Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Knitting Career

I'm in Utah now with two of my five favorite people in the world. My number of people used to equal six, but one has lost his slot. I'm not yet sure if the loss is temporary and the person will do something to redeem himself, or if he's off my list for good. I'm also not sure he gives a rat's anal orifice as to what is his status on my list.

I had a new cast put on my leg in the San Joaquin Valley about a week or so ago because the old one got so soaked that it was moldy. Once I arrived in Utah, it became apparent that my skin was reacting poorly to the lining of the new cast. The itching was horrible, and the swelling was visble above and below the cast. Scott, on the list of my five favorite people in the world, who is one of my hosts in Utah while my parents are on a cruise, called in a friend from two doors down who has already earned his MD status. Scott is a fourth-year-medical student, but can't legally prescribe and doesn't feel comfortable diagnosing anything but no-brainer cases without an actual MD to confirm his diagnosis.

The friend and Scott poked and prodded. They decided a hospital visit could wait until morning since I was scheduled to be a featured case for Scott's group of little medical student buddies. The friend hooked me up to an IV. They gave me fluids, anti-diarrheal medicine since it had been a problem for days and the antibiotics weren't likely to help the situation, antibiotics, antifungal medication since there was evidence of fungal infection, and giving just antibiotics when a fungal infection is also present can make things worse, anti-itch medication, epinephrine or something similar, anti-nausea medication, and pain killers. They checked it all out on someone's computer to make sure none of the drugs in combination caused problems. They gave them one at a time about fifteen minutes apart so they would know which drug caused the problem if there was one. They cut up one of Jillian's (my other host and one of the other people on my list of favorite people) silk blouses and shoved the pieces as far under the lining into the cast as they could make it go. The friend said he would have cut the cast off, but my bone-grafting surgery was too recent and he didn't have adequate splinting material. They all kept telling me not to scratch, but it was so hard not to. Finally the anti-itch medication kicked in a little bit, than something in the cocktail of drugs made me sleepy, and I dozed off.

When someone carried me to bed, someone found the knitting needle I had been using for scratching inside my cast. It's a really dull needle. I had it hidden it in in my pillow case. I noticed it missing the next morning, but decided it would be buying trouble to ask about it.

I went to the hospital the next morning. The Dream Team of Know-Nothings, as Jillian calls Scott and his cohorts, were assembled to solve my case. Jillian went along so she could ensure that they didn't do anything stupid that would kill me or cause me to lose my leg. When they cut off my cast, one of the guys got light-headed and had to lie down on the floor to keep from fainting. The entire leg apparently looked bad, but the incisions were positively gross. They took samples and ran cultures so that they could give me the right antibiotic. They untrasounded to look for internal infection, but that part looked OK. The internal bone graft and the places where the silk was able to cover the skin were the only places on my leg that looked remotely non-terminal. They splinted my leg and put it in traction.

Everything up to that point was handled as well as anything you'd see on "Grey's Anatomy" on a functional episode. Then the Dream Team made their near-fatal mistake. The called my Uncle Steve in California. My parents are on a cruise, and Uncle Steve is designated as my legal guardian whenever my parents can't be reached.

My Uncle Steve and I have normally had a close relationship. I first met him when I was two. He had just returned from his two-year mission for the LDS Church, but was already on his way out of the church. My grandparents had offered to babysit my brother and me so that my parents could have a skiing trip without having to worry about their two-year-olds.My grandparents had an ulterior motive: they wanted to have my brother and me "blessed" in the LDS church, and they knew my father would never go along with it. So they arranged the babysitting stint so that we would be with them on a Sunday. Relatives who hated my parents showed up in full-force probably mostly out of spite for my parents and their choice of Catholicism over Mormonism.

I discussed this in a much earlier post, so feel free to skim over the parts that sound familiar. Mormon children are usually blessed as infants, so the officials weren't quite sure of the protocol with two-year-olds. Usually all the men gather in a circle and jointly hold the baby as the father, or occasionally someone else, gives a blessing to the baby.
My brother was tall for his age, so someone got a chair and he sat on it. The men placed their hands on his head while my grandfather gave him his blessing. My brother sat there perfectly cooperatively while it all took place. I don't remember what my grandfather said in my brother's blessing, but it seemed like he talked forever.

The it was my turn. They debated using the chair, but decided that since I was roughly half my brother's size, they would hold me as they would an infant. Had they put me on the chair, I would have jumped off and run so fast that it would have looked like an old Keystone Cops movie with a bunch of men in suits chasing an undersized two-year-old all over the church. As it was, there were so many of them that they couldn't find places to put their big hands all over my tiny body. Usually the men just sort of support the baby's weight with their handes, and if the baby cries, the father holds it closer as the other me keep their hands somewhere on its body. It was clear that I would not lie there complacently on their hands for the procedure, so they each grabbed some part of my body in a vise-like death grip while I struggled and screamed. Practically every male relative, and there are many of them, who held the priesthood and was therefore eligible to participate, wanted in on the un-sanctioned ritual. I must have had at least twenty-four hands grabbing me. My grandfather talked to me and threatened me to try to get me to be quiet, but there was no way in hell I would go along with this willingly. My grandfather said what he had to say, but I don't think anyone, himself included, heard a word he said. All I could hear, besides my own screaming, was the sound of giggling children and teens.

The blessing concluded, and my grandfather headed in the direction of the exit door with me firmly in his grip, intending to make good on his threat of beating the living daylight out of me. That's when my Uncle Steve came to the rescue. My grandfather was big (he's since shrunk a little) but my Uncle Steve was bigger. He grabbed me and said quietly but firmly, "Give her to me!"

My grandfather replied, "No! I promised her what I'd do if she didn't stop screaming, and I intend to deliver."

My Uncle Steve said, "We can make a scene if you insist, but you're not taking her anywhere. Give her to me now!"

It was probably the shock of being spoken to in such a manner by one of his own children, which hadn't likely happened before, but my grandfather relinquished his grip and gave me up to my Uncle Steve. From that point, he was my savior and hero. I clung tightly to him in church until I sobbed myself to sleep. I woke up on my grandparents' sofa hours later. I imediately got up and went looking for Uncle Steve. When I found him, I grabbed him around his legs as hard as I could. He picked me up, and basically never put me down for the remainder of the day except if I needed to use the bathroom or if he did. When he used the bathroom, I sat right outside the door so he would hear me scream if my grandfather came near me.

When my parents arrived to pick us up the next day, I was still clinging to Uncle Steve. My parents probably thought little about it, as Uncle Steve looks very much like my father, and they maybe thought I found the resemblance comforting. Steve said he seriously considered telling my parents what had happened, but still had one more semester of BYU and no way to pay for it on his own, so he kept his mouth shut. Neither my brother nor I told our parents anything about it, probably because we thought we had done something wrong and may have been punished. When it all came out about two years later, Uncle Steve told my parents everything. He said he had seriously considered trying to wrestle me away from the men, but was worried I would be physically harmed in the struggle, so he let it continue.

My mother remembered that she had noticed a very dark bruise with swelling just above my left ankle shortly after we got home. She was concerned enough that she asked my dad to examine me. He decided that there wasn't enough evidence of a fracture to warrant an X-ray, but they were both worried. Mom asked me how it had happened. Normally I could have answered very articulately, but I was afraid to tell about the blessing, so I lied and said I didn't know. She called my grandmother to ask if she knew how the bruise got there. My grandmother became irate that my nother would accuse anyone in the family of either not watching me closely or of outrightly abusing me.

When the story came out, my mother remembered the bruise. She asked my Uncle Steve if he knew who was holding my left ankle. My Uncle Steve possesses a high level of intelligence and an excellent visual memory, and was able to replicate in his mind the sequence of men around the circle. "It was Mahonri,' he answered. Mahonri was (and still is ) married to may Aunt Marthaleen, the oldest of my grandparents' daughters, born just under two years after my father. My mother wanted to call him. My father told her he would handle it. I didn't hear the call, but my Uncle Steve told years later that my dad told Mahonri that he was not ever to touch either my brother or me again, as in if we were choking, let us choke until he could find someone else to perform the Heimlich meaneaver, or if one of us was drowning, he could extend a pole, but he'd better not as much as lay a finger on either one of us. If restraining orders and formal charges were necessary, my dad told Mahonri, they would be sought. My mother has never spoken more than twenty words to Mahonri since then. He's been in our home once, and my mother refused to be in the same room with him except for a brief polite exchange.

My Uncle Steve lived with us for four years while he was in medical school. I was his shadow, and he must have been driven crazy by my constant presence, but he showed incredible patience. Sometimes my parents would make me get away from him because they knew he needed space, and they did not allow me in his room so that he could have sanctuary, but he never pushed me away.

Anyway, the most puffy cumulous cloud in the sky usually has a dark underside. and so does my Uncle Steve. Even though the actual MD's and not just the Know-Nothing Dream Team assured him that things were under control, he insisted upon flying to Utah from California to personally assess the situation. I was happy to see him when he first walked through the door. Then he held up the misssing knitting needle. (The very thick and dull needle, I might add. You know how food products come with a tight covering somewhere between paper and cardboard to protect against tampering? An offensive lineman from the 49ers couldn't have broken through one of those protective linings with this dull knitting needle.)

Uncle Steve didn't say anything. He just stood there holding up this knitting needle. I was beginning to think he considered it some sort of religious icon and that maybe I should make the sign of the cross or say a "Hail Mary" or something. It's just as well that I didn't, because he started on his diatribe. Anything I might have said before would only have made things worse.

He started out with, "I believe I may have seen something that looked very much like this before."

I didn't respond because it seemed that no answer would be the correct response.

"Where did I see something that looked like this before, Alexis?"
he asked.

"Many people knit. Aunt Frances knits. She may have used one that looked like that," I replied. It was a lame reply, but it was the best one I could come up with on the spur of the moment.

He set the knitting needle down on a counter and folded his arms. "Did you notice that my arms are now folded?" he asked.

I nodded affirmatively.

"I did that so I won't lose control of myself and slap you,' he explained.

There was dead silence, so it seemed he expected a response from me.

"Thank you," I replied in what I thought was a courteous tone.

"They're folded, Alexis, not stuck together with Krazy Glue. I can unfold them if you push me far enough," he said rather rudely.

"So where did this knitting needle come from? And I want the truth,"
he demanded.

"It was hidden in my pillowcase at Scott and Jillian's apartment,"
I answered.

"Why was it there?" he asked.

"So if my leg really, really itched, I could stick it inside my cast for just a second," I answered.

"Where did you get it?" he asked.

"In California," I answered.

"Would you be a little more specific?" he requested.

"Knitting needles come in sets of two. A friend gave me a package as a gift. My dad took one away. That's the one you probably saw that looks like this one," I answered as politely as I could.

"Who gave them to you?" he demanded.

"A friend," I answered.

"I'll need the name of this friend," he said.

"Oh, I forgot, they weren't a gift. I bought them when Aunt Heather took me to Target," I lied.

"I wasn't born yesterday," he muttered. "You did not buy those when Heather took you to Target. I'm not sure Heather even took you to Target.
A friend gave them to you. Now I need the friend's name."

"I'm not telling. I did not cause these problems with the knitting needle. My friend did nothing wrong. I'm not telling," I concluded.

Uncle Steve sighed. "No, you didn't cause the problems with the knitting needle, but you could have. I need to talk to your friend."

"She'll get into trouble with her parents, and everyone will hate me. So slap me or do whatever you want to me, because I'm not telling!"
I spat out at him.

He softened his voice. "I'm not trying to get your friend in trouble, Alexis. I don't even need to talk to her parents. She just needs to understand why it's a very bad idea to provide you with knitting needles.
Do you want to use my phone to call her? Then you can tell her I need to talk to her, and put me on the phone.'

"I don't even know her number," I pleaded.

"Alexis, I'm trying to be patient, but you're pushing me," he threatened.

"Seriously," I told him, "I know hardly anyone's number. Everything's programmed into my phone."

"Where is it?" he asked

"At Scott and Jillian's house."

"I'll call Jillian," he decided "I don't know if she can get the number off it, or if she'll need to bring the phone here."

"I think she can get the number off. She's not as inept as some people," I told him,coming as close to insulting him as I dared. I saw him put his hand over his mouth, and could tell he was covering a smile. That made me all the more angry.

He called Jillian's number, which was pre-programmed into his phone. He gave the phone to me. I told her where my phone was and what to look for. Soon my friend Kristi was on my uncle's phone. "Hi! It's Alexis, " I told her. "My uncle needs to talk to you." I handed the phone over to him.

I could tell he was trying hard to be nice about it, but I could also hear bits and pieces of her end of the conversation, and she sounded upset.
I assumed it was me with whom she was not happy. When my uncle asked at the end of his conversation if she'd like to speak to me again, she said no.

My uncle walked out of the room. About a half hour later, he came back with a stack of Internet print-outs. "Read these, " he told me as he walked out the door.

I flipped through them even though I already knew what they were about.
It was case after case of someone having an extremity amputated because of infection occurring after sticking an object in side of a cast to scratch. In some cases it was pens. One case was a coat hanger. The broadest knitting needle cited was 2 millimeters. These cases had nothing remotely to do with mine, PLUS I didn't cause one bit of damage with the knitting needle.

He came back later in the day. "Did you read the journal articles?" he asked.

"I browsed through them," I answered.

"We're not trying to be mean to you, Alexis!" he exclaimed.
"We don't want anything worse happening to you than what's already happened."

"So what am I supposed to do all day around here?" I demanded. "I can only use the computer for an hour a day. I get one hour to play the piano starting next week. I'm so sick of reading that I could burn every book I look at. You can only watch so much TV in a day. "There's "Judge Alex" and "Grey's Anatomy" reruns, and that's about it. So what if I want to take up knitting for a hobby?"

"Baby, the day that cast comes off, I'll buy you all the yarn and needles you want," he offerred.

Some day Uncle Steve will probably find a way back onto my list of favorite people, but it's going to take a lot more than yarn and knitting needles (after my cast is off) for him to get there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reponse from Dad

Dear Alexis,

I would have preferred handling this entirely in person, but your mom wanted a written response from me, and I know better than to oppose your mother in any matter other than one about which I feel extremely strongly. I'll give you my ideas on the subject, after which I recommend that we print all three posts out for posterity so that our not-yet-in-existence descendents will have hard evidence that in our family as in all others, conflict and love are inseparable. Then we'll delete the posts and go on with our lives.

You surely must know that Mom and I both love you. If you otherwise doubt our love for you, try to remember the all-nighters both of your parents pulled for you at the hospital very recently. I'm not suggesting that this makes us any kind of heroes; just loving and caring parents who could not bear the thought of leaving a living and breathing child at the hospital one night, only to come back the next morning to find the bed in which she had been sleeping empty. Whether it was superstition or an actual belief either that our presence mattered to you or that we could prevent any major medical errors by being vigilant, we gave up our comfotable bed and many hours of sleep because we love you. This isn't really addressing your major bone of contention, because we would certainly have done the same for your brother, but it wasn't your brother in that hospital bed; it was you, and you were the reason we were there.

Concerning early favoritism, I'll have to agree with you that it existed.
If I were to be truthful, I would have to say that you were my favorite twin, but you were correct in writing that I didn't try to even the score by giving you better treatment and more attention than I gave Matthew. Doing so would only have made things worse, as you acknowledged in your post. At times, your wisdom so far exceeds your years that I am dumbstruck. (At other times, your lack of the common sense that should be possessed by a child one-third your age baffles me even more, but that's a topic for another day.) By saying that Matthew was your mother's favorite, I am not conceding that either of us felt more love for the "favorite;" it was more of a case of personalities meshing more easily.

If what I tell you here reeks of excuse-making, I'm sorry, and it is not my intention. I just want you to understand where we were coming from as parents so that you will have the very slightest understanding of some of our actions. I hope with all my heart that neither you nor your brother ever go through the actual horror of losing a child. I can tell you that nothing is worse. Even though we only had a few minutes after his birth to be with Christopher before he passed,and only three days to get to know Nicholas, I can tell you that it was the greatest pain I have ever experienced; it still aches, and I'm not sure how I survived it myself. For your mother, it could only have been worse to have carried the babies inside her, feeling each little movement - even their tiny hiccups- only to have the babies removed from her eighteen weeks earlier than had been medically predicted. Watching her as she grieved was, if anything, more painful than dealing with the grief I felt myself. The only thing that I could ever imagine that would be more excruciating would be to lose either you or your brother now. Take your vitamins, eat well, look both ways before ever crossing any street, and be cautious in every aspect of your daily lives. I know both you and Matthew feel that we have been ridiculously over-protective, but someday, God willing, you'll have your own babies and will understand just how precious is the life of a child.

Nearly two years later, when Mom was expecting you and Matthew, we knew through ultrasound examinations that one of our babies was much larger than the other one. Mom was put on complete bedrest at twelve weeks for the duration of the pregnancy in order to extend every second of gestation that we could. When the time came that the pregancy could be extended no further, a decision was made to remove you first so that life-saving measures could be employed as soon as possible. When Dr. Elick took you from your mother's womb, you let out the lustiest wail I believe was ever produced by such a tiny infant. In my heart, I knew at that moment that you would grow and thrive. What your mother saw, on the other hand, was a baby girl so tiny that your entire body could be held in the palm of a hand, with tissue paper skin allowing a view of practically every vein in your body.

When Dr. Elick next removed Matthew, your mother saw a baby as large as a small doll, one that looked like he had almost 100% odds of survival. Even with her abdomen still open for the Caesarean delivery, Matthew was briefly lain upon the upper portion of Mom's chest. She had a baby - an actual baby- one that she could touch and kiss. Though things can go wrong with babies over six pounds, they're not nearly so common in occurrence. It was truly love at first sight. Anyone who does not believe in love at first sight has never seen the birth of a baby to his or her conscious mother. Had anyone attempted to harm Matthew, your mother would have jumped off the operating room table, open incision and all, and karateed the person to his death even though her only experience with karate had been what she had aeen on television.

As mom said, you were a screaming baby. If I had known then what I know now, I would have insisted that the pediatricians change or adjust your formula. I should have known it was more than just a cranky disposition (it WAS part cranky disposition, but that wasn't the entire culprit) causing your discomfort and nearly constant crying. Your growth might have come more easily as well.

With hindsight being its usual 20/15, we force-fed you as best we could, then did our very best for the remainder of the day to minimize your crying. When I was home, we at least had one adult per baby. Mom handled Natthew for the most part; since, as he was being breastfed, she had to take care of his feedings anyway. I fed you, burped you, then tried every stategy recommended to us by everyone we knew. I paced the floor while holding you, placed you in an infant carrier and put you on top of the clothes dryer, as we had been told that babies were sometimes calmed by the motion produced the dryer. I put you in your carseat and drove with you. I should have known tha this would be anything but a solution. You despised being in your carseat from the very first second you were placed in it for your drive from the hospital to home.

I'm sure mom mentioned the mind-boggling story of your announcing "SMA no!" I never tasted it, but from the sour smell of the stuff, it couldn't have been very good. It became much easier to feed you when you could tell us which formula you wanted. You rotated betweem Enfamil, Gerber's, and Similac,(SMA NO!) and seemed to have a very dinstinct preference for a particular formula at each feeding. When you began naming objects and putting words together soon after, we knew we weren't dealing with an average baby, not that there is any such thing. Matthew walked at six months, which is extremely on the early side, but when you, who must have been nearly eight weeks premature, took you first steps on your seventh-month birthday, we were again blown away. Preemies aren's supposed to talk at five months, nor should they walk at seven months. Video that we have of you walking and talking at those ages look like computer simulations. You didn't look big enough to roll over, much less to walk or talk. I believe you we just short of eleven months when you pointed to and read the name "Clinton" from a newspaper headline as you were sitting on my lap. At about the same age, you were sitting in your high chair eating Cheerios while your Aunt Colleen was playing through a piece of sheet music on our piano. She hit a chord that wasn't quite right. You hollered out, "D-flat" from your high chair. Your aunt ran in with the music to show your mother, which she need not have done because your mom already knew you were correct. I was for the most part beyond being surprised by anything out-of-the-ordinary that you knew.

There are many things I would have done differently if I'd been in possession of a crystal ball. I know your mother would say the same. This is a lame excuse, but we were both constantly exhausted. Medical residencies are pure torture, and then to have to come home and help your mother with babies the first second I walked through the door! You mom was equally tired after dealing with the two of you all day with very little assistance from anyone. The poor judgment mom showed when she held Matthew so much more than you and paid much more attention to him was the sort of thing that happens when sleep deprivation kicks in. My calling you a "terrible and selfish girl" after you told your mother that you had donated bone marrow when you had been told that it was to be a secret was equally poor judgment following a twenty-four-hour shift so that I could be home with all of you early on Christmas morning.

As young parents, we didn't really understand the desire that both of you had to to give. We didn't notice at the time that the two of you ignored that presents from Santa and others for you because you were so excited to give us what you had made at school for us. When mom didn't show much gratitutde for the precious little angel ornament you had made, but then went overboard in her enthusiam over Matthew's gift, it was probably an issue of a mother who had been awake all night assembling toys all by herself, who temporarily lost her manners and her sanity, then regained them by the time the second child presented his gift. When you chose that precise moment to announce that you had been Mom's bone marrow donor, I felt that you were being spiteful, and I totally mishandled the situation. As parents, we all have times we would like to have been able to rewind so that we could do them over again correctly. For me, that moment ranks number one.


I don't know if you remember that later that day when you finally came out of your room, you picked up the angel ornament you had made from the coffee table where it had been left since that morning. You appeared to be heading toward the fireplace, intending to throw it into the flames. I reacted without even thinking. I grabbed you with one hand and grabbed the ornament with the other. I doubt that you've ever seen it since. Did you ever wonder why it never hangs on our Christmmas tree, or what happened to it? I placed it inside a special protective envelope. It's inside our safe. If anything ever happens to mommy and me, our attorney has the combination. I take the ormanmet out and look at it very carefully each Christmas. The one time mommy saw it, she cried for so long that I made it a point never to look at it in front of her again. It does not adorn our tree because it is too priceless. It serves to me as a reminder of how a little girl's love should never be taken for granted. When I am no longer here, or when my mind has dwindled to the point that I am no longer aware of my surroundings, it will be yours. Until then, it belongs to me and is one of the most priceless possessions I will ever own.


I'm not sure how to explain my lack of presence at your athletic events.
Matthew's baseball games are social events, but that does nothing to alter the fact that you mother and I have two children, both of whom need our presence for at least some of their events. I'm not sure how we'll handle it next year. Perhaps we'll each attend one event when competitions fall on the same day, which they so frequently do, or we'll attend together but alternate whose event we attend. However we work it out, you've gotten the short end of the stick too often; it won't happen again.

I know you're concerned that your hurdling career is history. I wish I could promise you that you will run just as fast and hurdle with just as much ease as you did before, but that's a promise I cannot honestly make. I do promise you that you will receive every minute of physical therapy from which you will possibly benefit. Anything that modern medicine and physical therapy can accomplish will be done for you.

I could type on and on for hours about the mistakes I've made, and about how truly sorry I am for each and every one of them, but I think you've gotten my point by now. Let me end by referring once again to the precious little angel ornament that I have tucked away in the safest place in our home. It isn't only at Christmas that I look at it. Whenever I learn of some act of misbehavior you've committed, I try to remember to take the time to go to the safe and to look once more at your little angel face in the ornament. It helps to remind me that you are still that same little girl you were then, and that I must speak and act carefully so as not to do anything to further damage your fragile feelings.

"There will never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you."
-Paul Simon

Daddy

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Letter to My Very Favorite Daughter in the Whole World

My Dear Sweet Girl Alexis,

I don't even know where to begin to answer you. Perhaps this is a poor forum for my response. We have your passwords and could have deleted your entry, but felt that since you devoted a great deal of time and pain in posting it, it should be left alone. Daddy and I decided to use you password to respond to your post here rather than inthe "comments" section. Daddy's entry will appear as soon as he finishes a few crucial work-related tasks. He wanted you to know that he does not consider you less important than his work, but that some things must be completed on schedule. He is one of the relatively few parents who can claim in all honesty that he is curing cancer. He promises to reply at the very first chance he gets. Of course we must talk about this face-to-face as soon as possible, but in the meantime, we both wish to respond in writing.

As much as I appreciate your knowledge of history and of odd facts, and your desire to share them, with the particular post, I wish you would have gotten to the point sooner. Your reviewer for the day nearly missed reading through to the end. Had we not responded in some way, we would have let you down once more. I'm so relieved the essence of the post was not missed. You are entitled to a response, and you clearly expect one, although I can't help wondering if your choice to bury the heart of the matter under interesting facts and trivia, then to feel hurt and rejected all over when you received no reponse, wasn't part of your original plan. As the person from whom you likely inherited the quality, I know as much as anyone about being a martyr.

I do not agree with everything you wrote, but much of your post consisted of feelings. Feelings ar neither wrong nor right, but rather, unique to the owner

You remember, I'm certain, that Daddy and I lost twins before we were blessed with you and Matthew. They were at birth much tinier than even you were (1 lb. and 1 lb. 5 ounces), but to me, you so much more closely resembled my babies who didn't survive than you did your robust twin brother who was over six pounds. I was afraid to touch you, much less to hold you. Daddy saw you differently. He knew from your very first scream that you were much stronger than you looked. He spent more time in the NICU than I did. He could see the differences between you and the babies who were not going to make it, or those who would perhaps survive but with life-long problems. I was afraid of the NICU. It reminded me too much of your older brothers. I somehow thought I knew, wrongly, that once I allowed myself to form an attachment to you that you would join Nicholas and Christopher in heaven. I'm not sure if it was superstition on my part -- if I stayed away from you, you'd be fine -- or if it was pure cowardice, as in I was simply afraid to bond with you and then to lose you.

Once you made it out of the hospital at the weight of four pounds, your brother was nearly nine pounds. You seemed so tiny and fragile that I was still hesitant to pick you up and hold you, even though the logistics of diapering, feeding, and bathing forced me to do so. You cried almost incessantly for roughly eighteen hours of each day. The doctors couldn't decide if you were colicky or if there was a more serious condition causing our constant crying. I'm ashamed to admit that there were times when, because I could no longer bear to hear the sound of your crying, I simply put you in your crib, closed the door, and allowed you to scream in your bedroom for hours.

It was probably at this stage that what you consider favoritism toward your brother actuallly began. If you cried, I could check your diaper, try to feed you, burp you, rock you, or pace the floor while carrying you, but you would scream no matter what I did. Daddy had more success at calming you, but even he found you incredibly difficult to soothe. It reached the point that when I was home alone and both babies cried at the same time, I automatically went to Matthew because I knew I had a reasonable chance of taking care of his needs and making him happy. Only after I had thoroughly taken care of him would I make a half-hearted attempt at meeting your needs. Often I was unsuccessful, although I did persist in forcing formula down your throat, I otherwise left you to deal with your own misery. You possess the most incredible powers of recollection from such an early age that it would not surprise me to learn that you actually remember some of these things.

What probably saved both you and me was your early ability to talk. I was unable to produce enough milk for two babies. Since you were in the hospital in the beginning, which woud have necessitated expressing the breast milk, we made the much easier choice of giving Matthew breastmilk while feeding formula to you. In retrospect, this was a bad decision, but it cannot be changed now. One afternoon when you and Matthew were barely five months old, after I had breastfed Matthew and put him down for a nap, I was preparing your forumla. Until you were four months old, you were fed a special formula for premature infants. In retrospect, I don't think it agreed with you, as you cried less once you reached the four-month mark and were allowed to have standard formula. Much of the formula we gave to you came from free samples sales representatives would give to your father. Some of what we had on hand was SMA, which was just one of many brands of formula. While we were not poor, neither did we have the income we now have, and a free case of formula was nothing to be turned down. You were in an infant seat on the kitchen table. You looked over as I was scooping powdered formula into a sterilized bottle, then pouring in distilled water. I can recall as though it happened yesterday when I heard you say as plainly as a seven-year-old, "S M A no!" I recall dropping the plastic bottle on the tile counter top and spilling its contents, unsure of whether I had actually heard or just imagined your words. Then you said it again. I went to the pantry and took out a can of powdered Enfamil. I held it in front of your face. You looked at the rabbits on the cylindrical container, then commented, "Enfamil." I was so weak with shock that I could barely shake the powdered formula into the distilled water. You drank six ounces of the formula, which was at that point a record amount for you. You fell asleep in my arms, and I carried you to your crib. You slept for four consecutive hours, which was another record for you. I wonder now if SMA, too, was not part of your problem. What formula works for some babies doesn't for others. Your father and I were probably just too exhausted to think clearly and to make the connections.

When your father finally got home from work that night, he of course thought I was delusional. I got out the SMA and the Enfamil, and you were cooperative enough to correctly name both brands for him. He noticed a can of Similac in the pantry and got it out, holding it in front of you. "Similac," you announced. It was your father's turn to nearly faint.

We soon learned that your vocabulary extended far beyond the names of formula brands. You learned that if you could tell us what you needed, you wouldn't have to scream for hours.

There were still times when what you wanted couldn't be given to you, and the resulting screams would go on. Some foolish uncle on your father's side of the family once gave you a sip of Coke. You liked it and wanted more, so the relative gave it to you and told you what it was called. I always thought Mormons were supposed to have something against drinking Coke, but your father's relatives are smorgasbord Mormons, as in they choose which aspects of the religion to follow and ignore the rest. Getting back to your early exposure to Coke, you thought you should be able to get it simply by saying the word, then by screaming the word. Your father and I were not about to let an eight-month-old baby drink Coke even if it meant a near-sleepless night for us. (You're still cavity-free, which would probably not be the case if we had given in to your demands.) You screamed for five solid hours before exhausting yourself into sleep. Even then, you woke up in the night and screamed, "Coke," for another two hours. The lesson learned was that asking for something was far more likely to get it for you than just crying, but that some things you could not have no matter how many times you asked.

Your crying was by this time greatly reduced, but there was still the issue of Matthew and I having formed a close bond before you joined us at home. I recall the instance you wrote of the time you woke up before your brother while I was reading. I remember telling you that I was reading
when you spoke to get my attention, but then putting the book down and picking your brother up as soon as he walked within reach of me. In my life I have done many things I regret. I can say without a doubt that I regret that instance more than anything I have ever done in my life, with the possible exception of leaving you with your aunt and uncle a little more than amonth ago. I don't know what I could possibly have been thinking in ignoring one baby while picking up and holding the other one. There is no excuse I can give you. I'm crying as I'm typing this. I can only say that it I had it to do over again, I would have picked you up the first second I saw you standing there, looking at me with your sad eyes, as though you already knew you would be rejected in favor of your brother.

The sports situation is inexcusable as well. I'm not so bothered about having missed your tennis matches, as your tennis career didn't have a happy ending, anyway, and in the end, I'm not sure how much it mattered. About having missed all but a few views of your dives from the parking lot, I'm embarrassed for both myself and your father. I know what a morning person you are not, much as I am not. The very fact that you got yourself out of bed in time to be at the pool by 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. each day of practice is a clear indicator of just how important diving was to you. That your father and I could not be bothered to make it to even one of your competitions speaks volumes for how miserabky we have failed you. Where your hurdling is concerned, there is nothing that your father or I can say that will ever excuse the fact that we never once saw you hurdle. It's nice that we have friends who are parents of Matthew's baseball teammates, but that does not in any way negate neglecting our other child in her athletic endeavors. I am especially sorry that we were not there for you on the day of your injury. You endured extreme pain for much longer than you needed to because an incompetent hospital staff refused to act on the authority of a legal document when a not much more competent set of parents could not be located. You WILL hurdle again, and Mommmy and Daddy will be there to cheer you on when you do, regardless of what baseball game may be happening at the same time.

Daddy meant well when he told you that you were not to tell me that you had donated bone marrow to me, but his instincts, which are normally pretty good, were totally wrong in this instance. You needed to feel the depth of my gratitude, and you needed to know that I would have loved you just as much even if you were not remotely a close enough match for me. You needed very much to be comforted after the painful procedure, and you needed to be allowed to cry in front of me if it hurt. I thank you again for saving my life; I only wish I could have thanked you at the time. Regardless of whether it was jealousy or any other emotion that motivated you to announce at the time you did that you had been the marrow donor, you did the right thing in telling me. I'm sorry for making a bigger deal about the gift Matthew made for me than the one you made. I don't know what caused me to treat my own child in such an cruel manner. Daddy's treatment of you, also, was wrong, but I'll allow him to make his own apologies.

Alexis, I suspect we're always going to butt heads. Sometimes God creates two people who are very similar in practically every way. When that happens, conflict is inevitable. I know you have heard from my brothers and sisters that you ARE me at the same age. It took me a long time to see the similarities, but I now recognize it clearly. My newborn pictures are identical to yours at the age of six weeks. I, too, was a screaming baby, an extremely early talker, and a tantrum-throwing two-year-old when I didn't get what I wanted. I, too, was growth delayed, and was born with perfect pitch, just a you were. Our main differences were in parenting. My mom passed away when I was thirteen, and my father was too grief-stricken and too heavily into self-medication to deal with my difficult personality. Your father and I are still very much present to deal with you. I only hope that we haven't done you more harm than good.

I love you more than you'll ever know.

Mommy

The Favorite Child

I am almost certain to face repercussions for posting a blog on this topic. Even if my parents were to follow the agreement that they would not read what I posted but would rely upon three trusted friends and one relative to monitor my writings, and to only read when clear signs exist of violations of stipulations prior to my being given permission to blog, this blog will cause an exception to occur. My parents will almost surely be displeased with me. Whether or not sanctions will be imposed remains to be seen. I'm willing to face the consequences of my posting, because what I am writing are my honest feelings, even if they are highly subjective.

Favoritism among children in parenting is not a new concept. Rebecca and Isaac, a married couple from the old testament, had twins, Jacob and Esau, and each parent favored a different twin. Jacob in turn, when he grew up and started his own family, showed favoritism tooward his youngest son, Joseph. Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of an American familial political dynasty, favored his eldest son, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Had this son not died in World War II, it's dubious as to whether John F. Kennedy would ever have received encouragement, financial backing, and perhaps practical assistance in the form of stuffing of ballot boxes in key states that would have allowed him to become President of the United States, or at least not until his brother had first been successful in the opportunity. In a more recent sense, most of us need to look no further than the ends of our own blocks or cul-de-sacs to observe clear evidence of parental favoritism. Perhaps, in some instances, many of us need look no further than the walls enclosing the homes in which we live.

Favoritism among parents toward children exists, though it does not exist in every case in which it is alleged to exist. It is very easy to claim, when one child receives a privilege that another does not, that favoritism was the sole reason. "You're just giving him this (or letting him do this) because you like him better than you like me!" is a frequent claim when one child receives something (or is allowed a privilege) that is denied another one. I must admit that I have been guilty of making this allegation when it was not entirely the sum of the equation. My brother has probably made this claim as well, but not nearly so frequently because, in my highly subjective opinion, he receives more privileges, and a greater share of my parents' finances are bestowed upon him.

The issue of favoritism probably comes up most freqently when offspring are close in age, with twins being as close in age as siblings can be. When an older sibling is allowed to go somewhere or stay out later than a younger sbling, the parents have the ready-made excuse that the older child is more mature and ready for extended privileges. A sticky situation could arise here when a just-younger sibling has displayed more maturity and responsibility. How does a parent handle that one without bringing on Armageddon? The best course of action would probably be to grant equal privileges to the two, but even that might not solve the problem.

In the olden days of family favoritism, its effects were self-limiting. When Jacob of biblical fame decided to favor his youngest son Joseph (Remember that beautiful coat of many colors Jacob commissioned to be made for Joseph?) His older brothers threw him in a hole and left him there to die as a consequence of the gift. With group dynamics being what they are and always were, these things had ways of working themselves out. Even in classroom situations, while teachers may show favoritism to given students, the favored students usually pay for it far more than they reap any benefits. Not many students volunteer to be teachers' pets.

Except in my dad's part of my family, where parents haven't yet discovered that they belong to the human population and not the rabbit population, most parents limit their number of offsppring to a number of children that can fit in one vehicle (as much as I admire many things they do, the Duggar family bus doesn't count for this purpose) with enough seatbelts for everyone, and often with at least one extra seatbelt for a guest. This greatly reduces the odds of parental favoritism being solved in the manner Joseph's brothers handled it. Another more common form of dealing with favoritism in two-and three-child families is for each parent to have his own favorite. In families with three children, this is cruel. One child rarely if ever has either parent advocating on his or her behalf and is consistently the odd-man or odd-woman out.

In two-children families, the each-parent-has-a-favorite-child can be a solution, but is it a good one? What if one parent consistently spends more time with the children than does the other? The child who is favored by the more present parent has a clear advantage. What if one parent, for whatever reason, has more power in the overall dynamic of the marriage? Then that parent's favored child holds the advantage. Any way this system works, it doesn't really work. Even if the family remains intact in a legal sense, it's neither really together nor functional.

Our local newspaper used to carry a syndicated column authored by a self-proclaimed "parenting expert." For all I know, the man may have had credentials exuding from every orifice of his body. Still, I bristle at the term "parenting expert," as exactly what makes one a "parenting expert"?

It's like being a "nutritionist." Most people are unaware of this, but unless things have changed recently, anyone in the United States can rightly proclaim himself or herself a "nutritionist" with no certification requirement whatsoever. It's not a protected term. I, therefore, am a nutritionist. The only thing I actually know about nutrition is that one cannot sustain oneself on candy alone for a length of time exceeding three weeks and remain in good health; this I learned through trial and error. Still, since the term "nutritionist" is not protected in the United States (I believe it is protected in two Canadian provinces, although I could not tell you which two) I am most decidely a nutritionist. We must, however, return to the subject at hand.

The column to which I referred before I digressed was typically in a question/answer format. The author had several familiar themes for his columns. Some columns seemed so familiar that there was a deja vu sense about them. As it turned out, those columns were the very same columns verbatim that had been printed earlier, minus the disclaimer that they were re-prints of earlier columns. Additionally, because the author liked writing about particular topics so much, no matter how thoroughly he might have covered a topic not much earlier, he would write a question to himself on the very topic he had recently discussed because he wished to address it again. One of the author's frequent themes was sibling conflict. The author's solution was to ignore it to the point that it became impossible to ignore any longer, and then to punish both parties equally (usually by sending them to separate rooms for the remainder of the day and evening) without listening to anyone's explanation. The only advantage of this method of handling conflict (the author claimed such a tactic was avoiding favoritism) was that it was slightly less likely to result in death of a child than the way Jacob favored Joseph to the extent that his brothers all wished him off the planet permanently. Furthermore, by not investigating, the author's tactic advocated favoritism by allowing the one who was truly at fault (and often one sibling is truly at fault) to receive equal punishment as the one who did noting to deserve it. The moral of this is that not everyone who proclaims himself or herself an expert on a given topic is legitimately worth hearing. I am the first to admit that I was being facetious and using rhetoric to make a point by calling myself a "nutritionist" and,if the truth were told, I probably have less knowledge regarding nutrition than 97% of the U. S. population.

Nothing I've written up to now is likely to cause controversy. It is at this point that the parental uproar begins. I am one of two children. I have a twin brother. My mother has a favorite child. It is not I. My mother would argue that she yells at me more than she yells at my brother because I deserve it. She would contend that I am punished more frequently and more severely because my behavior has warrants it. She would say that I receive fewer privileges because I have earned fewer privileges.

My mother has many degrees and certifications related to child, educational, and behavioral psychology. She uses this knowledge all day long in her job. By the time her car reaches our garage door, she is tired of psychology of any kind and has no use for it. If she walks in the kitchen door and sees dishes in the sink or on the counter, it is my fault, because I am the offspring who knows how to correctly load the dishwasher. It doesn't matter that the odds are about a zillion to one that my brother and his friends, and not I, used those dishes. (I'm constantly being yelled at for not eating enough.) It doesn't matter that my brother, while not as smart as I am, most certainly has the intelligence needed to be taught to load a dishwasher properly. It's just that my mother is tired after spending a day working with a kid on some very basic concept he must master in order to pass the high school exit exam that he can't understand no matter how she says it. So then when my brother plays stupid as my mom is trying to show him how to load the dishwasher so the dishes won't all break and the silverware will all come out clean, she screams and walks out of the kitchen and tells me that loading the dishwasher is my job permanently.

Now we shall move on to a subject that will almost surely cause me to regret writing this blog . . .but since I've opened the can of worms halfway, I may as well let the rest of worms crawl out. The subject now is sports. My brother plays basketball and baseball. In three years of playing varsity baseball and in one year of junior varsity basketball and two years of varsity basketball, my father has missed two basketball games and one basseball game. (He would have missed a second baseball game, but it was rained out.) My mother has missed three of my brother's baseball games because of a kidney stone. I played varsity tennis my freshman year. I dove for the varsity team my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. I ran varsity hurdles this year. My parents watched one tennis match. They've watched me from a parking lot as I competed in a diving meet while they were waiting to carpool with another couple to a baseball game. They've never been to one of my track meets and have never seen me hurdle. The fracture of my leg bones may not heal well enough for me to ever hurdle again, or even if I can make it over the hurdles, I may not be able to run fast enough to be competitive. I brought this up once. My mother said, "Well, you never once asked us to go." I may be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that my brother has never asked my parents to attend one of his sporting events. My mom also tried to explain it away as being a social thing. My brother's teammates' parents are my parents' friends, she said. They like to get together and watch games. If my parents ever went to one of my events they might find that they liked my teammates' parents, too.

The next topic about which I will write is going to anger my brother, although I promise to be discreet. I may as well be an equal-opportunity offender and have everyone in the family hating me by the time this is finished, if anyone reads this far. I get into trouble with my parents sometimes because I argue with them when we can't reach consensus. According to one of my responders, who may be a Twitter acquaintance, I argue far too much and need to go along with what my parents want more often. I've tried to take this advice, but at least my approach in debating the topic, whatever it might have been, was honest. Whatever it is we're arguing about, my brother doesn't join in on the argument; he just quietly goes on and does whatever it is my parents and I were arguing about and I was told I couldn't do. I will admit to having done three really sneaky things in my life. I won't say what they were, because I was lucky enough to get away with them, and they're old news by now. My brother probably does three sneaky things every week. I won't give away the nature of any of these things. I'm merely saying my mother's "good child" isn't as angelic as she thinks he is. I know I will catch all sorts of flack for this, because my brother and I have largely operated on the policy of not telling on each other for anything. I'm not telling on him for any specific thing, but I am saying that not everything is as it seems.

My father has treated us more equally. At times I thought he should have stood up for me more to compensate, but I understand why he didn't. He yells at both of us and grounds us both. So does my mother, but in regard to many things, it really seems that I get more than my share of the blame.

The last topic I will address is one that is very sensitive. I've never spoken of it to anyone. This is probably a stupid place to address the matter, but I'll never have the nerve to say it to my mother's face, or even write a note to her about it. If any relatives on my dad's side want to make fun of me for this, go ahead. I'm beyond being hurt by anything you write or say.

My brother came home from the hospital when my mother did, which was five days after our Caesarean delivery. I was undersized and not yet ready to come home, so I stayed in the hospital for a little over a month. Since he was home before I was, they had an entire month to become acquainted before I showed up and basically spoiled their routine. My dad tried to help out as much as possible, but I have early memories (obviously not from when I was a month onld, but very early nonetheless). I can remember that when I was really little, like almost two, I would wake up from my nap. Mom and my brother would be sitting together in the rocking chair, and I never knew if I was supposed to go in the family room where they were or get back in my crib and pretend to be asleep.

One time when I was just barely two I think, because we had just put the Christmas tree up and I was wearing the Rudolph overalls that I wore that year, I woke up before my brother did. My mom was sitting in the rocking chair reading a book. I stood watching her for a minute. Then I took a few steps closer. She either didn't see me or just didn't look up. I finally said, "Hi, Mommy."

She looked at me and said, "I'm reading right now."

A few minutes later, my brother got up. She put down her book and he climbed in her lap. I felt very much like an intruder in my own home. Mom, if I upset you by writing this, I'm truly sorry.

The last part is the very most difficult for me to write, but if I've gone this far, I may as well diclose everything. When you had had leukemia, Mom, you needed a bone marrow transplant. No siblings were compatible donors. Random people who were unlikely to be compatible donors, such as dad, were being tested. No one was compatible. The doctors and dad finally decided they had to test my brother and me. I prayed the rosary three times every day for two weeks that I would be compatible and not my brother. My thoughts were that you might love me almost as much as you loved Matt if I gave my bone marrow to you. My prayers were answered and I was able to donate. Then my dad told me that I was not to tell you the bone marrow was from me because it would make you feel very bad to know that one of your children had to suffer because of you. That crushed me, because the reason I wanted you to have my bone marrow, in addition to keeping you alive, was because I wanted you to love me more.

I went through the procedure. I was sore for about two weeks, so dad sent me to Aunt Colleen's house and told you I had a cold. I kept quiet about it at first. Then you went back to Los Angeles for another treatment. Then it was Christmas morning. My brother and I had made you Christmas presents at school. My class made sngel ornaments with our own pictures glued where the face of the angel would be. When you opened mine, you half-smiled and thanked me. My brother's class made gingerbread boys out of foam stuff with their pictures pasted where the gengerbread boy's face was supposed to be. You hugged him and made a really big deal out of his gift. It bothered me that you liked his gift so much more than you liked mine, so I blurted out, "I gave you bone marrow." Sort of like, "So there! Just try to top that!"

You just stared at me with a look of shock. Dad grabbed me and carried me into my room. He told me what a terrible and selfish girl I was. Then he asked why I told you. I told him it was because that was part of my Christmas present to you. I never told him that it was because I wanted you to love me as much as you loved my brother.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Comments: Am I Missing Something?

I follow several blogs on a semi-regular basis. I dont comment on others' blogs often, but have occasionally added something to the lists in the comments sections. I've never written anything remotely abrasive or inflammatory, much less insulting. On the very rare occasion I've disagreed with any point of a blogger's post (I think this happened only once) I did so in a polite manner, and tried to agree with more that that with which I expressed disagreement. I've made every effort not to come across as negative, which is difficult for me, because in real life, I've been told that I'm often contrary and blunt to the point of rudeness. I've endeavored to keep this aspect of my personality out of the blogging spectrum of my life.

Why is it, then, that my comments are frequently deleted by the blogs' authors? You probably don't believe me when I claim that my comments are respectful. I am the first to admit that my synoptic style of writing is not excessively overloaded with a tone of respect. In this regard, I understand your skepticism regarding my claims. I will offer in my defense a character witness: my own mother. My mother is in this regard and in virtually every other aspect of my life, from the standard of cleanliness I apply to my bedroom and bathroom, to how much damper pedal I use in playing any given Mozart sonata, to how much garlic powder I put into homemade teryaki sauce, my very harshest critic. I do very little in any area that meets my mother's minimum standard of acceptability. Yet she has read my comments as I've posted them, and has found no fault whatsoever with what I've posted. Then these poste have gone on to be deleted by the blog authors. (I've long since stopped posting comments where the comments must be read by the moderator prior to being posted. The only possible benefit to my commenting under such circumstances would be to exercise my fingers. Virtually no chance exists that these comments will ever be seen in the light of day.)

My mother says that I'm taking this far too seriously and too personally. First of all, she says, these are people I do not even know. Why give non-acquaintances the power to hurt your feelings? Next, she saya that many blogs, while not actually designated as such, are "closed communities." The bloggers and respondants are either real-life or on-line friends, and that outsiders' comments are not welcome and will thus be deleted. She's probably correct, but I do take it personally. She says my age may be a factor as well. Many of the people who delete my comments, she says, are young adults who do not wish to be bothered with anything a kid has to say. While I try not to advertise my minor status, it's at times difficult to disguise. Furthermore, I'm not trying to deceive anyone concerning my age status. Even though I wish it didn't matter in such forums, I'm not going to lie and casually work into the conversation that I'm twenty-three.

My intended audience for this particular blog will never read this, so my having wasted the time and space in writing it was largely pointless. The few people who do read my blog are my teachers, all of whom are polite if they comment at all, some relatives, few of whom are polite if they comment at all, and a few "friends" I've come across on the Internet, all of whom, when they respond at all, offer courteous and insightful comments even when they've disagreed with some of my points. Regardless of the nature of the comments I've received. I've allowed them to remain. The only comments I've deleted are ones I've made myself, then have re-thought and decided they would accomplish nothing positive if allowed to stand. I suppose I would consider deleting anything blatantly obscene, as this blog is not designated as containing "adult content."

My mom said I should stop reading the blogs of people who have deleted my comments. Furthermore, she said, someday, if they don't already, most of them will have children. Random people will be rude to or dismissive of their children, and then these bloggers will have a vague idea of how such treatment feels, even if they don't remember my comments that they've deleted. It's highly unlikely that they'll remember my comments and their deletion of such, as people who are habitually rude would not likely recall given instances of rudeness on their part even if they were autistic savants. (No slight is intended toward the autistic savants, or those with "Savant Syndrome," as my mother has informed me is now the politically correct term describing or denoting their condition. On the contrary, I envy the memory aspect of their condition. I have a good but not perfect memory. I desire to be more like those with "Savant Syndrome" in this regard.)

I promise never to delete any comment made here (not that I'm ordinarily overrun with comments) as long as it doesn't contain the maaterial euphemistcally referred to as "adult content."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cat Hell: Four More Days!

I have four more days (actually less if I count hours) until I am allowed to use my crutches. Today I went with my Aunt Victoria , my brother, and my cousins who are my Aunt Victoria's two sons, to a place called "Cat Haven." Last night my Aunt Victoria came to pick up my brother and me. Her house is more than three hours away from our house.

We woke up and left at the crack of dawn to arrive at this "Cat Haven" place before it became too hot to be enjoyable. We actually would have needed to arrive by February if we really wanted to be there before it was too hot to be enjoyable. "Cat Haven" is located off Highway 180 in the foothills of the beautiful San Joaquin Valley. (Sarcasm does not translate well into print, so I'll come right out and say that one would refer to either the San Joaquin Valley or the foothills of the San Joaquin Valley as beautiful only in the most sarcastic terms possible.) I'm not certain what the elevation of the place was, but it was high enough for rattlesnakes but too low to be comfortable temperature-wise even for someone who was brought down from the high country suffering from the effects of hypothermia. I often complain about being too cold at night and wear sweatshirts in the greater Sacramento area in the summer when others are jumping into pools and pouring ice water on themelves, and I was hot at "Cat Haven" in the early morning. "Cat Hell" would probably be a more fitting name, although maybe members of the extended cat family like living in ovens.

We knew we would be on a dirt trail, so my Aunt Victoria, who is more of a clean-freak and germophobe than my mother is, triple-wrapped my cast and my upper body from waist to neck in garbage bags. Even the people who worked there thought my aunt was a nut, and they were all worried I would get heat illness. My cousin Michael, who was determined by consensus to be the physically strongest and most coordinated among our group, pushed me in my wheelchair, which incidentally, will probably never be the same in terms of cleanliness. I'm glad I have a spare, and I'm glad I'll be essentially rid of all wheelchairs shortly. After we arrived home, my aunt took my wheelchair to one of the dairies so the employees could powerwash it with one of the hoses they use to wash away cow dung from the milking areas. Isn't it a nice thought that I'm considered in the same league as a cow in terms of cleanliness?

The trail was theoretically handicappped-accessible, but the true accessibility of the trail for the handicapped is most definitely a subject open to debate. I actually fell out of the wheelchair into rattlesnake territory twice (it would be just my luck to have been bitten by a rattlesname at this point), and was almost dumped out at least twelve other times. The people who operate the facility ended up finding another male employee whose job it was just to keep me from falling out of my wheelchair. They considered tying me in the wheelchair, but decided the liability might be too great if the wheelchair overturned with me in it.
So my cousin was pushing me, another young man was walking backwards, ready to jump and catch me at the slightest un-leveling of the chair or at the faintest sign I was sliding forward (this happened at least ten times).

The man leading the tour asked if it wouldn't be easier to put me in one of those toddler backpacks and carry me down the trail. He said someone had left one behind, and he was pretty sure I'd fit. He even offered to carry the pack. I begged him to please not make me get into one of those things; such truly would have been adding insult to injury. Another employee was pouring water down me at such a rate I was sure I would hurl. My brother and my cousin Philip were [jokingly?] pushing and shoving each other off the trail and into the rattlesnake territory while calling each other gay. My Aunt Victoria, who is not an educator and deals with young people only in small groups, was attempting with no success to control my brother and my cousin Philip. Also in our tour group were about twenty-four boys from a day camp whose behavior made my brother's and my cousin Philip's appear appropriate for the U. S. Naval Academy by comparison. The day camp with which we were grouped had roughly fifty kids. They divided them by gender into tour groups. This was great for the girls and for anyone traveling with them, but made life sheer hell for anyone traveling with the male group. (I have neither a teaching credential nor any sort of degree or certification in child development, yet even I could have figured out that it woulld not be wise to put all the boys in one group and all the girls in another group. What does this say for the leaders of the day camp?) The only consolation for me was that the boys were slightly afraid of the crippled girl all covered in garbage bags and in a wheelchair, so they had me go first (this was probably also so that if I fell or my wheelchair went out of control, I wouldn't take anyone else down with me) and largely kept their distance from me, but I still had to listen to them, and I got hit with the things they threw at each other when they missed, which was about 90% of the time. Kids today cannot throw accurately because they spend too much time playing video games.

We went to all this trouble to see a snow leopard (beautiful, by the way, and does not like snow), a serval, a couple of tigers, a lion, a jaguar, and something the name of which I can't remember because I was being pulled out of rattlesnake territory while it was being discussed.
We probably should have stayed home and watched the Animal Planet. Someone had suggested the Fresno Zoo (actually a pretty good zoo), but since we'd all been there before, that idea was rejected.

When we got back to the gift shop, my aunt and the employees cut the plastic off the top of me, then hosed me down. Someone had one of those thermometers that they roll over people's faces, so they rolled it over mine and discovered that my temperature was 103. They hosed me down again, then dried me and cut the plastic off my leg. The place sells gift clothing, so someone who works there found a shirt and shorts to fit me, and helped me change in the "handicapped-accessible" restroom, which was actually the only part of the place that was truly handicapped accessible. They loaded me down with Gatorade and Seven-Up Bottles. My aunt, who is an absolute non-drinker, as in drank Sprite for the toast at her own wedding, bought a six-pack of beer. My aunt tried to pay for everything, but they would not take any money from her. They could not get rid of us fast enough. My brother said the guy who ran the place was writing down the license number of my aunt's Cadillac SUV (I don't remember what the model is called.) I wish them luck, because she gets a new Cadillac SUV every year, and she never has vanity license plates. Their time would have been better spent carefully identifying the day camp and its operators.

As far as my aunt goes, they'll never see her near the place again. She was too traumatized. She polished off two beers before we got into the car and out of the parking lot. My cousin Michael, who is twenty and is a licensed driver, and, if the truth were to be told, has been driving on dairies since he was five or six years old, had to drive us home. We made two more pit stops so my Aunt Victoria could down two more of the beers. She said she was saving the last two to put on her hair, as beer is supposedly a good hair conditioner. I highly doubt that. Once she reached the privacy of her own room, I'm sure she guzzled those two down as well.

As far as I was concerned, I was fine once I got into the air-conditioned vehicle. All I had to do was look pitiful for my aunt to hand me a Vicodin. I was truly in my happy place. (The truth of the matter is that I saw my aunt down a couple of Vicodins as well, but I don't really care. She'd had a rough day.)

My aunt was too exhausted/shell-shocked/stoned/drunk/hung over (take your pick) to cook dinner. My cousin Michael got pizza for us. We had a great time telling Uncle Ralph about our day. My suspicion is that this year my Uncle Ralph will write the family's Christmas card letter (which he has never considered doing before) and mail it off before Thanksgiving, long before my Aunt Victoria has time to tell her side of the story.

It's after midnight. THREE MORE DAYS!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

FIVE MORE DAYS!

In five more days I will be allowed to use crutches for the first time since my accident. Because I broke my clavicle at the same time I broke my leg, using crutches was not until this point a possibility. My clavicle fracture, however, was not nearly as serious as my leg fracture. It should be sufficiently healed by Sunday that I will be allowed to use crutches in order to transport myself. My crutch time will be limited for a week or so, but after that, I'll have relative freedom. My dad bought crutches that adjust to my height, and my mom spray-painted them a lovely shade of pink. I keep them in view in my bedroom to serve as a reminder not to do anything stupid to delay their use any further. I am so excited I can scarcely contain myself.

I haven't been online or watched much TV today, but I did catch a headline that Lindsay Lohan has been sentenced to jail. It will be interesting to see if this is a "for real" sentence, or if she basically walks in the front door of the jail and out the back door. I suspect she won't be required to put in the full ninety days, but even a month would be a step in the direction of justice. I don't have any personal grudge against Ms. Lohan beyond what I have against anyone else whose behavior endangers the welfare of others. What I really dislike is the multi-tiered justice system whereby the wealthy are often treated with more deference than are ordinary citizens.

One of my cousins had a teacher who was convicted of something related to having juvenile pornography on his computer. Exactly how long the material was viewed, exactly by whom, and how it got there in the first place were all topics never fully divulged. It's a small town where they live, and rumors tend to run rampant; there's talk that the man is actually taking the rap for someone else. Yet he's locked away for an absolute minimum of six years. I'm not condoning the viewing of child pornography, and I'm very sorry for the victims. Still, this man touched absolutely no one. In our area we have murderers serving less time than this man will serve. Might society have been better served by revoking the man's teaching credential and requiring him to register as a sex offender for life? For that matter, shouldn't a little more effort go into nabbing the producers of child porn rather than taking the simpler route of finding and punishing the viewers?

I don't know if there are easy answers here, but I hope Ms. Lohan does at least as much time as I would do had I been found guilty of the same thing, and then of violating the probation, which was, in itself, probably a gift.

Perhaps Judge Alex will be a talking head on one of the news shows covering Ms. Lohan's plight. The problem is that more often than not, I don't learn of his appearances on such programs until after they've aired.
This is unfortunate, as his comments are usually very insightful.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Informing TV Judges so this Case Can Never be on a TV Judge Show

Sometimes life throws curve balls at you and, try as hard as you may, dodging them is nearly impossible. Even though I'm not a baseball player as my brother is, a really fast-moving and rapidly curving ball hit me squarely in more places than one ball just over two inches in diameter should be able to cover. Of course I'm speaking metaphorically, especially since curve balls do not usually travel all that fast, hence the term "curve ball" versus "fastball." Anyway, figuratvely, the curve ball that hit me was actually a runner and hurdle in my lane of a track.

I'm still not really allowed to give tons of details. Another person who was injured in the accident is the offspring of an attorney. I don't wish to paint all attorneys with the same brush (aren't I full of hackneyed idioms tonight?), especially since I hope to one day be an attorney, but my parents said ever since this happened that conventional wisdom dictates that when you are involved in any sort of incident also involving the close relative of a trial lawyer, anything you say ANYWHERE can and will be used against you in a deposition, regardless of how much at fault the other party may have been and how little of the fault was actually yours. All I will say is what I've said before: the other hurdler and her hurdle landed in my lane. Blood stains and tissue samples, as well as photographic evidence, back up this assertion of my coach's 100%.

Incidentally -- and here is where I'm possibly crossing a line and giving out too much information -- the other injured party suffered very minor injuries in comparison to mine. As far as I know, the extent of the damage to my collidee was a skinned knee and sprained ankle. I'm not downplaying the pain caused by a sprained ankle. We all perceive pain differently, so it is within the realm of possibility that the pain experienced by one person with a scraped knee and not-too-severely sprained ankle could conceivably equal or exceed that experienced by another person with a compound tibia-fibula fracture, in addition to a broken clavicle. It seems a bit of a stretch, but for the sake of argument, we'll allow it.

I won't blame the collidee for subsequent happenings, including a dislocation of the uninvolved shoulder, a refracture of the clavicle, a staphylococcal skin infection, and four -- count them: one, two, three, four -- surgeries to my leg. The most recent leg surgery involved taking pieces of bone from each of my hips and grafting them into places in my tibia that were not healing with just the rods initially placed there. (Actually, I will blame the collidee for the surgeries; they were as a direct of the initial collision; they would be her fault as much as anyone else's.) For practical purposes, I now also have minor fractures and temporarily missing bone fragments in both hips.

The bottom line is that my parents have received notice that the collidee's attorneys wish to meet with my parents' attorneys. Nothing has yet been filed through any court. If this action gets to a courtroom, the county in which this accident occurred is, to express it in the mildest possible terms, out in the boonies. We're all going to be spending beaucoup (for the unschooled in French among us, the correct pronuciation is boh- KOO', not boo- KOO'; it's one of my pet peeves, albeit a very minor one; pronounce the word correctly or don't say it at all, please!) time in a place in which I suspect one would hear the sound of banjoes dueling off in the distance if one listened carefully for long enough. I certainly hope it never reaches that point. As much as I would have loved to have gone off to a university this fall as a sixteen-year-old, that was not going to happen unless President Obama found a way to lower the age of majority to sixteen, effective immediately. My second choice is to spend my next year in a classroom, on a diving board, and God willing, on a track. I don't wish to be tied up in a courtroom in the equivalent of a practically inbred version of Mayberry or Hooterville, testifying about exactly where I was and what I was thinking when another hurdler pushed her hurdle into my lane, then came down on top of me with her hurdle under me.

The truth of the matter is that I remember so very little that not much I would have to say could be of much value. I was probably thinking, "Go faster!" After that, I have vague memories of going in and out of consciousness as my coach was trying to keep me still until an ambulance arrived with a stretcher. I may have groaned a few curse words at some point. Can that hurt me in a law suit? ( For the record, my inappropriate language would have been more along the lines of "God#$%^ it, this hurts!" as opposed to "Fu@% the b!#@& who did this to me!" I don't know if that matters or not. In fact, I'm not actually sure if I said anything aloud or just thought it.)

So next week my parents' lawyers are meeting with the attorneys for the other parties. My mom knows the attorneys well and trusts them to represent us well. The attorneys don't even want to dignify the initial request for a meeting with the presence of anyone from our family. Additionally, my parents are scheduled to be out of the state on that day, and they don't want me to be there without them . I'm considered a bit of a loose cannon. They're apprehensive about what I might say, especially without them there to hear it in person.

I don't think my parents should be so concerned about my decorum at the meeting. I would say nothing if told to remain silent by my parents' lawyers. I usually listen to and comply with other adults far better than I do with my own parents. The scoop is that my parents' lawyers are informing those of the adversary that they, my parents, have every reason to seek compensation for my injuries, as the action was not my fault, and while actual medical bills have been covered, insurance has not taken care of some expenses related to my care. Additionally, I am probably entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. (I'll certainly second that!) My parents, through their attorneys, will offer to consider the incident an "accident, " which it certainly was. Although if blame were to be placed, it could not be placed anywhere near my direction, my parents are willing to overlook that and stipulate that accidents sometimes happen. Furthermore, they're willing to provide photographic information the lawyers have in their position that the hurdles may not have been weighted properly, if the parents of the other party wish to seek action agaist the hosting school district, which is the school district in which their child is enrolled. (Ironically, this would be of limited value to them; the girl would still have tripped over the hurdle; the resulting skinned knee and sprained ankle probably would have happened with the hurdles having been weighted properly. Only my injuries were likely worsened but the lack of weighting of the hurdles.)

My parents believe this is largely a peremptory strike on the part of the adversaries. They're operating under the assumption, my mom thinks, that if one is in danger of being sued, first yourself threaten to sue and maybe the other party will be so intimidated by your Rottweilers that they'll back off any legal action quickly. My parents and their lawyers are too smart to fall for this, if it is indeed the strategy being employed by the opposing side.

"Last week" has actually already happened. I'm posting this only after the meeting happened, so no one's battle plan will be revealed prematurely. The meeting should have occurred today. I will know nothing until next week. Please pray for me, light a candle, keep your fingers crossed, or do whatever you know to bring good fortune to a person. I absolutely HATE the sound of banjoes.

Judge Alex, I highly doubt that you are reading, but if you are, is there any way your program can show reruns from previous seasons? This would be a boon to viewers everywhere, but especially to bored little girls in casts who can't use crutches for eight more days.