Saturday, October 31, 2009

And now, a week later . . .

Please wash your grotesquely, misshapen monster paws

At the end of quite an eventful week, this is what I got to spend several hours looking at last night—a really awful sign stuck to the door of a tiny little room in the Emergency Room at St. Vincent's. For what it costs for health care these days, I expect better graphics than this.

Here's another view from inside the little room. A round-y mirror stuck high on the wall in the hall just outside the door. No doubt it is there to prevent collisions between all those doctors and nurses running around, yelling "Stat!" and hurtling through the halls pushing machines that go "ping". But it's not like on TV. Nobody back here is in much of a hurry. Oh, I'd see the occasional orderly pushing a cart of laundry, then someone in scrubs would saunter past carrying a large soft drink and a Styrofoam fast food container. Mind you, the lobby was chaos, with head wounds, swine flu, people rushing people on gurneys from helicopters and ambulances through, heart attacks, asthma attacks, soccer injuries and more. But back here it is pretty quiet. We are lucky to be here, having endured three hours in the waiting room/lobby for our turn in the little rooms. Little did we know that the little room would entail another two-hour wait. But I've gotten ahead of myself—

Back to a week ago.

On Sunday my cousin Ginger called to tell me that our Aunt Clio had passed away. Clio was my Dad's sister and at the end Clio seemed only to remember him. "I had a brother named James." The rest of us had disappeared from her memory, including her only child who died nearly two years ago.

As an adult I lived for 13 years in Ashland, where Clio lived, and got to know her as I never had before. She lost her husband when she was still quite young, her son had joined the Air Force and she lived alone with her beloved dog when we knew her. She worked in the university library, a quiet lover of books. She was lovely, with an angelic face and thick wavy, silvery hair, but never thought of herself that way. She would blush and nervously flutter a hand to wave away compliments as just so much nonsense. She never had an unkind word to say about anyone, was a wonderful cook and a terrible backseat driver. She had a sweetness and vulnerability that drew people to her and made you want to take care of her. After we left Ashland her mind began to drift and her memories faded away. In the end it seemed it was all gone, except her brother James, and all the words to "The Red River Valley" which she could sing right up until the end. It was one of the songs sung at her memorial service on Wednesday.

My brother, Steve, flew to Portland on Tuesday and we drove to Ashland on Wednesday for Clio's service. It was a small group that gathered at the beautiful little cemetery overlooking the town and valley, so I was glad we had gone. The weather was crisp and clear and there was a bit of snow on the Siskiyous. After the service we spent a really nice evening with another aunt and my cousin and her family, and drove back to Portland the next day.

Steve planned to spend a couple days with us before heading back to Idaho, including helping us celebrate my son Andy's birthday yesterday. We started the day with a drive out in the country and a hike, then lunch. During lunch something lodged in Ray's esophagus and would not budge. He has had this problem before and it usually goes down in a minute or two, but this time it did not. He was very uncomfortable and after about an hour we decided to go to the emergency room—where we waited—and waited. Finally, five hours later, when it seemed the doctor was about to arrive with her "team" to extract the offending plug, it dislodged and Ray was fine, but exhausted. It was too late for the dinner out that we had planned for Andy's birthday, but when Ray and I finally arrived at our house, everyone was there with food and drinks and then the party was underway. A great end to a pretty bad day.

For me the word of the week was "family." To be there when they need us and to be able to count on them being there when we need them. I feel pretty lucky.


  1. I feel pretty lucky too, Ma...
    We have a wonderful family! :)

  2. Susan LT3:34 AM

    Sensitive, lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anonymous6:39 AM

    Indeed, thank you for sharing. It's always nice to be reminded of how important family is, and how lucky we are. I'm glad the long ER stay wasn't for anything too serious.

  4. nothing like being forced to be in the moment to remind us all how lucky we are and WHO is important. Hugs to all of you.

    ps..tell Ray I won't serve chicken at the Xmas party ;-)

  5. Oh, Terry, what a time. Lovely family post -- and I'm SO glad Ray is okay!

  6. Just one of those weeks! Hope Ray is feeling fine.

  7. Some very lovely words on family. We are also very glad Ray is OK>

  8. Echoing the "whews" and gratitude that things turned out okay. You're very lucky to have such a close and supportive family. Your aunt Clio sounds like a wonderful woman, too.

  9. Anonymous12:17 PM

    What a lovely post you wrote, and not just this time, but all of them. I am new to your blog, tipped off to it by our mutual friend Reva, and though we have never met, I look forward to reading whatever you have to say. I am glad things turned out okay for your husband and that your family was there. You are lucky indeed!

  10. I love a happy ending! An unpleasant few hours (especially for Ray) but what a relief it was no worse.

  11. Lovely remembrance and tribute to your Aunt. It is so sad, isn't it, when memory leaves - yet so sweet that she still remembered your Dad.

    Scary about Ray and also about the length of time you had to wait in the ER ... do you think Obamacare will fix this?

    I'm sorry that I wasn't able to meet you during my recent trip to Pacific NW. As you write, being surrounded by family became my focus and it was glorious. Next time, perhaps, I'll rent a car and be more free to wander.