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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Next Door to The Great Beyond

                                     "Color Echoes" © 2011 Cindy Packard Richmond

   In regards to old age, my father used to say "After 70, it's all maintenance."
   It is disheartening  that so many people aren't making it to 70. Reunion bulletins bring distressing news.  The best athletes in my high school class are dead.  Three of my boyfriends from college are gone.
    A dear friend called on Thanksgiving 2018 to say she had neuro-endrochinal cancer in her liver, legs and lungs.  She was crippled with pain and didn't know if she would do chemotherapy or "mosey on down the road".  She opted for the brutal chemo.  Her doctor at the Mayo Clinic promised to tell her  when treatment was pointless.
   At the end of January, he told her she had a month get her affairs in order, that her death would not be painful, that she would fade away in her own bed.   We spoke the advantages of knowing when and where Death would come.  There is a certain solace in facing the inevitable.
    Two weeks before her expected death, the doctor called.  He had been at a medical conference.  He wanted to try an experimental, small cell lung cancer trial.
    A week later, she said  I should expect her to visit this summer.  I thought she was delusional.
    Two months later she was not in remission.  She is cured.  The cancer is dead.  The only caveat, she has to take $400 dollars of pills a day for three years.
    I saw her last week.  She is fit as a fiddle (whatever that means).  Her doctor has written  up her case for medical journals. She is the only Mayo Clinic patient to have beaten this form of cancer.
    Would that cancer miracles weren't so rare.  But I am damned grateful for this one.
.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Perilous Packard


  I tend to trip, stumble and fall.  Often.  A back surgery 30 years ago left me with a partially numb leg and foot. The upshot is that I have no foot reflex.  Nature walks, with their tree roots and stumble stones, are fraught with danger.  When walking, I must keep my eyes on the ground or I will trip.    Do you know how hard it is for an artist to look down and ignore what is all around her?

Last week in the woods I looked up to see an eagle my husband had spotted, and went splat.  Usually I feel myself tripping and brace myself.  This time I didn't.  First thing I felt was my face hitting a rock.  I heard my nose break. Five stitches, four hours in the ER and stacks of gauze later, I emerged.  For days I was so purty, with streaks of purple, yellow and green, festooning my face.

Peril swept beyond me to those I love.  My husband, who walks 5 miles a day and maintains a healthy diet, hurt his foot.  He was horrified when the doctor diagnosed gout.  He wouldn't be surprised if I developed gout, I am apparently more"the sort." Think Ruebens.  Turns out it isn't mere gout. The doctor reconsidered and ordered an MRI and blood tests.   My husband has taken care of me during long bouts of recovery, so I try to be sunny and helpful.

Added to this ghoulish mix  my son's dog Sam.  I have come to love Sam, even though last week he took a bag of Cosco Coconut Clusters from the top shelf and ate it all.  We nursed Sam through a torn ACL surgery for 3 long months this fall.  It was more difficult than nursing a human who had the capacity to reason. This week Sam blew out the other knee.

My husband refers to us as the disabled and disfigured.  Apparently, Jeopardy is in the House of Packard.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Open Concept Living


   A woman gave me a new excuse as to why she couldn't buy my art.  "I love your work, but we live in an open concept house.  There just aren't any walls for art."
    She had me there.  I watch HGTV late at night.  It appears everyone wants open-concept living. Parents say they want to be able to watch their children as they cook.  The thrill of watching as walls are demolished 24/7 might be an addiction.  I do love it when something nasty falls out of the wall.
     When are these buyers going to realize they have been had.  I suspect, as soon as  their children become teenagers.
    My house is of an old 1970's-concept.  Apparently, if the trend continues, we will never be able to sell it.  We couldn't tear down walls without losing a bathroom and a staircase.  In fact, we added a french door to separate the living room from the family room. When my kids reached adolescence and seemed to be everywhere all at once, I craved solitude. A room of her own, a la Virginia Woolf.
     I might come to regret the demise of Open-Concept.  Building walls can't be as visceral an act as smashing walls.  Unless of course, it is on a border.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Hark the Herald...

                                 "Hark the Herald" © 2004 Cindy Packard Richmond


My husband and I lay in bed this morning talking about death.  We used to joke that it was a race to the finish to see who won the "non compos mentis"sweepstakes, leaving the other to deal with the mess.  I would sooner die than be left.  Yes, I am a coward.

So many of our friends are in grips of cancer, dementia or other horrors. So, are we  the lucky ones, the ones that got away.   No. We are a small island in a sea of despair. The waves are lapping at our shore.  Deep in our cells, nuggets of cancer (him) or dementia (me) are  biding their time.

  How does one die "peacefully" without the prelude of months of pain.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Squeak No More, My Gutted Friends

   My son's dog Sam is with us for two years.  Sam is a sweet dog, but is not easily amused.  An hour walk, a half hour of Kong ball is required to calm him.   Sadly, Sam has had major knee surgery and is confined to small quarters.  
    His recovery is not going well.  It is tough to hobble a springing pogo stick.  As leaping is forbidden, Sam has returned to the lesser sport of gutting squeaky toys.  The above picture shows the recently disemsqueaked. 
  Even though he is on doggy-downers, he bounces around his small pen, thrashing the toys as if they are rabid squirrels. If we remove the toys he whines piteously
   After three weeks he should be allowed to take several 10 minute walks.  But bouncing has set him back.  My husband frets that this expensive surgery was in vain.  Or God forbid, will have to be redone.  And certainly, Sam is in worse shape than he was two weeks ago.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cry Havoc and Let loose the Dogs of War....



There is an old joke: a minister, a priest and a rabbi argue about the beginning of life. The priest says it is at conception.  The rabbi claims life begins at birth.  The minister says, life begins when the kids are gone and the dog dies....

When my dear Clio died in 2009, we swore off dogs.  We would be footloose and fancy free. 

Regretfully, I am no longer able to jet off at a moment's notice for a weekend in Paris.  The whirling Whackadoodle  (it should be a breed recognized by the AKC) in the photo is Sam.  And Sam lives with me.

Six years ago, I told my son not to adopt a dog.  He could not afford it.  Confidently, he insisted that mutts were far healthier than purebreds.  Ha.

Sam is allergic to chicken, turkey, beef, pork, venison, rice, wheat, potato and corn.  He eats dry kangaroo pellets.  Other than the kangaroo pellets, Sam is a vegetarian.  His treats range from raw onion to raw brussel sprouts, to bananas. He used to like apples but now distains them.

Sam broke his tail and had major surgery.  His digestive and skin troubles are legion.  He went to Korea for two years with my son.  At the end of my son's tour Sam was so lethargic the vets thought he had kidney failure.  They pumped him full of fluids to make the 14 hour flight.  Back in the states, Sam was weak and tired.  My son next tour is two years in Niger, West Africa .  We didn't think Sam would survive the flight.  I agreed to keep him.  I honestly thought Sam was going to fade away by Christmas.  

But lo, a miracle...it was determined that his kidneys weren't failing.  He has Atypical Addison's disease.  His blood has to be tested regularly to make sure he hasn't slipped into regular Addison's.  With prednisone he's his old whackadoodle self.  House guests this summer found him delightful.  until he launched into marathon humping sessions.  It was a red rocket nightmare.

 Sam becomes destructive if not exercised.  He doesn't tire easily.  We took him on long walks and hurled balls with a Kong tosser.  Sam has a great midair catch.  But he will only chase the kong balls that squeak.  Kong balls look just like tennis balls, but Sam is nothing if not discerning.  Throw a regular tennis ball and Sam will look at you dismissively.

Two days before my son's plane lifted off to Niger, we learned that Sam had a torn ACL.  Surgery is next week.  His other knee is on the verge of tearing.  All those midair catches, I guess.

So Sam is ours until death do us part.  I did not want a dog.  But truth be told, in the nine years since Clio died, we never jetted off on a whim to parts unknown.

Monday, May 21, 2018

An Old Gray Mare goes to the Passport Office


   My passport expires in less than a year.  My son, who works for  the State Department, will be ricocheting from Korea to Niger this fall.  For the uninitiated, Niger (rhymes with Pierre) is a landlocked country, surrounded by the terrorist rich countries of Libya, Algeria, Mali, Chad and Nigeria.  The Lonely Planet reports, "Niger rarely makes waves in the international consciousness, and when it does it's invariably for all the wrong reasons: coups, rebellions and famines."  They add that it is full of warm hearted people.  The average temperature is 120 degrees, so I imagine it isn't just their hearts that are warm.  
   I have been to East Africa.  I don't know that I want to go to Niger.  But I do want to see my grandchildren, currently 2 and 3 years old.  So it was off to the Passport office.  Before the hassled passport man took my picture, he advised me to button up.  I was displaying age spots, not cleavage.  Then he suggested I fix my collar.  I fumbled around with it.  A nice Hispanic lady fixed it for me.  I sighed and said, "It takes a village." The passport man smirked and said "makeup?"