Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mom’s Heart Attack

On Thursday morning around 11:15 I ring Mom and Dad’s to tell them about my earlier meeting with the designer.  Mom answers and tells me that Dad is out at a dentist’s appointment.  She says she had been vacuuming, but just stopped because she suddenly didn’t feel well.  I say that she had probably been overdoing the house work and suggested she take a rest.  I tell her I’ll call later after she has a chance to rest and Dad was back.  About an hour and a half later I call again and got the answering machine.  Then at about 2:15 I get the call from Dad.  Mom is in an ambulance on her way to St. Francis.

Mom’s the one who always takes vitamins, even those gross cod liver oil pills.  She’s cautious about cholesterol.  She eats well, unlike Dad.  Dad’s on his cell driving to St. Francis and I hang up with him before thinking to ask him who I should call, so I decide to call both brothers and sister.  I start with Kathleen and ring her home.  Larry answers, “Interesting, huh?”  Not the “I’m so sorry to hear about this” that I was expecting, but I’m trying to reach Kathleen.  He says that Dad called him and he left voicemail for Kathy who is at a church meeting.  I get a ring from her moments later.  She’s shaken but she’s a nurse so she’s handling it.  We share an I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-Mom moment.  I tell her that I’ll call Steve as I IM Frank.  I ask if I should call Amanda at the hospital.  We agree that since she won’t be able to do anything but stay and keep working, and since we don’t know much that I should wait.  My dear usually calls in the afternoon anyway, so I figure I’ll tell her then.

Frank is away from his keyboard, so I call the mobile number I have for Steve.  I get a woman named Tracy who is married to a man named Steve, but she’s only got relatives in Canada.  I shake my head at the coincidence and ring his business line.  He answers, and either Dad didn’t have his number or called the house so I break the news.  He’s as shocked as the rest of us and asks me to keep him updated.

I dial Frank’s number from memory but get his machine.  I glace at Trillian to see if Paul is online, so I ping him to see if he knows where Frank is at.  He doesn’t, but says he’ll start making calls to other members of ILL Clan.  

The phone rings and it’s Kathy.  “No more cheese for Mom,” she says with a laugh.  She’s gotten confirmation that it’s a heart attack.  And I can almost hear my hope that this was something minor crack.  Mom has been sent straight into the O.R. for an angiogram and more depending on what the doctors find.  

More time passed and I manage to stay focused enough to fix a bug.  The phone rings again and it’s still not Frank but Kathy again.  Mom had several blockages, the one in her right coronary artery being total, and a stent was put in.  Jesus, this is serious.  I wince at saying His name for fear of bringing more bad luck upon the situation, then an inner voice chastises me for being superstitious.  

Paul IMs that Frank is with Matt, and they’re stuck in meetings.  By this time, Paul has asked what’s happening, and he says he’s told Matt who says he passed along the word to Frank.  A few hours later Frank calls, and again with the shock that this happened to Mom.  He’s already called around and relays word that Mom is awake and talking, saying she feels better than she has in days.  I whisper a quick prayer of thanks.

Five o’clock rolls by and no call from Amanda.  We had been planning to drive down tomorrow night for Grandma Luzi’s memorial mass the following day, but I’d like to drive down first thing in the morning, so I call.  Amanda picks up the line and I’ve never heard her gasp so loudly.  She’s immediately crying.  I didn’t think she’d take it this hard.  The memories of her mother’s passing must be rushing back.  I try to sooth the blow, and she gets to work on getting people to cover for her the following day.

I know that Hazel will ask about the worry that I can’t wipe from my face.  I explain that Grandma has a heart-sickness and that we’re going to visit her in the hospital.  She remembers the anatomy lessons that Amanda gave her, knowing a heart-sickness means the blood isn’t getting pumped properly.  I smile for the first time that day.

Amanda gets home and she’s gotten people to cover.  I call Dad and let him know when we’ll be down and he sounds relieved to hear it.  The next morning we pack with the madness of children and dogs but we get on the road and make it down.  Dad looks exhausted, and the kids had snacks in the car so we pass on lunch and head straight for the hospital.  

Mom looks like nothing has happened, and I feel almost lightheaded with relief.  She’s bright and happy and says it wasn’t a bad experience, and I remember that she’s a tough French country girl who survived a bombing and a collapsed house.  By Sunday morning Dad and I were bringing her home.  She’s still had a heart attack, and she’s going to have to learn to take it easy, but she’s well on the road to recovery.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brad and Jill

Remember when I ran the premier for the second season how Brad behaved like he was two weeks late refilling his Ritalin and the way Jill was weird afterwards?  I thought it was me but there might have been something else going on.  I learned yesterday that Jill has filed for divorce.  I don’t know anything more, other than that they are both hurting.  My thought are with them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I thought I’d share the body of an email I sent out today to Andy, my former best friend from High School.  I stopped talking to Andy shortly after Amanda and I moved to Willimantic (about twelve years ago), but he found me through this very blog.  Andy was one of the many E.P.I.C kids who suffered from high IQs burdened with intellectual bullying and arrogance that attempted to cover for zero motivation (Hey, if you try and fail, that disproves your I’m-so-smart-that-I-can-do-anything bullshit, doesn’t it?).  For the sake of full disclosure, I was also one of these kids, and I suffered from the same shit, though as you’ll see below I cleaned up the majority of it (and not just with Graydon, but with Steve Egan as well, which I’ll talk about another time).

In our recent correspondence, the topic turned to uncomfortable memories of High School, about which Andy said, “I am grateful for my ability to let things like that "sleep in my mind."  I think this is the biggest reason why I am so forgiving by nature, because I forget slights easily.  Or perhaps I just forgive easily because I require so much forgiveness myself.  In any event, it's an attribute I like about myself.  If the price for this is fuzziness about who said what when, it is a price I happily pay.”

Here's my reply:


Sorry I didn't reply sooner but I've been busy.

I don't buy that you've got a poor memory when it comes to potentially uncomfortable memories.  You've always been known for having an excellent memory (you and I were on the High School Bowl team, remember), making the much more plausible reason for your "fuzziness" your unwillingness to face the shit that you dished out to others.  Fuzziness might work for you, but the rest of us don't share your selective memory.  You can't escape your past, and you can't blur it away.

Allow me to share an anecdote.  Before we met, I went through a period of meanness, and I made Graydon Smith, who lived a couple of houses down from me, its focus.  I became cruel to him, and one day I even made him cry.  He wisely avoided me after that.  A few weeks passed, and then I saw a movie, not a great movie as movies go but appropriate to my situation, called "Flatliners."  In this film, the main characters become haunted by visions of the children they harassed and bullied in their past.  One character finds redemption by seeking out a little girl he tormented.  Now a grown woman, she's married and moved on, but as the scene unfolds the audience sees that the memories of what he did and said to her still ache and bleed as he starts recalling what he did, in detail.  He digs deep and it hurts him to do it, and he ends with an apology.  The next day I went to Graydon's house and I dug deep, and it hurt to remember what a bastard I had been but I did it, and I apologized ... and he forgave me.  I think he even respected me.  We were good friends from that point onward.

Until you can do the same, no one will be willing to reconnect with you, including me.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Moving On Up Ideas

The plans to move Mom and Dad up are moving along.  On the advice of our neighbor, Carolanne, Amanda spoke with the town’s code enforcement officer, and in five minutes he ran through the regulations.  If the addition doesn’t have a kitchen he can approve it, or if it has a kitchen but is no larger than 420 square feet, but if it’s larger then you have to get plans for your septic upgrade along with the “second dwelling” (they don’t call them in-law apartments anymore) and he rejects them so that you go before the Zoning Board.  You let your abutters know and they can write in support or opposition (Carolanne wants to keep us so she’s going to write in support).  You keep what your building outside of the 50 foot buffer surrounding your property line, and you can also place restrictions on the second dwelling such that only family members can occupy it.  This makes the Zoning Board happy.

Mom and Dad are excited.  They’ve been looking at floor plans and juggling ideas since we told them.  This morning, Dad and I talked about building a three car garage on the site of the existing one and extending the back so that their living space would be behind and above.  Sounds like the best plan so far.

We still have to talk about Ultraviolet and Kill Bill as a stylized tale of divorce.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Hector's Memorial, Grandma, Dad's Health

Hector’s memorial service was the Saturday before last.  I’m not sure what’s taken me this long to write about it, but even now the little voice is making a persuasive case to put the laptop down and take a nap, so maybe it’s got something to do with it.  

The service was at Durham Community Church, a nice tall white steepled affair.  Classic New England ... very nice.  As I was pulling into the parking lot I saw Brad and Jill and maybe they recognized my car because they stopped and waited.  We walked in together in silence and took our seats in an empty pew, of which there were not many.  I was glad to see a strong turnout, most faces that were unknown to me.  The reverend was a youngish woman with short blond hair.  She held an obligatory doctorate in theology for this university town, and she delivered well-written words, but I couldn’t stop thinking they were empty.  She didn’t know Hector,  because nothing she said was personalized.  I shouldn’t hold it against her.  She was just doing her job, so I can blame the tradition that made it her job.  No, we really didn’t see God’s loving hand at work, because Hector was 41 years old and his two boys must now learn life without their father.  They are victims, like Hector, and others all the way back to Job’s kids.  It’s not right and it’s not just, but there is no justice but that which we make for ourselves.

Brad and Jill took it hard, Brad especially.  I was reminded of myself at previous wakes.  “I keep feeling like I have to do something!” Brad said.  “You’re here,” I said, but I doubt that did it for him.  Silence stayed with us, except when we talked about how we didn’t know what to say or do next.  I admitted to them that since Hector told us about the experimental treatment at Dartmouth that I knew his time would be short, and I began thinking then about how our game would survive, and in all that time I didn’t have any ideas.  Both talked about how they wanted the game to continue, and they really meant it, which was heartening.  Brad and Jill are geeks and as such they are my people, and I miss them.  We talked about that too, and as time went on we found words a little easier.  

Wayne and Jeff from New Heights came over.  They’re good people and I’m glad that Wayne is taking over Games Weekend.  He’ll remake some things but he’ll do them right.  The funniest moment was when Leanne came over and regaled us with her Ebay woes, a quest to buy an original D&D white box set, and she kept saying “And it’s your fault, Chris!”  I got some laughs as I turned lots of things into my fault.  Later Brad said that I inspired him to do some writing so I made that my fault.  The funny doesn’t last when the goodbyes come, though, since that brings the reason you’re all there back.  

At about 2 a.m. that night, Amanda’s grandmother passed away.  It feels like cancer is the real scourge of our age, even though the figures don’t bear me out.  People bitch about doctors saying that everything causes cancer, but maybe that’s because almost everything we’re putting into our environment does?  Amanda’s mother died of cancer, now her grandmother, Hector, Yung-Ming, hell even Courtney’s fifteen year old friend.  Anyway, Grandma was happy at Woodside, and she lived to a good age and outlived both her children.  That’s a good death.

In other bad health news, my father’s MRI results came back and showed that the pain he’s been having stems from a fractured pelvis.  Dad’s condition is made more worrisome from the fact that he didn’t injure himself from a fall, but from — get this — getting out of a chair.  His bones, at least those in his pelvis, are brittle, and that’s got all of us concerned.  That brittleness might be a side effect of the radiation he received as treatment for his prostate cancer, or osteoporosis, or both.  Mom and Dad and Amanda and I spoke at length, and Mom and Dad said they see this as a sign to move up with us, and we agree that would be a good thing.  Dad’s surprised that he’s looking forward to living in NH and so am I.  We’re tracking down town regulations and getting figures for any and all options.