Saturday, June 30, 2007

Music Hath Charms...

It was October or November of 1965 and I’d just turned 16 the first time I heard Sounds of Silence. I was lying in bed, in the dark, in my little town (sorry, couldn’t resist) in Minnesota, listening to a Chicago rock station on a tinny radio as I fell asleep. That night, for the first time, I heard a vocal version of Sounds of Silence. An acoustic version had previously been released as one of the songs on Simon & Garfunkel’s first album (Wednesday Morning, 3AM). A few months after I first heard it, Sounds of Silence would become the title of Simon & Garfunkel’s second album, and then, a little over a year after that, the theme song of Mike Nichol’s definitive 60's movie, The Graduate. But that night, before all that had happened, I found myself blown away (and brought wide awake) by the aching, lonely beauty of that song, both the tune and the lyrics.

And that was just the beginning. Paul Simon has been writing incredible songs for over 40 years, and this evening, I’ve been listening to and watching the Library of Congress 1st Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, celebrating Paul Simon, on PBS. It’s a terrific concert, filled with wonderful musicians - James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Alison Krauss, Buckwheat Zydeco, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to name a few...each doing their own renditions of some of Paul Simon’s myriad, genius, songs.

Watching the various musicians, singing and playing instruments with their eyes shut...I am struck by how music manages to pull most of us “into the groove”. I neither play an instrument nor sing...well, that’s a lie, I DO sing (and this, in spite of the fact that no one seems to want me to!)...but despite these shortcomings, I dunno, maybe I have an ear, because music has always been able to pull me into the groove, and it’s not just one kind of music that has this power over me...bluegrass, folk, rock, classical, opera, jazz, even some truly hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak, as William Congreve so eloquently wrote (and he did write breast, not beast, and he wrote it in The Mourning Bride)...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This 'n That...

Mike's on the mend, but faces quite a lot of dental work as a result of the funky, anaerobic infection that appears to be under control at last. He had a root canal today on the tooth adjacent to the infected one, and needs a filling on the tooth on the other side; then in mid-July, the endodontist will perform oral surgery to remove the roots of the infected tooth, including and especially the piece of debris that Dr. X left in there.

I've done a little research on this: apparently, it's not unheard of for an instrument to break while a root canal is being done, but the ethical thing to do (according to other dentists/endodontists writing about this topic on the web) is to inform the patient (or in this case, me as his mother, because Mike was a minor when this happened) and give some options...none of which Dr. X did.

Enough of that; it makes me mad to think about it.

I'm busy at work, and the weeks rush by at breakneck speed. In some ways that's good, but in others...well, more and more, I think I might like a simpler life. I'm reading and thoroughly enjoying James Herriot's wonderful book, All Creatures Great and Small. But as I read it, I can't help but think that I really ought to be reading this book in a pine-scented cabin near a lake, sitting in a comfortable chair with mended slipcovers, by the light of an old lamp with a yellowing, stencil cut paper shade, with a worn wooden staircase leading to a bedroom with old sheets that always feel slightly damp in the cool night air...not that such a place exists, except in my head, but lately I've been thinking...maybe such a place does exist...and maybe I should start to try to find it.

Yeats had the right idea:

I will arise and go now,
And go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
Of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there,
A hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there,
For peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer,
And noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now,
For always night and day
I hear lake water lapping
With low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway
Or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A picture's worth a thousand words...

Sunday, 27 May 2007............Sunday, 24 June 2007

Thanks to the excellent endodontist who cared enough to insist on seeing and treating Mike last night, Mike is feeling much, much better today, but the pics show it all...the one on the left was taken at Alex and Chris' wedding last month; the pic on the right was yesterday, before he saw the endodontist...and all that swelling happened in a matter of less than 12 hours. Thank goodness we live in the time of antibiotics, and thank goodness for good, conscientious docs...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

When Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy...

When Mike was home for Alex's wedding last month, I suggested he go the dentist, Dr. X, for his 6-month check up. A little history, here. I'm not a big fan of Dr. X, because for some time I've believed he's more interested in making money than in being a good dentist. We "inherited" Dr. X when he bought the practice of Dr. B, our previous dentist. Dr. B was an excellent dentist, but he sold his practice and is apparently now happily making gobs of money selling real estate. Soooooooo...although I'm not a big fan of Dr. X, I thought he was at least adequate as a practitioner.

Mike and I both went in and had our teeth cleaned, and Mike was told that he needed a filling, no big deal, they could fit him in that afternoon and have it over and done with. Of course, I said go ahead, get it over with...and so he had the filling, done by a dentist neither of us had ever seen before. I don't know if he was a locum tenens or a new partner, but he was substituting for Dr. X...and that was that, or so we thought.

Last Wednesday, three weeks after having the work done, Mike called and said that he’d been having a fair amount of pain, pretty much every day, from the tooth with the new filling. Ever the sensitive mother, I said something blase, like, “Well, new fillings can be like that; take Tylenol or better yet, you don’t have stomach problems, take an NSAID...”

Yeah, that’s how I talk to my kids, I realized as I wrote it just now, I actually said, “take an NSAID” because, having spent 5 years working with a bunch of psychopharmacologists, and now working with a bunch of PharmD’s, and being the nerd that I am, we spend a fair amount of time discussing drugs and classes of drugs in my house, and I knew that Mike would know what an NSAID is...pronounced en-sade, btw, and you can read more about them
HERE if you don’t live in such a weird household, and yet, like me and my kids, you find that such nerdy stuff interests you...

Friday morning when I got to work, I checked my e-mail and was surprised to see a note from Mike. I was even more surprised by the time stamp: it had arrived in my in-box at 7:01 AM, which is 5:01 AM in Tucson. Mike wrote that he’d been awake for most of the night, in really bad pain, and asked me to call him when I got the note. Of course I called him immediately. He sounded awful, so I suggested that he find a dentist in Tucson; that he call and say it was an emergency, and that he needed to be seen right away. He did, and Friday afternoon, after examining Mike and taking some X-rays, the Tucson dentist, Dr. S, said that she could see why he was in pain: the new filling was “way too big”, as a result of which Mike’s bite was (and has been since the work was done) “way off”. Also, his gum was badly abraded, probably because with his bite being off, the gum had been cut with the edge of the oversized filling each time he chewed anything in the past three weeks.

Dr. S spent some time grinding down the offending filling, carefully checking Mike's bite with each adjustment. When she was satisfied that his bite was OK, she sent him on his way with a prescription for doxycycline (a tetracycline antibiotic), "in case you have an infection" and an industrial-strength, prescription NSAID painkiller (800mg Motrin), both of which Mike had filled and began taking immediately.

All of which sounds great, I write this, at 2:30 AM Sunday morning, he’s at the University Health Center in Tucson, waiting to be seen in Urgent Care. He called a little while ago, in an incredible amount of pain, so I told him to go there immediately, both to try to get something adequate for the pain, which is so severe that the industrial strength NSAID has had no effect at all...and to make sure that he doesn’t have an abscess or some other raging infection in his jaw...

Thus the title of this rant: when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...and bright and early Monday morning, Dr. X and his locum tenens or partner will become aware of that, too...

UPDATE - the Urgent Care doc said they don't do dentistry, but he was sufficiently impressed with the degree of pain and swelling that he dispensed 20(!) Vicodin for pain. This was late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Despite the Vicodin, Mike was still in considerable pain, and a few hours after getting back to his apartment, at about 10AM Sunday morning, his jaw began to swell dramatically. The swelling continued, steadily, all afternoon, and when I looked at the digital pics he'd sent me to monitor the swelling, I became alarmed. Tonight (Sunday night) I suggested he search the Yellow pages for an emergency dentist, and he found one, and called and left a message. He was on the phone with me when the endodontist called him back, within 10 or 15 minutes of Mike's leaving the message. When Mike described his symptoms, the endodontist told him he needed to see him immediately.

Mike's girlfriend, Brooke, (who's been taking great care of Mike while all this has been going on) drove Mike to the endodontist, who lanced and drained a baseball sized abscess in Mike's jaw. The infection is so extensive that he discontinued the doxycycline and prescribed two antibiotics, Penicillin and Flagyl, that Mike is to take every 6 hours, around the clock, for the next week. He said that because of the size of the abscess, it may fill and have to be drained again, and he asked Mike to check in with him tomorrow, and scheduled him to be seen again on Thursday.

He told Mike that the x-rays he took to look at the abscess showed clear evidence of where the infection started: in the root canal done by Dr. X in July 2005 on Mike's tooth #14. According to the endodontist, the x-rays reveal two problems with that root canal: i) it was not sealed properly, and ii) it shows what appears to be a piece of a broken dental instrument lying in the bottom of that unsealed root canal.

Uh-huh. Nice work, huh? Oh, yeah, unlike Dr. X (who has, on occasion, double-billed me), I keep meticulous records. I pulled Mike's dental file, and looked at the bill to see what Dr. X charged for this incompetent couple of hours of work, and there it is, on the bill, in black and white: $1755.00.

He may not be good, but no one could ever accuse him of being cheap.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When I'm 64...

When I get older losing my looks,
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine...
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you...
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride...
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage,
In the Isle of Wight,
if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee,
Xander, Jack & Eve...
Send me a postcard,
drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer,
fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

So, being a boomer, I’ve been half-listening, this evening, to a 2-hour PBS program called The Boomer Century. Yeah, truth is, in some ways it was pretty good (e.g., right now we boomers are paying 60% of the income tax in this country, and no one volunteers more than we do)...but at the same time, I found the program sort of depressing. I doubt that I’m the only boomer who was thoroughly creeped out by blond, 50-something Dr. Cynthia Kenyon (man, I hope she’s 50-something, and not YOUNGER than that), who waxed eloquent and got almost misty when discussing the work she and others have done on doubling the life expectancy of C. Elegans (that's actually just plain ole’ roundworm to you and me), and the possibilities of extending that work to humans. When she said 90 might eventually be the new 45, I almost spit Blood Orange Italian soda across the room. I thought of what a friend of mine said about the sudden preponderance of Viagra in the lives of Boomers: It’s like hanging new flagpoles on condemned buildings... (sorry, guys).

I’m 57, and most of the time, although I wish my knees were younger, I like being 57. There’s a trick to learning to accept and enjoy your age, but it’s a simple trick that anyone can learn. Each year, I simply consider the alternative...NOTE: staying young is not the alternative; being DEAD is the only alternative that I know of. It probably helps that I had a sister who died young; whenever I start to feel sorry for myself for anything having to do with aging, all I have to do to snap myself out of it is think how much E would have loved to have lived to be 60, or 50, or even 40, for that matter...

My mom used to say she didn’t want to live beyond 75. The first time she said that to me, I was probably in my late 20's and she was in her middle 60's, and appeared to be in good health. Shocked, I asked her why she’d said that. "That’s a long enough life," she said, "And I don’t ever want to be a burden to anyone."
Still, when she turned 75 and her oncologist told all of us that she would certainly not live to be 76, I could see that she’d had a change of heart since she’d made that statement in her 60's. At 75, even though she was sick, she loved her life, and hated to leave it. I’ve heard of dying people being cold, and even mean, but she wasn’t like that. She stayed for as long as she could, for the most part remaining cheerful to the end, and then she quietly left. We should all have such grace.

So here I sit, at my keyboard at a little after midnight, at age 57, thinking about how all of us like to put conditions on aging, as if we had any real control in the matter...we have some, but a lot of it is simple luck...many of us bluff, blithely saying things like, "Unless someone can promise me that I’ll have my wits about me to the end, and my own teeth, etc., etc., I don’t want to live to be 100..."
And yet, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t all kids at heart, shouting those things out loudly from a safe distance, only to take them back as we approach the place where it’s our time to step onto the ice floe...

Dylan Thomas knew a thing or two about aging, so I’ll close with his beautiful sentiment...

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Yeah, I agree with that. The prospect of Alzheimer’s and Depends and Dr. Kervorkian rather than Doc Martens depresses me. My style is more...well, put it like this...I have this idea that when someone someday (a LONG time from now) asks Xander, "So how’d your grandma die?", it’ll be more fun for everyone if can say, "Well, she missed a turn and flipped the Maserati..."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Mornin', Good Mornin'!

Good mornin', good mornin'!
We've danced the whole night through,

good mornin', good mornin' to you.

Good mornin', good mornin'!

It's great to stay up late,

good mornin', good mornin' to you.

When the band began to play

the sun was shinin' bright.

Now the milkman's on his way,

it's too late to say goodnight.

So, good mornin', good mornin'!

Sunbeams will soon smile through,

good mornin', my darlin', to you.

I am SO not a morning person, and evidence of that is that it’s after midnight and I have to be up at 5:30 and rather than sleeping, I’m at my computer keyboard, typing away...

I’ve always been a high energy woman, and at 57, it’s still no problem for me to pull an all nighter, but to go to bed at a reasonable hour and then get up early...ah, what a drag.

A is the same way, so it’s no wonder all 4 of our kids inherited this tendency to be night owls rather than larks. When the kids were little, aware that we all seemed to share this sort of altered circadian rhythm, I tried to wake them gently. I am not above appreciating the method of the fisherman in Old Man and the Sea, who takes the boy’s foot gently in his hand and waits for him to wake, and yet that seemed a little strange to me, and besides, to do it for 4 was more efficient, and more to my own nature, to sing them awake, and my absolute favorite to sing them awake was the Good Morning song from Singin’ in the Rain...

There is, however, no one to sing me awake these days...

Well, I admit I was serenaded by a crazy guy with an incredibly good voice at Central Market yesterday...picture Sterling Hayden in Altman’s The Long Goodbye, circa 1973, but singing Wichita Lineman to me, personally, and you'll have the picture...(yeah, "Oh, my!" was my reaction)...

But I digress...I’ve been using the three alarm clocks pictured above to try to wake myself in a timely fashion (they are deliberately set to slightly different times, btw)...but still I have a tendency to sleep through. Then, one day last week it suddenly occurred to me that I have an alarm on my cellphone...and I sat down and programmed it and, as I guessed, it is incredibly annoying and has the added advantage of going off every 3 minutes or so, apparently indefinitely, until I’m sufficiently awake to find it, open it, and locate and press the confirm button...

Voila. Once again, I’m up and out the door around 6:00 most days, which gets me to Starbuck’s for a coffee frappuccino with an extra shot just after they’ve opened for the day...

Yep, life is good, even with crazy guys serenading me at Central Market...hey, maybe that should be especially with crazy guys serenading me at Central Market...