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Three score and ten or more

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Playing Hookie

The week before I posted my previous post was one of the worst we have faced in a long time.

An objective viewer might  smile at that comment, after all, since 2006 we have been through a multi-month hospital stay in Finland for surgery on Janet’s aortal aneurism (during which period she also had two strokes, lost all peripheral vision on her right side and much of her balance, I was warned before they woke her –after three weeks- that her EEG was so bad that, if she lived, she might have no physical function or awareness of consciousness; I discovered that I had back problem’s that my primary care physician told me would certainly require surgery, and I spent over a week mostly in a fetal position on the the floor (till the Neurosurgeon to which I was referred decided that  now surgery was wise at this time and handled my pain with prednisone)’ '; It was discovered that Janet still has an aortic dissection (a kind of full length aneurism which was referred to surgery till the thoracic surgeon decided that the problem was so widespread that the surgery would likely result in kidney failure, paralysis or  death, (currently treated with major blood pressure control); the CT scans that traced the aortal problem revealed lesions  on Janet’s liver which resulted in an eight day series of tests  at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to rule out cancer, and then in December of Last year, she came to see me perform in a Christmas concert and fell, shattering the femur above her artificial right knee and had three surgeries and a long period of therapy (including three months in a wheelchair) and she is perpetually dizzy, suffers from really irritating night sweats (this seems to be a result of the aortal problems) has perpetual pain in her right leg from the knee up and almost no feeling from the knee down as well as the ongoing problems from rheumatoid arthritis which preceded this who mess.

During that last week she developed a head cold, which her pessimistic husband was sure was some kind of flu that no one with an aortal dissection needs.  She coughed all night, got almost no sleep, couldn’t function in almost any physical way, and scared us both half to death. At the same time, I was trying desperately to finish work on the house and yard (as well as repair the broken pump on the swimming pool before frost comes—yes it really comes to South Georgia—). Of course we were also wrapping up Halloween.

Along the way we were reminded that almost two years ago we had paid for a week stay in a time share (part of our ticket for our Alaska Cruise, (some really good things happened in the last three years as well) and that it was expiring instantly.  We ended up taking a car trip to the Sapphire Valley of North Carolina.   Janet was just in recovery from her cold, and I had the tickles that indicated that I was about to succumb, but we decided to go anyway.

The check in date was on Sunday, so we had to leave early Sunday morning.  I prefer not to travel on Sunday for religious reasons, and because I have responsibilities in church on Sunday that, if I don’t fulfill them others get stuck with them.   We packed up and departed anyway, while I coped with some guilt feelings, and concern that Janet wasn’t really ready to travel (and she wasn’t, we had to stop fairly frequently and rest)   It was very strange though, as we proceeded up the small highways (dictated by my somewhat spastic GPS) of eastern Georgia, the myriads of small towns with big houses and with wonderful porches (a passion of Janet’s) a great sense of peace came over me.  It was clear that we needed to get away.  We stopped to eat a a couple of really nice small places, and the GPS was, for once giving me clear directions and I was finding the intersections.  It was after dark, and in fact, only fifteen minutes before they closed the office at the resort, when we arrived.  We checked in, and my sense of peace was a little disturbed when I had trouble finding the right cottage in the dark, but it was so restful to move into the lovely Wyndam cottage. 

I was a bit concerned at first because all the light bulbs seemed very dim and it was strange wandering around in half light, but it turned out that they we some power saving bulbs that warned up and gave real light after about five minutes.  We unpacked, sort of, and got ready for bed almost instantly.  As we had prayer together and sang to each other (If I haven’t written about that before, I will) , it was so peaceful and so joyous that I was in tears (actually I do that a lot).   I really had the sense that playing hooky from church that day had been the right thing to do, and I already had the sense that this was going to be a good, and a necessary vacation.

The next morning at the “meet and greet” that begins most timeshare visits we were disappointed to find that the pool was closed from repairs.  We are somewhat fanatic about water aerobics.  All things considered we are both convinced that without water aerobics we probably both would be dead or total invalids, so that was a loss, but for only one week.  We had our first restaurant meal in the oldest standing building in the area.  It is called the Library, and both the food, the atmosphere and the service were wonderful.

We drove around this really lovely area, watched the leaves fall, shopped for antiques and tourist junk, bought Janet a lovely piece of amber (for Janet, amber makes all things better), Christmas shopped in some rare and unusual places, and generally left all tension behind.  We loved driving through Sapphire and Cashiers (the village next door.  The leaves were beautiful and the architecture interesting.  I loved the little Episcopal church with the new tower. (One of the oldest buildings in the town.)

For some reason, the Ingles grocery store in Cashiers  (three miles from our place) had a sale on Blue Bunny Ice cream (My personal favorite) in the one and three quarter quart boxes (I hate what the ice cream companies have done to the half gallon box. I saw one yesterday from one company that was one quart and one pint) for a dollar ninety eight cents.  I bought too much so that on our departure day we had to combine what seemed like vast quantities of ice cream and make milk shakes for our drive home.  It’s a tough thing, but somebody has to do it.

One fun thing.  A major tourist gimmick in this area is to bring folks to some of the old gem mines from which the valley got its name.  At those mines you can buy a bucket of dirt, run the dirt through a sluice and try to pick up some precious  or semi precious stones.  Our resort, since the winter is coming and most of the gem depots are closed, had arranged for residents to purchase a ten dollar bucket of dirt, imported from one of the mines, and run it through a sluice on the grounds.  It was great fun, and we picked up a wide variety of unusual rocks.  If the pictures on the charts were anywhere near accurate we got a garnet, some amethyst, a lot of crystal quartz, and some great big green things that vaguely resemble turquoise, but obviously aren’t.  Janet could hardly wait to get home, resurrect a rock tumbler and polish up the stones.  It turned out that our kid’s old rock tumblers had disappeared so I was delegated to procure a new one from Hobby Lobby and now the house resonates with the noise of rocks tumbling around in a drum, polishing.   I got pictures of the miners at work (us), but they were mini videos and I couldn’t figure how to mount them.  All in all, it was a worthwhile week. 

As we wended our way home the final day the GPS, for some mystical reason took us by a slightly different route than that by which we came.  We had been advised by family that if we happened into Dillard, GA, we should consider going to the Dillard House for a meal.  We arrived in Dillard at about 9:30 A.M. and decided to check the place out for Breakfast.  It was a fun and wise choice.

At the Dillard House they have what might be called a breakfast buffet, but with this difference.  They simply bring everything on the menu to your table, and you eat it as you have time and energy.  You may ask for seconds on anything, and they have a separate table with a wide variety of breads and fruits, a  selection of which is brought to each table at the beginning, but if you wish more, you may go plunder the table at your leisure.  Janet noticed a couple of ladies who went to the fruit table wiith dinner plates which they filled with strawberries, raspberries, cream, sweet breads and similar things which they carried to the table before the servers even began to serve their breakfast.  We thought it was strange, but at the end of the meal they bring “white boxes” and everything you haven’t eaten is packaged for take home.  Jan said she suspected that those ladies had a fruit stand somewhere and were stocking up courtesy of Dillard's.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of food (We had to slip the remainder of the aforementioned Blue Bunny Milkshakes into a cooler to finish at lunch time.   I am going to have to go into a no calorie situation or gain another person on my frame rather soon.

All in all it was a good week, and necessary because this whole week is taken up with doctors.  I began as soon as we got home to prepare for a colonoscopy, yesterday we drove a couple of hundred miles for Janet’s rheumatologist, today, (Friday) I went back to the doctor who did the colonoscopy, then Monday morning we see her orthopedist and in the afternoon drive to the Medical College to seen the guy who may take out Janet’s cataracts.  I sometimes feel like coots and cootesses are like used cars, in a constant state of overhaul filling up with replacement parts.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


I have been sitting here staring at the screen off and on for over a week.  I guess I have a case of writer’s block.  I am leaving this morning for a time share visit in Sapphire, North Carolina, wherever that is, and I have no idea whether I will have access to the internet.  I should be past all the health issues that are dominating our time right now and if there is internet service in our lodge, I will try to bring things up to date.