Sunday, December 1, 2013

Love Lost and Found

            Margaret sits on a maroon and gold University of Minnesota beach towel that is spread smoothly over the grainy white sand. The lake is as clear as a mirror and there is an assortment of water worshipers enjoying the warm weather. The small Minnesota beach town of 6,000 swells in the summer to around 9,000 with sunbirds and college students on vacation. The window of summer in lake country is very short, and the visitors and natives take advantage of the little sun they are able to capture. A well-built man is paddle boarding with his faithful black lab braced for action at his feet. Off in the distance, a young couple bounces on a wave runner, gliding through the water, kicking up a spray of angel wings behind them. Closer to her blanket, three young children are running into the water, splashing and screaming, then running out of the water, only to repeat the process over and over again. Margaret rubs the back of the sleeping baby lying next to her on the blanket. She wonders if Gracie will love the sun and water as much as the squealing children on the beach do.

            Thinking back over the first eight months of Gracie’s life, Margaret couldn’t help but smile. She did it. She escaped the dark crevasses occupying her mind and the three bad relationships with men she thought she loved. Margaret shutters at the memories. Nick was her first live in. He wanted her to cut and bleach her hair to satisfy his bizarre fantasies. The fighting and temper tantrums resulted in his fist nearly missing her cheekbone and thrusting through the apartment wall. Next there was Eric, whose dark outlook on life was a result of his grave upbringing by his psychotic mother. Margaret was attracted to his barbaric sense of humor and morbid view on everything from cemeteries to serial killers. When the put downs and insults weakened her self esteem to suicidal thoughts, she finally freed herself from his talons. Matt was the closest to becoming her ‘til-death-do-us-part partner, but he fled the scene when she suggested they move in together.

            Margaret’s life changed when she adopted Gracie. A best friend from college told her about a pregnant teenager who wanted to give up her baby. Margaret had longed to have a child of her own, but since she had such terrible luck in choosing a compatible mate, she thought this would be a way for her to find the unconditional love she so desperately needed.

            Gracie’s cries startle Margaret as she realizes she must have fallen asleep herself. Her head jerks up and she sees many of the sunbathers running in her direction. She looks in the direction they are running and sees the flames. The couple on the wave runner had slammed into the fuel pump on the marina and burst into a fiery ball. At first she couldn’t tell if the couple had escaped the inferno, but her gut told her the worst had happened. Screams, sirens, yelling, and chaos all compete as the smoke billows around the water. Margaret picks Gracie up and holds her close, grateful that nothing had happened to her. The children who, moments earlier, were playing tag at the water’s edge are now huddled together by their caretaker, an older woman with grey hair. The young man from the paddleboard hurries over to stand by Margaret, his black dog obedient by his side. They all feel helpless as the firemen work on extinguishing the fire. The paramedics finally arrive and strap the young couple to boards, their charred bodies unrecognizable. The sirens start again as the ambulance speeds down Main Street to the hospital.

            It seems like hours while the flames are furiously trying to reach the clouds and engulf the other boats, but only minutes before the sunbathers suddenly realize how lucky they are. People cluster together, hugging their children, and gathering up their coolers and blankets to go home.

            The man standing next to Margaret starts up a conversation. They recap the events that led up to the disaster and speculate how the young couple on the wave runner could have lost control.

            Margaret still feels the uneasiness in her stomach even though she realizes how fortunate she and Gracie are. The wave runner could have come up on the beach and injured many people, including them. Her anxiety does not go away, so she gathers up her towels and baby bag, straps Gracie in her stroller, and hikes up the street to the hospital. She isn’t sure why she is there, but she has to ask the front desk about the couple who had just been admitted. Since the nurse can’t divulge any information, Margaret sits down in the lobby and waits.

            An older couple comes running into the hospital, obviously distraught. Margaret immediately recognizes them as being the parents of Gracie’s mother. Her stomach feels as though it is going to explode. Margaret realizes from the faces of the parents at the front desk that the young couple is dead. Margaret picks up Gracie and walks slowly to face the middle-aged couple who are tightly wrapped in each other’s arms. She explains who she and Gracie are. The woman sobs even harder. Margaret holds the baby out to her. Gracie’s grandmother holds her for several minutes, studying her round face, stroking her soft hands, and inspecting the toes on her feet. Obviously pained, yet grateful, by this gesture, she hands Gracie back to Margaret.

            Margaret leaves the hospital, clutching Gracie to her breast. The young man and his black dog are standing outside waiting for them. Margaret stares at his emerald jeweled eyes as he holds his hand out to her. For the first time in several years, Margaret does not feel the urge to run away, but takes his hand as they walk together away from the hospital.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Walking Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

I hate to bore you with more details about my skeletal woes and trips to the doctor, but after all, I am at that age where the topics of conversations at happy hour are colonoscopies and gall bladder surgeries.

I’m a walker, and walking can be hazardous to your health. Most of the time, I power walk, which is quite a feat (pardon the play on words) when you have short, stubby little legs like I do. After one of my walks about 6 weeks ago, the back of my knee started to hurt. Then, as I was stepping down from a stepladder, the nauseating pain riveted down the back of my calf.

Mentally preparing myself for the big one…knee surgery…I visited orthopedic surgeon number one. After two wimpy x-rays, his prognosis was a torn meniscus…no surgery…physical therapy. Ten minutes and $300 later, along with his best guess, I was home icing my knee.

Orthopedic surgeon number two guessed bursitis. After a very painful cortisone injection, a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, and more physical therapy, I went home and wrapped a heating pad around my leg.

The cortisone shot did nothing except form a black, bruised hole on my leg (where the Physical Therapist drew a happy face), and I might as well swallow candy because the anti-inflammatory pills are worthless.

What I really want is an accurate diagnosis, and the ability to walk, free of pain, without shuffling and dragging my leg like Frankenstein. So I made my list of things to do today:

1. Wash the sheets
2. Go to Costco
3. Go to the Emergency Room for an MRI

Me: “I want an MRI on my knee, please.”

ER Nurse: “The Emergency Room doesn’t give MRI’s.”

Me: “But I had one last year when I had my emergency hernia surgery.”

ER Nurse: “You had a CAT Scan.”

Me: “Oh.”

After probably having a good chuckle with the nurse out in the hallway, doctor number three told me it’s probably a torn meniscus, and I will need surgery to repair it

ER Doctor: “In the meantime, here is a leg brace and crutches until your doctor orders an MRI. Oh, and…continue your physical therapy.”

So, back to square one – if only I could find a doctor who will order an MRI for me because right now I can’t walk at all – and the physical therapy is becoming hazardous to my health.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Grocery Store Shopping

You find them all at the grocery store – every body type, every voice level, every age, group, every gender. It’s usually a grueling experience for me.

I have found (sorry ladies) that men who shop for food are the usually the most considerate. Probably because they realize that their testosterone is outnumbered by the amount of estrogen in a 15,000 square foot building by about 99 to 1. They will make sure their cart is pushed to one side in an aisle to let you pass; they will let you go through the check out first if you only have a few items; and they will ask you about which spaghetti sauce you prefer. Men, also, are considerate enough to call the wife to make sure they are buying the right thing – “Honey, do you want the 1% or 2% milk?”

Warning!! DO NOT send your husband to the market for one specific item you need 30 minutes before guests arrive for dinner. Instead of getting a package of wild rice, they will come home with a Betty Crocker microwavable rice dinner in a bowl.

Then there’s the mother who is dragging her 3 children along with her. They are usually trailing behind her as she maneuvers from aisle to aisle, holding up the parade for the other shoppers, and it’s apparent they would rather be anywhere else than at the grocery store. The teenagers are texting, and the pre-teen is whining for every chip and cookie on the shelf.

Then there are those god-awful carts where the kid is strapped in and thinks he’s a racecar driver. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea. Not only do the carts block the entire aisle, but the kid is usually screaming to get out of it. The mother is oblivious to all of this while she decides what soup to open for dinner.

I like the elderly ladies the best – probably because we are closest in age and wear the same progressive/transition lenses eyeglasses. We will stand, shoulder to shoulder, looking at the shelf in front of us for about 10 minutes. Pretty soon we will say to each other, “Do you see the graham cracker crumbs?” “No, they were here last year.” About 20 minutes later you run into them again, “I found the cracker crumbs, now I’m looking for the shoestring potatoes.” “Oh, yeah, I think I saw them on the chip aisle.” We like to help each other out.

Today I am maneuvering my way down the bread aisle looking for hot dog buns. We are responsible for the tailgate party, and I thought hot dogs would be the easiest to prepare. Woops – low and behold, I encounter a Lane Bryant sized woman, straddling the walkway with her cart parked directly in the center. In my most pleasant voice I say, “Excuse me.” She turns to me and says, “I’m sorry. You should have hit me up side the head.” I think this is funny, so, trying to make light of the situation, I say, “Like Gibbs does on NCIS.” We all of a sudden become the best of friends. We stand there for 15 minutes sharing tales about watching NCIS, Law and Order, and Criminal Minds on TV. Then we discuss types of bread that is best for toasting and if our headbands are too young for us. We could barely tear ourselves away from each other. “Maybe we’ll see each other again some time.” “Yea, maybe down the cookie aisle.”

So from now on, I will change my attitude about grocery shopping. I will view it as a networking experience.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Take-Charge Health Care

When I retired I went on the state retirement health insurance plan, which actually is pretty good. However, when I called my primary care physician to make an appointment for my annual physical, his staff informed me that he did not take my new insurance and I would have to find another doctor. That’s great. Fifteen years of being taken care of by the same doctor and not so much as a “Let me refer you to someone else.” or “I’ll do your physical this year, but you will have to find a new GP for your next appointment.” or “How have you been feeling lately?” Nope. Never heard from him. He knew every mole on my body; he poked and prodded personal places my husband doesn’t even know about; he peered into the deepest crevasses of my womanhood. It was as though I was a kitten who had grown up being caressed and cared for by a loving family and then tossed out into the rain to fend for myself. Well, that’s exactly what this kitten has done. I’ve decided to take charge of my own health care.

It’s not hard, really. I had my blood drawn at Walgreens. Safeway gave me my vaccinations. Solis actually called me to remind me of my mammogram (business must be slow). All this is automatically submitted to my health insurance, which doesn’t have to adjust any overinflated fees that the doctor charges, and I receive all the results.

The latest take charge was my visit to have my mammogram. I have always dreaded this procedure because it is not a very pleasant experience having the technician grab your boob, plop and push it on a cold piece of glass, and then squash it between two glass plates in a vice. So I thought of some ways the radiology office could make a woman’s visit more comfortable. First of all, have some quiet music playing, soft lights, and scented candles burning as you enter the dressing room to undress. Instead of those sterile two-foot long capes that drape over your shoulders only to cover half your nipples, they can provide you with a little black lace cover up so you can pretend you are getting ready to meet the man in your dreams. Second, as you wait to be called into the x-ray room, you could lounge in a recliner, sipping on a glass of wine. And third, while the woman fondles your breasts, a sexy man’s voice could be piped through the speakers saying, “Oh, baby, you’re so beautiful. I’ve never seen such a gorgeous body.” After your girls have been violated and you get dressed, a tall dark handsome man hands you a long-stemmed rose as you leave the office and says, “See you next year, Babe.” Kind of makes you want a mammogram once a week, doesn’t it?

Meow – this cat’s going to make it through nine lives as I take charge of my own health care.