Friday, April 30, 2010

Baby Girl Turns 50

Impossible! How can this be? I am much too young to be the parent of three women in their 50s, Emily joining her sisters today. Dang! I was just 50 myself a few years ago.

Emily is spending today in Paris, as in "April In... Poor thing. She'll be in Kent next week, as will Polly. They were both home when I was spending time in rehab, so I only saw them once or twice a day. Two things are bringing them back -wanting to help me out and to observe the 40th anniversary of May 4. (Emily was just 10 when that happened and her reflections in her diary that night have made it on NPR. )

So here's to Emily at 50, looking very young.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Go Directly to Go

My European press agent demands that I make it easier for the hordes of eager fans to access the site from which you may easily order my latest book "May: A New England Childhood." Happy to oblige.Here it is:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Book of May

Many years ago, when my parents were getting old, I would take a tape recorder with me when I went to visit them. They had both been born in the 19th century and I wanted to know what their growing up had been like. They had lived into the late 20th century and had experienced many rapid changes over their long lives, from horse and buggy to men landing on the moon. My mother had vivid memories of her childhood and I loved hearing about her large family, both the good and the bad.

After her death, I decided to use the tapes I made as the basis for a picture book. I loved working on it. She had a few pictures from her early days, which I could use for reference, and some great descriptions of the people in her extended family. I also had the chance to visit Holyoke and Springdale, and found the house she had lived in as well the grandmother's house, now stripped of its gingerbread trim. It was the Holyoke library which moved me the most. It had been built in 1904, when Mother was 5 years old and is a magnificent , enormous Greek temple. I had visions of this tiny little blond girl walking up to this grand edifice, where she spent hours with her beloved books.

Last summer, my niece Jill was married to Brian, and I asked her what she would like for a wedding present. "Something about the family," she said. I thought of my book about Mother, and thought I would make a color copy of it for her. In the meantime I had read a lot about people self-publishing their work and decided to look into it. A friend of a friend had tried Authorhouse and had been very pleased with their service. I gave them a call and signed up and here's the result: "May: A New England Childhood."It's in full color and I am very pleased with it. It was all done electronically and until I received my author's copy I had no idea what it would actually look and feel like. It was a thrill to hold it in my hands, and I know my mother would like it.

Warning-Sales pitch ahead. My siblings and my children - and Jill - will all get free copies, since that's part of the deal (10 free copies) but if anyone else wants it - and it is a fine little book - will have to pay $12.99 for it at the above web site. It's listed under "Children's Non-Fiction," but it's more of a memoir of a certain time and place.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Beeb and Me

One of the neat Christmas presents I received this year is an Internet radio. With this little device I can listen to stations all around the world. I can also finally listen to my old favorite, WCLV, a great Cleveland music station which moved over to the far west side some years back and disappeared from the radios of those of us east of Cleveland. This is the station which carries the Met, so we also lost the opera broadcasts. Well, it's back now, thanks to this clever little radio.

But wait, there's more: I can also get BBC4, of the most fascinating radio stations ever. It's like having old time radio back -comedy, drama, esoteric quiz shows, lots of news about nature, witty discussions about obscure topics, serious discussions about literature and history and politics. I have become hooked. I never know what sort of things I am going to learn about. For instance, this morning there was a discussion about Greek tragedy and current soap operas. It was called "Oedipus Enders," using the long running soap "East Enders" as an example. Our PBS channel quit carrying it some years ago, leaving us bereft of the adventures of the denizens of the Old Vic pub. One of the writers talked of how they had borrowed from the great Greek dramatists for their story lines, most of which revolve around family issues, which the Greeks covered with "Oedipus, "Electra," and Phaedra." The Eastenders just do it in Cockney.

Yesterday there was a reunion of the cast of that great 13 part series "Brideshead Revisited," from the early 80s. It was fun listening to Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews and Clare Bloom talk about the two years they spent at Castle Howard in York making the film. The castle became a cast member on its own. I had a chance to visit there a few years ago and they have one area totally dedicated to "Brideshead Revisited." There's still a Howard living there, and he was on the program, too. He is quite proud of the role his home played in a historic TV program. I think it also increased the tourism and made him a few bucks. I know "Brideshead" is on VHS and may be on DVD by now. It's worth seeing, all 13 hours of it.

There are many nature and gardening programs, since the British are great lovers of the land and treasure every little plot and everything on it. The other morning, I heard about the plight of a group of hedgehogs. I missed the very beginning, but for some reason there were about 15 hedgehogs which ended up in a shelter and were unable to hibernate because it was too warm. Consequently they did nothing but eat. As a result they were too fat to be returned to their natural habitat. Why? Because they were unable to roll up into their protective little balls. They are now on a diet and will be let go when they can once again become their roly poly selves. Mrs. Tiggywinkle goes on "The Biggest Loser." I don't think this would have made in on a news show anywhere but the U.K.

I must mention another Christmas gift which has helped me enormously through this broken hip thing and that's the IPodNano which Sally gave me. She loaded it up with about 8 hours of great music which kept me from going completely nuts when I was in rehab. From James Taylor to "Rigoletto", I just zoned out and relaxed. It's an amazing little object to have, even if you don't have a broken hip. High tech can be a very good thing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Falling at the Fish Fry

Three years ago, after increasing hip pain on my right side, I procured the services of a devastatingly handsome orthopedic surgeon with the soft brown eyes of a seal pup. He did a nifty hip replacement and everything went swimmingly. Two days after surgery I moved into The Woodlands, a nursing home re-hab center right by the hospital. The food was vile, but the rehab services were outstanding. I left there in two weeks, needing only a cane for getting around. Since friends and family had brought me food, I was well and healthy.

On March 12, after polishing off a meal at a Lenten fish fry down in the little town of St. Joseph, I managed to trip on something on my way out and fell like a redwood tree onto the hardwood floor, right on my left, or then unrestored, hip. Since I was in the basement of a Catholic school, words I longed to shout froze on my twisted lips. I have never experienced that kind of pain. 911 was summoned and I was borne out of the place by a group of EMTs and taken to the hospital over rough roads (it having been a tough winter here in Northeastern Ohio.) There it was determined that I had a broken hip (duh!) and I was drugged for a while.

It so happened that all of my children were here in Kent for various reasons, so they were all able to be with me. I had surgery from an equally good, but not so handsome, orthopedic surgeon whom I had my brother vet for me. He did a superb job with a partial hip replacement. Being on morphine for a good part of the time, I think I had a few visitors and actually chatted with them. Who were those people?

After two days I was trucked over to the Woodlands, where a couple of the ladies from my last time there greeted me at the front door, which I thought was a nice touch. I lucked out again and got a nice private room. I settled in, prepared for therapy and healing. The food was, once again vile, perhaps even viler. For some reason I was in a constant state of nausea and couldn't have eaten anything anyway. My family kept asking me if I would like them to bring food, friends offered goodies, but nothing appealed. I didn't find out until the day before I left that Vicodan was causing my nausea, but it was too late by that time.

The people who work there were mystified that I didn't want that lovely bright pink pie, or that great glob of macaroni with some sort of brown stuff on the side. There was one dish actually called "cheese poo." Becky, who looks like a photo by Dorothea Lange, assured me that it was quite delicious. The decor in the public rooms - the lobby and lounges - leaned to Emmett Kelly figurines and fancily dressed dolls.

The therapy was slow to start and really inadequate. At first I did get around well with the walker, - trips to the bathroom became my most strenuous exercise. The PTs were not spending much time on my hip stuff, as they had the last time. They kept giving me hand weights and telling me to do reps while they spent a lot of time with comatose patients and very little with those of us who were hoping to leave eventually. They were very different from the last time - a whole new organization. When they weren't holding mirrors up to the mouths of the comatose, they were discussing their lunch plans. I passed my feelings about this to some imp0rtant person and two days before I left, they started doing what they should have been doing. Unfortunately, by this time the nausea and not eating had made me pretty weak, but I did climb a flight of stairs twice.

When I got home, I diagnosed myself as dehydrated. The visiting nurse didn't' like the look of things and faxed my doctor, who saw me that afternoon and sent me back to the real hospital where I was hydrated for two days until I was as good as new.

All this time, my hip was doing fine, healing on its own with very little pain. While I was being hydrated, I had a room mate who was on about 25 different drugs and introduced herself to me by saying, "I have Stage IV cancer but I'm blessed." She then listed all the other conditions she had, but was blessed all the same. There were a few dubious items on her list of conditions, and she left the same day I did.

One thing about having a hip surgery is that it does slow one down. I have learned to do preemptive peeing, since it is not always easy to rush to the bathroom, especially with a walker. If I happen to walk by the bathroom, I just go in and have a seat. Saves on laundry. I have lost all dignity anyway. A woman comes by twice a week to give me a shower. She is a very large woman and she and the walker were rather a tight fit in my small bathroom. A PT lady comes and makes me do exercises and walk around and around the house (inside, of course), and a nurse comes to check my blood pressure twice a week. All this is courtesy of Medicare, that evil government health care system that interferes with my right to go broke paying for these services on my own. I am now using a cane and feeling very vulnerable - only my two feet and it to hold me up.

I have been the beneficiary of such kindness from family and friends that I will be thanking people for months to come. My two daughters who were here and cleaned the heck out of house when I was in the rehab place are coming back to help some more. My son and Kent daughter have been with me all along. John has done just about everything one could do, including cooking Easter dinner, laundry, tidying up the place, etc. Cynthia has been on hand, too. Sally took me to a store to buy a few necessities and I had the scary experience of riding in one of these courtesy carts. Not so easy as it looks, friends.

It's been a wretched experience, but I have survived. The handsome dude who did my first hip told me that eventually I would have to have the other one done. I guess I took care of that.