Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, August 30, 2022

     The Ham

    Back to the topic of food. I enjoy writing about it and reading about it, but have not really had any recent meals I thought were interesting enough to write about. My standards have declined a bit since moving back to the family home, as my main goal right now is to use what they had in the pantry in addition to what I brought with me. But today, we'll talk about ham. 

    It's been said, accurately, that "eternity is a ham and two people." Well, try it with one person sometime. I purchased this ham at Costco back before Christmas, in the hope that maybe I could make my mother a nice New Year's dinner. Sadly her health was declining rapidly at that point and the ham never got used. So I froze it, and when I moved it came with me - approximately two kilos of pork and sodium. Eventually I had to use it, so I thawed it out and heated it in the oven. That was nearly a month ago, and here is what I did with it:

    Dinner of ham, broccoli and mashed potatoes, repeated for a second night. I sliced it thin and used it for sandwiches once or twice. Then I decided to try ham salad (mayonnaise, mustard, onion, pickle relish, celery). I've always been fond of ham salad, but it was really too rich to eat for multiple meals and I was very tired of it by the time I finished it up. 

    The caregivers had purchased a lot of dried beans (one of them had found a recipe for "chili beans" that my mother really liked) and I decided that next I would use those and the ham for bean soup. It was a success and I wound up making two batches of it. (It's a good thing that ham is preserved and lasts a long time, as it was still edible for all these experiments. Also, bean soup freezes well.) 

    Lastly I decided to try jambalaya, a rice dish with sauteed veggies, canned tomatoes, chicken broth... and ham. The very last of it. 

    I have no idea how many meals this came to, but it was a lot. Easily fifteen, probably more. The Epic of the Ham was a definite success, but I don't think I will be eating it again for a while. Now it's time to figure out what to do with the chicken in the freezer. 


    Tuesday, August 23, 2022

     The Gazebo

    In keeping with my "The Noun" rut of titling my posts, I will tell you about our gazebo. Yes, we have one. 

    I should sort of explain about my dad. He was born during the Depression and grew up on a farm in eastern Pennsylvania, dirt poor. His family home did not have indoor plumbing until he was in high school (and he was the youngest of the family). The house had an outhouse and a pump in the kitchen sink. He once told me the story of how his older brother's dog accidentally fell into the "honey pit" under the outhouse. His brother was able to get the dog out, but the poor thing nearly drowned. What a horrible way to go that would have been. 

    There was a local estate owner, a rich man, who went by the name of McFeely. My paternal grandfather used to work there hauling rocks, and my dad worked there too at some point. Anyway, my father admired the estate greatly and one of his motivations for purchasing this home and property was to emulate Mr. McFeely. Hence the gazebo, and a fountain, and a giant garage and a lot of other things. (Incidentally, Mr. McFeely had a grandson who was named Fred Rogers. Yes, that Fred Rogers.)

    It isn't that large, maybe 12 feet across, large enough to hold a table and four chairs. The space underneath the gazebo has hosted many a family of feral cats over the years - at one point I started referring to their house as "the cat farm." It's a nice place to hang out after dinner, and the daughter of family friends actually got married in it (she had always loved it). 

    My parents' caregivers were invited to their memorial services, both of which were at the house, and collected there to eat and chat. That was three months ago. Once I get the Boards recertification test over with I will wash off the furniture and take some of my meals there. But for now, I look up from my review books and look at the cupola, which is falling apart, and remember the good times that were held there. 

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    Friday, August 19, 2022

     The Car

    I'm going to make this brief, because I really ought to be studying, but I also need a break from reviewing diagnosis and treatment of dementia (JUST what I want to hear about right now.) I have to recertify my boards in 45 days, and I cannot wait for this to be over with. 

    At any rate, my father was a car man. He acquired cars the way some people acquire cats, and he was vastly reluctant to sell any of them, even when they were no longer being used. The only car I think he ever was eager to sell was a Jag XKE he got third hand, and he only sold it because he was tired of fixing it. (This happened when my sister and I were very young, and we never really forgave him for selling it. Every time he went on an errand we would go with him, and fight about who got to sit in the passenger seat and who had to squeeze in behind the seats - it was a two-seater.) But Jags are notorious for electrical problems, and this was no exception. So it was sold. 

    I still don't know why, but a few years later he bought a Mercedes 600 - a limo. Then a second one. He had fun driving them for a few years but eventually they sat and moldered in the oversized garage he built after we moved to the house I live in now. The cars, of course, became nonfunctional after a while. One of them still is, but the other one has been slowly and painstakingly restored for the past three or four years by a local garage that specializes in Mercedes. I took my own car there for maintenance for a while, until I inherited my aunt's Subaru and sold the other car. 

    The restoration project took years because that particular model of Mercedes is no longer made. The owner of the garage had to track down parts, remove and steam clean the gas tank as it was full of deposits and corrosion, and so forth. But just as I returned from my summer trip in mid-July I received a message from the owner that they had sold the business, were retiring, and needed to return the car to me. So I got help to clean and reorganize the garage, and donated all the medical equipment that was in there to make room for the car... and it was delivered this afternoon. 

    It sat in the driveway and I opened the garage door for it. This car is a tank; eighteen feet long, six feet wide, a true model of mid-twentieth century auto engineering. Sitting in the driver's seat, I actually felt intimidated. It took me a minute to realize that the gearshift was on the steering wheel column and to figure out how to open the car door, even. I eased it in behind its twin, got out and admired it. 

    Now, I have to figure out how to get it sold, and the other one too. As I said, the other car does not run. A couple of years ago my brother tracked down someone who specializes in vintage cars. He took a look at them and advised that we not restore them, as whoever buys them would probably like to do that themselves, but Dad really enjoyed the whole process and would have the caregivers drive him down to the garage about every other week so that he could have the owner bring him up to date. They were very kind and patient with him and they have told me more than once how much they enjoyed talking to him. I'm glad to have the car back for the moment, at least, to bring back memories as I drive it down the street to keep it in good condition.

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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    The Poem. 

    So at ten past five today I got a text from my office manager, which went something like this: 

    "Hi! We're starting a newsletter and thought it would be great to include a poem and I thought of you! Maybe something funny and light? We need it by Tuesday [four days from now]."

    Well. See what comes of having a reputation as a semi-wit (not to say halfwit)? 

    I replied, "Is it OK if it's a limerick? I don't think I'm up to a sonnet. And do you have a theme you'd like me to use?"

    "Well, the new doctors are joining the group, so maybe something welcoming them?"

    I replied that I would do my best. My mind started percolating. New doctors, huh? I thought. Welcome to the jungle.

    And there I had it. I quickly looked up Guns N' Roses lyrics and came up with the following. 

    Welcome to the jungle, we got fun and games

    Like “Who’s the Doctor of the Day?” and “How do I file these claims?”

    The paperwork will haunt you, we’ve all been there before

    Feel free to ask unless you see us pounding on the door


    Welcome to the jungle, we take it day by day

    If the quarterback is freaking out, it’s best to stay away  [quarterback is our term for head nurse]

    The patients all have Covid, at least they think they do

    If we’re lucky they will wear a mask so we won’t get it too


    Welcome to the jungle, it’s really not that bad

    The staffing here is all top notch and Urgent Care is rad

    We’re here to help, from unknown rash to “Name that Specialist!”

    We look out for each other and we’re happy to assist.

    Considering I batted this out in 45 minutes, I don't think it's too bad. Now they want me to do another one for next month... 

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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

     The Pool

    I have been back at my parents' home for two and a half months now, and for whatever reason despite the summer heat have not used the pool once during that time. I think the last time anyone swam was the weekend of my mother's memorial service. My brother continues to pay for the upkeep of the pool and has been encouraging me to use it; today I finally did. 

    The old pool house, which my father built to contain the pump and heater, is falling apart. The doors are too warped to close and I made a mental note to get that fixed as I poked around looking for the pool skimmer, which I was unable to find. I think our pool cleaner must be bringing his own. I had a sudden memory of one weekend morning years ago when my father, in his usual weekend mode of beat-up hooded sweatshirt and work pants torn at the knee, was working on the pump. It was a beautiful sunny morning and he looked happy. On an impulse I quickly ran upstairs to my room, fetched my camera and made him sit for his picture on the low wall outside the poolhouse. 

    "Why?" he asked, clearly finding the whole thing amusing.

    "I just want to," I answered. 

    The picture came out really well; in fact I framed it and gave it to him for Christmas. It graced the mantel at his memorial service. It's so uniquely him and I'm so glad I took that picture. 

    Finally, I gave up on the pool skimmer and stepped cautiously into the water, not wanting to slip on the steps. As I did so I had a sudden memory of my mother getting into the pool in exactly the same way, carefully, hoping the water wasn't going to be too cold. She was younger than I am now, I thought. 

    The pool was as warm as a tub. I started swimming slow laps, pausing to pick leaves out of the pool and remembering how our dachshund Otto would run around the pool barking at us (he hated the water), clearly wondering what we were doing in there. On very hot days we would carefully lift him into the pool, no lower than the first step, to try and cool him off. He didn't appreciate the gesture. 

    The pool is surrounded by postholes in the concrete, put there to hold a safety net to keep the grandchildren out of the pool when they were little. I suddenly remembered my sister holding her baby daughter in her swim diaper, letting her paddle in the water... my niece turned 24 this week. 

    I had not expected to be overwhelmed by so many memories; as I swam my tears landed in chlorinated water. But the pool was soothing and was just what I needed on this hot day after studying for several hours (I have a recertification test coming up in two months).

    Finally I got out, ready to come back to the silent house and get ready for tomorrow. At the top of my mental to-do list: pool skimmer. And my bathing suit is rinsed out and ready for my next swim. 

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