Archive for May, 2007

…as Phil Rizzuto used to say when Mickey Mantle would knock one clear over the bleachers.

This morning I finally got to watch “Ostrov,” or “The Island,” in English, a Russian film with English subtitles that I have been reading about since last December. I did buy it as far back as February — didn’t know that there were two different formats for watching this baby. The European format is PAL, and it’s supposed to be superior to NTSC, which is the American format — so why aren’t we using NTSC (referred to, by a priest of my acquaintance, as “Never The Same Color”)? Go figure.

Anyway, I am still reeling. Everyone said, “You gotta see this film, it’s a must-see,” and I concur. Absolutely. The only caveat I would add is that it really helps to be Orthodox; otherwise, the protagonist just looks like a nut. But if you’re Orthodox, you understand up front that he’s a Fool-for-Christ, and that his wacko behavior is what makes possible the many miracles that take place in the movie.

It’s also a good reality check for those of us who aspire to the monastic state. In the beginning of the film, during WWII, he’s humping coal on a barge, and 30 years later, at the monastery, he’s still humping coal, keeping the monastery’s fires stoked. This is not an easy thing to do in a Soviet-era monastery; the Soviets made sure that living conditions were, well, unliveable, and there many scenes that show just how difficult this monk’s life is, even by monastic standards.

What I came away with: All of us really are called to this radical way of life. Not to giving up our homes and families, or those things that go along with having homes and families, but those little luxuries we allow ourselves (like that ice cream I had when I got home from shopping because “I needed to make room in the freezer”. Really. Honest to Pete).

I will have to watch this movie a lot more often to internalize it, but on first seeing — it was, to me, a call to monasticism while living in the world. Oh, two other things I got from it: one, you don’t choose the monastery, God places you in it (this monk would never have become a monk if he hadn’t been dragged there by monks who were trying to save his life). And two, from a scene where the monk is reading Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man”: “He shall bring forth his fruit in its season.” In its season: How many of us try to rush this season? I sure do. I want fruit now. I keep forgetting that the same God Who created that peach tree out in my back yard, created me, and it’s entirely possible that I’m no readier to bear fruit than that peach tree is, right this very second. I’ll have to wait till September to slurp up its tiny, perfect peaches. And whatever season it is when I’m ready to bear fruit: that’s not for me to know.

Get this movie, if at all possible.

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They found him. Turns out that when they (my sister and her husband) were on their way to my house, they passed an ambulance that was taking him to the hospital.

He had driven to Wal-Mart to get some plants (which was in his game plan). Now, my sister checked the parking lot at Wal-Mart, but never thought to check across the street — he had turned into the Unicel parking lot and decided to take a nap. Folks there noticed that he wasn’t getting out of his truck, so tapped on the window and asked if he was all right, and he explained that he was feeling sleepy and wanted to get off the road. (I wish everybody were that smart.) So they let him be, and just kept checking on him periodically.

Around 4:00 p.m., they found him unresponsive, so called an ambulance. The paramedics found that his body temperature was 106 degrees — that’s not a typo — so transported him to the hospital. After they got him back down to normal, they released him.

While he was there, they ran an EKG and an EEG, and found him to be in fantastically good health. Now, here’s the kicker: While the rest of us are Eating Healthy and trying to exercise and not having too much success watching our weight, Dad eats a diet of meat and potatoes — his lips haven’t tasted a vegetable probably since his mother weaned him, he’s been to the doctor four times in his life (and one of those was his Army physical), and having been raised by Polish peasants, he thinks nothing of eating food that’s been in the fridge for a couple of weeks. And he has the constitution of a 30-year-old. His exercise has always consisted of home improvements and, since they moved to NH, raking leaves. Period.

We were freaking out because if he had become disoriented, who knew where he’d end up: New York? Canada?? As I said to my sister, “If he missed the turnpike exit for Milton [where they live], he could be halfway to Canada by now and have no idea where he is.”

So, to answer the obvious question of why is he driving at his age: We have been trying to get the keys away from him for the past six or seven years. One day, the police called my sister (he lives with her): They had found him driving down the middle of the road, over the double yellow line. When the cop pulled him over, doubtless thinking, “Boy, I’ve got a live one,” Dad explained that he was driving there to avoid the potholes in the road. Okay. The cop said, “But what about oncoming traffic?” And Dad said, “Well, there isn’t any. When it comes, I’ll get over.” Annie said, “Please take the keys away.” And the cop said, “We can’t. We can only do that if he hasn’t passed his driving test.”

In NH, you have to take a road test every time you renew your license, if you’re over 75. Dad’s last road test was last year. Among other things, it involves driving on a very heavily-travelled 55-mph highway. And he isn’t all that confused, normally, though over the past few months, it’s getting obvious. Well — I’m hoping this scare will give my sister the courage she needs to take the keys. He will make her life miserable if she does, though.

Thanks, all, for the prayers. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me how living into your 90s is supposed to be a good thing.

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Dad’s Missing

My sister just stopped by our house to let me know that my 92-year-old stepfather has been missing since noon today. She last saw him at the cemetery where my mother is buried, and said that he seemed disoriented; she put him into his truck, made him drink some water he had there, and told him to go straight home. He never got there, she and her daughter have been to all his usual haunts, and there’s no sign of him.

Now, he makes this trip to the cemetery at least twice a week, so he shouldn’t have become disoriented that easily; plus, his bank is on the same street, and he goes there once a week, so this is not unfamiliar territory. But he has been getting vague of late, and of course, now she’s kicking herself for not having foreseen that he couldn’t drive ten miles from Point A, where he goes 2-3 times a week, to Point B, where he lives.

OK, somebody want to go into this with me one more time, why old age is supposed to be such a freaking blessing?!?!?!

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I had intended to post this a couple of days ago, but life kept getting in the way. 😉

On Thursday, dh and I celebrated 38 years of marriage. We began the day by attending Divine Liturgy for the Ascension, and after Liturgy, I asked my priest if I could sing a Te Deum to give thanks for the reunion of Moscow and ROCOR. Interestingly, my very Greek priest didn’t know what a Te Deum was — and I didn’t know what it would be called in Greek, or even if it exists in Greek — but once he understood what I wanted to do, he was all for it. I know this nifty Te Deum that I had to learn for my courses at Jordanville, so was able to sing the whole thing through in Slavonic.

After that, we went out to breakfast, and then spent the rest of the day just knocking around Maine — went to Kennebunk and Cape Porpoise, and then drove back along the coast to a place called Cap’n Simeon’s Galley for lunch. Great seafood (even if it was a non-fasting day… Sigh). It’s nice to be able to visit old favorite haunts now and again, and this has been on our list of favorites for 21 years now, which is as long as we’ve lived in New Hampshire.

As someone pointed out, the Ascension and wedding anniversaries occur annually. But rarely do they occur on the same date. And added to that the joy of the reconciliation between the two Churches of Russia — yeah, thrice blessed says it all.

BTW, I notice that today is the birthday of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. I have often read that he knew he was born on the feast of the Prophet Job, and expected to have a difficult reign, filled with tribulation. Incidentally, Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massie, is quite enlightening on the subject of the Tsar-Martyr. What I like best about this book is that it was written by someone with absolutely no agenda; his only reason for researching the Romanovs was that his son had hemophilia, and in searching for famous hemophiliacs, he came across the Tsarevich Alexei. Then he began to research the Romanovs. Up to reading about them, the only thing he knew about them was all the Communist propaganda (“Commierot”) about how awful they were, but his book shows that Nicholas truly tried his best to govern. Sure, he made mistakes. That’s the best of Orthodox saints: they do make mistakes. What’s rewarded is their efforts, not their successes. Боже, царья храни!

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The Apron Pic

Mimi had a great post about yesterday’s having been Wear an Apron Day. With my usual Keeping on Top of Current Trends skill, I am a day late with this, but here is my apron pic. Note that, despite all the fussing I did over there about a real apron’s having a bottom ruffle, mine doesn’t. Sigh. What it does have is a gathered waist and a bib. If I were a lot thinner, the bib might actually cover something, but as it is, beggars can’t be choosers, and at least this one has a bib and a pocket, the other essential for an apron.

I remember when these were standard wear, and no woman in any kind of mind, right or otherwise, would have been caught dead in her kitchen without her apron. On the other hand… Yesterday I was at a local cafe, where I go when I need to write (too many distractions at home), and I purchased a cuppa joe for the usual $1.00++. Some guy said to me, “Gee, remember when coffee was fifty cents?” And I had to laugh, as I came back at him, “I remember when coffee was ten cents.” And I do.

I’m not kidding when I say I’m old.

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OK, Why am I here??

No, this is nothing radically existential — I just forgot what it was I wanted to blog about. The joys of aging.

Well, at least I have reconnected with an old blog friend. Bloglines, which is supposed to help me keep track of all my favorite blogs, has a nasty habit of dropping people on me, so I don’t know whose blog is missing until one day I say, “Hey, I haven’t heard from So-and-So in awhile,” and discover that their blog is gone from Bloglines, and I can’t remember their blog address. This happened with Paradosis, Catherine, Alanna, Philippa, and Emily. I was especially annoyed to lose this last because this girl belongs to my former parish, and only became Orthodox a year ago, and I’m very fond of her godmother.

Fortunately, she left a comment on my last post, and I was able to track her down that way. So now I’m back in touch with my young friend, and with several of my older friends, too (“older” in the sense of how long we’ve been friends, not in the sense of age — as far as I know, I’ve got ’em all licked).

Well, so! I see that my former parish is getting a new priest. Mostly, I’m sorry to hear that; while this priest was a bit too “Catholic” for me personally (those girls on the solea, and in the Great Entrance, have always fried my excessively orthodox brain!), I know many people were horrified to lose him, and his going has been very divisive for this parish. On the other hand, there’s always the hope that the next priest will be a bit more Orthodox in his practice, though I don’t know: his rumored successor has a quote from St. Theresa of Lisieux on his current parish’s website. Yep, another ex-Catholic, and if this quote is anything to go by, not ex enough.

Yes, this is my problem. I had fifteen years of the old Catholic Church, which was a lot like the Orthodox Church, and fifteen years of the new Catholic Church, which is a lot like any Protestant church, and this year it will be thirty years since I last worshipped as a Catholic. And I’m still hypersensitive to it. I guess it’s freaking me out to realize that there’s a whole generation of middle-aged people who have never known the beauty of the old Catholic Church, and seriously think that the claptrap that’s around nowadays is Catholicism — and the most recent priests at my former parish are among this group. OK, ’nuff, before I seriously tick off all my friends. Pray for me, that I get over this sometime before I die.

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Dear Philippa has a nifty new thingie on her site called “Menologion.” I followed the link, and now I have it too! I think hers is for the New Calendar, and mine is for the Old Calendar, so between us, we have the bases covered. 😉

Chris is home for the weekend, and took me out to dinner for Mother’s Day, along with Jim. We went to a seafood place, where I had a chicken Caesar salad — Jim said, “Don’t you want seafood?” and I replied, “When you eat seafood half the year, you learn to appreciate the half the year you don’t have to.” Ah, Orthodoxy.

(And I’m dying to add a family anecdote, about the year my son and daughter collaborated on a Mother’s Day card for me that was signed, “Happy M—er’s Day.” The knitters among us will understand that there are certain words best not uttered aloud among us woolfolk.)

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Once again, I am boggled by what nice people I know in the blogosphere. Thank you, one and all, for your support and prayers, and your offers to help — just being here was an enormous help. Thank you.

Jim came home today. His bronchoscopy went well, they were able to biopsy the bit of lung tissue in question, and, as his doctor put it, “It’s not an ‘Oh my God’ matter.” (Love that esoteric medical terminology.) However, they still don’t know what’s causing the clots — possibly because they only did an ultrasound on half of one leg, not all on both legs — so he has to go for the gross tests sometime next week.

Of course I am not handling any of this well. Brings back too many memories of last summer. He even has to do the belly shots. He, having been brought up by a nurse, is 100% okay with all of this. I, having been brought up by normal people who only saw doctors for broken bones and DPT boosters, think he’s fallen into the hands of ghouls. Oh, to top it all off: the belly shots are costing us around $140.00. And we have a prescription-drug benefit to our health insurance. Jokingly, I said to the pharmacist, “What does it cost without a drug benefit, $5,000?” And she said, “Yes.” I hope she was kidding. I thought Jim would have a stroke on the spot.

I’m still trying to figure out what the point is of some hotshot medicine that has to be injected (ewww) into one’s gut (EWWWWWWW) by oneself, that costs thousands of dollars. Not to mention the bubbly assurance, “And it doesn’t even hurt.” Let me tell you — I had those shots, and I can guarantee you that no one who’s prescribing these puppies has ever taken them.

Okay, I’m getting wound up again (ya think?!), so I will just make one further note: the guy I thought was the emergency-room doctor, isn’t. He’s something called a “hospitallist,” and his job is to coordinate all the various medical procedures so that doctors with conflicting agendas don’t prescribe conflicting treatments/medications/whatever. I like the idea of a hospitallist. I even somewhat like this particular hospitallist. Great bedside manner, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as to knowing his stuff — he’s the one who said the mass in Jim’s lung wasn’t cancer, and well, holy cow, he was right. What a shock. Okay, okay, for all you medical people, I’ll shut up now.

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Thanks to all for prayers and responses. They are much appreciated, and much needed.

Today Jim saw the pulmonologist. There appears to be a disagreement between the emergency-room doctor and the pulmonologist. The ER doctor thinks the mass in the right lung is an infarction, that is, dead tissue that has necrotized over a very long period of time. The pulmonologist thinks it’s cancer, and wants to do a broncoscopy, as well as an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, because after all, These Blood Clots Must Be Coming from Somewhere, and apparently, Hidden Cancers Can Cause Blood Clots.

The operative word, as far as I’m concerned, is “can.” As in, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but why not go for broke and assume it is until we find out it isn’t, at which point, why, we can do more vivisection, what fun!!! The ER doctor’s point is, there are absolutely no risk factors for cancer: This guy isn’t overweight, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t live with smokers, doesn’t work in a carcinogenic environment, and lung cancer doesn’t just show up for the hell of it!

Ya know what scares the living daylights out of me? Of course, all the nurses are pulling out the Sympathy Card that says, “Oh, yes, These Things Are Scary.” Yeah, they’re scary, all right, but not for the reasons most people find them scary. I find them scary because I can’t escape the impression, based on my own rather vast experience, that my husband’s life is in the hands of a HATFUL OF INCOMPETENT BOOBS WHO DON’T HAVE THE FAINTEST CLUE WHAT THEY’RE DOING!!!!!

To top it all off, when I walked in this evening, my brother was visiting my husband, and regaling him with his own hospital experience, which involved walking into another hospital’s ER with severe pain in his right shoulder, and being kept overnight for cardio observation because he had Risk Factors (i.e., he’s fat). The next day, they gave him a stress test and an echo-cardiogram, both of which he passed with flying colors, so he was discharged — with his right shoulder still killing him. His own doctor diagnosed tendonitis. See, this is what gets me: The docs go into overdrive on their own pet theories, and completely ignore what’s actually going on.

As I said to Jim, I can’t advise him on how to handle this. I know what my own response would be, but that’s not his response. He’s inclined to let them do their vivisectionist thing. So all I ask is that he conduct his business with them without me anywhere in the vicinity, because if there’s one thing I love for dinner, it’s Doctor Stew.

Grumble, grumble, grouse, curses, kick the cat…

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