Winter Stent Moon
Buddy Paul Strickland, living in Maine very close to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, has a year theme: Bumping into Wonder. I haven’t discussed it with him so I’m not even sure what a year theme is and I don’t know why he chose random acts of amazement. (though it’s a wonderful idea)
But. I like the idea of a year theme. Our men’s group, The Woolly Mammoths, of whom Paul and I represent two-thirds of the diaspora from Minnesota/Wisconsin, often had year themes. Pilgrimage. Mothers. Fathers. Like that.
Not sure I’m ready to declare a theme quite yet. Maybe later today. I am inviting Janus to take up residence with my psyche for today only. Today is the gate of my Numa shrine. It closes at midnight until February 14th when it will swing open again for a day. I’m putting on the backward looking face and the forward looking one, try to see the last year as it was and the next year as I hope it can be.
2018. September 28th was the date of Kate’s bleed and the events since then dominate my thinking about 2018. The misery of Kate’s illness the nausea, cramping, weight loss, and food aversion existed, and worsened, over the whole year.
She was not the only one in the family with intestinal issues. Rigel had begun losing weight in 2017 and we feared liver cancer. A visit of to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital however found she had an allergy to chicken proteins. We shifted her to rabbit based food and she began to thrive. A year later she’s bounding around the yard like a puppy. At 9 years old. Very old for a large sight hound.
In February Kate went on a quilting retreat at the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista. The drive out was a joy, all the way across South Park, the high plains, past the headwaters of the Arkansas river and into the Collegiate Range which rises to the west of Buena Vista. At Purim Kate got into the spirit of the day and dressed up in the coat of many colors she made for our youngest.
Kate’s shoulder surgery in March marked the end of a sleep wrecking, daily life function disrupting arthritic shoulder joint. We met Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, and a helluva good guy. He would not be the only surgeon we met in 2018, but the work he did ended a source of constant pain for her. I was deep in my third kabbalah class, this one focused on Hebrew and its mystical qualities. Since I was already playing with sumi-e, I focused on creating Hebrew letters with Japanese brushes, pairing them with quotes focused on that letters deep meaning. I also got to use my chop bought in Beijing in 1999.
Both Ruth and Gabe are April babies. Ruth on the 4th and Gabe on Earth Day, the 22nd. Ruth loves Domo, the rural Japanese restaurant in Denver, so we took both of them there. SeoAh came out to help with Kate’s recovery, a gift she would give us twice more in the year. The Sjogren’s Foundation had its annual conference in Denver, so Kate went. Gabe was at Children’s Hospital for an operation occasioned by a port problem. April is also an annual art show by art teachers in the Aurora School District. Yam Hashoah, a holiday added to the Jewish liturgical calendar after the holocaust, fell in April. A wonderful ballet memorialized the day at CBE.
More lumberjacking in May. There was still some fire mitigation to do and I wanted to clear a spot for an outdoor room. Kate recovered well from her shoulder surgery and was able to attend a CBE sponsored tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. May also found controversial Rabbi Rami Shapiro at CBE as a visiting scholar. An important, iconoclastic figure in the Reconstructionist movement (and, therefore, Judaism as a whole) Rami considers himself a Holy Rascal and has a book with that title, among many he’s written.
Visiting ancient pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde with buddies Paul Strickland, Tom Crane, and Mark Odegard was the highlight of June. We stayed in Durango and Mark bought his first legal marijuana in a dispensary there. Our hotel was on the Animas River, recently of Gold King mine spill fame, was running blue and clear. In 2015 it was a sickly mustard color. I finished my fourth kabbalah class with a sumi-e enso drawing exercise for my project. Somewhere in this time period Alan Rubin asked me to co-teach the 6th and 7th grade B’nei Mitzvah class in CBE’s religious school.
Never written a lesson plan. Started in June, continuing in July. Alan and I started almost weekly meetings, our goal: plan a full year of classes. We did it, though we didn’t finish until late August, just before CBE’s religious school began. Some more lumberjacking, continuing the earlier work. After a powerful presentation on the detention and fragmentation of refugee families by ICE, Kate and I decided to join other Jews from the Denver/Boulder area in a protest outside a Geo detention facility in Aurora. The wonder of it (bumping into wonder, eh?) was rainbow which came to earth right over the detention facility.
I’ve been back to Minnesota only twice since we moved. Once in May of 2015 for an annual Woolly Retreat near Ely and August, 2018. Groveland UU invited me back to speak at their 25th anniversary. I took the opportunity to visit old haunts: everywhere I lived in Minnesota, except for the Peaceable Kingdom near Nevis, the Walker and the MIA, neighborhoods and restaurants in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also connected with Tom and Bill, plus other Woollies, and some docent friends at a small jazz club listening to Hoaxer, fronted by Grace Goggin’s son.
September started with the Days of Awe at CBE. Kate and I helped set up and serve the Board’s luncheon during Rosh Hashanah and attended Kol Nidre, then Yom Kippur. It was also the start of the religious school and I had my first encounter with a class of bright Jewish tweens. Oh, boy. I felt exhausted after that class.
The big event though held off until nearly the end of the month. “I’m bleeding.” This at 5:30 a.m. Didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a month away from home for Kate, two weeks at Swedish Hospital and two weeks at Brookdale Rehab. The three days left in September found her in the E.R., then on the 8th (surgical) floor. She had several units of blood, a colonoscopy, a nuclear imaging study of the bleeding, an attempted embolization of the bleed site which failed, and finally a decision to cut out part of her large bowel as the likeliest source of the bleeding.
Institutionalization. That was October for Kate. Ten units of blood. Post-surgical disorientation. Deep pain. Nights in a hospital bed, days ruled by hemoglobin results, morphine, and a slow, often literally painfully slow, recovery. Gastric tube for feeding. Slowly back to solid foods. Then, not home, but off to Brookdale, a home, a very nice one, but one that would reveal the limits of even a well-appointed place. She had to learn to walk on her own again, though with the aid of a walker. She did get her diet back to sort of normal.
SeoAh came again, driven here by Joe with Murdoch. She stayed two weeks and made life much easier for both me and Kate. She cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed. A joy to have around. One evening she came down and said, “Charlie. There is no water.” What? Sure enough. No water. Kate home now, but still in recovery. Perfect. Quick diagnostics the next day showed it was the pump for our well. And so we have a brand new stainless steel pump installed by the folks at Living Waters.
Near the end of October I went into Dazzle Jazz to hear Frannie and the Jets. Frannie is Alan Rubin’s daughter and this was, at 22, her swan song as a jazz singer. It was a touching evening.
SeoAh stayed into November. The bad news in November was that all the medical care Kate received after her bleed had done nothing for her nausea, cramping, and food aversion. She was miserable and weak from the weeks at Swedish and Brookdale. The nausea and cramping meant she couldn’t keep down enough calories to gain weight, even slipping back some.
Jon’s big news in November was an arrest and subsequent court appearances on a violation of a court order charge. I went with him both times, at the preliminary hearing and the hearing where he entered his guilty plea. Gabe had his fifth grade choral concert and because of the restraining order changes made in the last hearing, Jon couldn’t attend, so I went to represent him.
The good news in November came near the end of the month. After another round of visits to our internist and to Kate’s G.I. doc a last round of imaging studies was ordered, sort of a last gasp. She had two studies, an ultrasound sonography of the arteries feeding her bowels and a small bowel follow through study which checked its efficiency. And there it was at last! A diagnosis. The ultrasound picked up a stenosis, narrowing, in the superior mesenteric artery. A narrowing of this vessel can lead to nausea, cramping, food aversion, and weight loss.
Some frustration after the diagnosis. We saw an interventional radiologist who confirmed the stenosis and offered a procedure, a catheter placed stent in the effected artery. A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. We decided to push. After a round of phone calls and e-mails, we got a date for the procedure in January.
Then, on December 19th Kate turned to me in bed and said, “I have news.” An hour later we were once again in the ER at Swedish. She’d had another bleed and determined not to let it to the point it had in September. This one stopped and there was no recurrence. She went again to the 8th floor, this time of observation. After two days of observation, the interventional radiologist decided to go ahead and place the stent while she was already in the hospital. Dr. Mulden positioned the stent without incident on the winter solstice, four years to the day after we moved here.
SeoAh and her husband came for the holidays as they had planned. She’ll be here for another two weeks, maybe three. Their support, and hers in particular, has made this whole unfortunate mess bearable for us. She deserves, and gets, our deepest gratitude.
The nausea and cramping after eating has stopped. The food aversion may take a while to reverse, but Kate’s eating better now. It took a long time for her to decline to her current weight and it will take a while to get it back. She’s visibly less stressed and happier, though still pretty tired.