Exit Zero: Last Days in Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

Tuesday Morning. Veruca picked Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for breakfast and then she was pissed when she realized we were walking there because it’s so far. We were seated immediately at a booth by the window facing the street and beach.

V had the waffle and woofed that thing down before I’d eaten half of my Denver omelet. By the way, did ya’ll know that a Denver omelet is just a Western omelet with cheese? How I lived this long and had never even heard of a Denver omelet was quite a revelation at 9:00 in the morning. And, also noteworthy, is the fact that a Western omelet in Cape May does not have tomatoes. (At the Dough Roller in OCMD they do contain tomatoes and you can’t order it without.*)

We landed the same spots by the pool as yesterday, and it wasn’t long before my bad influence of a mom was offering up cocktails before noon. Since I am my mother’s daughter, I ordered a piña colada. V had a virgin colada. Mom went with the Bloody Mary.

I spent more time on my current read – The Woman in Cabin 10 – a great fast read, by the way. More kids in the Jacuzzi and one boy climbed out the pool crying because “she pushed me in!” And I was reminded that no matter how sad I may become about my kids being teenagers, at least I can lie by the pool without dealing with this shit anymore.

At one point V hands me her colada so she can apply more sunscreen, and it slips through my fingers just as I was placing it on the table next to me. It crashes down, knocking my piña colada down too, piña coladas flying everywhere, spilling onto the ground under the table, all over mom’s necklace on the table, and into her bag… it was a piña colada explosion, and not in a good way. So mom sits up and helps with the cleanup effort, which quickly becomes another emergency after she accidentally bumps her own cocktail over and now there are THREE spilled cocktails by the pool and we’re laughing like seagulls and I swear we’re not drunk.

Anyway, the afternoon ended with lunch at the Barefoot Bar, part of the hotel and overlooking the pool. V had – surprise! – chicken fingers and fries, I had a Caesar salad, and mom had fried calamari….which she thought we’d eat too and I don’t know who she thought “we” were but I don’t eat fried rubber. I have my limits. V took her cue from me because I’m an excellent example (see Piña Colada) and wouldn’t even try it.

Tuesday evening we had decided we’d go see a movie – in a nearby town called Rio Grande, which sounds really glamorous but I didn’t see anything more glamorous than a Wawa and a couple of Wendy’s buildings impersonating sushi joints. We left two hours before the movie time to buy tickets in this ramshackle looking movie theatre in an old shopping center that looked scheduled for demolition – mom came out in shock that 3 tickets were $18.

We literally drove through the first traffic light and happened upon Rio Station – which appeared to be a locals place. It felt like a Mexican restaurant but was definitely a seafood joint with other offerings. Veruca left her go-bag* in the car, so I had to go out and get it. While I was walking back inside, my senses were accosted by the LOUDEST Latino music EVER… one, because you couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from and two, as the car got closer and closer, the decibels made your eyes water. The food was quite good. Mom shared a filet with V, and I had crab cakes over a bed of mesculin tossed in a lemon vinaigrette – which was delicious.

After, mom suggested we “drive around” a bit before the movie; I ignored her and drove straight to the movie because it was 15 minutes to show time. There was a line about 20 people long just to enter the movie we were seeing, Crazy Rich Asians. And it turned out to be “Tightwad Tuesday,” which explains the cheap tickets but 3 boxes of candy and ONE water still cost me $28. The movie was great! And contrary to outward appearances, the theatre had modern reclining seats. But I sat next to some woman who not only threw her handbag into the seat next to me like she was slam-dunking a basketball, but laughed loudly at every single thing that was funny and I remembered why I hate going to the movies.

We drove all the way back to the hotel and parked the car a block away (because there’s limited parking) and realized that V left her go-bag in the movie theatre twenty minutes away. I read her the riot act in the parking lot, and drove all the way back, in the rain, to retrieve it.

The only good thing to come out of it was that when we got back, there was an open parking spot right in front of the hotel. Which a seagull decided to shit on, on the day we left. And before you tell me it could’ve been worse, like mom did, I direct you to last summer’s air strike in OCMD. You’re not helping.

*******

Last day… Wednesday. Breakfast at the hotel again. Different cook – decided to gamble on the omelet and it was cooked to perfection. We revisited the pool, had more piña coladas that did not spill this time, ate leftovers for lunch, and went back to the room for a nap. V slept briefly; mom was out cold about an hour in; I was wide awake. I don’t DO naps. I started Kitchen Confidential by the late Anthony Bourdain and sat out on the balcony (my favorite thing), listening to the ac unit kick on and off and the dog two floors below us that barked at every dog that walked by.

V and I took a walk on the beach around 5:30, listened to the sounds of the Beach Bumz’ free concert drifting over the breeze and crashing waves, and I snapped some gorgeous photos of her in that beautiful late afternoon light. I started this tradition with her a few years back of taking that walk at sunrise, but this year we both agreed we didn’t “need” to see the sun rise.

We collected some shells and talked about stuff that’s really important when you’re 13, and I counted every minute as a blessing. To say that I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time with my kids right now, is an understatement. At some point, as we stood by the water looking back at the hotel, I saw mom on the balcony so we waved our arms like we were at a Jimmy Buffett concert and she waved back.

The three of us decided to walk to the end of Beach Avenue* for the sunset, which was (insert Veruca) a really long walk. The two of them stopped in the restroom along the way, while I sat on the bench and sent Todd a selfie. A minute later mom popped her head out the door and waved a black handbag at me she said someone had left in there. What should she do?

This is MY MOM asking ME what she should do with a found handbag. I don’t know! Leave it there – the person may retrace her steps to find it again. Like, how are you asking me this? You’re my mom. Moms are supposed to already know the answer.

So we began walking again and she told me it was filled with tampons, and all I could think of was that someone must be having a really bad day about now, until it dawned on me that she’d looked inside and why did she do that? Looking for ID, natch.

And then we finally get to the end of the street where people are already gathered to watch the sunset when a strange man approached V and me…and when I turned toward him I must’ve looked like I was going to kill him because he put his hands up sheepishly and then I felt like a real asshole when he told me he was from Cape May’s Kiwanis Club and wanted to know if V wanted to participate in lowering and folding the flag at sunset.

These are the moments when you know you’ve raised your kids right. If I had asked her to do this, she’d have hissed at me and given me the Italian look of death. But she smiled angelically at this man and said, sure! I won’t bore you with the details, only to mention that she was one of four chosen – the others were a sweet girl with Down’s who knew this routine better than the Kiwanis guys, and 6-year-old twin boys who were clearly in over their head (and so was the man who picked them).

This whole thing delayed dinner by an hour and a half, but V got a certificate and a flag pin and I texted my dad to share the event (he used to be in Kiwanis). He was proud to know kids are still learning about the value of our flag, and then sent me a video/sound clip of the smoky herb-y drum circle he was hearing from his hotel room somewhere in upstate New York. Sometimes he has all the fun.

V chose the restaurant – YB – a very small, darkened but chic little restaurant on Beach Avenue between Perry and Jackson Streets. She saw the Mac & Cheese Poppers and was sold. And, I will say, they were the best I’ve ever had, hands down. Made fresh with jalapeños, fried and then baked with stewed tomatoes. I had a chicken dish that was delicious, though it was so dark in there it was hard to know exactly what I was eating (though at 9:00 it hardly mattered). Mom had a stuffed pepper (also delicious) and the Greek salad – a real Greek salad, not some American knock-off with lettuce.**

*******

*The famous Dough Roller in Ocean City, Maryland serves western omelets with tomatoes. You cannot order the western omelet without tomatoes, because it’s premixed. Therefore, you must order each of the ingredients of said omelet a la carte, which costs more than the western omelet (with one less ingredient).

*The Go-Bag is a must for Type 1s to carry: inside you will find a glucose meter, extra test strips, glucose tabs, pump supplies and extra batteries for pump and meter, glucagon, and snacks/candy.

*The best known destination for sunsets in Cape May is Sunset Beach, and the view is every bit spectacular. However, you have to drive there, and try to park, and every other time I’ve gone it felt like a race against time.

** Y.B. – short for Younger Brother – is helmed by the younger brother of John, who owns George’s Place up the street. However, despite the subordinate implication, Pete has had quite a decorated career for a “young” chef:  he worked at Buddakan, Le Bec Fin, and Prive, and was executive chef of Brasserie Perrier. He’s also appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. (We knew none of this when we dined there.)

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The missing Do Not Disturb sign?   Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

 

 

 

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The Way to Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles 2018

Last week was the annual “Nannie trip” to the beach that, now that Opac has apparently aged out of vacations with granny, has become the annual Girls’ Beach Trip. Sunday afternoon my mom, Veruca, and I set sail for Cape May by way of everyone’s favorite highway – I95. Mom likes to use Siri and her iPhone for directions while I am using my car’s GPS – and then we argue about which one is correct. This usually ends with Siri informing me to “watch your language.”

On a completely not unrelated side note, Siri follows me on Twitter. Well, not Siri, but Susan Bennett aka Siriously Susan. I was siriously excited about this. I mentioned it to mom and she said Siri isn’t a real person, and I’m all like – YES SHE IS. This trend of disagreeing with each other isn’t new, but has definitely picked up in my middle age. Which takes me back to a discrepancy between Siri and my GPS, where my GPS told me to stay in the right lanes, and Siri said stay left. There was a small commotion in the passenger seat, and then suddenly my GPS told me to get off at the next exit, which turned out to be a turnaround-and-back-on the same highway. Mom was only a little bit triumphant.

Anyway, as I’m already 200 words in and haven’t even gotten to our destination yet, let’s jump ahead. We arrived in Cape May shortly after 5 p.m. This year we stayed at the Marquis de Lafayette, “America’s oldest seaside resort…. Since 1885.” The World Famous Congress Hall was built in 1816, and its website calls it “America’s oldest/first seaside resort.” I’m not very good at math, and I don’t want to sound judgy, but somebody is clearly wrong here.

So our room. Outside hallway. Seaside, white wicker décor, soft gray walls, white bedspreads, balcony facing the beach. And then there’s the bathroom. Small pedestal sink with a white framed mirror above, both are Alice-in-Wonderland askew – the sink is tilted downward on the left, the mirror tilted right – and for me, a self-inflicted perfectionist who couldn’t NOT see that every time I sat on the toilet, it made me nuts.

Somewhat less worrisome but not without its own concerns, was the double bed I shared with V – which was lopsided. I had this recurrent fear of V rolling off in the middle of the night. This didn’t happen. However, she is clearly accustomed to sleeping in much roomier conditions (translation: alone), and so there was a lot of bed hogging and one really scary arm fling that narrowly missed my face. I didn’t sleep well. Aside from the usual blood sugar checks during the night, there were the ongoing issues of cramped quarters and the snaggletooth snorer.

First night tradition is dinner at Godmother’s, a lovely little Italian restaurant. It’s BYOB so we picked up a bottle of wine beforehand. This year’s selection: Fleur de Mer Côtes du Provence Rosé. I think I picked this up on our last trip two years ago… it’s excellent. Veruca chose linguini with white clam sauce, mom had the red version, and I went with a seafood risotto with scallops, all-lump crab, Applewood smoked bacon, fresh corn, and heirloom red and yellow tomatoes. KILL-ER. Even V loved it (she’s not a fan of crab).

We stopped by the front desk back at the hotel for a Do Not Disturb sign, which was missing from our room. We promptly hung it on the door. The next morning it was gone.

We ate breakfast at the hotel… a buffet and made-to-order omelets and waffles. I had a spinach and feta omelet that was a bit runny, but I tipped the cook anyway. V had pancakes and an enormous plate of bacon because – all you can eat. I have always imagined that bittersweet moment when one realizes their parents are aging and on this morning I witnessed my mother, in that true senior rite of passage, pocketing creamers like a boss. (Okay so she was really taking them back to the room for our Keurig coffee.)

We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon by the pool, near the Jacuzzi which, it turned out, was a mecca for the under-10 set, and the water is suspiciously green. No parents, just the children, and three days later I was convinced they just drop the kids in the Jacuzzi and forget about them for a while. But I had to watch these little devils jumping off the side wall into the pool below with little regard for their lives or those below. Okay, I didn’t have to watch, but my peripheral vision is still pretty sharp. One boy, about 4, announced LOUDLY to his sibling – “the bubbles make your wiener feel weird.” Highlight of my day.

The Marquis is quite literally a block away from the Washington Street Mall – a quaint outdoor shopping and dining area in the heart of Victorian Cape May, paved with brick and studded with trees. We shopped here after lunch at the Rusty Nail next the Beach Shack – steamers in a white wine and garlic broth (my favorite thing!), crab cake sandwich-no-bun, and a grilled chicken quesadilla the size of New Jersey. We had ice cream at Kohr Bros later and then none of us was hungry for dinner.

I bought V a cute romper that was actually a large (I have no idea why), and some jewelry for me. I’m on the hunt to replace a thumb ring I lost at the bowling alley on The Last Night of the season (really). Never found one, but I did buy two pairs of earrings and a bracelet. I never do stuff like this for myself. It’s fairly liberating. If you haven’t, try it.

So we went back to the room and decided to settle in for the night. We covered a lot of ground on the first day, literally, and – after only 4 hours of sleep – I was drifting slowly toward the wall. I sat out on the balcony – which turned out to be a very noisy place – to call Todd and catch up.

A few minutes go by, and V came out with a magazine held like a tray, with Ritz crackers topped with slices of cheese. Another minute later, mom came out with a glass of wine. Todd and I kept talking. V came back with a cup of microwave popcorn. Then mom appeared with the bottle of wine to top me off. It was just like being rich. Well, if that’s what rich people do.

Kind of an anticlimactic end to the day, but it was much needed downtime before we took on the next two days.

Nobody Cares

I stumbled upon an article several months ago, Things About You That No One Actually Gives a Shit About, Ranked. For fun, I spent 45 minutes that I can never get back on this…

Here are my 15 things that no one on social media cares about:

My dream about Veruca face-planting off a third-story balcony and the race to find a cure for her newly-acquired bacterial virus. Horrifying. Woke up in a cold sweat.

My unsolicited dating preference: I’m married. To a man. I’ve always dated men. Which is not to say I never had an appreciation for women. I just never dated one.

Marriage and parenting advice including, but not limited to, the wife who went camping with her husband and stabbed him with a squirrel meme. My unsolicited advice: marry your best friend – the one who makes you laugh and loves all of your flaws, your cat, and also squirrels. Let your children sleep in your bed until they no longer want to. Hold them every time they ask you to. Trust me.

Things I hate that everyone else hates too: Driving on 95, tailgaters and aggressive drivers, being screamed at by a customer, grocery shopping after 4 p.m., parking at the mall in December, recovering from surgery, bratty children, and running out of wine.

(Does no one really not care about my video of the woman expending all of her energy to push a Costco shopping cart up over the embankment next to her car rather than walk it 10 feet to the cart return?)

Sports: Longtime fan of the Eagles and the Phillies (I grew up in southeastern PA, for the love of God). However, I am now a proud Ravens fan and – thanks to my son – a quiet follower of the Steelers. And, sorry, not sorry – cannot give up my allegiance to the Phillies. It just feels like betrayal.

The last time I got shitfaced drunk was over a year ago, where I “forgot” quite a few details of the evening, and gave up drinking for 4 months. Really, if you can’t remember a telephone conversation with your dad, you wake up on the floor in the bathroom, or fall on top of Barbie’s Dream Townhouse, it’s time to have a second look at your priorities. Not that I’ve personally done any of those things. However, if someone posts this on Facebook, I CARE. Because it’s funny as hell.

My opinions about things… I think everyone has the right to love who they want, I don’t agree with abortion but it’s still MY body-MY choice, the Patriots cheat, Christianity isn’t the ONLY religion, Butterscotch Krimpets don’t taste the same anymore, racism isn’t always glaring, climate change is real, Mustangs are the best muscle cars, tattoos are cool, a homemade burger made with filet tails is orgasmic, camping is not fun, Prince was a musical genius, and raccoons are adorable.

It takes me about a half hour to get to work. Although depending on the job, it has taken 50 minutes, and sometimes an hour and a half.

The weather here is hot. It’s also hot in my hometown. It’s also hot in the city where I once lived. Except when it’s cold. It’s slightly less hot in the places I’ve wanted to move to, though never quite as cold.

How does this place compare to where I’m from? Same climate, similar environment. This area is still more rural than that place is now. Cost of living, generally the same. Kids love their schools and have made lasting friendships here. My family still lives there. This is where Todd is.

Deleting people from Facebook? Yes, I’ve threatened to do it based on criteria I made crystal clear. And yes, I’ve mentioned doing it – after I’ve done it. The latter takes the drama out of it, while making a point nobody really cares about.

“People [I’ve] dated and/or didn’t date in high school and/or college.” Hmm…. dated Todd in high school (doesn’t everybody know this?). I didn’t date Prince, or Brad Pitt when he wasn’t gross. Dated a few unmentionables, a couple of assholes who know who they are, pined over one or two that got away until I realized they weren’t worth it, and a couple who were genuinely good. None need mentioning. No one cares. Not even them.

“Hypothetical decisions you would have made that are literally impossible to make.” Um, buying a brownstone in New York, quitting my job and traveling the world with personal hair and makeup artists, dating Prince in my 20s, marrying Todd when I was 18. (Ugh, shut up about TODD already.)

My haters. I don’t know who they are, and I. Don’t. Care.

I don’t threaten to delete my social media accounts. Had a handful of moments where I was fed up and posted that I was going away for a while. Now, I just ghost.
Nobody cares.

Social media is supposed to be fun. Go ahead – post pictures of your dog, your dinner, your toes in the sand, your selfies with cocktails. Post cryptic  words like “I’ve finally had enough,” or check in at a local hospital with no further explanation. Troll people whose political ideologies are polar opposites. Post memes that make your friends snort and choke on their morning coffee. Knock yourself out…. People are watching, and you’ll get your likes, and your thoughts and prayers, and your commiserating comments. But most of all – you get connection – which is really all any of us really want, right??

 

And now, in the spirit of nobody-gives-a-shit pictures (which no one cares are Copyright Tara Chronicles 2018) …. semi-current book pile, an abandoned shopping cart, textbook-perfect artificial discs, a freshly groomed poodle, and a bowlful of cherries.

 

 

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been: Recovery & Coffee-Mate-Gate

First, a technical update: Six weeks post-op two-level cervical arthroplasty. The post-op x-ray shows a textbook-perfect cervical spine with two shiny new titanium discs “well-placed.” The pain is mostly gone, except when I wake up in the morning or I do too much (still). I can’t remember the last time I felt pain radiating down my arm, or the last time I took a muscle relaxer (well, except – last night). The incision is healing, but still looks like I got caught in a street fight. I am cleared to live my life.

I went back to work. I so needed to get back to a purpose that didn’t require hours of “healing” rest and endless, useless doses of Tylenol. First day back I was feeling the pain by mid-afternoon, but Todd and I still wanted to go out to dinner. One – because it was the plan we’d made, and two – it would be the last night for two weeks that we’d be able to dine outside.

ICYMI: The east coast was pummeled by rain and thunderstorms for two solid weeks, widespread and flash-flooding. Hershey Park and Knoebels were under water. The restaurant Todd and I went to that night is in a small, old waterfront town that was later under voluntary evacuation.

So we went to dinner. They don’t take reservations so we had a 40 minute wait. Todd had a beer and I had a club soda, while we stood on the deck overlooking this band of middle-aged white men playing top-40s who had the audacity to play Let’s Go Crazy and everybody who knows me knows this is NOT something I want to hear. But – I listened because I couldn’t escape it and noted that the guitar skills weren’t half bad. Still – please don’t.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to the car and my legs wouldn’t move. I was literally breathless and taking two steps at a time and stopping. The only other time I ever had that happen was when I arrived at the hospital in labor with V and I got halfway across the parking lot and couldn’t move. Kind of scary.

Anyway. Weeks 4 & 5: I worked a full-time schedule. It was a BEAR. One was an 11-hour day that I came home from and hugged V and just started to cry. That is what happens to me under extreme exhaustion and [unnecessary] emotional stress I put on myself.

Opac had senior pictures taken. It was in the high school auditorium, and I sat there all tense trying to hold back tears. Am I handling my son’s rapidly-approaching adulthood well? Ask me again in 3 months, when he turns 18. Or at his graduation – I’ll be the red-faced, swollen one clutching a handful of wet tissues and blind with tears. I’d…. say…. No. I cried at his preschool graduation. He was five.

I worked my last Saturday morning for a while (new schedule means I don’t work weekends anymore, except for one in rotation). Todd and I went to an antique store in Havre de Grace. It was crammed with so much vintage stuff, I was just turning around and around trying to take it all in. Todd lasted about 20 minutes and went outside to break the itching from the dust.

We drove to Concord Point Lighthouse and walked the decks lining the Chesapeake hand-in-hand like tourists. I don’t think of Havre de Grace as a touristy place, but Todd schooled me: Historically, it was considered for the state capitol, but lost to Annapolis. We took pictures and saw residents walking their dogs, an old woman in a wheelchair under the shade of a tree overlooking the Bay, and a 50-something couple blasting music from an iPhone, dancing like they were all alone at a  Dead concert.

The next day: Costco on an empty stomach and I scored one chicken and cheese ravioli in pesto sauce, a small cup of diced pickled beets, and one piece of a Snack Factory Pretzel. It was not a terribly stressful shopping trip, all things considered. (The man who blocked the entire display of blueberries, inspecting every package for Just the Right One.) Sometimes the state of humanity can be summed up in one trip to Costco and, in worse cases, at Walmart. For all that Walmart is and isn’t, I’ve never found anyone there to be nasty. Inconsiderate and oblivious – yes – but not nasty. Meanwhile, more people at Costco are giving the stink eye on the day God rested than anywhere I’ve been recently.

V was in Avalon with her dad last week, and Mom came to visit for a long weekend here. We took her to the Chesapeake Inn for an early dinner – another marvelous restaurant on the Bay with valet parking, live music, and great food. Had two Pain in de Asses, or maybe three? Mom took it upon herself to order us another round while I was in the bathroom.

Opac went out Saturday with friends for a Gym Class reunion. This class was a close-knit group of guys whose teacher baptized them the Mountain Dewds and had t-shirts made up for them. So they went out to dinner and then hung out at one’s house – O spent the night and needed a ride home the next morning. I picked him up around 7:45 – he said he hadn’t slept – and I took a detour to the store for more Coffee-Mate (which we were out of). I was wearing pajamas and he was fully clothed, so I did what any mother would do. I asked him to go in for me.

He is about as cooperative as a tree. First he refused to go in. I pointed out my attire and the fact that I came and picked his ass up. I only needed ONE THING. He didn’t know what he was looking for. I GOOGLED a pic of Coffee-Mate and showed it to him. This! He said, but we’re not at Target (the source of the pic). I told him where to look for it. In the coffee aisle, on the left side, past the cans of coffee, top shelf.

Ten minutes later… he comes out empty handed, looking royally aggravated. That was nothing compared to the storm waiting for him inside the car. He insisted they didn’t have what I wanted, there were all these weird flavors like hazelnut and “some blueberry flavored shit,” I  looked, and you shouldn’t drink coffee anyway, no wonder your teeth are yellow (oh YES he did) and… I’m not going back in there. He hadn’t showered, was covered in pet hair, hadn’t slept, and needed to shave. I told him very matter-of-factly that there was absolutely NO ONE in that store he knew at this hour of the morning on a Sunday, and I KNOW they have Coffee-Mate in there.

He was not going back in there. Well, I told him, I’m not leaving this parking lot without it. The stand-off continued, until my phone rang and it was Todd. I figured he was wondering where we were, since I was gone so long. I explained to him pleasantly that we’ve stopped at the store for Coffee-Mate. Oh, that’s great, he said. I have a favor to ask you.

Now at this point you should assume that my nerves are bristling over the stand-off with Opac, but I’m not letting on with Todd because Opac is still in the car. But I already know that my case is going to go volcanic if I have to ask O to pick up One. More. Thing. But Todd only wants me to stop at the mailbox on the way back, and I sighed heavily which he read only as she doesn’t want to be bothered, and said, you know, nevermind, forget it. I’ll just walk up myself. He had no idea what was going on in that car, at that moment. The twig was just about snapped. We hung up and I tore into Opac.

!!!I’m still recovering from major surgery, I’m in pain, I can’t take meds when I have to drive and I picked you up this morning early because you wanted to come home, my boobs are popping out of my pajama top, and ALL I NEED IS ONE CONTAINER OF COFFEEMATE. He took a loud deep breath and stepped out of the car, pausing to dramatically rest his forehead against the open door to “get some air.” And then he walked back in.

A few minutes later he sent me a pic of the Coffee-Mate refrigerator case – which, by the way – is at the OPENING of the aisle, ON THE RIGHT SIDE. If you’ve remembered the directions I gave him, this is all kinds of wrong. And I know exactly what display he’s looking at, and it’s not the powdered Coffee-Mate I want. I called him. He didn’t answer, little turd. So I start frantically stabbing letters into a text, reiterating the original directions, cause if he comes out again with nothing I will have no choice but to pummel him in the parking lot.

Eventually he comes out, WITH the Coffee-Mate, and all is right with the world again. Don’t mess with momma’s coffee. My mom laughed that I pulled the surgery card, and I told her I also pulled the Nannie-needs-Coffee-mate-for-her-coffee-too card.

There’s more. But my ex just called to ask if he could stop by to drop off some paperwork in an hour, and I need a shower.

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

So, in case you missed it, I’m still in recovery. Todd says, YOU’VE HAD MAJOR SURGERY, at least once a day. He’s living life dangerously.

Last week we had the septic system pumped out. I got up that morning and suddenly remembered the 3-foot-tall mint patch surrounding the cover, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that NO ONE else in the house remembered this. I texted Todd and inquired before I actually went out to look. You know what he said? No worries, they’ll crush it when they come in to pump.

REEEALLY? That’s assuming they can even FIND the cover. Which I told him. And you know what he said next? He said, you can go out and cut some of it down. Yes, that’s right. Mr. you’ve-had-major-surgery just told me I could go outside in 97 degrees at 7 a.m. and CUT DOWN the mint around the septic cover. This requires me to bend over, reach out, and use my arms. I don’t know how “they” define straining, but this seems to me to be maybe a little bit of straining.

But I did it. But I only cut halfway around the lid and left the cuttings lying on the ground nearby in a neat pile, you know, so it was obvious that I did it.

On a side note, if you want to grow mint, plant it somewhere that won’t encroach on anything else (like NOWHERE). My mom gave me a small bunch from her garden about three years ago. It was one.little.plant. It was cute, like crocuses. NOW it spans the length of a commercial airline strip and is about as wide as the tailgate of our pickup truck. And you know what else? You can’t give that shit away. Apparently none of my neighbors drink mojitos either.

Anyway. I’m still trying to get stuff done around the house, and have managed to firmly delegate to the prince and princess of the house a handful of chores I need done to not become a screaming lunatic maintain my sanity. Opac’s room does not presently fall into this category, but today I changed my mind when I passed his closed door in the hallway. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

He is in driving school (mandatory in the state of Maryland) again this week, with two days left to go (in the classroom) before he does the behind-the-wheel portion. They “highly recommend” the driving coach ride along for the first session. Well, that aint gonna happen. I’m still restricted from “long car rides,” thank GOD. Sessions are two hours long. TWO HOURS.

So far, the longest I’ve ridden with him was a little over an hour – to meet his dad to drop off/pick up Veruca, because I’m not supposed to drive that far yet, let alone ride. My muscles were screaming so loud I had a headache and when we got home I crashed on that worn spot on the couch.

And while we’re on the subject of long car rides I’m not supposed to take, my mother – who expressed concern over an upcoming 12-hour shift I’m covering at work – asked me to come up to the restaurant (an hour and 20-minute ride, minimum) AFTER I worked my first day back, three weeks post-op from [insert Todd: MAJOR SURGERY] to “oversee” things at the restaurant. This is confusing at best.

So I returned to work last Saturday. And trust me, you have never seen anyone so happy to go to work. Like, ever. We were only open 8 to 12, so it was a short and very quiet morning. But I remembered how to do my job! Great boost for the morale!

And then Todd left to go grill at the restaurant (she needed help) and Opac left for a party and I was home alone for 8 hours! I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, but I spent most of it in that place reading, watching Netflix, eating ice cream, and not sleeping. At least until Opac got home, and then I was out cold until I heard Todd’s keys on the kitchen counter.

I don’t know what I did on Sunday. I have no memory of Sunday. All the days are melting together like a popsicle in the sun.

We had the family over Sunday a couple of weeks ago, because I haven’t seen Dad in months. He travels a lot for work, sometimes for weeks at a time, and I still had his Father’s Day gift. He acted all, oh-I-didn’t-need-a-gift, until he opened it and saw the Trump coffee mug: Nobody is better at Fatherhood than you. All the other dads are a total disaster. Everyone agrees, believe me. I don’t think he found it as hilarious as my brother and I did, but as long as it made me happy – that’s all that matters, right?

It was a nice day, albeit exhausting for me. I didn’t do that much, but it was enough that I needed to lie down for a while.

Surgery changed me in ways I am still discovering. I’m normally all in for socializing and I love going out and being with people. Not now. Peopling is hard right now, and I don’t want to. I’ve always been upbeat and positive and, like the title of my former blog, Finding Joy. My last good joke was when I told the person in the hospital that I was having breast implants. Nothing seems funny right now.

It’s like I’ve been Ignoring Joy, which could be the title of another blog post but I’m done with serious bitching and being negative. Todd has hinted a handful of times that he just wants to enjoy life and be happy, which is a like an elbow to the ribs and a great big, hint hint. He’s not used to this side of me. Even back when he carried me through the darkest days, he still got the good parts of me that were still flickering like the last bit of wick fighting not to burn out. He knows who’s inside of me, and he hasn’t seen her in over a month.

He also understands the struggle, because he’s been there. When I have a particularly bad day, he reminds me – you’ve just had major surgery. It’s only been 3 weeks. And then he follows with, it’s going to take a couple of months. Which is where his rallying speech becomes a warning, really, when you think about it – for himself.

But, as I return to my old work schedule tomorrow, I am feeling eager and grateful. It’s the gateway back to “normal.” I get to see my coworkers and smile again, because work has always been – for me – that place where you leave your troubles outside and forget them until the work is done. You can be anyone you want to be while you’re working. And when you leave, you can pick that shit up and take it home with you, if you want. It’s all a choice. For me, it used to be about survival. But now, it’s the way I choose to live.

And, for the record, I am finding joy again, slowly, even as my body will remind me it’s time to rest. Pull just one more weed? Nope, I’m tired. I need to lie down. Mop that kitchen floor that hasn’t seen water in 4 weeks? Maybe today. Either way, it will all be here tomorrow, as it always is – but my children are growing up too fast and my husband is so busy with his new responsibilities and the time we get alone together when we’re both awake is short for now.

 

Hanging By a Thread

(from July 11th)

The journey is not epic, but rather a drama mixed with occasional comedy, and full of ups and downs. I know I sound melodramatic, but I’m frustrated and a bit stabby, and occasionally depressed. I think yesterday my tolerance meter nearly imploded.

It’s summertime. I had major surgery (Todd keeps reminding me), and it’s summertime. The kids are home. Every day. Because – summertime. This amounts to [now] two teenagers occupying the peaceful space of my home 24/7, restless spirits who also spend hours behind closed bedroom doors. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “mom” yesterday, I’d be buying Todd that antique Mustang he’s pining for.

I’m two weeks and 6 days post-op. I’ve tried to do things. Sometimes it was okay, but more often than not it didn’t turn out so good. I was told I could drive two weeks after surgery. On that day, I had to explain to Veruca that this did not mean I should jump in a car and start cruising around. She’s been fairly understanding of my condition, insofar as a self-centered 13-year-old can be, like yesterday we went to the store and she insisted on carrying all the groceries in for me, but she also insisted on an extra stop at the pet store.

Just now she walked out here where I was typing, to ask me what I was planning to do today. Well, let’s see, what I’d like to do: weed the gardens, mop the floors, do laundry, make some banana bread, finish cleaning out my closet, and pull out the 40lb sewing machine and start sewing. What I told her: resting. She sighed the heavy sigh perfected by teenagers the world over and, with a head roll that likely matched the one in her eyes, went back to her room.

She’s bored. I GET IT. I promise you, nobody is more bored than me. But, I learned my lesson. I vacuumed three rooms – the living room, dining room, and kitchen – last Friday, and spent the rest of the day in pain. And then Todd yelled at me, because, YOU HAD MAJOR SURGERY. You can’t strain yourself. You’re supposed to be resting. And when I look at him, he asks me to stop giving him dirty looks.

I hurt. Every. Time. I. Do. Something. This is bullshit. Everyone keeps saying, take it easy! Don’t rush it! Healing needs to happen first! Don’t do anything to encourage the Steri-strips to fall off! Which, by the way, were by last Saturday literally hanging by a sixteenth of an inch from the skin on my neck and the rest of it was flapping in the wind.

No way in HELL was I going out in public with that. So I took a shower and blow-dried my neck as I have done every day because the instructions said to thoroughly dry the site, and the Steri-strips were flapping like a moth stuck to a light until suddenly…. off!

Have I mentioned that I’m bored to death? I can’t lift anything, I can’t do any of the things I would normally do when I’m home all day. I haven’t been to work in three weeks. Someone posted this meme about “when you go back to work after vacation but can’t remember what you even do.” This made me laugh, because I’m worried it’s true.

So far I’ve watched Netflix, some Netflix, and more Netflix, and finished two books. I’m way too invested in what happens to the folks on Fuller House. I’ve read online articles about Johnny Depp’s downward spiral, followed the breathtaking rescue of the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand, and trolled Facebook which itself has become either boring as hell or annoying me with everyone’s vacations. Sure, I’ve “liked” their posts, even when all I wanted to do was say “you suck!” I’ve tried napping, which only makes me feel like I’ve been drugged.

Meanwhile, Veruca decided to clean the bathroom she shares with O. Except the floor was covered with towels (seven towels. SEVEN.) and dirty clothes she insisted all belonged to him. So she knocked on his bedroom door and bitched him out about the mess on the floor and told him to get in there and clean it up. I held my breath.

Moments later they’re in the kitchen, and she’s bitching at him about the pubic hairs on the toilet and shavings in the sink, and he’s saying those aren’t his pubic hairs. Which was the wrong thing to say, and then an argument ensued which ended with accusations about one of them needing a lawnmower for their pubic hair.

Aside from sibling problems, V has been to a birthday party and a day away at one of her besties’ houses, and Opac started mandatory driving school. He has to go every day for two weeks. The first day was Monday, and the parent (“driving coach”) had to attend orientation with the student. Driving coach? I never signed on for THAT. Needless to say, I heard myself referred to as “old-school” and learned a thing or two about driving in modern society.

He’s getting a lot more driving practice in, while I snap on my “holy shit!” neck brace and people stare because my kid must drive like a maniac.

Monday evening he came home from football workouts with a friend and called me from the driveway asking for help getting out of the car.

What do you mean, HELP you get out of the car?

My muscles in my legs seized up and I can’t move.

How am I supposed to help you with this? I’m recovering from surgery. At this point I’m walking outside, where he is standing stock-still next to Kyle’s car with the door open, and Kyle looks like the cat that swallowed the canary. Opac literally cannot move. I told him to take a few steps and close the door so that Kyle (the hilarity of the situation tickling the corners of his mouth) can go home.

Opac winces and hobbles toward the concrete steps to the front door, says he’s not gonna make it. I call for Veruca to help him, and she does…mostly by holding his hand as he climbs the steps and I am momentarily struck by the sweetness of it all until the moment is shattered by him yelling about the pain. I tell him to take a hot shower to loosen the muscles, and he’s insisting he needs to ice it. A brief pissing match over who is right ensues, so I walk away and tell him to do what he thinks is best, then.

He decides on a warm bath, since he called Dad and that’s what dad said to do, because dad is God today. So he’s running the bath and tells me that Kyle just texted him complaining of the exact same problem, and that he fell down the stairs. What kind of workouts are these?

A few minutes go by and I get this…

20180715_191716

 

My great grandmother always said, Don’t wish your life away. And that statement has plenty of merit, but lawd I neeeeeed to get to my 6-week post-op appointment. I need August.

Silverfox Takes Lexington

**Disclaimer: This is NOT a political post.

Dad was in Lexington on business last week and sent me pics of the Red Hen, which – ICYMI – was the site of a huge political controversy recently and has shut down indefinitely.* Visitors were placing flowers on the front step like a memorial.

20180704_081135

 

Dad: Protestors tonite.

It’s getting ugly here…Trumpsters everywhere

Me: Be careful.

D: U know me, I’m lookin for a fight {toothy smile emoji}

M: Don’t. You can’t reason with them.

D: I’m just finishing dinner and will walk over to stir things up

M: Dad, I’m recovering from surgery. I’m not feeling well. Don’t make me come down there.  But, at least get some footage.

D: Everyone is gone.

D: Not to worry…tomorrow is another day.

 

The next day around 6:30 p.m. he sends me a video I can’t open.

M: Idk what that was

D: Party time

D: I recorded that country band while I was eating my bah b que

 

Twenty-four hours later he sends me another video with the caption, “How’s this for a view while drinking a craft brew?” The video was 23 seconds of his knee and a topsy-turvy view of a stone wall, and I was about to question his sobriety when he followed up with another video and “sent the wrong video before” {grinning emoji}. This one was a panoramic of his view from the patio he was drinking his craft brew on, of road, parking lot, mountains, and sky. Ending with the topsy-turvy upside-down view of his hairy leg.

M: Yeah, I guess when you’re drunk…

M: Nice hairy knee

D: Hah

D: I just sat down

M: What is the view? A parking lot?

D: This is the Shenandoah Valley… beautiful

 

Several hours later…

D: I’m at the restaurant now and the conversation is so slanted towards the extreme right.

M: Oh lord. Try to stay out of it.

D: You know I can’t

M: You have to. There’s no one to bail you out.

D: Haha

M: Find another restaurant

Now to say my dad does not have strong political opinions presently, would be a gross falsehood, but he also wouldn’t get himself into a heated discussion with strangers. But – beer muscles are a thing. I just don’t believe my dad has any. Until –

D: Are you sayin you wouldn’t drive here to bail out your wife’s father?

M: My wife’s father? Dad, how much have you had?

D: Oops! My bad

D: I was talking to you and Todd at the same time

 

The next morning I received another video – this one was a nighttime video of flashing red lights and firetrucks, captioned: “You can always count on Dominoes to arrive on time.” And sure enough, if you look closely, you can see a car with a Dominoes sign on the roof passing between the firetrucks.

 

D: Fire alarm evacuated hotel around midnight

M: OMG. You really should be blogging. Your life is way more interesting than mine.

M: It’s 8:57 and the highlight of my day so far is that I finally went to the bathroom.

D: Just got the details during my coffee run…someone in the hotel tried to smoke in their shower (there are no exhaust fans in this old hotel)

 At this point I plead an empty case for him to guest write a post. If he had been blogging over the last 10 years or so, he’d have thousands of followers and he wouldn’t have to work. Truth is by far, waaaay better than fiction.

 

Miscellaneous tidbits:

*One news outlet stated The Red Hen was expected to stay closed until July 5th.

There are other “Red Hen” restaurants that have been confused with The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia. Restaurants around the world bearing any part of the name Red Hen have been targeted by haters – including The Little Red Hen, a restaurant located IN THE PHILLIPINES, where someone trashed them for refusing “to serve one of the finest woman in the country. You should be ashamed of yourself!” (Grammar geeks – I spelled the quote exactly as it was written.)

It has even gone as far as people contacting the Health Department that serves Lexington, KENTUCKY – imploring them to “shut the [expletive] down.”

There’s actually a Red Hen in D.C. that received so many threats they had to post a police officer outside, and was egged late at night.

A man whose restaurant by the same name in Georgia closed nearly 10 years ago, received a 700-word post on his not-updated-page-since-2010 from a “ ‘tourist to Lexington,’ who swears to never eat there again.” His friends have since made comical reviews about his restaurant being a “Communist front” and that “its food tasted several years old.”

Meanwhile, a man was arrested for throwing chicken poop at #TheRealRedHen.

Moral of the story tibits: There’s a lesson to be learned from all this, and it’s not political.

***Sources: http://www.theverge.com and The Washington Post.

As Life Goes On Around Me

As I continue to heal and not complain about it – (I joked with Todd over the weekend that he should be glad I’m not Opac, who would complain about every ache and pain like he was dying and then announce that his funeral was imminent) – life goes on around me.

Not quite two weeks post-op. I’m still doing the same mundane things and suffering a suffocating boredom. My mom was here last week to help, mostly just running Opac to workouts, caretaking my plants, making food, and entertaining Veruca for the 24 hours she came home to be with me. V chose not to stay the extra day until her dad came to pick O up. I’ve reached the pinnacle of boring for her.

My neck is still hurting, and fatigue creeps in like a fog drifting in off the bay, particularly when I’ve done too much – which, if you can believe it, might be unloading the dishwasher or ironing more than 3 shirts. Sunday I was looking forward to going up the street to celebrate my neighbor’s 70th birthday – we drove literally three houses down because a) the last time I walked that far I regretted it and b) it was 97 degrees.

The surprise party was a huge success. Jackie is literally the neighborhood welcome wagon. She is one of the kindest, funniest, craziest neighbors you could ever hope for. The first time we met she hugged me and told me how happy she was that I was there. She goes out of her way for us all, and she deserved nothing less than the celebration we gave her. She also shares my love of chickens and her BFF, who is also a neighbor and friend, bought her a six-foot metal chicken that I am insanely envious of. He’s beautiful. And I joked with her that now she has the biggest cock in the whole neighborhood.

I made Cuban sandwiches and coleslaw (with Todd’s help) and I thought I took it easy, sat most of the time, drank lots of water, and actually ate more in one sitting than I have in nearly two weeks. We were there just over three hours and my neck was killing me. I guess this means I overdid it a little?

It’s weird and disappointing, that I want to do stuff and then the energy gets sucked out of me like air in a deflating balloon. My neck still hurts and my throat is still tight. I wonder, casually and half-seriously, if I’ll ever feel normal again. Which is, of course, a bit melodramatic.

And, speaking of melodramatic, the kids came home yesterday morning by way of their dad, which we had previously discussed. That is, until Sunday afternoon when Veruca called to tell me Nannie was bringing them home. This was after Todd told me my mom couldn’t come down because she had too much to do. OKAY.

Opac literally called me while I was saying goodbye to V, wanting the 411 on next weekend because he was trying to make plans with “someone.” He didn’t mention anything about Nannie or the next day, and I didn’t ask. Two hours later he called me AT THE PARTY all pissed off because the plan as he knew it had changed and V was “running the show.” I said to him – I don’t even know why – I’m sorry you’re upset but I Can’t Talk About This Right Now. He continued to rant about how he needed to get home and something-something about dad and lack of communication, blah blah blah… and I cut him off mid-sentence and told him I’M AT THE PARTY and I cannot have this conversation right now.

Apparently V and mom were taking Mom-mom to the doctor and then out to lunch which, by the way, left O waiting at mom’s house because he didn’t want to go with them, which he called me about later because he didn’t want to sit in Nannie’s house for hours and just wanted her to come back to his dad’s house to pick him up.

So he’s very unhappy with the plan because he just wants to get home and dad can bring them home but won’t just bring ONE of them home and not the other. And O can’t wait until late afternoon to get home with Nannie because he has to “prepare” for workouts at 5:30. So, he wants it his way and Veruca screwed everything up. And I’m wondering how I fell into the middle of this since I’m the one recovering from surgery and there’s now a clusterfuck of convoluted misinformation and I’m failing to see what ANY of this has to do with me.

FOUR phone calls. Mom called to explain the plan. Followed by Opac calling to bitch about the plan and tell me that dad can bring them home since he has an appointment nearby – which makes perfect sense to me and why drag my mother into it? Then he called back to tell me dad WAS bringing them home in the a.m. and that he tried to call Nannie but she’s not answering, and I suggested that probably it’s because it’s NINE-THIRTY AT NIGHT. And then fifteen minutes later mom called me (after she spoke to V) about the change in plans and said she felt guilty about letting V down. Jesus H. Christ.

At 8:41 a.m. I got this text from Opac: V’s in a bad mood so beware.

Yay. Can’t wait. How much of this is she blaming on you? (Asking for a friend.)

I braced myself for tropical storm Veruca, but she came in smiling and huggy and chatty. And O was of course his chatty happy self (read: got what he wanted). So, reentry was peaceful and without incident. No need to reach for the pill bottle.

Speaking of pills, Hell Week for dogs has returned. It started Saturday night. Sabra jumped over the ottoman and me, clawing my leg and stunning me awake, to run over the cat to the opposite end of the couch – WHICH she could have easily gotten to from the other side. She stood there panting and trembling, and ignored my command to lie down. She walked back over to me and the cat, who casually got up and sauntered into the kitchen like he’d just remembered something he had to do, and stood over me offering her best impression of an earthquake. I’m not sure whether it was the seismic motion on the couch or her hot breath on me that made me more nauseous.

Todd started a new job yesterday as a college dean that we are both thrilled about. It’s a big career step but he’s SO the man for the job. My little brother, always MIA, is in Michigan at some big music thing and not answering my texts again. My dad is home again but I can’t text him because he dropped his phone in the pool and it’s fried. I’ve had flowers and well wishes from work and others to brighten the days.

What will today bring? Surely another round of neighborhood fireworks, three more shirts ironed, Veruca’s eighteenth plea to go swimming next door, a new book started? More loosening of the Steri-strips?

 

 

After

Today is day 9. There’s a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck, and the muscles are tight around my cervical spine. Do I feel better than last Saturday? I’m going to say yes. Todd said I’d forget the pain at some point, and I do think he’s right. Last Saturday I was 24 hours into recovery and I remember thinking I f**king hate this. Never again.

I went in for surgery on Friday the 22nd at 6:30 a.m. I was back in pre-op in no time and my nurse, Stephanie, was kind and patient and introduced me to Buffy, the venipuncture slayer. Seriously, Buffy made me nervous at first, the way she kept slapping at the veins on my wrist while Stephanie collected the exact same data I’d given three different people by phone in the last seven days. This was probably a lame attempt to distract me from Buffy’s overtures, but Buffy’s tapping and slapping left me feeling quite unconfident in her abilities.

I have big veins. I mean big, juicy veins that aren’t difficult to tap. Was she blind? Unsure? A trainee? OMG. Anyway, she popped that IV in like a mosquito and Stephanie turned around and said, wow, you didn’t even flinch. And Let Me Tell You. A week later and you still can’t see where that IV was. Buffy IS the Boss.

A minute later this man who appeared to be in his late 50s popped into my room and said, “boo!” And of course, I’m like, WTF? Who is this dude? He warmly introduced himself as my anesthesiologist, and assured me he’s done so many of these, for 500- er- he’s even put dinosaurs to sleep. He also remarked that I looked like a deer in the headlights. My neuroses clearly is not easy to conceal. Buffy started cleansing my neck until it turned beet red and apparently a reaction ensued, so the two of them decided I’d had enough. He told me he could give me something to relax me, but only after I’d spoken with the PA or the surgeon or both.

Documents to sign, giving them permission to cut me open, put me to sleep, do whatever they do to save your life, etc. And then Todd was brought back, who is always full of funny anecdotes that AREN’T funny when your nerves are as bad as mine.

I laid in the bed with a pillow behind my head for support, because the position itself was painful as always. I was ready a full hour before my surgery was scheduled and trying not to flip out. I remembered this pain I was feeling, and considered that it would be gone when I woke up again. Todd snapped a photo of me in the bed for my mom, so I gave my best bitch face that I knew would get a giggle from her (she knows me well). I’m so NOT a good patient. I’m better than I used to be, but some things go like teaching an old dog new tricks.

The neuro-technologist (because I don’t remember her exact title) came in to discuss the surgery with me, starting with the standard questions. I told her my name, and the surgery I’m having – breast implants. She stopped reading my chart and stared at me momentarily, and then back to the chart. I gave it a beat or two more and said, I’m just kidding. I’m having two discs replaced in my cervical spine. I needed the break more than she did obviously, but she took it in stride and said that’s never happened before, laughed a little while I clarified the REAL surgery and then I secretly prayed she wouldn’t hurt me while I was knocked out. Her job is to test my nerve conduction during the surgery to make sure all is well. And I have the bruises on both arms and one shoulder to show for it. But they don’t hurt.

The PA came in and explained the surgery, went over recovery procedures and medications, etc. and then Dr. Dinosaur returned with his vial of nirvana and that hit me so fast I said, whooooaaaa. And then it was time to go.

Second time for me in an OR, and it’s always surreal. Lots of movement and faceless people, and then there’s the mask over your face and then suddenly I’m coughing like a drowning victim. I’m assuming that was the moment I was extubated. Dr. Dinosaur placed a hand on my shoulder and told me to relax.

Todd said the surgery lasted 2 and a half hours, during which he got a very important call I will share in a later post. I started the waking process in the PACU, where my right arm felt like Grendel was pulling it out of its socket and my legs felt like they were disconnecting from my body. My new nurse, Sharon, asked me my pain level. NINE. Dilaudid to the rescue. I have no idea of time passing, but I felt more lucid by the time we hit a five. She refused to give me more because she thought I stopped breathing several times (an alarm would sound), until I assured her I am NOT sleeping and that it’s my MO to hold my breath when pain is really intense. So, we spent the next several hours with her reminding me to breathe through it or else. (No more pain meds.)

I can’t say enough about my experience at this hospital*. Everyone was very caring, gentle, and they didn’t push me out like we had experienced with Todd’s surgery last summer at an affiliated hospital. They did encourage me to move to a “chair” and out of the bed, where I turned white and felt a violent wave of nausea that turned out to be gas. I guess burping is a side effect of anesthesia? Sharon mentioned I hadn’t been to the bathroom since awakening, and I told her that I’ve actually had to go since I woke up, but was afraid to ask. (Bad patients don’t like bed pans.) So Tara assisted me to the bathroom – I chose to walk – and informed me she had to come in with me. I didn’t give a rat’s ass who was in there with me.

Funny how life and maturity changes you, and your views on modesty. I was ready to go afterward, and the two nurses helped me dress (but kept Todd outside the curtain AS IF he’d never seen his wife naked before) and I was soon being wheeled to the curb by a nice man who said he was getting over pneumonia, which seemed wrong on some level but I was in no position to argue with anyone.

The ride home was uneventful and not painful. And the rest of Friday was lost to fits of sleep and well wishes, one son who announced that I looked like shit, and a phone call from Veruca who had been terribly worried. I took one Oxycontin that night, and continued to feel awful until the next morning, when I threw up. I DO NOT do narcotics. So, my recovery this week has been punctuated by frequent walks around the house, belching, muscle relaxers, a steroid for alleviating swallowing issues, and extra strength Tylenol.

I’ve been out twice – once with mom driving me to the pharmacy and grocery store in my collar of shame that scared small children; and yesterday to the bank where one of the tellers exclaimed, “holy shit!” which made my day and I burst out laughing.

It’s day 9. I’m still waking in some significant neck pain, but the pain my upper back and shoulders and right arm is all but gone. I understand that some pain will linger as the nerves reassert themselves under these new conditions. I had this pain in my right elbow (painful even to the touch) that was terrible for months that I was treating as tennis elbow, though nothing helped. I woke up last Friday and it WAS GONE.

I still feel like someone has their hands wrapped around my throat. I try to be patient, but it’s annoying and uncomfortable, and causes me nausea. I can’t bend over, as it puts pressure against my throat. I can’t look directly down. I’m still getting tired easily.

But, I did it. This is the After. And every day the After is getting better. I can swim after my 6-week post-op, when summer will be more than half over, but I’m doing it. And I made Todd measure me, because the neurosurgeon said the discs he implanted are going to stretch my neck a bit, which is causing the muscles around it to stretch and strain. I gained an INCH. I am an INCH taller than I was last Friday. How about that?

 

*University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

**I cannot take full credit for the breast implant joke. Todd made a remark while we were waiting in pre-op that “at least you’re not getting breast implants.” Which I still don’t know why he thought was funny, but when the neuro person came in, the procedure just flew out of my mouth. And Todd looked at me appalled, that I’d stolen his joke that not 10 minutes before I refused to laugh at.

 

Destination Syracuse : Bowling, Irish Cannonballs, and Flying Monkeys

Presently in surgery. Please enjoy this ramshackle post in my absence.

Another road trip. Another bowling tournament. We stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel. It was lovely: a beautiful lobby, Koi pond, and revolving doors, which I always use whenever they present themselves.  Except when I tried to drag my suitcase in with me. That made things a little tight, if not awkward, but thankfully no one was looking. Except Todd, who is well used to my shenanigans.

Our room was small but comfortable, and the bathroom was beautifully tiled in sparkling marble. We dropped our bags and changed clothes, and headed over to the convention center (where the National Bowling Tournament was) to check in. Apparently there was an issue about Todd – either whose membership number was in question and/or he wasn’t on the team roster. This looked to me like another one of those clusterfuck-type situations, and so I looked at my loving husband and asked him why he failed to mention this snafu to me.

(I was only mildly pissed that we might have yet another problem with something, because it’s always something, and I was still seething over the fact that he had no idea what times he was bowling until I asked him to find out. And it turned out that the expected usual 8 a.m. bowling times were instead 11 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, putting us on the road quite well after dinner that night.)

We got it all straightened out, but not before the team captain came to rectify the situation and then Kathy wiped out on the escalator as we were leaving and thank God there were two men behind her to help her back up and she didn’t die. Seriously scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd and I ended up at The Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub for a late snack and beer. It’s the quintessential Irish Pub, all wood bar and carved back bar – the whole thing square-shaped with ample seating but two walls come into the center, lending it a very intimate arrangement. There is seating in the back of the restaurant, and a banquette with little cocktail tables and little stools for seating. Todd ordered a pint of Smithwick and I had Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion, which was a divinely citrusy IPA without the bitter back end. Ordered the Irish Charcuterie and Reuben Fritters (aka Irish Cannonballs); both were delicious and just the right amount of food for a late night bite.

Like any trip where we rush out the door, we forgot deodorant, my Tylenol Extra Strength tablets that are worth shit anyway, a jacket/hoodie/anything long-sleeved for the meat locker at the tournament and, most importantly, my meds. And this was so not the time to be without them for THREE days. I planned to be alcohol-free, but this horrific oversight was going to have to be remedied the only other way I know how. But – ya’ll’d be proud of me. I drank modestly, only at dinner, and only with food.

Day 2

The tournament. Teams. After a half hour or so of coffee in the cozy lobby, we get to the tournament and meet the crew. Everybody has to have their balls weighed. (Bowling balls, you fools.) Todd bought me a bright pink hoodie, and it was soon time to go find a seat in the stands and he went back to the waiting area. The oiling machines are like giant Roombas, except that instead of picking up dirt they oil the lanes. And then… the music started.

Imagine Dragons, Whatever It Takes… and the bowling teams start strutting out onto the floor in front of the lanes in a single file, and it was like we were at the fucking World Cup and these athletes were rock stars. Some of them were mouthing the words of the song, some were wearing sunglasses, some were waving their fist, … one guy was waving his bowling ball (in the sack) over his head, which seemed a little dangerous to me. Man down! Before the tournament would even start.

After the tournament everybody decided they wanted to go to Dinosaur BBQ, though all I really wanted was a salad. There were 9 of us and parking was a bear. We sat at three separate tables and, it turned out, one check.  The waitress sat my glass down on the table with her fingers inside it. When we ordered, I suggested Betty go first, and the waitress told me to go first. Mildly shocked at the Rude.

We all parted ways afterward, heading back to our hotels for a nap. I put on my collar of shame (as instructed to relieve pain I’m currently having) and left it on to enter the hotel and noticed how quickly the bellman jumped to open the door for me. Which made me feel alternately guilty and ridiculous.

Todd and I decided to go to the Yellow Brick Road Casino, in a little town called Chittenango where – it so happens – the author of the Wizard of Oz was born. It was small but whimsically fun… the Flying Monkey Bar had flying monkeys dangling from the ceiling. And the slots were paying out for Todd. I was being obstinently patient while he moved from one machine to another, until I hit a wall after 10 with no food in my stomach and barely a sip of water all day.

We returned to Kitty Hoynes but were late to dinner – so that there was a limited bar menu and even more limited IPA selection. They were sold out of Logical Conclusion (so upset!) and then two more I ordered they were also out of. Asked the bartender, so what DO you have? And he disappeared to attend to other guests while I perused the draft menu, and … didn’t come back for a good 20 minutes. If not for the late hour, we very nearly walked out. Eventually we got him to warm up and he was ever so friendly and somewhat more attentive… which, by the way, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work with bartenders.

Day 3

In retrospect, I’m beginning to wonder if the New York attitude creeps this far north of the city. It was bizarre, how standoffish the service was, everywhere we went. Except for Mom’s Diner, where we went for breakfast Wednesday morning. A small little spot on the corner of a well-worn street, where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table when it’s ready. The four folks there were warm and friendly and the food was great.

We killed time at Destiny USA – which does not sound like a monstrous shopping mall with 3 floors of shopping, dining, and play. With the trend of malls going down over time, this one seems to be holding its own.

Back to the convention center for singles and doubles. Another freezing cold event and this time I carried my blanket in with me. And I wasn’t the only one. We were scheduled to start at 2:30 but by 2:35 there were still bowlers from the morning roster still finishing up. Our group didn’t start until after 3, and all I could think of was how late we were going to get home.

This day’s fight song was The Champion by Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris. It’s funny how they all walk in like these great badasses of bowling. I watched a little, got up a few times to stretch (the pain is intense at times and the only relief is movement), dove into my journal and wrote 5 pages, and then cracked open my newest book.*

We were finally on the road by 7. I was beyond stressed and fighting back a complete mental breakdown from lack of meds and off-the-charts anxiety that kept me awake every night, and pain that returned with a vengeance just in time for the five-hour ride home. But we did it. We made it home in FOUR hours and for the first time in my life I was never happier to see our old hometown’s name on a highway sign, even though it meant we were still an hour from home.

*My latest book: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  National Bestseller. Although I’m only 65 pages in, highly recommend.