Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

I’m wearing my first-ever pair of bifocals now. Well, not right this minute. I’m nearsighted, so I don’t need corrective lenses to see a computer screen that’s right in front of my face. There are times, though, when I have to look at someone else’s computer screen and it gets weird because to get close enough to read it, I have to invade their personal space. Some people don’t mind so much, but some people do.

There are also times when I’d like to be able to read the various dials and readouts on the dashboard of my car. Some readouts I can look at and know what they’re telling me without actually reading them; the speedometer, for instance. I know when it’s pointing at “60” instead of “50.” But sometimes I want to know the name of the song on the radio, or read the map display, and to do that I would have to tip my head way back and peep under the lenses of my old prescription.

I don’t have to do that now, but it’s a bit of a struggle overcoming the muscle memory. I keep peeping under the lenses when all I have to do is dip my eyes to look through the lower half of my new lenses.

bifocals | 6:00 am CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy, TMI Tuesday
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Sunday, January 26th, 2020

I went to the eye doctor yesterday afternoon because my prescription seemed a little out of whack and it had been about five years since I’d had my eyes checked last. The office I went to last was in a Shopko that closed last summer, but the office moved to a strip mall about two blocks from our house so I guess even that minor catastrophe had a silver lining.

Before the doctor did her examination, a tech took me into a side room to check me for glaucoma with that goddamn machine that hit my eyeball with what they always describe as a “puff” of air, and which I describe as being punched in the face by an evil spirit. She had another machine that projected an image on the back of my eye but she didn’t say what that did; and she had a camera that took a picture of the retina of both my eyes. She had to take two photos of my left eye but she didn’t say why.

Once the tech was done with me, the doctor took me to a separate examination room and did the usual examination with the goggles that flip between better and worse, then she got behind a scope that shined a bright light into my eyes so she could examine the retinas live, one at a time, under magnification. She spent a bit longer looking into the left one than the right one before she explained that she was looking for a whitened area on my retina that showed up on the photos. It was probably totally normal, she said, most likely a myelinated nerve fiber layer and probably not A CANCEROUS TUMOR, but the only way she could be sure was to look at it live under magnification. Trouble was, it was in a part of my eye that at such an acute angle to my pupil that she couldn’t see it without dilating my eyes.

Luckily for both of us, I walked to the examination, meaning that driving home with dilated eyes wasn’t even part of the equation. Therefore, yes, please, go ahead and dilate my eyes so we can find out if one of them is full of cancer or it’s only a benignly myelinated nerve. I am only too happy to have this cleared up in exchange for having to squint all the way home.

And it turned out to be the benign thing, whew. So what might have turned out to be a slightly more exciting day than I had planned was instead routine. All I got out of it was a new prescription and a new pair of glasses.

myelinated | 11:17 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death
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Monday, December 9th, 2019

I called mom last night and one of the topics of conversation was my upcoming 60th birthday, which is in fact a year and three days from now but I didn’t correct her because, you know, 59, 60, what’s the difference?

She brings it up the topic of my age more often than she used to because she can’t get her head around the idea that the child she gave birth to seems to be as old as she is. “You can’t be 60,” she said. “I’m 60!” I totally get what she means. I usually feel like I’m about thirty years old, until I throw my back out bending over to pick up a cat toy, or stop to catch my breath as I’m scrubbing the bathtub. Being 59 (or 60, whatever) feels like that shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Fifty nine | 6:04 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death
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Saturday, December 7th, 2019

We still have the plague here. B thought it skipped her but she started feeling sick maybe three or four days ago and yesterday her boss sent her home from work. She’s got the same symptoms I had, stuffy head and hacking up gobbets of gross gunk.

I keep saying I’m on the upswing now and mostly that seems to be true, but I still have episodes when I can feel a pocket of something deep in the back of my head give way and the next few sloppy minutes will be me continually blowing hard through my nose into yards and yards of toilet paper, sooo gross.

plague update | 6:38 am CST
Category: falling apart | Tags:
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Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

I am never going to eat fried food again. And when I say “never,” I mean that I will, on occasion, eat certain fried foods, because there are some worth suffering for, like the tater tots they serve at the Vintage Brewing Company over on Whitney Way. I don’t know how they do it, but their tots are exactly the right kind of crispy-crunchy I will always say “yes” to.

But other than a few special exceptions like those tots, I have unfortunately advanced to the age where my gastrointestinal mechanism no longer produces whatever chemicals or enzymes it used to make to deal with deep-fat-fryer grease. I used to be able to eat all the french fries. Really, *all* of them. Now that I’m apparently becoming a decrepit old geezer, I can safely eat only about half a dozen without any ill effects; any more and I feel as though I’m carrying around a bowling-ball-sized lump of lard in my belly for the next twenty-four hours. It’s not a good feeling, particularly when I make the mistake of ordering a side of fries with my dinner, thinking “It’ll be all right, I haven’t had fries in a week,” and then I have to try to sleep with that bowling ball in my stomach. Doesn’t happen. Easier to sleep with a pile of bricks on top of me.

No fried foods means that most of the food at the brewpubs we like to visit is off limits to me: it’s not just fries that bloat me up, the chicken tenders that I love at most places do the same, and I’ll probably never enjoy another Friday night fish fry, although a Friday afternoon fish fry isn’t entirely out of the question; so long as I have time to walk it off, I’m good. But other than that I’ll be eating lots of wraps and salads from here on in. So long, french fries, and thanks for the fun times!

fried | 1:22 pm CST
Category: falling apart, food & drink
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Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

When I came home from my walk the other day, I dug into my pocket for my key ring, selected a key as I climbed the stoop to the front door, then depressed the “unlock” button on the ignition key for our car.

From the garage, the car answered with two beeps. The front door did not respond in any way.

open sesame | 6:33 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Just a few words while I’m waiting for my chance to use the bathroom. Nobody’s in there, but I need to wait until I’m ready, if you know what I mean. I’ve never been what you’d call regular. It happens when it happens, y’know? And if that’s more than you wanted to know about me ever, I’m going to use the excuse that I’m woozie from being sick since last Thursday. Finally succumbed to the nasty coughing crud that’s been plaguing My Darling B for the past two weeks. Slept all day yesterday. Well, not all day. I got up to totter off to the bathroom, or to stuff some bananas down my neck and guzzle some water, or to take medicine that made my headache go away and dried up my sopping-wet sinuses. And while I was in bed I spent a lot of time hacking up crud from my lungs. It’s not easy to sleep when you’re doing that. Well, this has been fun but my eyes are starting to cross. I’ll type some more drivel later when I can focus.

argle barble dribble burble | 8:32 am CST
Category: falling apart
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The other day I peed my pants like a little boy and survived to tell the tale.

It all started with breakfast at the Avenue Club, a venerable Madison supper club on East Washington Avenue. We went there to take advantage of their New Year’s unlimited pancake breakfast. They brought each of us two freshly-baked pancakes as big as a dinner plate, invited us to visit the table where they had set up dishes heaped with toppings such as pecans, almond slivers, chocolate chips and the like, and said if we wanted more, we could help ourselves to the mountain of hot cakes on the steam table they were continually refreshing.

As it turned out, “all you can eat” means the two giant pancakes they brought me in the beginning. This was a classic “eyes bigger than head” situation. I was really very proud of myself just for finishing those two.

I ordered a tall glass of orange juice with my breakfast, and after we stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, we lingered over coffee for a little while. That was my third coffee of the day, after our customary hot cuppa (or two) to wake up as soon as we got out of bed. My kidneys were doing their best to keep up, and I made a couple stops at the club and again as soon as we got home, so I sincerely thought output had caught up with input. I was so very wrong.

I was maybe four blocks from home when I began to replan my route. I’d thought of going as far as the library, which reminded me there were no public buildings open anywhere today. Maybe not such a good idea to get too far from home. By the time I was walking along Winnequah Road down by the shore of Squaw Bay, I was sure than shortening my route was a good idea.

I had the stop sign at Maywood Road in sight, two blocks away, so picked that as my turnaround point, hung a right at Kelly Place and squiggled through its twisty turns until I got to Panther Trail, which I followed up to Bridge Road, a total of maybe three blocks. By the time I got to Bridge Road there were enough alarm bells going off in my hind brain to make me nervous.

It’s a two-block walk up Bridge Road to Frost Woods Road, and one block along Frost Woods to Sylvan Lane. I was speed-walking all the way. By the time I was in the home stretch I was sure there was going to be an accident in plain sight of the whole neighborhood, but I managed to hang on until I unlocked the front door of our house and stepped inside.

I remember playing in the living room with our son Sean when he was maybe three or four years old. We were on the floor setting up a skirmish with a bunch of plastic dinosaurs or something like that when all at once he jumped up and began a fast march across the room as if he’d just received a coded message by radio wave from the mother ship. Halfway across the room he yanked his pants down and tried to manually stop himself from emptying his bladder on the way but failed, squirting a trail that pointed into the hallway and continued into the bathroom.

That was me as I ran across the living room. It’s kind of funny when it’s a four-year-old, not nearly as funny when it’s a fifty-six-year-old.

kegle | 6:29 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy, Seanster, TMI Tuesday | Tags:
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Monday, January 2nd, 2017

The hardest thing about growing old, or at least the stage of growing old that takes place in one’s 50s, is bending over. I think I can say that in all confidence. Lots of other things suck, too: eyesight’s getting fuzzy, hearing’s going bad, can’t remember the word I want to use, my nostrils are in a race to grow bushier hair than my eyebrows.

But bending over is something I have to do dozens of times a day to tie my shoes, to scoop kibble out for the cats, to sweep dust and dirt into a pan, to empty and load the dishwasher. Each day is an endless series of calisthenics. You’d think I’d be getting better at bending over, not worse. But my hamstrings say otherwise.

Such a simple function: a fold at the waist. I can do it if I concentrate, but if I stop thinking about it for one damn second, my knees bend of their own will, I take half a step back with my right foot, and I’m genuflecting before I know it. I was raised Catholic but it didn’t take. In spite of that, the nuns would be pretty happy with the way I genuflect these days. It’s pretty much the only way I can bend all the way to the floor.

I’d like to say that the yoga classes I’ve been going to have made it easier for me to bend over, and maybe they have. Sometimes I get to feeling cocky about how much easier it seems to be, and then the instructor challenges me to do staff pose, and I realize I’m about as flexible as a block of concrete.

gumby | 9:42 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart
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Monday, April 20th, 2015

teethI have only ever heard old people talk about their crowns. I am about to talk about my crown. Ergo, I am now an old people.

One of my molars was giving me twinges when I bit down on it and had become super-sensitive to temperature. Worried that it might be infected, I went to see the dentist right away.

No infection, he told me. It’s just cracked. Perfectly normal. Teeth crack all the time.

To him it was just a cracked tooth. To me it was a potential root canal. To me, teeth are chunks of bone that stick out of my head. Most of them are riddled with holes, and now one of them had a crack in it. To see just how badly it was cracked, he put a “bite stick” on the tooth and asked me to bite down on it. I bit down rather gingerly, because I knew I was going to get what felt like an electric shock right through the top of my head.

Anything you can do about that? I asked him. He said he could put a crown on it. I’ve heard people talking about crowns for as long as I can remember, but I had only the vaguest idea what they were. On the other hand, I now had a very clear idea what a cracked tooth was, so I said, Let’s go for the crown.

Turns out that a crown is a replacement tooth they make out of porcelain and glue into your mouth to replace the cracked one. They weren’t going to remove the cracked one, though. They just wanted to grind it down to a stump.

When I think about medical science, I tend to imagine skilled professionals delicately working my tender living tissues with precision instruments that do not produce smoke and noise. That was not the image I got when he told me he was going to grind my tooth down to a stump. And the reality of the operation was pretty much smoke and noise, just as I imagined. Maybe someday they’ll have those neat little flashlights and salt shakers that Doctor McCoy pointed at his patients to make them all better, but today they’re still grinding and glueing.

They also had to take an impression of the cracked tooth, before and after they ground it to a stump, and impressions of all my upper and lower teeth. That was kind of cool, except when they filled a big tray with goop and schlupped it up against the roof of my mouth to get an impression of the uppers. A long finger of the goop oozed down the back of my throat and I came close to gagging up my stomach, liver, gall bladder and kidneys.

It took two weeks for the lab to make the crown. In the meantime I had a plastic cap on the stump that I was afraid to chew on. They said it was okay, but with the caveat that I couldn’t chew on anything hard or anything really sticky. I knew that if I let myself chew on it at all, I would probably forget, bear down on an unpopped popcorn seed and CRUNCH! There goes my temporary. So for almost three weeks I chewed on only one side of my mouth. That gets old after just two or three days.

You’ll be able to chew on this as soon as you leave, they told me after they glued my crown in place this morning, so I went straight to Java Cat, bought myself a walnut scone and tried it out right away. No electric shock, and the other side of my mouth has never been so relieved.

crowned | 11:07 am CST
Category: falling apart
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