Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring on the North Shore

On Saturday Katy and I went for a series of walks at some of the parks and woodlands of Massachusett's north shore. This was Plan B; we had intended to hike up Mt. Monadnock, but threatening weather convinced us to stay closer to home. While we ended up with a much more modest day of walking, it was nonetheless quite lovely.

We began by driving north from Cambridge to Manchester and then toward Gloucester on Massachusetts route 127, looking for Ravenswood Park, a 600 acre preserve of the the Trustees of Reservations. Before we got to it, though, we stumbled across a different Trustees' parcel at Coolidge Point. This small park contains a large pond and the lovely Ocean Lawn, an expanse of grass punctuated by some magnificent trees. The coastline here is very different from the sandy Cape Cod beaches I know know visiting Katy's parents in Falmouth; the shore is much more rugged.

From 2009-04-18

From Coolidge Point it's a very short trip to Ravenswood Park. This large park has many small ponds and vernal pools, some nice views of the ocean, and lots of rocks covered with this interesting growth.

On our way out, we observed that a young visitor had made a presumably unintended contribution...

Our last walk was at Halibut Point, a park we've visited several times before. Just north of Rockport, this preserve offers a rather unusual tower, an inactive quarry, some stupendous rock piles, and interesting tidal pools.

We capped the trip with a visit to Passports restaurant in Gloucester. The food was superb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Feroz comes through

Yesterday when I arrived home from work I found a delivery attempt notice from TNT hanging from our back doorknob. I called the number on the card and discovered that they were trying to deliver a package from India. Their depot in Woburn would be open for another hour, so RuthAnne and I hopped in the car and picked up the parcel.

When we got it home, the cats immediately claimed ownership; they seemed to find the smell enormously exciting.

Katy was on her way home from my mother's house, and I decided to wait for her to arrive before opening the package. I knew what it had to be.

Over a year and a half ago, at the very end of my assignment in Hyderabad, I ordered - and mostly pre-paid for - a silk-on-silk, hand-knotted 5x7 carpet from Kashmir, through my friend, Feroz. This was an interesting exercise in trust. I'd gotten to know Feroz by playing backgammon with him at the shops he worked at as a salesman. We'd become friends and discussed carpet designs often; I occasionally brought him pictures of carpets from other shops that were close to the design I was looking for, but not quite it. Feroz persuaded me to order a unique carpet through him, sight unseen, to be made to order and delivered in about a year.

On the face of it, this was crazy. The amount of money at risk was enough that this would be a painful lesson on human nature if the carpet never materialized. But - I'd known Feroz for 6 months, and we'd spent a lot of time together. I liked and trusted him.

Over the course of the past year I've received occasional updates on the carpet's progress from Feroz, and when I was back in Hyderabad last fall I paid the remainder of the amount due on the carpet. Finally, last week Feroz advised me to be on the lookout for the carpet's arrival - and here it is.

Thank you, Feroz.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blogging as memory

Well - it's been an intense week or so. This posting will be different from most of my blog entries in that it contains a lot of personal content - not one of my usual breezy travelogues or predictable political postings.

It's inspired in part by a note I got this morning from my cousin, Michael. Two weeks ago, while in Florida with my mother, Katy and I had a truly wonderful overnight visit with Michael and his wife, Lucy. I haven't been very close to most of my extended family over the decades, but somehow Michael and I seem to be "like kind" in a number of ways, and we really clicked. Since I got back we've been trading email, and his most recent note contained a link to a Speaking of Faith program about Alzheimer's disease. The show's host, Krista Tippit, wrote a blog entry relating her inspiration for the program . Early in her career Krista worked as a chaplain at an Alzheimer's ward, and of this experience she wrote:

Here is the great gift I could give to the men and women I met on Wooster II: unlike those who had known them long and intimately, I had no former self with which to compare them — no sense of unfolding grief, of death in slow motion. I could come to know and love them as they were, right there. And here is the greater gift they gave me: they showed me that the structure of my life — the identity and credentials by which I present myself, and a verbal intelligence with an ability to impress — were not the core of my human presence. They would never remember my name or consider my education or accomplishments. But they would know if I was a kind human being — a good listener, patient, and attentive at every level of human presence — not just by way of words, but through eye contact, compassionate silence, touch.

Katy has been trying to get this same message across to my siblings and me regarding my mother. None of us are static beings. We accept change in people when it is seen as "growth", but somehow accepting change brought on by illness is more difficult. My sisters and I have a tendency to want Mom to be the person she was for most of our lives, and we try to push her into that mold. Well, that's not who she is now, and if we want to be good companions for her, we need to let her be who she is, pay attention to that, and respond in a way that Mom will find pleasing. We need to let her find pleasure in the things she is capable of doing, and not just push her to do the things we want her to be able to do.

This doesn't mean just letting her have her way about everything. For instance, she'll be happier, and retain her relative independence longer, if she exercises her body and mind. She doesn't always want to; hell, I often don't want to exercise, either. So she has to be pushed on some things. But it's important to make sure she feels some success at these activities.

Michael's note also mentioned a recent NPR story about how pets are becoming more like members of our families. I'd heard the same story, and it had obvious resonance for me given the struggle we're having with Willin and diabetes. Medical emergencies, be they human or animal, demand rapid decisions with only limited knowledge, and I'm looking back on the events of this week with regrets. Had I known on Monday morning that I was looking at spending over $1000 on Willin's care, I might well have opted for at-home euthanasia instead of treatment. Now that the money is spent, and it appear that ongoing maintenance of Willin's diabetes will be fairly inexpensive, I'm willing to give it a try for a while - but I'm going to be asking a lot more questions about cost from here on out, and we're going to have to have a family discussion about how this affects our lives before too much longer.

Whither this blog?

When I started blogging a few years ago, at the beginning of my long trip to India, I had two goals:

  • give my family and friends back home a window into the new and exotic world I was visiting, and
  • scratch my long-standing itch to write.

Now, though, I have another, entirely selfish goal, inspired by Alan Dienstag's essay regarding a writing program for early stage Alzheimer's patients. He wrote:

The members of the Lifelines Writing Group have taught us about the power of writing and the nature of memory and memory loss. Their lifelines have also served as a means of closing the psychological distance between the Alzheimer's and non-Alzheimer's world. Perhaps most importantly, they have demonstrated that there is a way to give meaning to the precarious station in life in which they find themselves, and they suggest a path for others in the early stages of Alzheimer's to follow; to live with memories; to give them to others; and to preserve in some form a record of who you are, who you were, and who you wanted to be in this world before it slips away.

If I reach a point in my life where I can feel my self slipping away, I want touchstones to help me recall who I am. I've had only very limited success in my attempts to keep paper journals, but blogging I can do.

Update: I received an anonymous comment on this blog entry that I have chosen not to publish. I am in general opposed to anonymity on the Web; if you aren't willing to speak your mind under your own name, I feel no obligation to publish your comments.

Friday, April 10, 2009

So, how much is a cat's life worth?

So far, about $1130, just in direct vet bills. I have about $50 worth of blood glucose measurement stuff on order, too.

From Willin's illness

I know, life throws you curveballs, but - damn! I can sure think of other uses for that much money.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One Sick Kitty

Willin, back home in the kitchen

Over the past couple of months our wonderful cat Willin seemed to become an incredibly fussy eater. We tried changing food many times, as recommended by our vet, but nothing kept his interest for long and he started losing weight.

Last week it became clear that this had to be more than just a fussy eater, and we took him back to the vet - who took some X-rays and bloodwork and sent us home with an appetite stimulant. A few hours later Willin's situation seemed desperate, and we took him to the MSPCA's Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. The vet there (Ryan Gershenson, DVM) took more bloodwork and ran through a list of possible diagnoses - including diabetes. We brought Willin back home for the night, and in the morning returned to our local vet in desperation.

We talked through possible diagnoses, and I brought up diabetes. For some reason this seemingly hadn't occurred to our vet as a possibility, even though Willin's blood sugar was somewhat elevated. We left Willin with the vet for a night of hydration, insulin and monitoring.

This morning he was much better, and this afternoon I left work early and picked up Willin and brought him home - along with a box of syringes, a bottle of insulin and the newly-acquired skill of injecting insulin into a cat. He seems a lot happier than he was a few days ago; notably, he's eating. He also seems a little annoyed at the poodle trim on his right leg (where an IV line was attached overnight).

We'll see how he does over the next few days, but hopefully we're out of the woods - at least for now.

Willin's X-rays were emailed to me; they're pretty interesting.