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