Thursday, July 30, 2015

Here's To The Waitresses Who Serve

I was going to call this post "Here's To The Ladies Who Lunch," (from Sondheim's musical "Company"). But, given the lunch in question, I thought I would instead toast the waitresses who have to serve the ladies who lunch.

But First, The Dowager Duchess
My Mother The Dowager Duchess continues to improve dramatically as a result of the surgery. Unfortunately, she's very weak and very tired and unable to appreciate the other improvements. The only pain she currently feels is from the surgical healing. The nerve pain and back pain are gone. Amazing. The splint came off her hand yesterday afternoon and she's been exercising that arm and hand ever since. She couldn't close her hand yesterday. When I arrived this morning, she was holding a pen and signing her name to something. Stunning. She has physical therapy and has actually been able to sit in a wheelchair, take a few steps, and do some other things -- with no pain. Exhaustion, however, doesn't allow her to do much. So, she tells me she's miserable and I tell her it will get better.

The Ladies Who Lunch Eat
To maintain my sanity, I've been taking long (and fast-paced) walks every day during my afternoon break from the hospital. Today, I walked more than 4 miles round-trip (6.5 km) just so I could have a meal at Jay and Lloyd's Deli on Avenue U in Brooklyn.

When I arrived at the deli, after my 2-mile walk in the sweltering heat, I was greeted by the stares of a group of 16 women.

All were in their 70s and 80s... except for one, as I later told my mother, who was I thought between 112 and 117. She, however, had some new parts -- nose, lips and cheekbones, at minimum, topped off with a platinum wig that would make Dolly Parton proud.

Since they were all staring (well, glaring) at me when I entered, I smiled and said, "Hi." No one responded. They just stared/glared a bit longer and then turned back to their conversations, punctuated with very loud complaints about the food, the waitress, the chairs, the water, the air-conditioning, the busboy, and each other. All in stage whispers.

MY MEAL. AND A SUBTLE WAY OF GETTING A PHOTO OF THE LADIES WHO EAT.
(CLICK TO ENLARGE MY "JUNIOR" SANDWICH... AND THE LADIES.)

I learned it was a birthday party when the woman next to the platinum blonde roared, "Well, is anybody going to bring out the birthday cake?!? Some of us want to leave!" And then in her stage whisper, "My God! These people are idiots." She then continued,  "You know, we're going to have to pay for Betty too. She likes to pretend, but she never has any money." Betty called across the table, "That's not necessary. I can pay for myself." "Shut up, Betty," her dear friend snapped. "I'll tell you when you have to pay." And then the stage whisper, "My God, that woman hears everything!"

The waitress brought out the cake (that the group had brought to the restaurant themselves) with one candle. They (the staff) sang the birthday song to the honoree, while the 15 other women continued their conversations.

My pastrami sandwich (on rye), square potato knish, Dr. Brown's Cream Soda, and cole slaw? Delicious!

The floor show? At least there was no cover charge.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It Ain't Necessarily So

My Mother The Dowager Duchess is recovering exceptionally well from her back surgery. Every test returns with perfect results. She spent most of the day out of bed and in a recliner. She even took the few steps to the recliner, walking for the first time in nearly three weeks. She'll begin physical therapy no later than Monday.

The only problem right now is a case of ICU (Intensive Care Unit) Psychosis. Really a combination of being in the ICU and receiving morphine-based pain meds. I've been assured that this is temporary and, even amid the moments of confusion, my mother still manages to smile most of the time and be, truly, "The Dowager Duchess."

Early Friday Morning
Dowager Duchess (DD): I don't belong here with these people.
Nurse: Why?
DD: They're not my class of people. Just look at her! She's not even wearing a top!
Nurse: But who are all these people you're talking about? You're in a private room.
DD: I'm in a private room?
Nurse: Of course.
DD: Well, if I'm in a private room, what are you doing here?!?

This afternoon, my mother had me move a chair in her room three times to "find the redhead." Finally, she told me to recline the back of the chair so I could see the redhead.

I said, "But it's not a recliner."

"Well it was this morning!" she snapped.


It ain't necessarily so...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

I'm not really sure anymore what My Mother The Dowager Duchess's hipbone is connected to, but I think there was a T11 kyphoplasty, T11–L3 hardware fusion; L2–L3 and L1–L2 laminectomy and decompression with spinal cord monitoring.

(Click to 'decompress' the images. No anesthesia needed.)

TUESDAY: THE VIEW OF THE DUCHESS'S HOME FROM HER HOSPITAL ROOM. 

No matter what is connected to what, what is screwed to what, what is decompressed and laminated (or un-laminated), after five hours on the operating table, The Dowager Duchess came through it all. She'll be in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for a few days and we're hopeful that recovery will be as successful as surgery.

WEDNESDAY: THE MANHATTAN SKYLINE FROM THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT.

Thank you for your kindness of heart and spirit. Your messages enabled my mother to head into surgery feeling grateful and even more loved. She was relaxed and positive this morning. Her final urgent instruction to me before being wheeled into surgery was to get her flowers and potted plants from her room and make sure they made it to intensive care. Priorities.


It seems things might be slightly more complex than this song would have you believe:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Duchess And The Parachute Jump

PARACHUTE JUMP
TODAY.
The Dowager Duchess will have surgery on her back Wednesday morning at 9:00 (a collection of procedures to repair the compression fracture, clean up bone fragments and anything else, and strengthen her spine).

The goal, as the neurosurgeon explained today, is to return my mother to her fully active and independent life. The Duchess responded with a smile, "That's my goal, too!" If all goes well, as we expect it will, The Duchess could begin physical therapy within a few days of surgery.

•  •  •

What follows is a retelling of a story I posted in July 2011 (click here if you want to see the original, which includes a little more historical information). (Click any image for a 'real scream.")

The story I remember from my childhood — this is what I remember my mother telling me when I was 10 — was that she rode the Coney Island Parachute Jump with my father when they were first dating. She would have been 16 and he 17. More of the story that I remember my mother telling me was that she went on it to impress my father. Now, the Parachute Jump was not something I could imagine my mother riding. In fact, I had never seen my mother go on any ride at an amusement park. They all made her "too dizzy," she insisted. So, when she told me the story and I asked her why she didn't go on rides any more. Her response was, "Well, your father married me."

IF THIS DIDN'T SCARE THE DUCHESS,
WHY WORRY ABOUT A LITTLE SURGERY?!?

In 2009, while my mother was visiting us in Las Vegas, one of my cousins, Joan, (a second cousin, to be precise) was also visiting and we were talking about Coney Island. Joan was from LA and she had only seen Coney Island once when she flew in for my mother's 80th birthday. In jest, I began to tell Joan how my mother had tricked my father into marrying her by going on the Parachute Jump and making him think she was fun. But, my mother immediately corrected me (she does that quite a bit).

"No. No," she said. "I didn't go on with your father. He was in the Army. Harriet and I picked up a couple of sailors."

What?!?

We all burst out laughing. "YOU picked up a couple of sailors?" I roared. (If you met my very proper mother, you would know how absurd the idea would be — even the fact that she could say something like that aloud.)

And then the back-pedaling began. "Well, Harriet did the picking up. She was much more forward than I. I would never do anything like that."

I had tears in my eyes. "But you and Harriet picked up a couple of sailors?"

"It wasn't like that. It wasn't nice for two girls to go on a ride like that by themselves."

"But it was nice to pick up a couple of sailors?" I was having such a good time. "What about your husbands?"

"Well, of course, we weren't even engaged at the time. Murray was in the Navy and your father was in the Army." My mother was actually blushing now and Jerry and my cousin Joan were wiping tears from their eyes.

"So, what did you do AFTER the ride?" I asked.

"They walked us to the subway station and we took the train home. It was completely innocent."

WHEN MY MOTHER IS BACK ON HER FEET, I'LL SEE IF SHE WANTS TO PICK UP
A COUPLE OF SAILORS AND TRY THE NEW THUNDERBOLT WITH ME.
COMPLETELY INNOCENT... OF COURSE.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dowager Duchess Deli and Debit

The Kid Brother came by Saturday morning at 9. He and I walked to Nathan's Coney Island (The Original Nathan's) for hot dogs and fries. I convinced him to jump in the photo booth with me for a quick "brothers photo" and then we went to the arcade where The Kid Brother excels at skee-ball.

"LOOK INTO THE LENS AT TOP, NOT THE COUNTDOWN AT BOTTOM.
CHUCK, SMILE. LOOK UP. CHUCK. LOOK UP. SMILE. CHUCK..." CLICK.

When the Kid Brother arrived at The Dowager Duchess's apartment, he immediately headed into the kitchen with his backpack and began raiding the cupboards and refrigerator.

"Bagels!" he exclaimed. "Just what I needed!"

"Chuck, those are OUR bagels," I snapped.

He put them back and began foraging through the boxes of cereal. "Oh, good, this box of Cheerios isn't open," he said as he shoved it in his backpack. He picked up a box of Raison Bran. "Ours," I said. "You know, we've got to eat, too." He put it back.

Then he started digging through the fruit bowl. "I'm out of everything," he explained. "Hey, where are those flat peaches you had last week?"

"Chuck," I said. "This isn't a supermarket. If you're out of food, you need to go grocery shopping."

"Aright, aright," he muttered. He grabbed some ordinary peaches and pears and closed up his overstuffed backpack.

The Dowager Duchess has lately (the past few years) set some unfortunate precedents. She shops for my brother because, "He never has any food in his house." She gives him money because, "He needs money to load up his Metro Card."

The Kid Brother shares an apartment with two other guys and it's well-managed by AHRC. I've tried to convince her that he needs to be self-sufficient and the staff need to know how he's managing his money — and if he has enough.  She can't subsidize him. I kept telling her she was creating a monster. Mothers!

I paid for Nathan's ($30). I paid for skee ball ($40). On the way home, he casually mentioned he only had enough money to pay for his laundry that afternoon and needed to add money to his Metro card before he headed to Central Park to play softball Sunday morning.

OUR $30 LUNCH. AND WORTH EVERY PENNY!
READY TO ROLL THE FIRST BALL.
I WAS THE BANK, THE PHOTOGRAPHER, AND THE PEANUT GALLERY.  
TAKING AIM.

"You have no money at home?" I asked.

"None."

"Any money in the bank?" I asked.

"Don't worry! I got money in the bank!" (Our sister's nickname for him was Ebeneezer.)

"Well, then you need to go to the bank and take out some money for your expenses. Your mother is not your supermarket. And she's not your bank. I'll give you $20 to get you to Monday and then you need to take care of things."

When we got back upstairs — so he could pick up his backpack filled with loot — I forgot to give him the $20 I promised. He looked at me and said, "Hey! You owe me 20 bucks!"

I said, "Listen, buddy, I don't OWE you anything. I'm doing you a favor. Got it?"

"I got it. I got it," he said. "Jeez, what a grouch!"

The Dowager Duchess had some injections of steroids and anti-inflammatories Friday morning. The pain in her back is considerably better and she's able to sit up on her own in bed and move around much more. However, it clearly hasn't done much for the nerve pain, which was excruciating again last night after so much more movement throughout the day. So, she's back on Codeine and we'll be discussing next steps with the medical team Monday.

When I got to the hospital for my afternoon visit Saturday, I told The Duchess about my day with the Kid Brother. She simply gave me a guilty, closed-mouthed smile and shrugged. Mothers!

THE DIVINE (AND DOTING) DOWAGER DUCHESS...
THIS IS HOW SHE LOOKS ON A BAD DAY!
(STILL, THE KID BROTHER TOLD ME, "SHE NEEDS TO GET DRESSED!")

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New York Fashion Week: Men's

The Dowager Duchess had a much better day today. We've opted for the non-surgical approach to repair her back. In three weeks or so, if there's not enough improvement, we can reevaluate the surgical options. She already has a back brace for when she's out of bed (which can't come too soon) and she'll begin physical therapy tomorrow (Thursday). They'll now work on managing and alleviating the pain to enable her to more easily do her physical therapy. She was upbeat this afternoon and looking forward to getting to work.

San Geraldo suggested this morning that we stay another month — which is why I call him "San" Geraldo. Besides, I'm sure everyone who lives on the Costa del Sol would prefer to summer in Coney Island. (Click the images... you know why.)

I SUPPOSE THERE ARE WORSE PLACES TO SPEND ONE'S SUMMER.

Walking back from the hospital this afternoon I noticed a large advertisement on an Ocean Parkway bus stop. It was promoting "New York Fashion Week: Men's."

According to the ad, fashion "week" runs from 13 July through 16 July. That sounds more like "New York Fashion Four Days: Men's" to me, but it's been a very long time since I lived here. It's a fast-paced city. Maybe seven days only take four.

I was relieved I hadn't completely missed Fashion Week (: Men's). I've been monitoring local fashion trends since our arrival.

LEFT TO RIGHT: OCEAN PARKWAY PENACHE, BOARDWALK BODACIOUS,
HOSPITAL HAUTE COUTURE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Duchess Was Stressed

The Dowager Duchess had her stress test (and other tests) from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday). It's not all as perfect as we'd like (in terms of her blood pressure, the urinary tract infection that's not completely gone, and advanced osteoporosis — which was news to her).

Neurology has already discussed treatment options with us (surgical and non-surgical). I'm getting some professional input so my mother and I can discuss it all again tomorrow. If she opts for surgery, it won't be scheduled until next week.

THE VIEW OF HER HOSPITAL ROOM WINDOW FROM HER BALCONY.
AT LEAST WE'RE NEARBY. (CLICK AND MAYBE YOU CAN SEE THE DUCHESS.)

The care she receives at Coney Island Hospital continues to be incredible. Attentive, professional, thorough, gentle, kind, caring. I've run out of adjectives. Less than 10 years ago, I would have told you to avoid this hospital at all costs. Now, I'd highly recommend it... and sincerely hope no one ever has to take my recommendation!

I've managed to enjoy a few wonderful long walks on the Boardwalk after my lunch breaks. And San Geraldo has managed to enjoy a few visits to the local casino. He's taken the Kid Brother with him — and bankrolled him — twice, for which we both will be eternally grateful. San Geraldo won a huge (it's all relative) jackpot one afternoon while there on his own.

I WISH THE DUCHESS COULD BE TAKING THESE WALKS WITH ME THIS WEEK.

In my world, the jackpot would have paid for our plane tickets and car rental (a hefty little sum).

In San Geraldo's world, we each have a brand new iPad Air 2, San Geraldo has a slush fund to continue gambling with, and we'll end up covering perhaps half our plane tickets and car rental. But, sometimes, San Geraldo's world can be so much more fun.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Slightly Dopey Dowager Duchess

Sorry I haven't been keeping up on my blog reading ... or my blogging. I do read all your messages and comments on my smartphone, and I share all your kind words with my mother. She sends her gratitude and says she feels so loved.

The Dowager Duchess is still flat on her back in bed in hospital. She's being well looked after and, as soon her infection is under control, the Cardiac team will do a stress test (that she doesn't have to sit up for) and, with that team's OK, the Neurology team will then perform the surgery (vertebroplasty). It looks like the surgery won't be performed until Monday at the soonest. So the Duchess will continue to lounge around for the next several days.

I wish I could say my mother is lounging around eating bon-bons. But she doesn't have much of an appetite. I couldn't even get her to taste my chocolate-dipped shortbread cookie today. Clearly she's not feeling well! It doesn't help that her right hand is in a splint, making it difficult to do much of anything.

Did I mention my mother broke her hand when she fell? She said it hit the night table and was "a bit" bruised. Ten days later, when we were in the ER, she noticed it had swelled. It was X-rayed. It was broken. Nothing major. Her fingers work just fine, but it had to be splinted — covering up her lovely green nails and requiring her to do everything one-handed, and lefty at that.

I HAD TO REMOVE THE RING. HER FINGERS WERE A BIT PUFFY.
IT'S THE FIRST TIME SHE'S REMOVED THE ENAMEL HEART RING
SINCE MY SISTER GAVE IT TO HER IN 1970.

I've been encouraging my mother to eat and she's been doing her best. I even "cooked up" one of my specialties to make her food more palatable.

SHE ATE THE ENTIRE BANANA, ONE ARTFUL SLICE AT A TIME.

My mother is being treated for the pain, which makes her a bit dopey.

When San Geraldo and I were visiting Tuesday morning, she pointed to her "bed across the room." We both looked perplexed.

San Geraldo asked, "What bed are you in now?"

The Duchess responded, "I'm not in bed. I'm in my lounge chair."

I said, "But, Mom, how are you managing? You haven't sat up since Saturday night."

She looked around, rolled her eyes, and laughed. "I hope that's the codeine," she said.

"It is," I said. "And, by the way, you don't have a lounge chair."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Pain Scale

SAN GERALDO AND I CAUGHT THE
4TH OF JULY FIREWORKS IN CONEY ISLAND.
HERE'S THE PARACHUTE JUMP
LIT UP FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY.
The Dowager Duchess was experiencing severe pain when we arrived Friday evening. She could find some temporarily comfortable positions on the sofa. And she was fairly comfortable lying flat on her back in bed. But most movement was excruciating. 

Sunday morning, when she tried to get out of bed, the pain was so awful that she had to lie back down. I tried to help, but she couldn't bear even trying to partially sit up. So, I called for an ambulance. 

The good news is that we now know the pain is not from the compression fracture alone, but from pressure on a nerve. So, she's staying in the hospital while they manage the pain and do further tests. The hope is that they will be able to perform a repair of the vertebra (possibly a kyphoplasty), whereby they insert cement directly into the vertebra to repair it. Hopefully we'll know Tuesday if that's possible. 

Meanwhile, my mother continues to be the most gracious and pleasant patient. Her pain tolerance is phenomenal, so I was surprised by her response to the neurosurgeon today when he asked, "On a scale of zero  to ten, how would you rate the pain?" Without hesitation, The Duchess said, "Oh, definitely a ten."

'Holy crap,' I thought.

If the Dowager Duchess rates it a ten, then on that same pain scale, San Geraldo would call it a 25!

Friday, July 3, 2015

It Won't Be Long

Four years ago today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, Dudo and Moose were born and immediately taken, with their mother and three tiger-striped sisters, to an animal shelter in Sevilla. Ten months later, we found each other. Oh, the mess they make. The love they share. And the calm they produce.

They recognise suitcases and travel activity and have both been a bit miffed the last couple of days (although right now they're running around the house with a new mouse toy, seemingly oblivious to our activity). 

Anyway, we won't be gone long and our neighbour Maria Carmen and her two daughters take good care of them when we're away.

So now it's off to the airport.

Click any image to lower your blood pressure.

DUDO: "GOOD MORNING. I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU TO WAKE UP."
DURING OUR SIESTA.
"YOU CANNOT LOOK AT A SLEEPING CAT AND FEEL TENSE."
UNLIKE DUDO, WHO POSES, MOOSE TENDS TO TURN AWAY
WHEN HE SEES THE CAMERA. SOME RARE COOPERATION HERE.
AND DUDO...
DUDO...
AND MOOSE.

It won't be long...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

American Beauty

Over the past few days, I took these photos  of San Geraldo's glorious hibiscos (hibiscus) on our terrace. Friday we'll leave these beauties behind to spend a couple of weeks with our American Beauty, The Dowager Duchess. (Click any image for a better look.)








Start spreadin' the news. We're leavin' tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Tipsy Duchess

SOBER. AROUND 1989.
My Mother the Dowager Duchess 'tipped over' Wednesday night, her birthday eve. I'd like to to tell you she did too much partying. But, my mother doesn't take more than a sip. She's a lightweight.

Although, come to think of it, she did down a number of mojitos when she visited us in Vegas.

"These are delicious!" 

I'm sure it was the muddled mint. Fresh herbs, you know.

So The Duchess hadn't been tippling when she tipped over. She was on her way to bed, feeling great and having had a wonderful day with friends. Not far from the bed, she fell. She's not really sure how or why. But she hit her arm and leg, and wrenched her back. The arm and leg are bruised but the back is giving her unbearable pain.

She went to the hospital emergency room Sunday and had an MRI. Nothing is broken, but they did find a compression fracture on her spine that was probably already there before the "birthday fall." She was given a shot for the pain and sent home to see her own doctor for follow-up. The shot, unfortunately, did nothing for the pain.

My cousin had planned on driving in (about 2 hours) to take my mother to lunch for her birthday. She instead drove in Friday and spent the day and night with her.

Two of The DD's amazing friends took her to her doctor Tuesday — Rosalie as driver and Sheila as personal escort. She's now got some meds that we hope will ease the pain and help her to recover. San Geraldo and I will be there in a couple of days to wait on her hand and foot.

Jeez! That woman will do anything for attention.