Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Duck, Duck, Goose?



What is it they say about the best laid plans? Obviously my decision to post some meaningful bit of prose every day, has not quite turned out the way I had hoped it would. I'd like to say I have a good excuse, but would I just be making excuses to myself?

It doesn't say so in my blog profile, but I am my Dad's fulltime caregiver. It's a strangely rewarding job, yet at the same time occasionally fraught with friction and generational dysfunction. If I were better about journaling and there weren't so many other baby boomers in the same place - sandwiched between caring for their children, grandchildren and parents - the story of our life together could make for a good book, followed by the movie version, starring Meryl Streep as ME and a "Grumpy-Old-Man-esque" actor as the loveable curmudgeon.

But I digress. On Sunday morning, last, I got one of those adrenaline pumping calls from across the hall. "Mary," my dad yells and no matter what stage of sleep I am in, I shoot up, out of my bed and at his bedside, seemingly without my feet touching the ground. (What was kind of weird on this occasion, was that I'd already heard my name called in a dream and I've concluded my Mom was forewarning me and to be on the alert.)

Since he was drenched in sweat and his heart was dancing to an unknown drummer, we opted for an early morning drive to the ER. There was not much traffic on the way there or when we got to the hospital. To make a long story short, because it was blessedly uneventful, after several different samples of bodily fluids, a chest X-ray and an EKG, the Dr. admitted him for rest and tests. Which means, of course, she admitted me also.

St. Luke's hospital is in partnership with the Mayo Clinic. As hospitals go, it is not too bad. In fact, it's really kind of nice. The Nutrition Department even boasts what it calls "Room Service," to deliver the notoriously-not-so-good-cardiac-diet. I really think, however, that someone should invent a better sleeping chair for the person who stays with the patient. I know, of course, that it is the patient whom the hospital staff is most interested in, but if they go to the trouble of putting a recliner in the room, couldn't they take it a couple of steps further and make it actually reclinable, comfortable AND somewhat easy to use?

After a night in said chair that needed the World's Strongest Man to get it to recline, which wasn't really so bad once it was in the prone position, I needed to stretch my legs a bit. So while Dad was having a stress test, I wandered outside to look at the geese (or what I thought were geese but now figure they are really just big ducks) who have taken up residence in the pond in front of the hospital. It was kind of fun to sit in the grass and talk to these funny looking, red-faced fowl, one of which seemed particularly okay with having his picture taken.

On my way back to Dad's room, I picked up a copy of the Smithsonian Magazine from the waiting room. Having just conversed with geese, I thought it sort of omen-ish, that there was an article about the birds in the first magazine I picked up. I don't usually read the Smithsonian - it's kind of high-brow for me. But I took it back to the room, fought the chair into submission and began to read about the author's experience raising geese.

The article was full of words like anthropormorphism, precocial(covered with soft feathers and capable of moving about when hatched), and gozzard (one who takes care of geese) and references to a well-known, and oft referred to as the best goose article around, by E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame. The author, novelist Paul Theroux, didn't much care for, or agree with, White's article, The Geese. It seems Theroux believes geese should be geese and not cute white animals with human characteristics.

Here are a few selected excerpts: "During 10 years of living among geese and observing them closely, I have come to the obvious conclusion that they live in a goose-centric world with goose rules and goose urgencies. (Well, duh! But I love that word picture - goose-centric!) More so than ducks, which I find passive and unsociable, geese have a well-known flocking instinct, a tendency to gaggle." (I think I have a tendency to gaggle myself!)

Theroux also paints a rather sad picture of old ganders, who have lost their position in the gaggle. "Only after numerous losing battles do they cease to compete." It's at this point in an old bird's life that the "ganders pair up and ramble around together at the back of the flock - usually protecting each other."

For some reason this made me think of the group of retired co-workers my Dad has lunch with once a month. All in various stages of "maturity," these men enjoy the commaraderie and regular opportunity to discuss news of their latest doctor's visits and the mess the younger generation is making of the world. I wonder if they were geese, would they be at the back of the flock ogling the pretty goose girls and trading remember-when stories?

Perhaps, but that is way too anthropomorphic for me.

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