About three years ago my sister-in-law, Tammy, underwent a double lung transplant at a hospital in San Francisco. She suffered from IPF, or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes the lungs to become much like a dried sponge, making it all but impossible to breathe. The transplant was her only hope.
The operation went well, but over the course of the next couple of years there were setbacks from organ rejection and a throat cancer that had been lying dormant prior to the surgery, which then went into overdrive as a result of the immunosuppressive drugs taking the “brakes” off its growth.
My brother-in-law, Steve, was with her every step of the way through all of this and deserves sainthood for his devotion. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past year, although the hospital was not the place where they thought they’d be doing it when they envisioned that landmark.
Time ran out for Tammy on August 12, and she quietly and peacefully passed away. Steve had emailed the family and their many friends the sad news, but he also said that he’d received a “sign” from Tammy the evening of her passing which he hesitated to relate because some folks might think he’d really “lost” it. So he asked that those who wanted to hear the story should email him. Here is what he sent. Enjoy.
“OK, here’s the deal. I know I said I would only send the Tammy “sign” story to those who wanted it. Many of you said you did and I wrote your names down on a yellow sheet of paper. If anyone can tell me where that paper is now, I would much appreciate it, because I can’t find it anywhere. So I’m sending it to everyone on Tammy’s lists. If you don’t want to hear about Tammy’s “sign”, then please close your eyes until it’s over.***************As we spent our last days at the hospital, multiple people including doctors and nurses told me that I would most likely get a sign from her when the time came. They had heard of it many times and because we seemed to be so close it would probably happen for me. I asked what the sign would be and all said “it depends”. “She will pick it and you will know.” So of course I started to ponder what it might be. About two weeks earlier I had gone out the front door in the morning and noticed our front porch light was on. It’s not supposed to be on during the day because it’s controlled by a sunlight sensitive base. I just looked at it and said “I’ll have to fix you later”. On the way to the hospital it occurred to me that maybe it was serving as a “light in the window” hoping she could make it home again. Anyway it stayed on night and day for several weeks.**************At about 6:15pm on the day Tammy died, I had just finished sending the emails to you folks and I walked back down the hall. I went to the dining room window and it looked like the porch light was off. So I went out on the porch and sure enough it was off. As I watched, it blinked three times and then stopped. I waited a bit and then said “Thank you, Honey, I guess you’re OK”. It blinked one more time and then stayed off. I looked out again after it was dark and the light was back on. P.S. I had not been drinking – yet.**************As of today the light is still on. As I reflected on what had happened, I remembered our taking kids home from our house over the years. Whether it was a Baby-Sitter, Boy/Girl Scout, Job’s Daughter, School Band Member or Dungeons and Dragons player, we would always ask them to blink their porch light three times if they were in OK and everything looked safe. Then we knew it was OK to move on. So I guess she’s in and she’s safe and I’m going to have to figure out how to move on. By the way, after the front porch light blinked, I looked up and saw that the bright sun was shining behind the tree in our front yard and the tree was waving in the breeze. That could scientifically explain why the light blinked, but why just then and what drew me to see it? That part I have to leave to your beliefs.************You can open your eyes now. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
I guess I come from a long line of “fallers.”
As you know, my mother has fallen several times since the one that landed her in the nursing/rehab facility in October. The last time was in the dining room of The Hotel (retirement center) where she’s living now.
In that fall, she went over backward and conked her noggin on a table or chair on her way down. Amazingly, nothing bad resulted from that except a goose egg on the back of her head. The bump disappeared after a couple of days.
Now, my daughter has carried on our tradition by falling headfirst down the steep flight of stairs in her home.
(I had promised her in the past that I wouldn’t blog about any personal stuff of hers, so I’m just keeping to the bare facts here as they relate to our family propensity for not maintaining verticality.)
She and her husband had recently sold their home in town so they could move out to a place in the country on two acres. The buyer wanted a short escrow, so they had been working like maniacs getting the water, electric and septic connections hooked up, all the while packing their stuff for the move.
Needless to say, they were pretty exhausted.
And when that happens, my daughter has a tendency to sleep-walk.
Or, in her case, sleep-fall. Down the stairs of their two-story home.
At 2:00 am my son-in-law phoned to tell me she’d gotten up from bed (while still asleep) and taken a header down the stairs. She was pretty banged up, with a cut upper lip (thankfully no broken teeth) and painful bruises on her chest and scrapes on her legs.
I drove into town as fast as I could and stayed at their house with the grandkids until around 4:00 when they got back from the ER. She had a mild concussion and contusions, but nothing broken. Whew.
In an effort at full disclosure here, I will repost my own episode of falling down some stairs that I posted on this blog a couple of years ago.
It didn’t involve sleep-walking, but it did center around Birkenstock clogs, rain, two little dogs who needed to pee, and a husband who’d warned me that Birkenstocks were the work of the Devil.
A message from humorist Andy Borowitz:
May I be serious for a minute?
Thanksgiving is a weird time for some people. If you’re going through hard times, you might not feel that you have much to be thankful for.
Three years ago I had an experience I can only describe as nightmarish. But when it was over, I was thankful to be alive, and I still feel that way every day. I’m sharing my story with you this Thanksgiving week in the hopes that it might lift your spirits if they need lifting.
Warning: the story contains “strong language,” as they say on NPR. But there are laughs, too, and an ending that I hope will make you feel good. If you know of anyone out there who needs some cheering up, please share the story with them.
And have a Happy Thanksgiving. As always, I’m thankful to have you as a reader.
Conversation between my husband and me today about the gym at the Wellness Center where I’ve been working out—
He: “It’s nice that it’s not like a lot of the other fitness places. You don’t have a bunch of people standing around waiting for you to finish up with equipment.”
Me: “Yeah, that is nice. It’s mainly old folks like us.
[Names a few names of acquaintances.]
When I go, there’s probably nobody under the age of 60. No one making moves on anyone or trying to impress.”
He: “Not exactly the singles scene, is it?”
Me: “No. More like the shingles scene.”
Ba-da-bum, ching! Thank you ladies and germs! I’ll be here all week!
Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article I found at MSNBC.com on the perils of ED drugs like Viagra and Cialis, written by Judith Newman of Prevention magazine.
She explores these drugs from the viewpoint of women on the…er…”receiving” end of their benefits.
(I always knew those bathtubs were the Devil’s playground!)
The problem can be especially daunting for older women who are widowed or divorced or just beginning to date after years of being alone or with one man. Certainly this was the case for Marjorie P., a 60-something woman who complained about the drugs on a 50+ Web site:
“Men have been saved from their middle-age sexual issues by Viagra and Cialis. They can be thirty again, while I have to deal with the sexual issues of being my age. It’s put the world on ’tilt.'”
Andrea D., a twice-divorced physician from Santa Monica, CA, and an over-50 dater, put it more bluntly. “Viagra has been liberating for men, but unless a woman is taking hormone therapy, she may have vaginal dryness and really not be that interested in the kind of driving, pounding intercourse he’s now capable of.”
There is also fallout from the erroneous belief that Viagra causes not just greater blood flow but also greater desire. The hormone testosterone is the driving force behind libido; a man with little or no testosterone will not have any desire to have sex, Viagra or no.
Moreover, even with normal amounts of testosterone, “Viagra does not just instantly give a man an erection,” says Abraham Morgentaler, MD, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Viagra Myth.
“You have to be in a sexual situation, you need to have desire and intent, in order for the drug to work.”
Dr. Morgentaler tells the story of a patient who was very upset because Viagra didn’t do the trick for him.
“He said, ‘Doc, I followed your directions exactly. I took the pill an hour in advance. Then I watched a baseball game on TV and waited.’ The man’s wife was in the other room, waiting too; neither of them realized that the drug would be effective only if they were together, doing what couples do.”
Adds Andrea, whose own Viagra dating experiences and the experiences of similarly aged friends have ranged from excellent to Emergency Care Needed:
“You have to be crystal clear about what works for you and what doesn’t. Because even with someone you really, really adore … sometimes you just want to get back to reading your book!”
Your thoughts, ladies? (And gents.)
My husband and I went to a school function this morning for our granddaughter who’s in first grade. She and her brother attend a small private school, one which has a fantastic curriculum with a particular emphasis on reading and the arts. (Some of the kids’ paintings would put many adult would-be artists to shame—myself included.)
Today’s special program was a puppet show presented by the first graders. It was an adaptation of the story “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Each child in the class had a role and created his or her own puppet to go with it. Our granddaughter, S., was chosen by the teacher as one of the two narrators of the story. Her best friend, C.K., was the other one.
Wow, can these kids read! They stood up to the microphone and did an excellent job—even when the microphone started blaring feedback shortly after S. started. Luckily, that was corrected and S. continued with her narration, completely unfazed by the air raid siren volume of racket that so rudely interrupted her. I was exceedingly proud of her. I told her teacher that only a couple of years ago S. was a shy little flower who didn’t want anyone to look at her and got very upset if she thought anyone might be laughing at her.
Today, she was Ethel Merman on Broadway. Way to go!
The puppet show was scheduled for 11:00 am and since we live about eleven miles outside of town we calculated that we should leave home about 10:20 to give us enough time to get to the school before the show started. (I hate to be one of those people who comes straggling in after something has already begun. Maybe it’s because everyone turns around and looks at you—gee, I wonder where S. got her phobia about not wanting to be looked at? Hmmm…..)
It turns out we left home a little early, about 10:15, so we arrived at the school just a bit after 10:30—way too soon because the kids were out on the playground and there weren’t many other cars in the vicinity that looked like they belonged to fellow puppet show attendees. We sat there for a minute and then decided we’d go to the post office and pick up our mail first and then come back.
My husband asked “Why is it old people are always early to everything and young people are always late?”
I just looked at him and replied “It’s because young people have a life.”
But, if we did have a life, we might have been too busy to see Ethel…er…S. in her big performance.
I much prefer it this way. Here’s to the Early Birds.