideal caloric intake isn't going to be major, but when this happens immediately I develop early satiety, a few bites and I'm full. This is very difficult to fix, but every day I eat more and, while my weight immediately started dropping 1-1/2 to 2 pounds a few for a few days, as the water adjusted, we're heading up again. Got a handle on this, but it takes work.

Ice cream has helped, although a little sweet at the moment and not too much. But even a little ice cream can give me 500 calories, a 20-25% of my daily total, and then I can make a great 400-calorie smoothie with fruit and protein power. I can take care of this, but it's on my mind. Better to stay healthy at the moment.

I can't really remember when it kicked in, but I soon recognized that a big button was being pushed, watching him ignore a physical situation he's well aware of, and its potential complications.

The Streptococcus bacterium is all over, in our hairs, on our skin, buried in our clothes and bedsheets and pillow cases. We live with our bugs, and many other bugs. Can't get rid of Strep and maybe wouldm't want to.

So please, folks--watch those open wounds seriously, and make them closed. That's the entry point; scratch skin lesions, open them up, and let the good times roll right in to the bloodstream. Don't do this. Especially on your feet and lower extremities.

So be careful. I will. And I'll go back to the hospital again tomorrow and do what I can do.I'm more confident, and John and I already have a plan to switch our bedrooms and offices upstairs so he could live here, a few steps from the bathroom, and no stairs, if just for a while.

It'd be nice if there were others, family members and such, to pich in, but that's not going to happen. Sometimes I wonder how I got here, and I'm tempted to ask him if this is how he saw it working out, me being his nurse and aide while he takes a few weeks to get back on his feet. Ugh.

And not so much with the ugh. Because as I huddled up against the cold outside, and I saw by his bed as he drifted from sleep to attempts to make conversation, I realized that as much stress as this has caused (it's been almost unbearable; my sleep is fucked), I have bursts of happiness as spontaneous as if the meds just kicked in (no meds; could be caffeine), and it surprised me until I figured it out.

Tense as it is, I feel useful. It's been a long time. Not crazy about getting deeply involved in his care, given everything, but if ends up that way it might be fun, and instructive.

"You're a good friend," his brother said to me yesterday.

This is the definition of being a friend, I said, and that's right. And if I've been distant for a while, well. Step up, Chuck. You might feel fantastic, too.

Chuck SigarsComment