Monday, March 31, 2008

a Lola by any other name

When I was pregnant the second time around and learned from my amnio that I was expecting a girl, I felt stymied over a name. "I feel like we shot our wad with 'Iris Alison,'" I complained over and over again to my husband.

We soon settled upon "Antonia" as a middle name, partially after writer A.S. Byatt and partially after a relative, but a first name evaded us for months. We named Iris after novelist Dame Iris Murdoch and cartoonist Alison Bechdel, but no literary namesakes could be agreed upon the second time around. I lobbied for "Jane" after Jane Austen, to no avail. The Sober Husband had been traumatized by being made to read "Pride and Prejudice" in high school and could not countenance the name.

"How about naming her after a suffragette?" the Sober Husband offered in a moment of brilliance. I waddled off to the public library and pored through a book about the suffrage movement. The British suffragettes were, to a woman, stuck with unwieldy names, but there were a few Americans with pleasing names. We soon had two finalists, "Lucy" after Lucy Stone (a brilliant suffragette who campaigned for the reform of marriage laws and who pioneered the practice of women keeping their own last name after marriage) and "Julia," after Julia Ward Howe (author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as well as a notable suffragette and abolitionist). Later we flirted with "Lydia," after Lydia Becker (editor of "The Women's Suffrage Journal").

We let then three year-old Iris Uber Alles decide. "The baby in your belly is named LUCY," she said emphatically, over and over again.

"If she doesn't like her name, I'll just tell her, 'We let your three year-old sister name you,'" I said presciently.

And she didn't like her name. As a toddler, Lucy referred to herself as "Baby." When she potty-trained, she decided that as she wasn't a baby any more, she would no longer be called "Baby." Refusing to answer to "Lucy", she was nameless for a while. She tried calling herself "Gaa" (which sadly enough I didn't realize until much, much later was her attempt to say "Girl" during her worst apraxia, before speech therapy), but that didn't get picked up by anyone. I frankly refused to introduce my child to anyone as "Gaa."

Then Iris Uber Alles rented the movie "Shark Tales", which the children watched over and over again one week. It was about the same time that Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, and my nameless child was smitten with the glittering gold-digging fish, "Lola", voiced by Ms. Jolie. "Lola!" she said. "I Lola."

For the next three years, she was very insistent that the name "Lola" must be used. In our home, the word "Lucy" was on a par with the n-word, absolutely abhorrent. Lola went so far as to get upset whenever I listened to the Lucy channel on satellite radio, always forcibly changing the dial to "the one and the two", as she called the X-Country station, over her mother's ineffectual protest.

The only person who would not use the name "Lola" and persisted with "Lucy" was big sister Iris. Iris, very passive aggressively, insisted upon always saying, "Lola, oh I mean Lucy" in a way which made "Lucy" sound like an imprecation.

But then last week Lola saw a "Barney" show about the meaning of names. She then went on a kick, insisting I look up the meaning of everyone's names. I already knew the meaning of my name, "Carole", which means "bright sound", and the meanings of "Iris" (which means either the flower or a rainbow, after the goddess Iris who is the goddess of the rainbow). The children howled when it turned out that the Sober Husband's name has no known meaning. Lola's best friend's name, "Louise", means "fierce warrior", which is extremely appropriate given that she fights with Iris without regard for the usually daunting age difference.

The trouble came with looking up "Lola." As a derivative of "Dolores", it means "sorrows" or "pains." Lola found this frankly depressing. Lola was indeed so troubled by this that she actually reverted to "Lucy", which means "light." This shocking development caused Iris, who had stubbornly refused for years to ever use the name "Lola", to suddenly take it up. She now now refers to her sister as "Sorrows" or "Lola Sorrows."

"I'm not SORROWS!! I'M LIGHT!!" Lola/Lucy yells at her sister, with a dramatic flourish of her hands up towards whatever light fixture or heavenly body is visible.

The Sober Husband and I, long trained to refer to our child as "Lola", are having trouble adapting to this name change. We now call our daughter "Lola-I-mean-Lucy."

It's hard to predict whether this change will stick. I do know one thing, though: I'm glad we looked into role models, rather than relying upon baby name websites. I've become addicted in spare moments to hitting refresh on the random baby name generator at It invariably yields such gems as "Swanhild Damaris" and "Pocahontas Roderiga" (and the Thinkbabynames people insist "Pocahontas" is a Hebrew name meaning "playful", fascinatingly enough). I've just got to keep Lola/Lucy away from that site, though. I wouldn't put it past her to suddenly insist upon being addressed as "Pocahontas Roderiga."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

children with too much self-esteem

'IRIS! I AM YOUR GOD!!!" shouted five year-old Lola.

Monday, March 24, 2008

the guilds and I

The Sober Husband introduced the World of Warcraft into our home before Christmas, against my express wishes. I had opposed WoW out of a fear that he, a former Warcraft II enthusiast, would become addicted to it, and I felt the children already spent too much time on the computer as it is. If he could go back in time and undo that action, I'm sure he would. The horrible truth is that I've become a Warcraft addict, and he is a WoW widower.

It's a solitary pursuit for me. At first, we played together, the Sober Husband, eight year-old Iris, and me. We ran around together, figuring out how to sit down, laugh, dance, and kill things. The earlier quests we all did together. But then I began to pull ahead. Now I have a level 64 Orc hunter. The Sober Husband's main character isn't even a level 20 yet, and he's ready to pull the plug on his account.

Lately I've been finding it frustrating, because there is so much I can't do as someone who customarily plays by herself doing solo quests. I can't run the good dungeons alone. I sometimes do quests with other players I run across, but I'm not good at keeping in touch with them later. I should be in a guild, I suppose, but my history with them has been so speckled.

When I was just starting out, I was solicited all the time to join guilds, but I never felt like making a commitment. One day Iris and I were goofing around, fishing in Ratchet, when someone struck up a conversation with us and asked us to join his guild. He seemed lively and polite, so we impulsively joined. Right off we were darting off to run the Wailing Caverns with our new guild members.

Within twenty minutes, it went south. Two of the guild members got into a fight before we even entered the Wailing Caverns. I got irked when one called someone else "fag" on the guild chat. The guild owner resigned, then resumed his post, then resigned again. The emotions flew over the guild chat. Several people on our WC run became so distracted by the guild infighting that they fell behind. Iris and I resigned from the guild, with Iris doing the honors of announcing to the guild that we were "quitting! We want a guild that's better!" (Oh, her very first flouncing off online! What a rite of passage!) Our first guild membership had lasted not much more than an hour. I don't even remember the name of that guild.

But! We were instantly on to our next guild. I signed a guild charter for a guild started by the very person called "fag", who said he could lure away the most adult members of that guild. It was all low level characters. I was, in fact, the highest level player.

At first, this seemed fine. I spent a lot of time questing with the guildmaster, who was a few levels below me (although he certainly spent a lot more time playing Warcraft than I did). This usually seemed more to his benefit than mine. I helped him and his wife complete some quests I'd already done myself, on the theory that I could get help with my own quests later.

But then this, too started going south. The guildmaster developed grand ambitions, and he came to rely upon me to be his helpmeet. His own wife didn't want to be bothered by him when playing, so I became his World of Warcraft wife. And he was a nagging and hyper-critical husband, telling me to change my professions, donate to the guild bank, ask permission before taking any loot in a dungeon (although he himself seemed quite grabby and, worse yet, gloated about his newfound treasure)... The final straw came when he was hounding me to donate to the guild bank when he knew full well I was saving for my first mount (oh, that special time in a Warcraft player's life, when she first reaches level 40 and may acquire a giant wolf or dinosaur or zombie horse to ride on, rather than having to shamble about on foot). It was all for the Guildmaster's glory and empire-building, as he promised a brand new recruit that the guild would pay for his professional training and help him get new equipment.

I resigned from the guild, and of course I got some guilt-tripping messages from the guildmaster. He then dropped out of direct communication with me, but yet, with the stalking instincts of an ex-boyfriend, kept tabs on me from afar. He, nicely but creepily, congratulated me when I reached level 50, and he got back in touch again to gloat when he passed me and achieved a higher level AND acquired an epic mount first. (I'd cut back on my playing so I could make a quilt for Lola's preschool auction and because my husband was out of town keeping vigil at a dying friend's bedside. It's nice that this hectic and stressful time in my life brought joy to someone else).

Next I tried another guild after playing with a polite and helpful fellow one day. He assured me his guild was drama-free, and it seemed so for a while, until a rather immature member picked a fight with me one day. I quit quickly.

The time that came next was the happiest in my Warcraft life since those halcyon days when I started. I played alone, guildless, free of nagging or oversight. Whenever anyone I happened to pay with incidentally suggested I join their guild, I'd tell them, "I'm taking a break from guilds right now. Too much drama." They always found that amusing.

I flew through the forties and fifties, but finally after reaching level 60, I felt like I was stagnating. I felt frustrated by not being able to run dungeon quests. Trying to get an impromptu group together with strangers was maddening. When I finally had gotten into a sizeable enough group to run Zul'Farrak after weeks of trying, the group fell apart when our leader's mother made him log off and go outside to play in the fresh air. As a mother and alleged grown-up myself, I found this ironic.

By accident I met another player of the same level in Orgrimmar one day, who asked me to join forces with him. His idea was that we would focus on getting other 60ish level players to join us and we'd all work together to reach level 70, and it sounded reasonable to me. I joined his guild. Two days later, when I logged on, the guild didn't exist any more. I'd had no warning.

Subsequently I joined another guild on the basis that it had upper level players who would ostensibly run instances with me. Over the next few days, all the upper level players quit (including the one who recruited me, the only one I knew). At least the drama went on behind the scenes, but soon I was the highest level left by far in the guild. Needless to say, there was no point asking any of my guildmates to help me run my quests, as they'd be killed instantly.

Then the true insult came: my new guildmaster asked me repeatedly over several days to buy the guild from him! He found another patsy, at a much lower level, and I resigned to be guild-free again.

Realistically I know that I need to join a guild if I ever want the finest epic equipment and to raise money for a flying mount. This time, I think I'm making a more rational decision. I plan to pay the Warcraft people to transfer me to a different server, where an online acquaintance tells me there are delightful guilds which will nourish and cherish my character. I'm happy to join her guild and leave my server behind, land of a thousand flawed guilds. I wonder if my stalkerish ex-guildmaster will track me down.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

our ongoing study of hypochondria in the young

I've been sick off and on for two weeks, with first a terrible sore throat and torturous lung congestion accompanied by a racking and dramatic cough, followed by a rather humdrum head cold which reduced my IQ by about half.

Now any sensible person would have distanced herself from this contagion and instead rejoiced in her own relative health, but not my offspring. They were jealous and continually cajoled me to feel their perfectly normal foreheads for imaginary fevers.

On Thursday Iris had a headache (believed by me to be genuine). Five year-old Lola, competitive as ever, interrupted her big sister. "I have a headache, too! And I am sick!"

"LUCY!" shouted Iris. "YOU ARE NOT SICK!"

I quieted Iris. "Tell me your symptoms, Lola."

"I have a headache. And my arm hurts." She stopped to ponder, then smiled brightly. "And the bottom of my foot hurts!" Needless to say this assemblage of symptoms did not win her the coveted Officially Ill status.

Eight year-old Iris Uber Alles is not above a bit of hypochondria as well. At her school many of her classmates are being diagnosed with "learning differences", and Iris has become convinced that she has dysgraphia. She finds her parents' indifference maddening. Brandishing a purple brochure she had obtained somewhere, Iris cried out, "But all of these apply to me!" On another occasion, she said emotionally, "My handwriting is bad, and my papers are always a mess! I have dysgraphia! It explains everything!" Not the drama queen behavior, honey, not the drama queen behavior. That is still a Mystery of Science.

Friday, March 21, 2008

the return of the Possibly Annual Readers' Photo Contest

My darlings, I am pleased to inform you that, after a rousing success last year, the Readers' Photo Contest is back! And with the return of our esteemed commenter, Hughman, as our Celebrity Guest Judge as well!

Last year the photos were supposed to be of the readers and were supposed to somehow encapsulate the spirit of the blog. We had some delightful pictures presented, with regular commenters Silliyak and Missy capturing the titles of Mr. Drunken Househusband and Mrs. Drunken Housewife for the year (can they defend their titles?), with stiff competition from other readers, including Brown, Lemonjuicer, grand prize winner Jack's Raging Mommy, Susie, and even the Sober Husband.

This year, the rules are a bit different. The photo may be of anyone or anything, but it must contain the words "Drunken Housewife" or "" The photo need not present those words in a flattering light (e.g., if you found some poor passed-out drunken skank, you could lean a piece of paper up next to him or her with the URL scrawled on it, and that would be a fine entry). Of course, the more humorous or beautiful or exotic or scathing the picture is, the more likely it is to win.

The prizes: some or all of the following will be rewarded (a truly great winning entry will sweep the board and could receive all of the following): I write a post on the topic of your choice; I let you write whatever you want here, uncensored (but I reserve the right to comment upon it); a good book from my vast collection; a funny geeky T-shirt modified by me in an artistic manner; the right to lord it over the other readers in an insufferable manner.

The deadline: two weeks from now, or longer if I get lazy or distracted. Submit yer entries to

Let the contest begin!

Friday, March 14, 2008

the sorceress sings a sad, sad song

Yesterday morning five year-old Lola went off by herself. I was in the next room torturing myself over the daily paper's Sudoku (got it on the second try, but with shame at having needed a second go-round), and I used my Sudoku pencil to write down her lyrics (later Lola inquired, "Mama, why do you write on the newspaper?" "Because it was there").

Lola evidently was feeling the brunt of her older sister's displeasure, as she sang softly and sorrowfully,

"It's all my fault
It's all my fault
It's all my fault
That's all I want to say
I don't know what to put in your lunch
It's a big deal
It's a big deal
And that is that
And that is that
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah."

(Incidentally, lest the reader condemn the Drunken Housewife for forcing little Lola to labor at her sister's behest, Lola had not been required to pack any lunches for her sister. Interestingly enough Iris insists on making the lunch for her little sister to take to pre-k whenever there's a chance, and Lola-hating Iris prides herself on making a fine boxed lunch. "Lucy, I put SEVEN THINGS IN!" she announced yesterday).

Iris had the day off from school and had been using it to torment her sister psychologically, with the occasional maternal intervention, but the hour came for Lola to be taken to pre-k. At pre-k, one of the parents drew me aside. Her daughter had come home the day before with an agenda. She had a long list of things, beginning with pine needles, which she needed to acquire and mix up together, stat. "What do you need all that for?" the mother asked bemusedly. "Lola says if I mix it all up together, I will get ANYTHING I WISH FOR," said the little girl with absolute faith.

I'm so happy to see Lola striking a tone of authority outside the home. It was also, as I discussed with this mother and one of my favorite dads, nice to hear of the girls playing something other than their endless dreary housekeeping and Cinderella games. "Why are they so obsessed with mopping," one parent said wonderingly.

"Lola certainly doesn't see that modeled in our home," I said guiltily. We laughed, and crabby old Iris pulled my sleeve to get me away on my assigned errand of buying candy as her thank-you present for working with our undersocialized foster cat. Why should a mother stand around discussing Lola when she could be buying candy for Iris? The mind boggles.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

of cats and big breasts

It's been a time of great achievements, people, great achievements. First off, I captured the undersocialized foster cat who'd gotten out and was living in the crawl space under the house. Frankly, this cat is not the brightest light on the Christmas tree strand, and that was my salvation. Tux, as we call her, is an unbearably beautiful animal (who looks uncannily like the cat in the signature Drunken Housewife illustration) with the silkiest black-and-white fur in existence, but she's no genius. She clearly wants to be one of the herd of regular cats, who come and go with elan, but she's too timid and not clever enough to figure out how to join in. In the backyard, she would make eye contact with me and come a bit closer when I crooned, "here, kitty, kitty." She would come closer yet when she saw me petting the other cats, who are casual in their acceptance of the Drunken Housewife's love. But she would not come within reach. She did come a few steps in to the house, only to freak out and flee over and over again.

Today I ostentatiously went out into the yard, petting Frowst, the king of our block; Peter Robin aka "Defecto", our dearly beloved foster cat; and Princess Henry, my Christmas present cat. These cats all wandered about, accepting the odd pat while enjoying the day. Tux stood a bit away, mesmerized but terrified. Then I called all the cats in for food, and Tux obviously wanted to go (as part of my strategy, I stopped putting food out in the backyard for her). She tried over and over again to get the nerve to join the other cats for a meal, but something spooked her every time. Finally I went and stood behind the (glass-paned) door. She seemed to feel this way that I couldn't possibly grab her, since I was behind a barrier, and didn't understand that I could -- and did-- slam that glass-paned door shut.

Since her capture, she has been held and petted a lot. The poor half-witted cat has enjoyed the attention she can't bring herself to be bold enough to go get. I feel so glad that I have her back in the house.

On another note of achievement, I FINALLY got a mammogram. I'd been asked by my doctor to go get my first one nearly four years ago, and I could never bring myself to do it. Somehow it seemed morbid, and also I'd been traumatized by horrible forwarded email jokes about how it's like having your tits squashed by an automatic garage door or concrete blocks. When it came down to it, the Sober Husband issued various nagging ultimatums which got me to make the appointment. He was out of town when it came to keeping the appointment, but I sucked it up and went. Unfortunately for me it was a time of day when keeping my sobriety was vital (the children needed to be ferried about afterwards), so getting a little Dutch courage first was not possible.

I was, of course, just being silly avoiding that exam. After all, I have had natural childbirth (of a nine pound baby with a giant head, never again! I understand now why my fore-sisters fought for the right to painkillers in the delivery room), as well as a variety of tattoos and piercings. The tech who did my mammogram wondered aloud why I had been afraid of a mammogram when I'd gotten tattooed. "That was in my rockstar past," I explained. "I'm old and weak now."

In the event, it was a non-event. The last two films were uncomfortable, but not excruciating. The recently upgraded facilities at the Breast Health Center at the California Pacific Medical Center are lovely, just lovely. The staff are quite polite and caring. Even the hospital gowns provided were of higher quality than one would expect. The techs told me that all those old jokes and horror stories are outdated, from the days when the mammogram equipment was more unwieldy and the techs less skilled. Additionally, the small-breasted tech who took my x-rays explained that mammograms are easier for women with large breasts. Who knew that big tits had an extra perk, aside from attracting mates? It turns out that smaller breasts get pulled and pinched in those plates, while the more endowed may simply lay their assets out. If someone had told me that before, I would have gotten this taken care of years ago.

So now, cat captured and breasts mammogrammed with relative ease, I may relax and enjoy a Blood and Sand cocktail or two. The worst of my to-do list has been struck off.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I suck.

Lately I've been fostering a couple of reject cats left over from last kitten season. I have "Tux", a psychotically timid black and white cat, and "Peter Robin Rabbit" a/k/a "Defecto", a very confident young cat who is partially blind in one eye and appears to have an incurable upper respiratory infection. Today it was a spectacularly nice day, and I left the back door open for some time to air out the house, as is my wont. Iris and I think that Tux sneaked out the back and is lost to us. Words cannot convey how awful I feel about this. I am such an idiot. I've kept that door shut punctiliously for weeks, and now today I felt like airing the house out, and it was a tragic error. God, I suck.

On that note, I also forgot Iris's piano lesson today. I was congratulating myself on remembering to put out the trash and move my car to avoid street cleaning day but I forgot the frigging piano lesson. Sigh.

I feel so terrible. I have left out a can of tuna for Tux, but I despair of ever capturing her again.

Meanwhile, the Sober Husband's lifelong friend died today. The Sober Husband and another long-term friend were the only ones present at the actual moment of the death. The friend's parents accused the friend's wife of "letting him die." Dear Lord Goddess, when the day comes I have three different types of cancer and can only be sustained by a ventilator and extreme medical interventions, please do not let anyone argue over switching the ventilator off. Thanking you in advance, your pathetic servant, the Drunken Housewife.

Update: Tux is okay, but still out of the house. She is using the crawl space as a homebase, but she's coming out to socialize with Frowst (and then ducking back into hiding when people come near). She ate some cat food we put out for her. I think we'll get her back in the house at some point, and in the meantime, I feel better now she's coming out into sight occasionally. I talked to her old foster parent and learned that Tux was living on the street and was tormented by boys who threw rocks at her, which is probably why she's so obsessively scared of people.

weird days

The Sober Husband has been gone for three nights so far, keeping a vigil by his friend's deathbed. The friend's wife, who had her heart set upon getting her husband's condition stabilized enough so that he could be brought home from the hospital, gave up yesterday. It was very, very hard for her, but she issued the order to stop treating her husband's cancers. Today he will be taken off his ventilator, and he is expected to die soon.

This difficult decision made it much easier to spend time with poor Dan. Previously, with everyone valiantly and energetically trying to save Dan's life, the Sober Husband was required to wear surgical scrubs and a mask at the bedside. Now anything goes, and the dying man's bed has been lowered so that it is easier to touch him (previously he was kept up at a level making it easier for the staff to work on his mostly unconscious body).

Now that the end is near, the dying man's family is returning, so the Sober Husband's presence is less vital. I am so proud of him for being there this week. He consoled his friend's wife and told her, when she was crying and doubting herself, that she'd made the right decision, and he spent so much time alone at the bedside, holding his friend's arm (the actual hand was covered with medical devices).

I don't know when he'll be back. He has decided to stay up until the end. Meanwhile back at the homefront, the children are fussing and missing him. Lola insists that he is coming home today, and I'm not looking forward to her disappointment. I told her gently that he's not, but she dismissed me airily. "Daddy SAID. Daddy SAID he is coming home today. He SAID."

If you ever have to die of cancer and wish to be surrounded by loved ones, let me recommend the Johns Hopkin to you. The Sober Husband has been treated quite kindly by the staff and even put up in a special house, steps from the hospital, for family members of cancer victims. We had worried that as he wasn't technically family, he'd have issues getting into the hospital, but a red carpet was practically laid out for him. Dan's wife told the hospital in advance that the Sober Husband was coming, and so he had not only full access but also assistance from the staff in getting a spot at the family house. The doctors, nurses, and technicians have also taken time out to explain to the Sober Husband (ever curious and the son of a doctor) what procedures they are doing and why.

The only issue is internet access. The Sober Husband had previously intended to work while away, but the internet access is so weak and limited that he has been unable to do a thing. He reads email over his iPhone but is unable to program (or even to read this blog, which has been blocked by Johns Hopkins' firewall as a suspected unsavory site. This gives us a rare opportunity to talk about him behind his back, but under the circumstances, I'll pass. If he were off on a pleasure trip without blog access, no holds would be barred, but now I've got nothing but love and admiration going on for the man).

We have a trivial illness here. Iris and Lola had headaches and low grade fevers yesterday and so were kept home from school. Irritatingly enough, for the first time in my six years as a co-op workday parent, I was called yesterday to do a mandatory substitute shift. I didn't even get upset or worried; I simply called the director and said, "I just can't do it. My husband's out of town at a friend's deathbed, and I'm keeping the kids home with fevers." Our old director would have been inflexible, but the new director said kindly, "Oh, Carole, sometimes things happen. I'll work the phones and figure something out." This was such a happy change from three years ago, when I was dropping off then-preschooler Iris Uber Alles on my way to the airport to go to my teenaged nephew's funeral. Teary-eyed and semi-crazy, I stopped by the office to tell the then director and office manager that I had been unable to find anyone to cover my workshift and I was leaving right then for the funeral. I was heartlessly instructed to take the roster with me and make calls from Denver until I could get someone lined up to work my shift. (By the way, I didn't make those calls. I refused. I was too busy wrestling emotionally with my family dynamics and my grief over the senseless death, so my phone calls were limited to venting to my husband over my sister's incomprehensible behavior and crying long distance). I did send out an email yesterday to the pre-k parents offering bribes to anyone who could cover the shift (I offered cash, a traded workshift, homemade pies or ice cream... I did stop short of offering sexual favors, though), and then I devoted myself to watching "Spongebob Squarepants" with the children, feeling their foreheads as requested, and taking calls from my husband when he wanted to talk.

Today I'm keeping Iris home again, but we'll have to venture out to a grocery store at some point as we're out of milk, bread, and other basic necessities. The children were stymied without their normal toast and cereal for breakfast, but I introduced them to the joys of cold pizza for breakfast. It feels so strange here, waiting to hear of the friend's death and staying home with the querulous children.

The six cats currently residing here have formed a sort of pack. Evidently once the number of cats in a home exceeds the number of humans by a ratio of 2:1, herd behaviors emerge and the bonds between individual humans and specific cats break down. Thankfully I have plenty of cat food on hand, so I needn't worry just yet for my personal safety.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

death, overthinking & annoying metablogging

So the Sober Husband is away, keeping a vigil at his friend's deathbed. I feel guilty for having pressured him to go (although it wasn't just me; the friend's wife called him and asked him to please help out), because it sounds like a living hell. The friend is worse than imagined. My husband wants so much to be able to communicate with his friend, but the hospital staff are keeping the friend sedated. Evidently when he starts breathing on his own, it clashes with the rhythm of the ventilator, and that alone is grounds to keep him unconscious. The horrible truth is that it's no longer a question of Dan the person, Dan the unique individual whom I will always remember wearing his wristwatch strapped to his ankle. It's a matter of doing things to Dan the dying body. Shudder. So is it of any use whatsoever to have my husband, Dan's lifelong friend, by the sedated, dying body's side? Fuck if I know.

I do know that I don't want to go out that way myself and neither does the Sober Husband.

Iris Uber Alles was crying at bedtime last night. Immediately I assumed she was upset about death, since her pet rat is dying of cancer at the same time her father's friend (whom Iris knows) is also dying. I bucked myself up for a Big Talk and gently inquired about what Iris was feeling. It turns out that her father had just been away for a conference and now he was gone again, and she missed him. No big worries about mortality. I've got to give up on that overthinking.

Another thing I'm going to give up on is keeping track of what I read. It's only March, and I've already forgotten some of the books I've read, and I've failed to track them all here as I resolved. I looked at "The Homecoming" by Bernhard Schlink today at a bookstore and vaguely remembered having read it and not cared for it, but it took time for me to remember anything about the plot. I also suspect that I was driving the readers crazy with all those book reviews. Y'all come here for witty anecdotes of a sot beleaguered by her precocious children and cats, not book reviews and cancer stories. So! Fewer book reviews and less overthinking, but more "advance directives" all around, I think. Let's all make "living wills" or whatever you're supposed to call the things.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

the Sober Husband mans up

When I met the Sober Husband, he had two very close, long-time friends whom he'd grown up with in Chicago. The three of them had a Peter Pan thing going on. Although they were turning thirty, they were all single, never engaged, no girlfriends in sight, and no serious careers, either (with the exception of the Sober Husband, who'd finished up a Ph.D. and was doing a post-doc). One was even still living at home.

The Sober Husband was the first of the lot to grow up, taking a perfectly good drunken litigator and turning her into a Drunken Housewife by impregnating her and buying her a house. His friends were rather appalled at all that domesticity but, years later, followed down that path as well.

Now at age 42, one of these old friends is dying of cancer. He has metastasized lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumors, and I don't know what else. He's being kept sedated, but reportedly when he wakes, he pulls at his ventilator and other equipment until he's talked down, whereupon he goes back to sleep. (This really gets to me, as I came to during surgery once. It was like those alien abduction experiences people rant about. There were blurry figures in white bent over strange equipment, and I felt so trapped and panicky and just instinctively started clawing at the tubes going down my throat, and the nurses and doctors shouted harshly at me, "HOLD STILL! HOLD STILL!" It was nightmarish, and then thankfully I lost consciousness. I think my surgeon was nervous I was going to sue him, but the day after the surgery, I felt so much better that I didn't bring it up when he came by my room in the hospital to check on me).

Anyhow, it's not as if we have the money or the time, but the Sober Husband is manning up and flying out to the East Coast tonight to spend some days by his old friend's side. I've never been close to this friend, but I can't bear to think of him waking up and freaking out in the hospital. I'm so glad the Sober Husband will be able to be with him. Sad to say the friend's wife, brother, parents, and in-laws all took time off work already and collectively need to get back to work (and their own lives occur in different states, aside from the wife).

The biggest sacrifice here will have to be made by our own Lola/Cupcake, who is accustomed to sleeping in. Lola will have to get up and leave the house at 7:45 with me, as I can't leave her home alone while I drive Iris Uber Alles to school. (The other sacrifice is unspoken; I was daydreaming of a trip to Bruges for myself and was mulling over a sort of proposed marital treaty, involving certain things to be done in exchange for a ticket to Belgium and a block of childfree time).

The husband is positively dreading this. He hates the thought of seeing his friend in this position. My point of view is that there is little point comparatively in going to the friend's funeral; funerals are for comforting the survivors. Spending time in the hospital comforts the dying person and is a huge service that can be done, the last chance to do something for a loved one. The Sober Husband is going to play some old "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" episodes for his friend as well as be there to comfort him when he wakes.

I'm proud of him for doing this. So many people are weak and selfish in life and won't go to hospitals. "It's just too depressing. I hate hospitals," they say with an air of self-discovery as though they were unique in a crowd of hospital-lovers who just can't be pried away from the sides of sickbeds. It also sets a good example for Iris and Lola, who will hopefully some day be willing to suck it up and sit next to their old mother's hospital bed.