Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Day

Today is Christmas.

I know this seems at odds with the date.  This calendar confusion is due, no doubt, to atmospheric irregularities and astronomical anomalies appropriate to this season.  And it arrived this morning without warning or even expectation at, of all places, the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Dennis had his blood drawn yesterday in preparation for his quarterly consult with his doctors.  Phlebotomy can be tricky, and we await the results of these tests with the anticipation and dread of the condemned awaiting the verdict of a jury that is still out. 

Waiting has not gotten easier, no matter how many times we have been through the drill. It is interesting how a number or two can determine the direction of one’s future. 

But today, there were glad tidings.  Dennis’ lab results showed a substantial drop in the Cancer Antigen-Gi (Ca 19-9).  The actual number is 31…well within the parameters of normal (anything below 37 is considered normal).  And the Carcinoembryonic Ag (CEA) has fallen from 3.1 to 2.6.  I don’t have a clue as to the chemistry involved in these tumor markers.  I only know these are indicators that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of recurrence at this time.

We are overwhelmed. Being stunned and light-headed prevented me from singing “boopita boopita.”  Dennis was relieved for that, but he was as brain-tased as I was. 

Without functioning neurotransmitters, we were unable to string two consecutive meaningful words together.  I personally wished that a thought bubble would appear above my hair expressing intelligible expressions of gratitude.  But alas, nothing danced in my head…not even sugar plums.  (I thought this a good sign.)

Both Dr. Mulvihill and Dr. Jones were as euphoric as we are with the news.  Dennis called it “controlled giddiness.”  But I didn’t see much control.  Dr. Mulvihill said, “Dennis is cancer-free, as far as we can tell.”  And Dr. Jones said that even though we are six weeks shy of January 31st, we have officially reached the 2-year anniversary of the Whipple.  This represents a major shift in the statistical specter.

In a flagrant departure from clinical decorum, there were embraces and celebration and hearty exchanges of “Merry Christmas!”…and tender hearts.

We can scarce wrap our minds around the moment, but our hearts embrace it.  This is the season of miracles, not necessarily guarantees.  But we ask for nothing more. 

There is no irony in the timing.  It is, after all, Christmas.  Perhaps the miracle in Bethlehem two millennia ago neutralizes the odds and levels the playing field.  Perhaps the angels that stood guard then watch over us still.  I will take it.

I want to ignite hearth fires wherever there is darkness, and sing Noel in Alfalfa decibels, radiantly bellowing good tidings to all, without the least degree of harmony.  I will “Gloria” and “Hallelujah” with every choir, hark with each herald angel, eat porridge and carol and go “a-wassailing” at all the thresholds in all the world.  And then I will collapse in sweet exhaustion and rest with “ye merry gentlemen.” 

Adversity is enlightening.  To “be still and know” brings wisdom and healing – two essential by-products of tribulation.

We are survivors.

Merry Christmas to our angels and loved ones.


The Clot   

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Making a Check and Listing it Twice

Well, Christmas is crushing in upon us, and we are on our annual collision course with St. Nick. The impact should just about obliterate the jolly old elf…and our bank account. Oh, the carnage! We are maxed out with merriment, partying, The Twelve (hundred) Days of Christmas, silver bells, tinsel, and gluttony. I’ve sung more carols than is constitutionally legal. I’m emotionally lobotomized. My eyes are more glazed than the cakes I’ve consumed, and the bags underneath the eyes are bigger than Santa’s. I’ve long ago lost my capacity for abstract thought, and I can’t look one more sugar plum in the face. I am a member emeritus of the glucose-induced, dazed and vacuous.

And speaking of sugarplums, I haven’t been near the kitchen since Thanksgiving to bake the little concoctions to dance in the kids’ heads.  I’m wondering if animated M&M’s with cartoon faces would work just as well.  As I walk by the oven door and gaze at the carbonized remains still evident from “turkeys past,” I just can’t make myself fire up the old stove again.

I hate when my inner “Ebeneezer” over-rides my “Tiny Tim,” but this year we may have to make Christmas happen with holiday heartburn and synchronized belching alone. And that’s OK.  Personally, I find choreographed little sucrose fruits somewhat suspect.  Just what are sugar plums anyway?  Does anybody know?  Does anybody care?  I refuse to commit culinary suicide reproducing a confection straight out of a book whose central plot involves a living nutcracker in obscenely revealing tights doing battle with a rodent king of primitive intelligence and his army of creepy, plague-infested rat colonies.  Where’s my Physician’s Desk Reference?!  Humbug!  (Boy Howdy! That was cathartic!)

Besides, December is bloated with bills, obligations, taxes, and doctors’ appointments.  We recently went to the dentist for our 6-month check-up, and he set about the routine exam with the maniacal enthusiasm of a mad archaeologist excavating for relics from the Ming Dynasty.  Unfortunately for Dennis, several were discovered, and he is undergoing the jackhammer as we speak.

One of the privileges of being really old is that there is perpetually diminishing tooth surface to even attract a cavity.  It’s all been drilled, filled, extracted, bridged, re-rooted, re-routed or implanted years ago.  So I regard Dennis’ cavity as a badge of orifice prowess, a justifiable excuse for oral hubris. But, I do not envy him.  Our dentist is Dennis’ brother, Ron.  He knows the “drill,” so to speak.  Through the years, he has learned to slap the nitrous oxide over my nose as soon as I pull into the parking lot.  He’s even been known to attach the tubing to my exhaust pipe for especially extensive work.

Ron never exceeds the bounds of propriety by asking personal questions when I’m in my altered state of consciousness…at least, not that I remember.  Besides, unbridled tongue/lip coordination regurges more sensitive information than is ethically advisable when I’m fully conscious.

 I’m not an easy patient, and Ron has been known to take a few whiffs of the coping gas just to endure the ordeal.  We both dread the 6-month expiration date that will compel me to return and insert my body into the recliner of horrors.  And no one cheers louder than the staff of dental assistants and mental health volunteers when Ron proclaims, “No Cavities!” and I can drive home without Angelina Jolie lips.

But this is the time of year when we take great pains to produce a Christmas worthy of Norman Rockwell.  Dennis snaps a plethora of pictures to capture the moments that will all too soon be memories.  We got back the copies of the ones he took from Thanksgiving, and I was aghast.  Utter fatigue and sleep deprivation united in an unholy alliance to make me look like Lady Gaga…in drag…and Betty Boop on lash-enhancing drugs.  Not to mention my hair.  The re-growth alone qualified me as Cruella DeVille’s evil twin.

I issued an immediate and irrevocable edict that there were to be no more pictures of me without prior written consent.  Anyone flashing me without said consent would be penalized…with me flashing them.  (Think about it.)  No kidding!  Some of my photos could stop Santa in the flue.

Our grandkids, the Ashton “6-pack,” are out of control – trying to impress the Jolly One with petitions and character references.  A couple of them will require a full pardon before Santa agrees to hazard the chimney soot on their behalf. 

However, Asher, our “rebel without a clue,” is a particular favorite of the North Pole.  He has been granted “favored kid” status, and may be awarded a congressional waiver for past naughties.  The remainder of the half-dozen bear perpetual witness to having been good to the point of sainthood.  (Of course, that depends on what the meaning of “good” is.)

However, I have it on the best authority that Santa plans to drop his load down Grandma’s chimney this year in a most generous and humanitarian gesture of forbearance and forgiveness…and Grandma may have to be committed to rehab for debt addiction.

Since it is the season for making lists, I decided to include an inventory of the best rock ‘n roll classics to listen to while dashing to shopping malls.  When feeling “drive-impaired,” these selections are like musical caffeine, and it is possible to frenetically accelerate from sale to sale sans coke, open windows, or exiting on the “Drowsy Drivers” off-ramp.

This music, however, demands French fries.  French fries are affirmation from heaven that man was indeed meant to have joy.  Best places?  Hires and Spin CafĂ© in Heber.

Anyway, here they are, in no particular order.

1.    Eli’s Comin’ – Three Dog Night
2.    Mrs. Robinson – Simon and Garfunkel
3.    Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
4.    I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
5.    What A Day For A Daydream – Lovin’ Spoonful
6.    Honkey Cat – Elton John
7.    And When I Die – Blood, Sweat and Tears
8.    That’s What You Get For Lovin’ Me – Peter, Paul and Mary
9.    I Wanna Hold Your Hand – Beatles
10.    Blackbird – Beatles

Blessed sensory overload!
The Christmas holidays are most efficient for accomplishing Obama’s 3-fold defense plan in Afghanistan – Disrupt, Dismantle, and Defeat!  I am happy to report, however, that at this point in the “Axis of Merriment,” I’m disrupted and dismantled, but not defeated. I am bloodied, but not bowed.  I shop on, in spite of vows of restraint.

And speaking of blood, we are looking forward to Thursday’s appointment with Dennis’ phlebotomist without the least degree of glee.

But as the current weather whisks away all traces of body heat, we cocoon ourselves in our mummy bags and make lists of those who continually bless our lives.  We’ll be in these bags counting for quite a long while.


The Clot

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going Rouge

We’ve been counting our blessings this Thanksgiving weekend, and we’ve come up with some pretty significant numbers. Now, you know how much I detest the numbers game – it’s such a racket. Most things in the world can be proven or disproven by mathematical manipulation.

Numbers are so capricious. For instance, the Y beat the U in football by 3 teeny weeny little points…nothing more than your basic field goal…yeah, like anyone even remembered that score 5 minutes after the game ended. Obama defeated McCain by a few measly votes…as if THAT’S going to change history.

No, what I’m talkin’ about here are radical numbers that will profoundly resonate through the universe. ARE YOU ALL READY FOR THIS???!!! Dennis gained two (2) pounds!!! WAY! And what’s more, he’s owned all 32 ounces for over two (2) weeks now. They are permanently grafted onto his body. Each little molecule of fat has joined the family and found a permanent relationship with all who enter our home. We find ourselves looking for excuses to “hug up” simply for the sheer pleasure of proximity to the new heft.

I can actually see and identify them. They reside just beneath the midsection in between his Whipple grin and the hernia repair scar on the right side. He is no longer the masterpiece of faulty construction. He now has form and function.

Oh, the joy in Clotville! We have all been dancing and singing, “Hey! Wall-a – Wall-a – Wall-a! Boopita! Boopita! Boopita!” Our enthusiasm alone warrants an invitation to the next White House State Function.

Now we realize this doesn’t exactly qualify as a fair dinkum “hunka.” But his enlarged chest dimension is more than a moussed-up comb-over of the hair on his sternum. Yessssssirreee. The chub is adhered to his torso like hair sticks to Vaseline. Those pounds there are a conspicuous, massive accumulation of arrogant, hubristic bloat…rosey, pink quivering flesh the color of Sarah Palin’s rouge.

I wish I could credit this stunning metamorphosis to my holiday culinary prowess. As you know, this is the season of my annual transformation into the “turkey mumbler,” reciting ancient incantations to channel my inner Butterball in an effort to persuade the little gobbler to cook to golden perfection. It’s a bit tricky to bake a turkey correctly. It must be long enough that in a fit of reckless negligence, friends and family aren’t stricken with E-coli, but not so long it becomes vulcanized rubber. I have a dread fear of toxic shock, and have been known to immolate the bird to the point of vaporization. There have been years when we prayed the turkey would rise from the ashes like some kind of stuffed phoenix.

As hostess, I have to own that bird, and my reputation as the baster master lives or dies on my giblets.

But with all due modesty, this year I SCORED! The turkey was tender and juicy…convection perfection…browned, but not seared. And all the guests stripped the entire carcass in a hedonistic feeding frenzy…and then collapsed in a tryptophan stupor, light-headed and disoriented, barely able to consume the last bite of the third piece of pumpkin pie. Talk about gut glut! And no one had to be rushed to the ER. It was a consummate triumph, though not necessarily a picture out of Currier and Ives.

We can hardly wait to see if this latest event of conspicuous consumption will yield another few ounces on the scale. We are optimistic and hoping HE – COULD – GO- ALL - THE – WAY…to 135. We’ve all got our heads in the game, but I’m content for the moment just to hoard the bulk currently volumizing Dennis’ torso. We must not become greedy.

No holiday would be complete without some entertainment. And we certainly had our share. Dave, our son-in-law and father of 4 of the 6 most adorable grandchildren ever conceived, decided Thanksgiving Day would be a perfect time to toilet train Asher. We’re talkin’ ASHER…AAAASSSSHHHHEEEERRRR! And, the man had a game plan. Sooooo, Dave removed Asher’s diaper and issued simple instructions to inform him when he had to go potty. (The boy can barely pronounce “potty.”)

But Asher knows his alphabet. So Dave explained that when he felt the urge, he was to just say, “I-P-P.” Sounds reasonable, huh?

Well, Asher tore through the house as if on intravenous feedings of pure caffeine, sans diaper and half naked, sitting on the laps of every guest at every table in the entire neighborhood. And after he had moistened territory on all three stories of the house, he announced with glee, “I-P-P!”

I suggested to Dave that perhaps he should first explain to Asher the difference between present and PAST tense BEFORE removing the loin cloth. Of course, at that point, the horses had stampeded out the barn door long ago.

Then Beckham saw the joy and freedom of the Full Monty, and promptly removed the lower half of his clothing. The two little boys were like colts – matching halves of a stark naked Rorschach ink blot gone berserk. It gave new meaning to the term “pissing contest.”

However, working in teams, we were finally able to take down the tiny felons and swaddle their nether regions with the speed and agility of steer wrestlers at a rodeo event, and restore some degree of order. We all breathed easier knowing we got ‘em covered. Besides, since the day our first grandchild was born, we have had Utah Disaster Clean-Up on speed dial.

When all the guests departed, Dennis and I got out the carpet cleaner and a multitude of large, absorbent towels, and began counting our blessings as we removed yellow territorial puddles. And this time the numbers were in our favor…there were more blessings than spots! Sometimes numbers are a good thing – did I mention Dennis gained two (2) pounds?

Love to all,

The Clot

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picture Perfect... and This Too Shall Pass

Every weekend since the dawn of creation our family has persistently declared its intention to get Family Photos taken…and every weekend we have been inundated with aggressive opposition. We have all been mugged by chronic Life Interruption.

Our mission is to capture our particular Nikon moments for posterity, but so far, posterity has been SOL.

How does life become so congested it is nearly impossible to assemble in one place at one time a dozen of the finest people I know?
Where do I begin?

Here is a comprehensive inventory of all the distractions that have thwarted our attempts on behalf of said posterity:

1. Soccer games
2. More soccer games.
3. Weight – either too much or too little.
4. Cleavage – either too much or too little.
5. A preponderance of root re-growth and insufficient platinum to cover.
6. Tantrums – by tired children.
7. More tantrums – by tired adults.
8. Post-menopausal facial hair growth.
9. Pre-menopausal pimples.
10. Diapers loaded with primeval muck.
11. Nasal glut resembling Metazoic ooze.
12. Recreational appendectomy.
13. Multiple hernia repairs.
14. Utah’s 3-season weather: it’s either just been too cold, or it’s going to be too cold, or it is too cold.
15. Inability to get on plastic surgeon’s schedule in spite of tantrum (see # 7) after years of full-throttle uglying up.

But Saturday, in spite of adversarial efforts by the Dark Side, The Twelve assembled at Grandma’s house. And so began the process of preserving the moments that will all too soon become memories.

With dangerous simple-mindedness, I am ashamed to admit we stooped to bribing the children with chocolate and candy to remove fingers from nostrils and sit still until the shutter clicked. We wondered if we would regret letting them out of their cages. Behind our smiles, pleas and empty threats were mumbled out the side of our mouths through clenched teeth.

Meanwhile, the adults were desperately mainlining caffeinated beverages through central venous catheters in an heroic effort to survive the exasperation of kids clashing with cameras. (The punctured-air clicks of opening Coke cans were nearly as rapid-fire as the staccato clicks of the photographer.) Eventually, inevitably, the sugar and the caffeine collided, with moments so hysterical, they were snort-cola-out-your-nose funny.

Beckham and Asher, however, soon became clear on the concept, and began to mug and pose for their close-ups like tiny divas. We could almost hear them singing “…if you want my body, and you think I’m sexy…”
But with yellow roses blooming in November, leaves drifting through the air like balsa wood gliders, and backlighting from the early morning autumn sun, we actually captured those elusive moments…in spite of diversions and distractions.

Time slips so easily into the past…and the future.

Posterity, whoever that eventually entails, will be given the photographic evidence of one brief shining exquisite hour on an early Saturday morning in autumn, when a dozen of the finest people I know gathered together at Grandma’s house for Family Photos.

It is November, the month of Thanksgiving and counting blessings for harvests and abundance. But did you know that November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month? Of course, for the past two years, there has never been a moment when we were NOT aware of pancreas cancer. But perhaps this is a good time to profile the little fellow whose existence is so unobtrusive, and yet can create such havoc.

The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland located between the stomach and spine. When functioning properly, it is programmed to secrete digestive enzymes and make insulin and other hormones that regulate metabolism. And, if not trifled with, nobody gets hurt.

Its very efficiency causes us to take it for granted.

However, the pancreas lies hidden behind other organs, and doctors cannot see or feel any tumors or irregularities during routine exams. Thus, this cancer is particularly deadly because early detection is difficult. There are no reliable screening tests, such as a colonoscopy, to indicate the presence of cancer before symptoms are manifest.

The symptoms themselves can be deceiving, because they are subtle and routinely misdiagnosed. Abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss are associated with many other maladies, and do not necessarily indicate specific problems in the pancreas.

So here is an inventory of symptoms and signs to take seriously:

1. Jaundice, with or without itching, dark urine, light stool.
2. General symptoms: back pain, fatigue or weakness.
3. Other illnesses: pancreatitis, diabetes.
4. Digestive problems: unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, malnutrition, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain.

Cancer is a soulless demon, and a diagnosis disrupts the choreography of our lives, altering the body, the mind, the universe.

But there is so much that can be done to treat this plague. Dr. Mulvihill and the people at the Huntsman Center are leading a crusade to obliterate the obscenity that is cancer. And we have been inducted in the army who battle this disease. We are committed in the quest to eradicate this black evil.

Recently, Dennis and I were walking along the Jordan River Parkway, in companionable silence, when we looked up and saw a little piece of serendipity in the form of a 300-pound biker barreling straight at us – NO helmet, NO hands on the handlebars, pedaling DOWNHILL with the sun directly in his eyes, iPod in his ears, TXTNG! NO KIDDING!

There was absolutely no way to avoid blunt force trauma should his bike veer the width of a single hair in our direction. It reminded us of Indiana Jones and that infamous rolling boulder looking for road kill.

Through immense good fortune and a protective magic amulet, colossal catastrophe was averted. It would have required “jaws of death” just to extricate our mangled bodies from his bike.

But that biker was a literal vision of how adversity can strike with stealth and silence. It seems when you least fathom a crisis, that’s when it occurs. Be aware and prepare. This is a good thing.

November is a glorious season for family photos, awareness, and gratitude. I heard Christmas carols on the radio this morning…it is not too soon at all.

Happy Thanksgiving and love to all,

The Clot

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Dear Clotters,

We have excellent news. After three weeks of WAITING, Dennis’ blood was drawn again. This time, the labs showed the tumor markers that had been elevated, are back down to normal. NORMAL! Once again – NORRRRMMMMMAAAAALLLL. Can you believe it? We are euphoric, and a little dazed – as if we’d just taken a tranquilizer dart to the brain. We can hardly wrap our minds around the concept that there does not appear to be an upward trend that would indicate a possible recurrence.

I am trying to spark my consciousness out of its bewilderment, resume minimal brain function, and reclaim some semblance of perky competence. So far, I’ve only succeeded in appearing cuckoo, and inviting ridicule.

I am overwhelmed by monumental concepts, and lost in small thoughts. But our family is reveling in uncontained mirth. Mental fitness will come later.

Cancer is eerily unpredictable. And there are times when it seems doing anything is better than doing nothing. But Dr. Mulvihill said wait. And so we waited.

There is an art to the “wait.” I “wait” ugly. I am definitely a candidate for “wait” management training.

While we WAITED, we went to Disneyland, where we indulged our hedonistic behavior receptors by riding on Indiana Jones 3 (count ‘em…3!) times in succession, ate dinner after 8:00 p.m., and stayed up past 11:00. Pure depravity. Don’t tell me we don’t know how to PAARRR-TAY!

Disneyland really is the magic kingdom. It’s the only place on the planet where menopausal, varicose-veined, crepey-skinned women with pendulous…arm flaps can wear full Tinker Bell regalia and not be ticketed for impersonating a fairy. No one did so much as a double-take.

We saw a whole coven of Tinkers (do fairies travel in covens?) moving through the streets of Disney as if they were 9 minds without an abstract thought.

They were an eclectic consortium, ranging in age from perhaps 3 to barely ambulatory. This, of course, is an approximation, since it would have been rude to stop the procession to count cellulite thigh rings in order to get an exact carbon date. They were a hybrid of the fantasy of childhood and the inevitability of age. But the point is, they were all sharing a joyous time, and for that reason, I found it endearing. In fact, I wanted to apply for citizenship in the land of the Tinker “Belles.”

I suggested discarding my witch’s hat in favor of Tinker Bell wings. But Dennis said he’s grown accustomed to my wart, and changing characters mid-Halloween could lead to a serious identity crisis. But I think multiple personalities should be stored in everyone’s closet in case of shortage. Besides, fairies and witches, in reality, are just opposite sides of the same Rorschach.

It has been hard to GET MY HEAD IN THE GAME while I’m WAITING. Sometimes the air I’m attempting to breathe seems liquid, and I’m laboring to schnuck it into my lungs. I try to be patient, but that lacks long-term sustainability. Patience are not me!

Practicing my “wait” technique is sort of like trying to ignore a canker. No matter what you do, you are never not aware it is there. Whatever I’m involved in, I am always conscious that I’m WAITING.

Dr. Mulvihill is a wise sage. We never regret abiding by his counsel. Sometimes, though, he asks a lot of us.

And Boy Howdy! Are we ever going to need patience. Saturday we are having a family portrait taken. That alone strikes terror in the hearts of three generations.

We have instructed the photographer to snap the picture if at any time Asher is still. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the “Dirty Dozen” are in a collective blink.

That child is like a run-away train. He puts the “loco” in “locomotive.” Raising him to adulthood without debilitating brain damage will require “extreme cage patience”…and a whole lot of miracles. (Unconditional love is a constant.)

Saturday, we took care of our favorite gangster for 5 hours while Erin went somewhere or other. We made her swear a blood oath she would return before he hit puberty. We were not at all reassured. However, Asher actually fell asleep as we drove him through the streets singing lullabies. Asher sleeps cute. We realized that sleep is Nature’s way of persuading us not to eat our young.

We survived the Family Felon in O.T.

Last night we turned the clocks back and got an extra hour of rest. Sleep surplus could prove to be a dangerous thing to the severely sleep-deprived. But we have a sleep debt as large as the national deficit, and that extra 60 minutes didn’t even touch the interest!

But today is November 1st. There are mangled jack-o-lantern guts in the streets, as if the
The Great Pumpkin himself had been pummeled into orange, pulpy, grinning road kill by revelers high on sugar and mischief…silent reminders that Halloween is history.

For now, the only numbers that concern me are how many days until Christmas, and will Dennis always weigh in at 128? Forget the stock market, the temperature, the national war debt, and the number of cavities. I’ll let the dentist worry about all of the above.

It is the season of gratitude.
So here are the things I’m thankful for:
1. Asher (and all his cousins)
2. The number 38.
3. The word “normal.”
4. The Utes beat Wyoming.
5. An extra hour of sleep last night.
6. Patience.
7. Autumn leaves.
8. Loved ones who care.

Things I’m not thankful for:
1. The number 45.
2. A glut of Halloween candy mocking me on Fast Sunday.

Waiting is a daunting task…anticipating with hope and dread the phone call that will deliver crucial lab results that will critically impact our lives.

Halloween haunts have nothing up on the soulless demon that is the specter of cancer.

But we have emerged from a 3-week fetal contortion emotionally lobotomized. Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude. And our heads are back in the game.

Bring on Thanksgiving, turkeys, pilgrims…Asher, and Loved Ones.

Our lives are blessed and richly abundant because of your constant love and support.

We are so grateful.

Love to all,

The Clot

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


In keeping with established policy, we are posting the latest results from Dennis’ most recent quarterly check-up. The news is good, for the most part. His labs look very nice, with the exception of one…the tumor marker. It is slightly elevated. That particular result was a little disappointing because it has held steady for a while. Now, I refuse to live or die by the numbers. They’re flukey, and fluctuate randomly. Yeah, like I’m going to get upset about that!

However, I did suggest to Dr. Mulvihill, that I wanted him to give Dennis some of the Michael Jackson sleep elixir, tip him back right there in the exam chair, and perform a total gutectomy…STAT! I thought a complete surgical purge, with titanium prostheses was efficacious, including implants and transplants. (The implants are for me, of course.)

After all this time, Dr. Mulvihill knows me very well, and accords me the courtesy of listening to me solve every problem that arises with my brains and his surgical acuity. Bottom line: NIP IT!

When I had expended the entire contents of my gray matter, (which didn’t take long, by the way), he said my plan had a certain amount of credibility. However, as usual, he countered my suggestion with a more rational proposal. (He has a way of trumping credibility with rationality.)

His idea was to wait.

WAIT???!!! Are you freakin’kiddin’me???!!! WAIT???!!! As in be patient, wait? Stay calm, wait? What kind of solution is that? Where’s the scalpel in “wait?”

Dr. Mulvihill explained that lab results are notoriously inaccurate. In fact, he said we could dismiss the numbers and re-draw them on our next quarterly exam. They are not necessarily “cancer specific,” and should not cause undue concern. We should make decisions based on reason. Yeah, like pouting isn’t a viable decision-maker?

Well, I confess I was persuaded by common sense. It’s just that an unexpected elevation in that particular number diminished my capacity for abstract thought. (or stract thought, for that matter.)

“Oh-Kay-ay! We’ll Way-ay-ay-it!” I replied in my most petulant whine…a technique I learned from my pre-pubescent daughters. ( But sometimes I question my decision to become an astrophysicist, instead of a surgeon.)

So, while we WWWAAAIIITTT, Necie and I are planning our Halloween costumes. She decided we are going to be “sister witches.” This was a much easier decision. Now, I love harvest time, but I have never been fond of Halloween. However, this particular invitation was delightful. I don’t know why it pleases me that my granddaughter thinks it cool for us to be witches and go out together to haunt the neighborhood. She is unaware that I do this on a daily basis just running errands.

We reviewed the inventory of what we would need to transform ourselves into scary specters…and I realized, (after significantly upping my dosage of prescribed mood elevators) that my make-up will only require a wart prosthesis for my nose. I already possess all the other paraphernalia for “coven couture.”

1. Bloodshot eyes – check
2. Facial distortion – check
3. Scrawny neck – check
4. Maniacal cackle – check
5. Green pallor – check
6. Black hair (root re-growth counts) – check
7. Spells, curses and conjurings – check (Just finished my “Double, double, toil and trouble” from the opening scenes of Macbeth that I recite daily)
8. Mischief – check – (Necie’s got us both covered on that!)

Necie loves to tell me scary stories. Her latest is “Monsters vs. Aliens.” She loves to hear me tell scary stories, too, So I stick mostly to sanitized Stephen King and Scooby Doo. I know more frightening tales, but they are better left untold.

There will come a day when Grandma is no longer “all that.” But for right now, I’m content to ride double on a broom and cruise the skies when the full moon rises, till the witching hour – which for both of us is about 8:00 p.m. (Our particular coven has a curfew.)

It is autumn – soup-making days, pear time, cool evenings, hearth fires and chimney smoke, squash and pumpkin spice, gusty winds and skeletal trees…and scary ghost stories.

We will duly note the 2-year anniversary of Dennis’ diagnosis with a tip of my pointy hat and a finger to the side of said wart. And then we’ll move on.

On November 1st, I will put away my wart for a year, and dress the house for Thanksgiving. I’ve always preferred pilgrims to poltergeists.

Besides, we have so much more to be thankful for than scared of.


The Clot

Monday, September 28, 2009


Well, I have finally come, with great reluctance, to the conclusion that Dennis is what he is…boney. I guess I’ll just have to own the fact that he is skinny, and it will ever be thus. He’s 127-128 lbs. with admirable regularity, but he just can’t seem to up his bulk sufficiently to break into the 130’s. I don’t understand it. I can do it with relative ease.

I, however, have made my peace with that reality, and will no longer accuse the scales of flagrant malfeasance in weights and measures by not registering greater body mass than actually exists. How liberating. Free at last! I am no longer held hostage by the promise of a phantom second “hunka,” some time in the future. He is a one-hunka man, and I roger that. So, tomorrow I plan to return all the clothes I purchased in a frenzy of optimism from the Fat Man’s Wearhouse just in case he became morbidly obese overnight from nocturnal binge eating.

Recently we were saddened by the passing of Mary Travers…of Peter, Paul and Mary. What a gifted trio. They sang the soul of the generation I grew up in, and were often the voice of a decade looking for answers to ill-conceived wars and political corruption. Actually, their songs are viable today.

Listening to their music, I am transported back to the days before my body morphed into a consortium of elbow flaps, varicose veins, arm swags, liver spots, and pendulous breasts…well, strike the last one.

We were the AQUA NET generation. Aqua Net was a feminine rite of passage from puberty through high school. It was not just THE hair spray of choice. Aqua Net was a staple in the morning regimen of every teen-age girl whose bouffant construction determined the success or failure of the whole day…possibly her entire social existence!

It was as if the whole female population were devout members of the fundamentalist coiffure religious sect…whose catechism was: the higher the bouffant, the closer to heaven. I went to school with girls whose “do” was actually knocking at the pearly gates! We figured the class that sprays together…stays together.

Not Mary Travers. Her hair was severely straight, sleek, blond, and blew in the wind. I know. I saw them in concert many times. Her voice was rich and full-bodied, and no nonsense. Her hair moved in sync with the words, as if to punctuate her musical manifesto. I am sure her lyrics influenced the policy-makers of the time.

I always admired Mary, her hair, her voice, her presence. I wanted to wear my hair straight and loose, and watch it moving gracefully at the slightest breeze. But Aqua Net ensured that even Hurricane Katrina could not have budged a single strand from its designated place in the beehive. Some coifs resembled surgical mesh, unyielding, and designed to withstand cataclysmic shifts in tectonic plates.

My Mom once told me about a woman whose bouffant was sprayed to such a point of sticky stiffness, that a black widow spider got trapped inside and could not escape. She read it in the paper, so we knew it was true. I pooh-poohed the idea…but nevertheless, each night before I wrapped each strand around a plethora of oversized rollers, I did a thorough scalp check. Actually, as I reflect back, the bristles on the rollers we used were like Samarai swords, with a special lethality that would impale any arachnid foolish enough to hazard entry into the web. Luckily, I survived generational turbulence, Twiggy, rollers, spiders, and Woodstock, to enter the safe and quiet confines of adult paranoid schizophrenia.

September really is a time of reflection, and I have been hoarding memories and measuring the passage of time by my root re-growth. But I would like to raise a can of Aqua Net to bouffants past, vintage beehives, and Mary Travers.

And speaking of hoarding memories, September is a month dense with birthdays. I always make reference to those of my kin born within a very close time span, but perhaps it is time to give a brief biographical sketch of the tribe. They may sue for defamation of character, but then they would have to discredit the facts. No lawyer is that good!

Asher is our youngest grandson. He just turned three. We were all surprised at his longevity.

Asher is road rash in diapers, malfeasance of toddlerhood, a walking felony. He continually tests the laws of gravity by daily thuds to see if these laws are indeed immutable…they are. He emits a stentorian bellow, regains his equilibrium, and promptly tests those laws again. We are constantly checking to see if his eyes are dilated. We have come to the conclusion that he operates under the Wiley Coyote delusion that if you fall off a cliff, you just scrape yourself off the pavement and keep chasing the Road Runner. He wins, by not losing.

Politeness is not necessarily a virtue Asher possesses, nor esteems in others. All six grandchildren have scars where Grandpa Ashton has surgically repaired the consequences of the latest kid to tempt the laws of gravity. But Asher has included concussions and unconsciousness in his repertoire of war wounds.

There is a “verbness” to Asher. He is a mobile calamity, a compact sphincter check. But his charm and that smile restore the decorum obliterated by the little gangster. With Asher, there is always the implication of guilt. We adore the pasty hoodlum. We try to think back to what it was like before he joined the posse. We can’t seem to recollect. I guess we must have had nanoseconds of boredom. I don’t recall. But we wouldn’t trade the kid for a single moment of silence…hmmmm.

Asher comes by his traits as a natural consequence of being born to Erin, our daughter and first venture into parenthood. Compared to her, Asher looks like he’s in a catatonic stupor. We are still awaiting the time when she sleeps through the night.

Erin was born on 9-11. Does that give a clue to her personality? Her sense of humor is what has kept us from eating our young. Here is just a sample of her personality and her schedule. It is more telling than I can express. She mapped out her daily routine when we, in a moment of sublime insanity, agreed to take care of her boys while she was out of town.

6:30-7:00 a.m. – Darling boys awaken and all hell breaks loose; Josh’s diaper needs to be changed, and Bram needs to go pee pee on the potty.
7:00-8:00 a.m. – Give kids a sippy of chocolate milk, or anything they want, and try to take a really quick shower.
7:00-9:00 a.m. – Try to get kids dressed and feed them anything you can.
9:00-Noon – GOOD LUCK…
12:00-1:00 – Try to feed them anything you can.
1:00-2:00 – GOOD LUCK
2:00-5:00 – Let the kids run wild.
5:00-6:00 – Try to feed them anything you can.
6:00-Bedtime – GOOD LUCK…
12:00 a.m. – Your time is your own. Rest and relax! You successfully conquered that day.

Police/Emergency – 9-1-1

P.S. By the way, I must tell you that some of this itinerary might work, or none of it might work. Remember, we love you, and we hope you will be speaking to us when this is all over!

Obviously, criminal insanity is a chronic condition, because even as we speak, we are helping take care of the children while Dave and Erin are in Spain for 10 days…and this time we have FOUR. Life has blessed us with the gift of dementia, so in our forgetfulness, we consented to do it all over again.

Brodi came to us on 9-18, her birth being the direct result of said dementia. I do recall saying, “Never again!” And later thinking…how did this happen? Nevertheless, she arrived three years and one week to the day after Erin.

She ate at regular intervals, and slept long stretches of time…eventually going through the night before puberty. She never cried, unless she was hungry or wet. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with this baby. Our pediatrician suggested that perhaps she was “normal.” This was something we had never considered.

Her endurance was (and still is) phenomenal…she actually survived a big sister who liked to put her in a play shopping cart, run at top speed, and smash her into walls. This greatly concerned me because while we only had two children, we did want to see them BOTH survive to adulthood.

Brodi also has a sense of humor (a mechanism of survival), and she can give as good as she gets. In their regular contests at comparing who got the worst features from their parents, Brodi always takes the prize because she got, “Mom’s teeth in Dad’s mouth!!!” At this point, Erin concedes the competition and accepts the runner-up trophy.

Take a look at Brodi’s blog to get a feel for her ability to regulate the mundane with hilarity. And notice that while she does, in actuality, have my teeth and her Dad’s mouth, she is quite beautiful in spite of it all.

This chronically nutty life of ours is a constant source of joy. We never stop counting our blessings, even when the accounting occurs while someone is being stitched.

Our love to all,

The Clot

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It’s Labor Day…the official close of summer. Actually, I’m still waiting for summer to officially begin. June was rained out. July melted away. And August took place in a haze of anesthesia and family trips at hypersonic speed. I can account for the passage of time. I just don’t know where the time went.

On August 11th, we noted the first anniversary of Dennis’ last chemo infusion. Since the conclusion of that episode, there have been two hernia repairs and an emergency appendectomy. And the lazy, crazy hazy days of summer have opened and closed…much like our midsections. But we both have acquired some surgical trophies that we proudly exhibit with very minimal prompting. (We are available for church functions, family parties, etc.)

At my last appointment, Dr. Voorhees assured me that the incision site is lookin’ goooooood. It has repaired itself into a kind of Mona Lisa smile – enigmatic, mysterious, beguiling. Not like Dennis’ scars. His whole abdominal wall looks like some competing graffiti-crazed rival gangs of surgeons (the “Bloods” and the “Crits”) have marked their territory with deranged perversions of Alfred E. Newman’s gape-toothed grin. When he shudders his pale, quivering torso, Dennis impersonates the jovial animation of each contestant at a Homer Simpson look-alike contest. It may not exactly qualify him as a contender on “America’s Got Talent,” but he manages to keep me entertained…it doesn’t take much these days.

Ah, but I digress. Dr. Voorhees had a young medical student he was tutoring, and he euphemistically noted the concave curvature of my solar plexus. Translation: “This body is a pathetically wasted, amorphous mass of crepey flesh draped over a collection of ancient porous bones…but we harvested the offending organ, so the poor old soul doesn’t have to be put down just yet.”

Actually, that worked for me. Post-surgical mending has created a narcissistic state of self-absorption that inspires me to repel any recollection of pain not obliterated by the welcome relief of amnesia. I just don’t want to hurt any more. Convulsive, jagged gasps for breath from paroxysms of supreme distress is not exactly what I’m fondest of. Utter absence of pain has left me with a healthy preoccupation with health and the utter absence with pain. Appendicitis gives pain a bad name!

So, this past summer Dennis and I have spent happily festered and sequestered, while alternating surgical episodes. We are hoping this does not become tradition, because between us we have very few expendable organs left.

The prospect of unending summer reminds us that Tourette’s Syndrome is a direct condition of mothers with bored children.

But last week, even as half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches sat on the counter, summer concluded abruptly…and school began. It always seems that autumn arrives on the first day of school, no matter the date on the calendar. The world smells like fall. And everything changes, not just the leaves.

Grandkids that have spent an entire season in disheveled squalor, have had every particle of soil sand-blasted from between their toes and chiseled from fingernails. And summer-bleached hair is combed and miraculously oriented in reasonably ordered directions.

I wouldn’t miss the first day of school.
Whatever it is that binds us as a family seemed fortified as we engaged in the annual ritual of picture-taking and merriment…and anxiety. My emotions were paper-thin, and I was inclined to run ahead of my little posse and impose a canopy of arm flab to protect them from any pain, disappointment or heartache. Perhaps grandmas are hard-wired for softening life’s blows…like a second-generation sumo wrestler. But these are my people…I just want the world to be kind.

However, I am fully aware that each child has his kryptonite, and common sense compels me to step back and allow them the privilege of counterbalancing the good and bad of human growth and development.

There is a certain brutality to the traditional relinquishing custody of a cherished grandchild to a capable and gregarious teacher, whose room smells of pencils and chalk…and efficiency. And the privacy one has longed for over the duration of three months seems more like solitary isolation.

Before retreating from each classroom, I hugged the kid, with complete disregard for peer humiliation. It’s a precarious line to embrace and not embarrass. I try not to invite ridicule, but I usually fail utterly. However, before I made my exit, I tattooed my cell phone number on every child’s backpack, lunch sack, forehead and underwear, vowing to be there before they heard the dial tone…should the need arise.

I almost lost my timing as I departed. Sometimes eyes leak before I quite make it out the door. But stealth has never been my forte.

I confess to a certain innate suffocative gene, and with every year that passes, this demented attention to adored offspring has fermented a little. But circumstances of late have intensified and extended my range of feelings, and the world will have to “roger” that. I am not an emotional flatliner.

My task, at the moment, is to adjust to the current dumbfounded void and the new quiet. A certain companionship has made its absence known. Silence, while often longed for, is not always welcome. It will demand daily attention to reorganize my mind. I had an appointment for a desperation pedicure to repair the ravages of summer picnics and family vacations. My nail polish color of choice: “Milk of Magnesia Pink.” (It’s the hottest shade for the geriatric set.) And beginning with ten perky toes and feet smoothed by 220-grip sandpaper is a fine way to readjust to the Great Interruption that is the first day of school, and the woeful fatigue of prolonged “me time.”

Absence makes the heart grow nostalgic, so…I think tomorrow I’ll have a manicure.

A few days ago we returned from Atlanta. Without going into great detail, I include some of the things we observed while in the deep South.
1. Mornings come REALLY early in Georgia.
2. There seem to be a plethora of men with the given name of Richard. In between belching ethnically offensive epithets at one another, they referred to each other by the nickname. I’m not sure it is a term of endearment. They also made suggestions one to another about doing things that violate the laws of both physics and anatomy. Dennis recommended that I not point that out that fact to the congregation.
3. I don’t love humidity.
4. There are lots of streets named “Robert E. Lee” or “Peachtree.” I never ran across a “Sherman Avenue,” or a “Tecumsah Boulevard.”
5. Rainy nights in Georgia are all the song implies. The rain fell with the relentless typewriter patter that would make one question if it really WAS raining all over the world.
6. I love the sound of the tangy, sweet, soft, raspy Georgia drawl.
7. Not many women in Atlanta were wearing velvet drapes at this time of year. Must be the heat and humidity and all. After visiting the Margaret Mitchell home and seeing the haute couture of the time, I realize there is no corset on this earth that could make ANY waist 18 inches. Talk about defying the realities of anatomy! Dennis suggested I might have more success with the rib cage. Luckily for him, I’ll think about that tomorrow.
8. Groups of three or more men frequently engage in an elaborately choreographed hand ballet of bumps, clicks, snaps, jerks, knuckle knocks, delicate pinkie locks and thumb circles that would flummox Fosse and baffle Barishnykov. It is complex, complicated, maze-like…a secret combination that makes the Macarena look comically juvenile. Greeting one another consumes most of the morning.
9. I learned that Georgia is the swine flu epidemic epicenter of the U.S. Alaska is right behind. We immersed our bodies with a pre-emptive oil slick of hand sanitizing gel and vowed never to go to Alaska.
10. MARTA is an efficient means of public transportation that makes one feel like one is in the bowels of a multi-segmented serpent about to be the victim of peristalsis and eventually excreted.
11. Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.

It’s September, the month of birthdays, state fairs and the U.S. tennis Open. It doesn’t get better than that.

Love to all,

The Clot

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I recently saw a poster with the word STUPIDITY at the top. And below it was written:
“Quitters Never Win, Winners Never Quit, But Those Who Never Win And Never Quit Are IDIOTS!”

I begin this blog with those words of wisdom, because we just arrived home after taking our whole family…the entire Dirty Dozen…to Colorado for a final vacation before the start of school. Now don’t get me wrong…it was probably one of the best trips we have ever had…notably successful because we did not find it necessary to strike our names from our children’s birth certificates, and the sons-in-law did not cry “unnecessary roughness” as we all collected for the fifth time around the old gruel pot.

Family vacations are nature’s ultimate reality endurance contest…to test if these bonds can survive a week in close proximity at an altitude of 12,003 feet without the hope of a full pardon. As you know, at those dizzying heights, oxygen is thin, and the brain becomes deprived of cognition before it has sufficient time to acclimate.

Funny, woeful things happen on the first day of the absence of thought processes on a family outing. And although “height doesn’t make bright,” I learned so much about the “nature of things,” most notably the bodily functions of my six adorable and gifted grandchildren.

Here are my personal observations:

Grandkids’ bowels are equipped with sensor systems specifically programmed to detect when we have reached the furthest point from the last comfort stop, inducing the all-too-familiar sphincter-compromised strut, with the kid walking like an exaggerated apostrophe. They rock and walk like a loose tooth. This is the ultimate body language. Any mother can decode the clues with ease. One cannot over-“awfulize” this particular circumstance.
Grandchildren are created particularly adorable to compensate for their fallacious idea that it is their sworn duty to ensure that Grandma does not potty without an audience and sparkling conversation. The Mother of all rationale-defying thinking: Chanting in unison “Are You Done Yet?” like an incantation from behind closed doors will expedite any order of business being conducted.
Dizzy and confused is not always a condition of altitude. Utter lack of privacy is a contributing factor.
Grandkids are under the delusion that there are absolutely no age or physical limitations to grandparents’ capabilities. Consequently, you accomplish everything they think you can.
While riding in the car one day, I asked Abram what one thing he would change about himself if he could. He considered for a moment, and then replied, “Nothing. I like me just the way I am.”
If you scare the “bejeebers” out of the grandkids, they are reluctant to engage in extreme cage fighting on long rides in the car.

I am including Brodi’s account of our visit to the Stanley Hotel, where “The Shining” was filmed, to justify my inclusion of Observation #6.


Creepy Hotel Status:

Yesterday, we went to the Stanley Hotel, the site where Stephen King was inspired to write “The Shining.” He stayed in room 217, and thought up one of the creepiest stories of our time.

You should’ve heard my Mom telling the grandkids about the story.

Mom: “There was once a man who stayed in this hotel, and went crazy and killed his entire family. So their ghosts haunt the hotel. Then, there’s this writer, who takes his wife and son up to the same hotel to stay during the winter.

Well, he goes crazy, typing stupid sentences over and over on a typewriter, confessing to a bartender, who is really a ghost, and stuff. He kills a guy with an axe, and then he tries to kill his wife and son, before he is frozen in the maze. Any questions?”

Grandkid: “What the heck is a typewriter?”

In spite of it all, we were ultimately a family, seeking amusement among ourselves, away from a world of technology and a glut of intrusive, impoverished, suffocating media sensation we are exposed to on a daily basis with woeful fatigue, and we often endure with passive neutrality. But it has a way of making us disappear into identity debasement. This can ultimately diminish one’s discernment.

We returned exhausted, but strangely refreshed and vitalized by such family excursions. And we celebrate all our flaws and imperfections. What an enormously fun and dysfunctional clan we are.

Today was the first day of school, and the annual ritual of taking pictures and the rite of passage to new classrooms with shiny blackboards were observed once more. Dennis and I were there with cameras, embraces, and tender hearts as second-generational participants. No question, we are crazy for our little clot, but there is a certain splendid idiocy in being grandparents. No enticement could induce us to surrender our “bragging license.”

Love to all,

The Clot

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Dear Clotters,

I am determined to blog the events of the past week before I get out of this anesthetic Oz altogether, and the details become blurred, and my memory returns to the vast uninhabitable landscape I fondly refer to as my comfort zone.

Here’s the story.
Last week, Dennis was scheduled for a colonoscopy, and we were busily preparing for that awesomely unlovely procedure. That is to say, we each had our assigned tasks. I washed, ironed, cleaned, vacuumed, mowed the lawn, ran errands…well you get the idea. Dennis, on the other hand, popped Dulcolax pills like theater popcorn. He popped and pooped! With each little white pill he popped, his tether to home base became shorter and shorter, until he was caught like a fly in a web. Then, just as an additional precautionary measure that all “went smoothly,” so to speak, he was instructed to imbibe a tanker of “liquid enema” mixed in Gatorade, to make it more palatable.

The prep protocol did, however, allow him to consume any clear liquid of his choice, as long as it was repulsive and non bio-hazardous. This he did with great patience and charm. In an effort to avoid TMI, let’s just say that “liquidating” someone is not necessarily a term originating with the Mafia. The cocktail had a kick, and would seem to be far more effective than waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Personally, I’d confess to anything.

On the designated morning of said colonoscopy, as we were leaving for our appointment with the plumber, I was stricken with pain, nausea, and general ickiness that prevented me from being able to unwrap myself from around the porcelain bowl that had been my constant companion the night before.

Not many options here. It was our “enema dilemma.”

However, Brodi came to the rescue, and got her Dad safely into harbor, and then returned to take me to the hospital for some serious gut-checking. The plan began with a CT scan of my lower right quadrant. Now, the pre-CT scan protocol involves drinking a libation called “contrast.”

“Contrast.” Sounds innocuous enough, right? In actuality, it is a diabolical concoction consisting of 9 parts powdered chalk mixed with one part swamp scum, raw egg whites to ensure viscosity, liquid fur ball from an angora feline (thus the term, “cat” scan), and yak urine. The demon drink is then flavored with the oozing body fluids of a really brown banana. Believe me, it could power rockets into outer space, or bring terrorist nations to their knees. An oil drum of the stuff is then placed before you, complete with hose, and you are told to siphon it in its entirety within ½ an hour …the scheduled time for the CT scan. The good news? The second oil drum was berry flavored!

By “contrast”, Dennis’ prep “martini” was nectar of the gods! Having accomplished the improbable, I have concluded that “contrast” is the love child of dish water and acid rain, the taking of which constituted an act of unfathomable villainy upon my person, transforming my entire bodily circumference into one contorted bloated goat bladder!

The nice technician then injected iodine into my system that was so warm, by the time it reached my nether regions, I was pleading for some Depends. I felt all radioactive, and was worried about leaking into the atmosphere. I was afraid I could blow any minute, and end up as little Joni floaties on the sea of life, like the shark in “Jaws.” But, thank goodness, I had not lost control of my bladder and moistened my tutu. At least I was spared that particular humiliation! Cold comfort.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Brodi managed to get Dennis home to sleep off the effects of anesthesia, stool softeners, and a whole lot of dehydration. Are you with me so far?

The results of the CT scan revealed “a hot appee.” At first I thought the radiologist was hitting on me, but apparently my appendix was severely inflamed…and leaking. Code Red surgery alert! I told Dr. Lunt I hoped they could get me on their surgical schedule at their earliest appointment. Dr. Lunt said, “Girlfriend, you’ll be in surgery in 15 minutes!”

How could this be happening?
I was sure I was being held hostage in a Stephen King novel. But in some ways, I was very relieved. Over the course of the past few weeks, I can understand how one could become seduced into joining the corps of the chronically anesthetized. I have experienced prolonged pain of such severity, that I feared an alien life form would suddenly burst forth from my rib cage, leaving me mere quivering gray matter on the dinner table. Forget the movies…there is no such thing as “sick-cute.”

Meanwhile, Dennis shook off the shackles of stupor, and managed to drive himself back down to the hospital, and we all clotted up. For the record, the results of the colonoscopy showed perfectly normal bowel tissue. No red flags. HOORAY! That was enough to float our fleet.

While conferring with the anesthetist, he assured me that narcolepsy greatly enhances the effects of the anesthesia. I was comforted. And my only request was that he not inject anything to put me under that might be found in Michael Jackson’s medicine cabinet. We bound the oath with our pinkies, and I was ready for action. I recall saying, “Cover me…I’m going in!” So they pulled up my blanket…there were some disembodied voices…and a merciful fade to black.

Apparently the operation went well, and, happily, the only thing Dr. Voorhees harvested was a very hot appendix. No need for Ripley this time. We christened the little bugger “Osama” nonetheless.

Regaining consciousness is such an adventure. My tongue was not just coated, it was wrapped in a body bag encased in doubt a mafia contract hit by a disgruntled carpo.

Dennis was able to be there every minute. We had a room with a view…of the on-going road construction. And at present, we are home recuperating from our excellent adventure, and doing well. We both walk funny, and we try not to get each other laughing…there are some serious repercussions, as you might imagine. We count our blessings each day and each night.

Our love to all,
The Clot

Friday, July 3, 2009

Laproscopy Revisited

It seems whenever I think things are going to slow down…things fast up. On a recent day that will live in infamy, the world mourned the loss of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon…and Dennis’ hernia. The entire population of the planet is entrenched in nostalgia, recalling the immortal words, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” and the lyrics of “Thriller,” and THE poster of Farrah in a red bathing-suit, and Dennis’ proclamation, “Hernia alert! Call the doctor! We’re gonna’ need more chicken wire!”

I know. I know. It’s only been a few weeks since the first hernia surgery…the prequel. But in the interest of fair and equal invasive procedures, his left side found out what his right side had done…and demanded equal time.

His entire lower abdomen looks like a Rorschach inkblot, with perfectly matching incision scars. Dr. Frankengroin is a term of endearment, and I only use it when he’s still under the influence of anesthetic and unable to inflict bodily harm.

But he is sporting a certain symmetry now…a sort of abdominal feng shui, that he didn’t have when his left side looked like freshly fallen snow where no footprint left an impression.

I had considered tracing the trails blazed by previous surgeons with indelible ink to see if it was similar to the Appalachian Trail. But Dennis, in spite of anesthetic numb-tongue, managed to describe consequences of such graphic distinction, that I thought better of it, and surrendered custody of my magic marker. (Ooooh, someone woke up on the wrong side of the laprascope!)

Dr. Glasgow placed a great wall of chicken wire internally that extends to all his quadrants, so should he try to pop another hernia, it will have to emerge from his nostrils. This was reassuring…except Dennis is still very careful when he blows his nose.

He doesn’t exactly walk upright as yet, but he still has two opposing thumbs which identify him as one of Darwin’s more advanced evolutionary creatures.

While Thursday was a peculiar day when perhaps the universe seemed somewhat out of alignment – Jupiter and Mars were horoscopically at odds – the rest of June was a month of celebrations. And the girls pulled out all the stops for Father’s Day. Words fail me to describe the tribute, so the following is Brodi’s chronicle of the events of that occasion.


Totally Lame Father’s Day Presents:

What do you get the guy who gave you life, sacrificed so much to provide for you, threw you countless pop-ups in the backyard, gave you away at your wedding, provided medical care for your children, and battled Pancreatic Cancer in a war of epic proportions?

I’ll tell you. You get him the love child of a toilet scrubber and a feather duster. And you tell him it’s a backscratcher!

Now, before you all throw stones in my general direction, let me just explain one thing. Ummm…it’s my sister’s fault. (Just kidding, Erin.)

Really, though, we bought my Dad David Copperfield tickets about a month ago for Father’s Day. Even so, there’s nothing more embarrassing than the three Dads in our family showing off their presents on the actual day. Sam and Dave with their cordless power drills, my Dad with his…backscratcher.

My sister bought it from a traveling salesman, who, I’m sure, walked away from her house thinking to himself, “I can’t believe she bought it. I’ve had that in my truck for twenty years. I wonder if she’ll go for the dust bunnies in the back of my truck next time.”

After my Dad opened the gift, my sister leaned over to me and said, “You owe me three dollars!”


You can see why words failed me! So many memories can be made with such little activity in the old brainbox.

Life, like oceans, has a rhythm and order. It is June. June is a time for celebrations and reunions.

Our annual high school ladies’ luncheon was held at our house (talk about memories made with little activity in the old brainbox!) This year we included the men. I feared that “luncheon acumen” was not related to the Y chromosome. I was wrong, and it proved to be a very wise decision.

Before classmates began arriving, I wondered where everyone would be on the rigor mortes spectrum, assessed the size of burqa required to obscure my dreaded “dermatological crepe,” and pondered the appropriate amount of mortician’s putty necessary to make myself presentable.

But then, I decided to secure the zone with a no judge/no grudge policy, declare myself, “the people’s geezer,” provide proof of vaccination, and embrace the “no excuses” reunion.

When everyone came, the years, pounds and sag evaporated, and we all became born-again adolescents…you know, like when the term “senior” meant we were about to graduate high school…not life.

We partied into the wee hours…that’s about 7:00 p.m. OFST. (Old Fart Standard Time), and we actually remembered things from ancient history…ours! Some things, mercifully, dementia has allowed us to forget.

I so appreciated Dennis taking pictures of that auspicious afternoon. And I only made one request: that he try to get photos of me when I’m not eating, talking or blinking. He failed miserably. We’ll have a lot of cutting and pasting to do before we scrapbook those suckers.

Time tempers all things – and nostalgia is exactly what it used to be. This reunion is evidence of that. And in the spirit of rose-colored hindsight, I fully expect to be ID’d the next time I try to sneak into an R-rated movie!

Our love to all,

The Clot

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Greetings, Dear Clotters,

Just one question: What’s with all the rain??!!! Where’s the swelter?

Well, it’s June, and 2009 is middle-aged already. I figure that the new baby with the ’09 sash that appeared on New Year’s Eve in January, has passed through zit-infested puberty and is para-menopausal, raging hot flashes, mega-irritability and all. By the time the first symptoms of dementia become apparent, we will be heading toward October. And at full-blown alzheimers, I will be full of the Christmas Spirit and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new child with 2010 tattooed on his (her?) bosom.

Where does the time go? We have another generation leaving carbon (not to mention muddy) footprints on our floors and hearts that just a breath ago were merely good ideas.

I am suffering deep blogger’s remorse because I have been so derelict in my up-dates. It seems that no matter how elaborately I prepare for my best-laid plans, time flies, life happens, scuttles my to-do list, and hijacks my day. However, chaos often imposes a higher order, so I go along for the ride, knowing that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude.

It’s summer. That means those lazy, crazy, hazy days of…dental check-ups, mammograms, and colonoscopies. Oh, the indignities of being really old. Remember the days when colons were merely sentence punctuations, checked by English teachers…not procedures checked by a doctor, which begin by pounding down a tanker of Fleet’s and conclude with an entire garden hose up the wazoo?

And this was the week for our quarterly check-up with Dr. Mulvihill and Dr. Jones. Dennis is on regular surveillance since his chemo treatments concluded in August of ’08.

It is an interesting transitional phase to go from active cancer-fighting protocol to being a survivor – a little like straddling the Grand Canyon while balancing a stack of anvils. One hopes for strength to keep a toehold on both rims, but prays to locate the rip-cord in time should the grip slip. One foot-pound of pressure per second per second off in one’s timing, and you’re toe-tagged for identification by family.

Dennis went in for lab work on Wednesday so his results would be available for the doctors on Friday. It is a little like waiting for the verdict of a jury who is deliberating your fate behind closed doors. You anticipate and dread the decision.

But Dr. Jones called us Thursday night prior to our appointment, with the glorious news that Dennis’ tumor markers were 26. NORMAL! She thought she would spare us another night of anxiety. That was not just thoughtful. She deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor for compassion. NORMAL! We slept with a peace that we hadn’t known for a while. Rest made us giddy, and a little dizzy. This was a new experience for Dennis. It’s a perpetual state of being for me.

Both doctors examined his surgical site and mid-section, and found his liver to be smooth. (I’ve never been partial to bumpy livers.) His body is strong, but just a little on the lean side.

But...DENNIS HAS ANOTHER HERNIA! I tried to pass it off as just another ripple in his ab collection. The doctors, however, seemed to conclude that since this ripple’s linear direction was vertical instead of horizontal, it was most likely a hernia, not an ab protrusion that had fallen over.

Boy Howdy! We were afraid we’d have to go several months without an operation! But at least it doesn’t involve Fleets and hoses. So his belly button takes another shot with the laparascope, they insert chicken wire to hold in his guts, and we’re on the road again.

We are in the process of setting up an appointment to repair the damage, and this will be scheduled as soon as I can utter whole sentences whose entirety is not comprised of words consisting of only four letters. This may take a while.

But the good news is it’s not cancer-related. OK! We can do this. ok. But I can’t wait till all his hernias have been extracted and only his muscle-mass protrudes. This may also take a while.

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have been made aware once again how I loathe cancer. It is a merciless plague, and even as a survivor, there is always the vague, low-grade unease that the specter lurking in the darkest shadowy recesses may manifest itself once again to wreak its detested havoc.

At this juncture, I must blog responsibly and issue a viewer’s discretion warning. There is an ensuing tirade about to occur…in HD, no less. So, if your system is delicate and you’re prone to “the vapors,” leap-frog down the next few paragraphs…or fasten your seatbelts, and beware of whiplash.

That said, I am enthusiastically optimistic about the research being conducted and the advancements in treatment options currently available. There are so many trials and studies being conducted. Dr. Mulvihill and his team are trying to obtain a grant that will greatly assist further research. I am confident that will happen, because he is the most tenacious man I have ever met, Dennis being the only exception.

But the disease is ubiquitous, and strikes without discrimination, regardless of age, life-style, or circumstances. It is no longer a rare and isolated occurrence. And no one is off-limits. Its cruelty knows no bounds.

Oh, I do not doubt that this heinous affliction will be conquered. Our doctors are gladiatorial. I look forward to the day when “cancer” is an antiquated word whose reference is a mere historical footnote in medical books…like the black plague…only blacker.
OK. I’ve expended my vitriol. I feel better. You can open your eyes now.

Right after the next surgery, we are planning to do something equally fun. Although we don’t know right now just what that will be, we do know it won’t involve lifting.

Please come and visit us, and we will show you Dennis’ new incision. This could actually be a pleasant pastime. (And you thought we didn’t know how to have fun!)

Our love to all,

The Clot

Monday, May 11, 2009


The dust is settling, and the pendulum is swinging back and forth from the overwhelming to the gloriously silly.

It always amazes me how many singular “non-events” comprise the component parts of our lives. We have been acutely aware that each component is either an adventure, an ordeal, a comedy, or a celebration. You know, you just can’t make this stuff up. Fabricating news is journalistic malpractice.

So here is an unvarnished account of our lives, including the Ides of March, the Ides of April, and the Ides of May. If you hadn’t already noticed, we are devout believers in an Ide for an Ide.

To begin with, Dennis underwent laparoscopic surgery for hernia repair. Although past experience has made us suspicious of surgery that does continue for days and result in profound poundage drop, this was actually a rather nifty procedure. (“Nifty.” Adj. meaning “cool.” Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s – circa 1960)

Dennis was so fatigued after trying to keep up with our 3-year-old grandson, Beckham, that I told the surgeon anesthetic was optional. He’d just fall into a deep, drooling slumber in the OR, and be out for the entire hour. Feel free to ressect any organ remnants, unidentifiable floaties, or random debris from previous operations. Dennis actually thought that was funny, but by then, he’d been give massive quantities of the “I don’t care what my wife says,” drug. The anesthesiologist assured us this would help him endure the surgery…and the marriage. We both begged for more.

After the operation, the doctor came out and informed me that they “harvested the hernia” and all went according to plan. I summarily avoided going to the accompanying visual imagery and remained seated biting my lower lip. I would have uttered an “audible” at voice prompt, but “kid fatigue” acted on me like the “I don’t give a ….” tonic. By the time he was wheeled out of the OR, Dennis and I were two minds without a single thought. This was good. This is why we plan to commemorate more “Ides” celebrations for years to come.

Taking care of a little boy reminds one that muscles do tend to flab-up over the years. I don’t mean that our bodies are in disrepair, exactly. We have heard of “muscle memory,” but ours have developed severe dementia and are entering the early stages of alzheimers.

It was hard to maintain the illusion of dignity when certain body parts (which shall remain anonymous) were sagging with a more acute downward trajectory than a loaded diaper. My random components used to be so adorably perky, happy to face the sunlight and greet every passer-by with a smile and a salute. Now these same little guys have become “cellulite noire,” seeking refuge and anonymity in the dark recesses of “slumpadinkas” that comprise my entire wardrobe. I’ve had days when it required a whole herd of sherpas just to haul my cookies into bed. Upon summiting, I fall instantly into an oxygen-depleted, neuron-numbing slumber, known only to novices not acclimated to high altitudes…and little boys.

But, thankfully, Beckham did not know this. He assumed that all bodies are designed to contort with equal agility, and he perceived no endurance differential.

Why, I even morphed into a “foodie,” and we ate things that I’m certain were for external use only, and that could have warranted a call to the Poison Control Center. But Dennis figures what doesn’t kill us…usually only makes us sick.

So, we didn’t concern ourselves about consumption identification, swine flu, SARS, or the black plague. If it was eventually deposited in the diaper, then it obviously cleared the hurdles of the digestive track, and we were good to eat the next item of dubious origin.

I am a grandchild gypsy, and the thing I’ve learned from our wee folk is…many hands make light work…heavy. I love all the help, however, and with our little brooms, we are able to breeze through the daily chores in twice the time. Sometimes task completion is subordinate to a good time.

Ah, life with a 3-year-old. I have learned many important things from my constant companionship with Beckham.

He has taught me that:

  1. There is never a bad time to bounce on the trampoline.
  2. One must remember to secure one’s diaper, or one is likely to be bouncing in the buff. Actually, buff bouncing has it in spades.
  3. No matter how long we bounce, we both exit the tramp, hair crackling with static electricity and looking like Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein” shrieking, “It’s alive!”
  4. All wild and ferocious beast sounds are guttural, loud, and unexpectedly endearing.
  5. It is possible to be smitten all over again by the sustained eye contact of a small person who really likes you.

Our time together was measured in “kid hours,” a special time zone that curiously doesn’t last very long. By the end of the day, we were both wanting a bottle.

It’s funny how you can wipe noses and change diapers whose contents resemble amorphous, gelatinous, self-replicating masses of goo capable of taking over the world, and think the kid is heaven’s gift for the salvation of mankind.

Beckham, unlike other grandchildren currently in the witness protection program, does not consider it his appointed mission in life to reduce the entire planet to rubble. But he has a plethora of cutes, and he knows how to use them. Did I mention I’m smitten?

After ten days of sustained, frenetic, aerobic activity living in a universe whose orbit is determined by the moisture content of a loin cloth, I feared this ubergrandma would have to be treated for reckless stupidity. But a short stay in the paranoid schizophrenic department of the psyche ward, and I’m back to normal.

I’ve been thinking about the most recent singing sensation, Susan Boyle. She has truly inspired me. I think I can do that. Apparently all you need is frump…and a phenomenal singing voice. I’m halfway there. And Dennis agrees. In fact, recently a friend told me of a sweet compliment her husband paid her. He said, “ Why would I go out for hamburger, when there’s prime rib at home!”

Dennis said he felt exactly the same way. “Why go out for French fries when there’s a couch potato at home.”

Hmmmm. Somehow it just didn’t seem to work the same, but he explained that’s because we’re vegetarians. OK. Good. I felt a lot better after that, and continued cooking the roast.

Anyway, inside this frumpy woman is an even frumpier woman who also can’t sing. Dennis said that in this economy, there doesn’t seem to be a big demand for “Alfalfa does Phantom.” He said something about “perhaps when pigs fly.” I guess he means when they find a cure for the swine flu. I can wait.

Meantime, it’s May, and the last blooms of the forsythia are giving way to lilacs and trees with blossoms. The world is drenched in fragrance and light. And I plan to purchase a supersize order of French fries, gather all the grandkids on the trampoline, and bounce till the collective static electricity in our hair can be used as an alternative energy resource.

Happy Mother’s Day!

We love you all,

The Clot