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How not to make my day [Aug. 23., 2016|11:59 am]
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So, the run-in:

I was waiting for the elevator. There was an older man in an electric geri chair and a younger woman with him. She was wearing plastic gloves, so I thought she was a nurse or CNA despite not wearing scrubs. I greeted them and the man engaged me in conversation. "I'm on four. Where are you staying?" I explained that it was my husband who was in residence; he took that in stride, like most people do.

In any case, the elevator arrived (after I showed them how you sometimes have to push the button again to get it to open) and the man manœuvred the chair into it. I started to step in, but the woman said, "Is there going to be enough room? I need a certain amount of room to do things." This kicked off a confusing exchange between the two--the man encouraging her to come in, the woman protesting, until finally I muttered, "This is ridiculous. I'll take the next one" and walked out.

She stepped in, turned to me, and said, "It's interesting that you call it 'ridiculous' when you're gay." It took me a moment to realise what had even happened. I stepped forward and held the door. "Did you just make a thing of me being gay? Why would you even do that?" Turns out she felt personally attacked by my comment (even though it was directed at the situation, not any particular person) and felt--she explained--fully justified in attacking me in return. "I have OCD!" she screamed. Fine, okay, but then maybe have a plan for the utterly foreseeable event of having to share an elevator? And maybe communicate that to the people around you so they have some idea what the hell's going on? If she had simply said, "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable sharing an elevator," I would've been like, whatever, and waited.

Instead, she created a situation where she felt she had to say, "I'm not homophobic!" because she'd just demonstrated the opposite. I get that she was feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. But when you've spent all of a minute with somebody and your mind goes right to, "How can I use the one thing I know about this person against them?" that doesn't say much for your character, does it? The poor guy in the chair was trying to calm things, but neither of us was listening. I could see that nothing I might say would make things better for anyone, released the door, and then stood there fuming, hoping that would be the last I would ever see of her in my life.
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Endless [Aug. 23., 2016|11:36 am]
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Yesterday sucked. So did much of Sunday. If I were to plot my psychoemotional trajectory for the last several days, it would've peaked some time Saturday night (probably watching the moonlight dance on the waters at Berger Park after a lively meal at Sabri Nehari). The low point is harder to pinpoint; maybe leaving the care facility on the verge of tears yesterday evening?

How did I reach that point? Saturday's evening meal was much spicier than expected--everything seemed to be spiked with chiles except the lassi and the naan--so I got to sleep late and didn't sleep well, leaving me strung out on Sunday. The original plan was to come by in the morning and get the Old Man out in the open air for a while. (Sunday is the one day he isn't scheduled for therapy.) But all he wanted to do was sleep. That's all I wanted to do either, but I didn't have a bed to do it in. (I found a couch in an unoccupied meeting room on the ground floor, but no sooner had a lay myself down before a stray jet fighter from the Annual MilPorn Extravaganza flew over.)

In all, I was there for five hours, during which monshu and I hardly interacted, he never got up, and he hardly ate a thing. I left in a state of exhaustion and annoyance. My plans for the afternoon--I'd hoped I might be able to spend an hour or two at the Glenwood Arts Festival seeing my friends--got scrapped, since all I had the energy for was coming back home and crashing. Besides, I had still had chores to finish. That gave me a certain sense of satisfaction and I felt better by bedtime (balanced out, however, by a phone call from the nurse that monshu was running a slight fever).

Next morning was a different story--achy, stuffed-up, bowels acting up, etc. It felt like the onset of a severe cold, so I called in. I didn't want to sleep too much, lest I throw off my schedule, but I didn't accomplish much beyond paying a few bills (including the insurance on our, which I ran over to the office for, since it was due that day), and picking up a prescription on my way in to see the Old Man. Not much change: still a slight fever, still not interesting in eating anything but a few pieces of watermelon. Nonetheless, I stayed for nearly three hours, waiting for my chance to coax some broth into him, before I gave up.

Before I even got there, though, I got a call from the administrator saying that our insurer had denied our request to stay through until Thursday morning and the next two days would out of pocket. So the beginning of my visit was spent in his office trying to get an estimate for our pharmaceutical expenses in order to head off nasty surprises. (Thank the gods he got the shot at the oncologist's or there'd be no way we could afford this.) While waiting for the elevator, I had an unpleasant run-in with the companion of another resident, one that left me shook up for hours. I left, as I already mentioned, on the verge of tears. All I wanted was to be home and the bus stubbornly refused to come while some jerk sat in the bus shelter and smoked so I had no place to sit down.

We're trying to make arrangements to get monshu home, so there's an awfully good chance yesterday won't be the worst day I'll have this week. So nerve-wracking, relying on people you hardly know to do what they should so you and yours aren't suffering in the days ahead. And so hard to plan expenses, with no real idea what the timeframe is and what will and won't be covered. I've found myself saying, "When this is all over..." and then catching myself, because this won't ever be over. At some point, it will be for monshu, of course, but then I'll be left with a crushing load of grief on top of the responsibility for managing all the finances and hospital affairs. How do people deal with that? Guess I'm soon to find out.
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All wet [Aug. 18., 2016|11:24 am]

Awoken a bit early this morning by fast-moving thunderstorms. Briefly, I thought I might want to stay home and let them pass and began to plot out what I might do to pass the time (such as ironing), but they were over in an hour. Mercifully, they brought cool air in their wake. I found myself getting spattered on the walk to work so I detoured through the alley. I normally avoid it this time of year due to the lack of shade, but it was still overcast. In fact, the sun didn't come out until after I reached Evanston, creating one of my favourite effects: bright sunlight contrasting against blue-black cloud cover over the horizon.

I think I've mentioned before how much the cat has mellowed with regard to storms. Even as I heard thunder rumble, I could still feel him grooming himself at the foot of the bed. (At least, I think I felt that; I've been mistaken before.) Even during the height of it, he followed me into the bathroom for buttrubs and then set himself quietly down on the chenille rug. It's nice--for a change--to be able to pet him as much as I like without having to worry about him turning on me and biting, even if he doesn't purr.

It could be a hectic evening at the home as I attempt to touch base with the social worker who's doing monshu's discharge planning as well as the doctor, the friend of a friend who might handle some of his home care, Turtlewife, and whoever else might show up and need to chat with me. I hope the Old Man is engaged; I feel like he should be taking a more active role in his care than he is, though I recognise that it's only by mentally checking out to a certain degree that he's able to put up with his situation at all.

I still have very mixed feelings about bringing him home, though at least the panic has faded. As far as I can see, he's not substantially more able to care for himself now than he was three weeks ago. That may change if he's no longer hooked to an IV 24/7, but he's not currently eating enough to sustain being off TPN and seems rather uninterested in doing anything about that. (Yesterday evening he finally resisted my nagging, saying, "Stop worrying, I'm going to eat" and I wanted to yell back, "When?") You'd think better food would make a difference, but he brushes off my offers to bring him something more appealing than institutional food, so who knows how much that will change at home.
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One more revolution [Aug. 15., 2016|10:55 pm]
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In possibly the least auspicious beginning to one of my birthdays ever, my first phone call wasn't from the pharmacy robot (as I first suspected) or a well-wisher (my second guess), but a collection agency. Seems my doctor's office hasn't the patience to wait for my insurer to reprocess all our bills for the year until they get it right and I'm not sure I blame them. (Naw, I kinda do.) On the other hand it featured this exchange:
"Can you verify your zipcode and date of birth."
"My zipcode is XXXXX, my date of birth is X/XX/XX."
"So today must be your birthday."
"That's correct."
"Happy birthday."
"Thank you!"
If I'd gotten out of the house when I'd planned, I would have missed the call entirely, but I hadn't slept well and (relatedly?) I'm still dealing with some GI issues from last week. Getting down to the facility to see monshu took a whole hour: half-an-hour to wait for the bus and then another half-an-hour for it to make its way down to Lawrence with all the old and infirm getting on and off at every stop. When I got there, I found him waiting to be cleaned up by the CNA--who, it turns out, hadn't been told he needed assistance. Neither had his nurse. He had no idea who he'd told, in fact, so there was no way of knowing who'd dropped the ball. I left frustrated with both the staff's sloppiness and with him for tolerating it.

My first stop was Cafe Meinl on Southport, which managed to disappoint me in a myriad of small ways. My coffee was badly mixed. (All the syrup was on the bottom.) My eggs were overdone. My waitron was training someone and couldn't be bothered to give me the check or run my card. My guts were still acting up. And Southport itself has changed so much from the street I first fell in love with twenty-two years ago. When I told my father, he asked, "Changes for the better" and I said, "It's not for me to judge, really. I don't live in Lakeview. Maybe they're very happy to have a Gap there."

Stage two was Bookworks on Clark Street. The moment I learned that they were closing and today would be their first 50% off day, I knew where I wanted to spend my birthday. But I was fighting a sense of melancholy the whole time I was scanning the shelves. And even having told myself I was going to be as generous as I could when it came to my choices, I still found it hard to find things to buy. My customary limit of $100 was in place, but in the end I barely spent a quarter of that.

Meanwhile, the sky continued to threaten rain and I'd left my umbrella at home, lulled by radar projections which showed the bulk of the storm remaining comfortably south of us. At least I finally had quick connexions taking the bus back to share my birthday torte with the Old Man (who this time was just after getting cleaned up) and the droplets held off until I was back at home. On the way, I'd cobbled together a dinner at Revival on Granville with the couple across the street and their straight nephew, plus JB (coming straight from work and looking the worse for it) and Diego.

There were a few missteps in this meal, too, bu they're much easier to take when you're distracted by good company and pleasantly lit on a fancy g&t. The server's easy charm only fed our spirits and I had the rare pleasure of seeing one of my friends explain slashfic to a whole table of people unfamiliar with the concept. We left in high spirits and I arrived at home just in time for a comedy of errors with my phone: First Dad called me while I was going through messages and I missed it. Then he called my sister by mistake, who informed me of this via text. Then he called back again while I was replying to her and sent his call to voicemail by mistake. He finally switched phones and called from the landline.

So now the frustrations and discomfort of earlier in the day are all but forgotten and I'm left with the pleasant afterglow of a good meal with friends and well wishes from a host of people. That's all it really takes to make me happy any more. The single best thing about getting older is finally getting your expectations calibrated.
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Digested but not forgotten [Aug. 10., 2016|03:29 pm]

As much as it came close to being a slog at times, as I neared the end of Search sweet country, I began to feel a bit farklemt at the thought of having to say farewell to the various characters. I was in a Thai restaurant at the time and wondered if I should wait for someplace a bit more quiet and private, like home, but I had only a few pages at that point and waiting for me at home was a hurried dinner and a condo meeting.

About halfway through, I figured out that the complicated relationship between Kofi Loww and Adwoa Adde was the narrative thread on which the novel hung and, when that resolved, I knew we'd entred the denouement and the rest of the chapters would simply be tying up the stories of the rest of the cast of characters. The conclusions to their stories are satisfying without being too too neat and Laing ends on a hopeful if melancholy note. The heavies retreat into the background, the ordinary people get on with their lives, and Accra abides.

At times the writing veers close to cliché (particularly the way he treats abstract qualities as concrete objects and in the recurrence of metaphors rooted in Ghanaian cuisine), but at its best it's still vibrant and fresh. Despite being published forty years ago, the work doesn't feel especially dated, but I wonder how much that's due to my basic ignorance of Ghanaian popular culture (so that a reference to a popular song or a style of dress would be equally foreign to me even if it were current). I'm going to be curious to look back in a year or so and see how much of it sticks with me.

So what next? I'm reading Woodrell's harrowing Outlaw album while I decide. I'm leaning toward Yaşar Kemal's sequel to İnce Memed, which should be a quick read and appropriate to my state of mind. There are some other things in the hopper--Atwood, Hulme, Maraire, the balance of Os Maias--but I feel like they may be better suited to cooler weather.
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Onliest child [Aug. 10., 2016|12:10 pm]
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I don't know if all grade schools do this, but instead of making each child responsible for themselves, the parochial schools we attended had a way of designating one child from each family to be the responsible party for such routine business as bringing news home, purchasing lunch tickets, and so forth. The term used was "oldest and only": If you were an only child, or if you were the oldest of several in the same school, you were on the hook to see that these jobs got done.

I wasn't the oldest; I was the second-oldest, and only a year younger than my older brother. So for seven years, any time "oldest and only" came up, I tuned out. Not entirely, I don't think; there must have been days where it was something interesting enough for me to bring up at home if my brother forgot to. But for the most part, I was like "Oh, he'll take care of that."

Of course, after eighth grade, he moved on to high school and suddenly I had to pay attention. I hadn't really considered what had been asked of him until his responsibilities became mine and I realised I was terrible at them. More than once, I was pulled out of class because my younger brother was standing there beside the lunch line unable to eat because I'd forgotten to purchase lunch tickets for the three of us as I was supposed to. (The youngest children always went to the cafeteria first.) I'm sure there were bigger messes I made that I've forgotten all about now.

That's what the last 19 weeks feel like to me: a flashback to that eighth-grade year. There were good reasons for assigning monshu the responsibilities he had, and though I had some idea what was involved, I didn't appreciate enough what it would mean for me to have to take them all on. And belatedly I recognise that I might never be able to give them up again.
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Family Visit 2016: State of the Niblings [Aug. 8., 2016|04:14 pm]

By now, my sister has done the first-weekend-in-August Chicago trip enough times that's she decided to make it A Thing and getting the planning done in advance. It's pretty amusing to look back at previous visits and compare how much things have changed. Late on Saturday, my sister confided in me how she found it slightly unsettling to look at her oldest "and start the see the adult he will be". For me, it's simply amusing--and somewhat exciting. I had misgivings about taking the boys to a Chinese restaurant given their insane levels of finickiness, but not only did AWI love almost everything we ordered he complained about not getting to order the seabass. Oh my goddess, kid, we are going to have so much fun going out when you come back next summer.

So here's a quick one-by-one rundown on the current State of the Niblings:
  • AWI: A geek in my own image. Watches Dr Who religiously? Check. Reading LotR? Check. Wears bowties? Check. Bores you with chatter about his fantasy game world? Check. But I think his most charming character trait is his affection toward his brothers, particularly the youngest. He seems to genuinely enjoy babysitting. (Apparently he's been able to make a little income from it, though still not enough to afford a cellphone.)
  • ECI: Still less aloof than he seems. Yeah, he spent the most time looking at a tiny screen, but he also gave me the longest hug when he left. He's smarter and more socially-aware than his older brother, but also more devious. He's also a budding scientist: For him, a cup of ice on a hot day is an invitation to experimentation. (DeGrasse Tyson would be thrilled with the amount of encouragement he seems to be getting on that score.) I'm happy to see that he still enjoys doing some little-kid stuff like riding a carousel or telling really dumb jokes, because I don't expect that to survive contact with high school.
  • IMI: For years, I thought of him as the Tantrum Child, but he seems finally to have settled down. Now he's the Enigma Child, who is the most likely to be off in a world of his own devising that he only occasionally verbalises about enough to give you a brief glimpse. Maybe I'm warming to him at last?
  • OGI: Not gonna lie--still my favourite. But with IMI becoming more placid, his whininess and fussiness stands out more. He was the only child who refused to eat anything set in front of him at Sun Wah (until the fortune cookies arrived) and he almost became the source of an I'll-Turn-This-Car-Around moment at the zoo yesterday. But he let me take him down to see the Secret Village in the basement of the home and loved the idea of bringing along his brothers one-at-a-time. (I hadn't the heart to tell him we probably wouldn't be back.) And Saturday night, he asked me to lie down next to him so he could fall asleep. (Which he did in like five minutes; of course, just as I was about to extract myself, his brother chose that moment to put down his book and rest his head on my chest. Oh well; nothing I haven't been through before with the cat.)
  • JHI: Still preverbal, which I know has my sister concerned, but what's he really got to say at this age anyway? He's also very interactive, having not discovered screens yet. In order to tire him out before the return trip on Sunday, I spent some time helping him to stalk pigeons. He was being a mama's boy much of the time, but not so much that he didn't let me hold him up to view gorillas. He also hasn't found out yet that he's allowed to dislike 99% of all food in the world, which makes him a close second to AWI when it comes to new dining experiences.
JHI got a little screechy at the restaurant, but that's okay because "at Sun Wah, no one can hear you scream". ECI discovered that duck "is just chicken" and ECI and IMI found fascinating things to do with chopsticks. AWI was reluctant to eat the fish when he realised it still had his spine, but a little quick fileting on my part and he was good.

Not sure they'll have much in the way of new memories of their Uncle monshu from this visit, which is a shame since it means they might not end up with many at all. Despite having only one therapy session on Saturday, he tired quickly and they were distracted by cushions and Pokémon. Maybe they'll remember more of their Uncle Nuphy, who was able to join the trip to the MSI which I decided was a longer haul than I was up on my only day for sleeping in.
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A useful joke [Aug. 5., 2016|01:17 pm]

I can't find it now, but years ago I posted about the hilarious Russian textbook published many years ago by Slavica and which I finally got my own copy of due to the generosity of keyne. At one point, I'd shown it to a coworker who grew up in the Soviet Union. She showed it to her family and they laughed themselves senseless.

Today, she came by and asked, "What was the name of that Russian textbook with the ударники?" I knew immediately what she was referring to, but couldn't remember title or author. First I tried rifling through this journal and came up empty. Then I essayed a few Google searches, finally hitting paydirt in the form of a ten year-old LanguageHat entry.

I took my bibliographical information back to her, assuming that she simply wanted to check out the book again to show someone else. Instead I discovered that she had a very practical goal in mind, one related to a cataloging project she's working on. We have a cache of Soviet-era propaganda posters in special collections and she's finding herself stuck for translations of specialised terminology like ударник ("shock-worker" or "strike-worker", a Soviet ideal) which the Lipson's book makes extensive use of.

That's another great thing about my job: It's all fun and games until suddenly a source you mocked becomes just the thing for the task at hand.
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Alden times [Aug. 3., 2016|12:29 pm]
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I'm sorry to say I'm not really impressed with the place we transferred monshu to on Saturday. At first I made a lot of allowances for the fact that it was a weekend transfer, since those are always problematic. But here we are, four days in, and some basics (like making sure he has a wheelchair) still haven't been taken care of. I don't think I realised myself how many issues there were until I got a QA call yesterday and heard the sympathetic clucking of the survey-taker.

I figured having roommates would be the biggest adjustment. After all, unless you count me sleeping over three times a week while we were dating and him staying in my apartment for two weeks after his was sold, he hasn't had to go without a room of his own in probably 30 years. I was loath to tell him about that aspect, in fact, but he shrugged it off. We haven't done too badly. The one is pretty quiet--like the GWO, he seems to be recovering from a severe injury, but he's not so far along. He keeps to himself and channel surfs to pass the time.

The other has been in the building for 17 years and is--as you would expect--rather territorial. (After his third passive-aggressive reminder of the posted visiting hours--which don't apply to close family, like spouses--I asked to have the policy printed out so I could tape it to the wall.) He spends most of the day listening to music and only occasionally trying to start a conversation about his handful of idées fixes. I feel sorry for him, but not enough to be much more than civil. As monshu says, he's "so 50s" that neither of us have much in common with him. (His favourite opera is La fanciulla del West and he watches lots of Bonanza.) I've had more interesting chats with a couple of the guys who hang out in the common area most of the time, even if one of them is a natural member of Trump's constituency. (He was dissing his roommate for playing "Mexican music" even though this is the "US of A", but the young Black activities director ganged up with an Italian-born grandfather to shut him down right quick.)

But, really, I think the biggest adjustment is the level of care and level of service. As I told the survey-taker, I couldn't stand in the hallway of the other places we've been for more than a minute without someone asking me if we needed anything. Here I feel invisible to the CNAs and even staking out the nurses' station generally isn't enough to get their attention. It's not entirely their fault--they seem badly overworked. (One of the CNAs subtly indicated this when the nursing supervisor told me their ratio is 1:8 and she quietly added, "It's supposed to be eight"; from what I can see, the norm actually seems closer to twelve.) But some screw-ups--like completely forgetting to bring his dinner the other evening--are hard to excuse.

But one of my biggest concerns is being met: the amount of time he's spending in therapy is at least double what it was, and it's all one-on-one rather than group. This is huge, because it's hard to imagine having him home if he's still not able to make it out of bed without assistance. Moreover, he never warmed to the physical therapist at the last place, but so far everyone on the time here has been great. Also, after four months in places who make a fetish out of isolating patients from the out-of-doors as much as humanly possible, we finally have a patio we can go to (even if it requires a damn hall pass to get him out there). The alone is worth worlds.
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Tops [Jul. 24., 2016|09:25 pm]

In her second HBO special, Wanda Sykes has a bit where she skewers respectability politics by talking about all the stereotypical things she's been avoiding doing in public that she's going to take up again now that Obama is in the White House. ("If he wins a second term, I'm going to Popeye's!") In it she mentions how her mother used to scold her for rocking out in the car by saying, "White people are looking at you!"

That was one of the first things that came to mind when I watched the Carpool Karaoke video featuring Michelle Obama. I'd already seen some of the racist blowback, so I knew that White people were looking at her, and condemning her "undignified" behaviour. But I'd also seen a slew of friends share the video already so I knew there were more people--of all races--who were looking at that video and thinking, "Damn I wish I were in that car!"

I know I was. And though I know she's looking forward to no longer being one of the most scrutinised and criticised women in the country, but selfishly, I really hope she maintains a presence in the public eye because I am going to miss her like crazy.
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