Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Super Bowl Tale

My mother was in the hospital last week. Now that she is home, I feel better. Not only because she’s out of the hospital but because it occurred to me that exactly a year ago today she was in that same hospital and I didn’t want a repeat of last year.

I remember the day because it was Super Bowl Sunday when our thirty-year-old horse Mahlie escaped from my parents’ property the night before.

Mahlie was not prone to running away but I suspect she felt out of sorts by the change in her feed time or maybe it was the strange voices calling to her. In any case, that Saturday night when my father called to her, she never came. Sure enough he found a broken fence leading from the back pasture to the backyard, and hoof prints heading down the driveway.

I learned of all this when I called to check in around 11 p.m. “Molly’s gone,” is all my father said. I could hear his exhaustion from worrying about my mother. My sister, who was in town and staying there, had gone out to look for her.

Sitting in bed in my pajamas in my own house about 12 miles away, I immediately called the police thinking, naively, they’d offer to help search the area for our geriatric horse (technically half pony). I imagined them arriving with these high intensity flashlights so we could scan the wooded areas around my parents’ property together. The officer must have thought I was nuts.

“We can’t do that. But if we see her or someone calls us, we’ll let you know.”

I couldn’t believe it. No help. We were on our own. And even if someone did see her, I realized she might not come to us. When animals get out, they can get wild.

I was left with this: She was somewhere; she could be anywhere. Where? In a field behind some subdivision. Walking along a two-lane highway. In someone’s backyard. Around the corner. Miles away.

I dressed and drove up in the dark cold to help look for her. My sister thought she’d deciphered some hoof marks in the deep snow around the neighbors’ property and along the dirt road. We called to her in the vacant night. My father did get a call from the police. A neighbor wanted to know why someone was prowling around in their backyard after midnight.

We gave up around 1 a.m. and decided to look in the morning. It seemed wrong. How could I sleep? How much longer should we have looked in that thick black silent night? Maybe she was dead. But we weren’t getting anywhere. It seemed all we could do was wait for someone to see her and call the police.

My father called me in the morning.

“Gordy called,” he said. “He said: ‘Your horse is lying on the pond just south of your property.’”

I found it odd that this neighbor, who saw Mahlie on his morning walk, didn’t stop at our house to tell my dad immediately, and instead waited until he got home a tenth of a mile or two away before calling.

And then Gordy offered only this to my dad: “Good luck.”

Good luck? That’s all?

“Is she alive?” I asked my dad.

“I don’t know.”

A self-hate took over me. We’d given up our search when she was virtually visible from the driveway had we looked a little longer, a little harder. I’d assumed she was there all night.

My sister ran out to find she was indeed alive and I raced up to meet them.

As I neared the house, I saw a police car parked. Help! I thought. The cop is going to help and get his buddies to come, too!

I'm sure my face was filled with hope as I saw this cop walking toward his car while my father and sister stood near Mahlie. Then he informed me that he’d merely stopped to see what was going on. “I can’t hang around,” he said, then left. I think he said, “Good luck.”

I felt like crying looking at Mahlie, lying on her side on the shallow frozen pond, more of a swamp with lots of shoots sprouting through the snow-covered surface. The ice around her body had turned into a brownish pool from what must have been frantic attempts to stand up in the time before we found her. She wasn’t moving much now.

I’d called the vet. As we waited for his assistant, I’d asked what we could do. “Keep her warm with blankets,” he said. “But if her body temperature is too low, there’s not much you can do.”

What he meant was this: If she was hypothermic, she was going to die no matter what we did.

We had no way of checking her body temperature so I grabbed lead ropes, blankets, a tarp, anything from the garage and returned to see Mahlie, the only surviving animal in the barn yard after years of company of other horses and llamas, looking helpless. An invalid. I cradled her wet head in my lap to get it off the ice.

First we tried to pull her off the ice with lead straps wrapped around her feet with the aid of runner who offered to help. My father, watching, said under his breath that he didn’t think she’d make it. I began to believe him. But, I told myself, this can’t happen when my mother is in the hospital.

A couple of times we successfully cajoled her, shaking a can of feed and yelling “Get up!” Mahlie would raise her head, grunt and kick her legs out as she struggled to rise. Each time her legs collapsed beneath her.

I wondered how many times she did this when we were sleeping.

Then just as my husband arrived to help he saw a tow truck driver down the road. He flagged him down and asked if he could help pull Mahlie off the ice.

This big strapping man with gray hair and a mustache, who owned the towing company, had a better idea: He called his best friend, a trim athletic looking off-duty fireman, who brought another off-duty fireman.

Suddenly, these three guys, who would probably rather be watching pre-Super Bowl festivities, were now as intent as we were on getting a tarp under Mahlie to pull her off the ice onto a snowy area so she could at least have traction to stand, if she still had the strength.

We pulled her off the ice before the vet arrived. But she still couldn’t stand because her hooves were against a tree, keeping her from getting up even if she wanted to. The men wanted to flip her over from one side to the other over her back but I asked them to wait for the vet. I knew flipping over her that way could twist her gut, practically ensuring she wouldn’t survive.

I wondered if she would survive anyway and wished I could just physically pick her up. It seemed so stupid that her sheer size could be her downfall. She looked tired, exhausted. I didn’t think she had the will. And if she couldn’t stand, there wasn’t much we could do. And again, I thought: Please not while my mother is in the hospital.

The vet arrived, parking her truck on the road and rushing over with supplies. When she checked Mahlie’s vital signs, she was almost stunned to find her temperature was not far from normal. “She couldn’t have been here all night,” she said, at the same time determining that she didn’t seem to have any broken bones. “Maybe she fell this morning trying to get back home.”

I felt an enormous relief, not just that she could very well survive if she got up, but that we didn’t overlook her the night before.

We were also lucky that the weather was not too cold or too warm. If it was warmer, she and we might have broken through the ice. If it was much colder, she might be in worse shape.

The vet had us flip this half-ton horse over her belly and legs, which we’d tucked under her, putting her legs in a space where she could stand up. It worked, but we still had what seemed an endless task of clearing stubborn spouts, logs and tiny trees that were in the way. We pulled, we chopped. We tried getting her up again.

For the first time, real hope filled the snowy thicketed space we’d inhabited the past several hours, a span of time that seemed a quarter of that. And by now these men were determined. If Mahlie didn’t stand up, they talked about hauling her body onto a large truck and warming her frozen limbs in the firehouse. I couldn’t believe it.

We struggled with her to get her to stand. And watched her collapse back down. We let her catch her strength, kept covering her with dry blankets and rubbing her frozen legs to help her circulation. If anyone felt like giving up, no one said so.

We weren’t prepared when this little horse finally stood, uneasy, steam rising from her matted hair, her legs shaking, weak, ready to go back down. We all sort of stood back in awe.

Just then the vet yelled: “Support her! You have to support her!” The men scrambled beside her, two on each side, buttressing her as the vet took the lead strap and slowly walked her to the dirt road and toward the driveway.

I had taken off to the barn, my heart pounding, to make sure the way was clear and her stall was filled with fresh sawdust. Amazingly, she made it.

And you know what? That little horse, who must have been exhausted, didn’t lie down the rest of the day. Best of all, by the time my mother heard the story it had a happy ending.

And those three guys, whom I forced a hug and few choked up thank yous on before they left, I bet they had one of the best Super Bowl Sundays ever.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Head Nurse Head Case

My mom is in the hospital. She went in five days ago, on Saturday, with symptoms of pneumonia. It’s not been a stay without worries of complications. She’s uncomfortable, stressed out. She wants to go home.

So it came as a little bit of a shock to me when my mother told me what happened late the other night.

My mother, a sweet woman, who isn’t prone to chattering on about other people, got a visit by the head nurse, a tallish blond woman who clearly had an attitude.

“You must have respect for your fellow patients,” she admonished my mother, who was dumbstruck sitting in the bed against he window.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” my mother said.

“Your roommate said you were talking about her and her grandchildren,” said the head nurse, who clearly assumed my mother was in the wrong.

“I didn’t say anything about her or her grandchildren. I don’t know anything about this,” my mother replied.

As my mother told me this two days ago during our stroll through the halls with her IV pole, I was too shocked and even humored by the whole thing to be angry. I mean, what the hell?

“Was the woman in the room when the head nurse came in?” I asked.

“Yes,” my mom said. “But she’s gone now, they moved her in the middle of the night.”

I was dying to get to the bottom of this and kept my eye out for the head nurse as we made another swing past the nursing station.

“She didn’t believe me,” my mom said. “She was rather rude.”

My mother didn’t seem overly upset by this whole thing. Just somewhat stunned.

I figured one of three things.

The patient was paranoid.

The head nurse was delusional.

My mother had a hallucination.

Since I’m quite sure my mother did not hallucinate, and the head nurse is unlikely to be delusional, I put the blame on the patient.

What gets me is why the head nurse would automatically assume my mother was in the wrong and would chastise her like a unruly child.

As if it's not bad enough she’s been in the hospital for almost a week.

It's a good thing we have a sense of humor.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Kittens are Growing Up

People keep asking me about “the kittens.”

I’m trying not to write too regularly about “the kittens” because, as I wrote the first time, I do not want to be seen as a crazy cat person.

But since people ask….

The kittens — Cleo and Leo — are getting bigger. And with that, less cute and adorable.


Okay I’m kidding. Sort of.

I should explain: My mother has the kittens at my parents' house. My father, who does dialysis at a condo a couple miles from their home, is where I get to see them because I help my father out three to four days a week.

This is much to my father’s chagrin but he allows it. Although Cleo and Leo will probably never hear their names from my father’s lips. He usually refers to them as “those goddamn cats” and once, famously, “those f---ing things.”

It’s understandable, as they sometimes charge into the one room that they should stay out of, the room where he does dialysis. We don’t wear surgical masks but for the most part you follow antiseptic protocol. Hence, I try to dissuade the kittens from barging in and yet, of course, they love to go where they should not, under the table next to my dad or under his chair.

Mostly, I try to play with them in the living room or encourage them to sleep by me while I work. But what I’m finding is that as they get older they have more energy and are less interested in passing out adorably and, I might add, adoringly, on my lap.

I’m trying not to feel rejected.

They do like to play with the-most-awesome-toy-ever, The String, which is nothing more than a former shoelace. Best part: They need me. I dangle it in front of them or pull it along the carpet and watch them crouch low on their forelegs as they raise and wiggle their backside in preparation to pounce.

I’m fast so I can usually pull The String away before they can grab it.

It’s really quite exciting. Especially when Cleo, the smaller female, goes after The String as I dangle it near the top of a carpet-covered scratching post. The best part is that she does not just lunge up to it. She actually takes a sort of flying leap putting her body mid-air momentarily. This provides me with much amusement.

The problem is, I think I adore them more than they adore me. They seem to want to play with each other more than with me. And I’m feeling left out. I’ll find them sitting together on a kitchen chair when they could be curled on my lap or at me feet.

What’s with that?

Little shits. Okay, not really.

But I will say the honeymoon period is fading. The novelty has passed. And that’s a good thing. I take fewer pictures of them with my cell phone. I am less distracted by them when we are together. They still snuggle with me when they sleep, they just don't sleep as often. Best of all, they are settling in as fixtures of the family which means the angst of finding them a permanent home is over.

Now as members of the family they are as taken for granted as everyone else.

In a good way, of course.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Some Conversations I Hope Not to Repeat in 2009

Yes, these are excerpts from real conversations I've had. I have a sense of humor about them so don't feel too sorry for me. But still...!

HE: You going to put your face on for the party?
ME: My face is on.

SHE: You have very fine hair, don't you?
ME: Why yes, what makes you say that?

SHE: You know, they make these really nice padded bras. You should try one.
ME: I'm wearing one.

ME: I like your jeans, with the back pocket flaps.
SHE: They're from The Gap. They're good because I have a flat butt...... like you.
ME: *momentary stunned silence because no one has ever said this to me before*
That's funny because sometimes I feel like I almost have a Jo-Lo butt, like in my yoga pants.
SHE: Jo-Lo!? *laughs*

ME (at store): Where are your Curvy jeans?
SHE (looking me up and down): Are you sure? You look pretty straight to me.

ME (same store, different woman, different day): *trying on pants*
SHE: You're small but you have hips.

SHE: I love your blog! I loved the one about that cats. Oh and the one about [something I did not write].
ME: *looks confused* I never wrote about [that].
*discovers that SHE, while reading my blog, mistakenly stumbled upon a post by another blogger thinking it was me.*

HE: Your thigh looks really big from here.
ME: It must be the way I'm sitting.