Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Brodi here. Regarding the previous post, many have questioned whether my Dad really dropped the Physician's Desk Reference from his balcony in order to squash a mutant rat, or if this is just a case of my mother's superflu-osity (it's totally a word) getting ridiculously out of hand.

So to let you all know, it's true! I asked my Dad about it, and he told me it was really the heaviest object he could think of. I amended this to the heaviest object he could think of... and still lift!

Just wanted to verify the facts for you. I think he's very funny.

Brodi and Clot

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Last Friday we had our three-month consultation with Dr. Mulvihill, and, as always, it is better than an infusion of endorphins. As I have said before, the doctor is well-acquainted with all Dennis’ residual organs, and has pronounced him greater than the sum of his remnants.

We were reviewing the inventory of the “Dennis Warehouse,” and we figured that with all the remaining component organs factored in, and his current weight, he is half the man he used to be. That’s OK. Anything over half…we round up.

So here is the current statistical up-date:

1. Gall Bladder: fond memory
2. Stomach: ½ of original
3. Pancreas: ½ to 2/3 remaining, but happily generating enzymes to the best of its ability.
4. Small Bowel: even smaller
5. Organ Placement: deranged and re-arranged

Bottom line: No asides. No edema. No sweat. But the best news of all is his tumor markers: They are at 24. This is well within the parameters of normal. We are very glad. Dr. Mulvihill advised Dennis to let his body be his guide on activities, but there are basically no limitations as to what he can do. He can golf. He can play tennis. He can even take up running. (Memo to selves: Get personal trainer, STAT!) In fact, the list of things we can do now was so exhausting that we came home and collapsed in our loungers panting and whimpering.

Then Dr. Mulvihill commenced kneading Dennis’ mid-section with unusual vigor…and I immediately went into the fetal position. I have been the sworn guardian and protector of the surgical site,- militant and territorial-and have been known to throw myself bodily between his equator and an approaching grandchild. So you can understand my reflexive, aggravated cringe as I saw the surgeon’s hands head for the restricted area with no sign of hesitation or restraint. However, Dr. Mulvihill has such skilled hands, he can locate, massage and interpret the current status of any residual organ while simultaneously detecting and identifying the miniscule culinary fragments of Dennis’ most recent meal. So I have solemnly vowed to relinquish obsessive custody of the domain…the world is now welcome at Dennis’ belly!

In addition to other questions, Dr. Mulvihill also addressed the issue of post-surgical belching. He not only encouraged it, he celebrated it! Basically his attitude was…if it feels good, do it. (This advice often runs contrary to our basic up-bringing, so we must be discretionary) This is all good. We were thrilled because Dennis has developed the gift of speaking full sentences in one gaseous expulsion. This newly-adopted skill has provided some remarkable conversations at the Ashton household. It has also significantly impacted any impending disagreements. I find it impossible to rebut a debate with someone who presents his side of an issue while belching. When I laugh, I lose! Dennis has yet, however, to best our daughter, Erin, when she’s in top form. She can recite the entire Gettysburg Address without interruption – all 272 words – and take a bow, all within the context of a single belch. Even Abraham Lincoln would envy such oratorical prowess. Dang! We’re so proud of her!

Of late, our neighborhood has been the target of a rat infestation. Actually, I exaggerate. It is a single rat. It has been the uninvited guest of several surrounding houses, but a few days ago, it paid a social call to our residence. Dennis noticed it as he was working in the yard, and its reputation had preceded it. It was a behemoth from the depths of Beelzebub. The thing was huge…Ratus Gigantus! We named it “Ratzilla.”

Dennis called me out to the upper deck, where we could get a clear view of the varmint from above. It looked like a small continent in a sea of grass. So we immediately devised a plan to take the little beast out. Dennis suggested we drop the current edition of the Physicians Desk Reference on it, and, with precision timing and an accurate aim, death would come quick and painless. But I thought the PDR might be over-kill. I know it’s a gender thing, but I figured there could be a kinder, gentler alternative while still accomplishing complete and utter annihilation. So I suggested dropping my anthology of Jane Austen instead. It’s lighter reading than the PDR, and the outcome would be the same…only lovelier. Jane Austen is so pleasant to read. But Dennis insisted that this was not exactly a Lizzie Bennett moment. The choice was either drop a copy of “King Lear” with additional harsh language, or the PDR. We opted for the latter, hoping to do the little bugger in with a preponderance of prescriptions. So Dennis raised the 10-pound tome above his head, chanted a mantra consisting of a list of ingredients and dosages of his favorite medicines for good luck, and released the PDR with great velocity in a downward thrust trajectory. We watched the split-second descent as if in slow motion. The Rodent, unfortunately, anticipated his impending doom, and in spite of its bulk, moved with the agility of a Rubick’s Cube master, evading “rat”ification by a nano-second. We continued hurling insults after the fact, but they were rather impotent in lieu of the obvious…NER…No Evidence of Rat. Actually, I think we were both secretly relieved not to have to clean up rodent remnants from the Physicians Desk Reference…or Pride and Prejudice…or King Lear. This was all good and quite tidy. However, if I see him again, I’m pulling out all the stops. Next time he shows his face…I’m getting out the Tolstoy!

We love you all,
The Clot

Sunday, July 6, 2008


We are now on the Monday rotations for Dennis’ chemo infusions, and it is such a pleasant way to begin the week. We fill up his tank in the morning, and we’re good through Sunday. Dennis’ lab numbers were down a “skosh,” but they decided to give him the full pint anyway.

Gemcitobene infusions are always cause for celebration, so to commemorate the occasion, we decided to drive up to Midway and attend an authentic Indian POW WOW before Dennis commenced with the nausea. I never really understood just what a Pow Wow was. It was a remarkable demonstration. There was such an atmosphere of tribal camaraderie and festivity, and all the participants wore the most beautiful native costumes of every color imaginable. There was a profusion of bird feathers adorning each ensemble and worn with elegance, dignity and pride. And they danced with conviction to drums and chants celebrating peace, harmony, brotherhood and love. At the conclusion of the PowWow, the chief did the Dance of the Eagle Feathers Staff, and everyone joined in. (Dennis and I sat this one out because he is so skinny, and I am so blond. In addition we got the boot from the judges of "So you Think You can POW-WOW") But we watched in earnest…and learned.

And then we began our descent down Parley’s Canyon, feeling warm and cuddly and singing “Kumbaya.” That lasted about a nano second. Talk about an exercise in contradiction! We were thrust back into reality on the first lane change! There was an ornithological exchange display among the vehicle population that made the PowWow seem bird-deprived by comparison. It gave new meaning to the term “flagrant fowl!”

It seems the single-digit greeting is standard-even anticipated- now days, and is so ubiquitous that one is de-sensitized to any shock value, which renders the exercise rather impotent. In fact, as spectators, we realized that there are some very entertaining and distinct patterns discernible in the ritual bird exchange…there is sincere and viable diversity of ornithological gestures. Caught in the cross-fire of flying flanges, we felt like research psychiatrists doing field study , analyzing the vast variety of sub-species and interpreting the underlying psychological pathology…sort of a perverted parlor game of “Name That Psychosis!”

Following is a list of “pigeon”holes we observed:
1. The Whole Flock or Multiple Personality salute: This involves the multi-passenger, ambidextrous, double-digit formational panoramic, all-inclusive salute. The host flipper leads his fellow flippers in synchronized geometric designs that would be the envy of an Olympic competition swimming event. It’s like a still-life, where all the pointy silhouettes resemble a forest of conifers against the evening sky at sunset. A moment frozen in time. It’s lovely, really.
2. The Deranged Narcissistic Complex salute: Also known as the Prolonged Single-Digit salute. Obviously it centers on the solitary birder. There are, however, some serious side-effects with this particular activity, because after so many hours, a call to one’s doctor seeking immediate medical help is recommended.
3. The Equal Opportunity exercise: (Sometimes known as “Scatter Shot”) This sign is flashed without restraint not only to the intended target, but also in every conceivable direction of the compass both longitudinally and latitudinally to include as many collateral vehicles as possible. This is considered friendly fire and goes by the mantra, “No Car Left Behind.”
4. The Manual Dexterity performance: (Also known as the Small Muscle Dexterity Flaunt) Usually displayed with endearing enthusiasm, great vigor, and amiability. The auxiliary digits gracefully bend around the central character to provide a tastefully artistic background with just enough restraint to not detract from the main attraction of the tableau. There seems to be no rational explanation for this particular phenomenon other than some guys just are free-lance birders.
5. The Casual Salute: The action of this rhythmic, back-and-forth gesture is borderline parade wave accompanied by a splendidly vacuous thin grin. (Can be symptomatic of social indifference, a lack of feeling of self-worth, or utter and prolonged sleep deprivation.)
6. The Paranoid Delusional or Soaring Talon salute: In this case, even the glaring fact that there has been no viable offense committed, it is flipped just in case someone is out to get him. This syndrome is most often indicative of those leading a life of devoted self-absorption, whose main claim to fame is the repetitive, machine gun, rapid fire, execution-style agility born of delusions of grandeur and a sense of entitlement. Not usually lethal, but often unintentionally comical!
7. The Mutually Co-dependent exchange: This is one of those socially awkward situations in which their overt feelings of inadequacy prompt one to feel obligated to return another flipper’s salute even though you know you may be accused of enabling. Often one must resort to “tough love.” This can be as hard on the birdee as on the birder. (Studies have shown support groups and rehab are frequently effective under therapeutic circumstances.)
8. Finally, the Holier-Than-Thou genuflect: As the name implies, this is simply the situation in which both the finger AND the nose are in the air. The birders in this syndrome generally love the buzz of this addictive exercise and its perceived empowerment, and do not welcome any efforts at intervention, prohibition, moderation, repression or remorse.

Our scientific investigation verified unequivocally the old adage, “Birds of a feather really do flock together.” It is fairly obvious that when one’s annoyance receptors are sufficiently blocked, observing the astonishing silliness of the bizarre and depraved qualifies as a most entertaining spectator sport!

There is so much to be learned when driving our highways. We have been edified by truck drivers in particular. Recently, there was some road construction going on that slowed traffic considerably. And there was a long line of big rigs…all the trucks were in a row, so to speak. Of course, everyone’s hazard lights were flashing, as is protocol. At the end of this long line of over-sized dinosaurs, was a Mini Cooper, whose hazard lights were also flashing. Talk about a big-rig wannabe! Visually, it was very funny. Now, I am ordinarily rather intimidated by the size of these vehicles, and the drivers’ sometimes galactic lack of consideration for their fellow travelers. However, the driver of the MiniCooper was blond with no apparent regard for the reputation of her sister platinums (platinuma?), holding a gigantic big gulp in one hand and talking on her cell phone with the other. Guess which vehicle struck the greatest terror in my heart! Aah, but I digress.
Anyway, on the back of one of the trucks was a two-line invitation that read:
“Be a flirt.
Lift your shirt.”
Well, we debated about accepting the challenge, but finally, against advice to the contrary,…Dennis lifted his shirt. When the driver looked in our car and assessed the possible options, he laughed and gave thumbs up. It was rather refreshing to see a different finger erected for a change. I personally took no offense. I considered it just another random gesture of trucker congeniality.

July is the month we celebrate the birth of our nation. This land is holy land. And fireworks are best observed with a grandchild on the lap.

I have not only a passion, but a reverence for history and the events that took place before we were born. Each new generation hears the echoes of the past.

There is a remarkable grandeur to our history, and just as remarkable grandeur to our present. Among the lessons learned must be a specific code of conduct: honor, dignity, compassion, are just a few of the virtues we must assume as we work through our own battles, wars, crises and heartaches. If we meet honor with honor, if we are courageous in the face of overwhelming adversity, and if, when there is nothing else we can possibly do, we simply bear witness, we will, by our very conduct, further sanctify and maintain the holiness of this land.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill:

This fortress built by nature for herself.
This blessed plot.
This earth.
This realm.
This America!

Love to all,
The Clot