Friday, August 13, 2010


Himself is the professional pessimist in our family and I usually balance this by assuming the Pollyanna position. Given the facts though, it seems almost certain that our puppy Oprah has no chance of recovery and will have to be put down. It seems impossible that a dog vaccinated against parvovirus and that gnaws everything in sight would be felled by a virus and not an obstruction. The vet tells me she thinks it’s parvo but I suspect she’s stringing us along to incur more hospital charges for a dog that inevitably has an intestinal obstruction we cannot afford to treat. Oprah is hospitalized for nine days. I call every morning and afternoon for a week and there are no reports of improvement. I call Monday and am told that she has finally stopped vomiting. On Tuesday the laboratory results come in and to my surprise, are positive for parvovirus. The vet, who previously has been pretty businesslike says wistfully, “She’s a nice dog. I hope I can save her.” I intuit an atypical tenderness and I believe her. Oprah improves enough to eat solid food. We pick her up the following day. She is skinny and stinks but on a very restricted diet and too weak to risk bathing for five days. She clings to Spuds in the backseat. Rover licks her face and she yowls in delight all the way home.

Himself nurses an antique Ipod for many months and finally the thing is kaput. Being the paragon of frugality he scoffs at my suggestion that he replace it. Our whole family shares a love of music. We do not listen at home together because the divergence in preferences would incite a riot. Spud’s taste is pretty much all hip hop although oddly, since a surfing expedition with our friend Chris in Santa Cruz he now has American Beauty on his Ipod. I don’t know if Dr. Dre or the Grateful Dead would be more likely to drive Himself to hari-kari.

Most of my music buying was in the vinyl era and Himself has been largely responsible for painstakingly accumulating my cd collection which is scattered throughout the house and car. I agree with Himself that my callous treatment of cds indicates a lack of character, as does my stubborn indifference to recycling. I listen to the same half dozen CDs again and again and now most of them are too scratched up to play. I’ve never had an Ipod. We are due a phone upgrade and are relatively happy with our carrier so I don’t mind being shackled for another two years. The tech guy at the office recommends the Droid. It has a good camera and lots of other cool stuff and is available with unlimited music for an additional monthly fee.

Himself perks up when I mention the music feature. Long time followers of this blog or our family will know about our decade long cell phone impasse and Himself’s dogged refusal to use one, which frequently inconveniences and frustrates me. “My Droid has unlimited music,” I tell him. “It won’t have what I like,” he scoffs. I show him how to search. He finds a couple of obscure bands and is impressed. I order a Droid for him and while he knows this is a blatant ploy to get him to use a cell phone, he can’t resist the lure of the music.

I don’t tell Himself we’re picking up Oprah but I let the kids know that Daddy’s Droid has arrived and they posit that he won’t even notice the homecoming of the miracle survival pup. He has been researching and reading reviews of the Droid all week. He is happy to see the dog, pats her affectionately, notes her stinkiness and returns to the Droid. He sits wearing headphones and dicking with it all night , stupefied and deaf to us as Spuds and I say things that would make him apoplectic like, “I went downtown today and paid $20.00 for parking,” and “I invited four couples for dinner on Sunday.” But he is too enrapt with the device to even notice our mockery.

The Droid comes cheap for what it does and therefore arrives with very few accessories and car chargers, screen protectors and cases must be ordered separately. I find what seems like a decent accessory package on Amazon and order it. The process takes about 10 seconds. The day after Himself is Droided I receive a 500 word email from him, replete with about 20 different links to Amazon items, agonizing as to which case and screen cover to choose. This is about a $12 purchase. Including shipping. I have a small credit with Amazon and I respond requesting he simply choose what he wants so I can order it for him. This is followed by a flurry of several dozen more Amazon links for me to peruse. Instead of saying, “I really don’t give a fuck what kind of case you get,” I diplomatically respond with my Amazon password and the instruction to just order what he wants. Case and screen protector finally selected, Droid is still at the forefront of our home life with download, software and myriad other questions although I can’t think of anyone less qualified than I am to proffer technical support.

Through my analytics program I see that people spend more time reading blog posts that are light and funny and after Oprah miraculously survives, and I am finally victorious in the decade long cell phone battle, I begin making notes for an upbeat piece. Then I learn about the death of my friend Margaret Goldsmith. She was diagnosed with pernicious cancer about two years ago and experiences a rare form of neuropathy after surgery which results in partial paralysis. We communicate via Facebook just a few days before her death and I have been under the impression that her health is improving.

Margaret’s home is a graceful impeccably furnished 1930s Spanish style palazzo in the hills. She is remarkably beautiful, resembling Sophia Loren. She also has a son named Leo, a few months younger than my own seventeen year old. My own boy is flummoxed this week by a can opener, further reinforcing the need for parental acceleration of the college readiness program. I spend time visiting Margaret after she becomes ill. Before her diagnosis, despite many friends in common, I am too jealous to forge a connection.

I drop some food off. Margaret is obviously very ill and wears a brace on her leg. The gorgeous house has been modified so she has greater mobility. There are ramps and the living room is filled with hospital equipment. There are big boxes overflowing with medical bills. A commode sits in the middle of a charming tiled bathroom. I learn of her death via Facebook which is ghoulish and creepy and apparently the future. I peruse her recent postings there. Less than a week before her death she shares a salient political article. At the end of June she makes kumquat marmalade. She reads and responds to my writings about conditions in Burma. There are stylish professional black and white photos in her album. I do not know her entire vocational history but a foray into modeling does not surprise me.

Ordinarily I hate it when personal conversations are shared with all and sundry Facebook friends but in this case it’s kind of sweet that 3 days before her death Margaret interacts back and forth with a girlfriend about getting together. Margaret’s last comment on Facebook is “I’m busy until three.” I do not know how long these Facebook postings remain, ephemeral like memories.

I receive a note written by her husband that explains she declined rapidly over a period of four days. A number of my friends and contemporaries have died over the years but this is the first time I have lost a friend who is the mother of teenage children. She leaves two sons, roughly the same age as my boys. One boy is starting college this year and the other is a junior in high school. She knows she is going to die. I try to imagine her last conversations with her boys but break down before I am able to complete the thought. What would I say to my sons?

My doctor has been pestering me for three years to have a routine colonoscopy and I make an appointment. This is a 50th birthday rite of passage and in the misery loves company department, everyone I know over 50 has either endured it or is a friggin’ asshole coward. The gastroenterologist asks about my family medical history and notes good longevity. My father is almost 90 when he dies, and my mother, despite her brain turning to jello, is physically healthy and about to turn 90 herself. I am not so much of a Pollyanna so as to gamble with this, although if my mother had known what she’d be reduced to in her final years, I don’t think she’d have much good to say about longevity.

Others are better served by the gift of a long life. Visual Acoustics is a documentary about architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Many of Shulman’s photos of modern homes are more beautiful than the homes themselves. When I think about this style of architecture I find so beautiful and my hometown Los Angeles, I am more likely to think of Shulman than seminal architects Schindler or Neutra. Shulman is in his late 90s and the film shows him still at work and engaging in discussions about architecture and photography. He is older than my mother, who while just as hearty physically, forgets my name and how to use a fork. Shulman works up until his death at age 99.

Lillian Ross is 92 and has written for the New Yorker since the early 1940s. She still writes wonderful Talk of the Town pieces which show she is not intellectually diminished in the least and still physically capable of traveling around the city to attend events and conduct interviews. Roger Angell is another New Yorker old-timer. The erstwhile fiction editor, creator of the diabolically clever annual Christmas poem and one of America’s foremost chroniclers of baseball still writes with crackling wit and will celebrate his 90th birthday next month.

I guess the dreaded colonoscopy improves my odds for a long life. The death of my friend Margaret and the destiny of my poor mother drive home the imperative, that no matter how many or few years I have left, to make sure they are well lived. I will make sure my kids know how to use a can opener. I will not dis my husband too much for plugging the fancy headphones I call the wife cancellers into his new toy and absenting himself to bask in music. I will remember the miracle of Oprah even when she is so excited to see me when I come downstairs in the morning that she pees on the floor. Wishes come true. Tragedy strikes. I think about tomorrow and am filled with hope and with horror. Today.

Shabbat Shalom

1 comment:

FionnchĂș said...

I guess I'd pick the Dead over Dr. Dre, but what a Hobson's choice. I was so surprised by Oprah's blasé return I did absent myself from fiddling with said Droid for a while, not moments. And, I am sad about the loss of Margaret and the cancer struggles faced by other friends, which recall for me my dad's battle over a quarter-century with the same affliction.

Mortality's so unpredictable, naturally (pun intended) whether for an iPod's sad face, a friend's sudden passing, or a puppy's eager return. Shabbat shalom and thanks to you and all of your readers out there who kept hope for our rasslin' black dog's recovery. xxx me