Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This is Why...

...I can work sporadically but not steadily in a 5 day a week job.
Justin says maybe it's because of my medications, or being hungry, or dehydrated that I feel dizzy suddenly. Given that I have now taken all of the required medications, eaten dinner and drank yet another pint of water and still feel spinney, I'm thinking having an almost doctor husband isn't that useful sometimes. I can do freelance work though--I could make it through one project in this condition, but a never-ending string of days doesn't seem to be an option anymore. And so, pretty useful to have an actual doctor husband... one of these days.

...we have to wait until March 20 to take any next steps in planning our lives.
Knowing what state, county and city we're going to be living in will make it feasible to plan for getting a puppy, moving into a different place where we can have a puppy, and finding freelance work anytime after June 1.

...we must defeat McCain and bring our troops home, instead of having a 100 year war in Iraq (thank God he can't possibly live that long! leave alone remain in politics...).
OK. I have to say that I am glad that the frightening fundamentalist Mormon and Baptist men are no longer contenders for becoming the President of our country. Their presence in the White House would have been nightmarish for so many reasons. Again, the main reason fundamentalists scare me is the tendency for fundamentalists to take quotations or ideas out of context and try to use them to support their cause in the name of a higher power.

Unfortunately, McCain has this perverse "electablity" about him. If Hillary and Obama are both running more to the left than, oh, say, the more centrist Bill Clinton, then those Democrats off toward the right might fall prey to McCain. Of course, all of the Republican candidates brought that one thing every President has had in common since George Washington: they're white men. It's sickening to think about how many votes are lost to people who simply cannot fathom voting for a woman or a person of color. Sure, those voters aren't intelligent, but their retarded (and I use that word advisedly) vote counts the same as a thoughtful vote.

...the Democratic Party needs to actually believe in the audacity of hope and act as a unified team instead of a fractured family. After all, what kind of hope is not audaciously based in faith?
Senator Clinton is giving a speech about winning Ohio now, even though all the votes aren't counted yet. She's speaking on 6% reporting in Cleveland and a few news stations calling the race in her favor. I wonder if one of those was FOX... fair and balanced, you know. I am just really not into taking risks with jinxing the future.

Senator Obama still holds more delegates that Clinton, so really it is any body's game.

My biggest fear is that these two will make asses of themselves and the party in their frenzied race to the nomination. I do love watching democracy in action, and I am happy that so many citizens are getting the chance to vote and that more than just the first states will have their votes count. Obama is definitely running the cleaner campaign with dignity and accuracy, but as the commentators are saying, Hillary Clinton's attacks seem to be working, and thus her (premature?) victory speech in Ohio. I think it would be a mistake for Obama to adopt her embarrassing strategy, and as the NPR commentator said, it just matters that "the party doesn't tear it self apart in the next couple of months."

...I prayed for Elsa all morning.
Yesterday after my annual exam I had to wait in the pharmacy at the Naval Medical Center of San Diego. I hate the pharmacy there; it is a serious commitment of time (usually more than one hour) and I have to sit among about 100 sick people and their friends or family. Friends and family involve screaming kids, swearing friends, almost all not so overtly supportive of LGBT rights, getting out of Iraq or hating President Bush. Plus there's the germs. Unless I am really sick, I try to sit just on the edge of the seat and not touch anything, hopefully near the automatic sliding door so I can get some fresher air.

When I got to the front of the line to turn in my prescription I asked how long it would be, and if I had time to go get my blood drawn because I had to do it fasting and it was already 11:30 a.m. without even a mocha. The lady said go for it, so I did. I also made a dash for the dermatologist to make an appointment there--giving everyone their fair share to take a part of my body to biopsy it. Back at the pharmacy the lady said my medicine was ready and that someone would call me "after they were done." I didn't really know what they had to be done with, but I figured I'd wait.

Then, with my newly super-forgetful brain, I sat down and waited and waited and waited.

Near the door.

A mom who looked about my age came in with her 7 or 8 year-old daughter and they stood next to me. The woman was holding her dependent ID card (without which none of us exist in the military) and her cell phone and her body, arms wrapped around her thin self while she sobbed as still and silent as possible. I watched for a moment, knowing what that fear and grief at the hospital felt like and being able to pull it together. I opened my purse and held my little to-go Kleenex packet out to her. She tried to take just one, but I quietly waved that she could just keep it. She couldn't risk speaking to say thank you aloud, but she did thank me.

Every now and then she reached out and stroked down her daughter's hair. The girl stood there, seeming pretty calm and brave and also peacefully entertained with her Beanie Baby tiger.

When the mom's cell phone rang she'd had the girl the card, step outside and come back in looking even more distressed.

By the third time she did that, I had begun pacing around in it's-been-a-full-hour mode. I finally just said to the girl, "You're being very brave."

We chatted and she said she was having surgery (my God! even braver!) tomorrow (today) and that at Children's Hospital they let her pick a stuffed animal because she forgot to bring one to comfort herself. So we talked about how the tiger would protect her, and what she should name it, and she showed me it's given name on it's tag. When her mom came in I said hello and that we'd been talking about our hospital stays and how they weren't that bad, and the jello and pudding was OK, but the rest of the food wasn't good. In fact, Elsa had told me her mom brought her soup because that was pretty much all she could eat.

Her mom, who had a Navy key chain that told me which part of our Armed Services family she came from, asked Elsa if she had told me what kind of surgery she was having. She said no--and it's too invasive of a question for me to ask. Her fourth-grade daughter is having heart surgery.

She has an aneurysm in her heart.

One of the arteries in her heart is swelling and could burst.


Elsa told me it wasn't her first heart surgery. She told me that her Uncle Jerry stayed one of the nights at the hospital with her, and met her nurse Kelly, then they liked each other and started dating and got engaged and married. She got to be the flower girl. I told her she obviously had a super strong heart with the power to bring love together like that. Plus, she said that her dad said she was special because the Captain of the ship let her sit in his chair and he never let's anyone sit in his chair.

I told her she had super powers.

She asked me if I knew any "annoying girls" that she could "hook up" with one of her other uncles. Her mom and I exchanged looks and smiling laughter as we deciphered what kind of girl she really wanted for him. Someone fun loving who doesn't mind being picked on for a joke... basically someone who can put up with him.

Somewhere in there it came out that her dad had shipped off on Saturday. "Terrible timing!" I said to her mom.

"Yeah, it couldn't be worse. They kept saying at Children's, 'well, can't he delay it? Can we write a note? Sometimes that works. We've done it before,' but I told them it's the Navy. You can't just write them a note. They're pretty intent on getting him to Afghanistan..."

I had one of my San Diego calendars with me because I was going to market it at the shop. I showed the pictures to Elsa and asked her if she wanted to keep it. She could keep track of the things she did while her dad was gone. Both her mom and I encouraged her to do a count up because we know his return in October is tenuous, "Look! There's seals on the month he's supposed to come home."

Elsa didn't have a calendar, but her mom did. I told her she seemed like she was a big enough girl to have her own calendar. She smiled. She's one of those girls who smiles and her eyes look happy too.

"I tried to keep a diary once when he was gone, but it didn't work out because I couldn't keep up with it with all my homework and all."

"Well, this might be easier, the squares are pretty small. You can just write the basics so you can remember what to tell him about when he gets back. Like, 'Suzy was mean at recess.' I don't know if you know anyone named Suzy, but you know..."

She looked pretty hopeful and her mom was even smiling. They finally got called up to get their medicines and then jet to her dental appointment in Riverside before coming back to San Diego at the crack of dawn today.

I went up to the man calling the names because sometimes he had that look I know so well, when someone sees my name printed but is afraid to say it.

"I think my medicine might be ready, but sometimes people have trouble saying my name so may be I missed it? That lady over there said it was ready, but that I had to wait for something to get done."

He got the bag and told me it had been waiting since 15 minutes after I dropped off my prescription. He seemed annoyed.

I had spent more than one hour in a place full of germs when I could have gone home if there had been clearer communication with the hospital workers.

I didn't mind though. It was a blessing to meet Elsa and share Kleenex and a calendar and giggles. Elsa made me braver by association. If a little girl about to have major heart surgery can smile and play with a tiger and plan the love lives of her uncles, I can smile too.

So today, while I was portrait modeling in the same position for 3 hours in 20 minute increments whenever my mind started to wander I brought it back to, "Pray for Elsa."

I wish I could find a way to contact her and her family again, but this experience is a lesson in helping only as much as is realistic. Elsa and her mom have a support team, I was just a pleasant distraction in an hour when they needed to be held up a little. That's what I had to give. To strangers. It's a transient relationship, and that's healthy and normal.

Elsa has her grandparents to take care of the rest of the girls (three other sisters?) while she's in the hospital, and she "asks her grandpa for five bucks" sometimes and she "buys gum" with it.

"Five dollars worth of gum!?!?!"

"And other stuff too."

Her mom interjected--"Junk food. Stuff I don't let them have at home."

"I always get something that's $2.99 or $3.99."

"Oh! So you have enough because of the sales tax, right?"


So I pray for Elsa and her straight light brown hair and green-gray eyes ("Irish, because my grandpa says we are") that show all her emotions as they dash around her big strong heart. And Elsa's mom, whom I wish didn't have to be so brave... who holds it altogether even when it seems impossible and shouldn't have to be so scared.

I pray for Elsa because she helped me be strong.

I get to go to The Breast Health Center again. "It's a 40 minute procedure," the receptionist said. I wonder if it will be a CT Scan again, or if we can just skip to the needle biopsy. That wasn't so bad, but the lumpectomy recovery sucked... I could hardly raise a glass of water and my mom had to come down here and take care of me because the Vicodin was so necessary and made me so useless. Plus there was that inability to move much. But all the doctors admire the scar, "you can hardly see it!" Yippee skippy.

My cousin had biopsies for years and it was nothing, then one year it was some rare form of breast cancer.

So prayers for Elsa and the super powers she so happily uses on her corner of the world that I was lucky enough to enter one afternoon at the pharmacy when I didn't even have to be there.

1 comment:

Karla said...

Thanks for sharing the story about Elsa. God definitely put you there yesterday to help her and her mom while they waited.