Monday, October 11, 2021

Madcap recap of two madcap months

An October blooming sunflower is a precious gift and makes me smile. There are reasons.

As do these guys, who sent me this image on September 10.

Hello, kind readers. I'm still here. I've been spinning in a metaphorical whirlwind since last I posted. The conjunction of family, fitness, pain, ranch work, widget work, and moving house has been a madcap mashup.

My muse is ever present, but my writer has atrophied a bit. After working on this post in fits and starts for weeks, and after re-reading some of the dreck I've written, I realize I need to rein in the mea culpas. Too much of that is unhealthy. And oh by the way, why is mea culpa not in the blooger dictionary? Pretty sure I know. New world order and all that.

In this part of the world we've being blessed with a frightfully gorgeous early autumn. It's been sunny, warm, and calm. We still haven't had a freeze yet. The days are lovely with a bright, warming sun, and while air temps that approach "a bit too warm" in the afternoon the air cools gently as the sun begins to sink. The cool evening and overnight temperatures haven't been cold yet. So far the livin' is fat and wonderful.

For reasons I'll get into in a bit I've been able to write at home in my office as the sun comes up in the morning. Clever ape-lizards will realize that at this time of the year sunrise comes well after going to work time. It's very nice to enjoy the morning light streaming through the big east window. With the window cracked I get October morning sounds and smells and visits from Tommy the Rocket Dog.

Tommy is a dog who seems to enjoy livin', and in the crisp coolness of an early October morning he dashes all over the big back yard and lives it up.


Strap in, this is gonna get stupid!


The last several months have been rather tough physically and mentally. I continued to work hard at increasing my level of fitness and I continued to make good progress. As I worked on overall fitness my body continued to make what accommodations it could insofar as compressed nerves and radiculopathy were concerned.

It was a hard slog, and a painful one. I was making progress, but it hurt a lot. The hurt sucked, but there was nothing I could do to make it not hurt, and quitting or taking it easy was the wrong thing to do. If I wanted to put myself mentally and physically in a place where I could best survive going forward, I just had to embrace the suck and drive on. I couldn't allow myself to focus on the pain. The pain had to be okay, and it was. Particularly when I could wrap it in the concept of weakness leaving the body. As I learned in the savage sand and surf of Pensacola many years ago, I can always do much more than I think I can. So I did.

Somewhere in the future was the possibility of a surgical fix. In theory, cleaning arthritic bone spurs out of vertebral nerve canals and cutting bone away from bulging discs would relieve pressure on impinged nerves, thus relieving nerve pain or radiculopathy.

It was a tantalizing and terrifying prospect. Surgery might, and probably would, help. But I wouldn't know for sure unless and until, and there are a lot of people out there gimping around after failed back surgery. Enough that "Failed Back Surgery" is an actual medical diagnosis.

Couple the above with the fact that the surgical fix carrot has been repeatedly dangled in front of my eyes then snatched away via bureaucratic fiat. That's been a big component of the mental slog. It's hard not to hope too much, and when hopes are dashed it's hard not to get down and whiny. Hard, but not too hard.

Suck it up and drive on.

So as summer began to fade I was driving on, becoming more and more fit while my body continued to try to fix the unfixable. I could see that if I continued on my present path I would be able to survive and even thrive. The pain sucked but my body was doing good work in making it tolerable and I knew I could live with it.

I knew I could live with it because experience over time has consistently proven that God will do for me what I cannot do for myself and will give me the strength do do for myself what I can do for myself, regardless how hard and frightening it may be. I have only to ask. The humility of asking God for help leads directly to Grace.

In my world God employs an angelic assistant, one who isn't shy about bumping me in the proper direction. She orients me toward the path of Grace and wraps me in a warm blanket of love any acceptance. In that state of Grace I can truly love and be loved, and this gift has transformed me.
Dotted gayfeather

In retrospect my life has been very strange and very wonderful. I wandered in the desert from age 18 to age 40, having many adventures and getting my ass handed to me many times.
Life is shit and flowers, in approximately these proportions. Which is as it should be.
Because real appreciation for a lovely clotted sky comes from fighting through the shit. 

In my fourth decade I found the proper star to follow and got headed in the proper direction, but I was still deep in the desert and the journey was long. Which it was supposed to be. 
One of the late blooming asters. Breathtaking.

Beautiful weedy sunflower.

It was only in my sixth decade when I left the desert behind. Some, perhaps many or even most, might imagine that four decades in the desert were four decades squandered, but that's not the case at all. It was four decades of growth, livin' a life of hard knocks, trial and error over time. Exploration, building experience, and learning. A full and round and beautiful life. When I finally stepped out of the sand and onto fertile soil I was ready to embrace the important stuff.

In livin' this life I believe my path has been the proper one. I can't be sure of course, but I feel if my journey had been more conventional and mundane I'd be unable to live and love and embrace life upon this very high plane where I now exist. I did the work. I continue to do the work. My pay is infinitely more precious than money could ever be. Something about this song resonates with me. Of course any ape-lizard who seriously considers life as a livin' thing will find resonance with similar well crafted songs. Still, I enjoy the song. The smile it puts on my face reflects the smile in my heart.

I guess most ape-lizards can twist song lyrics to match up with their personal experience. Was that young sailorman lost for decades? I think so. Have I wakened? Perhaps a bit. Am I waking when it's all over? No. I'm waking but it's not nearly over.

Sorry 'bout the strangeness of this passage. I'm expositing the inner self as best I can while bangin' on the keyboard like a chimpanzee. The inner self is far too complex to nail down in mere language. As I reread this it looks like a blurred, two dimensional representation of a sharply rich four dimensional life. As I said, strange. Perhaps it works. Perhaps not. Perhaps I'll leave it as it is and press publish. Perhaps not. 


Once again, where was I?

Oh yeah.

It all came together in a rush. It was a bit of a surprise. Approval for surgery arrived in late August and the knife was scheduled to drop on September 10.

I had a few pre-surgery hoops to jump through which were kind of interesting. I had to fill out the usual questionnaire and be quizzed on my responses. Blood work was done as well as an EKG. My EKG was Abby Normal because with a resting heart rate of 50 I was, by definition suffering from Sinus Bradycardia. This caused a slight flurry of activity and a quick check by the house cardiologist, who took one look at me and said to the nurse, "Look at him. Look at those legs." Turning to me he asked, "Runner?"

"¡Sí doctor, muchísimo! "

So much for that.

I was required to have a magic influenza (koronabologna) test as well as a MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) test. The last was easy, a simple nasal swab. The first was more than a bit psychotic, in keeping with the ongoing worldwide psychosis. The power-crazy bureaucrats in the public health district had been assigned official license to run the testing program and their setup placed testing stations in tiny, isolated villages on a limited, floating, ever-changing schedule. I was supposed to be tested in the microscopic town of Harrisburg in Banner County, thirty miles from Kimball, and I was to call ahead on the scheduled day to make sure the schedule hadn't changed. Which of course it did, twice. Bureaucrats have many important shopping conference trips on their calendars! As it turned out I never did get the official testing station test for magic influenza. But the test was (at least allegedly) a federally mandated requirement for any surgery. No test, no surgery. What was I to do?

Fortunately there was a loophole. The surgical team were careful to phrase their instructions in such a way as to let me know that the hospital could actually do the test if the public health parasites couldn't make it happen. So on the morning of surgery I simply had to arrive an hour early. They could do the test during surgical prep, and even if it was positive they could still do the surgery so long as I wasn't symptomatic.

Also interestingly, the MRSA test came back positive. I'm a bit skeptical for various reasons, but the positive result didn't prevent the surgery, it just modified the prep slightly and guaranteed a private room as I was technically placed in MRSA isolation. Technically because to my trained eye, my "isolation" was paperwork isolation with no actual isolation practiced. Which was quite nice for me. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

As for me and my personal MRSA Positive preparations, I had only to swab antibiotic ointment into my nose thrice daily for the five days prior to surgery.

The current catechism, you see, holds that "MRSA lives in the nose!" Which is a misapprehension of reality, as are masks and social distancing and media/government directed fear are when it comes to the magic influenza. The most educated human populace in the history of the planet has produced the stupidest ape-lizards of all time. Stupid in the ape-lizard realm is, after all, a choice. But I digress once again, as usual... 

As I mentioned above, surgery was scheduled For September 10. That was an interesting day for me because it was the thirteenth-month mark of Alexzandra's death. Funny how the mind works when it comes to marking such days. As I thought about it the conjunction of death date and the number 13 came to mind. Could the combination of potential bad luck signs have any impact or even meaning in the real world? My concerned thinking was quickly displaced by a warm glow and bubbling mirth. My angel made it clear that we were going to be okay, and the thirteenth-month mark was the perfect time to fix my spine.

Showtime on the 10th was 0530, so we wanted to be wheels in the well at zero-four to provide a time cushion for the hour drive. Early is much better than late when it comes to surgery following a two-and-a-half year wait!

My driver was Uncle D, my brother-in-law and husband to Alex's sister Auntie S. Now Uncle D and Auntie S are busy, busy people. They are also my family. I'll not go into detail because there are a few rancid trolls monitoring this place who love to cause problems and leave turds scattered around. I'll leave them scant information to throw poop at. They are a bother, but no more than that. Enough said.

The drive went fine and we arrived early enough that there was no magic flu hysteria going on at the entrances. No one was masked, and no one was practicing social distancing. It was before official opening time, you see.

The surgery reception area was just being opened for business. Check in was a breeze and I was soon whisked back to the pre-surgery prep area. Uncle D was allowed to come back with me.

In the prep area I had to change into the ass-revealing gown with nothing on underneath. The nurse quickly swabbed my nose for the phantom menace test and sent it off to the hospital lab to see if I was infected or not.

At this point I quietly wondered if I had any wuhandromeda viruses hanging around in my nasal passages. I had no symptoms of viral illness, but I had had a two-week bout of serious influenza several months previously. Was that illness caused by influenza A or B, or was it in fact the dreaded macarona? I'd certainly been exposed to and worked side by side with people who had been diagnosed with the phantom menace. Was I a modern day typhoid Larry, as described relentlessly by the hysteria-selling media?

As I waited for the nurse to gather supplies for starting an IV I reflected on the worldwide state of wuhandromeda. Given my medical background and formal medical education I knew the truth; disease, including viral illness, just doesn't work the way it's presently being marketed. It would be interesting to see what my test results were, but I knew that any result would be objectively meaningless in reality. Being observant and possessed of a working mind I also noted that despite the masks, the medical staff were well aware of the non-secret truth as well. They were being forced to play a silly game, but they knew it was a silly game and treated it as such. This was comforting to me, because it proved that in this place at least, actual medical science would be practiced, and no one would go out of their way to make me a mortal casualty of the fight against the phantom menace.

The hospital commissars were a different story, of course, relentlessly running mandatory party meetings and orating memorized passages from their little red wuhandromeda books. But no commissar is going to be out of bed at 0530, and none but the most junior are out and about before 10 a.m. So these early morning hours were a lovely time of near-normalcy in the hospital. I felt very comfortable as very competent and professional medical personnel prepared me for surgery. The meaningless test came back negative. Which meant, well, nothing.

The nurse was quite an attractive woman. I noticed this because I'm a dude, I'm a sailor, and I'm not dead. She was quite engaging and fun to talk to. She took my vitals and asked me if I was taking any beta blockers, having noticed that my resting heart rate was 50. "no beta blockers," I said, "and that's normal for me. I'm a runner."

"I am too," she replied, and we chatted about running while she deftly started my IV. As she scurried in and out of the little prep cubical she must have shared the novelty of having an old dude patient who was a runner and very fit.

"So you're a runner," said the OR nurse who came in to explain his part of the coming procedure. "I'm running a half-marathon tomorrow."

"I'm not that much of a runner," I said. "I'm more of a plodder. I just try to keep my legs strong and challenge my heart. I do a lot of HIIT (high intensity interval training) and step running." This generated a lot of pleasant back and forth as three, four, and then five of us gabbed about exercise and fitness.

"My god," exclaimed the fetching nurse as she attempted to place the TED hose (to prevent blood clots during/after surgery) on my legs, "your calves are enormous! I need to get the extra-extra large."

While the TED hose fitting and jock talk was in full session the gas-passer (anesthesiologist) came in to brief me on anesthesia. My medical background came up when I told him I was a former SAR Paramedic/Swimmer. It turned out he was a former navy helo driver who flew SH-60's from small boys (Destroyers/Frigates) during the late 1980's and into the 1990's. So we chased down a sea story rabbit hole. It was fun and interesting after a fashion; two old sailors wowing the pretty young nurses with tales of our heroic and adventurous exploits upon the briny. Great fun! While we were gabbing the Seahawk Anesthesiologist injected several syringes of colorful medicines into my IV and I felt a wave of relaxation wash over me.

The fetching nurse (Alicia) packed my few belongings in a belonging bag and promised to have the bag delivered to my room. Then they wheeled me out of the prep bay.

In the OR I felt warm and relaxed. There was a bit of conversation but I don't recall the details. The Seahawk Anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. "Just breathe normally," he said, so I did. I detected the faint odor of anesthesia gas.

Then I woke up in the recovery room.


I hadn't planned to do this but at the moment it seems to be a good idea to break off, publish this part, and come back with a part two later. Hopefully in a reasonably timely manner.

In the meanwhile,

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Good to hear you are still breathing air and taking nourishment.

    1. It's good to still be doing those things!

      Thanks Frank.

  2. Excellent post, PA. Glad things are turning around for you. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    1. Thanks Juvat. Life seems to be continually turning around in one way and another. It's a grand adventure.

  3. Sounds like you are doing well, prayers answered...

    1. I am doing well Brig. Prayer is always the answer, isn't it? Hope you're doing well, it's sure nice to have you chime in here.

  4. Sheesh...good to see you back. Ive had my hip and knees done and now my thumbs (!) are killing me. But my back locks up in 50 yards so Im looking forward to The Rest Of The Story.

    1. Good to be seen back! I'm hoping all the glucosamine and chondroitin I'm throwing down my neck along with proper diet and exercise will keep my knees and hips going until the jealous husband puts me in the ground. We'll see. The back surgery has been a very good thing and I'll describe that in detail going forward.

      Thanks SS.

  5. Sean
    Glad to see you back and well. Had very similar lumbar roto rooter job (surgeon’s words) 4 years ago. Walked my eldest down the aisle 6 days later. True that some fail but life is so much better 98% free of pain. Best to you, do the PT they suggest.

    1. Thanks RS. The PT Doc Tells me that the number one cause of Failed Back Surgery is "being a bitch." So I'm driving through the PT and rehab, including driving through the appropriate rest. That last is torture for me, but I am getting a lot of reading done.

    2. Sean
      Just checking in, how was/has/is the PT been? Keeping up with it, even after the PT'nauts let you quit visiting, is one of the tougher things. My back reminds me every once in a while if I am slipping.

    3. I blasted through PT with flying colors. I'm a few days past three months post-surgery and it all feels like a miracle. Saw the surgeon two weeks ago a day after doing a five mile run. I can do things like running that I haven't been able to do for two-and-a-half years so I'm making up for lost time.It's a good place to be. Happy holidays and thanks for stopping by RS.

  6. Good to see that you are up and about and doing well. Waiting for more when you get around to it. Stay safe and keep on livin'.

    1. I'm livin' a right good bit these days. I spent two hours on the floor with the three and five year olds last evening as they "operated" on me. They have doctor tools and big imaginations; the youngest even has a doctor suit -- mini scrubs. It's such a joy to watch and participate as they try to figure out how stuff works, how reality matches up with their growing knowledge and experience base.

      Thanks Mark.

  7. Super! I was worried we might need to send the Sheriff out for a welfare check or something after nothing heard for near two moons.

    But, we did get half a great Corpsman Chronicles (from the patient perspective), and from the overall tone, I am assuming the outcome was positive, and grateful if so.

    Moving always sucks, but is filled with adventures, and usually a step up in comfort, so worth the effort in the long run. Much better done before winter than in the snow!

    Happy Halloween to all!
    John Blackshoe

    1. The sheriff would love that. He's a real head-scratcher piece of work. But he's what the voters want and the county also employs astonishingly good deputies who do the actual le stuff.

      Moving has been a pain in many ways but a joy also and I'm looking forward to throwing The Big Thanksgiving Celebration next month. Since my new house began as a single room over a root cellar in 1880 and has been cleverly cobbled during the recent 140 years I'm not lacking for opportunities to dust off my carpentry skills...

      Thanks John, Happy Halloween to you as well!

  8. I felt no disturbance in the Force so I was pretty sure that you were still alive. Glad to have a post to confirm that. 😉

    Nice post, it's obvious that you know the secret to life, you take the good with the bad and drive on, stopping, of course, to smell the roses along the way.

    Good to "hear" from you.

    1. Thanks Chris. I've certainly figured out over the years that all the seemingly mortal blows I've taken have been mostly minor flesh wounds (particularly the "not gettin' my way" ones). Driving through can suck but it tends to deliver you to a rich and lovely land. Someday perhaps I'll even develop a bit of wisdom.

      But first, I would like to develop a bit more writing discipline...

      Hope you're well and thanks again.

  9. Thanks for the post - hope the surgery is successful.
    As for pushing through, the way I heard it was: Everyone wants the joy of the mountaintop experience, but the real growth takes place in the valley.

    1. Thanks Frank.

      The surgery was indeed successful.

      The mountaintop is meaningless without the climb.

  10. Great to see your post! Prayers for continued healing and growth in all good things.

    1. Thanks Rick. Your prayers worked and are working! Sorry it's taken two months to reply to a comment. SMH.

  11. Glad to see you back, "missed" you on my blog crawls. Take care... Have Fun !

    1. Thanks DV, I'm taking care and have recovered from the surgery. Thanks for stopping by and sorry it's taken me two months to reply to a comment. SMH.

  12. Happy Veterans Day, there Sailor.
    Looking forward to the second half of the sea story on the miracles of modern medicine and those who administer them.

    Best to all the family and critters.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John, Happy belated Veterans Day to you. I'll get to the second half, I promise! Sorry it's taken so long to reply to a comment. Sheesh! Hope you're well.