Saturday, February 27, 2010


I went to see Crazyheart tonight. I always liked Jeff Bridges as an actor. He was so sweet in Starman! I enjoyed this character too and found his singing and the music quite good. Good lyrics. Richard of course can't like it as much as I do because it isn't as good as Tender Mercies, one of his all time favorites. This movie alluded to that one, but he's right. It isn't as good. Liked it anyway.

Friday, February 26, 2010


There are plenty of bizarre people out there. When I was driving my mom to the doctor, I stayed behind a pickup with an alarming bumper sticker for almost the whole ride down Chapman Ave. . Apparently, this was a snuff rock fan. His bumper sticker read, "Dead girls don't say no." Needless to say, I wished he would just go away.
When I returned home and checked my answering machine, there were three recorded calls from the Irvine police, advising me that there was a dangerous armed man loose in my neighborhood, and I should lock my doors and windows and simply stay inside. I was wandering around oblivious to all this when I dropped off at home to feed the cats about 5. Luckily, the fellow was nowhere near by, and we went about our business safely. The open door would have been quite an invitation to intrude if that guy had been anywhere near by.


Maybe, as Marly says, I was deluded about it being spring for everyone, not just the freakishly fair weathered folks in Southern California. But I was also deluded about my plans for yesterday afternoon and evening, unfortunately.
Yesterday I worked until 1 at the Center, and had a good day. There was a little time to grade a paper here and there and the rest was filled up by students, a few of whom were grateful for papers I had helped them with in the past weeks, which had gone very successfully. There was time to nosh on the goodies from the reading lab, which was staging its monthly reader's circle, to get the students interested in reading books that had been donated to the lab, and time to joke around with the rest of the staff, including Lou. But then the difficulties began.
I left at 1 to take my mother to a doctor's appointment. I had been told her walking had somewhat improved, as had her neck pain. She was keeping her eyes open more often, but some things had not improved. She was still falling every day several times a day, and she was having constant hallucinations. This, I knew, would make taking her to the doctor a challenge.
I decided to get her to use dad's extra walker, so she wouldn't fall. But I didn't reckon on the fact that she was entirely incapable of guiding the walker, and I had to walk backwards and pull her along on it, which wasn't easy because it had only two small wheels at the back, altogether inadequate for the purpose. I ended up leaving it in the back of the car, useless. But the valet parking at the hospital did come in handy. And it was only a few steps from the Senior Health Center at the hospital.
The nurse practitioner said that mom had protein in her urine. Some changes had definitely taken place. But she was not able to tell me immediately what they signified. Just in case, she prescribed some antibiotics, thinking that perhaps mom had a bladder infection that might account for the abrupt changes in her mental and physical state. In elderly people, such infections can have drastic effects, which I have seen in my dad as well.
All the way up and back from the doctor's, my mother kept up a constant conversation with unseen people. I have said that when I was much younger, a teenager, she used to talk nonstop, though not to invisible people, as far as I know... mostly to herself. Lately, she has been mostly silent. But the most recent changes sent her back into her former vociferous mode. Only this time, she has been bumped entirely into another world of unseen individuals. She has conversations, constantly, and the world that we view as real is only an interference for her, from this other, more vibrant place, inhabited by bizarre old men, their beards full of sticks, unidentified children, wandering alone in darkened halls, and animals. This is perhaps why she keeps her eyes closed, the better to see the more compelling world of her hallucinations. I tried to lure her back into our world by pointing out interesting and bizarre sights, like the green clad statue of liberty, waving a "We're number 1!" sign outside a tax place, or a shaggy spaniel hanging halfway out of a truck window, but she barely blinked at this. I'm sure it can't compete with what she sees that I can't.
Though the doctor's appointment didn't take long, I had to stop to feed my animals at home, and then went to the pharmacy to fill her prescription. I had foolishly imagined that I would be able to go to dinner with Liz and her husband and then even get to the monthly 50% off sale at the consignment store, but this wasn't happening.
By the time I got my mother home, it was already about 6:30. I was starving and stressed to the max. I had called Liz and canceled dinner, and all I was capable of doing was going home, picking up some takeout Chinese, and wolfing it down straight out of the container (it wasn't very good, either).
I thought about taking my parents to the Farmer's Market this afternoon, but I have a doctor's appointment, so that's out. I think it's going to rain anyhow. Maybe that's a blessing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Purim Again

Happy Spring! It may seem a bit premature to say that, but when Purim comes around, as it will tomorrow, spring and Passover cannot be far off. I only learned about the tradition of giving out sweets and treats (mishloach manot, in Hebrew) on Purim a half dozen years ago, and I've seldom pulled it together to actually do it. But this holiday is the source of our Halloween, so it is customary to dress up and make merry, telling the tale of Queen Esther, one of the tradition's heroic women, who saved the Jewish people with her wiles and her wiggles.
Though I almost forgot it was Purim, I have already done some baking this week, having baked some cherry oatmeal cookies for my class. They were tasty and a good alternative to popcorn to accompany the film I showed in class. Now I'll have to buy some more butter and other goodies to make some nice hamentaschen. There's a recipe I've been wanting to try out and Torah class on Tuesday to take it to! What could be nicer on this weekend, during which I have no film series to worry about?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Problems Solved

Maybe Richard is right when he says that as long as he has known me, I create problems if there are none already to be had. The workshop I went to last week wasn't really any indication that I was in the doghouse at all, as Lou made clear to me (Lou and Kurt and everyone). I am just doing what everyone else does with those ESL students, and the bluntness doesn't matter because they truly already know I am right, just don't want to hear it. Someone else, not me, was the target of that concern.
RE:taking my mom to the Medical Center, I was so wrapped up in the problem that I didn't see the solution that was right in front of me: the valet at UCI will park the car for free because I have a handicapped sticker and call an orderly who will bring a wheelchair. The orderly will help put her back in the car;I'll take her home, and the caregivers will help me take her back to the house. Problem solved.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I will not apologize

I do not begrudge my parents the time or effort I spend taking care of them, but I will not give up my own life. I will not apologize for going to yoga class and I will not feel guilty for wanting to go on going to work and doing my job. What the world (ie: medical establishments, etc. )seems to expect from relatives caring for elderly parents is ridiculous. Family is important, but I must be allowed to have my own life.
When or if it ever comes time to truly reform the medical system and insurance in the U.S., because I do not believe it will happen now, someone ought to think about this issue.


It seems that time I have dreaded has come. Mom's dementia has reached its near-final stages. She no longer talks, pays attention, walks, or eats by herself. She is, for all functional purposes, already not present with us, though her body, wisp thin and inert, is there.
It happened really quickly, the final changes taking place overnight or over the course of a day. I had worried that not being able to go to the Center had brought on this sudden change because all she was doing was sitting in front of a television she couldn't hear with people similarly out of it. No one talked to her, and she spoke to no one. No activities were going on around her. I was occupied with dad, and the caregivers took care of her physical but not her mental needs.
But I really don't think this alone could have wrought these changes, turned her from a person who actually walked pretty fast and read the paper from cover to cover, watched the news on top volume and spoke to people on the phone, though not very well, to what she is now. It makes me sad, and my father frantic and afraid.
The immediate problems this poses are several. For example, how on earth will I get her to the doctor's office. I do not have the strength or the room to pick up and heft a wheelchair or pick her up. She weighs more than I do and is taller, slightly. I cannot possibly take care of her as I have been doing up to now.
She has a doctor's appointment on Thursday at 3:20. Jeremy is in class till about 3. I don't want him to skip classes; he has already done too much of that. Richard has to work. I don't know what to do. Perhaps I should call the doctor and ask the nurses for advice. Perhaps there are programs I can take advantage of. I hope so.
By the way, on another topic, when I came home today, there was a big bag of dirty laundry on the couch with a note from Jeremy that he'd like to pick them up about 7. That's the first time he's done that since he moved out. Last week he did his own laundry. Maybe he's been storing up these sheets and towels since he moved in. Why wash his clothes and not his own towels and sheets when they are far easier to care for than clothes? Oh well. I'll have to discuss this with him.

Tom's Memorial

Yesterday afternoon Liz and I went to the memorial for Tom Moore, my friend who died a couple of weeks ago in yoga class. The service was impressive and beautiful. In addition to a lovely service of a semi-traditional kind, my yoga teachers and his, Denise and Bob, gave beautiful eulogies. Unfortunately, I was not wearing my hearing aids, so I didn't hear Bob very well, but I managed to grasp that he said it was fitting that Tom was in his first class in Orange County twenty years ago, so the fact that his was Tom's last yoga class meant that things had come full circle. Then he led the group, a very large group that filled the entire sanctuary, with standing room only out in the lobby, in the yoga invocation we say at the beginning of every class.
It impressed me that the place was so full of love. I saw people from yoga classes I had not seen for years because they had moved to other states, and come back just to remember Tom.
The group then went to eat Indian food, but I didn't go. R and I went out for a walk and Japanese food instead. I needed some time to thing about all this, particularly since, as Denise noted yesterday morning in class, I've been so "scattered." Trying to gird my loins for the next crisis, which is fast approaching.
My mother is failing fast. Her neck has been bothering her, and she rarely opens her eyes anymore. By the evening, she cannot walk. It would be a blessing if she would go peacefully, before her dementia gets so much worse that she forgets how to chew and swallow and starves to death. But my dad is going to pieces, calling me at all hours, in a panic because he does not want her to die anymore than he wants to die himself.
Tough times.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Iyengar Institute

Yesterday, Liz and I went up to the Iyengar Institute in LA for a workshop with the famous teacher, Manouso Manos. He is our teacher Bob's teacher, and I can certainly hear the roots of Bob's own style of teaching in Manouso's calm, matter-of-fact voice, tinged with humor. He is blunt and capable, detailed in his instruction. This is the style of instruction I most prize, probably not just in yoga either. It is the kind I aspire to in my own teaching of writing.
I was somewhat afraid to go to Manuouso's classes. He is the kind of teacher famous for his brusque instruction of students who are trying (and failing in various ways) to do Iyengar yoga. I guess, at one time and asana or another, that is all of us. But rather than a killer class, the afternoon class we attended yesterday, probably the 4th session in a workshop series that started Friday morning, was a restorative class composed of relaxing, meditative asanas.
Despite the fact that I had not been able to attend yoga class on Friday because of the workshop at school I wrote about earlier, it was good for me because I have been so anxious lately about my parents and the responsibility I have and also about my ability to do everything I need to both for my job and for my parents at the same time, now that I have come to a point where it is only going to get harder with my parents and I have to be ready to spring into crisis mode all the time.
So I enjoyed the 5 minute relaxation poses, with their interesting instruction. For one thing, he told us to examine each thought as it arose, as if it were the bubbles in a perculator, trying to look at it from the outside, in fact to catch the spaces between thoughts, rather than the thoughts themselves.
I wish I could go more often to his workshops. He comes on a regular basis, but at that price, I cannot afford to go more than once or twice a year.
By the way, last night was another movie in the series, The Treasures of Sierra Madre (the one with the line about "stinkin' badges"). Only one person came, the same student who came to Frankenstein, and she thanked me profusely for my email commentary about her draft, saying how much it helped her and how she appreciated it.
It was so good to get some strokes rather than slaps for my teaching.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

See Through Me

Yesterday at the workshop it was easy to see that my colleagues had something to say to me that they were not saying. They were clearly upset with me, probably because I have been struggling with feelings of fear and exasperation about my parents and my responsibilities on that score and these feelings have come through in my work with students in the lab. It has never been easy for me not to say what I am thinking. I have more than a little of the problem Jeremy and my dad have of saying what is on my mind, consequences be damned. When I see a student whose English is very shaky, I tend to say so rather than just pretending everything is hunky dory. Mostly I do it because I believe that this person is not going to learn what s/he needs to in an English class. The resistance to ESL classes is not helping this person learn what s/he needs to know.
But teachers are getting upset about that, and truthfully, I need to learn to just leave it alone. Same thing with teachers whose prompts are confusing or garbled. I should just interpret the thing the best I can and shut up. But when I am more stressed than usual, it is hard for me to do that.
As much as I like and enjoy working with people, my neurological baggage sometimes gets in the way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop me before I blurt

Okay, I admit it. I blurted again. I'm a regular blurter, constitutionally speaking.
I went to a department workshop at which a nice young fellow from CSUF discussed a class he teaches to writing teachers. Most of them are secondary English teachers, but now the program is being extended to some community colleges, though none have bitten as of yet. I don't think I have two or three whole days, most during the week, to spend at such a workshop, but it was interesting all the same to discuss the process of teaching writing. As usual, I got some clever new ideas and some inspiration.
But the blurting part came when the speaker admitted that when he was in high school, and wrote a paper (was it for English or for history? I don't know, but the teacher was named Mrs. Walls), the teacher gave him an A- but wrote at the top, "Very good, but who helped you with it?"
He found this devastating, and spent years searching for her, to prove to her, PhD in hand, that he had done it himself. But this spurred me to root in the cellar of my own seedy background and unearth something similar... . I told him, and the assembled crowd, that when I was in 8th grade, my English teacher, whose name I do not now recall, though I do see his moody, dark browed face before me as I write, I turned in an essay, only to have it returned with this missive: "You are too stupid to have written this!" with an F. There was no way I could convince him, not with the ballads I wrote for the class, in which we studied poetry. I recited "Patterns," by Amy Lowell, as I recall. Not with classroom discussion. I must have failed that class, for he insisted I could not have done the work I did.
I failed my way through school till my senior year, when the school relented and allowed me to take AP English. My math disability and problems with organization and untidiness had convinced the public school system in Philadelphia that I was not worth bothering with--not impaired enough for special education, and not outstanding enough to salvage.
College was the first time I was actually recognized officially as being promising. What a mercy.

Starting Again

In addition to buying the cat tree, I have been thinking about getting some decent furniture, a piece at a time, for the house. We have never spent money on this sort of thing, mostly because our lives have been lived in apartments, temporary places. But we have stayed in this apartment for 8 years now, and it is time, even if we aren't going to buy a house or condo after all, to treat the place as something a bit more permanent. So I am looking for a queen size storage bed. The idea is to keep the cats out of the box spring because there won't be one, and the room will look better. Plus, there will be more storage, which we can always use. Eventually, I'll buy decent bureaus and maybe a few chairs. Eventually, I want a new and different couch. I never liked the futon we have in the living room. I only bought it because it was relatively light weight and easy to move.
Again, Richard doesn't like this idea. He doesn't want to put things together, he says, and doesn't want to spend money on this sort of thing. But I am willing to buy this stuff myself, and have it delivered. Under those circumstances, he says, he will put it together. I hope that it will inspire me to neaten up a bit and will make it easier for me to do this.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The cat tree redux

As I was watching a Robin Williams special, the usual manic frenzy of Williams spouting non-stop hilarity and obscenity, Shadow climbed up to my shoulder and took a leap to the penultimate perch on the cat tree, flattening her ears to her head and leaping madly about, in her own sort of playful frenzy. Whistler watched with interest, but did not attempt to get up on the tree, evidently feeling he was too portly to make it up there.
Jeremy dropped by to give back the garage key, and he suggested that I put food up there for Whistler. I did it, but Whistler, while he clearly wanted to eat the food, didn't jump up there, so I put him up there, and he sat there eating. When he finished, he looked around and then jumped down. He hasn't yet tried to get up there, but I figure if I associate the thing with something he likes (food), he will eventually go up there on his own.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Little Help From Friends

Yesterday I was griping to all of you and to Richard too. When he came home from work, I was just about to leave for Torah. I dumped my uncertainty about mom and my desire to be free on him, and he offered to retire from his job and take care of my parents full time. I know he wants to retire, but not to do that... to go on golf trips and, he has said, to work in the Superior Court as part of the permanent jury pool. He has been on a number of juries and really enjoys it, if that is the right word. He finds it stimulating. But looking after my parents is not part of his plan, or has not been up to now.
I felt so lightened by that offer though, and the idea that he is there if I ever need to ask him for help, and indeed, he has taken off of work to take one of my parents to the doctor before and to help me out.
Now that Jeremy is on his own and has his license back, as of yesterday, Richard feels freer to help me, and he will do so I think whenever I need him to. As if to provide proof of that, he had the cat tree up when I returned from Torah. The cats haven't been near it. Or I should say, they've been near it, but haven't climbed it.
I think they are afraid of it. I am not sure it will hold Whistler up near the top. It shook a little, even with Shadow's puny 7 pound weight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


My mom doesn't say much anymore. Though she used to talk nonstop since I can remember, at some point, she just stopped, for the most part. Probably all that talking was a symptom of her dementia, which has been stealing up on her for decades.
I begged my dad to take her to a psychiatrist, and he did, but they never said it was anything important. Little by little her personality, her sociability, her kindness, her likes and dislikes have drained away, until now she mostly stares into space, looking vaguely sad or confused.
Today when I went to take my dad to the doctor for a follow up appointment, she looked awful, and she complained that her neck hurt. She had been sitting all day, and I supposed that was why. I encouraged her to take a turn in the garden with my dad, and went on my way.
Tuesday afternoon (late) I work in the Center this semester, and it seems that just about every time, the caregivers call me about one of my parents during that time. I feel I have to leave the phone on, just in case, and today, I got one of those calls. The caregiver was concerned about my mom's neck, and said she had fallen on her bottom in the bathroom this morning (not an uncommon occurrence; her balance isn't good). She hadn't fallen anywhere near her head or neck though. The caregiver said her blood pressure was high, but she was already taking blood pressure medication, so maybe that was nothing new. I don't really know because my mom doesn't complain, and doctors don't talk about her vital signs very much.
I could have left and taken her to the hospital, but instead, I told the caregiver to give her some Tylenol and to look for the massager I had given her for Chanukah last year. It was a vibrating contraption meant to go around the neck. She has never used it. I hope I did the right thing. Right now, I am going off to Torah group. I haven't heard from the Caregiver again. She is going off her shift about now, and another caregiver will arrive. I will probably hear from them while I am at the synagogue. I hope not in the middle of the night.
I feel selfish, but I just want to teach my class. I just want some peace, just for once.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Now What Do I DO?

The cat tree I ordered came. When R and I took a long walk this beautiful afternoon, after I had been to yoga and shopping for everyone else but myself (it was still fun), we returned and found an enormous box blocking the doorway. I couldn't lift it, but turned it end on end till I got it to the now-empty room, where it will go. When I opened the box, there were the pieces, and I realized that I am awful at putting things together and have NO CLUE how to do it, though I am sure it is very simple. I will have to wait till R deigns to assist me, or ask Jeremy to come over and help. That's the likelier scenario, as he loves the cats, and R doesn't.

Everyone I've Ever Known

At the end of Fellini's film 81/2, one of my favorite movies, there's a wonderful scene where everyone the director has ever known line up together, hold hands, and dance around him, including his childhood self.
In the wake of Tom's death on Saturday, I was thinking about all the people I've known, many of whom are dead, others whose fates I do not know. They may very well BE dead, or they may turn up unaccountably years later. That has indeed happened before.
For example, years ago, in synagogue, when Jeremy was young and in religious school for a few years, I was talking to another mom who was from Philadelphia and had a son the same age as mine. I asked her where in Phila. she was from. Same area as I am from. What high school she went to. Same one. When she graduated. Same year. But I didn't remember her AT ALL. She told me then that she remembered ME. That startled me, all right.
It is hard to know how many lives I have touched and not even realize it. This makes life interesting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Last Station

Today I saw a movie that I have been waiting for in vain for months. It was The Last Station, about the last days of Tolstoi. We had to go quite a long way, a circuitous route recommended by Google Maps, to Laguna Niguel, and once we get there, I saw there were lots of easier ways to reach it.
The movie was terrific, and the performance by Helen Mirran, who played Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya, Lev Tolstoi's wife, deserved the nomination it received for best performance. I liked the movie very much, and it gave some context to an experience I had in my youth, in which I met Countess Tolstaya, Leo Tolstoi's youngest child, at Nyack NY, at the farm where she had just taken in thousands of Asians expelled by Idi Amin in 1972. I don't remember what year it was or whether I went from Rutgers University, where I spent my first two years of college, or from Hollins, where I spent the rest of my undergraduate and one year of graduate school. Marly would remember that, because she was in Russian classes with me at Hollins. Surely, if I went from Hollins, she went too.

To A Friend

Yesterday, someone I have known for a long time, perhaps 25 years, died of a heart attack after yoga class. Tom Moore was a modest man, strong and smart, with a good sense of humor. He worked as a plumber, but also taught Iyengar yoga as a sub. He was always talking about his wife and his daughter and always had a quiet comment on whatever subject, including which restaurants were best, how to fix a hole in the wall, or what movies were worth seeing. He was my age, exactly, and despite his strength, had a large belly, trophy of too many good dinners, I suppose. I will always remember him, especially when I am waiting for a yoga class to start, or shooting the breeze with my classmates as I put on my socks. It is hard to believe he is gone, but I guess if he had to go, at this comparatively early age, he would say that he went the way he wanted to: after a good yoga class, surrounded by friends who love and care for him.

Several Things To Talk About

I didn't go to yoga class yesterday because I had to take the cat to the vet for shots, which involved turning the mattress upside down and shaking the box spring till the terrified beast fled into the living room. I tried to do it gently, gradually, but she is too smart and suspicious. By the time I got her to the vet, she had relieved herself and needed a wash. The vet had to shave the hair from her bottom to get off the mess. Poor little Shadow! She was off her feed this morning from the excitement.
There were three guests/students and their friends at the film last night, which turned out to be a wonderful, if slightly cynical, Valentine's Day film, though I had forgotten that when I scheduled it for yesterday. I showed Prizzi's Honor, one of Huston's last films, a black comedy starring Jack Nickelson as a dim-witted hitman in love with an extremely sharp female counterpart, played by Kathleen Turner. It was a terrific film, also starring Anjelica Huston in a supporting role. She won an Oscar for it. And yes, Huston is the director's daughter.
Though I might have liked more people in the audience, it was still an enjoyable evening. I was happy that people came at all, though I wonder if any will show up next week for another Huston film, The Treasures of the Sierra Madre, origin of one of the most famous movie lines: "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges." I don't think it goes exactly that way, but close enough.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jews By Choice

Last night in synagogue, Rabbi Capers Funnye (sp?), Michelle Obama's cousin, spoke about the Black Jewish community in the U.S. . I have always known there were black synagogues. In fact, a couple of years ago, we had a black Jewish gospel singer (sounds like a contradiction in terms!) perform for us and neighboring synagogues, and he made the place rock. But the impression we have generally is that the black Jews in our own community are here because they have married Jews or have been born into multiracial families. The idea of people of color, of whatever persuasion, unilaterally joining up with a community that traditionally does not advocate such conversion, that perhaps even shuns it and is suspicious of it, is odd to say the least.
Funnye is a distinguished man, an old friend of our rabbi's from his Chicago days, and leader of a black Jewish congregation in Chicago, as well as a major mover in the Global Judaism movement. I never knew such a movement existed, but apparently there are many people in Africa and in other nations who want to become Jews. We have met other African Jewish communities, such as the one in Uganda, and of course know of the Falashas, from Ethiopia, but these are people who, like Funnye himself, have chosen Judaism, though they were raised in other traditions.
He told it straight: he and others of his ilk were tired of insulting questions from skeptical Jews, like "When did you convert?" "How long have you been Jewish?" or even "How did YOU get to be Jewish?" It is good for us to hear that we are not welcoming to those we view as outsiders, whether they are people of color or not. My own husband experienced this when we first married, and it put him off Judaism completely, and in fact, off of all religion.
That was the first time in synagogue I recall that someone got an instantaneous standing ovation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Financial Report

I hate this time of year because I must do two reports about my parents' financial doings: one for Veterans and the other for Social Security. Like my blog sister, Lou, I have terrible anxiety surrounding such records and the need to put them right. My math skills are terrible; in fact, I am quite certain I have a learning disability in math. Even long division is hellish for me, and percentages are impossible. I failed geometry and algebra in high school and never took them in college. Luckily for me, in the 70s, there were no required courses in math in college, at least in the ones where I was, or I never would have made it out of undergraduate school. But somehow, I have managed to do these reports.
This year, I am avoiding them more than I have in the past. I don't know why. Maybe it is because I have been paying bills online and have made many mistakes, paying my parents' bills accidentally with Richard's and my joint account, which has only one number different. I have repaid us from his account, but I have to make sure I've done it for the absolute correct amount. There are several thousands involved here. Since I realized I was making this mistake, I have been careful not to make it again, but I have to clean up all the errors immediately, and I'm afraid what I will find. That's probably why I'm avoiding these reports.
In one way, it's interesting to see what we have spent money on. It seems that most of it, what is not going for medications, which cost a lot, and insurance, goes for silly little things at places like Costco and Target. If we cut back on that, we'd be spending much less. I suppose we will have to do that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cat Tree

Now that I have room to put it in, I am going to buy the cats a tree to climb and play on. This is not an outside tree... these are inside cats, who have never poked their pink noses out the door. It is an ersatz tree, one made of cardboard or plywood and carpet, with lots of opportunity for scratching, climbing, crawling, batting hanging objects, and sniffing.
However, I have an extra challenge. Whistler weighs 18 pounds, which is much heavier than most cats. To give you an idea, Shadow only weighs 6 pounds. That is a bit small, but closer to average than Whistler's blubbery weight. He is large and heavy. So a spindly tree will come crashing to the floor under his weight.
I have to find a substantial tree, well made and with suitable perches for a big fella like Whistler. I wrote to a company that makes these things and has a sale on their present models, asking which, if any, would be suitable for him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trip to the Heart Doc

Today I took off of teaching my class to take my father to the cardiologist. I didn't have any particular feeling that this doctor would solve all the problems presented by my father's case: ie: his kidneys are bad, but he also had two heart attacks (very small ones, it seems) while in hospitals. The doctors wanted to find out if there's a clot that caused the heart attack, but couldn't do an angiogram because his kidneys would give out completely because of the stress posed by the dye used for the procedure. So should they kill the kidneys (or risk doing that) and save the heart? This was the question his doctor wanted this specialist to answer.
I thought the doctor's answer was clear and definitive, and it was the same answer my cat's vet gave many years ago when I wanted to forestall the cat's death from a fatal disease. He said that death was inevitable in this situation, and we shouldn't spend a lot of futile energy and money trying to prevent it, and in the process causing the animal unnecessary pain at the end of his life.
My father isn't a cat, and his death of any particular condition he has isn't inevitable, but it's inevitable sooner or later because of his age AND these conditions, so it was time, he suggested, to stop struggling and allow things to proceed as they will.
To tell the truth, I was glad he didn't want to take aggressive action like killing my dad's kidneys and making him go through the hell of dialysis, which, as this doctor said, would probably kill him anyway within a few weeks. I still have to talk to the kidney doctor. He may feel differently, but I really do not want to do that. I don't see how I will get him to dialysis, and I think it will be miserable and painful for him, and that it would make him pine away out of misery, if nothing else.
I can't see doing it to him, even to save his life. For how long, and at what cost?
So it was a peaceful day, a day of acceptance. And I stopped at Borders afterwards to buy him a book of Sudoku puzzles and then we went to the audiologist where he had his hearing aids fixed, restoring his hearing fully for the cost of $16.00.
In all, it was a good day, but one that presages storms ahead.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today, after a couple of days away from Jeremy, I had to drive him to and from class and home, after stopping at Ralphs to pick up his friend and drop them both off at Jeremy's apartment, along with the supplies I had picked up for him at Target. I got him some silverware, glassware, towels and washcloths, dish towels, and potholders on this trip, along with an alarm clock it turned out he didn't need because his phone functions as an alarm clock. I didn't know you could set the phone to operate that way! Pretty cool.
Anyhow, all of this time together put my feeling of mourning into perspective. The whole time I spent in the car with him, Jeremy did his usual "driving lesson" on what I was not doing properly when I drove, which makes me crazy. I didn't comment on or complain about it, but it made me feel that perhaps it was, after all, a good thing that he will be getting his license back next week, and then will not need me to drive him around anymore.
In short, I love my son, but it is time to call a halt to that sort of stuff.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baby not Onboard

Regardless of my philosophical attitude about Jeremy moving out and getting his own apartment (with 4 friends, that is), when I walked into his room and saw the big empty space where his bed used to be, I lost it completely.
Richard had not yet gotten back from the game; I was alone in the suddenly empty and echoey house. I realized then that for 19 plus years, since Jeremy was born, and I carried him up those stairs at Verano Place, terrified that I would drop him, he has not lived apart from us. Unlike other kids, he has never gone to overnight camp, taken a trip to visit Granny and Granddad by himself, or spent a week with a friend. He has never wanted to be apart from us that long, though we often encouraged him to do so.
Now he has really grown up, at least nominally. I am not sure how he will like living with all those smelly guys, and paying so much for the privilege. Naturally, being a kid from Irvine, he had to move into the newest apartment, one we would never be able to afford, though we earn many times what those guys do at Ralphs.
I thought about the questionable digs we inhabited in our early years together, and laughed. Jeremy would never live in some of the places we have. He would probably never set foot in them. And our present place is still a sight older, messier, more broken down than the one he has moved into, with its weight room and other amenities.
I hope he has a wonderful time, and enjoys his freedom now that he is a bit more able to deal with it responsibly than he was when he lost his license last year.
Now I just need to reassure the cats, who are really freaked out. Whistler is wandering around mewing frantically, looking around Jeremy's room with his ears back and his tail puffed up twice its size. Shadow is huddled in a little ball. She tried to go under my covers in the middle of the night, insistently pawing at me till I threw her off the bed.
I plan to buy a cat scratching post/pedestal for them to sit on and look out the window in Jeremy's room, and also to move this computer and desk into the room, looking out the window myself as I work. That will make us all feel better.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Good Day

When I got to my parents' house this afternoon after yoga, the caregiver told me that my dad had asked impatiently where I was. I guess his memory is worsening because I talked to him about 7:30 this morning and told him I'd be there about 12:15-12:30, after yoga, and would take him to the 99 Market for fish.
Regardless of his impatience and poor memory, he was feeling very good today. His voice was strong, and he had a big smile for everyone, anxious to get out into the beautiful weather.
Though he had a bit of difficulty walking across the shopping center where 99 is, since there was no spot closer, handicapped or otherwise, once he got in there, he had a wonderful time. His eyes opened wider and wider, like a 6 year old's, responding to the bustle of the busy market, the sensory stimulation of the various smells, sounds, colors, and unusual items. From the tangle of huge catfish congregating in one corner of a tank to the gigantic unidentifiable vegetables and roots in the produce department, he was delighted. We didn't buy that much--a steamer for me, the fish, some fruit and vegetables, but it was really fun for him. I don't know how mom felt about it.
On the way home, we stopped at the Kosher Bite deli and I got the fixings for deli sandwiches and knishes, which we would eat when Richard came over to watch the Super Bowl with my dad. I stayed and ate and ate, but I hate football, so I left Richard there. Since he came in his own car, it didn't matter. He'll be home later, back to our house, which feels so empty because Jeremy moved out today.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here We Go Again!

I just showed Frankenstein. Though many of my students said they were going to come and wanted the extra credit I promised, only one student and her friend showed up. They really enjoyed the film and asked me questions about the book and its resemblance (or lack thereof) to the film. Since I have taught the book Frankenstein (the first version) a number of times, I was able to say something about that. And the girls said they wanted to come back for future films. But I despair of attracting anyone else or getting the rest of the students in the class to show up.
I joined Netflix so I could be sure to have the films, and it seems that has been for nothing. I will try hanging up signs in a few places, and perhaps we'll attract some more people for next week's film, Prizzi's Honor.


Yesterday I got an interesting email from a French PhD student who wanted a copy of my dissertation, on the function of play in literature, specifically, in Nabokov's work. This is not an extremely hot topic, though I think it is an interesting one, obviously. I never turned the dissertation into a book, though I probably should have. I was so shellshocked by the entire process that I never wanted to look at the damn thing again, and the final chapter was so hopelessly inadequate, I'd have to start over.
The student wanted a copy of the dissertation and didn't know how to get it. He had written to a person in the Nabokov Society, who referred him to me. I didn't know what to tell him except that I used to get hold of such things via abstracting services. I referred him to his librarian, who would know about such things, and also Googled the subject. Of course, contacting the UCI library would not be a bad idea. They probably sell people copies of the dissertations in their collection.
If you have any ideas, let me know.
I also want to remind you, if you are nearby, to come to tonight's movie--James Whale's 1931 film, Frankenstein, the "first" film in my adaptation series. I put quotation marks around this because two weeks ago, I showed the actual first film, Kubrick's The Shining, and no one showed.
The film will be shown at Irvine Valley College, room P-0 (a trailer near parking lot 8A), at 7 PM. See you there!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Revolving Door

I checked dad out of the hospital today. I worked until 1:10 or so, picked up my mom at 2, went with her to visit dad, and the doctor said that I might as well take him home. They still hadn't figured out what was causing the kidney problems and his inability to pee or the retained fluid. But there was nothing more to do for him there, so they sent him home, until he can see his nephrologist at UCI, with two new prescriptions--yet another antibiotic because the infection, stubborn little bug, is still there, and a diuretic to keep down the fluids and stave off dialysis for a while. He was his old self, demanding things, such as fresh underwear, his voice much stronger than before. They peeled away the oxygen tube, and he was fine.
It took 5 hours from start to finish to get him out of the hospital and me home. I hadn't eaten anything since 6 AM. Oddly, I felt buoyant and not hungry for a while. But then it hit me, when I got him to his house and was stumbling up the driveway.
Dealing with my mom was really shocking this afternoon. She has deteriorated markedly since my dad went into the hospital, seeing and hearing people everywhere who are not there, making absolutely NO sense whatsoever. She forgot how to sit down in the car and how to walk in the parking lot. At the sight of lines by the handicapped spot, she thought they were steps, and nearly fell trying to negotiate the non-existent stairs. The caregiver will sleep next to them tonight, trying to keep my mom from disturbing my father's sleep.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reading at UCI

In the midst of so much uncertainty, poetry has a role to play. I decided to go to a reading that I learned about in Reb's blog, The Mark on the Wall. It was by two poets, Victoria Chang and Ted Genoways. Genoways, who read second, was a very kind person who brought his 7 year old son and wife to the reading. He is the editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, and writes interesting sequences of formed poems. His voice was quiet, so much so that I had trouble hearing him. But of course, with my hearing, I have trouble hearing lots of things, and I sat on the other side of the room, unfortunately, hanging with the old folks, while the undergraduates taking notes congregated closest to the reader. From what I heard, I was impressed by how he introduced the rhymes so naturally into his lines and intrigued by his narratives about his grandmother's life in long ago Nebraska of the early 20th century and late 19th.
Chang is one of those poets who isn't an exhibitionist, as I am. She is very introverted and strange. I get the impression she does not read often or willingly. Though she lives in Irvine, she has never been on the UCI campus before, and attended Warren Wilson College's MFA program, where she would not have been required to subsist in the hothouse milieu of a program like UCI's, where the writers quite often engage in long-term partner-swapping and power struggles. She kept making very self-conscious and odd comments about colleges and college students, and said several times that UCI was "very clean." However, her poetry was striking and revealed an acute eye and penetrating sensibility.
I didn't stay around after the reading, somehow feeling very old. It suddenly struck me for the first time how much younger even the grad students are than I am right now. It was a long time ago when I was a student there. However, I am glad to have heard two new voices.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Day, Another Hospital

As I suspected, my dad's condition could not be sustained for long without another trip to the hospital. My effort to get an appointment (outpatient) with a cardiologist, arranged by his doctor, didn't have satisfactory results; the first appointment we could get was for next Weds. I knew that wouldn't be good enough.
So when the caregiver called me this afternoon at 2, and said he was having trouble breathing, I knew this would probably call for another stay in the hospital.
When I got there, he was again white and immovable. I knew he wouldn't be able to walk, so I told the caregiver to call the ambulance, and on their advice, we went to the closest hospital, one where we had not been before. It turned out to be very nice, quite civilized, and much more comfortable than UCI, at least in the emergency room.
While in UCI, the tvs and remotes are scratched up and destroyed, unworkable, these worked perfectly. Parking was simple, and there were even people guiding drivers into spots that were safe and legal. And best, it was quite close to home.
While we were in the e.r., and the nurse and I were trying to get his pants off, he almost stopped breathing. It seems the problems he had in UCI when he was there two weeks ago were all back in force: the kidney failure, the elevated potassium, the retained fluid, and even the bladder infection. The doctors still face the same problem: treat one organ and risk shutting down the other. It is probable that this will kill him. I just hope it isn't a long, lingering, and painful death. If he can get a few more months or a year without too much discomfort, that would be nice. We'll have to take what we get. I guess we all do.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday, Another Week

Today's class was, again, sparcely populated. This class has not waited to dwindle. It has begun almost right away. I have been off to a slow start this semester, trying, as usual, to pack everything the students will need into the classes before the draft is due. So I have taught classes on argument, definition, analysis (using passages from the story to illustrate and assignments on this to prepare them to write the paper), summary, and secondary materials, a task I will continue through next Monday.
Only next Weds. will the thesis and plan be due.
Next time I teach this class, I will be quicker to the punch and have a draft due before census. The papers will likely be worse than these will, but one must be practical, even in such a long semester. I expect the students will show up again when the draft is due, and won't have clue how to write it. But they'll find that out only belatedly. Might as well have had the draft come in earlier since that is the case.