Cruelty and Social Media

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A Facebook acquaintance I’ll call Joe posted a video a couple of days ago of an extremely obese woman on an electric scooter trying to get through a sliding door at some retail outlet. She had difficulty because her body was wider than the opening. Joe and his friends thought it was not only acceptable but very amusing to say vile things about the woman, calling her, among other things, a whale.
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Memorial Day Musing

The entire weekend we’ve all been inundated with advertisements for the barbecues people host and for sales that are going on today. We’ve been told that we shouldn’t run out of beer and that this or that sale will never be repeated. The day has been touted as a celebration of food, booze, and savings. And many of us have been hurt by this happy-go-lucky attitude about the day.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives in service to America. It was intended as a day when the memories of the fallen would be honored. Not just by their families and friends but by the nation. It was meant to be a day of contemplation of the ultimate sacrifice of these brave young people.

 

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My oldest brother joined the Marines and died serving this country. He was 19 years old. The brother closest to him in age was in the Navy at the same time, aboard an ammunition ship. I thank God that he was spared, both for my sake and, especially for my parents’ sake. You see, after my oldest brother died my mother was never quite the same.

She had a nine year old to care for so she didn’t fall apart, at least not completely. Yet, even decades after my brother’s death there were things that cut her deeply. When I was a little girl I had very long hair. One summer my mother took me for a haircut. The style was called a “Pixie cut” and it was quite short. When my mother saw me, shorn of my waist-length hair, she started to cry. It wasn’t the loss of the hair that did it. She told me I looked exactly like my brother. We made a trip to California in the 1980’s and the sight of the Pacific Ocean only reminded her that she last saw her oldest child alive at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Mama was a very intelligent and extremely funny lady. She was a great mother and a very strong woman. Yet there were things that reminded her of my brother and could stop her in her tracks.

And, although he rarely showed it, my daddy also keenly felt the loss of his firstborn child. I remember one morning he and I were sitting on our porch as the sun was just rising. It was so quiet and Daddy seemed unusually solemn. Then he began talking to me about my brother. He told me stories about his child that he’d never shared before. Some I’d heard from Mama but some were anecdotes about incidents that were just between my brother and my father. I recall staring straight ahead, not wanting him to stop talking. It was almost as though he were speaking to himself. I was afraid that any comment I made would interrupt his reverie. It was one of the most intimate moments we shared and yet it was almost as if I weren’t there. The depth of my father’s grief was finally laid bare.

My surviving brothers often told tales of the wild teenage exploits of their big brother. They were amusing and sometimes shocking. After all, my oldest brother had been the epitome of the good son to my parents. The idea that he was also a wildly adventurous boy almost felt at odds with the boy whom my mother described. She’d told me how he went to a local fair with a friend and they met a couple of girls yet, when he won a box of chocolates, he didn’t give them to his accidental date but, instead, brought them home to her. And my brothers told me how he’d sat on the hood of a car speeding down the middle of a freeway that was not yet open. I heard how he would do chores perfectly with a smile and also how he and his friends did things that would have made Mama’s hair stand on end. Between Mama, Daddy, and my brothers I had a complete picture of the young man my brother was and the man he would have become

And so, on this day that people will spend going on picnics and spending at the beach I can only think of all the young people who are no longer with us. Those who never got a chance to grow up, get married and have children of their own, and grow old. I think of the grandchildren that parents all over the country never got to have and the holidays that felt just a little empty. I think of sweethearts that never met. And I think of how so many families will go through the rest of their lives with a hole in the shape of a brave youngster.

And I ask this of all of you; as you enjoy your day, however you may be spending it, to remember the fallen. Remember the sacrifice they made. Remember that you’re enjoying your day because of them.

Thank you.

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Midnight Musings 2

Doctors are sadists. You may think that’s a very broad generalization but I have a lot of experience with doctors. I have a primary care physician, a rheumatologist, a neurologist, a hematology/oncology specialist, a pain specialist, and a pulmonologist. This isn’t counting the doctors who just do tests like the EMG/NCS; a test where the doctor electrocutes you then sticks needles in your body and tells you to flex against them. I know doctors. Sadists.

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In their defense, I have a theory about why they’re all out to get us. In my opinion it starts in the first weeks of high school. The people who end up being doctors are very intelligent but are socially inept. They never date, even once, from the first day of high school through graduation.

They resent their non-existent social life (chemistry club doesn’t count) and so they study relentlessly so they can get into a university that doesn’t have the word “state” anywhere in the name. There they continue to study like crazy. They sit in their dorm rooms, under Star Trek and old New Kids on the Block posters and absorb knowledge like lonely sponges.

This is so they can apply to and be accepted at major medical schools where they continue their brilliant academic careers and remain socially awkward. They then go on to residencies in hospitals like Johns-Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic where they excel as a group. And they still can’t get a date.

Eventually they go into their chosen specialties. I believe these are selected based on how much pain and misery they can inflict on people too sick to fight back. By this time they’ve made secret pacts to marry each other and produce preternaturally intelligent offspring, who will, themselves, go on to become clumsy teenagers with 4.0 G.P.A.’s.

It would probably be in everyone’s best interest to try to help these people, long before they become merciless dispensers of modern medicine, by getting them at least one date in high school. Even the pretense of a normal high school social life would benefit them immensely. And, in turn, would protect the unsuspecting victims of their inhuman career choice.

If you know a peculiar teenager, try to set him or her up with one of these potential serial-torturers. Your best bets are kids on the audio/visual squad or math club. If you can’t find a teen equally as maladroit as the doctors-to-be find a normal teen and convince them to go on a mercy date; Mercy for future patients as much as for the teens who will become our tormentors.  Pay them if you must. The cost of dinner and a movie may prevent untold suffering in the future. We must band together to stop this hoard of brutal medical professionals!

I told you all that to tell you this; upon my diagnosis last Wednesday of pneumonia, my doctor told me to get as much rest as possible. He then gave me a shot of and a prescription for a medication that has “interference with sleep” as a side effect. I’m sure he was thinking of his prom night when he did it.

Midnight Musings

It’s after midnight. I should be asleep, yet here I am, in front of the computer. There is no reason I should be awake. The bedroom was dark and the fan provided just the right cool breeze and soporific drone. The bed was soft and the pillows were perfect. But I couldn’t fall asleep. Everything that’s happened in the last year and a half was tugging at me. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop my mind from careening from one memory to the next. Forgive me if this doesn’t make as much sense as perhaps it should. It’s late and I’m tired but I have to share this.

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By April of 2014 my husband had seen his doctor twice for pain in his neck and ear. He was prescribed antibiotics although there was no indication of infection. They did nothing to alleviate his pain but the doctor simply prescribed a different antibiotic. The pain continued through the spring and summer.

In September the doctor finally ordered a biopsy of a pre-cancerous area of my husband’s throat. It was negative. And the pain continued. Finally, in November, my husband was sent to a head and neck specialist who performed a different procedure. This one found a lesion deep in my husband’s throat. A biopsy was done and, on the day before Thanksgiving 2014, we got the call telling us he had cancer.

The rest of 2014 and well into 2015 was a blur. There were surgeries to implant a feeding tube in his stomach and a subcutaneous port for chemo delivery. He had three rounds of chemotherapy which caused him to be hospitalized for days. The chemo caused his kidneys to fail. He also had to have blood transfusions. He lost a massive amount of weight and he didn’t have much to spare.

There were 35 radiation treatments which burned his neck and throat. I had to treat the burns and change the dressings at home twice every day.

Every two hours I had to crush his medications and put them in water to deliver them through his feeding tube. He could no longer swallow anything so his migraine medication went from a pill to injections I gave him. We had an automatic pump for his feeding and hydration but, quite often, the alarm would go off indicating a problem with either the liquid food or water delivery.

In January, on the coldest days of the winter, when the temperature was a true -15 and the wind chill made it even colder, the furnace failed. Friends rallied and brought us heaters within an hour and our youngest son helped me replace the bad part in the furnace but we were in bone-chilling cold for two days.

The radiation caused thick, viscous mucous to form and my husband was often in danger of choking. I got a suction machine and checked on him even in between medications. By that time he was in a hospital bed in the living room because he had to sleep in a semi-upright position to avoid choking or aspirating the mucous.

Following the end of treatment we realized that the aftereffects would go on for a very, very long time. Finally, in the late spring, he had his feeding tube and chemo port removed. We thought things would start to improve.

Then our youngest son started having pain in his abdomen. On June 12th he went in for what was supposed to be a routine surgery. The surgeon made a mistake and my son developed peritonitis. He ended up having 8 surgeries between June 12th and late August. He had to be rushed, by ambulance, to a hospital an hour away because our little local hospital couldn’t handle his level of need. We nearly lost him three times last summer.

And yet, through it all, we were there for each other. During the time my husband was having his treatments our son and his girlfriend took on grocery shopping in the worst part of winter. Our son frequently drove his dad to radiation, which was five days a week. They took care of our dogs when my husband was in the hospital.

When my son was so very sick I tried to do as much as I could to help. I thank God for his girlfriend who is family. She took on changing the dressings on his many surgical incisions. She stayed with him nearly every night he was hospitalized throughout the summer. She made sure he ate and took his medicines. And, by the end of summer, my husband was a little stronger and we were able to help them more.

I read a lot about families dealing with serious, possibly fatal illnesses. I learned of couples who separated due to the stress. I discovered that many families are torn apart by events like we experienced. Yet we grew closer. We laughed when we could and worked hard to hold each other up. I learned that we loved each other more than I thought possible.

Tonight, when I first began thinking of the last year and a half it made me sad and angry. But as I continued to muse on the trials we faced I realized that, in spite of the emotional and physical pain and fear and in spite of the stress and lack of sleep that could have caused us to tear apart, we faced it all and came out, in the most important ways, ahead.

So, for all my contemplating, I guess I realized that I wasn’t awake because of the bad things but because I kept remembering the good things. And I am so eternally grateful that I have the family I do.

Thank you for letting me ramble. And goodnight.

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