Friday, August 09, 2013

A [Very Minor] Member of the Wedding

There are harder things I have to write about in regards to my 11-day visit to Missoula for my youngest niece's wedding, but I thought I'd start with the good stuff and the objectively awful.  I want to do some research on my social anxiety before discussing the shame of the trip and may do that for my blog on Psychology Today.  I'm not looking forward to that little excursion so I'll keep you updated when I get around to it.

First the objectively awful.

My plane was scheduled to leave New York at 4.30 p.m.  A different flight left at 11.30 p.m.  When we arrived in Minneapolis, long after my connecting flight to Missoula had left, Delta airlines offered us an inadequate number of pillows, blankets and ditty bags.  I looked at the floor, considered my newly paid-off and empty Visa card and called a hotel in the hopes of a few hours' decent sleep before catching my 11.30 a.m. flight into Missoula, for which I had a ticket marked "seat assignment at the gate".

"Seat assignment at the gate," I learned only after showing up well in advance of the flight, is code for stand-by.  So I sat tensely and waited as, first, the agents offered a $300 voucher for volunteers to take the night flight.

No takers.

Then it was a $400 voucher plus meal vouchers.

No takers.

Then it was $500 plus meals plus a trip to the Mall of America.

I got on the plane.

As the plane was descending into Missoula, I felt a trickle down my arm.  I knew what had happened because I'd been nursing a lump in my arm that I've had for years but which had turned an angry purple in the last few weeks.  Sure enough, it had ruptured and was oozing something like hand cream as fast as I could wipe it up.

It did not, however, smell as lovely as hand cream.

My brother looked at it and described it to my father and the next thing I knew I was on my way to a walk-in clinic where the sebaceous cyst was lanced, drained, curated, packed.  I was given antibiotics and told to come back the next day, where the same thing happened again.  And the next day except by then they suspected the staph infection was on the move.  Injected antibiotics were administered.  And so on.

It left me feverish and sluggish.  I'd planned to swim in my brother's master class at the Y and float the river but that was nixed.  I couldn't even take a full shower.

So the arrival was awful.

There are bright moments however.

The expense of tending my wound was about a third of what it would be in Brooklyn.  There was hardly any wait after the first visit.  I'd been told to keep that arm as quiet as possible and I didn't have to walk dogs.

Here are the fabulous things I remember.

As Kimberly and Jeff read the vows they had written themselves, sniveling began in the first row of parents and bride's maids.  Suddenly, two heads turned to the left, as perfect as synchronized swimmers, my niece and niece-in-law desperately crying.  Auntie pockets to the rescue as I handed up two clean tissues.  I could not listen to the vows since I had to get up immediately, totter across the church on my too-loose high heels and read a Victorian sonnet.  I hear they were good vows, though.

Laughing so hard I was crying with my nephew Rob and nephew-in-law Kory.  My grand-niece, Sophie, yelling, "Hi, Francie!" at the top of her lungs at a left-overs party and wanting a nickname of her own.  (We are a family of a thousand nicknames and this winter her mother, my niece-in-law, asked for a "cool" nickname.  Since I sign myself as Wicked Auntie to that family, we had settled on Little Wicked for my niece-in-law.)  Of course, Sophie, who is seven, felt "little" should apply to her.  We tried out Sophtastic and Sophielicious but if she wants to carry on the family tradition, I think we should consider either Demgel (Demon Angel) or Angon (Angel Demonl).  I'm waiting to hear back about that.

Or maybe Anvil -- Angel Devil.  That at least means something.

I've met Sophie twice.  The first time she was a clinging two-year-old and the second time she was the almost-birthday girl for her sister's first birthday.  It was wonderful to be claimed on a third meeting.

I stayed with my father in the complex of seniors he lives in.  The food is awful.  I just had Brussels sprouts for dinner and remembered eating Brussels sprouts mash in his dining room.  Dad wanted to make kimchee for some unfathomable reason.  I ordered Korean hot sauce ahead of time but, of course, we found both the hot sauce and kimchee in the grocery store.  No matter.  We bought a mixing bowl and went to work.  With a sauce pan and one mixing bowl for his cooking gear, I managed also to make deviled eggs and a custard pie for him.  It was wonderful to see him so thoroughly enjoy those small treats.

It was also wonderful to occasionally catch his curiosity.  Once it was on the neuroscience of food addiction.  I practiced the reading I was doing for the wedding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee" sonnet, for him and he hugely enjoyed directing me to slow down, then asked me to read some Robert Frost from my Android, a thing he gets an enormous kick out of.  The last moment I caught his true interest was while I was reading a sycophantic biography of Francis I.

Seeing a nearly 96-year-old man's intellectual curiosity stimulated is a tremendous reward.

He told me some stories of the years he spent doing anesthesia.  Once, a doctor had operated on a woman's thyroid and had sewed the incision up so that the stitches were swelling against her trachea.  She passed out and turned blue in front of a bunch of hospital staff.  Dad didn't have time to do any prep so he knelt down and with his bare finger pulled the stitches out of her throat, reached in and hooked the clot, then called for a tracheal tube, which someone found and he inserted.  "She pinked up real nice after that," he said, "but the student nurses were horrified that I hadn't gloved up.  Hell, there are antibiotics for an infection and she had three minutes to live.  What did they think I should do?"

Staying with him at the Village was a trial, though.  In order to get cool air in the bedroom, I had to leave the window unimpeded by blinds -- he sets his air conditioner to 80 degrees.  The morning sun poured in at 5 a.m.  When I went to bed, Dad, very deaf, would be listening to a book on tape or music or watching television at mega-decibels.  I have never been so grateful for the air conditioned quiet dim of the Bat Cave.  The packing has been removed from my wound, which was big enough under the incision where they removed the infected material to smuggle a small fire arm on the plane but at least I can shower and wash my hair now.  Daisy was thrilled to see me and the friend who took me to La Guardia at 2.30 p.m. on a Sunday insisted on picking me up at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.  My friends Gerry and Ann Marie has me over for salmon and grilled vegetables and corn-on-the-cob last night.  I feel very rich in friends and in being taken care of.

Although it's so humid that the store windows are fogged up.

That salmon last night, and the chicken and Brussels sprouts with tika sauce on them tonight tasted divine -- and divinely abstinent.

Still, after being sick and having to shepherd my blind, deaf father around to family events for over a week, I need a vacation.

But at least I'm thoroughly unpacked, I have enough money saved to pay my bills , and I came home with white polish on my toes and fingers.

And read two Angela Thirkell novels.  I have a meager bucket list of things I want to do besides getting past my aging father and dog and my debt.  Reading Thirkell in order, reading all of John Cheever, are part of it.  And now I have to write a proposal for a new book about living the rosary.

Oh, yeah: I made my confession to an old family friend who was a priest at St. Anthony's when I was a kid.  We had a wonderful moment when I said, "I had to do my my confession with a Montana priest."  I could see the light come on in his eyes and he said, "You know, you're right.  You couldn't do this with an Eastern priest."

Vatican II is the glory of my old diocese.  We think differently than most dioceses.

When I expressed my great sin of holding grudges, he asked, "Do you believe God loves you?"  It was the most important question he could ask.  I had to stop and think for several moments before saying, slowly, "Yes.  I actually do."

"I eat dinner with your father every night.  Every night he tells me what you're up to in New York.  He shines when he talks about you.  Take that and imagine it magnified a million times.  That's how much God loves you."

So there was progress on the God front and it made me feel glad.  I hope I can hang on to that for a long time.  I can already feel winter approaching in the dehydrated leaves falling from the trees and the desperate gasp of August as it asserts its summertime status on us.

Yesterday I found a dollar.


Nan said...

I love the confession story. (I'll have to think about what an "Eastern" confession is....)

Sorry the trip was so tough, though, with the cyst and all. It sounds a little bit like what I have, hydratenitis suppurativa. I have to use an antiseptic under my arms and on other areas every day to keep it under control.

bestgrandkidsever said...

Love the whole post, but love the last three paragraphs the most!

Hilary said...

I really enjoyed this blog entry. Despite the fact that you had some depressing things to tell us, there was much that was positive. Enjoyed hearing about your dad and the priest and that fact that you know God loves you! Really helps me too when I can remember this.

It's so good to get out of our everyday environments at times, but oh how great it is to finally be back home!