Category Archives: Mid-Life

How did I get to be this age?

Waiting Room Sendoff

My sister and brother-in-law had warned me that my dad’s follow-up eye appointment would take a while, perhaps even several hours. But I wasn’t worried. I had cleared the day to give them a break from the parent care-giving duties that had kicked up a notch in the past several months. Plus, I thought the previous appointments had been long because they involved a procedure. This was a follow-up appointment. Even if we waited for an hour, we still had time to swing by and pick up my mom and go to dinner. How bad could it be?

My optimism is a really a fascinating thing.

At first it was typical waiting. They shuffled us from one waiting room to another for a couple of eye tests the doctor would need. Fair enough, and I kept thinking of it as passing the time we would already be waiting, and it would bring us closer to the actual appointment. We waited maybe 20 minutes for each test, and each test took about 5-10 minutes. So far, not so bad. And we got there early, so I was thinking we were actually ahead of the game.

I work in a large academic medical center. You’d think I’d know better.

After about an hour or so we landed in what we came to think of as the Final Waiting Room. The inner sanctum, the final boss fight. It was smaller than the others, and there was only one seat available when we got there. Soon after a woman got up and left, so we sat together. Time passed. My dad and I chatted pleasantly, had spells of companionable silence. We tried to get some of his favorite news websites to come up on my phone, but nothing would load at first. When they finally did, it was the mobile version, which was unfamiliar to him, and he couldn’t find the articles he wanted.

Outside the late fall afternoon light started to fade. I checked my watch. 4 pm. Still time to see the doctor and pick up my mother.

Suddenly a newcomer swept in and started chatting, asking questions. The spell of quiet of the Final Waiting Room was broken. The woman was new to this doctor, and she was quickly told by the old-timers that the wait could be 3 or more hours. They were mostly sanguine about it, and were soon telling stories of past waits like we were huddled around a campfire, which considering how dark it was getting outside, would have felt kinda nice. My dad and I are introverted in those kind of situations, so we just listened. But then people began sharing their appointment times. I perked up, expecting our 2:30 time to be the earliest.

I sometimes wonder if unbridled optimism is something that needs to be treated medically.

People started chiming in: 1:45 pm, 1:15 pm, 2 pm, 1 pm. Turns out there were two of us with a 2:30. I marveled that the energy in the room had not changed. People were actually kind of laughing, as if we had cracked a code. We had no idea when we’d get called, but at least we knew the order. The assistant came into the room and called out a name — it was Mr. 1 pm; we all cheered for him. The assistant looked surprised and a little uncomfortable. That’s right, lady, I thought, we’re all in this together now, so you just keep calling those names, and we’ll be just fine. The talk turned to recipes and food, so I tuned out (read about my glorious food fails). Outside, the predicted storm had begun with a steady rain.

The assistant came in and called Ms. 1:15, and now we were really getting into it.

“Goodbye!” “Good luck!” “Have a great weekend!”

The woman next to me leaned over and said, “I feel like we should have handkerchiefs.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So when Ms. 1:45 got called, we waved our hands like handkerchiefs, and sent her off properly like the Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton.

At 5 pm I asked my sister to tell my mom we were running late. At 5:30, it was finally our turn. There were only a few of us left at that point, but the pretend handkerchiefs waved just as energetically. We got sent off, the doctor was happy with my dad’s progress, and we did, eventually, get to have dinner with my mom.

I just looked up at the Eckhart Tolle calendar I have, and this month it says, “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your now and your projected future. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”

Wise words — I would only add that waving handkerchiefs in the now works too.

 

 

Here’s What We’re Going to Do

My grandmother, who we called Memere (we’re 1/2 French Canadian), would say, after listening to whatever childish request we’d cooked up or if it were a rainy day and we were moping around, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And some amazing activity would ensue: cooking up cripes (that was our version of crepes), or making a dress for an off-brand Barbie, or figuring out what fun thing to do with a piece of a float that had washed up on the shore of her tiny lake cottage.

She has moved on, but her words came back to me as I have been thinking about the three ballot questions we have in Massachusetts. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve read up, or have been reading the flyers that are inundating your mailbox, or you’re getting phone calls from engaged young enthusiastic people. But you’re still not sure?

Here’s what you’re going to do. And because my Memere’s involved, at least in memory, you know you can trust this:

  1. Ballot Question 1, NO: Do you approve of a law that would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. No on 1.

I work at a hospital that is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation–OK once we went down to #4, but they changed the criteria that year–and we say no. The nurses at my hospital have complete control over how many nurses they need to take care of patients who are always changing and have changing needs. One size does not fit all. Here’s is the chief nurse speaking plainly about it to one of our docs. It’s not a slick advertisement, just an iPhone video of reality.  Our chief nurse says no on 1

2. Ballot Question 2, YES: Do you approve of this proposed law that would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Yes on 2.

We’re Massachusetts, and we have lots of smart eggheads who can help clarify this. I know being smart is totally out of fashion right now.  But we can’t help ourselves. Let’s show the rest of the county how it’s done, shall we? They hate us anyway, so what do we have to lose?

3. Ballot Question 3. YES: This one is do you essentially re-approve of a law that has been in existence since 2016? This law already adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Yes on 3. 

WTF? Look, whatever feelings you have about people who may be different from you. THIS LAW ALREADY EXISTS. No children, pets, or people’s silly pride had been harmed by this law.

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? You live in Massachusetts–we’re a bunch of blue snowflakes, deal with it. If you have a problem, there are lots of other states you can be happy in. Buh-bye.

Happy voting people, and please don’t disappoint my Memere!

Image credit: National Monitor

 

 

Of Kavanaugh and Colonoscopies

If you haven’t had a colonoscopy yet, you may want to skip this week’s blog. The thing about being middle-aged is that you get this glorious perspective on life and new-found confidence and you give way less fucks about a lot of things. And just when you’re really sailing along, the medical establishment sneaks up behind you and throws a colonoscopy net over your happiness and says, ah ha! Got you! This junk makes wish for your mammogram, and that isn’t any fun either.

So, this week I was getting it from all sides, it started with the colonoscopy and ended with a colonoscopy, aka Krybaby Kavanaugh. So what’s a blogger to do? Go back to her English Comp 101 roots and do a compare and contrast, with a side of metaphor and simile.

Kavanaugh is like a colonoscopy.

  • You follow the preparation rules, like a liquid-only diet for a day and calling your senators every 10 minutes to say “hell no!” But it doesn’t actually make the colonoscopy any better, nor does it seem to send Krybaby back to the sewage pipe he crawled out of.
  • Following the prep gives you a headache. Actually the colonoscopy headache from no solid food only lasted 36 hours. I still have a headache from Krybaby.
  • Even really good drugs can’t save you. Yes, during the procedure I was in that white haze of sedation, but oh, yeah, I still felt a few points of pain, which interrupted my haze.  With Krybaby, it’s the opposite. I’m mostly in pain from his existence, with only a few points of white wine haze of sedation.
  • The end of the screening/hearing really isn’t the end of the ordeal, and all told, you’ve pretty much lost a whole week. For a colonoscopy, there was 2 days of prepping to endure, a day of the procedure, a day after where I was still fuzzy and only partially productive, and the day after that I still wasn’t feeling quite right. For Krybaby, there were days of hype to endure before the hearing, the day of the hearing, and in the days after the hearing, I was fuzzy and unfocused, and days later I’m still not feeling quite right.

Krybaby Kavanaugh is a colonoscopy.

I don’t really have to explain that except to add that he isn’t even good enough to be associated with my fecal matter. I’m really hoping the FBI will be like my doctor’s little Mars rover-like scope that has a light and little clippers to cut out polyps and what have you. Please FBI, snip, snip, snip this cancerous polyp from our system, and flush him down the sewer.

Photo credit: BBC News

 

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

Reentry

I’m still on vacation, but that ends tomorrow, so you can stop being jealous. After the amazing sunset beach wedding last week, I headed to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area on the PA/NJ border for a canoe camping trip. It was really peaceful and relaxing and the river current is just enough to keep you moving, but not so much that you have to white knuckle your way through the white water, reviewing for the 50th time in your head what you should do if the canoe flips. We just did one night of camping and so had about 30 hours of the quiet, slow lane.

And then we got to the end and called the canoe rental folks to come get us.

Within minutes a large group of canoes landed after us. A different van was waiting for them. They were laughing and loud and lively music suddenly started playing. Then a dressed up Jewish couple asked us to take their picture by the river — he in a suit and she in a nice skirt and blouse. All I could think of was this is reason #528 why religion isn’t for me. No way am I wearing Sunday best on a Thursday at a river in 90-degree heat and humidity. God can say what he will — he’s not the one sweating in pantyhose.

Then our van came and the driver reminded me of the pizza delivery kid in “Toy Story.” Remember that scene? The radio is blasting and he drives like a maniac back to Pizza Planet while Woody and Buzz get tossed around back. Yeah, that was us. While Foreigner was blasting on the radio, he was probably going twice the speed limit on the twisting and hilly 2-lane road.

Did I mention I can get motion car sick just watching the roller coaster scene in “Polar Express”?

While the young driver belted out the song on the radio — I was impressed he knew the words to a song from the 80s — I just looked at my friend and we both started to laugh. Welcome back to the world — zero to 100 at racing speed.

At least it will make going back to work seem manageable.

Photo credit: The Delaware Nature Society. I didn’t have enough battery power to take my own pics!

 

 

Beach Wedding!

Hey there! I was at a fabulous lesbian sunset wedding at the beach, so all you get this week is a picture of said beach. It was absolutely perfect, and because these woman have some hard-won wisdom, I believe this union can go the distance. So I’m here to report, despite everything, there is still love, joy, peace, and sunset beach weddings in the world.