Humor in the dark
It never goes as smoothly as you expect, especially as your parents age.
It began as a cardiac ablation for my 80-year-old mom, a procedure we hoped would be a two-day hospital stay before returning home. The surgeon entered through three holes: one in each leg around the groin area and a third in the neck. He blasted heart imperfections with cold, and the hope was to eliminate the bumps that caused Mom’s atrial fibrillation.
On that score, the procedure worked flawlessly. Mom’s erratic beat had bopped around from 108 to 180 sitting still just before the procedure; by the time she was moved to the hospital room, it held at a steady 71 beats per minute.
The first day in the hospital, all went well, although Mom complained of some heart pain and soreness in her throat. Scans turned up nothing, but still Mom complained. The next day, she complained even more bitterly about the soreness and had trouble breathing.
Throughout the day, Mom had become fatalistic, which we attributed to the fact that she hates hospitals and has had almost no serious medical problems in her 80 years.
"This is it. I’m going home."
"I’m going to die."
"Are all of you here? This is it."
She was certain she was going to see my dad now. It reminded me a bit of Redd Foxx in Sanford and Son, clutching his chest, screaming about the “big one.” We tried our best to calm her down, but her anxiety kept escalating.
Some tests revealed a buildup of fluid around the lungs, and her belly was beginning to bloat, leading doctors to suspect there might be some post-surgical bleeding. They decided to move her to the critical care unit.
As they moved her bed into the CCU room, she became more agitated and continued with the apocalyptic speech. She was moaning loudly and talked about seeing Dad again.
One of the nurses thought the bright fluorescent lights might be overstimulating Mom and decided to flick them off.
"Oh!" Mom screamed as soon as the lights went off. "It’s all dark! It’s all dark!"
For a brief moment, all of us in that bleak room chuckled at the misinterpretation. We had to tell Mom that she was still with us, that the end had not come, that maybe, soon, all would be better.
Here we are, four days since the procedure. Mom is on a ventilator to give her lungs some help until the fluid subsides, and it’s likely she’ll remain on the machine for another two days. She is sedated to keep her calm, and her vitals look pretty good, except for her blood pressure — which is low due to the sedatives and painkillers. The bleeding has stopped, and she is getting some much-needed rest.
Today, they’re inserting a real-time blood-pressure monitor to keep a closer eye on her. Even after the ventilator is removed, she’ll have another few days in the CCU, and then it’s likely to be a long road to recovery. But the doctors are hopeful we’ve been through the worst.
All I keep thinking about is that moment weeks from now, when Mom is off the machines, back at home, independent once again, and we are sitting around the table, sharing a drink and a laugh about the time she mistook darkness for the end of the world.
The karma of buying lunch
My daughter’s job gives only half an hour for lunch breaks, so if she doesn’t brown-bag it, it’s a zip-zip affair to the nearby McDonald’s or Wendy’s for sustenance.
Yesterday, she headed over to McDonald’s for a salad, and while waiting in the lunchtime drive-thru line, the driver in front of her caught her gaze in his mirror. He held up his hand, a friendly stranger wave without commitment. My daughter smiled back, one of those gentle, meaningless exchanges we all experience throughout the day.
As he drove off and she pulled up to the window, she grabbed her purse to pay for lunch.
"Oh, you don’t have to pay," the cashier told her. "The guy in front of you paid for your lunch and said to tell you, ‘God bless.’ "
Made her day. Made my day. Hope it makes your day.
I am ignipotent
COMEDY TIP: Use funny words like “galoshes” and “kazoo” and “soufflé” and “integrity”.— dan guterman (@danguterman)
I saw this tweet from @danguterman today talking about comedic language, and my mind immediately flashed to a late-night chat session years ago with my dad.
I owe my appreciation for language to my dad, who, despite his banking career, was an artist at heart. Though he focused on music, he also read voraciously and had a stunning vocabulary. He loved puns and would often create impromptu word games at the dinner table when we were kids.
On this particular evening, he was showing off his Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which still was a weighty two volumes. It was more user-friendly than the full Oxford Dictionary, which he’d had for as I long as I could remember. It was a bit unwieldy in a pinch, though; it crammed four pages in 1-point type onto a single page and required use of a magnifying glass.
So after a few beers, we started opening the dictionary to find unusual words. In one sense, it became a game of “stump Dad,” as he often knew the words I read or could figure them out from their etymology.
One of the random flips led to the word “ignipotent,” a term unfamiliar to him.
ignipotent adj. Presiding over fire.
We both burst out laughing and began to fashion scenarios for when that word might come in handy. We envisioned creating an apron with the phrase “I am ignipotent!” for those grill-inspired afternoons. By the end, we were both in tears.
Since that night, the word has remained etched in my vocabulary. When situations call for comedic words, it is at the ready.
I responded to Dan:
@danguterman Ignipotent.— OblongRobber (@OblongRobber)