Looking at Independence

Today is a bittersweet day for me. It was 11 years ago that my father passed away from a systemic MRSA infection which was a consequence of removal of fibrin build up in his AV fistula (kind of a roto-rooter procedure). It was his Independence Day – he was finally free of all the pain and suffering from diabetes and the complications, including kidney failure and dialysis. At times it seems to have happened a lifetime ago and then today it feels fresh. It all comes into sharp focus and I find myself in a melancholy mood.

This is not helped by the fact that I’m retired. I looked at retirement as emancipation from the drudgery of an 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM work week. So this is the first week of my Independence too. I am trying to develop some sort of rhythm for my day. I was ready to step away from my job but it is still an adjustment. Having a written agenda, like I kept at work, helps me budget my time and keeps me on task. However a real schedule can’t be set since I have been busy with all the parties and commitments. I’m getting some extra sleep and doing some reading. I’m even watching some movies on Netflix that were on my list (Ralph Wrecks the Internet, Spider-man into the Spiderverse). I had said I was going to give myself a week to decompress before charging into this new era. As this week winds down, I’ve set some tasks for myself. I have to condense some papers and clean out some file drawers. I’m going to organize all the appliance warranties (and toss the ones that aren’t needed). Baby steps. Next is getting the house cleaning on a schedule, then an exercise schedule, and after that a writing schedule followed by an art schedule. I just hope my muse gets with the program…

Looking But Not Touching

The door to the small animal clinic was unlocked. Thankful that they hadn’t closed for the day, she rushed to the reception counter. She was relieved and disappointed at the same time that no one was at the desk. Craning her neck she scanned the area behind the counter and then looked over the waiting room. She was all alone in the golden light streaming through the windows. Soundlessly a woman in nurse’s scrubs appeared. Soon there were several others behind the counter moving fluidly as if poured slowly from some cosmic pitcher. She pivoted to follow their trajectory. The volume in the room suddenly rose, magically as the universe turned up the volume. Lu had experienced this phenomenon before when she was exceptionally stressed. She was able to attract the attention of one of the wandering figures. She announced that she was here to check on her cat, Mister. The sounds of the clinic stopped abruptly like a needle scratching across a vinyl record. Lu narrowed her eyes mimicking Mister when he sensed that something was just not as it should be. A veterinary student asked Lu to follow her into an exam room. It was the same room where she had placed Mister’s carrier on the table and watched as he was carried away. Unlike the doctor’s office or more recently the lawyer’s office, she waited only a few moments before the surgeon strode into the room. He looked grim. His tired eyes looked straight into Lu’s. She felt instant panic. She never even got the question from her mind to her tongue before he launched into a detailed description of Mister’s surgery. She didn’t understand all of it. What she could understand was they took bone from his pelvis and used that to repair his jaw somehow; that his front leg had been amputated because the foot had gangrene and the nerves had been severed when the shoulder was fractured. They fixed the shoulder. She managed to squeak out her query, “And now?” The veterinarian looked down. After a deep breath he told her that Mister was in bad shape, the surgery was longer than they expected, and that he lost more blood than they had hoped. He added that they had given him a transfusion and were delivering antibiotics to help fight the infection. His last words fell like bombs on her ears, “If you are inclined, now would be a good time to pray.” She wanted to see him. They lead her through a maze and finally into a narrow room with a bank of cages with Plexiglas doors. There was a pervasive hiss in the background as oxygen was delivered into his cage. She couldn’t touch him, only look at him through the cage front. He looked so small and helpless. She fought the tears but lost that battle only to have several hands extended holding Kleenex. She took their offering and sobbed.

I was torn – Should I post the regularly scheduled episode or write something more in keeping with Independence Day Eve? As you can see I went with the story. I love America. I stand during the national Anthem. I say the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart (just like I was taught in kindergarten). However the recent rabid patriotism is a little disturbing. I believe America is great because of the diversity of people, opinions and religions not in spite of them. The replacement of civil discourse with belligerent rhetoric has soured my desire to engage those who disagree with me. I will keep my mouth closed and let my voice roar at the ballot box.

Looking for a Kleenex

I was not surprised that people trooped into my office on my last day. What took me aback was who stopped by! Several of the graduate students came to tell me that I was the only person to help them when they first came to the university. They said that I was the most helpful with their research. I don’t know for certain but I suspect that the Chinese language doesn’t have a word that distinguishes like and love. I had so many declare that they loved me! One young lady announced that she was going to miss me badly. Then she stood there hopping on one foot then the other (I thought maybe she had to pee). But no she was working up the courage to ask if she could hug me good-bye. She gave me a hug and then with tears told me that she loved me…

A coworker tendered her resignation that last day. She gave me a card expressing what she felt was my legacy.

What was most difficult was saying good-bye to a special few. One of my more reserved coworkers stopped in to say farewell. She is usually very emotionally controlled. She started to tell me that she was going to really miss me when the tears started. She fought a losing battle. Then she wanted a hug. I gave her one (and a kleenex). My closest coworker by dent of having spent many hours in a small room together, Mr. Fudd, had been crabby all week. He was snappish and surly, and had been avoiding me. I think that was how he was coping with my departure. He gave me a gift. It was unexpected but also in character. He gave me a very sharp Gerber tactical knife, in case I need to come into work at night alone. He probably would have given me a hand gun but he knows that guns scare me. (we’ve discussed weaponry and he knows I have been sad about losing the switch blade knife my grandfather gave me “for protection”…). He purposely disappeared before I left. I suspect he didn’t want to cry in public (though I’ve seen him cry when he told me his brother died). I’ve eaten lunch alone on many occasions but there are 2 people who in the last 6 years have been my lunch companions. I will miss those two terribly. Of course they were the last two to stop in. One gave me a card and a hug and then fled because she couldn’t bear it. This is part of the 2 page letter she wrote.

The other helped me carry the last of my things to my car. As I turned around to thank him, I was not surprised to see the tears streaming down his face. He hugged me as if I were leaving to take up residence on Mars. Between sobs he told me I was “his extra mother” and that he didn’t know what he’ll do once I’m gone. So many gave me gifts and shed tears. I was hugged. I passed out kleenex. I know that I made a difference.