La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for September 2011

Yes. I too am wondering when I will run out of cheesy knee cliches. With any luck I will be back on my feet before I have to find something that rhymes with “articular cartilage.”

In any case, events continue apace here at Chez Jones: Home for the Handicapped. As mentioned, Scottish Grandma was here for well-nigh a month, and thank goodness or the sink would still be full of dishes. Now that you are gone, Mum, I can say this gently: I love you and I appreciate you driving me everywhere, but I have never been honked at more in my life than in the 30 days you were behind the wheel of my car. Scottish Grandma, friends, believes that when the sign says, “20 MPH LIMIT” that the key word is LIMIT. By which I mean that 20 is her ending point for a driving speed, not the one she starts at and struggles to maintain because holymotherofgod20mphisSLOOOOWWWW. And I’m sitting there just screaming in my mind, “For the love of God, please speed up!” But no. There will be no 25 in a 20 MPH zone. That would be illegal and Scottish Grandma does not do illegal. Ever. Eight mile trip to get gas and back: 45 minutes. Drive to drop off Bambina at school 1/4 mile away: 10-12 minutes. I came THIS close, during what I’ll call a “situation” at the Dunkin Donuts to saying Eff the Knee, I’m taking the wheel. But I was what one can only call “shooshed” by Scottish Grandma who was having none of me–or those “ridiculous drivers going 40 miles an hour in a 30 mile per hour zone!” Don’t mess with Scottish Grandma. Or she’ll hunt you down and spend her life driving in front of you on a long one-lane road when you desperately have to pee. 🙂

Which brings us to motivation. I’m just going to go ahead and say that, aside from the professional ballroom dancer he treated a year ago, I am claiming the crown for Most Motivated Patient my surgeon has ever met. I could pretend it’s all about just wanting to get healthy and loving my kids and participating fully in their lives again and blah blah blah mommy BS. Or I could be honest and say that it’s more all about me. I fucking hate showering while sitting in a senior citizen bath chair. I hate going upstairs to bed on my butt, sliding through my hallway to a stepstool so I can tricep dip my way onto my bed. I hate that if I drop something on the floor during the day when no one is home that it has to sit there until someone can pick it up for me. I hate that when the doorbell rings and I rush toward it with my clank clank clank! crutches, I sound like some creepy Halloween character coming to kidnap and eat the children. I hate that I have to use those special metal buttons on doors to make them open. I hate more that I’ve become the old lady who jabs them with the point of my crutch like I’m holding a grudge. I hate that random people all go, “Man! What’d you DO?!” and my answer “I had knee surgery” is not enough. “Yah, but what did you DO?” Well, I hurt it weightlifting while I was in prison for killing a nosy stranger. I keed! I wasn’t weightlifting.

On the other hand, this 6 weeks of knee drama has been instructive in good ways. When I first got home I slept downstairs for a week because I couldn’t get myself up the stairs even with help (my other ankle has AVN so I can’t jump on it to get upstairs or else I’ll be up a creek in short order with that). I could not lift myself from Bambina’s bed because it is low. I couldn’t open the fridge. And please let’s not discuss taking a pee. A month later I can do it all by myself, just like a big girl, mama! Not because I am some ultimate model of endurance and stamina but because, like all successful humans, I’m adaptable. Consider any of the truly challenging times in your life when you thought, “I can’t do this” or “how can I go on?” Then consider that you are here remembering those times. Which means you did do it. You did go on. Certainly, in tragedies such as the death of a family member or a catastrophic injury, sometimes endurance is all that carries you through the first terrible days, weeks and months. But then at some point–you adapt. This, I believe, is one of the many beauties of being human. We are adaptable creatures. No matter what happens, you figure it out. You make it work. You incorporate it into your life. You move forward, different but okay.

Knee surgery is in no way tragic or horrible, but the lesson is the same: you gotta adapt. I can’t walk up or down the stairs so I do what we tried to get Crazy-Gerald-Ford-Stair-Tripping Baby Sister to do: “use your bum!” It ain’t pretty, but it works. I can’t really stand over the stove and cook, for obvious reasons of heat, burns and I am a klutz. So my kids are having a month-long Easy Mac and Hot Pockets spree. I cannot reach any of the food in my fridge without falling over, so *I* am having a Hot Pockets spree. BabyDaddy is traveling a lot for work, unfortunately, so the house looks like it’s been ransacked by rabid teletubbies. All kind of a disaster, but we are making it work. More importantly, my girls are seeing me make it work. I absolutely wanted to make sure I got the right rest after the surgery, but I also wanted to get up and moving as soon as was permitted because I wanted them to see me getting up and moving as soon as it was permitted, no whining and no pity. There were certainly days when I did not feel very well, especially while on Dilaudid and OxyContin, so I languished a little bit in my druggie haze, but I got up as soon as I could.

On the funny side of things, I will confess now that while on narcotics I had a long [two way!] conversation with a red canvas tote bag, thinking it was Bambina. No joke! Another night, I called the BabyDaddy from the couch to tell him to come downstairs and sit with me to stop the people screaming inside my head while I slept. It was a drug-induced high from hell, making me wonder who are the people addicted to this stuff? Do they have jobs and families? How are they functioning at addict doses when a half dose was making me kookoo? In any case, I decided that morning that my knee could hurt like a mutherf*((&^% all month long but my drug of choice would be tylenol with bolus threats of violence toward the Creator if he did not throw me a bone asap.

All of which is to say that my knee is doing well, as is my drug rehab. Yes indeed, there is no better one-step program for getting off drugs than thinking you are going wildly insane, which is only slightly more than comes from driving with my mom.

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If you were in New York, DC, or Pennsylvania on September 11th, I will be glad to listen to your 9/11 Story. If you are close to anyone directly involved in the attacks, be it victims, responders, military now serving as a result, I will be glad to listen to your 9/11 Story. But if you watched on TV from, say, Wyoming, I have to be the asshole who says No Thanks.

I’m not attempting to be frivolous, flippant or mean. I simply wish for perspective in the midst of this anniversary. Yes, 9/11 was a seminal moment for every American. Yes, it changed everything. None of our lives will ever be the same.

But that does not mean your story needs to be told.

I say this not to diminish the fear we all felt on that day, but to emphasize the importance of those who actually lived–and died–that fear. The overwhelming media focus on the gruesome details, the need to replay the impacts over and over, the trafficking in what I can only call Suffering Porn truly irritates me because I feel that it reduces every single victim to nothing more than the circumstances of their death. It almost diminishes the magnitude of the attack in its obsession with the truly horrifying details. I witnessed both CNN and Fox News doing entire segments on their own reporters’ feelings about having covered the stories! It is both breathtaking arrogance and cause to wonder whether the news channels are in a race to the bottom under the guise of memorializing the dead. It treats the anniversary of the deadliest attack on American soil with a creepy and inappropriate nostalgia, a word and practice we usually reserve for good memories. It illustrates the ugly intersection where remembrance meets voyeurism.

Which directly relates to my discomfort with everyone having a 9/11 Story.

You know what, friends? We all had our own 9/11 experiences, but only certain people have, as a result, 9/11 Stories. I cringe whenever I hear someone solemnly tell me their traumatic 9/11 story from their living room in Santa Monica, because I perceive it as a perhaps unconscious attempt to share in an event that many many others would give anything to not have shared in at all. It hints at a loss of perspective in understanding that terrible day’s consequences. More importantly, it demeans those who suffered to act as if our experience of the tragedy is equal to their involvement in it.

It wasn’t, it isn’t, and we shouldn’t want it to be. Forget our own stories and focus instead on those who rushed in when all others were rushing out. Focus on those who said final words of love to their families before taking back their plane. Focus on those who still have no body to mourn over, 10 years later. Focus on the myriad stories, large and small, of people, famous and unknown, who in the darkest hour of our recent history, showed us all the true meaning of the American spirit.

THAT is the story of 9/11 I want to hear.

Humans have wrestled with the ideas–and realities– of good vs. evil since time began. Every existing religious tradition speaks to it in some manner because it speaks to the well- worn question of why bad things happen to good people. In some cases however, such as the holocaust, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and 9/11, we are forced to confront not just bad things happening to good people (e.g. diseases or accidents) but the physical manifestation of unmitigated evil. Those of us alive on 9/11/01 still struggle to make sense of such acts, and the confrontation becomes only more complicated to comprehend and explain when young children are involved.

For my girls, 7 and almost 3, the way is clear. Baby Sister will neither hear nor see a single shred of information regarding September 11th. Not this year, not next year, not as long as I can hold it off. Bambina is a different story. Because of the non-stop detail-soaked coverage of the attacks (let’s have another look at the planes hitting the buildings!), I had no choice but to fall back on old campaign tactics and get out in front of the news cycle. Because she WILL see the planes hit the towers on TV. It’s a statistical certainty this weekend.

So I told her that 10 years ago some very evil men killed and injured thousands of people because they want everyone to be just like them, their religion, their laws, their interpretation of a culture. I mentioned that she might see pictures of airplanes and fires on TV but, so importantly, those pictures were not showing anything happening now today. I told her that airplanes and our country are now much more secure, even if by secure I really truthfully mean aware. I told her that she is safe, but that a lot of people died that day and so their loved ones want to remember them this weekend, kind of like how we light a candle and say Kaddish for Bumpa on what would be his birthday. When she said how sad it all sounded I agreed and then immediately told her the story of Flight 93, where the passengers, knowing what was to come, became heroes who saved many, many people even though they themselves lost their lives. To my relief, this is the overwhelming point of interest for her, that some dadas and mamas and uncles and aunties of real people did something so selfless to save others. It resonates, I imagine, because we lived just 3 blocks from the Capitol that would not have existed had the plane reached its target.

Parents often worry that events of this nature will damage their children. I tend to believe that kids can handle any information if it is delivered appropriate to their understanding. Which is why, at age 7, there is every effort to tell her about the day and there is every attempt to limit her access to the gut-wrenching visuals of that day, simply because things cannot be unseen. At the same time, parents often forget that any child enrolled in any institutional environment understands good vs. bad. They understand meanness. They understand cruelty. Children, you may prefer to forget, are beautiful creatures who nonetheless operate at about 80% id. Like adults, they may not be able to understand the whys of meanness and cruelty, but they sure know it when they see it. And that is our opening to discuss events beyond all our capacities to understand.

I so wish I could avoid giving my daughter the knowledge of fear and horror. I so wish that I could protect her and defend her from any person or information that might harm her. I so wish I could keep her as she is today: innocent, confident that all is good in the world, oblivious to the presence and practice of evil in our time. All these things I wish. None of these things are mine to give.

What is mine to give is the understanding that bad people sometimes do bad things we can’t explain, but that in those moments of fear and pain, good people can bring forth good things. They can show courage, they can rush to help, they can comfort the broken, they can stand up to cruelty in all its forms, they can–if necessary–lay down their lives for something greater than themselves, and yes, they can rebuild and move forward stronger than before.

Knees Up

Posted on: September 7, 2011

It’s been a party here at Chez Jones. My 12 frequent readers will know that my long-term addiction to prednisone has ruined my once-stellar orthopedic health. So much so that the Avascular Necrosis (=bone death) in my knee required surgery. Well, the call for said surgery came on a Wednesday, telling me to report the following Monday for a cadaver joint implant. To be followed by 6 weeks of non-weight bearing status. If you’ve ever had 5 days notice that your life as you know it is over for 6 weeks, then you’ll understand the flux into which the family schedule was thrown. No driving until October. No putting my foot down at all until October. Brace and crutches 24/7 until October.

Luckily my mom flew up from DC to essentially be my 50’s housewife since the Baby Daddy does have to actually show up at work to earn money. She arrived and was just settling in to her role as Church Lady when I promptly got an infection in the incision. I had warned my sweet orthopedic surgeon that it would happen, but he (having dealt with normal humans for many years) said that he would be surprised because I am on so many powerful antibiotics both before and after the surgery. I was like, “Dear sweet misguided man. I am Mama Jones. Trust. That shit is in the mail.” And voila. Off to the ER we went where the ortho doctor on call came down to demarcate the area of concern on my leg. He took out his Special Doctor Sharpie and wrote “8/31/11, 10:30pm, Tad Ballbearings, MD” on my leg below my knee. Now, almost a week after my branding, the missive to himself is still there, immune to any and all methods of lavage. So now every time I look at my knee I see his little shout-out to himself and it makes me crazy. I mean, listen, if Brandon Flowers ever wanted to sign my boobs with his Super Hot Rock Star Sharpie, please believe that my showering days would be over, because that autograph would be something to save, cultivate, and show the grandkids. But I do not choose to memorialize my nights and days with Tad Ballbearings, MD. I choose to have clean-shaven, non-graffitied, smooth as buttah legs, none of which is possible with a man’s white trash tattoo staring back at me.

So, drama. Set off a bit by my awesome Irish nurse while I was in the joint for 3 days. We hit it off right away at the MRSA screening. MRSA, you will recall, is that awful scary antibiotic resistant staph bacteria that hospitals quite rightly treat like bubonic plague. So the policy to to test all incoming patients so that proper precautions can be taken to avoid the staph going mobile through the unit. How do they test for this MRSA, you ask? Well, friends, it involves two rather long q-tips. One for putting up your nostrils and one for putting up your bum. Nice! So the nurse displays the q-tips and asks how I want to do it. I did the nose one right away. And then she said, (and I need you to picture this with an Irish accent): “will you be doing this one yourself or shall I put it in your rectum for you?” I immediately started laughing uncontrollably, managing to squeak out, “That’s a tempting offer but I think I’ll handle it.” She maintained her nursing composure for about 30 seconds and then started laughing with me. Because if you can’t laugh at a little q-tip up the rectum humor, what after all can you laugh at?

On the home front, Scottish Grandma has been in fine fettle, giving my girls a tiny snapshot of my childhood circa 1978. Bambina most enjoys the fact that my mom says that certain behaviors are “naughty” instead of bad, and that she is a “Clever Clogs.” She least enjoys that my mom has not a fanciful bone in her body, so games wherein one pretends to be a horse requiring rapt attention and participation by one’s elders are a total bust with Scottish Grandma. Baby Sister, for her part, couldn’t care less whether SG is fanciful or not because Baby Sister brings her own party wherever she goes and your participation is entirely immaterial to her enjoyment.

But the LOLz are there. Scottish Grandma (non-fanciful and entirely literal, you’ll recall) likes to poke holes in the logic and rationality of the latest Fresh Beat Band plot. She thinks Olivia is a nonsense cartoon about a pig with crazy ideas, rather than a sweet story about an imaginative creature who is rewarded for her big dreams. She deplores any and all shows she deems “rubbish” (British shows Kipper and Peppa Pig being notable exceptions). My brother and sister and I have long been waiting for her to morph into Dana Carvey and start ascribing the motives of Dora and Diego to S-A-T-A-N, but we have yet to be rewarded with that piece of comedy gold.

In any case, I’m 2 weeks into my Long National No Driving Nightmare which means I’m 4 weeks out from getting back behind the wheel and getting control of my own life again. Remember those junior high school days of imploring, “If Kelley’s mom takes us to the mall will you pick us up? Pleeeeease?!” That’s about the shape of things here. Only without the awesome payoff of two hours of arcade Pac-Man followed by an Orange Julius with my 13 year old boyfriend in his Air Jordans. Nope. Just another chance to gaze upon the handwritten awesomeness that is Tad Ballbearings, MD.