Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Want One Of These

I was looking for something mindless on TV a couple of nights ago and came across Living with Ed, a program about Ed Begley Jr., who is a bit of a nut on environmental issues.

In the show, they installed a wind turbine on his house. Now I want one. I don't know if it would actually be cost efficient. I suspect that at almost $3,000 before installation, it would take a long time to pay it off. But damn. A wind turbine! Feeding electricity into my house and maybe, on a good day, back into the grid!

Who wouldn't want one!

Monday, August 27, 2007


The universe is just what is. But as human beings, we impose story on it. We arbitrarily decide that something 'began' at a certain point and 'ended' at a certain point. That's how we tell stories. It's hard for me to do that sometimes--especially with endings. I distrust endings in stories. But there are certain easily identifiable narrative endings in our experience. Death is the obvious one.

The problem is, the narrative only has shape afterwards. Up until we die, there are only events, some predictable, some not.

I'm acutely aware of that right now. Last night I got a call from the Assisted Living where my mother lives. She wouldn't eat her dinner or drink anything and an alert aide* took her back to her room and took her vitals. She had a temperature of 102. Last week they finally managed to get a urine sample from her (she kept dumping them out--it was clearly difficult for her to keep the point of this whole exercise in her mind) and she has a urinary tract infection. It's probably the cause of some increased confusion of late. So they put her on antibiotics.

If you're curious, the most common causes of transitory confusion in the elderly are:
  • dehydration or failure to eat
  • medication
  • diabetic reactions.
  • heart problems
  • infections
  • urinary alterations
  • hypothermia or hyperthermia.
She takes almost no medications. She eats well. So when a week and a half ago, she climbed into the van that had arrived to take someone else to dialysis and could not be convinced that she didn't need to go somewhere, they tested for infection. (Things are so much different now. I remember nursing homes when I was a child--scary smelly warehouses of old people with a TV blaring too loud in the common room. When someone was confused then, they tied them to the chair. Do I remember that? I remember I tried not to look at the other people living there when we went to visit my great aunt because I was afraid. Did they test for urinary tract infections when someone got more confused? Particularly someone like my mother, who was already confused?)

So they called me last night and told me that if she didn't respond to acetaminophen, they'd have to call the EMTs and send her to the hospital. Just like babies run fevers that would kill an adult, the elderly tend to run lower fevers than younger people, and 102 degrees in a 92 year old woman can signal a life threatening condition.

I'm trying to impose narrative on all this. What does it mean? What do I do now? What could it signify for the near future.

Well, right now, her fever is gone, she's back to normal this morning--whatever normal means for a 92 year old woman with dementia. But she's eating and talking to people. I can imagine her, back downstairs in the dining room in her ancient blue cardigan. (She only wears blue anymore.) And there's no narrative to this moment except the pattern we will see, or think we see, when at some point, we look back at all this.

*Bless the women who tend my mother. Who watch over her. Who tell me when I call to check at 11:00 at night, 'You get some sleep, honey. We'll call you if anything comes up.' They take care of her for minimum wage. And they tease her and talk to her and keep an eye on her. All I can say is thank you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moving Adam

Although this couch is not from Adam's apartment, nor is this picture even from Adam's city, none the less, some furniture did go back out to the street from whence it came.

Adam and friends are almost moved out. The U Haul is on it's way to a friend's new apartment, bearing with it the furniture that made the cut.

The love seat that they got from the frat house--that's gone.

Tomorrow we just hang out a bit and Tuesday I head home. This time through JFK instead of Cincinnati. I only hope Hurricane Dean doesn't keep me from getting to fly into Texas.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Connecting Through Cincinnati

The plane is coming into Cincinnati Airport, over the intense green of Kentucky. There is the Ohio River, and there is the interstate and I know that the interstate falls in a long hill down towards the river and then crosses into the city.

There are so many rivers, the land is wrinkled with them. So familiar this place where I grew up, Cincinnati, this small town that happens to have a million people in it. A place I never wanted to be home because my life felt so small there and now it isn't because there is no family for me there anymore and yet it is so familiar that it is an ache. If I don't belong here, and nothing else is so achingly familiar, where do I belong?

And we fall towards the green hills, and I remember my cousins flying in from Arizona and the youngest kept saying what is that? what is that? and they kept laughing and saying, trees! So much water on a green green land and, I told my students in China, those children of farmers, where I come from, the problem is not drought but drainage, and they laughed.

And we touch down. I am here for thirty minutes, and then lifted away again, over a landscape, bird's eye view that no human should ever have expected to see. Icarus falling and lifted up again. Strange dislocations of technology. Temporarily homeless and in flight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Glandular Fever

My kid has mono.

I always thought that mono would be a rather pleasant disease to have. It's one of those fatigue things, where you are tired all the time. I had this vague idea that mono might be indistinguishable from laziness. But as it turns out, in the first week of the illness there is a sore throat so awful that at least in one case I know, they prescribed vicodin. It's a sore throat described as 'like strep.' That's my kid. On vicodin for a sore throat. And the spleen can enlarge and occasionally rupture. (Adam appears to fine in that regard.)

He also has to be out of his school apartment three days before he can move into another apartment--he has a six month co-op job with Fischer Price. It's a dream co-op, he worked like crazy for it. He was planning to live in his van for three days. He hadn't actually figured out what he was going to do with his bed and stuff. (He has a furnished apartment for the co-op.) That a 22 year old boy would have just figured it would all work out is, well, what a lot of 22 year olds do. Normally we just say, 'Wow, sounds complicated. Good luck with that, kid.'

But he's sick and he's broke. So I'm headed to Rochester this Friday. We've worked out plans to get his car fixed, get his stuff in storage, and get him in a hotel. Then I'll make him eat and sleep and watch TV until he goes off to the new job. Where he will probably spend a lot of his time really tired, poor kid.

(The phone just rang--my mother is showing some signs of increased confusion and they're going to have a doctor check her for infection or some other addressable cause. she's in Cleveland. At least Rochester is a lot closer to Cleveland than Austin is...)

Friday, August 10, 2007

This and That

I am sorry for my protracted silence. I plead travel, unexpected work, and company. The travel was, well, travel. Anything involving airports should be passed over in silence.

The company, on the other hand, has involved much good talk, and good food. Pat and Gloria Stansberry came last week and we rescued their niece, Rachel, from the monotony of army life for a weekend of bats and food. (When Rachel is deployed I'll be soliciting people to adopt a soldier. More on that later in the year, I think.)

The the folk from Eat Our Brains came so I could cook for them. I got to make ox tail ragu with gnocchi. This weekend is ArmadilloCon. Then, I think, the quiet life for awhile.