MFM Update

My mom/MFM has Parkinson's Disease. Last summer, before we moved from Western Massachusetts to Northeast Ohio (Cleveland Rocks!), she was diagnosed with Parkinson's dementia.

If you can't remember how to spell dementia does that mean you have it? It just took me three times.

She broke her hip on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Eve. Her surgery meant a lot of people didn't get the day off. She was in surgery for five hours and got a unit of blood, then two more the next day because her counts were low. Her whites were fluctuating but she was discharged after two days of no signs of infection. The doctor said no weight on the leg at all for 6-8 weeks, and we'll have a follow-up a couple/three weeks from now.

Now she's in the sub-acute ward of a local rehab center. It's called Menorah Park. Lex asked whether that was where menorahs go to play… in the park. They answer the phone, “Shalom, Menorah Park.”

Mom and us –me, my husband, our two young sons– have been on this journey before so I already knew to ask whether each resident has his/her own TV and phone. You can't assume that they will so I always ask, and they said yes, which is true, but the question I never thought to ask was, “am I going to have to do her laundry.” That's a small, hot load, run all by itself and dried on low-knits.

It's also kosher, which means that the only “outside” foods I can bring in are uncut fruits and vegetables: for those, they call in a Moyle.

I called a family care-plan meeting and everyone there –except me and the intern– started throwing around the words, “private pay.” I told them that MFM was a valuable member of our household but she'd only been there for four days so let's not even start to think about going there. Then the nurse manager said, “it's not us who decides, it's Medicare,” which is true, yes, but I know that particuarly sub-acute wards have some leeway in what they define as week-to-week progress (which is what Medicare needs to see in order to foot the bill).

Her spirits are good and she's working hard in therapy and I had her happily drinking a diet coke and eating Cheez-Its when I told the nursing station I was leaving. Forgot to grab her laundry (grrr…) but I'm taking Lex there today and then I think he and I will go for ice cream, junior-sized.

fool's errand

Today, I ran a fool's errand. I had a iffy feeling about it anyway, so I brought the whole family with me. My beloved, kick-assedly talented DH Monstro drove. I sat in the seat where he has to put the van in “P” and then push the button to open my door. I ran all over the Cleveland Clinic campus and experienced conversations with green hoodies, redjackets, and a hospital cop.

MFM (My Favorite Mother) isn't feeling well and I think she has a UTI, but she couldn't give a sample on Friday at the doctor, so she brought the kit home with her (and a hat!) and we did the catch yesterday. That afternoon, I drove to the Cleveland-Clinic-affiliated ancillary surgical center in my city. But it was Saturday, and it was closed.

[The Cleveland Clinic is the #4 in the nation according to the banners hung in all the streets, which are many because it spans 15+ blocks with 3-4 up and down.]

The security guard Saturday said my best bet was Main Campus, so I found the number for Laboratory Client Services and called. “Oh yeah, bring it here,” the guy said. “It has a bar code, right?” Yes, it does. [Later, in-person, he disavowed all involvement.] He gave me directions that ultimately included an ambulances-only, no-throughway “street.” Monstro and the kids and MFM let me off and I found the red counter after asking just before it came into view.

“And I have a Master's degree!” I told my directional enabler.

The lady behind the red counter looked at it and shook her head. “There's no papers. You have to go to J Building, to Phlebotomy.” Further interrogation got her to tell me the building was also called “The Miller Building.”

I got back to the van, bag in hand, and told them, “I've never worked so hard to hand off a jar of pee.”

We drove up and down. The “Miller Building” is the Miller Pavillion, a double-digit-story, curved glass edifice you expected to see Tom Cruise climbing. Hard to miss. Monstro let me out again and I asked some helper-youths in green hoodies where to go. They pointed me toward the red coats and I marched down a one-person-wide hallway there for that sole purpose.

The red coats tittered at my request. The worker got right on the phone while the trainee ruffled through slip-coated booklet pages. I mumbled something about Stump the Band and the trainee said, “Oh no, she just has to talk to the person who knows whether it's A-10, J4, blah blah.” Clearly, she was worthless so I stepped up to blatantly eavesdrop on the phone conversation in progress.

The red-jacket lady, late-40s, coiffed, waved her nails in the air as she consulted with her higher-up, Oz. “OK, so she should go direct to the lab,” she said. I interrupted,”if he's going to say the lab on 93rd and Carnegie, I've been there and they wouldn't take it.”

A few more worthless minutes and she hung up, but not before saying, “OK, thanks, I'll let her know,” which is never ever going to preface news like, “you just won the lottery!” or “that STD scare was a false alarm.”

“You know, it's the weekend, and we just have a very light staff,” she started.

“Are you saying that there isn't anyone in this building who can test my mother's urine for a UTI?”

She shrugged. “We're just really lightly staffed on the weekend.”

OK. Clearly, when I first saw them and said, “third time's a charm!”, I jinxed it.

I strode down the hallway for everyone and turned the corner past the hospital cop, who had the stance of Morgan Freeman in last night's Casa de Movie “Gone Baby Gone.”

“This whole place,” I told him while not breaking stride, “and nobody can help me find out why my mom is sick.”

“How, what, what do you mean?”

“I go to the lab, they say come here. I talk to the redcoats and they say go back, or just wait until Monday.” During part of this I was facing him, walking backward, not breaking stride (my new boots are great for that, very solid-footed and just high enough). I waved my hand, walked through the double doors, and came back to the van, bag in hand.

“Nobody there can take it,” I said. “Time for lunch!” When we got to Melt, I made sure Monstro locked the minivan.

“I wouldn't want anyone to mess with what's in the backseat,” I said, helping MFM and her walker over the uneven pavement.

“What, you mean the jar of pee?” she answered, cracking up and we laughed.

I'm going to take it back to my neighborhood's surgery center tomorrow morning. Does pee go bad?


“You should have thrown the piss at them,” Monstro said while I was writing this before leaving for Rite Aid to buy beer.

Friday Friday

Yesterday felt like Monday so I'll take Friday today for $200, Alex. Mom awoke confused and achey so I spent 25 minutes getting her a doctor's appointment for 10:00 this morning, and her new agency-based caregiver (we let the other one go; she didn't clean for shit and was always texting and always had Mom buy her lunch when they went out) took her so I could take the boys to Chuck E. Cheese, as promised before Winter Break even began. Both boys resume school next week and I look forward to 6 hours of being without caregive-ees during the end of next week.

Just found out about a ukulele workshop on Feb. 12 that doesn't cost too much money. Going to have to talk with Monstro about it; we are thinking of making a considerable purchase this year and are doing best to watch our dollars. Anyway, I think I could use another workshop. I'd like to take Dave Schwensen's comedy workshop this spring but he's upped the admission to two-hundred bucks and that's steep for me. True, at the end of it you get a video of yourself in front of the iconic “IMROV” logo… I'm hoping they'll start offering amateur nights so I can get back up there. Of course, there's the small issue of writing something new, really honing it. I can't believe I'm saying this but I wish I were back in Western MA for a week — the day after I left they started like 5 more open-mics every month, some of them weekly, most of them MCd by my Bishop's Lounge buddies.

If this were my didn't-write-it Christmas letter, this paragraph would be about the balance I'm finding in taking care of my mom and family while also achieving success in stand-up comedy. I would like to come up with a program and present it at Rotary Clubs and the Elks, etc. I know I've complained before that the Cleveland open-mic circuit starts too late for my schedule; by bringing comedy and education to the local clubs, I could at least do some lunchtime gigs. I'm much better at lunchtime. Plus, it's not past my bedtime. My dad is involved in a NorCal older-men's group so I'm going to start by talking to him about what types of speakers they have at their monthly lunches.

Anyway, as I said before, MFM isn't feeling well and the boys are home for three more days, so please, say a prayer. The peace of Christ be with you.

short-but-NSFW Review: Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Monstro and I had a date night last night so after a Lagunitas IPA draft and three, $3-apiece maki rolls (Hiroshi's Pub has rockin' sushi), we went to the local multiplex to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: the one directed by David Fincher, starring Daniel Craig as Mikael and Rooney Mara as the fictitious-heroine-force-for-our-time Lisbeth Salander. It kinda sucked.

The rest of this will be Not Safe For Work so go click on a picture of my kids to go somewhere nicer.

I've read all three Girl novels and seen all three Swedish movies, so I am more informed than someone, say, Monstro, who is married to someone who has read all the books and seen the movies.

For him, the plotholes and myriad family characters with Swedish names “who they threw at us for like 5 minutes and that was all” was detrimental. “Oh, and everyone's out raping everyone else.”

The sex in Fincher's film is gratuitously… gratuitous. Mara's Salander thrashing and bucking her should've-been-bonier ass while chained to her conservator's bed. Salander wouldn't bounce her bottom all over the place. Puh-leese. Also, I don't think Salander kicks the dildo up his ass during her revenge in the novel, but I'd have to check the source material to make sure, and I don't wanna. Also, I'm afraid that the Salander rape scene and her ultimate revenge will set back the home-bondage-and-anal-play movement by 20 years, at least. Pity, that.

good run today

I did five sun salutations before I ran for 30 minutes today, and both felt pretty darn good. This was the first “good run” I've had in a few weeks; after my fit-test fail I took a couple of weeks off (per the suggestion of “Runner's World,” honest). Yesterday I ran about two miles and today I ran just over that, starting at a slow baseline for 10 minutes and then upping either the speed or the incline for 4 minutes, then recovery.

Also, my hypothesis has been confirmed: Clevelanders drive better in the snow than Massachusettsians do.

Also, on the morning of New Year's Eve, I finally got the Ohio plates for my minivan. Now I just have to send back my old ones to MA.

New Year's 2012

It will surprise none of you to learn that Monstro and I were the hit of the New Year's Eve party we went to with our best friends here in Cleveland. If you're looking for a way to spend New Year's Eve, go to a party that skews old: where you, your sweet baboo, and your two friends will at first only know yourselves and each other, and throughout the evening become acquainted with the other four people at your large, round, white-tableclothed dinner table. Our table was right next to the open bar and I also got to speak with the two bartenders and the policeman, and I got to kind of school him because he totally let me reach for a napkin on the counter within inches of his well-armed holstered-gun hip. (No, that's not code for anything. He had a gun.) Overall, it was like crashing a wedding on a cruise ship.

Even though the music started in the 1930s, the DJ brought us to a promising Shirelles song that would've had my dad spouting, “now *that's* some great music,” and finally threw us a “how will this go?” round of Let's Get it Started, for which Monstro, Karen, and I raced to the dance floor to vote with our feet. Someone should've called homicide because we were *killing* it on the dance floor. I'm pretty certain the “wooh!”s from strangers were for us. Well, OK, for me. I tore it up.

The surprising buzzkill of the night was Adele's “Rollin' in the Deep” (also the dog of her Royal Albert Hall live recording, because she got all stuffed up during her first encore, “Someone Like You”). RitD simply didn't keep it going on the dance floor, because although it thumps pretty hard, the tempo is not as quick as you think it is. If it got sped up, that would be an amazing song <-- my overall philosophy on improving The [American] Songbook.

The hotel down the road offered a free shuttle as well as a free make-up shuttle when we missed the one we had the reservation with, because the digital clock in our room was 10 minutes slow, which you know the guy who had the room before us did just to mess with us; thanks, buddy.

I also invented another new drink last night. Instead of my Virgin's Blush (tonic water and the merest drizzle of Chambord), this new one doesn't have a name yet; I like “jaundiced zombie” for its irony, because it's a light, rehydrating cocktail that settles one's overextended tummy right quick. Next time you're in need of something low-alcohol, fresh, and stomach-settling, try tonic water mixed with a 1/3 shot of Grand Marnier. Tonic water has a lot of sugar so if you're watching that, try it with Schweppes' diet tonic water, the only one worth mixing with quality booze that I know of. How about you?

With either tonic, it's delicious –fizzy bitter orange– but if your bartender's Polish and wearing a patchworked vest of Crown Royale bags? He'll look at you funny.

It's worth it. *Best* of all, though, was that we had an OVERNIGHT SITTER (cue angelsong) and didn't come home until noon, well, 12:02 on New Year's Day. And, because it's Sunday, we'll all still get to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade tomorrow morning on HGTV, where it will I believe be broadcast commercial-free.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2012 from all of us here at Motormouth, who love you very much.


Mom's health aide arrived 20 minutes late. “Are you OK?” I asked. “I feel like I might be coming down with something,” she said, “but I hate calling in.” I sent her home. Now, my house is cleaner than it would have been if she'd been here for 5 hours, so I'll take that.

I'm having coffee tomorrow morning with the woman who spearheaded Cleveland's Parkinson's Disease fundraiser, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I may also be within three steps of getting Ohio plates on my car, but I don't want to jinx it by saying anything.