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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Emotional upheaval

I have had a sort of a traumatic evening that was completely unexpected, and which was almost totally the result of television. I watched the ABC evening news with interest because I had seen some of the "trailers" that related to Bob Woodward's return to the newsdesk after traumatic injuries in Iraq. He received traumatic brain injuries that kept him unconscious for over forty days, and which involved lengthy therapy. He seems to be doing very well, but his short visit to the evening news hour was gripping, in part because many of the symptoms that resulted from his injuries seemed so similar in nature to the symptoms that affected Janet in the first two weeks after she awoke after her surgery and strokes.

I found my self absolutely drawn to his one hour special this evening in which he dealt, not only with his own situation and therapy but with many others, some, much more severely injured than he, and some who were perhaps not more seriously injured but whose result was not as fortuitous. Two things drew me so seriously to these programs.

One, I have mentioned, that for many of these people, symptoms seemed so close to some of the things that affected Jan as a result of her stroke. Whole segments of vision seemed missing. What vision there is, is modified and sometimes seems untrustworthy. The varying muscular results, almost all of them more dramatic than Janet's, but she still is palsied so that she has great trouble hanging on to anything. (One doctor seemed to be trying to reassure her as he stated that he was pretty sure she didn’t' have Parkinson's Disease.) The evolution of the speaking problems of the varying patients was, in cases much more dramatic, but I recognize in Bob Woodruff's words about his own speech so many things that paralleled Janet's. I spent the entire program in tears.

The second thing was something that has jarred me for almost twenty years, and it was the inadequacy of care from the Veteran's hospitals. Some of it was excused on the premise that they had no way to prepare for so many traumatic brain injuries, and that therapies were "logically but unfortunately" not available in the more scattered areas of the country, but much of it mirrored stuff I have heard for years from friends who are retired military and disabled veterans. For more than twenty years it has been clear to any objective observer that the congress, every administration, and in fact, the country has been nickel and dime ing our obligations to those who served, and to whom promises were made clear back to the second world war.

Back in the early seventies, I was in a meeting with a congressman (regarding some grant stuff) that had become very friendly until, partly because the first Iran crisis was going on and we had hostages taken etc., veteran's care came up and I confronted this congressman about how budgets seemed to be shrinking and care was becoming so bureaucratic and I wondered how it could be explained.

"Dick", he said, " You can hardly imagine how concerned we all are, but everyone is living so much longer than was estimated by the (I would swear he said underwriters, but there must be another word) when the laws were written and the veterans and retirees, particularly from WWII and Korea are just eating up money at incredible rates. We want to support them, but we can't bankrupt the country to do it."

I said something at that time that changed his smile to a frown, removed him as a sponsor for my grant (and really irritated the colleague who was with me though he confessed after we left that he agreed. He just felt that it was not a diplomatic place to have been so emphatic (read mildly profane, I think my comment began with "Bullshit" and went downhill from there.) Polanco (United We Lay, I have never been able to make good links)posted on this subject last year, using her experience as a military dependent, and though there are lots of subjects wherein Polanco and I disagree, this is certainly not one of them. There are organizations like the DAV and VFW that have been fighting this fight for years and receiving polite smiles from the government as they do. If I were to get back to writing about politics, I would advocate the formation of an organization that would put this issue at the top of every election campaign for every party. Our entire nation should be ashamed if not actually humiliated at the treatment of veterans, especially of those who stayed with it to retire, or whose lives have been disrupted if not destroyed by military injuries. (Oh my! Back to bloviating! )

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Neglect and Apologies

I feel like I owe my readers (both of them) an apology. I stated a couple of weeks ago that I would post on weekends and I have run into problems. This past weekend Janet and I decided to go stay with our daughter in South Carolina for the President's Day weekend, and during that time we both came down with terrible colds that just knocked the socks of from us. That's one excuse, but. . . .

I started this summation of events in Finland primarily because I had an ex-editor for a magazine suggest that I should write about them for that magazine. Thinking that it would be a good idea, I started, and each of the posts on the blog has been excerpted from the rough draft of that article. Of course, long after I had started, I received information that I had eight hundred to a thousand words available, and I had, long since exceeded that limit, but I decided to go on anyway, whether it would be published elsewhere or not, since I had sorted through and organized my sources. (I kept a small journal while all this was going on, and, in addition, I sent an email news report of a page or two, home to both our families almost every evening. My sources consist of my notes or journal and copies of all those emails gathered and sequenced as well as some emails and phone calls to others who were there). The part of the adventure that I have reached at this point, after Janet regained consciousness, is both detailed and very personal, including what happened in the hospital, what was happening to me spiritually, and my adventures trying to organize a trip home. Telling this part of the story in a coherent way (still thinking article) has become a problem. I will finish this thing, but probably will post some other stuff (some, already written) just to keep the blog in place while I am fighting the writers block about Jan's illness.. I remember how easy it was, before I decided to quit writing about current political and social subjects just to peel off from someone else's blog post or an article in one of the news magazines and bloviate a little.

I have managed to keep up with some of my favorite blogs and post comments there, but that doesn't keep this space filled. I still will resist filling this space with comments about the human train wrecks involved with Brittany, Anna Nicole, and the other garbage that is infesting the news at this time. Bare with me, I will still post "something" each weekend, and will try to get the Finnish story coherently told. I even have another idea about someone to whom I can submit it when I'm done. (hopefully during this lifetime).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Last week we finally got Janet into the hands of the stroke doctor (Stroke Neurologist) at the Medical College of Georgia. She has been thoroughly Cardiac analyzed and Generalist analyzed and now it was time for the stroke analysis. Sounds like cat petting instructions, doesn't it? Any way the stroke guy did his thing (a very thorough and useful thing with analysis of vision, sensory clues, speech and all kinds of stuff. )

I had to see my retina specialist last week at the Medical college as well, and Janet came with me. I mentioned to him that Janet had her six month appointment coming up at the end of the month, and I was glad because…. and I told him of our adventures in Finland (She sees the same retina specialist that I do because she has a bunch of scar tissue near the nerve opening of one eye that affects that vision like macular degeneration. These are typical appointments for geezers and geezerettes and after a while they become routine). As he finished up with me, he immediately cleared his schedule and worked her in. I think he considered loss of peripheral vision on the right side something more significant than a routine visit. Anyway he sonogramed her and examined her and made another appointment for next month and sent us both home. (The good thing is that he cancelled the appointment for the end of THIS month which saved an eighty mile trip.)

On Valentines Day we got to go in for the tests prescribed by the stroked doctor. Isn't that a romantic Valentines trip? First she had to have her carotid artery and eyes, and the back of her head sonogramed, which apparently was fun (????) and took up an hour or so. Then she had to go back for an MRI. She did fine in filling out the forms, notifying the doctor that she had a metal plate in her wrist, and had had thumb replacements and a knee replacement (as I said, standard geezer replacement and repair). I, sort of, shocked the technicians by revealing her aortic repair, so they had to have her charts checked to make sure that none of the parts installed at that time were metal. Took about an hour. Then Janet got to the part of the form that asked about claustrophobia. Suddenly bells began to ring and she remembered an MRI of her neck about ten years ago where she had ruined the pictures by hyperventilating, and she began to have serious reservations.

Of course, as a typical chauvinistic "manly Man" I told her that it really wasn't going to be a problem. When I had MRI's I just closed my eyes and let the rhythm of the bong bong bong crash that the machine makes put me to sleep and it would probably work for her. Her response wasn't verbal, but I moved several places down the list in her estimation. Perhaps six weeks of flowers everyday will get me back - - OH well.

She screwed up her courage and went in the room. After about twenty minutes, one of the technicians came out with a shrug. "She's chickening out", said the technician. (She will never know how lucky she is that Jan never heard the comment, though it was true.)
Janet came hesitantly out of the room and said, "I can't do it. They slid me back into that machine where both arms touched the sides and there was not space above my head, and I just lost it."

Pretty soon the technician came back and proposed that we might make another appointment. She would call the doctor and arrange for an anesthesiologist to put Jan to sleep for the procedure. Still not being able to remember about thirty days of her life as a result of her last anesthesia, she expressed reservations. Said Ms.Technician, "Maybe I can find a nurse who can give you some valium?" "Okay," we both said, relieved that there was some option to a return visit.

Now, you would think that in a teaching hospital, with two hundred plus medical students, another hundred or two of nursing students, thousands of patients (You should see the patient's parking garages) they could find a nurse, but it actually took almost an hour, and then the nurse had to call the doctor, but finally in she came with a little orange pill and a glass of water, and down it went. An hour later Janet floated into the MRI room (While she was waiting, a little bitty lady about ninety years old tottered in, climbed up on the table, and got her MRI, then tottered cheerfully away, eliciting from Jan the comment "I bet she's a shill, that they use on all of us "youngsters" who can't do it, just to embarrass us all.")

Anyway she went in, got the exam, put on her clothes and proudly said "I did it", admitting that she had spent to entire exam saying to herself "I can DO this, I can DO this . . . ." The effects of the valium stayed with us for a while (Okay, for the rest of the day). She started off to the parking garage with her rolling walker, and about half way there turned to face me and sat on the little seat of the walker and I pushed her to the edge of the road. She made it by herself into the car, and we drove around Augusta just for fun. The Valentine celebration really occurred when he had lunch at Tony Roma's then wandered out (still a bit valiumy) and drove the eighty miles back to Statesboro.

Today (the fifteenth) we drove back to Augusta for EMG (Nerve ) tests. (We should have stayed overnight. I discovered when we got home that Janet, assuming that we would, had taken her overnight bag, but, of course I hadn't, and hadn't even thought of it. Which one of us is falling apart????) Anyway she had an interesting experience with that as well, but I've got to get my info a little clearer before I talk about it. She went to the Doctor who has been treating my neuropathy for ten years, and came out of her test having discovered that the Doctor doesn't eat cranberries, and loves chocolate chip cookies. She talked them out of a Strawberry /Macadamia nut cookie, learned the life stories of both of the residents who were there, and all kinds of stuff. When I go in for my neuropathy tests, they stick pins in me, pound my joints with little hammers for reflexes, poke me with tuning forks, weigh me (to humiliate me, they always remind me what I weighed last time), make me try in futility to walk on my heels, on my toes, and then ask me to close my eyes and touch my nose with my fingers (That's when I usually fall down.) Nobody ever tell ME the story of their lives or offers me a cookie. That's what comes of being a Manly Man.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Helsinki the next step on the road.

Helsinki, the next step on the road

(I know I said I would not do another "Day By Day", but the days I deal with here were special.)

After my daughter was on her plane I returned to the hospital where they let me feed Janet her dinner. I gave her four or five spoonfuls of what smelled like good soup, then she shook her head no.  She then drank two thirds of a glass of some kind of shake, which she liked, then they had a little box (like children have, with a small straw on the side) which the nurse said was important because it was an energy drink.  She drank half of that, though it smelled like coffee.  Then, she turned to me and whispered “I want a coke.”  I told her that the nurse wouldn’t approve that, and the nurse asked me “What?”

I explained, and the nurse said she had some fruit juice or lemonade.  Jan shook her head  and said “coke”.  The nurse told me to go ahead up to the snack bar and buy her a “coke”, so I went up and bought her a diet Pepsi.  It was the best I could do, and when I brought it down Jan drank almost a half bottle, which thrilled the nurse.  At the end of her meal, Janet leaned to me and whispered “I must have had a stroke, did I have a stroke?”    “Yes you did.” I replied, to which she said “I thought so”. There were then some peaceful and beautiful moments when I just held her hand and sat by her side.

At that moment, I felt that the worst part was over, and that it was just a matter of time before we could leave.  The worst part was  over, but there were more trials to come.  Before my daughter left, on October 16, I had been informed that my third son,  had taken leave from his position at the University of Mississippi and would arrive in Finland on October 18.  Brother Rogers had informed me that soon after that time, some of Jaana's family would be arriving for the Temple dedication and that we probably would have to move to another home.  He had contacted some members, and, if I had no objection we would move to a home only a few blocks from his, so that I could still find my way home from the hospital.  I really didn't find that distressing at all. The members of the Haaga Ward had been so friendly and caring that I was sure I would end up in good hands.

Things were a bit more troubling at the hospital.  I had been so worried when she did not come back to consciousness, and somehow, now that she was conscious I had assumed that she would quickly regain her strength, both physically and mentally.  When I got to the hospital a little late, there was nothing to dissuade me.  She was much better physically.  She had been sitting up in a wheel chair for over an hour and was not too thrilled about it.  She said that she felt like she was slipping downward all the time.  She was returned to her bed while I went to the waiting room to go to the bathroom.   When I returned, she was struggling with communication.  She was trying to let the nurse know that she was very uncomfortable.  The pain killers they are using not helping the arthritis in her hands, and she kept trying to rub an additional pain in her back.

When  one is fastened to multiple little hoses and tubes, using a hand to try to rub another part of the body can be distracting to the nurse.  She kept trying to rub her back by using the right hand in a way that showed the nurse that she had no blood pressure at all.

She gets more and more frustrated with communication.  She begins a sentence and, almost invariably, on the fourth or fifth word she concludes with "Well, I don't know." Or '"They just can't- - -" or "I just can't - - -" then "so they say-" or some similar confession of defeat.  Just as it begins to get really depressing, she says some complete idea that still may come from out in left field, but is cogent.  She turned to me, gestured me to get close and said in a soft conspiring tone "I need a birthday card, a really beautiful birthday card."  When I asked her who she would send the card to, she looked puzzled for a moment then replied "The Pope?"

Though her conversation wanders, when the nurses ask her questions with a "Nope", or "Yep" and there is no waffling around..  When the nurses began oxygen for another patient the machine became very noisy.  After about ten minutes she shouted "I just can't stand it."

When she was asked what she couldn't stand she looked buffaloed for a moment she did a very accurate imitation of the machine " Bub, bub, bub, bang, pit, pop, bub, bub, bub, bang."  They brought her some earplugs, which irritated her as much as the noise, so I asked her if I should sing to cover the noise.  She looked at me for a long time, then said "Nope!"  After a while, when the noise really stopped, she said "Now sing.", so I did.  At this point I was feeling very encouraged.

I got to feed her again, and she ate five swallows of soup, a cup of orange juice, a glass of water and a whole half liter of Pommac, an apple flavored Finnish soda (that I love.)  After the first long sip of Pommac through a straw, she smiled and said "Wonderful".  

I was brought down a bit when the neurologist came in and drew me aside.  First, she had to tell me that she had informed Dr. Kaarne that she didn't feel that our departure on Nov. 6 was possible.  She felt that the anesthesiologist would give me a better explanation (I think that she felt that the anesthesiologist spoke the most fluent English, having worked in the U. S. for a while) but for the time being she felt that, not only was the date too soon, but that she felt that Janet would probably have to fly as a stretcher patient when she did go.  That would require a nurse to travel with her.    She also informed me that, the next morning Janet would receive an Electromyologram  (commonly called an EMG) in the morning because they feared that she had a peripheral neuropathy (loss of nerve function in the arms and legs).  Because I have had a neuropathy since 1991 and was painfully familiar with the EMG, I determined not to arrive until the test was finished.  I went home that evening with mixed feelings, but generally I felt optimistic.

My optimism dropped as I entered the hospital the next day, and was asked to wait a few minutes to talk to the anesthesiologist, Dr. Varpula.   She arrived almost immediately. First she asked me to sit down, which is immediately scary, then, as she sat next to me she began to explain the options.  "There are three common means of travel when someone is ill that is from another country.  The first is to travel by private plane.  In this case, the invalid travels in a hospital situation with a nurse and all appropriate medications.  The second is to travel on a scheduled airline as a stretcher patient.  The airline arranges a space in first class with a seat for a nurse who must travel with the patient.  The remainder of the family may travel either in first class or coach as they prefer.  It may be that your insurance can cover the cost of either of these.  The third situation is that the patient travels as a wheel-chair patient.  This requires that the patient be able to make her own way down the aisles of the airplane and sit in a standard seat for the trip.  Some airlines, if there is space, will upgrade the ticket to first class, but we can't count on this.  We doubt that Janet will be strong enough to travel in a wheelchair by November 6, or, for that matter, for some time thereafter.  You will need to contact your insurance company to see if you are covered in any of these cases.  You should also contact your airline to evaluate the costs for the insurance company.  It probably will be worth your while to contact the U.S. consulate.  They are often able to exercise some influence on both airlines and insurance companies.  You should also contact your physician in the United States, since Janet will probably be hospitalized for some time after you arrive home.  I will also contact Blue Cross to see if I can help you in any way.”  The doctor also offered to contact our physician to evaluate the relative merits of  East Georgia Medical Center (in our home town), Memorial Health University in Savannah (Where I had my bypass) and the Medical College of Georgia (where Janet had her knee replaced and where they treat my neuropathy.  I dug out appointment cards from my wallet and gave her all of the appropriate phone numbers, then turned to talk to Janet. (Of course I reconstructed Dr. Varpula's discussion from my notes, her grammar may have been better, or worse, but this is the gist of the discussion.)

As Dr. Varpula left, the neurologist entered and briefly informed me that Janet did, indeed, have a peripheral neuropathy, that affected her legs more than her arms.  She left after just a moment and I could then visit with my wife.

During my visit, Jane changed from moment to moment.  She would have a period of rambling talk mixed with comments like "Oh Well!  I don't know--, I mean-- or I just can’t stand it", then suddenly she would be very cogent and aware.  The nurses came in to turn her on her side and she shouted "You guys are just too rough, stop it!"  When I gave her a bottle of Pommac with a straw, she drank deeply, and just as she had the day before said "Wonderful!"

The physical therapist entered the room with a bottle of water and a  plastic tube.  She was supposed to blow bubbles in the water eight  times.  At first, she sucked on the tube and the therapist said "No, No, you are supposed to BLOW, eight times for five seconds."  Janet blew once, twice, three times, four, five, then she clamped her mouth tight.  The therapist said "Eight times, doctors orders" and Janet just looked at her.  After a pause, the therapist laughed "You’re teasing me."  Jan just winked at her, but she still wouldn't blow any more bubbles.  As the therapist picked up the bottle and began to walk away, Janet said "Bub, bub, bub, bub, bub, then she gave the therapist a kind of a "raspberry".  It was funny, but she never did blow the other three (that day).  I think she was "blown out".  I showed her some pictures of home that Beth-Anee had left, but she had trouble focusing.  I asked her if she needed her glasses and she replied "Yes", so I gave them to her, but she still couldn't focus.  I then read to her a chapter of a book that my daughter had left for her.  She began to doze, but I got a lot of good out of the book.

By the time I had to leave to go pick up my son at the airport, she was sitting up in her wheel chair.  I told her that I was going to pick up our son (I am not going to use his real name, call him Robert).  She said, "Good."  I asked her if I should bring him to the hospital even if it was late and she said "Yep."  I asked the nurses if I could bring him in if it was after-hours and they replied in the affirmative.

Off I went to the airport (a little over fifteen kilometers), waited around till the plane came, picked up the luggage and went out to parking where I had trouble finding the car.  By the time we got to the hospital it was definitely after hours, and I was afraid she would be asleep, so we rushed down to the ICU.  When we arrived, she was prepared for sleep, but was awake, and as we walked into the room, she lifted her head and looked at him, so I said, "Here's Robert"  She turned to me and raised her eyebrows, (which I had learned meant "Huh?"), so I said again, here's Robert, don't you remember Robert?" and she replied, "Nope". It was kind of a tough moment.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A side point in my life

A side point in my life.

My next post about Finland is almost completed.  I hope to get it on line tomorrow.
Having said that, I need to write about something relating to that subject, although a little indirectly.  

I have spent most of my professional life dealing with two interrelated subjects, Theatre, and Speech Communication.  In my work with communication a good bit of my time has been spent preparing students to be communicators, people who organize their thoughts into spoken symbols and who the try to transfer those thoughts with validity to others through those symbols.  That however, is only part of communications, which has been defined, I think with accuracy, as the exchange of ideas.  This means that the communicator must not only send messages couched in valid understandable symbols, but that he/she must receive and interpret symbols from others, trying to gather the meanings as they were intended.  Another major part of this is to try to get the communicator to avoid "triggers" that will promote unthinking action by others, and even more important to avoid letting others prey on the emotions and spurring action by use of emotional triggers. (Signals, we call them, as opposed to symbols, or words that have meaning.)

A major part of being a good communicator is involved with taking responsibility for what one says, and a necessary element in that, is to take responsibility not only for one's own life, but to take responsibility for the manner in which one interprets and incorporates into one's life the messages received.  Taking responsibility means that you  (this "one" thing is appropriately academic but gets strained) are the one who controls your response.  I used to use, as a part of my presentation an article written by, I no longer remember who or when, entitled You Make You Mad.

One of the most common means of shifting responsibility for one's language, behavior and emotions is to blame them on someone else.  The general thrust of my sermon is that if you become angry, happy, rebellious, or acquire any other emotional or behavioral state, No ONE is responsible for that state but YOU.  Others may give you reasons for behavior but ultimately no one can affect you that way without your permission.  

When we see the frothing, screaming, stomping behaviors of some people in the anti-Bush demonstrations (No, I am not getting back into politics) Three out of four people in those demonstrations will, almost invariably, blame their behavior on Bush.  "He is doing THIS, and THIS makes me so angry, etc. etc. etc."

No one can make you behave or feel any particular way without your permission (at least if you aren't at gun point) and once you give over that permission (which obviously many do) you are giving others direct control over you.  It is never involuntary, it is always with permission.

That has been my sermon to some thousands of students over the years, but I have found an exception to that rule.  Last night, I walked my dear wife to bed, sat beside her, prayed with her, and tucked her in.  I turned to walk out the door and was flooded with such emotion that I had to go back into the room.  I don't think she was even aware of my presence, but I was so filled with joy that I had to kneel down by the bed, touch my head to the side of it and weep.  Maybe I am giving "permission" but it feels involuntary.  Every time I look at her, or she speaks to me, it makes me so happy.  She is fragile, and walks very hesitantly, and somewhat bent over (my son chuckles when she is bent and says "Betty Ballerina!" to her to urge her to stand more erect) but she is more beautiful than she ever was in the past, and -- well I guess that's my message, she makes me more happy than I can imagine.  I am sometime stunned with the joy I get just looking at her, or hearing her speak.   I guess that's all I wanted to say.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Finland (or not) Dogs?

Finland, or not. (Dogs?)

I want to apologize.  I promised that I would post each weekend till I was finished with Finland. (wow, is that weird language/).  I have been having real trouble assembling factual information about the time following my daughter's departure.  In part, this is because I changed host families during this period, and had computer access only through my host's computer (with a Finnish Keyboard) and webmail through the University.  
(I was a bit embarrassed when I discovered that my host had a wireless connection, and that all I would have had to do -and eventually did , was use his connection with my laptop.)   Anyway, I have sorted through the messages and contacted some of the people involved,  but haven't had time to assemble the information.

On the other hand, there was a really fascinating article in the NY Times Magazine today about the breeding of "Designer Dogs", and the conflict breeders have with the American Kennel Club. (of AKC registered fame)  It was a really detailed scientific analysis of how "registered" dogs have  been bred internationally for shows and how "Designer" breeders have created "fad' dogs such as the Pekapoo, the Bagel, the Schnoodle,  the Puggle, the Labradoodle and a wide variety of other canines, many of them bred to make the poodle's non-shedding coat available to those who would rather have a less "poofie" pet.  (If I got it correctly the Pekapoo is Pekinese and Poodle, the Bagel-Basset and Beagle, the Schnoodle- Schnauzer and Poodle, the Puggle -Pug and Beagle, and --Well you get it)

I was vastly entertained the machinations of the kennel club to try to establish all the designer dogs as "Mutts", and the careful manipulations of genetic characteristics to create both the "registered pure bloods" and the "designer dogs".   One of the truly strange parts of the article dealt with the breeding of purebred pugs.  It seems that, due to the features that have been bred into the "purebred" pugs, most of them can't "get it on" to breed naturally.  Most of them have to be artificially inseminated, and when they are, the birth canal is so small that almost all registered pugs are born through C section.  One breeder sniffed "You'll never have feral pugs."  I , for one, think that if humans have so manipulated a breed that it can't naturally reproduce, that it is functionally if not factually extinct.  The AKC begins to sound a little like the Nazi party for dogs.

My dogs, when I was a child were all mutts but one.  That one was a brown lab, which became ill almost before it reached maturity with something called "Chorea", which if I understood correctly was Saint Vitas Dance in dogs, and that the brown lab was particularly susceptible to the disease.  For some weeks my brother an I hand fed small strips of raw liver to the suffering beast (Prescribed by the Vet) until my dad took pity on him and had him put away.  

The dogs of my adult life have been mostly the product of purebred dogs gone astray.  One of our favorites was the son of a registered golden retriever who got mixed up with an English Setter (so I was told).  He looked so much like a purebred dog that we had some offers to put him out to stud.  (I suspect that he would have been disappointed in our reluctance to do so, but when I told of his lineage, the offers were withdrawn.)  Ali Baba (or Baba, as he was called by the kids) was a truly beautiful dog.  We got him in New York  where he lived in a kennel and a fenced yard, and seemed happy.  We took him with us when we moved to Georgia where we, at first, lived in a little farm house in a five acre yard where he learned to roam free, but, for some reason stay on the property and protect it against all strangers.  As soon as he was introduced to anyone, he became a friend, but until that time, he was a guard dog.  One of my most memorable experiences was to come home from the college and find my Department Head standing with his back against the front door, holding a two by four protectively in front of him as Baba crouched on the front stair, curling his lip and growling deep in his throat.  They had been, I discovered in that position for over half an hour.  I took Baba by the collar, asked the boss to put down the two by four (which he did somewhat reluctantly), introduced them, and by the time the boss left, he and Baba were fast friends, and I still had a job.  The field behind the house was his bailiwick, and anything that didn't run from him was usually brought home as a (dead) present.  This included some snakes,  a fox,  multiple rats, and similar critters, as well as, strangely enough a big grey thing that resembled a raccoon crossed with a possum.  I am not sure of the real genetics.  The one prey that he never was able to capture was his ultimate enemy the local motorcyclist.  A group of guys who rode cycles down our country road became aware of his watchful mein and began to tear down the road a high speed then swing up into the yard to plague him. He never quite caught one though he did catch some fabric from clothing a couple of times.

When I discovered their activities and made it clear that I would prosecute those who came into my yard, the game was so far afoot that they could challenge him just riding down the road.  (I have  often wondered about the result if some poor innocent came "putting " down the road.  I suspect it might have had grizzly effects)

At the end of the school year we moved into a small town called Brooklet, where he had a big yard and no one to plague him with motorcycles or a leash law.  One of the most vivid memories was when I was driving home I saw him chasing a squirrel across a field by our house.  The squirrel dashed up a convenient live oak tree, and Baba hit that tree head on.  It was like watching a "Road Runner" cartoon.  I would swear that he "accordioned  like Wiley Coyote in the cartoon.  He limped home with a bloody nose, and swollen eyes.  I have never before or since seen a dog with a "shiner".   All went well until school started.  The school was on our street, only a block away, and he immediately associated anyone on a bicycle with the motorcycle terrorists at our previous home.   All the children loved him and were loved by him until they rode by on a bike.  At that moment they became enemies to be dealt with.  Immediately, most of the children caught on, and would walk past our house,  and I began chaining him  (with a long chain, fastened to a wire that stretched from the house to a big Locust tree at the corner of the property.)  All went well for a couple of months, but he finally broke his collar, and chased some poor child until he knocked him off his bike.  Fortunately the boy wasn’t bitten, but the writing was on the wall, and that evening I took Baba to the Vet's to have him "put" to sleep.  The vet looked at him and said "There is no way I'm going to kill that magnificent animal.  Leave him with me and I'll find him a home."   I did, and a few days later received a call from a man whose last name, if I recall, was Tootle.  He told me that he bred Goldens and trained them for field trials.  Baba was a natural.  If I wished to see him, or bring the children to see him, I should wait at least a month until he was acclimated to training, and he gave me his address.

We talked about taking the children for a visit and decided that it would be too hard on both them and the dog, so we never went to see him.  I did drive by the address (way out in the country) and went home satisfied that he had a better home than he could have had in the town.  The successive dogs at our home were another Golden mix named Dammit (He really belonged to my oldest son, who had to leave town for some months and left him with us,  the son said he gave him the name because he frequently used the phrase "Come here Dammit", and decided he would legitimize the language as a name.)  Another was the progeny of a registered brindle bull who had gotten mixed up with a pit bull.  We received him when he was six days old, (they were going to destroy the litter) and we had to feed him with a bottle.  A third was  the progeny of a Pekapoo who mated with a wire haired terrier, and who was one of the loves of our life.  I'll tell some tales of them, and of Lady, the stray three legged beagle who was known at first as the dog behind the couch, and DD another dog with the same name source as Dammit, who was  the son of a registered pit-bull who found love (or at least lust) with a Black Lab.  Out of space for today.  I'll get the next Finnish Chapter done ASAP, and tell a few dog tales (tails?) along the way.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Personal therapy and Molly Ivins

Personal therapy and Molly Ivins.

Next week and this week are/were major medical weeks.  Janet has finished her Physical Therapy, but finally saw here "stroke" doctor (Neurologist) for the first time since we got home.  He was extremely impresses by her intellectual status (as I have been since we first met, she can be intimidating) but somewhat confused and concerned with physiological symptoms (loss of peripheral vision and hearing, trembling weak hands, etc.). Next week she goes for a new set of MRI's, sonograms, Doppler-'somethings', and EMG's, then they will compare the sources of problems to the problems and try to do something about them.

I also had my semi yearly check on my glaucoma, and the retinal tears that I had repaired some years ago.  The glaucoma specialist seems to think that I am doing fairly well and won't be blind in the morning, which is comforting.  Still have to hear from the retina guy.

During my trip to Augusta (Georgia Medical College) I read that Molly Ivins died yesterday at only 62.  That is sad.   Ann Richards left us just a while ago, and Molly Ivins left this week.   I don't know what they feed their women in Texas, but they certainly seem to grow some interesting ones.  I've already talked about Ann Richards, and I won't repeat it, but, like Ann (or is it Anne) Molly was one of a kind.   I don't think Molly Ivins ever wrote anything with which I did not disagree, including (apologies to Dorothy Parker) and, the, and a.  But she wrote with such passion and panache that it was always intriguing and sometimes almost mind-blowing.  She never suffered fools at all, and really had a knack of describing them.  I often think of liberals as a bit dishonest, and their paradigm is incomprehensible to me, but Ann Richards and Molly Ivins both spoke from their hearts, and wits, and I, for one, will miss them