Memorial Day 2013
Time accelerates as you grow older. The years whiz by. Just yesterday, Elizabeth was standing first in line outside her new fifth grade classroom, excited to meet her new teacher, wearing an outfit Leslie picked out for her. That’s changed because fashion, as she states adamantly, is an important part of who she is. She takes up to 45 minutes at night figuring out what to wear the next day. Now, Elizabeth has completed her sophomore year of high school. Sophomore year! And today was the very first day we didn’t have to be anywhere, go anywhere, or do anything. We all slept in and it was heavenly. In fact, just having Elizabeth home with no plans and no stress felt really, really good. It’s as though time slowed down just for this weekend.
The last few months have been hard. Elizabeth’s schedule was off the charts with rehearsals, the high school musical “Grease”, a dance recital, homework, finals, and the pressure and angst that go with it. She found her niche with the Drama Department, and even after the show, the kids are making a strong effort to stay together. A few weeks ago, they went to House of Air in San Francisco, which was a hoot (see video), then spent time at the new Round Table Pizza in town, which is clean and delicious. Saturday night, they were at Mary’s until midnight swimming, re-viewing their performance of “Grease”, and then descending on Ross in onesies. At sixteen, Elizabeth is reluctantly caught between being a child and being a young adult. She expresses her independence in different ways, and now her hair, all of her hair, is a bright, Manic Panic blue. We can easily pick her out of a crowd of 50,000. Still, she and her friends seek out opportunities to be silly. Soon enough, she’ll grow more serious as she paves a path to adulthood.
Leslie’s health is finally improving. What started out as a singular case of cellulitis in her right foot in mid-March, turned into nine weeks of hell made tolerable only by the uncanny way our Boston Bull, Daizy, NEVER left Leslie’s side, and ministered to her literally whenever she got upset. It was really something to see. Leslie spent four days in the hospital, but after the oral antibiotics left her system, the cellulitis rebounded with a vengeance. Elizabeth’s show “Grease”, and her dance recital, for that matter, occurred in the middle of all this. Sitting through a performance was painful as Leslie’s foot swelled like a blowfish. And she had to reschedule the trip she planned to see her sister in Iowa, which was very disappointing.
Two trips to the emergency room and plenty of IV antibiotics later, the cellulitis cleared up in time for the left foot to start in. No lie. At this point, Leslie was extremely frustrated with her lack of mobility, tired of taking so much medication, and getting worried it would never end. Even a trip to the bathroom was difficult.
The left foot turned out to be the gout. It wasn’t a stress fracture from hopping around with cellulitis, and it wasn’t a blood clot. We checked. No, her uric acid levels were super high. It was no doubt the gout. The gout. How horrible does that sound? When I was a kid, the gout was discussed in tones of disgust. Connie talked about it like it was leprosy. “It hurt so bad,” she barked, “I told them to take my leg off!” Leslie’s pain was an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 even though we caught it early. The first round of medication was prednisone (steroids), and it did nothing but hide the symptoms for a short time and make her feel terrible. A week later, two more medications, and daily doses of concentrated cherry juice, and the gout began to recede. The pain, however, seemed to go on forever. The osteoarthritis was extremely irritated by all this, too. What's more, she had to cancel her rescheduled trip to Iowa once again, as if the universe just didn't want her to go there!
Today was the first day Leslie got out her walking sticks and walked tentatively down the street. It was a brief walk, although more than I expected, and it was an effort toward regaining her strength, which she feels intensely motivated to do.
Adjunct to this, and I’m climbing on my soapbox here, all of Leslie’s health issues were either caused by or exacerbated by her weight, which, for the record, isn’t that horrible. She was much, much heavier ten years ago before her total knee replacement in 2002 and has been conscientious ever since. When you’re at a point where moving or exercising is painful, and you’re plagued with muscles that tweak and joints that scream at the end of the day, it’s time to take the situation in hand. Bones aren’t made to carry extra weight, and aging bones will object vehemently. That’s what I had to do, and why I sound like I’m preaching (there’s nothing more annoying than a reformed fat person). Despite still having issues I must work on, at the very least I’m not lugging an extra 120 pounds when I climb the stairs. My thoughts are this: If you’re a large woman, a thick madam, of 50 or thereabouts, and frightened of disability or immobility, don’t be afraid to do something about it. The glitches have been worked out of weight loss surgery, and we’re lucky enough to have a pioneer in the field right here at Mills Peninsula. There’s no reason to remain caged by your body. End of soapbox.
Next week, Leslie goes to see Dr. Wetter, the surgeon who did my weight loss surgery. The appointment can’t come soon enough as far as she’s concerned.
The summer will be a chance to be together as a family and strengthen the bonds stressed by illness and crazy schedules. I knew May was going to be a financial challenge, so we spent a lot of time doing yard sales and chasing bills. It was the month stuck between transitions around income. I’m glad to see May come to a close. Leslie will teach Elizabeth how to drive (another rite of passage that blows my mind). Elizabeth will undoubtedly spend a lot of time with her brand new acoustic guitar which she taught herself how to play. And she’ll do a month long musical theater summer camp in July at Spindrift right here in town. Rehearsals are Monday through Friday from noon to 7 pm. Awesome! Leslie’s focus will be on nailing down the various mandatory tests and appointments prior to her weight loss surgery.
I want to spend the summer transitioning into my new responsibilities at Sanchez Art Center, which I’m excited about, working with Tracey on an art commission (which I’m exceedingly grateful for), and doing lots of art and writing (the inspiration for which is banging in my head). I’ve got an art exhibition happening at Pacifica’s Community Center in July, and there are a few pieces I’d like to complete for that. My fiction manuscript, which I’m more than halfway through, is pulling at me again. If I get into the 50/50 at Sanchez, that means 50 pieces of small art (6x6) over 50 days which will be a challenge and an opportunity to complete my pop-culture tarot deck.
My spiritual mother, Sri Karunamayi or Amma, was in town just as Leslie’s cellulitis was at its worst, so I missed the Bay Area programs. Then, in an unusual scheduling move, she came back a month later, just as Leslie’s gout was at its peak. I was very disappointed even as I knew for certain that my family comes before everything, even my spirituality.
If I’ve learned anything from the last several months, it’s this: There are some things we can change and many things we cannot, but time marches on regardless and whether or not we change what we dislike about ourselves. Change is self-motivated. It can also be frightening. But it beats sitting on the couch because you’re too fatigued to do anything else, waiting for the next time your back goes out. One day you may turn around, 150 pounds heavier than when you were 16, and staring down the barrel at 50 years of age. That's not going to be me.
Having the time to be with my family and to do my art and writing is a blessing. But, of course, it’s balanced by a need for greater financial security. Someday soon, this time will come to an end. I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. I also know without a doubt, that my greatest wish is for Leslie and I to be present and healthy if and when Elizabeth has children. We're taking steps to make that happen.
Soon enough, Elizabeth will be off to college, Leslie will be 150 pounds lighter, and I really will be 50 years old!
Time really does fly.