It probably would created a shocking gasp on Gray’s Anatomy if T.V. Dr. Meredith Gray saw a black cricket on the floor next to a patient’s gurney. But there was no fanfare for me. I just smashed it with my shoe and hopped up onto the bed, not really sure if the nurse had changed the green sheets or not from the previous patient. Yes, I said GREEN!
St. Joe is a very old hospital, probably as old as the biggest city near where we live. At one time they had a pediatric and OB ward however it has been farmed out to the larger campus in the Lutheran network of hospitals. If mothers arrive in the ER in labor then they are put in a transport vehicle of some sort sent to pick her up by the staff at the other campus. Surely lotsa babies are born en-route or in the parking lot with this crazy system! Who ever heard of a hospital not delivering babies? We’ll see no-mo babies any more at St. Joe, just a few black crickets to match the worn linoleum flooring. I did notice 2 months ago however, that they finally replaced the bedside tray tables — the ones with levers that were duct-taped together! Now that was sanitary, eh? Er, no!
The outpatient nurse, Mary, is as sweet as can be. Since the hospital doesn’t have their own outpatient clinic, her charge nurse assigns both outpatient and ER patients to her caseload. She runs around the whole time I am there for my monthly appointment. Yes, I still have my infusa port flushed every month so I use the opportunity to take in some extra fluids if I need them and have any labs ordered to be drawn at the same time. I just bring a lunch bag, binge on HGTV, and make a day of it! Unfortunately my appointment in the ER was a bear this past Friday. Six and one-half hours after arriving, I felt about as much like “toast” as that crushed bug still on the floor when I left. It shouldn’t have taken that long. But every month, I end up hanging out with Mary for at least 4 hours for a one-hour procedure. It’s just the way it goes.
This time, it took the first 3 of those 6 hours to determine that one of the blood work panels would require 15 vials of blood if I were to have it drawn at the ol’ St. Joe! Maybe I forgot or maybe I never knew that there’s another lab actually closer to our home that has a special kit for this particular panel; the kit enables multiple tests completed from a few vials of blood. St. Joe could do the panel but I would probably be billed over $400 more and not be able to walk out of there due to the resulting weakness from the drawing of so much blood. So it was not to be; we just some other routine labs, and finally AFTER EIGHTEEN HOURS OF FASTING, I ate everything I had with me! I should have taken Mary up on her offer of a box lunch as well. I was sooooooo hungry! All of this probably contributed to the convulsive episode that followed the de-access of the infusa port and an extra 3-hour nap the next day. What a life, I tell ya!
Someday I hope to have the infusa port removed. My Doc may be reluctant to order this procedure since it was only 3 months ago that I needed six days of IV antibiotics for pneumonia. That was another fiasco of a story left to another day. If only I could go to the newer hospital closer to my home this process would be less exhausting. Can’t do that either in case things should go wrong and I end up in the chamber room of the abusive nurse in the ER who might still work there. Better check on that one sometime: does he still work there? Regardless, I seem to benefit from regular infusions of fluids when Mary flushes my port at the ol’ St. Joe. Things shall remain status quo for now.
The monthly sojourn to St. Joe will henceforth continue until an insurance denial, a swarm of locusts, or maybe even something wonderful happens first. Something wonderful? We can always be hopeful right? JJ
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other.” Joel 2:25-27a
He left before I woke up and long after I was up in the middle of the night baking him cookies for the race. Another strange night it was. I had crashed early in the evening, many hours before my bed time . . . not that there is a usual bed time, that is. I am still up very late about 2 nights per week yet that is a huuuuge improvement from my years as a night owl. But my tummy hurt and I just couldn’t stay asleep. All I could think about was those cookies that I wasn’t able to bake as promised and the risk of my beloved River Bear collapsing in the river the next day. So I got up and started mixing up the ingredients sometime after 2:00 a.m. The story was unveiling vividly in my mind as the scent of baking chocolate chips and Irish butter filled the air . . .
My beloved would be paddling a new-to-him Wenonah J203 carbon-fiber marathon canoe, probably putting him at the back of the more accomplished river rats on Saturday. They all would be pushing their limits in the cold and rainy weather, trying to get back into shape for the upcoming race season. RB would be no different. The only difference is that he would be competing with a sinus infection on top of some chronic breathing issues. The realization of the risks was just enough to drive the mind wild of a kayaking-turned-canoeing “widow.” Yeah, I don’t see him much during the Spring-Summer-Fall racing season so temporary paddling “widow” I become!
Today was especially of concern. If he got a coughing spell when on a remote part of the river, spread out for miles over the course with the other dozen-or-so racers, there’s a good chance that only a real bear in the woods would have heard him struggling. His brown, furry cousin probably would not have minded my beloved’s residual garlic breath as he munched on his serendipitous, soggy lunch feast. But that was not the worst of my worries. More likely another racer in an equally tippy performance kayak would see my beloved slumping forward, splash into the water to save him, and be unable to do much of anything about it. I foresaw in my mind’s eye that probably would be LB, of course.
She in her 4-foot 10-inch frame would jump out of her boat, neither one wearing a life jacket despite the cooler water conditions, and wrestle with RB’s muscular/lifeless body as it flopped into the current of the Tippicanoe River: he almost 70 pounds her senior and her struggling to keep both of them afloat. The river would win and down he would go. She would be traumatized and exhausted from the fight against the swirling water, the soaked mass of a man, the expensive boats and paddles flowing downstream, the desperate feeling of not being able to save him no matter how hard she tried. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, of course, in an instant. I had been in a similar situation myself just 8 years ago during my first encounter with a performance sea kayak on the Allegheny River. I feared for my life!
Back at the boat launch or maybe when she could signal for help, LB would desperately reach out. The fellow racers would leap into action, scouring the shoreline for signs of the man who teased them hours earlier with a craft beer for any seasoned canoeist who could beat him on his maiden voyage that day. They may or may not find him or his gear. The rescue boat would eventually arrive, find and take his body to a local hospital for the fateful pronouncement. The paddlers would stand in a circle at the take-out speechless, none volunteering to call the wife over 100 miles away who had sent along home-baked cookies for the annual meeting afterwards. No one would be brave enough to call her or maybe the Fire Department would at least leave a message?
Do they ever really tell you all of the news anyways that you need to know when you get a dire phone call at a time like this? I would then be in my own racing seat as I made the 2-hour drive to the Lafayette area, wondering if I had the right name of the facility where my RB was being held under refrigeration. Perhaps I would drive from facility to facility searching for my loved one? And what would they tell me when I found him? Would anyone be there to tell me the story of what happened? Would the racers have taken a luscious cookie but gone on home anyways, themselves suffering from the trauma of the friendly competition gone wrong?
And what would I do next? What about the pup at home, the phone calls that needed to be made? I would probably have to stay over a few nights to release my hubby’s body to return to our home town on Monday morning and begin preparations for the worst event of my life: a funeral! I have done this in the past a few times and it is exceedingly and painfully difficult. Oh dear, what would become of my elderly family member out of state for whom I have become a measure of a caregiver? Where would my beloved’s children stay, what would I say when they arrived grieved beyond belief from all over the country and 2 foreign countries? Holy cow. Maybe I would just sink and die myself right then and there rather than deal with it all.
Or maybe not.
Twelve hours and 2 naps later, I heard the side door open. My River Bear was home!!! I was in shock. Where did I just go in my mind and my heart for way too many hours? In what or where have I placed my trust? And why the heck am I so very needy, so weak, such a worry-wart when the Lord has been faithful to lead me through horrible tragedy dozens of times before. Is this mental exercise really helpful at any level? The answer: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!
I have come to realize that there are a couple of coping mechanisms that come with enduring serious illness for many years that don’t work very well at all in a fit brain. One of them is living each day with a sense of impending doom. When virtually every night and every morning for the past 6 years was met with violent convulsive episodes, I lived every day with a sense that bad things were always going to happen. It was just a matter of time before they did. Well guess what? The convulsive episodes don’t happen every night or every morning anymore! I have got to let go of this “stinking thinking” as we used to say in my 12-step group days. Husbands virtually always come home. And if they don’t right way, they usually have an amazing story to tell that makes you fall in love with them even more!
Another coping mechanism that got exercised in writing this story was that of always needing a contingency plan. More recently, every time I would plan to do an activity at home or elsewhere I set up alternatives in my mind of what I would do in case I got sick. I told RB my plans for the day, I had every “rescue remedy” I could think of in a lunch bag with me, and kept running errands until I was exhausted — just in case I was too sick the next few days to leave the house. As you can see from the bit of paddling fiction above, I listed a few of the questions running through my mind but in my head, many more options and scenarios were playing out in my mental tool box. What a colossal waste of physical and emotional energy! While a “scarcity” mindset may work in times of famine or flood, I really don’t need it with me anymore. Me and the Lord will figure out whatever may come my way. Geez!
Of course an obvious failed coping mechanism is last on my list today: a false sense of control. I cannot predict anything that will happen, good or bad, and neither can you. If I truly trusted the Lord with my life in times of tragedy and triumph then I would not need these fantasy games to cope with the fact that I have a REAL MAN who LOVES ADVENTURE no matter if he is sick or well. That makes him who he is! And his passion for life makes him the man in whom I fell in love over 10 years ago. No wimpy dude over here! He pushes the limits to the admiration of his peers and sweat of his competitors because that is just how he is wired. I guess I am still understanding how different we are, how different the Lord wired each of us. It is a beautiful thing really. And, Lord willing, my beloved will always be home at night in pretty darn good shape too, I will add! :J
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
So the next time my man goes out to do that which he is called to do, I will pray for him and for me both! I will not respond with fear but anticipation of some great stories in which I may one day join in, Lord willing, as I get stronger each day. The day is coming soon when I will want to venture myself out into newer, uncharted waters, so-to-speak knowing that my Lord and King is already there, cheering for both me and my River Bear. This could really be a fun summer after all. I often cheer, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of various rivers when my beloved’s paddle hits the water at the sound of the starting gun. Maybe it’s time for a little, “Gooooooo Julie” too?
Stay tuned. There’s always another story waiting to be told around here for you Gentle Reader. The water awaits! JJ
Nope, this is not my childhood home. It’s a bit better than the one I remember. Regardless, there still were some Christmas traditions that were just as lovely. That’s the great thing about memories. You can pick and choose which ones to bring to life on a cold December night like tonight . . .
She loved Christmas. Like all moms, all the ornaments we made during our childhood decorated the tree along with those glass ornaments that sometimes peeled from being stored in the heat of the attic over the summer. There were four that never faded, however. I don’t really know where they came from yet do recall that they were bright pink, a double-pointed teardrop shape, and sparkly in silver and sequined adornments. She always placed them near the top of the tree like icing on a chocolate layer cake. Then there were the ones we made by pinning seed beads and ribbon into satiny foam balls. The ones my mom made had the beads lined up in straight lines (unlike mine!). Colored lights lit the inside; silvery tinsel draped over the top of everything twinkled on the outside. Fabulous indeed!
No matter my means over the years, I still use a white sheet like my family did as a tree skirt. It looks to me like the snowy drifts that cover the Midwest in winter time and it’s a perfect backdrop for the little ceramic nativity set nestled within the folds. I think most of us had a set made by my Aunt Shirley. The little lambs (held by the shepherds), no more than 3/4 inch tall were my favorite part of the first Christmas scene. We always placed a few angels above where Jesus lain . . . or maybe it was me who insisted they go there! I can’t remember.
When I was really small and my Dad was still around, we would leave out cookies on Christmas Eve for Santa. I still recall the delight of seeing the crumbs on that white Corelle salad plate in the morning, picturing the big guy munching on them with ash in his beard from the drop down the chimney. The best part was when my Dad had used his work boots to make dusty footprints coming from the fireplace hearth leading out onto the gold, scalloped carpeting. Must have irked my mom to have to clean it all up Christmas morning! She was like that. Always cleaning.
Her Christmas party for all of our family was usually on Christmas day. She had tins and Tupperware containers filled with our favorite Christmas cookies to keep the “bottomless” chrome platters stocked throughout the evening. It was my unofficial job to see to that. I liked the powdered-sugar coated rum balls and cocoa refrigerator cookies the best. It took me decades to appreciate the thumbprint confections rolled in walnuts and filled when warm with Smuckers jelly. Now they are my favorite. Or is it the chocolate crinkles from her mom’s recipe? So many from which to choose!
Cookies, boxes of chocolates, and tons of food filled the kitchen counter all night long. One year it would be rolled cold cuts with cheese and another year a honey-baked ham that was a gift from her employer where she was an office manager. Every coffee table or side table had M&M’s or nuts on it until a toddler stuffed his or her face with one too many! There was always a bar with the aunt and uncle’s favorites, every flavor of pop (don’t say soda!), an ice bucket, and those little clear plastic cups that only got used for parties. Our bellies were all stuffed by night’s end.
My mom loved to give gifts. We used to think it was my Dad who spent too much money on toys when we were little but my mom had her own way of giving generously too. Every year she prepared about 20 gifts of the same kind to give away to our cousins and any other kids who showed up at the house Christmas night. I think I was envious of what they got; I truly don’t remember a single one except for the fanny packs she gave out one year! I watched out the window on and off all afternoon until it got dark outside, looking forward to the party Christmas night for a personal reason: my Godmother always brought a special gift for me. In the Catholic faith, the parents ask a male and female to be the child’s Godfather and Godmother, respectively, before the baby’s baptism. I understand that their role from the time of the baptism ceremony is to mentor the little one in matters of faith as he or she grows up . . . and give birthday and Christmas gifts too!
My Aunt Shirley, my mom’s next youngest sister, got it right on both counts. My Godmother did take a special interest in me as I grew up and continued when my life got complicated by the events occurring around me. I still have my confirmation prayer book and the green ceramic pitcher she gave me. It was at her church in Royal Oak, Michigan that I would first encounter the love of Jesus Christ during the baptism service of her youngest son, Tommy. I became his Godmother that night as a teenager. It would take me years to realize that being a Godmother was about more than gifting (which I often forgot to do for Tom when I was away at college or out doing life), that mentoring a child unto a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important role of all. I was glad to learn later in life that Aunt Shirley knew Jesus too. It just doesn’t matter what church you go to or what rituals you follow when you meet the God of the Bible.
Yes, my mom loved Christmas and so do I. She liked silly things like a stuffed moose with a green-n-red plaid scarf wrapped around its neck or a musical snowman that she placed at the end of the kitchen counter all December long. I smile remembering these traditions, these memories. These are good ones. I just wish I knew whether or not she personally knew the person of Jesus Christ represented by the little ceramic baby in her ceramic and wooden manger scene.
When I entered my mom’s home after she had passed away, I noticed a greeting card on her kitchen table that I had sent to her a month earlier. On it was a cute picture of a little boy wearing a Detroit Tiger’s baseball cap. I knew she would get a kick out of it! Inside was a Gospel message from me and invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Of all the things that could have been on that kitchen table at that time in her life, one was that card with the cute kid on it and important message inside that remained. Amazingly, I found that card in a store where I lived at the time in the land of Chicago Cubs and White Sox fans! I wonder: surely she understood the meaning of Christmas and entered in the presence of the Lord as His own before she died? I just don’t know.
One day I will know. And so will you, Gentle Reader. I hope we will both remember Christmas as a time when we celebrate with more than cookies and gifts, ceramic nativity sets and church services. The greatest sacrifice was made 2,000 years ago to give us life eternal if we but believe in what Jesus did for us on His cross. Join me in celebrating with Jesus in your heart this December night and always. There’s a great and eternal party that awaits in heaven one day for us if we do!
Isaiah 9: 6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
My husband, Steve, loves to write tall tales of his racing adventures here in northern Indiana. There are at least 7 races in the United States Canoe Association circuit here: more if the rivers aren’t too low from a draught, too fast from flooding, or too rough from the winds on Lake Michigan! The paddlers are marathon racers who love to go fast over 9 or more miles in a sea kayak, surf ski, 1-4 person racing canoe, outrigger canoe, downriver kayak, or “unlimited” boat. Things can get dicey at times on and off the water as each sizes up the competition and conditions on race day . . . but they always go home as friends, ready for a re-match on another day.
Here’s a link to the Race Reports at River Bear Racing. Going fast can be a lot of fun for spectators like me too.