Sunday, October 30, 2011

Granny comes to visit and the snow greets her- Sarah and I work on our memoir - Family Lore engenders different interpretations

Guess who stopped by? Google won't let me successfully move this photo where it belongs.

Google is having some problems. If I'm unable to get back on here, I'll fix mistakes later.

Thanks, Sarah, for shoveling our first snowfall of the season. My shrubs and a couple of tree limbs took a walloping. I've gotta call PECO. A branch of the maple tree fell on a wire.

The lamp post has shed her garments.

Gotta find somewhere else to eat my eggs for breakfast.

Sarah had a terrible allergic reaction to Dan's three cats and also my house, stuffy, b/c we couldn't open windows due to freezing-cold weather.

Every time I would go outdoors I was surprised anew by how cold it was.

We went over to the Giant to get her some allergy tabs and consulted with Bob Matza, head pharmacist. We were also gonna work on our Kidney Memoir in the Giant coffeeshop, so she brot her laptop along.

Bob suggested she take the antihistamine Benedryl. We bought it and then she left for the Coffeeshop to take the pill, which helped considerably!

"Bob," I said, after she left. "Guess what side effect I got from taking Cipro?"

"Not Achilles tendonitis!" he said.

"No," thank god I don't have that. "I've gotten psychotic a couple of times when I go to bed and close my eyes. Things or people come out and attack me. But then I fall asleep and I'm okay." Naturally I fantasized about becoming manic-depressive again.

Bob well knew about the psychosis - and other 'nervous' symptoms' people get - but he said Cipro is the very best antibiotic for my UTI condition.

We began talking meds. He said the Johnson and Johnson facility around here has been in serious trouble for producing sub-standard products which are downright dangerous to the patient. THIS, right here in the US, not China. Metal pieces found within the pills, a result of the old machinery disintegrating right into the pills. Motto of J&J: Why replace old machinery? Let's save precious money and time by ignoring safety standards.

Sarah and I sat down side by side and began working on our kidney memoir. One chapter is by her, the next by me. We finished our entire outline in about an hour.

"Bill Babb!" I called out as a fellow from my Acrylic Painting Class walked toward us. "I was actually thinking about you this morning."

Goggle won't let me put Bill's pic here or even on the top of the page. Hopefully, I can do it later. Great photo of Bill in sweater eating Giant's beef stew and carrots.

What I was thinking was, "I wonder when I'll see Bill Babb again!" From Abington, Bill shops here at our fabulous Giant. He had met Sarah before in the milk aisle.

Turns out, Bill, a retired engineer, was working in the very same J&J plant that had the metal in the pills. His job is to approve every batch of pills that is released to the public. He is perceived as a 'bad guy' b/c he was doing the right thing.

The pause that refreshes. Now I'm going into the kitchen to prepare the cocktail shrimp for our Family Gathering later this afternoon.

Sarah and her grandmother Margie, b.1920, from Texas looking at old photos. The youngest of Margie's three boys - David - was her companion in flying her up here. Not easy, not easy. We wonder if we will see Margie again. Am sooo glad David had the courage and the know-how - and the patience - to bring her.

This photo of Margie was taken many years ago. It's your guess who's sitting next to her. And, hey, you may guess, Rob! You'll figger it out w/ your great intuition.

Another visit from my bro/law David Deming, who traveled with his brother, Mike Deming, my ex.

BTW, some of these photos are ones I've taken of old photos my mom keeps. I do not want them. Where on earth would I put them?

Dave Deming today, the single most loquacious individual I know. I learned from David a few things about my ex I'd never known. He was the top debater at Smiley High School in Houston and won some regionals. Oh, I probly knew this at one time, but, my oh my, the things we forget.

I TOOK A GREAT PHOTO of Nicole and little Grace but GOOGLE has refused five times to upload it. Ya hear that, Sergey?

Speaking of which there's a great Times article about the last hours of Steve Jobs, written by his sister, Mona Simpson, novelist and UCLA prof.

"Mom," I said. "You always were a great cook and you still are!"

Her meatloaf was the first thing I reached for. Had two helpings.

We had chicken divan in honor of Margie who gave us the recipe. Margie couldn't remember it.

Seven layer salad is a great favorite. Three helpings for me.

Brown rice on the left.

Relaxing in the living room. We moved from the kitchen, to the dining room, to the living room. David did a great job of aiding his mom throughout the house. She's got a bad heart but comes from strong Crockett, Texas stock. When I was married, I loved visiting the family. I went to her father's Masonic funeral, his name was David Millard Smith, but they called him Millard.

I asked her the names of her siblings, to jog along her memory. She was the oldest. There was Nellie, who was the first to go. Bonnie was the youngest, a lovely woman with diabetes. Evelyn Pollard. Did she have a rough voice and drive a school bus? Brother Van, who owned a gas station, and used to find watches in the center of the road and retrieve them.

And of course Aunt Mae who made baby Sarah a cheerful yellow quilt which I still have.

Mom in kitchen preparing food. The most family-minded person I know. You can't have too many pix of your 89 y-o mom.

Shall we repair to the living room and continue our conversation there? Ell, would you mind making us some coffee.

Google decided to put a photo of Dan here instead of the great living room photo.

Am just wondering if this is a result of hacking?

Okay, I'm gonna 'publish' this now. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kidney Club: Back to Einstein we go on orders of the higher-ups

Yes, I went back to Einstein Medical Center, named after the fellow below.

Here's Herr Einshtein in a pensive mood.

The rule is: When you have a fever over 101 degrees, you report to Einstein. Yessir Dr. Kung. It was 102.1 plus I had the whole-body shakes, called rigor, pronounced RIGH-gor.

I took the circuitous route b/c I thot I could get away w/ it. Dan drove me to the Abington Memorial Hospital ER at 8 pm and stayed till 1:30 pm while I waited for a room.

And then Ruthie?

Well, they took me by stretcher to a large room where a nice Jewish lady named Sophia, born in 1929 (the things we hear thru closed curtains) was wheeled in after me. The nurses and adjuncts treated her as if she were a child just b/c she's 82. It was pathetic! I mentioned it to her and would later tell it to the Chaplain at Einstein that she shouldn't 'infantilize' patients.

I learned that word from Mike Vaccaro, MD, co-chair of my grad school program. He brot into class one of his patients, a man w/schizophrenia, and someone in class suggested one of us walk him to the train.

'He's a grown man,' said Vaccaro. 'Don't infantilize him.'

I said goodbye to Sophia b/c they were transferring me to yet another room. Rodney was my escort again. Up the elevator we went, me on the gurney.

In the new room I was to meet one of the smartest docs I've ever met, Manuel Rosenberg. Since I didn't take his pic, I'm posting a photo of another smart person, the late Nobelist Richard Feynman:

Richard Feynman, co-developer of atomic bomb and quantum mechanix, musician, peace activist 1918-88.

Dr Rosenberg came in to check on me. He represented my own family doc and would give him a report on me: What I was wearing, if I was making a good fashion statement from bed, if those socks w/ the sure-grip bottoms were on straight.

He told me he works as a hospitalist, a doctor who only works at a hospital. He had an unusual way of speaking, accenting certain words for emphasis, but in a sort of twang.

He called me a very educated patient, esp. after I showed him my Kidney-Diabetes journal

He asked permish if he could bring in some junior doctors and I said SURE.

He brot in a young Indian woman MD, a Pakistani who took notes, and an American med student. He asked them all lots of questions - I guess you could say this was like a Grand Rounds - and the doc from Pakistan knew the most.

The Socratic method of teaching.

I mentioned I'd gotten the BK virus and Manny asked one of the docs to do some research on this. I said, 'Copy me on this.'

Then I learned Einstein sent Abington a message:

Red rover, red rover, let Ruthie come over.

So later that day the ambulance arrived to transport me down 611 to Einstein. Kevin Krausz and his partner, whose name I didn't get, made the trip a whole lotta fun.

Kevin drove the ambulance and "Joe" sat in the back w/ me. They're both EMTs, but can't give shots. That would cost them about $8,000 to take the course. Their company is located in Hatboro on Turnpike Drive as are other ambulance companies!

They were very solicitous before they strapped me in and began the ride. They'd brot a blanket from Abington and wrapped it tightly around me in this slightly chilly autumn weather. They'd also warn me when we were going over bumps.

They joked that the ride might be more fun if they turned on the siren.

I loved these guys!

Dan visited me that nite. I asked him to stop at the grocery store to get me some healthy food. The most important foods he bought were two yogurts w/no preservatives and Triscuits, rye flavor.

Why would I want my own food instead of Einstein's?

Einshtein! Listen up! You don't give insulin-dependent diabetics juice! You give them fresh fruit. You don't give them white things, like white bread french toast and cream of wheat that has barely any nutrition or fiber. The pancake syrup is loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives.

The coffee wasn't bad. I took a few sips since I don't drink coffee any more.

Before leaving Einstein, a woman from the kitchen came up and asked me to comment on the food. I gave her my honest opinion. 'For example,' I said, 'today's stuffing that came with the [SIMPLY TERRIBLE] turkey, had way too much salt. Diabetics must watch their salt intake.'

Then she asked me to rate the food from 1 to 10.

I gave it a 5, which, at the time I thot was accurate. In retrospect, I was wrong. Bonnet Lane Diner has #5 food. The Einstein food is #1.

Here's the night nurse Que Nhe, pronounced Quinn. She's from Vietnam like my former eye doctor Nick Man Vu. Que Nhe said she also has an American name but doesn't like to use it.

She also said that many Vietnamese - like her parents - have diabetes b/c of their diet. Rice is the basis of their diet.

The nurses were very good. They had so many things to do - so many patients - that they often forgot things they needed to do. I would ring for them so they wouldn't forget. Otherwise, I'd still be in the hospital waiting for my discharge papers.

My unit, eighth floor of the Tower Building, holds both Transplant patients and Oncology patients on the other side.

Shortly before I left I saw chief transplant surgeon Radi Zaki, who was still wearing his shower cap from surgery earlier that day. He removed some parathyroids which are located next to the thyroid. Nurse Debbie was with him, old friends from Kidney Clinic. Also met a new Kidney fellow, Dr. B. She's from Lithuania. Everyone thinks she's Russian. Is Lithuania part of Russia? You're on your own, Dear Reader.

View of heli-pad from window.

Keystone Ambulance Service finally drove me home from Einstein. James, the driver, gave me his card. I told him a friend of mine has his commercial license and is looking for a better job. James has worked there 11 years. It pays benefits. Since James is 69, he only works PT now.

The minute I got home I checked my emails, phone calls, called a few folks, and then drove over to the Giant pharmacy to pick up the new antibiotic Cipro I'm to take for 10 days. Dr Kung also lowered my immunosuppressants b/c I'm over-immunized.

Diagnosis: Urinary Tract Infection. UTI.

Confucius say: After kidney transplant, delicate balancing act begin like the delicate balancing act before transplant.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coffeeshop Writers Group - Meatball recipe / Poems: The Foreign Film - Meditation on a Buick

Welcome back Paddie Marie! She and her family moved away last December but make frequent visits back.

At Beatriz's suggestion we're now gonna meet twice a month, the first and the third Saturday of the month. Can't believe we never thought of this before.

We all love our writer's deadline and the way it has us producing new works. All eight of us at yesterday's meeting had new work. Except for Ian who couldn't find the cord to his printer to print out copies.

Martha, on the right, wrote a b'ful tribute to her late mother called 'Mother's Hands.' Before she read, she told us she would break down while reading it, so Carly was the back-up. But Carly broke down when she took over, but then composed herself.

Poets use their overflow emotion to write!

Ian asked if he's the only guy in the group. We all rattled off all the men who used to attend including Bob Strange and Chris Walsh (DarthGarbage is his email address). Both Bob and Chris are garbage men and taught us a lot about the jobs, how they get stuck with needles and other unsavory details.

You've gotta know when to take people off the email list. People's priorities change. There is something really nice, tho, about having guys in the group. Elijah Pringle III was so complimentary to everyone and had a big hearty laff and great sense of humor.

Group shot. I asked both Stella and Stephen Weinrich if we could meet twice a month. Yes, they said, the name of a British movie I recently watched, the most beautiful word in the English language.

Glass milk bottle. It's on display at Weinrich's. Remember the little paper cap that came with it? The separation of the milk and cream? Ah, when milk was pure and we didn't have to worry about the percentage of fat.

After group I headed over to mom's for a visit. This is a nice routine for the two of us. Let's see. What did I learn? Food facts. I was full, tho, having had a Boston Creme Donut at Weinrich's dunked in hot decaf. My blood sugar was actually normal when I got home b/c the donut was my long-acting carb or starch with my salad lunch. I've been making thousand island dressing - mixture of mayo and ketchup.

All these balancing-acts. See the invisible ball balanced on my nose? When I came home, I was exhausted and took a huge nap. Then I made meatballs and spaghetti for dinner. Scott said they were the best he'd ever tasted. At the Giant, a young father in the produce aisle said he put mushrooms in his meatballs so I did too. Plus an egg, oatmeal, grated onion, garlic.



Oh, there goes the Buick right now, backing outa the driveway across the street, a remarkably beautiful car. I only noticed that the other morning when it was parked across from my house. I had to write a poem about it.


Like a fine sculpture at the Tate
the Buick with silver portholes
reclines across the street
fetching as a whale.

What can I do with a Buick?

I could sit on my porch steps and
I could lean on it
and feel its warmth
or imagine its birth in a
hangar-sized nursery in China,
an original work of art with
a hundred-thousand copies
launched across the land,
lost in a circus of cars and bicycles,

Not like my Buick
across the street
dressed in autumn leaves
a stop for raindrops and the birds
meditation for this modern-day monk.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Photos and stamps / Poem: Smoke

Did you know postage stamps will go up to 45-cents in January? That's what Maria told me at the Bryn Athyn post office. I went wild when she showed me these gorgeous Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps. I told her I have reasonable facsimiles of three things. I've got a similar water pitcher I never use which is pink. Plus:

A push button phone with designs by Jonathan Ford, Sarah's childhood friend from Abington Friends School.

Here's my IBM Selectric typewriter I use to type up envelopes. The key action is very different from the computer. The computer is far faster....and I'm fast!

Torn-paper collage on wall is by my friend Claudia McGill.

Dig the stamp with the molded plastic radio designed by Norman Bel Geddes, using "an iconic new material," accdg to the info on the back of each stamp.

You know, our US postal service is really something. I needed to send my son Dan something very important. I told him I'll put it in my mailbox, Mailman Ken will pick it up and you'll get it the very next day. He did.

This morning I was doing some work on the living room floor when a strange noise startled me.

It was the neighborhood cat who looks remarkably like Xena, Dan's deceased cat. I was terrified she'd break the window. She must've leapt from my A/C unit onto the tiny window ledge. That cat deserves a round of applesauce for her audacity and acrobatic skill.

Could she have smelled.....

Sea bass I poached last nite.

Final dish looked like this. Made with onions, mushrooms, sliced apple and raisins. Over a bed of brown rice.

Here are the horrible ground-in spots on my year-old living room carpet. A Claims Adjuster is gonna come out soon.

Here I am, supreme narcissist, worried about my carpet while people are rejoicing in Libya about the death of Qaddafi.

I don't like empty walls in my living room office. I'm making a collage and carefully mounted this ad for Luckies - "Light up with a light smoke," it says - the cigarette that killed my dad.

I began the collage b/c there were so many pictures I love. When Dan was a kid, he filled one wall in his blue bedroom with torn-out photos from magazines. I'd never seen anything like it before, but when I went house-housing in 1990, another kid had done the same thing.

I wrote the following poem years ago when our old Apple computer had the paper with the holes on both sides.


Silent, sweeping,
the smoke flows
everywhere that I am
that he is.
He smokes those Luckies
whose tails will find you
like a whisper of cats
slithering soundless
through walls and floors
down to the bone
so I slam my door

in his blue bathroom,
my father arose at dawn on
the Day of Atonement
to undo a proud life of
slipping into what we called
the library, the room with all the books.

This was a day you could not play
but must content yourself with quiet things
like reading and playing board games
with your little sisters.
I lay on the floor of my room
reading quietly,
thinking of God
and wondering if He thought of me.

My father read in silence.
No smoke.
I imagined him
pinioned in a strait-jacket
squeezing to get free.
He knew smoke longer
than he did his family.

At sundown
the library door flung open.
We gathered round.
His eyes were glassy,
his beard blue and scary.
Let's eat, he announced,
flinging a full pack of Luckies
into the air.

I set the table
with our good china.
My mother carried in
a whole smoked whitefish
big as a poodle
and set it quivering
on the dining room table.
Its great piercing eyes
stared at everyone
great and small.
Such a delicacy, my father whispered,
inhaling the wrinkled skin
that shone like golden coins.
Be thankful we have it, he said.
I was. Especially since I didn't have to eat it.
I watched him suck the meat
from the thread-like bones.

Riding next to him
in the station wagon
we each had a window
so we could share the
vast drama of the night.
I watched the streets of lit-up houses
pass by like a river
while new houses lit by many lamps
came to take their place.
I saw the people in those houses
move softly
touching gracefully
lit up....golden
impossibly beautiful
as from a world far away.

I looked at my father's hands
then wished for a moment
I knew how to go there
to walk in those golden rooms
just for a moment
I'd be beautiful and all lit up
It wouldn't take long
Just the time
it takes to drive by
in a station wagon
down a well-lit street.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Fabulous Day w/ Freda and Bernie Samuels

Altho they live in Legacy Oaks in Warrington, PA, an older adult community, their house is huge! And neat! As I ascended the stairs I noticed there was no dust in that part that gathers dust, unlike at my house.

After I got my blood drawn at Quest to see how my kidneys are faring, I drove over to the Warrington home of the Samuels. It took me a good 15 mins to pack my bags for the visit.

Into my two beautiful Audubon bags I put my diabetes supplies, my Acer laptop, and my novel. My writing coach is helping me find an agent. First, tho, I've gotta write a page-long synopsis of each chapter.

Since it's loosely based on my former BF, Simon, who died of a brain tumor, it makes me sad to re-read it. But so much of it is fiction that I begin to believe that Simon was indeed a professor of physics and astronomy at Penn.

Got there just in time for lunch. Only healthy foods are served at the Samuels. No salt is on the table. Nor is it added to the food. Freda, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, had been feeling terrible for three years. No doctors could help her.

Her friend Arlene found a wholistic doctor in Virginia Beach who put Freda on a special diet. In five short weeks, she is almost her old self. Back then she needed a three-hour nap every afternoon and could barely leave home she was so weak and exhausted all the time.

It was a delight to see this energetic, vibrant, smart woman bounding around her house again with full vigor. They purposely bot a house w/ steps for the exercise.

Here's Bernardo relaxing in the living room. He reads the paper and does the crossword. That man, like his wife, is interested in everything!

Did I tell you the Samuels are in their mid-80s?

I spent four hours in the upstairs office working on my laptop. Accomplished my goal of writing the synopsis of five chapters.

Master chef Bernie prepared a delicious dinner. I'm not kidding when I say master chef. He buys his fish from a wholesaler in Philly, his meat from another wholesaler. The man knows everyone! Thru the connections he's made his whole life, he's majorly improved people's lives, his children's lives, as well as total strangers.

He's a man of purpose.

After the dinner of salad, rye bread and "colossal crab," we sat and talked over green tea and lemon. Dessert was succulent honeydew.

Everything in that home is perfection!

Speaking of lack of, I got tar stains on my new living room rug. I called Gary Fleet and he told me how to clean it. Scott came over and tried, but ground the tar into the rug. Something gave me the idea to simply paint designs over the five rug stains.

I will do dat!

Rediscovered my moleskin diary given to me by my writer's group when I finished my novel. I've been a writer since I was a kid. And always kept a diary until recently. Now I've gotten back into "writing in my diary" and do so in bed before I sleep.

In a diary you write your innermost thoughts that you wouldn't tell a soul. Very therapeutic. I use all sorts of abbreviations so I can write real fast. Thing is, What's gonna become of these diaries after I'm gone?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grace in the morning, Sally in the afternoon, Feathers in the evening

When the Demings came over, we decided to walk all around the house. Hold on, cuz I've got lotsa pix. You'll notice Grace's hair is turning lighter.

While here, her favorite things to do were: turning my CD/radio on and off, pushing all my CDs off the table, paging thru "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen, and trying to fall down the basement steps.

She has a particular love for leaves and wood chips, said mom Nicole.

She loves DAH, as she calls him. Ada's grandson Alex calls his dad DADDEM.

Okay, now we're gonna go to the movies at my library. On the way over, I thot, Oh no! What if I get a low blood sugar attack when I'm there. Where can I get some food?

Got a small hot fudge sundae at the DQ. Walked around the parking lot while eating and enjoying it. The fudge sauce ran out too soon so I went up for a squirt of the sauce, but two guys were in line. The place closes for the season next Sunday.

The 'theatre' was filled up when I got there. Before the movie ended, 90 percent of the room had filed out. You could see who wanted to leave b/c they kept watching the door, waiting for the urge to get up.

I do know the feeling but I decided to stay. Lotsa peer pressure not to disturb the other people.

"Yes" is a British film by Sally Potter. The acoustics in the room were horrible so you could barely understand the British accents and there were no subtitles.

Since I was sitting in the last row near Dr Mauriccio Giammarco, the discussion leader, I was tempted to ask him, What's this movie about?

During the discussion period, his first question was: How did you like the movie?

When no one responded for an nth of a second, I said, "I loved the movie. The person who made the film is a tremendously creative artist and I felt challenged to follow all the beautiful colorful things that were going on. But I didn't understand it."

We had a great group discussion. Mauriccio told us about filmmaker Sally Potter, who's 4 yrs younger than I am (b. 1949). See photo below of the main character in the movie: "She." All characters are unnamed. The movie is Potter's response to the horrors of 9/11. She began writing her script the very next day to counteract all the hatred - immense hatred - experienced then and now.

"She" is played by Joan Allen. The script is written in iambic pentameter: poetry. Clash of cultures and class are themes, with film ending in Cuba, whose revolution was sposed to produce a classless society.

As mentioned I sat in the last row, the only seat in the row, so I had no one to talk to. To say, "What'd she say?" I was lost in confusion and thought of a poem I might write for next week's back-to-back poetry group: The Foreign Film.

I'll tell you, tho, I'm thinking of the first foreign film I saw at the Heights Art Theater in Cleveland Heights, with my cousin Mark. Possibly that will trump "Yes" and I'll write about that.

Aren't you absolutely panting w/excitement to read it?

Newest addition to my Feather Vase is a turkey feather we found yesterday at Pennypack. It's on the extreme left. The ostrich feather in the back is when I went on a drug company junket w/ a psychiatrist friend of mine. They think of the greatest ways to bribe psychiatrists. We drove to a huge farm-resort in Bucks County which had rides for kids, beer for the grown-ups, a train ride past some animals including ostriches. The train stopped to let us gaze and I pulled some feathers from beneath the slats of the fence.

I do love my feathers. In the book Remarkable Creatures I learned that many of the huge dinosaurs had feathers. Yes, feathers!