Summer Time

My father use to quote the song sung by Ella Fitzgerald Summertime from Porgy and Bess saying, “Summer time and living is easy.”

Well, that’s not been my summer.  It’s been busy, stressful and less than fun.  “Easy” isn’t the word I’m using.

A few weeks ago I got the call that my older brother, Billy, was taken to the hospital and that started a chain of events that still isn’t fully resolved.  The diagnosis is not unexpected for a 73 year old.  He had pneumonia and a stroke.  Now he’s in “rehab” – the modern name for conversant hospital.  He also has cerebral palsy which just makes treating him that little bit more complicated.

Somewhere along the line I went from younger brother to care giver to case manager to “health care agent” as defined in his Advanced Directive.  In these days of HIPAA closing off family’s access to information on a hospitalized patient, this magic document actually requires the medical staff to call me and keep me informed.  It also becomes one of those burdens I’d rather not have.

The normal first conversation with a doctor after you inform them of an Advanced Directive generally starts with the question, “Is he full code?”

It’s at that point when part of my mind detaches from my mouth and I hear myself saying, “For now, but under the terms of his advanced directive these are the conditions when I am asked to give a DNR order …”

“Full code” as in do everything to keep him alive.  “DNR” as in do not resuscitate and let him die.  It seemed like a good idea at the time Bill and I signed the document that I should make that choice for him when he can’t.  Seemed so simple nine years ago.

Simple like those days when we were boys.  Bill could walk then and had a train set and a slot car set in the garage.  He was a teen, I was in grade school.  I was small and could help him get wires and track setup where he couldn’t reach.  We’d spend hours on summer days listening to AM radio and 60’s rock.  He’d rebuild the train’s engines and I’d climb out to the middle of the plywood table to set up more track.  The trains would run too fast and derail.  The little slot cars would go flying around the track and sometimes into a wall.  We’d laugh and have simple fun.

I remember the red three wheeled bike he rode.  He’d ride to the hobby shop to get parts or the hardware store for tools while me and the other kids on the street would follow along.  Sometimes we bought model cars to build or would stop by the five and dime for a candy bar.

Those were good times and living was fun and easy.

This summer is not easy.  Last week I was standing over his hospital bed when he smiled and I saw that missing tooth.  A tooth he lost as a teen while riding his bike and pulling neighborhood kids on skateboards.  The game was you’d get on your skateboard then hold on to the basket of Billy’s three wheeler and he’d race down the sidewalk as fast as he could pedal.  At the corner he’d turn right and you’d let go just before the turn and fly off the curb and into the street.

It was great fun, but as every mother said in the sixties, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.”  In Bill’s case our mother would it change to: “loses a tooth.”

There was that one run when Billy missed his turn and his bike flipped over.  I didn’t see what happened but I was the one sent running to get mom.  I brought his bike home and could see through the kitchen window that mother was cleaning blood off his face.  Mom told me to stay outside.  The next day the dentist was able to put the tooth back and for many years it stayed in.  A couple of decades later another dentist had to remove the tooth and he’s had a gap ever since.

These last couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time on the road driving to and from San Jose and sitting in hotel rooms waiting for a doctor to call.  Part of me remembers those carefree days, while another part waits for more information to make another decision I don’t want to.

This week I’ll make the trip again to his bedside.  I’ll talk to doctors, nurses, case managers and social workers and this time I hope to be able to say to him, “Dude, it’s summer time and the living is easy.  Let’s get you home.”

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Friday Wisdom – Hospitals

I’m not really here today as I had to drive to visit my brother in the hospital. Hopefully he’ll be going home soon. Until I get back here’s what I know about hospitals and doctors:

I have this great joke about amnesia, but I don’t remember it.

I’ve read that 8 out of 10 injections are in vein.

My brothers and I tried playing hide and seek in the hospital. Wasn’t that much fun, they kept finding us in the ICU.

I heard about a guy in medical school who made so many rash decisions that they made him a dermatologist.

My friend was going to the hospital today. He thinks he has, pneumonultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, but it’s hard to say.

I went to the doctor once and said, “It hurts when I touch my face, my neck, my chest, my leg, …” The doctor replied, “Yes, you have a broken finger.”

I asked the doctor if he could give me something for my liver. He gave me half a pound of onions.

The radiologist was laughing at the X-ray of my arm. She found it humerus.

A mother took her young son to the the hospital after he swallowed some coins. They took him to get an X-ray and when he got back the mother asked he was doing. The nurse said, “No change yet.”

I was walking into the hospital and saw a sign saying, “Emergency Generator.” You’d think they’d have enough emergencies to start with.

A builder I know got a contract to renovate a hospital. He said he took the job because he thought it would be re-ward-ing …

Words you don’t want to hear a surgeon say, “Anyone seen my watch?”

In my therapy session I learned that I have an inferiority complex, but it’s not a very good one.

The doctor told us not to be concerned about the bird flu anymore as it is now tweetable.

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Friday Wisdom – Flying

This week we’ve had a friend visiting and today we’ll be taking her to the airport so here’s everything I told her about flying:

A good landing is one you can walk away from. An excellent land is one where you can use the airplane again.

Be careful of clouds withs silver linings – it just might be another airplane flying right at you.

The propeller on an airplane is just a big fan to keep the pilot cool. When it stops you can actually see the pilot starting to sweat.

The trouble with airplane jokes is that some are so bad that they don’t land.

It takes a long time to design an airplane – well, no one really wants a ground breaking design.

I came up with a great idea for a new kind of airplane, but I’m not sure it will fly.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but two Wrights did make an airplane …

Like a new shirt, when you buy an airplane, you can’t keep the hanger.

The seats on most airplanes are so close together that I often get jet leg.

I was seating next to a crying baby and asked for a different seat to get away from it. Turns out you can’t do that if the baby is yours.

I threw my cell phone off the roof, but it landed on the driveway and broke into a million pieces. I don’t understand – I had airplane mode on …

Do you know the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? An optimist designed an airplane. The pessimist invented seat belts.

My friend said she was sick of going to the airport. It might be Terminal Illness.

I was scheduled to do a standup comedy show about airline flights, but it got canceled.

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Friday Wisdom – Swimming

Yesterday we went to Lake Tahoe for a picnic, little kayaking and swimming so here we go:

I was asked for a donation to help build a community swimming pool. I gave them a gallon of water.

I took a book to read on the beach titled, “The Swimming Pool.” It started out shallow but was very deep by the end.

I was thinking about this – if I was on a desert island the one record I’d like to have is in long distance swimming.

Think about this: Hippos can run and swim faster than humans. That means cycling is your only chance to beat a hippo in a triathlon.

At the beach I saw a teacher jumping in the water – she said she was testing it.

I was watching this guy swim and he was so slow that all he could do was a crawl.

Dentists and swimming coaches have a lot in common. To start with they both use drills …

Name a race that is never run … yup a swimming race.

Elephants love to swim so they also have their trunks with them.

Ghosts like to swim. Their favorite spot is Lake Eerie.

and where to zombies go swimming? Yup, the Dead Sea.

What did the lifeguard say to the impatient swimmer? “Just wade a minute.”

When we left the lake it didn’t say goodbye – it just waved.

I wanted to use the ATM so I could buy ice cream at the snack shack. They told me the closest one was at the river bank.

So far the summer is going swimmingly.

A Few Good Quotes:

I sink, therefore I swam. Anonymous

Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die. Demetri Martin – comedian

There is water in every lane, so it is OK. Ian Thorpe – Australian swimmer

I used to be addicted to swimming but I’m very proud to say I’ve been dry for six years. Alfie Moore – writer, comedian

Swimming isn’t a sport; it’s just a way to keep from drowning. George Carlin – comedian

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