Saturday, April 27, 2013

So That Others May Live

Julie, 'Momma' to Mia
       Forty-five years ago today, an equally bright, sunny day filled with dreams and hopes of an equally bright future with the medical student I was about to marry, we celebrated our union at a high nuptial mass in Queens, NY.  The Forest Hills reception, island honeymoon and our very own first apartment in Maryland were pure 'Disney'.
       Then the reality of obligations - career and family - 'took the wheel', catapulting us into and through the rigors of daily living - and supporting same, as well as each other.  We dedicated ourselves to our professions, ever striving to learn more, improve skills and, hopefully some day, be a part of 'doing the miracle', saving a life.  We were then blessed with a life - our fist-born.  The Navy brought our inchoate family to Norfolk, VA and took First Lieutenant Philip G., MD to the pier, depositing him on a destroyer - the flag ship of a fleet bound for a nine month cruise.
       Having but three weeks to acclimate - to the South, a new city, new status, singular responsibility for a 10 month-old son - was to feel a mudslide of life slosh over and around you with untenable force, unrelenting helplessness.  So often I'd lie awake asking why, how, what - all the unanswerable but permanently affixed-to-my-being questions.  Fortunately, there were but seconds to laze/dawdle in this fashion, so entrenched was I in the basking of the luxury of frenzied survival.
       And survive we did; the lieutenant returned, terrifying his son with a handlebar mustache, looking so like the "Frito Bandito" and making a clean shave the first order of 'welcome home, Daddy' business; and then on to the dual reality of military doctor/husband-father.  Working long and extra hours, we managed to buy a starter mansion but had great trouble filling it.  We couldn't afford furniture but didn't need it because we couldn't bring child number two to viability.
       Again, the nagging 'whys'.  Quite unexpectedly, the questioning was back-burner-ed when clothes began not buttoning at the waist (even though pregnancy tests were negative).  We quickly erred on the side of hopeful caution, hunted and found an enormous, affordable starter mansion 'two' and just as quickly moved our fourteen pieces - total - of furniture into it in time to assemble the cradle into which baby Julie was carefully placed.
       The following four years were absorbed by illness, loss and change - of the monumental variety.  After eleven months of fighting pancreatic cancer (we had moved my parents and their bedroom furniture into our home), having won some extra innings, Mom lost the game; Dad remained living with us - angry, frustrated and devoid of his entire former wardrobe.  Mom had always bought 'blues' to match his eyes.  He hated blue.  After throwing everything out, he acquired the most encompassing brown wardrobe known/possessed to/by any man.
       Again, a protracted period of the 'whys'.  But it was short-lived as we watched in awe this little angel child grow and run and speak.  Mom's illness had so taken over our lives that Julie was  - at age two - a brand, new experience.  Naturally, we, as my mother before us for as long as she could, fawned over the child.  Indeed, big brother Philip began muttering aloud about the "golden years" - the first seven of his life, an only child.
       A serious, non-whimsical child (a toddler who would stare at the food on her plate, then at her family and, though saying nothing aloud, shouting with her glare, "Touch nothing on this plate and nobody gets hurt.") as she grew older, it came as no surprise when she announced her desire to attend Georgetown - the School of Nursing.  A sedulous and happy student, she made wonderful, lifelong friends and loved her profession.  After graduation, she spent a year at our Level I Trauma Center in Norfolk, then drove North to Boston, her new, adopted home, and her future - husband, child, achievements.
       Sad and missing her so, we focused on her remaining siblings - Jennie, born four-years after Julie and Declan, who was only to be with us for seventeen months before he was returned to God, a victim of a choking accident.  Of cours Philip, devastated at losing his little brother - "big guy" - went through his personal hell during this time as well.  Why?  Why?  Why?  We had a standing family 'mantra'.
       The years flew as did the kids, starting their own families.  Philip and Jennie settled in nearby Portsmouth.  Julie worked for ten years in ER/Trauma at Boston City, married and moved back to Virginia - Richmond.  They had Mia - who charms the world still.  But Boston kept calling Julie back.  Tufts Medical Center wanted to be a Level I Trauma Center and her friends at Boston City told them Julie was the one gal who could get the job done - well and fast. 
       And so she did - while Matt stayed behind to sell their home in Richmond.  Whispering into the phone on her first day, she urgently confided, "Mom.  I have this bog office.  What do I do?"  I suggested she go in with". . .this lady who keeps following me around" (her secretary).  She then described a huge desk (seaworthy variety) seeming larger in that it was home to one telephone, a lamp and two yellow past-its.  After reading the first one (Nurse A informing the new director that she had personally observed nurse B remain in he rest room for twenty minutes during their wok shift), Julie asked the 'follower' to kindly bring her the files of the employees involved.  To the silent, raised eyebrows she explained, "I'm going to terminate both nurses.  If A spent twenty minutes in reconnaissance, she wasn't working either.
       That incident began a series of investigation, observation, one-on-one interviews and working side-by-side with the Emergency/Trauma nurses for several hours on each shift. Within four months, staff was terminated, replacing those unfit/unwilling to perform at Level I Trauma Center pace.  They were easily replaced by recruiting staff from Boston City with whom she'd worked and knew- personally and professionally.   Tufts became a Level I in October, 2011.
       Last year, Julie fought long and hard to convince the administration that there should be tents set up during the Boston Marathon - in case inexperienced runners needed fluids or more
 serious medical attention. She got a green light - albeit reluctantly.  Due to unusually hot temperatures, Tufts admitted over 30 runners last year - some with life-threatening conditions.
       That experienced planted the seed for unified, broad-based protocols to be utilized in the tents during the race.  This year, they were disseminated and used in ALL the Boston hospitals.  And didn't it pay off.  We spoke often, but briefly, during the week.  She went to the interfaith service.  She was asked to do many interviews.  Everyone was thrilled when players from the Nw England Patriots, and Boston Red Sox visited the bombing patients as well as the first responder staff in the ED/Trauma areas, spending time to say thanks and pose for pictures. 
       Last night, she represented the medical First Responders at the Boston Celtics game where all the services were honored.  "Mom, I can't explain how it felt, walking out on that shiny, wood, court floor - standing next to those great cops who saved so many lives."
       During an interview, she was asked how she would feel caring for a suspect.  She responded, "It's the ultimate ethical dilemma. What do you do?  You have to do the right thing.  It's not one of the things they teach in Ethics 101."  (It turned out that she had treated a suspect.  She admitted to not liking the patient before knowing it was a suspect, but administered appropriate treatment nevertheless.)
       We have no more 'whys'.  We have loans to repay and worries about her mental state post this traumatic experience.  We are concerned for the integrity of her unborn child and the pregnancy in general. But I am - along with her Dad - celebrating HER life today.  Julie proved unequivocally and with grace and ease, that she does what she does so that others may live.  Thanks, 'Muffin'.
Later, Lorane. . .. .

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another William DeVane PSA

       Once again I must spit some ink on the likes of William DeVane, of "Seriously, what's in your safe?"  As I sit listening to our president address a temporarily broken, bleeding citizenry in the Cathedral in Boston, I feel only pride and gratitude.  That's what's in my safe.
       Additionally, our daughter, a trauma nurse, sits in that audience, by invitation of 'potus', because she devised the medical/triage protocols that filled those tents with the life-savers of whom she is so proud.  That's what's in our safe, DeVane.  And that's all we need.
       You, 'Bill', can take your solid, cold, shiny gold and silver from your safe, and have an orthodontist shove it over your teeth so you'll always have it - even if some whacko takes your safe.  Then you - and the results of your life's hard work - will always be safe.
Later, Lorane. . . .

Monday, April 15, 2013

In the Name of the Mother

       I lost an old friend the other day.  (Now isn't that the wackiest expression?  And we all use it.  I mean it's not like the event was along the lines of,
"Where the hell did I put Mary?  I was just using her - in this very room, I think - and I reluctantly answered the phone only to immediately hang up on some wench trying to sell me something so I could get back to Mary.  And now - no hide or hair of her.  Not that noticing a longish strand of dirty blond hair with an inch of white root on a throw pillow or finding a half bitten, Mary-polished fingernail lounging on a coffee table book would aid in solving the dilemma.  How could I 'misplace' something as imposing as Mary?"
No.  The more appropriate comment should be _____ died the other day.  Or I heard that our Mary is, you know, no longer 'among the quick'.  (There I go again.  "Among the quick"?  I see myself and everyone I know dashing about like dervishes and, inducing stark noticeability, Mary just about standing still in our midst.  Which may actually be the genesis of the phrase.  Imagery's a potent little potable - unless, of course one usually washes one's Prozac down with Mescaline.)
       Perhaps "friend" is a bit of overkill (let's not go there) when it comes to my relationship with Mary.  We attended a very small Catholic high school in Brooklyn together back in the late fifties-early sixties.  "Saint Francis Xavier Academy for Young Ladies" was its formal moniker and it was among a group of similar college preparatory schools for girls all staffed/administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph - an order of nuns dedicated to education.  (Once in college, it became apparent that their dedication far outshined their accumulation but, a sedulous student could overcome the deficiencies that came rolled up in our diplomas.)
       I don't recall ever being in the same home room - but could have been - nor do I recall taking the same classes taught by the same nun - again, my recollection could be faulty (that is an interesting turn of phrase, the implication being my ability to gather up/piece together parts of this 'relationship' may not be up to the task.)  But Mary was very much a part of my high school experience.  She was a member of a clique - in which I always felt fortunate to hold membership - of ten or so gals - each of whom embodied qualities to which I futilely aspired - they were Irish, flat-chested and very funny.  My inclusion, I assumed, was my occasional bon mot and their kindness.
       Mary's inclusion stemmed from a lock on the first two qualities, a common after school neighborhood plus a few genuine 'friends' in the group.  (I was not among the latter.  Nor was my best friend, a relationship Mary spent a lifetime seeking without apparent success.)  After graduation, I was the first to lose touch as I attended college in Washington, D.C.  I was never really out of the loop, however, because my best friend then is my best friend today.  (You met her in an August, 2011 post)  Her relationship with Mary was too much + too often = too bad.
       For her part, Mary soldiered on, maintaining bonds with the original clique and then, much to her credit, assumed the arduous/thankless/enormous task of locating the original ninety-nine graduates of the class of 1962 for a twentieth reunion.  At that juncture in our lives we were focused either on family (positive and negative aspects) or career.  Mary, having conquered both - in her estimation - gathered us together in 'hometown' Brooklyn to share, re-bond, celebrate, commiserate and, under the unsolicited guiding hand of 'Mother Mary', integrate.  This last would be in a therapeutic sense as Mary was now all PhD'd in Psychology.
       Best friend had seven children and I had four.  We brought our husbands (who went bar-hopping and talked sports) and focused on 'being thin' - running after kids does that for you) while listening to/laughing with our old classmates' achievements.  All still living were accounted for save one - Marilyn Munroe, the only black girl in our class.  She'd been located living in Atlanta, but had declined to attend.  We were disappointed as Marilyn was the ONE girl in our class known for never speaking ill of anyone.  We missed seeing her.
       Mary spent the evening taking pictures and bows for her outstanding work with the decorations, the menu, the color coordination and the little verbal vignettes she elected to share with us - some bit of history, news or accomplishment of everyone in the room.  Mary had married a gentleman older than she with whom she'd had two children, one divorce and a PhD.  I recalled how little I ever heard of her Dad and how much of her wonderful Mom.  Mrs. O'Rourke was that parish lady who washed, starched and ironed the altar linens, saw to it that the good Fathers ate well and encouraged the doing of the good works Catholics pray so much about.
       The ensuing twenty years saw growth, graduations, emptying nests and burgeoning new careers.  I know this because once again, Mary spearheaded the movement to locate, consolidate and commemorate the remaining members of the Class of '62 - this time in a cruise to Bermuda.  My best friend could not make it.  I'd just had disc surgery.  Mary assured 'everyone' (who would listen) that Lorane would never come  sans best friend.  Well, Mary was wrong.  We had a ball and since movement was limited for me, the camera and I became buds.
       On one day when the group was off the ship touring, I was catching some rays on deck when a giant bee (of which I am terrified) found me - at sea!  Scrambling out of the chaise was a bear but all of a sudden Mary was standing there, swatting the little monster into oblivion.  I was NEVER so happy to see Mary O'Rourke.  My penance was the endurance of hearing every episode of her decades of suffering from Crohn's Disease, the escort who accompanied her on her final cruise last week.
       Apparently, Mary left explicit instructions for a memorial service to be held in a hotel in NYC next weekend.  (Perhaps the "full bar" will be shrouded in crisp, white altar linens for old times' sake)  Also the singing of the high school song is strictly forbidden.  So much for all things Catholic.  I'll not be attending but may hum a few bars of the song just as payback for any angst Mary may have caused friends over the years - in the name of therapy.  And, too, I'll say a few prayers for the 'bee-gone' days.  Godspeed, 'Mother' Mary.
Later, Lorane. . . .


Friday, April 12, 2013

The 'Hood' - An Explanation

       You may have noticed - if you had occasion to read my last post - that were it to be evaluated on the issues of form and continuity, it fails triumphantly.  It was one of those 'stories-within-a-story' a personal favorite re: style.  As such, it most likely confuses or at least makes readers 'work' to follow.  I'm sure it's not rare to hear, "Oh, God, woman (punctuation can be everything), can't you focus on just one, simple point?"
       Adding to this flawed, addictive style, I committed the most mortal of prose-writing sins - I took a walk break with husband and dog.  It was during this commission that just desserts were served.  We saw something that confused and shocked and shut down any notions of continuing that post with any semblance of candor.  So, rather than write, I rambled (perhaps it went right by you) in true desultory fashion, changing the original em-pha'-sis to a different/wrong syl-la'-ble, as it were.  This gambit ended the post with me in The Cloud - where the few remaining readers had already arrived.
        The true story was amputated after the last parenthetical/italicized entry ending with, ". . .VERY quiet.".  In reviewing it today, I noticed that the title - "On the Other Hand" - was never changed and stares back at me accusingly, "How come you left that other hand behind your back, Lorane?"
Do Tell ignored me completely, suddenly captivated
 by the news, which is kept on at a low volume all day.  I was feeling so ostracized I was certain even William DeVane would refuse to let me see his wall safe.  Perhaps of more consequence, I was nagged by the reaction the truth would have on kids; the questions parents might have to answer; the soul-searching I might be forced to do. 

       If by some fluke, this little angel heard someone talking about the goings on, was it fair to have Daddy Matt be forced to give her some sort of explanation?  IS there an explanation?
       There were reasons generating my reluctance:
Husband:  "Why don't you just write what went on?"
Me:  "Fear of potential consequences; loathe to report an ugly truth."
Resolution:  I've been convinced that I have an obligation - along the lines of a PSA - to at least finish documenting what I knew of the matter.
       I was about to do just that yesterday when my tablet announced it would be 'down' for a day installing important updates.  Reprieve.  I was able to deal with the annual pollen blizzard which, predictably coincides with the mating season of our local wasp population (think etymology, not genealogy).  The latter, due to allergies, is a potentially life-threatening event for me so I called Mr. Hornet/Wasp remover STAT. 
       Then it was business-as-usual, wandering around with a can od wasp spray in one hand and a sturdy lint remover roller in the other.  Daily, I can roll up basketful of particulate matter - especially when some residents don't use doormats.
       I'd reached the end of my temperamental tether and was checking my own tennis shoe treads (I was fairly sure the wasps were shoeless) when I decided to get out, walk, drink in the sun - mull it all over.  Tomorrow would come.
       Now we've all turned around twice and we're back on Wednesday.  After describing the circumstances of my neighbor retrieving her dachshund (overweight) puppy, I took that walk break.  We have a beagle.  She's 5years old and no stranger to the neighbors.  Our one friend has now two year-old Lappy, the trimmed down dachshund, sibling to one year-old Dicey beagle, purchased to amuse/annoy/trim down Lappy.  (I'll just be mentioning the dogs who play a role in this saga)
       The gentleman in the house across from Lappy and to the left, has a white toy poodle.  Our newest neighbors (? four months) have a terrier - Tabby, who is walked regularly on our street and the street perpendicular to ours - home to white poodle, Tabby, Lappy and Dicey.  Next door to white poodle, the family originally had one Rottweiler, Bullet, and hen inherited Mom's brother's mixed breed, fluffy, red Diva. From the outset, Diva was not friendly to other dogs and our 'involvement' began on a day I was walking Bridie and when we approached Lappy and
Dicey's house, Bridie was very focused because their 'mommy' LOVES to share treats.
       So it was that we were caught unawares when Diva lunged out from behind a bush on her lawn and attacked/bit Bridie.  The injury was not nearly as troublesome as separating the dogs as my back surgery (temporarily, I hope) robbed me of my usual Olympian speed/dexterity.  Finally, we were out of range and had our usual long, pleasant walk.  Returning home became an 'issue'.  Bridie would not willingly walk past Diva's house.  This scene was repeated once again a few weeks later so I had a chat with the very embarrassed owner.
       Interestingly, Lappy and Dicey were never on Diva's hit list but then, it was Diva's 'Mom' who had rescued Lappy from the dog-less next door neighbor when Lappy was a pup.  Maybe Diva just felt that, like her owner, she was to take care of, not harm the guys across the street.  Our new neighbor's Tabby, was not in the same category.  In fact in a period of a month, Tabby was assaulted/bitten three times - with her owner falling during the last tussle.  To say the least, Diva was wearing a black hat.
       While on the topic of 'bad guys', let's recall that Lappy's predecessor, the chocolate lab as well as her buddy, the swimming pug, had 'gone missing' three years ago and folks were looking somewhat askance at the dog-less household.  New neighbor's hubby, understandably peeved, had a heart to heart with Diva's Daddy and for about two weeks, all was quiet on the canine front.
       Then.  Signs went up all over the neighborhood with full-color pictures of DIVA!  She 'went missing' on March 17th, a day her 'daddy' said the dog less ones went away on vacation.  New neighbor and I were walking less anxiously, Lappy and Dicey's 'folks' were sure the dog-less household was involved.  White toy poodle's 'daddy' was acting as though nothing had happened.  (He's a pal of dog-less) The kids were devastated and Bullet was VERY twitchy.
       The original posters offered a reward and gave contact numbers.  On 'walk-break' day, the object of repulsion was the addition of a poster addendum (please see photo above).  It asks for ANY information leading to the discovery of the person(s) who tortured, beat and killed Diva, leaving her thusly mutilated body to be found by the head of the household in a church across the road from the neighborhood entrance.
       We have had occasion to see/talk with the children, stressing the futility of hate/vengeance and the power of prayer.  I think, too, of the evil of pre-judgment.  Of only one thing am I certain.  Diva does not hurt  and will not hurt anymore.  What is the lesson of Diva?  That will have to be a personal conclusion/decision.  Time heals.  Memories fade.  Why is it that the one indestructible constant is unabashed EVIL?
Godspeed.  Later, Lorane. . . .

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the other hand. . . .

Keep it Light

       Generally speaking - the genesis of that qualification, bye the bye, simply bears witness to the fact that eighty per cent of what I write is written because I am genuinely moved to communicate what I feel are significant ruminations/observations.  The remaining twenty per cent has been urged upon me as material/information that someone else wishes to 'get out there' and would but for lack of a forum - I write from emotion and intuition.
       I've never been one to concern myself with the trappings of accuracy or the drudgery of plodding through authoritative tomes in the pursuit of factual data that might lend  some weight or significance even to my Scribner ship.  (That's kind of like a raft but powered by ink instead of toxic/combustible liquids.)
       This actually makes sense (another of my 'non-concerns')because I rarely read anything in its entirety unless it touches a nerve, causes an irrepressible commitment to continue.  (I think how fortunate this was for my children that I wasn't thusly "grabbed" by, say Exodus, when there were three tykes, a dog and a husband relying solely on my efforts for food and clean clothing.)
       This is one of the reasons I've distanced myself from several writing groups given to hosting conventions/workshops dedicated to the craft of 'writing', usually featuring known/successful authors who address us 'would-bes' pleasantly but tutorially nevertheless,  frequently with a soupcon of smugness and always with a semi sagging from the girth of their latest opus prepped for display and that personal note to the drooling purchaser; signed by the accomplished hawker.
       I prefer working in obscurity and, I daresay I've fixed the place up and festooned it with 'favorite things' such that I'll remain here - untarnished by commercial success and soaking in a bath of unconventional lack of sagacity for as long as I remain among the 'quick'.
       However, this being a twenty per cent day, I fear I must subject you to yet another discomfiting run-in with my bĂȘte noir - technology.  The matter became a twenty per center when both my best friend and my husband were skewered by the beast on the same day last week.  Moreover, they each looked to me for an explanation.  I suppose to some extent that made this exercise at least a twenty-one per center.
       My husband went to check his email (a Hotmail address) and was greeted by a screen titled, "Goodbye Hotmail; Hello Outlook".  My best friend (in Connecticut) with an Optonline address sounded borderline  psychotic as she announced the 'loss' of ALL email addresses and that she could not access my blog.  (That issue resolved itself - unfortunately - as she was using the wrong URL.)
       After an hour or so of tinkering on the keys, I threw my hands up re: Hotmail.  It had - as they have come to annoyingly say, "gone missing".  As he is a doc who works with attorneys that pass along highly confidential information in their attachments, I could hear rumblings of a major storm, the dark clouds of breach whipping up a torrential DRAFT which in its final form would have the title "Complaint".
       I offered to write a post so my friend could test accessibility and suffered through several hours of lost paragraphs, wrong photos and a compilation of words - sans beginning, middle or end which I titled "Confusion" but NEVER PUBLISHED.  Imagine my surprise when the abort-o-piece appeared as a post.
       (This entire fiasco infuriates me.  Were I to have the freedom to write about some really interesting things that have "gone missing" around here, you'd have some riveting reading today.)
       After absolutely NOTHING was said or done, my husband calmly announced that his email was back.  He didn't even inquire of the masterminds at Outlook what had caused the lapse.  (There's a guy who will NEVER get ulcers.  He's just a carrier.)  I didn't dare contact my friend, such was my embarrassment at the tripe she'd had to endure when using the correct URL.
       (Six years ago, shortly after we moved here, we saw signs on all manner of trees/posts seeking ANY information about a 'chocolate lab' that had "gone missing".  The owners, heartbroken, had to leave on their long-planned cross-country Summer vacation, never seeing the lab again.  While biking in the Dakotas, however, they received an email that the little pug, that used to swim across a patch of bay to visit the lab, had ALSO "gone missing".  THAT family got a new pug immediately.)
       Technology be dammed, I spent my week re-finishing furniture.  It relaxes me and keeps me from breaking expensive, aggravating equipment.  In fact, today was the first time since the 'lost email' episode that I took a break from painting and returned to the computer.  I've been amusing myself responding to ninety-nine Facebook notifications.  AND I promised my friend I'd work on getting the blog to behave.
       (Vacation over, the despondent lab less neighbors were training/spoiling their new dachshund puppy.  Lappy gained so much weight, his owner was walking him in a stroller!  Finally, she decided to get another pup just to get Lappy moving.
       One day, upon returning home from a puppy search, she didn't hear the now familiar crying of lonely/hungry Lappy.  A neighbor suggested she check the house next door.  And, boldly, she did.  As she neared the door, she could hear Lappy whimpering.  She banged on the door and the owner, with cowering Lappy at his feet, handed the dog over but not before telling her, "The next time you find him - if he's missing - you'll find him here with a bullet between his eyes, VERY quiet.")
       As much as I've come to rely on my computer, it has been something of a chore to keep up with its use.  The children gave me a Surface for Christmas and just as I was BEGINNING to learn its nuances, I managed to get my cell phone wet during one of my mandatory 3-walks-a-day, so I got a new Windows phone free.  Oye! It - the Windows cell phone - is 'sync-ed' with the Surface (the manufacturer suggested that the same user name be employed) and they are both VERY chummy with "Sky Drive", a new friend I didn't even know I had.
       Sky Drive is like a giant "Jack Rabbit" storage warehouse.  Apparently, one's material - documents, photos and something called "Public" - tagged with one's user name, is kept in "The Cloud" - the eponymous nickname which has been bestowed on Sky Drive, the infinite keeper-of-things-technologically/photographically and in other mysterious ways generated.  I can access things I've already forgotten and intentionally chose never to revisit.
       Taking pictures of the grand peeps, I (jokingly) said, "You're all going to the "Cloud" - on three.  Can you feel it?"  And, by gosh, the following day, with some time for editing, I downloaded the pictures. Guess where they were?  Yup.  "The Cloud" had my family.  If, by ANY chance, you read of an unknown would-be author 'gone missing', do call the 'tip line' and casually mention (YOU KNOW).  Gotta run.  BY now, Niemans MUST have a coordinated "Wing Line", yes?
Later, Lorane. . . .