Saturday, April 27, 2013

Early Morning Adventures

Linda slammed the front door, plopped down on the couch and took the skate key from around her neck.  Her face and hands were tingling from the contrasting foggy cold outside and the heated warmth inside.

As she bent over to remove her skates, her mom shouted from the kitchen, “I hope you didn’t come in the house with your skates on!”  Linda tried to hurry in case her mom poked her head around the corner to check, but found her hands were almost too cold to hold the skate key.  Thankfully, her mom didn’t come out to check on her.

As she released the roller skate from her white leather oxford, she noticed with alarm that the rubber sole was beginning to pull away from the well worn leather.  Linda knew there was no chance of getting a new pair of shoes during the summer, so she went into the kitchen to ask, “Where’s the glue, Mom?  My shoe is coming apart.”  Stirring the pot, her mom looked up and said, “I don’t know, Lin.  Maybe there’s some out in the garage.”

Exasperated, Linda threw open the door to the garage and began to rout around in the boxes and general mess that was their garage in search of glue.  Finding none there, she returned to the kitchen and began to dig through the junk drawer.  Ah-ha!  She found an almost-empty tube of glue that seemed to have some life left.  That would have to do, but first she had to call Teri to see if they were going on their early-morning adventure the next day.

These adventures had begun because the summer months between 4th and 5th grades were particularly long and boring in their foggy Bay Area neighborhood.  They wished their families could afford to go on vacations like some of the other families in the neighborhood, returning tanned and filled with exciting stories, but that wasn’t their luck.  Neither girl knew quite how the idea started, but they made a secret pact to go on exciting adventures of their own!  It was time to set up the next one.

Linda walked through the living room to the hallway and grabbed the phone from its cubby.  She sat on the floor and dialed Plaza 6-6872.  Since she and her mom were the only one’s home that late afternoon, she would have privacy while she and Teri plotted their Saturday morning escape.

Teri’s older sister, Andrea, answered the phone. “Hi, Andrea.  It’s Linda.  Can I talk to Teri?”  She heard Andrea clunk down the phone and loudly shout, “Teri, it’s for you!  It’s Linda!”  Teri picked up the phone and said, “Hi, Linda.”  She then whispered, “Wait.  Let me take the phone somewhere private.”

Linda heard the background noise fade as Teri quietly said, “Okay, the coast is clear.  Are we going on an adventure tomorrow morning?’  Linda replied, “Uh-huh!  Let’s go up to where they’re building those new houses, above Southgate.”  Agreeing to the idea, Teri replied, “Okay.  Come to my bedroom window at 6:00am tomorrow and tap on my window.  I’ll sleep in my clothes.  After I climb out the window, I’ll put my shoes on.  Let’s both wear our new hooded sweatshirts!”

Their plan set, both Linda and Teri went to bed early that night knowing they’d be up really early the next morning, earlier than if they had gone to school.  Luckily Linda didn’t have to share her bedroom like Teri did, so she set out her clothes the night before and tried to fall right to sleep.  Sleep was elusive, though, because she was excited about doing something besides roller skating or playing jacks on the porch…  and waving at cement truck drivers who drove up their street to the building site they were planning to visit.

Linda didn’t have an alarm clock other than her early-rising father.  The next morning, when Linda woke to her dad coughing, she quietly got up and began dressing.  She carefully slid open her bedroom window and stepped out onto the back patio.  Not wanting to risk walking past the dining room and kitchen windows to the gate, she climbed over the side fence nearest her room.

Free at last, Linda jubilantly ran down to the next corner where Teri lived.  She quietly opened the gate and walked around the house to Teri’s bedroom window.  She softly tapped on the window.  Nothing.  She tapped again.  Nothing.  With a little more pressure, Linda tapped again.  Finally, Teri opened the window, climbed out, and put on her shoes.  Once that was done, Linda whispered, “Come on!  Let’s go!!”

Thrilled that they were able to leave their houses without detection, the girls animatedly talked about what they might find at the construction site.  They wondered if any of the cement truck drivers they waved at would be there.  They walked quickly up the hill and were soon warm enough to remove their sweatshirts and tied them around their waists.

Soon, the construction site emerged.  There were square dirt mounds arranged in rows.  Lumber was stacked throughout the area.  Some of the dirt squares had cement floors with metal poles sticking up. Some had wooden frames that resembled a house, but looked more like Billy’s backyard fort they weren’t allowed to enter.  It wasn’t very exciting at all—there were no people and it was kind of messy and dusty looking.

After having explored as much as they wanted in search of excitement, they soon realized there was none to be found—and they had better return home.  The walk down the hill wasn’t as exuberant as the walk up.  The most fun part, they realized, was that they escaped their homes without anyone knowing!  They knew they would continue these early morning explorations for the rest of the summer!

As the girls neared Teri’s house, they saw a police car parked out in front.  Teri’s mother was outside talking to the policeman.  They wondered what had happened, if the house had been robbed, or if someone had been hurt.  The girls began to run to the excitement!  Teri shouted, “What happened, Mother?!”  Her mom, obviously very upset, began to cry, shake and yell—all at the same time, “I’ll tell you what happened!  Where WERE you, Theresa?!  Andrea woke me up this morning to tell me you had climbed out your bedroom window to go somewhere with Linda! We have been scared to death that something happened to you two!”

It was then that Linda saw her mom in the huddle with the police.  “Uh-Oh,” she thought.  “I’m in trouble, too!”  When Teri’s mom had learned that Teri “disappeared” with Linda, she called first the police, then Linda’s mother.  Linda knew that her mom really wouldn’t have been that upset about the girls’ outing—she was a pretty mellow mom.  On the other hand, Teri’s mom was very dramatic; something Linda always wished her mom was like, but not on that day.

Both girls were grounded for the next week, so no roller skating, or playing jacks, or waving at cement truck drivers.  Although they couldn’t talk to each other on the phone after the ordeal, they both knew that the saddest part of being caught was that their early morning adventures were over.  They would have to endure the remainder of the foggy, drizzly summer wearing their matching hooded sweatshirts while doing normal, boring things until school started.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sloth in Five Syllables

Sloth in Five Syllables

On Monday morning, I reviewed my calendar to get an idea of what the week ahead looked like.  It was going to be a busy one following a very busy weekend.  There were three evening commitments, an hour-and-a-half dental appointment, a plan for my sick three-year old grandson Liam to sleep over, and a Saturday night reward—a Winter Barn Dance at Tara Firma Farms.
 I’ve had my eye on Tara Firma Farms as a place for a family outing, especially for Liam.  I imagined there would be every kind of farm animal, maybe a tour of how the farm worked, and maybe fresh produce to buy.  I had even purchased a fun skirt and my very first pair of cowboy boots for some two-steppin’.  YEE-HAW!
What was the tightness in my chest?  I hope I’m not getting sick.  No, I have no time to get sick!  I’m not letting myself get sick!
  Thankfully, I have a full-time job working from home, so my plan was to catch up on house stuff during work lulls as the weekend had been too busy.  I also had to color my hair and make a long-overdue haircut appointment.  My fuzzy face was sorely in need of threading.  I’d squeeze it all in, if work wasn’t too demanding.
Oooh, I have chills, and the chest tightness seem to be worsening.  I wonder if I have a fever?
I took my temperature.  It was 101.5! 
Yikes!  I AM getting sick! 
I emailed my doctor; she told me to make an appointment to see her.  I let my managers know I was ill and would not be working.  I cancelled the dental appointment and found people to take care of my commitments.  I let Monica know that I wasn’t up to caring for Liam.  I doubted I’d be well in time for Saturday’s barn dance.
Once I got to Kaiser, there were signs posted everywhere that anyone with flu-like symptoms was required to wear a face mask.  I didn’t think it applied to me. 
The waiting room was moderately filled and I found the most remote chair to isolate myself from their germs, and them from mine.  It wasn’t too long a wait.
The doctor’s diagnosis was influenza.  She prescribed Tamiflu, a new medication that lessens the severity of flu if taken within 48 hours of its onset.
I wonder if I should remind her that the onset of this was on Monday morning?  It’s clearly past the 48 hour window…
The prescription meant standing in line downstairs, for-ev-er!  After a two-hour ordeal to get medical care, I returned home. I undressed and crawled into bed, feeling worse.
Why don’t doctors do house calls anymore?  The last thing a sick person feels like doing is getting dressed and driving somewhere to wait with other sick people.
My symptoms seemed to worsen that week and through the weekend.  My breathing was compromised and I was scared.  I was running a fever throughout.   I emailed my doctor with an update, ending with, “I can’t breathe!”  Again, I didn’t hear back right away, when I did, she said she had ordered a chest x-ray for me.
Oh, goodie!  I’m now required to get up, get dressed, drive out to Kaiser and I can’t breathe!
 Once inside Kaiser, I was handed a pale yellow mask by the Receptionist and I told to put it on.  I felt like I was suffocating and had to lift it up to get cool air into my suffering lungs.  I checked in at Radiology and didn’t have to wait long.  I was home within a half hour.
The doctor emailed me that afternoon; the x-ray had revealed pneumonia in both lungs.  No wonder I can’t breathe!  She ordered antibiotics and a friend graciously offered to drive out to Kaiser to fetch them for me.
Double pneumonia—the sickest I’ve ever been in my life.  My breathing capacity was so compromised that I had to stop and catch my breath when walking from one room to another.  I couldn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t have enough breath, and talking promoted a coughing fit.  I’ve never been frightened by illness, but this scared the hell out of me.
You live alone, Linda.  Don’t bolt the back door at night in case you have to call 9-1-1!  Make sure the paramedics can gain access.
If you’re wondering where the “Sloth in Five Syllables” fits it, here goes.  I was confined to my home for three weeks, no diversions, incapable of any activity.  Held captive, I saw all the particles on the carpet and wished I had vacuumed.  My hair was a bushy mess and was nearing two months since its last cut—why didn’t I make that hair appointment?  If I had taken a mascara wand and brushed it onto my face fuzz, I would have resembled Michael Landon, the “Teenaged Werewolf!” 
This was a lesson that forced me to look at a lifelong character flaw, pro-crast-in-a-tion, “Sloth in Five Syllables.” 
Being so sick made me keenly aware that I am not a 25-year old anymore—I am a 65-year old SENIOR CITIZEN.  I love that I now get into a movie theatre for $6.50 and I have a Medicare card, should I need it.  The fact of the matter is this—I am not resilient.  When I get sick, I now get sicker, and it takes much longer to recuperate.  I have to be mindful to use my aging body carefully. 
My father died at the age of 74.  If I were to die at that same age, I’ve got only nine years of my life left!!  Nine fucking years!!
My hope is that this epiphany doesn’t fade after I get well and again step into living this full life of mine.  Perhaps I should keep this paper handy, as a reminder.