Thursday, December 24, 2009


It's been... a year. A lot of year. A whole lot of GoodBadGoodBad year. But, and I'm deeply, truly, unbelievably grateful for this, it has been a more good than bad year. That sounds so simple and banal so I have to repeat it - this, this year, has been MORE GOOD THAN BAD. For the first time in six years this year, as tumultuous as it has been, has been a good year.

I'll do a summation later but to catch up on the most recent, just a few days after we knew that a BeSurgeried person was going to stick around for a while to give a bit of grief to doctors and generally make life a whole lot more fun, my parents called me up to announce that they would like to drop by with a Christmas present.

I pointed out, not unreasonably, that we were going to see them on Christmas Eve and, it seemed, a gift exchange at that point was fairly likely. My father hinted mysteriously that he thought it would be good to give this Christmas gift a bit early.

Now, keep in mind that in my family this could mean anything - absolutely anything. "We thought this singing, stuffed aardvark that we find particularly amusing would be just the early Christmas gift you need." (note: I am totally and utterly guilty of this myself. I spent a very happy afternoon putting together a belly-dancing costume kit for my poor sister which involved a VERY large red bra and plastic googly eyes among other things. It's a sickness but I'm not looking for a cure) Anyway, I know when to take a hint so I agreed that meeting for an early gift exchange was a good idea.

Which is why they showed up on my doorstep with a little gift bag a couple of weeks ago. We chatted, as you do, about this and that, and I dangled that little gift bag from my hand, intending (as I'm sure my parents realized) to just stuff it under the tree and open it on Christmas day. Which is why my mother, firmly, said, "I think we'd REALLY LIKE TO SEE YOU OPEN YOUR PRESENT NOW." And, recognizing that particular timbre, I obediently opened the bag.

To find an envelope.

A very slim envelope.

With just one thing in it - a check, from the US Labor Dept.

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Game On

Right, so say you're sitting in a hospital waiting room on the surgery floor having been told, two hours ago, that it would take two hours for the be-surgeried person to be put in a private room. And say you were also told to keep an eye on a nice monitor which would scroll your be-surgeried friend's patient number past every few minutes and magically change the background color when the haven of this private room was reached. And further say that you've already read your book AND checked your email (thank you i-pod and your magical internet browsing abilities). How do you pass the time? I came up with the following three options:

1. Scrub Watch: give one point for scrubs of any solid color other than basic hospital green or blue. Give two points for a pattern, three to five for anything with penguins, ninjas or Betty Boop (actual points given to be determined by players). First person to spot a point-giving scrub claims the point. Scrubs of green or blue, take one point from each player.

2. Pregnant or Not? Point given for each passing pregnant woman. Points are removed for each person going by who LOOKS pregnant but actually isn't (note: after ten minutes of play it was realized that a cap had to be made. Highly suggest only removing points for individuals seven months on or more. Even so, lost all points after fifteen minutes when a particularly large - and large - family came by).

3. Flora: Points given for floral arrangements - players can determine whether to give more or fewer points depending on the tackiness of said arrangement. If a plastic arrangement goes by the player closest to the arrangement loses all points (rather like the cow game on car trips - you know, you get to count all the cows on your side of the car but if you pass a cemetery all your cows die and you have to start again).

I won't admit to having invented and played (hey, it was a long wait, got desperate) Mad Scientist where you divide the human body up into constituent parts (hair, head, neck, bosom, hips, bum, legs, arms) and collect the most 'interesting' part that goes by in an effort to construct the best patchwork person...

Monday, December 14, 2009


Didn't intend to disappear.

In fact I had a nice post all written about how nice it was to sit down at Thanksgiving with this small circle of people I care for and just talk and laugh and eat together. And it was, very, very nice.

But then there was this call one morning, a 6-in-the-morning call which is just late enough to be probably a work thing: someone calling in sick or someone with a question. Only it wasn't. It was a doctor from the emergency room using words like 'ruptured' and 'peritonitis' and 'surgery' and he was talking about one of those people, one of that small, dear circle of people.

So there was a year or so one day of sitting in a waiting room making up Games to Play While Waiting for Surgery to be Over (three - tell you later). Then there were a few decades in ICU watching numbers - green for pulse, next to the quadruple spike of the heart beat; blue for oxygenation with a swoopy sine wave; white for blood pressure, once every hour which nicely divided the decades up into eras.

And time did this strange, elastic thing where it stretched madly out into years and years and years but at the same time snapped past in an instant. Wednesday blurred into the previous Monday which seemed to be trying hard to be Friday and Tuesday disappeared entirely.

But after the first night, the night where there was talk of living wills and things, and after the first days or so, the numbers began, slowly, to change and finally one afternoon instead of the whoosh of the circulation boots and the bleep of the monitor there was a lively and cheery 'hullo!' from the bed. It became possible, just, to breathe again.

All of this happened of course during this rushing time (made worse by FINALLY the launch of this enormous, huge, ridiculous project that has been pending forever and ever ), this busiest of busy times when expectations are higher and resources are lower than any other time of year. And with absolute clarity the whole season has resolved itself beautifully into one simple thing: this year people I love are safe, and most of them are home and nothing, absolutely nothing else matters.