Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

Hide-and-Seek and Other Childhood Games

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

I have trouble calling these “the golden years.”  To me they seem more like the Hide-and-Seek years.  Increasingly, a large percentage of each day is devoted to “Where are my keys?” or “Have you seen the book I was reading?” or “What did I do with that letter from the insurance company?”

I try to remember my father’s advice: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  It is helpful, of course, if I can recall what the “place” for a particular thing is.  But I would be willing to swear that anything smaller than the couch or the dining room table can and does join the on-going hide-and-seek game in our house.  I’m almost always “it.”

Although, lately, Nyel has been “it” a few times which is kind of scary.  I rely on him to know (and remember) where the pieces of our lives are.  “Look in the microwave.” Or “I think it’s on the arm of the Morris chair.”  Or “Did it ever get in from the car?”  Those are the responses I count on to point me in the right direction.

Another game I seem to play a lot these days is akin to Pick Up Sticks.  I am forever carefully sorting mail or laundry or groceries and putting each thing in that proper place Dad lectured about.  Carefully so as not to disturb the order of those things that are already filed away.  God forbid a bill that needs immediate attention should go in the pile of correspondence that may or may not be dealt with this month. Or even next month.

The other day at lunch, Cherry said she tries to shelve her books alphabetically like we did in the bookstore when she was working for us.  “Great idea!” I thought.  Even though I KNOW a book is on a shelf in my office, I can seldom lay hands on it without a time-consuming search.  I wonder if she alphabetizes by author or title?  Which would be more helpful?  And what about the other books in our house — probably more than 5,000 of them?

And suddenly I’m into Twenty Questions.  Do you think this is what is meant by getting childlike in old age?  Perhaps…

Not a surprise… But even so…

Friday, January 10th, 2020

This morning’s email brought a “Google Maps Timeline.”  Sydney, it said, here is your 2019 Timeline update.  You’re receiving this email bccause you turned on Location History, a Google Account-level setting that saves where you go in your private Timeline.  Location history data also gives you personalized information on Google, including better restaurant recommendations and suggestions for a faster commute.  You can review, edit, and delete this data anytime in Timeline.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” thought I as I read.  “My private Timeline?  Depends what you mean by ‘private.’  That only I can see it on my computer — probably.  That I can ‘review, edit, and delete this data’ — yeah from my computer screen.  But it’s out there, you betcha.  I’ve known that for a very long time.  And having just read Edward Snowden’s book, Permanent Record, I’m even more aware of the fact that “privacy” is not a concept compatible with the internet, cyberspace, or any of the other things I don’t understand with regard to the magic of mathematics and electronics.

Edward Snowden

What I do think I understand is that some (not all) of the big guys like Google are now attempting to give us the illusion of privacy by increasing their “transparency.”  I wish I could call Mr. Snowden and get his take on this morning message of mine.

Having said all that, though, I’m pretty interested in the content of this timeline.  With the first click of my keyboard I learned that I made 57 trips in January 2019, the  first being January 8 to Seattle and the second on January 9th to Vancouver.  Checking this against the recently replaced 2019 calendar on our refrigerator, I see that Nyel had doctor appointments both those days — Seattle on the 8th, (check!) and Vancouver on the 9th (check!).  Further details about each trip include mileage, driving time, stops (Safeway, Starbucks) etc.  Even trips into Ocean Park to Jack’s Country Store or the bank are recorded.  And any photos you took that day with your cell phone!

It’s pretty interesting, actually, and since the data is being collected “out there” whether I want it to be or not, I might as well enjoy a little trip down memory lane now and then.  As I see it, I can now check up on my own personal “This Day in History.”  Woot! Woot!


Doncha just hate that?

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

The Box

We (mostly I) go though a lot of copy paper.  Especially when I’m in a writing mode.  For me, it’s difficult to proofread on the screen and, depending upon what I’m working on, there are often multiple drafts to read and correct.  Which means using lots of paper in my printer.

We used to pick up a case of copy paper every so often at CostCo but now that I’m the one who has to wrestle such items into and out of the car and into the house… not so much.  Hooray for Amazon Prime and UPS!  But when the package arrived, delivered directly onto the table on our front porch, I saw that the corner of the case was broken (or slit) open.  Otherwise, the box looked great — no dents, no scrapes.  Perfect!

I opened it right then and there on the porch and took out one package at a time, carrying two or three into the house and setting them on the hat rack just inside the door.  Eight 500-sheet reams altogether.  I was stacking ream four or five when I noticed that the corner of each individually wrapped package was ripped open.  Just a bit.  Just enough, perhaps, to take a look at the contents.  Every single ream!

Opened Reams

I immediately fantasized that the narcs were looking for some sort of paper-thin drugs sandwiched between the individual sheets of copy paper.  I didn’t see any dried doggie drool, but my imagination told me clearly that drug-sniffing canines had been involved — maybe as the box entered or left the warehouse.

Of course, when I shared my imaginary story with Nyel, he actually ROLLED his eyes!  I showed him the tears in the packages.  He shook his head.  “Well, how can you explain it?” I demanded.  “I can’t,” he said.  His next few words — “and neither can you” — weren’t spoken or even murmured.  But I could hear them loud and clear.  He did say, though, that perhaps I’d been reading too many mysteries…  Doncha just hate that???

Conflicting Thoughts and A Long Day

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Travel Assistance

Today Nyel and I head for the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle for a second opinion about his “ID”(Infectious Disease) diagnosis and treatment.  At the present time, our understanding (which is admittedly confused) is that he is harboring at least three infections in his fragile old body — two (with complicated names) in his thigh in the area of the surgery, and one (chronic myelitis) in his bones, also in the area of his surgery.

After eight weeks of antibiotics by IV in the hospital, Nyel was released without any follow-up medication.  In the time since, he has been in various degrees of pain — from the excruciating-impossible-to-sleep-and-drugs-won’t-touch-it pain to the minimal “only-when-I-move” variety.  He mostly has no appetite and no energy.  And, of course, thus far no one can say if any or all of those symptoms are caused by the infections or by healing or by something as yet undiagnosed.

Meanwhile, the ID team at St. Vincent’s has given conflicting information as to Nyel’s ongoing treatment.  Twice (and by two different doctors) he has been told that they were doing cultures to determine exactly which antibiotic(s) would be most effective, and twice it was decided to let his own immune system deal with the infections for fear he would develop resistance to a drug he might need in the future.

Causing us further angst is the fact that car travel, even when involving short distances (like the drive to Nahcotta!)  plunges him back into a miasma of leg cramping and unbearable pain.  Or so it seems, though we don’t know why.  Right now (and for the past thirty-six hours) he is essentially pain-free after three sleepless nights in a row.  Both of us feel in our bones (so to speak) that the trip to Seattle is likely to have a dire effect on his fragile pain-free-for-the-moment status-quo.  But… on the other hand…

Wound Care Supplies

The final say, of course, is Nyel’s and he feels strongly that we need to pursue this avenue.  So off we go in an hour or two.  It will be an up-and-back trip today.  A three o’clock appointment.  Picking up food as we go and eating in the car.  Only one car exit for Nyel — at the Medical Center.  More than one in-and-out is way too hard on him and just the thought of staying over night anywhere is a nightmare — wound care and dressings and transfers from wheelchair to walker to who-knows what.

It will be a long day.


It’s Sunday Already!

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Lyrica in Oysterville, 2018

In a few hours the Lyrica Ladies Choral Ensemble of Puget Sound will be gathering at the church for their afternoon Vespers performance.  How in the world could it be Sunday already?  Again?  The summer has swept by in a fury (not a flurry) and I’m sure I need another month or two to do those summer things.

I congratulate myself that we’ve managed one picnic.  But, only one.  I’m sure that it wasn’t very many summers ago that we had two or three picnics a month.  Plus outings to the beach and over to the island and, sometimes, even took a canoe trip up the Naselle.  Those were the summers that stretched out endlessly before us — the same summers that fill our memories with a treasure trove of  reminiscences.

Jazz and Oysters 8-17-19

So… whatever happened?  Everything seems faster-paced these days — even time. And,  there is definitely more, more, more to do.  Not just in terms of the patch-patch-patch needs of passing time, but also by way of choices.  The weekends are crowded with things we’d love to “take in” — music to listen to, festivals to attend, out-of-towners who come visiting.  I remember when events of that sort happened once or twice a season.

Those were the days when we still thought of ourselves as “isolated”  — a long, hard trip to or from.  I wonder what my great-grandparents or even my grandparents would have thought of the steady stream of tourists visiting the church and walking through the village — not just on holidays or on important occasions, either.   Every single day!

Gordon and Sydney in the ’70s

Well… perhaps the time flies by because I spend too much of it reflecting upon the past.  I don’t think I’ll change that habit, though.  As I age, I find that my memories become more precious and the future more uncertain.  Who wouldn’t immerse themselves in delicious long-ago when given the choice?

Nyel: NPO Again

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Day 22 at St, Vincent’s this time around — This was to be Transfer to Providence Seaside Swing Bed Day. Operable word: was.  Instead, it’s NPO day — NPO is hospital speak for nothing by mouth — a medical instruction meaning to withhold food and fluids. It is from the Latin phrase nil per os which, translated literally means “nothing through the mouth” and is usually the order given when surgery is anticipated.

By nine yesterday morning, Nyel’s discharge plan was in place.  He would be transferred to Providence Hospital, Seaside about two in the afternoon.  At tennish, one of the orthopedic PA’s came in to check his wound vac.  She had been in several times before and seemed efficient and clear about conveying information to us.  Before she left I asked her about the amount of blood being sucked into the wound vac cannister — “It seems to be increasing…”  and I asked about its color — “It seems lighter, not dark like we were told it would be.”

She reassured me on both counts (or tried to).  We had been told initially that there would be less and less blood except when he was moving and that the blood would be very dark (almost black) because it was “old blood” from the hematoma, not “new blood” fresh from the wound site.

Two hours later, she was back with a (new to us) orthopedic doctor who was seeking Nyel’s permission to do some more surgery.  “I thought about what you had asked me,” the PA said, “and I took a long look at Nyel’s charts and at the numbers.  I think your concerns were correct.  He may be bleeding from the wound site, itself, and not just from the hematoma.”


Apparently, there had then been a consultation among surgeons and other ortho doctors, the cardiac people had been consulted, and they were all recommending going back in and closing Nyel up more securely — doing what could not be done three weeks ago because he was in danger of dying on the table.  “There will be no bone involved this time,” the doctor said.  “Just tissue.  He should be fine and it will make a huge difference in his healing. Plus,” she reminded us, “he did fine when they removed the pacemaker after his initial surgery.  This one will be a similar sort of surgery — nothing like the initial one when they were removing hardware and infection from the bones.”

So… Nyel had to give up the swing bed situation.  At this point there is no projected discharge date — it all depends upon how it goes — when they can put him back on blood thinners and diuretics for his heart and any other meds they have put on hold until he recovers sufficiently from this latest surgery.  Then, and only then, will he be back to square one (or is it two or three?) in terms of getting out of here.  As always, Nyel is stoic — the most patient patient ever.


Kudos to Nancy and Colin!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Page 87

The day had been a long one.  I was at the hospital with Nyel at 8:15 to give him a little assistance in sending his cardio mem information to Seattle – an electronic (magic) cyberspace communication with his Seattle cardiologist telling what the pressures inside his heart are.  Then our Community Historian class at the Heritage Museum until noon – today all about the cutting-edge methodology for archival preservation of photos and documents.  And then back to spend three more hours with Nyel – strategizing with caregivers about next steps.

Home to work in the garden for an hour or two.  Mostly clean-up that should have been done last fall.  I can’t remember why I didn’t do it then…  When I finally decided to think about dinner, I noticed that today’s Observer was still tightly rolled up the way our postmaster puts it in our mailboxes.  I took a minute… and I’m SO glad I did.

Our Coast Artcle

Nestled within the paper was the annual copy of our coast magazine.  And on pages 86 to 91 is a marvelously illustrated article about our house!  “Historic House In A Historic Village” is the title.  I had all but forgotten the interview with author Nancy McCarthy and the follow-up photo session with Colin Murphey.  It all happened last September and, somehow, we’ve had a few other things to think about since then.  It seemed like a big surprise!

Best of all, I didn’t find a single factual error in the entire article and, I’m here to tell you as a writer who often interviews people – getting everything right in a long article isn’t all that easy.  Nancy did a beautiful job.  Kudos to her and to Colin who captured the visuals to perfection!  I hope you take a look – and mark September 22nd on your calendar.  (You’ll know why if you read the article.)

But where did they keep their skeletons?

Saturday, January 5th, 2019


The Victorian Age is named after Queen Victoria and covers the period of time that she reigned – 1837 to 1901.  Our house was built in 1869, smack dab in the middle of that period and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is a Victorian – right down to the closets.  Or lack thereof.

In the twenty-first century, we not only take closets for granted, they are one of the things that potential home buyers check out.  “Enough closet space” seems to be right up there with running water and ample electrical outlets.  Our house would never pass the closet test, even though several have been added in recent generations.

Originally, and even as recently as my son Charlie’s childhood, this 11-room house had only two closets.  Four upstairs bedrooms but only two closets.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t wardrobe and cupboard space.  But there weren’t closets for hanging clothes – not the sort of closets we think of today.  Presumably, Victorians simply did not have very much clothing and what they had could be folded and kept in a chest or free-standing cabinet.  Built-in closets were generally used for other sorts of storage and, in earlier times, extras and nonessentials weren’t part of the equation.

Original Closet

The closet in our upstairs North Bedroom, the only original closet now remaining, measures 16 inches deep and 79 inches wide.  It is fitted with two 15-inch clothes rods and several clothes hooks, all of which I imagine were later additions.  For my entire life it has been the repository for my two uncles’ golf clubs in one corner and their baseball bats in another.  It is adequate for the needs of guests but I’m not sure if it would do for a continuous occupant.

The only other closet original to the house was transformed by my folks into a commodious linen closet at the east end of the upstairs hallway.  It had been the only closet in the “master bedroom” – long and narrow with hooks along the sides, I think.  In the process of converting it, they found a number of “treasures” way in the back.  Among them was my Uncle Albert’s fire engine, presumably tucked there in 1904, the year he died at age 5.

Albert’s Fire Engine – circa 1905

The south end of the master bedroom was made into a huge closet to accommodate my mother’s clothes.  (Not only was she a fashion maven, she never threw anything away and was known   for incorporating clothes from her youth into the outfits of her golden years.) It is now mostly empty – just a few costumes from Nyel and my days in community theater.  Other closets in the house include a small room upstairs that was once a cistern and a “new” 1970s addition to the old parlor now the downstairs bedroom.  Downstairs linens are kept in the wardrobe which once held excess seasonal clothing according to information gleaned from Medora’s diaries.

Linen Closet

So, there you have it.  There was no water closet – the outhouse sufficed.  Presumably there were few if any skeletons in the meager spaces provided and no one ever “came out” of any of these closets – at least not that we know of.  Of course, information and feelings about such things were not hanging out for everyone to know about – not like these days when even storage facilities and cyberspace don’t provide security enough for our worldly goods, let alone our personal information.  Maybe the Victorians were actually ahead of the curve, as they say.

My Turn!

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

“Well, hot damn!  Last night it was my turn to take a ride to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.

“What’s going on?” they asked when they got here.  Standard question.  But it was hard to explain.

“We were watching television after dinner and the entire wall started moving to the right.  Then it was back.  Then to the right.  If I looked elsewhere, same thing.  If I closed my eyes, everything seemed fine.  Except for the nausea and…”

“So, you were dizzy?”
“No.  Not exactly.”  And I explained again.
“Vertigo, then.  You were experiencing vertigo.”
“Maybe.  But that’s not exactly what it was like.”

Meanwhile, I was freezing and they were plastering me with sticky things so they could monitor my heart.  “Everything looks good.  You have a bundle branch blockage but you probably know about it already.”

“No, actually, I don’t.”  “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.  You probably wouldn’t have known about it for another two or three years.”  OMG!

Finally, they took me on the gurney out to the aid car.  I was shivering, waiting for the promised warm blanket, while we rode interminably, I thought, to Ocean bean Hospital.  “It’s never this far when I’m driving,” I thought.

First, the paper work – “medications you take?  Have you eaten any banned foods lately?  Romaine? You don’t look 82! Here’s a vomit bag if you need it.  I’m going to put more heart monitors on you.  I’m starting an IV – saline solution. Can anyone come to get you from the hospital?”

The promised warm blanket turned out to be the thinnest of thin covers (was it paper?).  Better than nothing, I guess. There were thicker ones in the ER but still I was goose-bumpy.  The nurse turned up the thermostat, asked me the same questions, gave me a pill for nausea and something by IV for dizziness.  Or was it the other way around?  The doctor came in.  Looked me over.  Ordered a chest X-ray and a bunch of blood samples and other stuff…  Nyel called.  He was fine.  Worried and feeling helpless in his wheelchair.  But fine, otherwise.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “Back atcha,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just freezing.”

About 11:30 they called me a taxi.  16.9 miles to Oysterville – a non-stop talking trip (driver not me.)  I was freezing.  I was glad I’d gone to the ATM yesterday.  I’d better go again today…  Nyel was up and waiting for me when I finally got home!  What a guy! Tomorrow an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I hope he doesn’t say “vertigo” but, if he does, I hope he can get to the bottom of why.  I’m still freezing.

A Little Wierd… But Nice To Know… Maybe!

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Yesterday morning when I checked my FaceBook page, there was an information box at the top which said that my cousin Mona and my friend and former student Chelsea “had marked themselves safe during Hurricane Florence Across the Eastern United States.”  While it was very welcome news, it seemed a little Big Brother-ish to me.

My immediate reaction was “How do they know?”  The ‘they’ of that thought process was a faceless entity, definitely a Big Brother look-alike, so to speak.  But, on reflection. I realized that somehow Mona and Chelsea had been given an opportunity by the ‘they’ of FaceBook to weigh in so that their friends could be apprised of their status.

Readying Suppies at Fort Bragg, NC

I am grateful.  But, being the glass half-empty personality that I am, I immediately wondered about other friends and loved ones in the Carolinas that I haven’t heard about – those without FB but, more crucially, those with FB.  Did they opt not to weigh in?  Or are they among 670,000 people without power?  And, if that’s the case, what other problems are they facing?

All-in-all, I’m feeling like a little knowledge is not entirely satisfactory.  I’m trying to take the attitude that “no news is good news” and I actually wish our media would subscribe to that philosophy, as well. The constant hype, the worst-case scenarios, and the repetitive visuals of the most dire situations wore me down in the first day or so of the impending disaster.  And now FB gets into the act!  I’m feeling a bit gobsmacked in Oysterville and am turning off, tuning out, and reverting to the age-old policy of hope for the best!