Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Note From Smitty

I just got an email from Smitty: 

Dear T.,

I'm packing for the wedding. Kate wants me to write her vows! I don't want to give anything away, but you may want to watch this thing live.  Anything you want me to bring back? 


I responded:


This is going to be one of those T.V. moments isn’t it?  I’ll keep a pillow near me in case I can’t watch and need to bury my face (you know I can’t handle a “scene”). Thanks for your generous offer but I can’t think of anything to ask you to bring back. You could do me a favor though:  Would you bring along my divorce lawyer wife's business card?


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bird

My kids and I nearly made road kill of a beautiful bird of prey today. I saw it on the shoulder of the road long before we got near it. I slowed down and gave it a wide berth expecting it to either stay where it was or fly towards the woods. Unfortunately it did decide to fly towards the woods- on the other side of the road. The bird would have flown right into my car had it not realized its current route was suicidal and abruptly changed course. For at least the next ten seconds, the bird flew down the road in the right lane as I drove next to it in the left.  Yes, I was in what would’ve been the oncoming traffic lane had there been any traffic, which there almost never is.  That arrangement worked out perfectly; we got a great look at the bird. This was not a bird designed to take off from the ground and its impressive wings were working hard to gain elevation.  When it was finally gone and I was back in the correct lane I looked in the mirror and said to my daughter, “That was pretty cool wasn’t it!”


“Do you know what kind of bird that was?”  I asked.

“It was a cawk, daddy!” 

“I think you mean, hawk, honey.  But actually it was a bald eagle. Did you see its white head and tail?  That’s how you know it was a bald eagle.  But let’s go back and practice. Can you say ‘hawk’?  Listen to me:  ha, ha, ha, ha, hawk.”

Friday, April 15, 2011


I had to go to the doctor again yesterday, this time for a rash on the inside of my knee. Luckily it turned out to be no big deal- just a sore spot where The Truth rubs against my leg when I walk.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Still Good, Will

I don’t like to brag, but…I have just improved Hamlet. Don’t believe me? Check out my re-working of the advice Polonius gives his son in scene III of the first act (my addition is in bold for clarity):  “Neither a borrower nor a lender nor an asshole be…”

I don’t think Shakespeare should feel too bad. Hamlet stood unimproved for over 400 years. That’s pretty good. Hell, my blog might not even do that!

The Art of the Sell

Last night I dreamt that I ran into Lily Tomlin in Las Vegas. We spent a few minutes chatting (naturally) before she asked if I had a job.

"I stay at home with kids. But I'm also a writer. Which is to say that I have a blog."

"And how do people read your letters?"

"Well they're not letters- they're essays and stories and crap (I didn't want to swear to Lily!)."

"But how do people read them?"

"They're on the computer."

"The people are on the computer?"

"My blog is on the computer."

"Only your computer?"

"No, everyone's computer."


"Look, Lily, this is hard for me to do-selling myself- but I'm going to write down my blog's internet address and give it to you. You're way past your prime, but I think you could still help me."

(Oops! I think dream me needs to work on his charm.)

****ATTN Ms. Tomlin, if you read this please know that I am a huge fan!! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Good News, Bad News

Good news- It's shorts weather!

Bad news- Before leaving the house I have to make sure The Truth isn't sticking out the bottom of my shorts (and I sometimes forget).

More Bad News- Still in pain.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Well, That Was Easy

For the love of all that is holy and decent! I’ve been up part of damn near every night for the past 5 years with abdominal pain and it turns out that for at least the past year and a half I could have been sleeping pain-free, like a fat and full walrus! 

Medical dictionaries define pancreatitis as, “an inflammation of the pancreas marked by pain so severe that the pain’s pain has pain. Patients asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10 often respond by grabbing the questioner’s shirt collar and begging for morphine. Pressed for a number the patient will reply ‘ten fucking thousand!’”  After spending two weeks in the fall of 2006 hospitalized because of it --much of that time in intensive care-- I won’t argue with that definition.  It’s also notoriously hard to shake and flare-ups are common.  I felt lucky because, even though I was in some pain for a few months after my hospitalization, my life pretty quickly got back to normal (except that I developed diabetes as a result of my malfunctioning pancreas). 

However, while I was minding my own business, a pseudo-cyst –basically a sac of fluid stuck to the pancreas’ tail like a bubble gum bubble on a child’s lips-- was growing.  First doctors tried to drain it by sticking a needle through my side and popping the bubble, which they located by doing the procedure while CT scanning my abdomen.  The technicians and I, all new to this, followed the needle’s progress on the screen and were I’m sure a great help guiding it home.  You’ve probably guessed by now that that didn’t work. The cyst rallied, and an MRI a few months later caught it in the act of re-inflating.  

The next step was to try to address the cause of the cysts. The duct that drains my pancreas into my upper intestine was too small. Fluid was getting trapped in my pancreas, eventually blowing out the back when the pressure got too great. So I was off to HCMC for a procedure called an ERCP. An ERCP involves a doctor shoving a stent though the mouth, down the throat, through the stomach and into the pancreatic duct. Usually the procedure is an outpatient one but because my pancreas resents being looked at, and really hates being touched in even the gentlest manner, it always flared up.  As a result, I was hospitalized for a few days after each of my five ERCPs.   Yes, five. You would be right to ask why I let them do this to me 5 times. The answer is that those procedures were the least invasive fixes available and before I had my first the doctor said we’d need to do a few before we would see any results. So we would do one, my pancreas would flare up, I’d spend a few days hospitalized and then a month at home recuperating.  And then I’d go back and do it all over again. The fifth was the last, though, and after it didn’t fix me I went in search of another answer.

My search led me to the Mayo Clinic, where a GI doctor, after first assuring me that his colleague at HCMC had handled my case appropriately and that the five ERCPs were a reasonable first course of action, wasted no time referring me to a surgeon.  “Time to break out the big guns.”  Since my pancreatic duct’s most severe stricture was towards the tail, he thought a surgeon might be able to chop the end of my pancreas off.  If it worked, the pancreas left behind would be as healthy as yours. Guess what?  The surgeon also recommended surgery. (Half the battle as a patient is picking the right person to see. A chiropractor will recommend an adjustment, an ERCP guy will suggest an ERCP, a dentist will do a root canal, and a surgeon will fairly salivate at the idea of cutting you from stem to stern.)  This was in December of 2009 and the baby we were going to adopt was due in February. The surgeon promised I’d be recovered by then, so I had surgery. The surgeon hoped to cut out the tail of my pancreas laparoscopically, something he is apparently world-famous for being able to do.  But after poking five holes in my stomach and looking around he realized he was going to have to open me up, which he did with a gusto, cutting me from under my right armpit all the way across my abdomen and around my left side to my back. Once in, he found my pancreas was dead from its midpoint to its tail. It was all nasty (I’m going to use some medical terms here. Deal with it.) and stuck to my spleen and liver and every other goddamned thing it could stick to. So they dissected my pancreas, cauterized it shut, pulled the dead half off my liver, grabbed my spleen, and got the hell out of there. 

I was in the hospital for about a week after surgery and then came home for a long recuperation. I got better and eventually felt almost well, but my pain never completely went away. That led me back to Mayo for more tests and the GI doctor who, unable to find anything wrong, told me to take anti-oxidant vitamins. Luckily my family doctor trusted that I was in a lot of pain- he kept me supplied with pain meds (there were a few times I needed a refill and he was not in the office. Those times invariably led to demoralizing encounters with doctors who, unfamiliar with my situation, assumed I was a drug abuser—one even went so far as to diagnose me as such on my medical record without telling me. When I found out, I complained the clinic manager who told me he was only looking out for my safety. I felt like warning him to look out for his safety but, you know, I don’t do that kind of thing.  My regular doctor un-diagnosed me as soon as he got back from vacation.), always urging me to take as few as possible and to keep looking for more long-term answers. Which leads me to my recent trip back to Mayo, determined not to take “Vitamins” for an answer. That time the GI doctor, still unable to find anything wrong, said, “I bet you have nerve damage from all these surgeries. Maybe you should go to the pain clinic. They can give you a shot and numb your abdominal wall. If that helps, we’ll know that was the problem.”  Fucking doctors. 

Guess what? Yesterday I had the shot-- which was cortisone and something else I don’t remember.  It will take a couple days to know if that worked. But because the doctor hit something acutely painful with the needle I’m guessing that pain will numb when the medicine begins working. Also, because my pancreas looks perfectly healthy, the doctor lifted the ban on alcohol that had been imposed on me since 2006!

So it turns out that the past year and a half or so I probably could’ve been pain free. But then I wouldn’t have had those painkillers. And I suppose my blog would have been less funny. We’ll see.


My big surgery lasted about 10 hours and my lovely wife spent most of that time sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the corner of what would eventually be my room.  She didn’t want to be away if I needed her. When the nurses finally wheeled me to the room after surgery she met us outside the door. Stacy and I were alone in the hallway for a moment while the nurses went in to ready the bed. I was in so much pain, I literally could barely see. I can’t imagine how hard something like that must be to go through alone because the sight of Stacy standing there, in charge (I could see in her body language that she already knew my nurses names and shifts and my doctor’s plan for treating my pain.) comforted me greatly. She probably asked how I was, etc, but as I remember it the first thing she said, as excitement spread across her face, was, “The social worker called. We know the sex of the baby.”



I was thrilled and said as much I think. I also remember that the nurses were caught up in the excitement, too.

Eventually Stacy said something like, “Good. Now that you know I can start making calls.”

She had patiently sat on that thrilling news all day because she thought I should be the next to know. Wouldn’t you have been tempted to get on your phone and start telling people, knowing how boring sitting there all day must’ve been?

 I just couldn’t write this without saying something about how lucky I am to have Stacy to help me through it. Nor can I ignore her mom, whose help with our kids and dogs and house has been invaluable.

End of Chapter  (I hope)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


You may recall that my grandpa sent me a letter after Christmas in which he passive-agressively informed me that I was a tremendous let down as a human and a grandchild. I didn't take the bait and get into a pissing match, but rather made it known that I was going to go my own way and spend my time with people who liked me. I hadn't heard from him until yesterday, when a letter from him to my daughter came in the mail. She is four, so I read it (which he knew I would, of course). The letter read: "We would like to pick you up for lunch. We miss you and your baby brother and love you both. Hope to see you at lunch with Grandma and uncles. Please call us."  Again, this was written to a four year-old. But it wasn't was it? It is another passive-agressive attempt to make me feel bad, to give in. What a horrible person I must be, to be withholding my daughter from her great-grandparents! I suppose one could see it that way. Certainly the author of the letter does. There is another possibility though. What if I am acting responsibly, bravely even, and displaying the courage of my convictions-modeling for my daughter that it is not okay to let someone abuse you, I don't give a shit who it is. Anyway, if I seem crabby today, my birthday (it was no accident that the letter, which blatantly excluded any mention of me, came on the Eve of my birthday), there you go.  I think I'm too smart and too emotionally healthy to fall for such passive-aggressive, manipulative hijinks as that letter. But sometimes I do get sick of pretending I'm fine, I'm happy, I'm unfazed. Bullshit of this sort pisses me off. Wouldn't it be nice if miserable wretches would just crawl into a hole and let the rest of us live our fucking lives in peace?