Friday, April 28, 2017

Boom Boom Ticker

When it comes to health issues, my mother has never taken the simple route. When Rush Medical Center in downtown Chicago called my sister and I to inform us that my mother was ready to check out, we were a little confused. Her condition was stable, but we concurred that she needed a few more days to convalesce and be observed. It was a Saturday afternoon, so traffic from the west suburbs wasn't horrible; my mother was relatively quiet for most of the ride. When we came home, however she immediately complained of abdominal pain and dizziness. When Carafate and a glass of 2% milk didn't do the trick, my sister called 911. She was rushed to the local hospital, and within hours landed right back in the Rush ICU.

As I write this my mother has been in the hospital for 22 days, including her 2 1/2 "layover" at home. She ended up having another heart surgery two days after she was readmitted, and a minor procedure to adjust the brain stent two days after that. After that last procedure, she made it adamantly clear that she wanted no more surgery, even though she wasn't out of the woods just yet. Her doctors believe that one of her aorta stents is leaking and needs an adjustment, and everyone (including myself) believes one more procedure would be necessary. My mother, stubborn to a fault, is reluctant to weigh the option.

So what happens now? On Saturday morning, my sister and I will meet with my mother's team to discuss how to move forward. If my mother continues to refuse, she has about a year to reconsider; otherwise, the aorta leak could potentially kill her. Please stay tuned, and keep my family in your thoughts.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Not as Late, But Still Lamented

Today, David Letterman turned 70. (I know, I know, *only* 70.) This milestone would probably not elicit much merit if not for two things: an extensive, newly released biography written by NYT comedy critic Jason Zinoman, as well as Dave's typically self-deprecating induction of Pearl Jam into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. The former has been years in the making, the latter happened on 48 hours' notice after Neil Young backed out. Both have vaulted the erstwhile late night funnyman back into the spotlight, albeit with some reluctance.
The first time I was ever allowed to stay up to watch a late night talk show was Dave's first CBS show in August 1993. I had just turned nine, and I only knew of Johnny Carson et al. by reputation at the time. Even at the formative age, I found his sardonic wit and no-guff approach refreshing. My father, however insisted on watching Jay Leno most nights; I had my first taste of Leno's Tonight Show a night or two later, and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Once I had my own TV, I didn't hit the hay until after I watched Dave.
If you want a better understanding of how Dave was the late night sui generis, I highly recommend visiting Don Giller's YouTube page. Where Carson and his predecessors hosted a talk show that happened to air after the late news, Letterman reinvented the whole sub-genre of late night comedy. These clips, mostly from the "Late Night" years (1982-1993) are not just of historical value but are still fairly entertaining.
Also, if you want to read my tribute to Dave from three years ago, you can click here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Double Whammy

Two weeks ago, my grandmother died at age 93. I've discussed her in passing, probably because the grandma I knew growing up wasn't the same woman she had been since 2000 or 2001. She battled depression for a fair amount of her adult life, and that segued into dementia in her later years; I watched firsthand her gradual decline from forgetfulness to erratic behavior to childlike daffiness to ambivalent confusion. It would be harsh to say that the time and effort it took to care for her was a burden; in a lot of ways, it was a tag-team obstacle course with a sometimes cooperative opponent. My mother was convinced that in spite of her mental condition Grandma would live to be 100; even before she started having colon and respiratory issues in mid-February, I was skeptical.

On that note, earlier this week my mother had brain surgery. Two days later, the previous procedure apparently ruptured her aortic aneurysm, which forced a second surgery. The procedures were performed at Rush Medical Center downtown; both the neurosurgeon and cardiologist were experts in their particular fields, performing meticulous acts of surgical derring-do that would have been unheard of 25 years ago. Other preexisting medical conditions have turned a two-night visit into a one-week-plus stint in the ICU, but she should be moving into a regular room sooner than later. I'll keep you all posted.

With my grandmother no longer distracting us, and my mother temporarily out of the picture, my sister finally started cleaning out my father's belongings. I frequently referred to him, both alive and dead, as a pack rat. Upon spending an hour in our basement rummaging through his old vacation tote bag and some plastic tubs, it was evident that he was a borderline hoarder. The bright green tote bag revealed years of old ketchup packets, soap bars, and fast food napkins; a fair percentage of the contents included faded receipts from long-ago restaurant visits and more than a few airline tags and tickets. Thank goodness nothing had leaked, since I assumed my mother might want to reuse this cherished luggage.