This One Goes Out To All You Long-Haul Truckers

Okay, I'm back. This is frustrating for me. I want my blog to be fun, but I also want to use it to keep friends and family updated with my life and how it's going. And sometimes those two are mutually exclusive. But I think I'm in a good place now, and this is the part where things start looking up.

When last we left our hero, he'd just hopped a plane to California and been chauffeured be his amazing Auntie Carol to the hospital, where Dad was at death's door.

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Mom had a group text message going to a core of Dad's loved ones, who were passing the news on to others. I wanted to keep the news going, of course, but I wanted to ensure that people knew this was a new, distinct voice from my mom's. I also wanted to maintain a positive outlook while conveying accurate info about a dire situation. And that's when inspiration hit.

I spend a good deal of my working hours listening to podcasts, one of which is an AM call-in show in a town vexed by paranormal happenings. It's half-comedy and half-drama and is delightfully true to its format. The "show" on before theirs is a jazz format, with a smoky-voiced host who loves the ladies (or tries, at least) and occasionally we get a minute or two of him before the transition. So I knew what I had to do: channel my inner Chet Sebastian.

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I posted this shortly after midnight and kept it going from there:

If you notice the dates and times in the text messages, once Dad's fever broke he was able to sleep okay that night. What I didn't share is that for the first few hours, his blood pressure was so low that the nurse had to give him IV fluids before she could administer any pain meds (which is why I mentioned his BP in slide three). The plan had been that Mom would wake up early-ish Saturday, and that I would head back to their house and crash. I consider it a great compliment that she slept in and didn't get to the hospital until 9:30 or so. In her update she took on her DJ mantle ("sparkle" is her favorite color, so it seemed appropriate). Also, the term coming up is "ileus" — not "ileum," which is the part of the small intestine that transitions to the large intestine, so probably they're related.

Along with the ileus came fever and chills Saturday night, so we really bundled Dad up for a few hours until the antibiotics kicked in. Once he was comfortable I napped on the fold-out couch in the hospital room. I'd wake up whenever the nurse came in or Dad needed something. Image 5 includes Princess, Mom & Dad's cat who certainly doesn't get enough treats. I stayed up with Dad after the doctor's visit, until Mom got there. In the hospital is not the best place to spend Fathers' Day, but it's way better than the funeral parlor so we were happy for it. Carol once again stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park for us:

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Dad of course received lots of well-wishes via text, and also opened the cards he'd received.

Sunday and Monday night he'd recovered enough that I could crash on the fold-out for most of the time I was there. I'd been sleeping for probably 6 hours at my parents' house each day and running on adrenaline and coffee the rest of the time, and it finally caught up with me, so I didn't post another update until Tuesday morning (like daylight morning, not the midnight kind). Also, I may have gone a teensy bit overboard on the 50's lingo.

So there we are. KERR has been off the air ever since, and thank goodness. In fact, M&D have their new travel trailer and have taken overnight trips both to the beach and the mountains, and he had his new drain removed at the end of July. After so many false hopes we're all thrilled that Dad is doing so well.

Oh, and of course, I thoroughly enjoyed my Auntie's party.

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“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
― Frank Herbert

A Series Of Unfortunate — Augh! Copyright Lawers!

Once again, too much going on. June was a hell of a month. Back in mid-May my dad needed emergency surgery to have his gallbladder removed. Apparently it had become gangrenous, and the pain and high fever got him to the ER to have it removed. This is a rare condition which requires immediate attention for the patient to survive. They sucked out all of the gunk that had been bloating his chest, and after a brief hospital stay they sent him home. And everyone lived happily ever after!

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According to WebMD:

The gallbladder is a small pouch that sits just under the liver. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver. After meals, the gallbladder is empty and flat, like a deflated balloon. Before a meal, the gallbladder may be full of bile and about the size of a small pear.

In response to signals, the gallbladder squeezes stored bile into the small intestine through a series of tubes called ducts. Bile helps digest fats, but the gallbladder itself is not essential. Removing the gallbladder in an otherwise healthy individual typically causes no observable problems with health or digestion

Normally when the gallbladder is removed, the ducts leading to the other organs seal up on their own. Normally. But my dad is an exceptional man, and apparently his liver is exceptional too. Those ducts didn't close and bile leaked into his abdomen. The bile that digests fats. The fats that are part of what holds a body together. On a weekend a couple of weeks after the initial procedure, he was helping an old friend's widow organize an estate sale when, again, he felt poorly, so he drove the three hours from his (relatively) rural hometown back to my parents' home in Southern California. I think it was the very next day that the pain and fever returned, as did my parents to the ER. This is a rare condition which requires immediate attention for the patient to survive. Like, if he had stayed another day, his hometown hospital almost certainly wouldn't have had the specialist on hand to deal with it. And a medevac flight to a major hospital might have taken too long. But he was at home where the ER is a very short drive away. The surgeon sealed the bile ducts and removed as much bile as he could, and installed a drain in Dad's abdomen so whatever remained could, well, drain. Into a bag that required changing every 4 hours, not because it was full, but so it didn't get full. And after a week or so, the drain was removed, Dad was healed, and everyone lived happily ever after!

 Yeah, we know where this is headed...

Yeah, we know where this is headed...

It's mid-June now, and the pain hits again. This time it's so bad that even with help from Mom and the gardener he can't get into the car. They call the ambulance and at this point they're both just exhausted from all this. The process has taken its toll on both body and mind. This time it's an abscess inside his liver, one that couldn't be seen when the doctors had him in previously. I live 300 miles away and I was exhausted.

Now, bear in mind that, working swing shift, I get everything late. Thursday night all I knew was that he was back in hospital. Friday I got up, made my coffee, and sat down to see what the news was. And it was not great. He'd already had one procedure and was headed in for he next one in a couple hours. He and my mom and my aunt all needed me, and I was (and am) fortunate to be in a position to answer the call. I let work know that I wouldn't be in, that I had a family emergency, and they basically told me to go, and that we'd worry about the paperwork when I returned. (I ended up using up the remainder of my leave and worked a few extra hours to make up the difference.) I had been planning to fly down the 22nd for a major birthday so I changed the ticket to leave that afternoon. I got to the hospital at 9 and Dad was still pretty out of it from the second surgery, but he was resting.

Okay, I'm sorry, but I need to cut this short. I've kept putting it off, and have written it in multiple sittings, because the pain is too fresh for me to handle it easily. Part 2 is coming, and yes – so far at least – we have a happy ending. But right now I just need to post this and hit the hay. Be good to each other out there.

But Am I Choosing To Post This?

In preparation for the second season coming out, I recently re-watched HBO's Westworld. It is amazing. If you haven't seen it (and aren't turned off by the sex and violence) Find time. Make time. It's not only a show with superb production value but one that encourages its viewers to think. In a golden age of distracting eye candy (I'm looking at you, Marvel) it's refreshing to watch a show that expects its viewers to contemplate its implications. I go so far as to call it art.

 God damn it, Dan...

God damn it, Dan...

In particular, each time I watched it I thought about free will. About how much, really, we choose our actions. It's not the first time. There's an episode of NPR's Radiolab which discusses the issue. Here's an article from the NYT Magazine which tells of two sets of twin brothers who were switched at birth. It's a case that helps us better understand the interplay of nature and nurture: of what we get from our DNA, the 23 chromosomes from each parent, vs. what we get from our experiences. And, as with everything, these media informed my viewing of Westworld.

 Oh, for the love of... Now you're not even trying.

Oh, for the love of... Now you're not even trying.

It's a tricky question with no good answer. I choose to believe that free will is a comforting illusion. (See what I did there?) The thing is though, that we live in such a complex world that it's impossible to trace most effects to their root causes, So much of our experience is lodged in our subconscious. The environment a fetus is exposed to is proven to affect one's physical and mental well-being. Adults will treat a baby differently based on whether they think it's a boy or girl. Each culture leaves its own blueprint on everyone who grows up in it; consumption of insects is a great example. In most modernized cultures it's considered disgusting, while for billions of other people it's simply food. (To be fair though, western science is now considering insects as a way to feed our ever-expanding population. Hashtag #notallwhitepeople.)

And of course I'm not the first to consider the issue. I haven't studied the issue deeply, as many philosophers have. I haven't even studied those philosophers. Heck, the only reason I can remember some of their names is from that Monty Python song. Which brings us neatly back around to my original subject, entertainment! Yes, yes, I meant to do that....

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In addition to raising philosophical questions, it's just done well. M. Night Shyamalan ruined the word twist for me, but maybe JJ Abrams has rescued it. The twists on first viewing were well-executed and at least two of them felt like gut-punches. Yes there are multiple and no I won't spoil them. Upon second viewing I was able to enjoy the foreshadowing and story elements related to those twists. With at least the first season, the writers appear to have had the whole arc planned before one scene was shot. The lighting, camera angles, every aspect of film making I'm familiar with, just incredible. And with a 10-episode season, very tight and trim. I didn't see any filler — again, they knew what they were doing and where they were going.

So yeah. Watch it. Or don't. It's your choice. ...or is it?

I choose to see the beauty