Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Mama-Socks-And Hoping to Die at 75

Look at these great socks. Princeof Wales Check—Prince of Wales Plaid—Glen Plaid—Glenurquhart Check—Glenurquhart Plaid. 
When was the last time you saw a pair of these? Never. That's right.
Seems that there are lots of names for this pattern. And the nuancified, overwrought cataracts that differentiate these definitions/characterizations are tedious. Honestly, who gives a sh_t? It’s a pattern just jaunty enough to dodge boredom and variable enough in its repitition to sidestep redundancy. 
Domesticated Wildness. Think about it. As long as the Glen is woven within reasonable color combinations and scales, it conveys a rather civilized and, especially in our current world of slovenly dress, cleaned up—buttoned up—casual formality.
Yet blow the scale up and contrive it with other outta scale caca and what have you? A damn clown outfit.
Now don't get me wrong. You can play with color and scale to a fair degree and still avoid clowndom. Todd Hogg Howell teeters on the edge with his overcoat.
Here’s another example of what happens when you take traditional patterns and make 'em fuzzified beyond good measure. This abusive goat rodeo of pattern inbreeding broke out in houndstooth and there's nothing domesticated about this wildness. It flat out jumped the fence and started shamelessly licking front of everyone, right in the middle of the road. Best thing that could happen here is for a car to come run over it mid-lick. Lordy. Just wait till you see what I do with the Glen hose. Shut up.
Kind of a Domesticated Wildness this Glen thang is. Yep. That’s it. Sorta like the Beatles’ North American debut strategy. Domesticated Wildness. Jackets and ties on the Ed Sullivan show. None of that hippie ass beatnik-alated kit. Suits. And ties. Yet accompanied by head bobbing mop top hair that American parents found off putting and American girls found irresistible.
Here's the Beatles' third appearance on Ed Sullivan's show. See for yourself. 
And Chelsea boots. Not those usual shoddings that accompany suits intended for the City, Church’s cap toed whatevers from their home country. Not for these boys. Chelsea Boots—boots that conveyed keeping your daughter out past curfew, having been let into the Colony Room Club in Soho because your dad knows Francis Bacon. Oh, and their pants were ever so slightly slim. Not tight. Not in a pecker protrusion way. Remember, this was 1963 and the Jim Morrison leather britches potato in the front routine woulda never made it onstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater. But their pants were just so-so enough  to just piss off dads and intrigue dad’s little girl. Nice boys but watch them. They'll shag your sister.
How did I get this far off course when trying to extol the whateverishness of Glen Plaid? I’ll get back to it but final thang about the Beatles’ strategy. History assigns its inception to their first manager, Brian Epstein. “Epstein took the raw energy of generational conflict and made it acceptable.” The caged heat at the Beatles' Shea Stadium concert offers evidence of their strategy's efficacy.
And let me also clear up something about the genesis of one of the names of this pattern. The Prince of Wales Check or Plaid. It’s been assigned to both Princes…later to become Edwards VII and VIII.
Some are more prone to assign it to the Duke of Windsor but Bertie wore it long before that little whippersnapper Nazi understudy took it on.
And others have worn it in fine form. Not the least of whom is my sartorial brother in peaked lapelled contrivances, fellow drummer Charlie Watts.
Oh, and I met up with Charlie the other day on Savile Row. I kid you not. 
I’ll write a proper story about it someday soon.
And here I am several decades ago in a somewhat tame version of the glen whatever pattern. Rather attenuated compared to my later fuzziness. Same with the woman.
“Oh no, ADG, punter of all things fuzzy, the ONLY version of this pattern that’s truly, authentically, artisanally, curitorially the Prince of Wales check is the blue/brown combination”. Well let me just head off at the pass you sartorially autodidactilated, no life, still living with your mama, smartass anonymous commenters. Save it. We don’t care. And by the way, that particular combination is the ugliest version in the line-up. Go ask mama for an advance on your allowance and get yourself an outfit made from this legacy version, ok? And be sure to ask for the Jethro Bodine, Thom Browne shrunk up pattern. It’ll be sick. Shut the ….
Bottom line is that the assignment of this pattern to either of the Princes of Wales, later Kings Edward has been wrong all along. Truth is that the pattern was named in honor of Prince’s 1978 Wales tour. Prince and his hoochie coochie retinue played forty-three concerts in twenty days. “It was my most rewarding tour” said Prince. “The travel time from one concert venue to the next was easy-peasy”. I still can’t believe that Prince actually said “easy-peasy”.
Ok, I’ve done my duty regarding sartorial subjects. Seems that this blog used to be about such things. But I now want to point you to Zeke Emanuel’s article in the Atlantic, Why I Hope toDie at 75. And please, if anything pisses you off (other than the aforementioned rant about the Prince of Wales pattern caca) to the point of wanting to rage against me with a comment, please read Zeke’s article first.

My mother has now been back in the ICU for a week. And  my brother and I this weekend—our fifty-seven year old sister, a critical care nurse by training, is too incapacitated amidst her own struggle with lupus to either come and help us or offer objective input—are discussing the discontinuation of antibiotics for my mother’s intractable infections and working out the logistics of getting her back in the home that she’s been running for fifty-one years—the last year, from a hospital bed in the den. Hospice and palliative care are the only tactics we are willing to now discuss.
This is my sister and me a year and a half ago...saying goodbye to our mom the first time. I'm tired of saying goodbye. And we know that we aren't special or unique in this journey with our mom. Thousands of other siblings are amidst the same right now, all over the world. But we are exhausted. My mother has been toying with death for a year and a half now. I’m tired to the bone and weary of this eighteen month roller coaster of emotional whack-a-mole. The toll that it’s taken on me, physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially is alarming. I’ve never been pulled in so many directions simultaneously by forces that are so intensely demanding. And the guilt associated with under delivering on each demand has been paralysing. (My reasons for using the British spelling for paralyzing are twofold. One is that I just returned from England. The other is in honor of those Americans who affect in their writing, some connection to England by using “colour” instead of “color” and say herb—like “Herb Alpert” instead of herb—like “urb”. Here’s the deal—unless you have at least on British parent or you went to school in England for more than one year, stop with the Anglo Sycophancy. I gave up the practice as soon as my Aunt Tootie and Roxanne Burgess called me on it. So now I’m calling you out. Stop it.) 
Ok, back to my mama. I say the guilt “has been” because I’m over it. At least I am trying to be. I didn’t drop everything this past week and run to South Carolina to participate in the vigil yet again. I can’t back burner my life here to do it this time. My mom and I are rock solid and she knows that I’ve been there in service to her as much as physically possible over this last year and a half. I’m suffering from sympathy fatigue and I’m exasperated at the thought of selecting the next appropriate emotional state to check into only to have the universe once again tell me that I’ve selected the wrong damn one. Again.

Modern medical interventions don’t always prolong life. They forestall death. And the interim between what was a decent quality of life and  the reaper’s rap on the door is a rather hellish stretch of ennui. Nobody loves their mother more than me and my sibs. But if we are brave enough to disentangle ourselves from the tentacles of maudlin sentiment, my sibs and I should without guilt, face up to the reality that our mom should have died a year ago.

Had we been citizens of Germany or several other very countries who offer better overall population based health management than we do in the States, my mother would have never survived the initial incident a year and a half ago. Why? Because independent of advanced directives, they would have never put a feeding tube down her nose. We don't do a good job of having healthy dialogue about end of life issues here in the States. We don't do death very well. Countries that have a euthanasia option utilize it, surprisingly to me, not that often. But what the option allows is the platform for more candid discussions regarding end of life decisions. I'm not advocating it for the States. I'm just saying that we need to rethink how we manage the life journey.
And I can’t tell you what a tempest of every describable emotion I’ve had to work through to be able to say out loud and put in print my belief that it would have been better if my mom had passed on back then. I’m getting nauseated just typing this even though I’m resolute in my opinion. Why? Because my mom and I have had some lovely and humbly instructive moments over the last eighteen months. Laughing, eating barbecue, reminiscing, being humbled—both of us as I’ve put her on and off the bedpan and wiped her. But the cost has been too high by any and every measure one could use to assess the upside.

I’ve been to church more times than most of you who read my stuff. So please—don’t offer me that ethereal hall pass/permission slip bullshit that supposedly gets us off the hook for having to answer such tough existential questions. “It’s just not in our hands, Dust. There are higher powers at work here and we as mere mortals won’t know why things play out like they do till we get there.”  Folks, it’s the god given tools and intellect that allow mere mortals to perpetuate in the name of humanity, this cowardly and discourteous end of life shepherding process so don’t hand me the bullshit about how we are not in control of this journey. Yes, you can believe in a higher power and not subjugate your common sense as a condition of belief. 

The shepherds, or at least the committee that wrote the Standard Operating Procedures for the end of life shepherding process, should be fired.  And if after this; my admonishment to you, the mind numbingly naive members of the doctrinally impertinent, you still insist on offering me solace along the god’s in control lines, I’ll drive to your house—I don’t care if you live in Outer Vulgaria—and deploy my pimp hand or maybe even a closed fist, right in your pie hole. Until you've wiped pee from the maternal conduit through which you emerged...until you've locked eyes with your mother while doing so and realized that in her eyes there's shame and in yours, embarrassment, don't even try to school me. I mean right now. I can hurt you.
Let me tell you, if anyone is going to get “there” it’s my mom. And five gets ten that both of her husbands and her eight brothers and sisters already in residence up “there” are going to say “What the hell took you so long?” And her answer should be… “Well I was more than ready eighteen months ago but the United States of America’s Medical Industrial Complex wasn’t quite yet finished fiddling with me, my wallet, and the physical-financial-spiritual reservoirs of my kids. Oh, but for all those costs, I was able to dictate to Dusty the recipes for his favorite things that I’ve cooked for him these last fifty years. And I taught him to make stove top white trash cornbread in a cast iron skillet. You know he always did love that. Oh, and the last time he was home we shelled butterbeans".
Yes I’m exhausted and frustrated and deciding whether or not to select door two or three of the bereavement-depression-letting go game. But either way, I’ll be wearing some kick ass socks.
Onward. Two  Glenurquhart adorned steps forward. Three back. And listening wholeheartedly to Zeke Emanuel.



Marianne said...

Thanks for posting. You always make me think and look up a word or two along the way. I hope you book a much deserved vacation in the sun very soon.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if only we had the guts as a people to admit death comes and realize when our race is run. Wonderful article. I have been there and a century of medical "science" has not improved on pneumonia, the old mans friend.

Not Scarlett said...

I had to let go of my mamma in January after a major stroke. It ain't easy to let go, but it is for the best.

Anonymous said...

Your plight is not uncommon, and I'm certain you know that. I've been in your shoes. It is brutal.

What sickens me about your musings is that you want her to die because YOU are tired and drained (financially, spiritually, blah, blah, blah). Why on earth did you ever think her impending death would be swift and easy? As a healthcare industry person, you should know life just doesn't work like that, most of the time. God bless your mother, and may her days on earth bring her the love that you and others feel for her.

ADG said...

To Anon Sickened: You are correct. I'm keenly aware of the quite ordinary set of circumstances that my sibs and I are amidst. I've always been rather clear about that.

You are also correct in your observation regarding the rather selfish tone of my story. I regret that it sickened you to read it. I've been attending a Saturday morning group meeting with others similarly situated and it's been hugely beneficial. And one of the things that I've learned is that if we are brutally honest with ourselves, a good portion of all of the suffering associated with such endeavors is VERY self centered. Bereavement is also about us--not the deceased.

My mother's quality of life is virtually nil at this point and her dignity has been pilfered as well. So no, my focus isn't only on me, even though this story is apologetically slanted that way. And my desire for this to be over is for the benefit of everyone, most certainly my mother.

ADG said...

Oh, one other thing...

"As a healthcare industry person, you should know life just doesn't work like that, most of the time."

Life does work like "that" a LOT of the time. We and the clinical community simply don't ALLOW life to course naturally.

LPC said...

I am so sorry you guys are being drug through this all, literally and figuratively. I am sure you, being the aware and literate guy that you are, follow Atul Gawande. Wonderful writer for the New Yorker, and author of a new book on exactly this topic. Not Prince of Wales plaid, of course, but improving the idiotic way America approaches end-of-life. It's your mom, BTW, and your time, so I trust that she feels loved and you feel tired, sad, angry, and like a good bitch session could really help.

xoxoxox to you my friend. All this and a teenage daughter too;).

DocP said...

I spent twelve years as a part time hospice medical director. I hope you and your siblings are able to work with Hospice toward the goal of making your mother comfortable for whatever time she has left. I had the opportunity to hear Zeke address these issues for the docs at my local hospital while he was still in training. I found, even with my own father, it was difficult to know when to stop with the interventions.

ADG said...

Prunella...thanks. And yes, I'm a huge fan of Gawande for many reasons, not the least of which are his stunningly simple examples of how we can improve and efficiently systematize what we do for patients. Example: Simple checklists, similar to the ones that airline and fighter pilots utilize before firing up their planes. Checklists with maybe ten things on them that when surgeons faithfully utilize, medical errors and never events pre-peri-post surgery, reduce significantly and save lives and literally, millions of dollars.

DocP...I had a tacit appreciation for hospice before I flew to Toledo a few years ago--I wrote a blog story about it--to say goodbye to one of my surrogate dads and mentors. I saw firsthand the humanity of hospice when done well. I hope the same for my mother.

Gail, in northern California said...

Oh my gawd, Max. I'm writing through tears but you have no idea how much this post has helped me. Bless your kind heart.

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd like to read Scott Adam's opinions on this subject.
When funny guys get serious, they get serious...

yoga teacher said...

Wow! You are back. And my heart goes out to you.
I spent a pretty long time trying to be a good teacher, trying to be a good mom, and trying to take good care of MY mom [icu/assisted living/icu/rehab/full care/hospice]. The damned TRYING is draining. And it's always trying, because there is never going to be a result... that our moms, or we, want or think we want, and really we all know that all along.
You all, including your mom, are doing your very best, and, from the other side, you will look back on every bit of this with kinder eyes. For all of you, because you tried so hard.

Pigtown*Design said...

I know how hard this is for you. Similar situation a while back with my dad and it was killer. That's why I moved back to the States, after 1)living there, 2) going to school there and 3) having a british parent.

Anonymous said...

Been in your situation with my own mother, who suffered in much worse mental/physical shape for even longer, and it hurts to realize that it would have been far better to let her go originally (or the second time).

Macro economics show that you are obviously correct about end of life decisions, since a huge percentage of our national healthcare expense is spent on end of life care. It is no doubt why we spend more on health care than other countries. But lord forbid that a politician or health care policy leader say we need to treat older/sick/dying people less. Congrats to you for having the courage to say such, especially when it is your own mother who you have shared good recent times with as well. Your brutal honesty is impressive.

ADG said...

Gail...we love you and apologize for being so late in thanking you for the birthday surprise for my not so little Golden Hair. And we find no reason why you shouldn't come and visit us.

AnonDilbert...thanks for the link. Scott Adams' piece captures my sentiments exactly.

Yoga...PERFECTLY said. Really. You've captured the cycle of all things involved in the circuitous journey. And there is no joy at the end--unlike when we are caring for and nurturing a newborn through infancy to toddlerhood and beyond. If there was, the all consuming, energy draining aspects would be compensated with joy and anticipation of great things to come.

MegTown....thanks and happy birthday whenever it actually was...yesterday? And you are exactly the one I was thinking of when I offered the exceptions to my strident rule regarding Americans' use of English spelling. Hang on to my toy soldiers, please. I'll get them in 2016.

ilovelimegreen said...

You hit the nail on the head. Exactly on the head.

Mr. Sidetable said...

Of all the great stuff I've read on your blog over the past few years, this is very near the top of the list. My mom is similarly situated at present, although it's her choice to continue trying clinical trials for her metastatic cancer because she's pretty much the last working connection that my dad (Alzheimer's) has to the world. It is painful to know that if it were not for that, she probably would have stopped fighting 9 months ago.

Anyway, thanks for writing this. Wishing strength to you and your family. But that houndstooth-on-houndstooth crime has to stop.

ADG said...

Anon-Macro...thanks but there's nothing really brave about my candor. I'm just worn out. And I say this after just having washed my mom's face with a warm cloth. She smiled.

LimeGreen...I never wanted to be this facile a nail hitter.

Sidetable...A parent with Alzheimer's and one with advanced cancer. Wow. I'll be rooting for you as you navigate your way through such a tough journey.

And I've only just begun the pattern Goat Rodeo-ing. Bought me a houndstooth thong a SteinMart yeserday.

Sartre said...

Just to let you know I'm thinking of you, sending affection and respect --


Young Fogey said...

I can't imagine what you're going through. As always, you manage to convey your thoughts both earthily and eloquently. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

P.S.: Amazing socks. Ralph wishes he thought of them first. Maybe he did.

Anonymous said...

Rethinking Aging - Nortin Hadler (2011?). Best, Ta'er

Mason said...

I'd never thought of the euthanasia debate as being a "platform for more candid discussions regarding end of life decisions," but if that's what it would take, get it on the table. We've got a special type of death-phobia here, and your story is one example of how it can quickly become toxic. I'm sorry for your ordeal. Thanks for writing.

CeceliaMc said...

Thank you for letting me on this.

Really. Thank you, thank you, thank you.