Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Year Ago: the Infamous Finger

It was the day after Thanksgiving and mom and I had made plans to go window shopping at a nearby outdoor mall. Walk off those pumpkin pie calories, admire the decorations, maybe do a little shopping, and enjoy a light lunch afterwards. So I wasn't surprised when she called at 9 a.m. to tell me she was on her way to pick me up. Ready to go shopping? You betcha!

But then she oh, so casually mentioned that her finger hurt. Just a little.

"What do you mean it hurts?" I asked. "What happened?"

"Oh, I tripped over one of the dogs last night before I went to bed and I must have sprained it a little," she replied. "It's no big deal."

My antennas went up. If it wasn't a big deal, why had she mentioned it? "Do you need to see a doctor?" I asked. "Should I take you to Emergency?"

"Naaaaaw," she snorted, "it's nothing, really. Let's go shopping."


But when she picked me up 15 minutes later and I saw her middle finger, I had a slightly different take on the matter.


Because THAT was her middle finger, completely popped out of the second knuckle and bent at a 45 degree angle. It was in complete alignment with her palm, crossing her index finger like a "t" and pointing towards her thumb. I was trying not to gag.

"You're exaggerating," she insisted. "It feels fine!"

Yeah, right sister. Off to emergency we went.

When we checked in and mom displayed her hand with the finger bent like Gumby on crack, I got to say "I told you so" because the response was universal. Everywhere we went throughout the hospital, jaws dropped, eyes popped and stomachs turned. "OH MY GAWD!" the man at check-in exclaimed. As did the woman in the X-Ray department, the emergency technician and the doctor who treated her.

"See?" I told her. "You've even grossed out the people in Emergency and they've seen it all!"

She shrugged. And after the doctor gave her a painful anesthesia shot in the knuckle, snapped her finger back in the socket, taped it to a splint and swathed her hand like an oven mitt, she had but one thing to say.

"So are you happy now? Let's go shopping!" And we did.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soytini, Anyone?

You might call me a quasi-vegetarian. It's not that I have any particular ethics about eating things with a face, although once I begin reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I may start singing a different tune. Just the book review had me gagging.

Mainly, I stick to a veggie diet because veggies are quick and easy and I'm impatient and lazy. Plus, I have to confess I do feel better without all that cholesterol and whatnot churning through my body.

But I'll be the first to admit that some foods aren't meant to be healthy, no matter how you spin it. Such as the brownie I once impulsively purchased at the Whole Foods checkout stand. Thick, chewy, creamy, it looked like a slice of heaven and I couldn't wait to sink my fangs into it.

Eeeeuuuu, eeuuuuu euuuuuu! I promptly spat it out and scrambled for a napkin to scrape my tongue of any offending brownie residue. What the hell? Perplexed, I retrieved the wrapper from the trash can and discovered that this wasn't just any ordinary brownie, no sirree. This was a "vegan" brownie and the major ingredient was - sacrebleu - tofu!

Now, I love tofu. Eat it almost every day. But nowhere in my world do the words "chocolate" and "tofu" belong together in the same sentence. Nor, as I discovered last week, do the words "martini" and "soymilk."

This I learned when I was preparing for my weekly guilty pleasure triple threat: indulging in a chocolate martini while watching "Ghost Whisperer" followed by my Netflix rental of the week. I know, pathetic, but I love it. On this evening however, I discovered I was out of the cream used to dilute my martini. Darn. But wait: I did have a carton of vanilla soymilk. And milk is milk, right? Heck, maybe I was on the verge of discovering a healthy martini!

Au contraire mon frere. Martinis aren't supposed to be foamy. Nor should they smell like socks, look like mud or taste like battery acid.

But I may be on to something just the same. Whole Foods, if you're reading this, give me a jingle. I have a recipe for the perfect drink to wash down your vegan brownies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Skip it, You Say? REALLY?

Of course, I'm absolutely, unequivocally and undoubtedly certain that the new, more relaxed guidelines announced this week for breast and cervical cancer screenings were in no way, shape or form introduced, influenced or initiated by insurance companies.

I mean, really. Such a cynical and totally unfounded suspicion. Really.

Because really, I'm sure that insurance companies have absolutely no say in matters such as these, and the new cost-effective guidelines are purely for the good of all women and in our best interest, and there are no ulterior motives whatsoever.

I mean, really.

Friday, November 13, 2009

One Day at a Time

Yesterday, I received a thoughtful email from Tia, a former contributor to my Pet Tales column that runs weekly in the San Francisco Chronicle. She reads my Blog and noticed I haven’t been writing much lately. She also shared that she lost her own mother 12 years ago and her father 16 years ago, and to this day she's still not quite over it.

"I've given up thinking that it will ever change," Tia said. "So I just live with it." But she understands how losing a parent feels, and was just checking in to say hi, see how I'm doing. I appreciate that, I really do.

Here’s the thing: writing is cathartic. I usually address what’s on my mind and in my heart. And these days, both are so heavy with grief that I can hardly motivate myself to do anything other than the bare essentials to keep me going.

How am I doing?

Well, my sister (second from left in the above photo) and I tried grief counseling, but dropped it after a couple sessions when we noticed that the counselor was fishing for family skeletons. Really lady, there aren’t any, we wanted to say. We’re just two daughters mourning the loss of our mom. We didn’t tell her that, but afterwards, we agreed to save the $165 per hour she was charging and spend it on something more therapeutic, like massages. Come January, we’re going to need to unwind after we start cleaning and emptying mom’s beloved home of 40 years. It's a task we're truly dreading.

In lieu of grief therapy, I’m turning to recommended books. One is “When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults" by Edward Myers. It's comforting to read that my emotions and reactions are typical and that I'm not alone. Or crazy, like it sometimes feels. Sudden death is especially difficult to deal with, the author notes. He also cautions that the grieving process typically lasts up to two years. It's been just two months. I can't imagine two years of living with this ache in my heart. And yet I can't imagine ever feeling normal again. Ever NOT missing mom.

Yesterday morning at Starbucks, I saw an older woman with short curly gray hair and wearing the same type of sweatshirt and jeans that mom was so fond of. And I remembered one of her simple pleasures: every single morning, she piled the dogs, Lucy and Holden, into the back seat of her Corolla, and with their happy heads wagging out the window, she took them for a drive, much to the amused delight of all her neighbors who witnessed this daily trek. Then she wrapped up their field trip with a stop at Starbucks for a Chai Tea latte.

For just the briefest of seconds, I wanted to call mom and tell her I'd seen her twin. And then I remembered. The pain washed anew, like it just happened yesterday, and in the Starbucks parking lot I fought back the tears.

It will take time, I know. And I'm trying, really I am. Thank you for asking.

And that's how I'm doing.
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