Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let's sit on the front porch

A perfect day to sit on the porch and contemplate the meaning of life. Tom Powers worked hard all his life and is now enjoying just being alive. His wife Althea was a crackerjack stenographer in her day. Gregg shorthand. I also did Gregg and still use some of it when I take notes. When you put a period after a shorthand character it means "ing."

Althea asked me how I met her son Johnny.

At a bar, I joked. She shook her head in disapproval.

Then I asked her husband how he met Althea.

"Taproom," he said.

Johnny Powers is a sharp dresser. You can barely see him but he's wearing one of his fine shirts, this one from a thrift shop, he got for only 50 cents.

Johnny and his dad have the same clear blue eyes. They are both serene individuals.

Now in their early 90s, the Powers are cared for by their son who devotes his days to their wellbeing. The house is a veritable nursing home of accouterments for the elderly. John was trained in how to do everything.

Bottom line: his parents are happy. And John is happy caring for them. He's close with his sister Annie, an air force nurse who lives in CA. A brother lives in the Lonestar State. They all speak often.

I got a new lifetime wardrobe from my sister Donna. Here I am in my new Jimi Hendrix shirt. Are you experienced?

You know what I just discovered? The vastness of the human population. It's unfathomable, really, how many people there are. Literary agents, for example. Thousands upon thousands of them. When you read the Times like I do every 20 minutes, you only hear about people who make the news. What about the rest of us? We're here, Dear Lord! Can you see me waving from my desk chair?

I was gonna try to pray for strength last nite. I do this on a regular basis, but the words won't come. I'm a 99 percent Unbeliever.

But, as I was looking at the sleeping Scott next to me, his muscular back, he's a weighlifter, remember, I thought, how many millions of years went by to produce a specimen like this fine man. That, in itself, is a miracle. But must we attribute it to God? I think not. To Natural Laws, certainly, Laws beyond all understanding and worthy of great praise and awe.

Wherever I go, I get lost. I expect to get lost. Now that I have my trusty camera I can pretend that I wanted to get lost so I can take photos like this old barn.

Was trying to get to Chestnut Hill to visit John and his folks. Any normal person can do it. I was so close, so very very close, when something went very wrong and I ended up in Fort Washington.

Going home? Same thing. I'd like to thank the following:

Schoolbus driver Donna, who dropped kids off at Sandy Run Middle School. I said to myself, So this is where that school is! She radioed someone to give me directions to get home to Willow Grove, PA.

The fellow in the Upper Dublin truck I met in a shopping center 10 minutes later. Very nice young man.

A waitress taking a smoke break who told me to make a right turn.

By now, I was nursing my cup of ice water Johnny gave me for my ride home.

Playground next to my Family Doctor's office

Young Dr Fox was happy I made an appt to discuss end of life matters with him. He was actually familiar w/the New Yorker writer & surgeon, Atul Gawande, who wrote the article that led me to make the appt.

He was totally understanding about my hesitation to go on dialysis and reiterated it was my decision alone. Whenever I bring up the subject with friends, no one wants to talk about it.

As you see from the above Mr Powers, this man is used to machines saving his life. His urine comes out thru a catheter and hangs in a bag next to him. He's got a new knee and god knows what else inside him. He has taken the steps to have artificial means prolong his life.

For him, dialysis would be yet another intrusion into his life that he would accept.

Not so for me. The intrusion would be major. Surgery would be necessary to build a series of hideous looking veins to receive the dialysis portal. This aspect alone, the ugly factor of rendering your body a freak, is never discussed. I totally opened up my family doctor's eyes to this.

I told him that Scott and I were at the shore and I saw a man in a wheelchair. He had no legs and fistulas on his left arm. Diabetes, I said to Fox, diabetes that led to kidney failure. His wife pushed him along the street.

There is debate about everything. The more docs you see, the less consensus you get. My neff (short for nephrologist) believes in getting the patient on dialysis early, while their body is still strong. My family doctor just read a journal article to the opposite - delay as long as possible.

And then there's me...delay forever and die a natural death of kidney failure. This is easy to say NOW b/c I'm not sick. In fact, I just ate a huge bowl of Rainier cherries, another bowl of sunflower seeds, and some crackers...a well-balanced "meal" according to my beloved nutritionist. I also did an hour's worth of yard work this morning, the laundry, you know how it is, and did a phone interview for the first article in the new Compass.

If I were a praying gal, I'd pray for my kidneys to continue working at their 12% normal capacity. But, honestly, what good would it do?


  1. You always bring interesting folks and interesting, thought provoking questions to our attention. I have had reasons for and occasions to look at all of these end of life issues and at the medical and care intrusions that humans are subjected to in the name of survival at any cost. We each have a different way ofviewing such things. My brother suffered through dialysis. It was his choice. He hated it but he was convinced that he would get a kidney before long and then his life would change for the better. A friend refused it (dialysis) had a transplant in time, but died a few years later of something altogether unrelated. The choice each one made was the right one for him and for her.

    All we can do, those close to people facing such decisions and those on the periphery, is to listen...listen deeply and with caring and concern and only inserting opinion when it is truly desired. It is sad that most people don't want to talk about these things. However, there are those who do. I am always here, to listen, and/or to talk, depending on what you might need at that moment. Geographical distance doesn't matter and the distance of years dissolves in a quick minute when a friend is a real friend.

    Iris Arenson-Fuller

  2. iris, yes, you've offered your ear before and i truly appreciate it tho we no longer live on the northwood campus of goddard college in vt. i really appreciate your friendship & will certainly call on you should i need you.