Archive for the ‘Nyel Stevens’ Category

Collapsing Into Grim Reality

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Nyel, October 4, 2018

Yesterday Nyel fell.  It has happened dozens, if not scores, of times before.  It is a fact of life for a man whose lower left leg is not securely attached to his upper left leg.  Long story.  Suffice it to say that after a successful knee replacement his quadriceps muscle tore loose from its moorings and despite two surgeries, it is still virtually non-existent.

So, despite his orthopedic surgeon’s strong words of advice, “DO. NOT. FALL.”, it happens.  For four years, despite all caution and use of his constant cane companion, Nyel falls.  He falls in the house on the carpet, in the garden on the grass, in the garage on the cement – he has even fallen on the tarmac between the Ocean Beach Medical Clinic and the Hospital.  It is a fact of our lives and there are no happy solutions.

Until yesterday, the worst damage during a fall happened early-on when he fell in the kitchen and whacked his head against a drawer pull.  He didn’t lose consciousness but he did lose a lot of blood and gained six stitches.  Since then, he’s been lucky – until yesterday.  At five o’clock in the morning, as is his usual procedure (required by his cardiologist), he stepped on the bathroom scales to weigh himself.  Make that ‘almost stepped.’  Before he could complete the transfer of weight to take the necessary step up, the left leg collapsed and down he fell – despite having supports under both hands – a towel rack and a shelf.

Temporary Measures

There ensued a 911 call, transport to our local hospital and X-rays which revealed a broken tibia (which will require plates and screws) and a spiral fracture of the fibula.  The ER at Ocean Beach Hospital was thorough and efficient, giving him a temporary cast, and making arrangements for his transfer to Peace Health SW Medical Center in Vancouver where Nyel’s previous orthopedic work has been done by Rebound surgeons.  For whatever reasons, Peace Health said “no ambulance transfer” as they would not accept him as an emergency patient.  So… the OBH nurses got him into our car and I drove him to the Emergency Admitting area at Peace Health, myself.

And here we are.  Nyel was finally tucked in about one o’clock this morning.  Me, too – in a regular hospital bed in a double room here!  Surgery will “probably” be tomorrow and he will “probably” be discharged on Sunday. Nyel will then have to stay off his left foot for at least six weeks.   Meanwhile, ‘they’ are keeping him on the edge of comfort with pain meds and we are trying to get used to yet another hospital.  Nyel, as always is stoic.  Me… maybe not so much.  We are both looking forward to getting back to Oysterville and figuring out next steps.  So to speak.

Time for Another Tokeland Celebration

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Tokeland Hotel, 2012

We are headed for the lunch and a rendezvous with friends at the Tokeland Hotel.  In the “olden days” – say five or six years ago — going to Tokeland and meeting with these same friends was a yearly occurrence.  But, in those halcyon days of the early twenty-first century, we were all younger and more able and our annual Tokeland experience involved a picnic supper and an overnight at the hotel.

We made the trek on or close to Nyel’s birthday each early August.  For us, it got so we never had another birthday plan which has made it a little difficult these past few years when Tokeland was not on our radar.  This year, being the big seven five for Nyel, we’ve solved the birthday dilemma by celebrating in some way every single month starting a few months beforehand and to continue until Birthday Seven Six.

Evening at the Tokeland Hotel, 2009

As it has worked out, this month we can rendezvous once again at the Tokeland Hotel – but only for lunch.  Fortunately, the hotel is under new ownership and they are serving lunch on the weekends which had been an off-again on-again off-again proposition in years past.  And further fortnately, the food is reported to be excellent.  Yay!

There has been one serious change, though, in our (or probably just my) thinking about going to Tokeland.  Since time immemorial (well, at least since soon after Oysterville was founded in 1854) residents here travelled to Tokeland to party.  In the early days, they went by boat to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends and relatives over there.  In fact, there was probably more visiting back and forth before the roads went in than there is now — a faster trip then, I daresay.  All that notwithstanding, I’ve long associated Tokeland with parties-of-the-eating variety.

Tokeland Picnic, 2009

Then, in 2012 when the present cannabis laws went into effect in our state, I began to wonder when partying in Tokeland might take on a different tone.  We all waited for someone to do the obvious – to make an application to open a recreational marijuana shop.  “Toke Land”?  It certainly seemed like a no-brainer.  But… it has never happened.  And yet… the expectation that it will, has somewhat altered my take on Tokeland.  Whether it would be for the good or the bad, I don’t know.  It just seems like such an opportunity wasted.

Lucky Me!

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Nyel, the Birthday Boy

Months ago, when I asked Nyel what he wanted to do for his 75th birthday, I knew I was taking my chances.  It would have been safer just to plan a surprise party or an outing to a wait-and-see destination but, over the years, we’ve done a number of those for one another.  It felt like this one should be something planned by the Birthday Boy himself.

His choice: dinner at Portland’s very spiffy Ringside Steakhouse and overnight at the Benson Hotel with all its beguiling amenities. Perfect!  I couldn’t have chosen better myself.  “And…” he said and I thought oh-oh here it comes – the part I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams… “I’d like to visit a few Goodwill stores while we’re in the area”.

Sydney, The Lucky Wife

Actually, when I think of it, those celebratory selections are the quintessential Nyel.  He loves elegance.  Dressing for dinner, waiters in tuxes, the old-fashioned charm of a classic hotel complete with breakfast brought to your room with linens and dome-covered dishes. And he couldn’t be happier than when he is poking through a junk store or on a sartorial quest in a gently used clothing store.  (Right now, the search is on for vests.)

We got to town in time to have lunch at Ya Hala, a wonderful Lebanese restaurant in our friend Maggie’s neighborhood.  Maggie is in recovery mode after serious surgery and so we paid her a visit armed with the restaurant’s fabulous bread and humus.  I’m pleased to report that her recovery is going splendidly!  She is already plotting and planning her next trip to the beach, though that won’t happen for a while yet.

All-in-all, I’m pleased to report that Nyel’s 75th was a success all the way around!  And, we both agree that this one deserves celebrating for an entire year – maybe not on such a grand scale, but with something unexpected and unusual every single month.  Sounds like a perfect plan to me!

“Give a man a fish…”

Friday, May 25th, 2018

The timing was perfect.  Phil came to the door with a tidy mess of freshly caught trout on Wednesday afternoon.  Cousin Ruth and Friend Cindy arrived yesterday.  Garlic mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and fried trout for dinner!  Ruth’s rhubarb crisp and ice cream for dessert.  Wow!

Nyel has long said that his little-boy experiences with fishing were a turnoff. In his memory, fishing had to do with being six years old and trying to keep up with his long-legged dad through grass and brush taller than he was.  It was hot.  It was Idaho.  It was fishing.

It’s taken almost seventy years but Phil’s generous gift and a hint that maybe Nyel would like to go fishing with him sometime have (perhaps) changed Nyel’s mind.  At least, it sounded hopeful as he talked about it over that delicious dinner last night.

Actually, it all seemed to hinge on me.  Would I like the trout?  I’ve eaten trout before – just never since I’ve known Nyel.  Boney?  Yes.  But certainly not a deal breaker.  Gorgeous presentation?  Yes.  Delicious?  Yes!  Would I like a repeat?  Yes!

Perhaps Phil and Nyel will provide a twist to the old “Give a man a fish…” proverb.  Give a man some trout and introduce him to a lifetime of missed opportunities…

Lots of Love and Benign Neglect

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018


Nyel’s truck, called simply ‘Truck,’ has been with us for just about as long as “us” has been a part of our lexicon.  It’s a 1991 Ford and once upon a time it was new and shiny black.  Now, never having had the benefit of a garage or other protected-from-the-elements-space, it has faded to a dull gray color – mostly.  There are spots of the ‘r’ word which, when mentioned, Nyel vehemently denies.  Or has until now.

Yesterday, he reluctantly admitted that rust might, indeed, be the problem with the front bumper.  It’s in imminent danger of falling off – a situation that I only learned circuitously.  For several days now Nyel has been haunting the junk stores – one of his all-time favorite activities – and come to find out, he was looking for jack stands.  Whatever they are.  Needed, he said to lift Truck up so he can get to the place where he can make the repair.

Listing Bumper

But, he could only locate one jack stand.  So, this morning he informed me he has a new plan.  He’ll use the car jack he has, take the front wheels off Truck, one at a time, slide himself underneath and get to the heart of the matter that way.  “No problem.”

I, of course, was horrified.  A guy who needs a cane to stay upright when he walks and who can’t get up if he happens to be down… a guy with no strength in his arthritic hands… a guy…  Yep.  It’s definitely a guy thing and I had to pull out the bitchy wife card.  It took a little arguing but I think Truck is going to limp into George’s this morning and get in line for the necessary repairs.


I hope that ‘necessary’ is all they do.  Once we had to take Truck somewhere for something (you can tell how little attention I pay to that poor old vehicle) and someone had the audacity to clean the lichen and moss away from the window wells.  I think that set ‘evolution’ back a number of years – no telling what kind of habitat would have been established by now had they left that furry gray-green growth alone!  We were horrified.  After all, benign neglect is one thing but it doesn’t have anything to do with unconditional love.  Not when we’re talking Truck.

On Being a Food Attack Heiress

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Although I haven’t had much experience in the matter, I think that being a beneficiary is probably always a good thing.  And there’s no think about it when it comes to being the beneficiary of one of Nyel’s Food Attacks.  ‘Good’ is a foregone conclusion!  Take yesterday, for instance.

I was buried in cranberries and computers most of the day but when I surfaced in the mid-afternoon I found that Nyel was in the midst of a full-blown food attack.  He was studying a cookbook, had various dinner components sliced, herbed, spiced and ready to pop into the oven and there was a teeny tiny bread pan with a freshly baked loaf of wheat bread cooling.  Wow!

Undoubtedly it was Easter that prompted all this activity.  We had talked about Easter dinners of yore – lamb roasts and spiral baked hams and the ill-advised time my mother decided that rabbit was the way to go.  (None of us could get over the vision of eating the Easter Bunny.  It was dreadful!)  We had decided that since it was just the two of us this year, we’d have lamb chops.  Close enough.

They were to be accompanied by small red potatoes, cut into quarters, slathered with butter and baked-then-broiled until crispy on the outside and (and this is where the cookbook came in) Petits Pois Etuvés au Beurre à la Julia Child.  I had expressed a hankerin’ for that particular veggie, remembering that I had made it back in the sixties when I was undergoing my own food attack and Mastering the Art of French Cooking was (briefly) my Bible.  As I recalled, the recipe involved petite peas, pearl onions and fresh mint.

The wheat bread wasn’t part of the ‘plan’ and seeing it was the main clue that Nyel was in the throes of a cooking extravaganza.  He loves to eat bread, loves to bake bread, and is especially fond of wheat bread.  Since whole wheat and I don’t see eye-to-eye, this was a treat all for himself and the best evidence I could hope for that he’s feeling pretty good these days.

I cannot describe how delicious it all was.  And those peas!  I could just hear Julia saying in her distinctive, throaty voice… bon appétit

Not only had he been to Oysterville, but…

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

In Seattle Yesterday – Definitely Fake Sky

It was about three o’clock yesterday when the doctor came in to talk to us before Nyel’s ‘procedure’.  We were back at the University of Washington Medical Center, this time for a long-planned implant of a cardio mems into Nyel’s heart.

“It’s essentially an antenna,” said the doctor.  “It has no battery, no moving parts, nothing to go wrong.  It will stay with you forever.”  In conjunction with the pillow-like device (in its own rolling suitcase) that Nyel will rest against each morning, the CardioMems device will send information back to his doctor in Seattle concerning the pressures in his heart.  It’s a way to keep track of his congestive heart failure without those frequent trips to the hospital – a management-by-long-distance-method.  Or so we all hope.

The doctor had a sample one to device to us and explained how it would be inserted into an artery in Nyel’s heart.  They would go in through the right side of his neck and the device would be placed in an artery on the back of the left side of his heart.  The process would take about 45 minutes.  No anesthetic required; just a bit of numbing at the insertion site.  Wow!

CardioMEMS Sensor


“Will I be able to drive afterwards?” Nyel asked.  “Sure,” said the doctor.  “Where do you live?”

Usually, we respond “the Long Beach Peninsula.”  We’ve found that people from the big city are more likely to have heard of the general area – not necessarily our little corner of it.  But for some reason I said “Oysterville” and Dr. Wood’s eyes lit up.  “Have you been there?” I chanced.  “Actually, yes,” he said “a friend of mine has a house there.”  And I thought to myself, “Probably not.  Probably out in Surfside.”

Dr. Gregory Wood

Imagine my surprise when he said his friend was named Lexie.  “Lexie Hook Bemis?”  I asked.  “Yes,” he said.  “Brock and I were colleagues.”  We chatted then about my Red House Cousins, their wedding at Timberline Lodge (which we found we had all attended back in 2007), and how the Bemis family had moved to Sun Valley a few years back. And how things weren’t the same anymore.

It was one of those small world moments to the max.  There’s nothing like a shared memory to make you feel bonded – unless it might be having someone look (literally) right into your heart!  Wow!  What a world we live in!

From Back Forty to Twenty-first Century

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

In a complete reversal of the usual order of things in this household, Nyel has been cleaning out files and reorganizing his ‘office’ which is actually my grandfather’s roll top desk in the corner of our East Room (read: Family Room.)  The desk is a handsome piece of furniture, seldom seen under the piles of papers, and trappings of modern office life like computers and printers.

One of the difficulties is that there isn’t a place in the desk, despite all its cubby holes and drawers, that will accommodate a modern file folder.  And, try as we might to do all our filing digitally, we still have numerous hard copies of documents and other important ‘stuff’ that has to go SOMEwhere.

I was out of the house most of yesterday and came home to find that Nyel had resurrected an old wooden file cabinet from our back forty and had placed it next to the roll top.  It’s a perfect fit and no doubt was what my grandfather used back in the day.  I remember my dad using it years ago, but neither Nyel nor I recall if we were the ones who relegated it to storage.  Right now, it is still empty and it may well be that when it gets put to use we’ll find that it really isn’t useful.  So… the jury is out on whether it is back inside to stay.

Along with the file cabinet, Nyel has revived an old globe that had also been removed from our (seemingly) endless trove of treasures from the past.  “Copyright by Replogle Globes, Inc. Chicago, Ill” it says but, even after a careful search with a magnifying glass, we could find no date.  However, there are numerous clues – Thailand is still named Siam, the USSR is still intact, Hawaii is still a Territory, Korea is not divided between North and South, and French West Africa still exists.

With a little bit of research, we could probably nail down the date.  We’re guessing sometime after World War II, but we’re not sure.  I’ve gone so far as to Google the Replogle Globe Company and find that “From its humble beginning in a Chicago apartment, Replogle today is the world’s largest globe manufacturer.”  The site also provides a chart that will help in determining the age of your old globe.  I wonder why they just didn’t date them like book publishers do…

Just plain popcorn, please.

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

And about all that hot air…

Unlike Mikey – the one who “hates everything” in that old 1970s cereal commercial –  Nyel has seldom met a food he wouldn’t eat.   In this household, the words to live by have always been “Nyel eats anything.”  But… under the heading of ‘S*** Happens’…  now, not so much.

I think the deal breaker is salt.  Actually, no salt.  Not ‘lo salt’ as in all those lying snack foods and not that old standby ‘no salt added’ when cooking from scratch.  Try no sodium chloride at all.  As he has been told in the hospital many times, he is apparently salt sensitive which means that even a little is a dangerous thing.

Unadulterated and Barely Edible

The knee-jerk response to that, of course, is that your body requires a certain amount of salt.  True.  But almost all foods contain some.  Even celery for heaven’s sake!  One stalk, medium (7-1/2 to 8 inches long) 32 milligrams.  One wedge of cantaloupe ( 1/8 of a medium-size melon) 88 milligrams. Who knew?

Somehow, it stands to reason that razor clams, being a seafood, contain sodium but, 64 milligrams in four ounces of fresh clam (about one of medium size) seems extreme.  Especially when you consider that, for me anyway, five or six fried clams at a sitting seems about right.  Once upon a time, Nyel could put away a dozen, no problem.

Fowl Treat

The recommended allowance of sodium for congestive heart failure patients is no more than 2,000 milligrams  each day; less than 1,500 mg a day is ideal.  That’s one-and-a-half to two grams per day.  It’s easy to see the problem and for a foodie sorta guy, it’s really tough.

Last night he tried out the handy-dandy Air Popper that Santa brought for Christmas.  In nothing flat it spewed four quarts of popcorn from ½ cup of kernels (1 milligram sodium per cup of air-popped corn).   Big, white, fluffy, inedible popcorn.  The next time he’ll try adding some melted unsalted butter (2 milligrams sodium per tablespoon) plus garlic powder and some Mrs. Dash which are both sodium-free.

Meanwhile, Farmer Nyel has several days’ worth of treats for his girls in the coop!

Special Delivery!

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Mail Service!

According to the patient, “You know you’ve been in the hospital too long when you get a package via the USPS!”  Jorivic, Nyel’s Personal Care Assistant, said that in all the years he’d worked here at the UW Medical Center, this was a first!  It was big excitement up and down the hall!

It was from our Portland/Seaview friend, Ann, whose note said:  “Since I can’t bring the chocolate in person, the mail will have to do!  And ‘do’ it did!  Nyel didn’t waste a minute getting to the heart of the matter – two hefty bars of dark chocolate!  His favorite.

He kindly offered me some, but tempted though I was, I demurred.  That very morning, I had wakened to a situation that I very dimly remember happening to me once before, way back in high school.  A zit on the very end of my nose!!  Nyel, in his typical, loving way, put the best possible spin on it by christening me “Rudolph!”  No chocolate for me for a while!

Several other visitors in the last ten days have endeared themselves by bringing dark chocolate.  Nyel, ever generous, has shared; me, ever willing, has accepted.  I just hope my beacon disappears sooner rather than later!

Meanwhile, Nyel has made good inroads on Ann’s gift.  The first bar went fast.  The second he seems to be allotting himself more slowly – perhaps hoping to make it last until he is discharged.  Rumor has it that we could be on our way home before the weekend wanes!  I’m happy to light the way!!!