Archive - 2013

May 16th


Another appalling example of children being exploited for the delight of the masses. This genre is amongst the sickest public spectacles afloat today: In a full stadium, a child is surprised by the appearance of his or her father (haven't seen a mother yet) back from deployment. The video is replayed by millions. The poor kid's vulnerablity is on display for all to see, and people think it is tear jerking and cute--no worry about the exploitation of the kid. 

I put these sick displays right up there with piercing a toddler's ears in the utter unthinking use of a child to satisfy the emotional needs of adults. 


May 14th


Andrew Sullivan does not identify the readers who write in to his blog, but I will claim the first letter in this post as mine.  

May 12th

Alzheimer's and nutrition

This book and the accompanying television program are sure to be controversial. However, the author is spot on in his assertion that the eventual solution to Alzheimer's disease is likely not going to be a pill, but a drastic change in lifestyle and diet. Oh, how we hate to hear that. 

As Alzheimer's disease becomes more prevalent, new books about it are coming out on the disease almost every week. So do new potential quack cures which promise to cure the disease. It is tough to sort it all out. 

A couple of points I would emphasize:

•Once a person has the disease, it is cruel to test them assuming that you "use it or lose it." The memory for names is gone and simply cannot return.However, emotional memory remains. Figure out ways (music, pictures, items) to trigger that emotional memory, but never expect a name spoken out loud to trigger anything but confusion. 

•Examine the assumptions behind the statement, "I would visit more, but she doesn't know who I am." So, who is the visit for? Is it for us, the visitors, to be recognized? I think we can eventually learn to get along without the ego satisfaction of immediate recognition and just sit with the person. As you sit there, allow for moments of recognition that are not based in language. Some days they'll come, other days they won't. 

•When the advanced Alzheimer's patient greets you with mumbo jumbo, answer as if you are certain you know what they said. Listen for tone only, not for actual words. Perhaps the lady's tone suggests that she would like to get you some coffee. Take a guess and wave her off with a, "Oh, I just had pie and coffee up town." Exaggerate the tone of, "oh, don't bother, I am fine." The words will not be recognized, but the tone will calm the person. Then move on to other topics, talking normally. When the response is mumbo jumbo, imagine what it might mean and answer appropriately and with utter conviction that you are carrying on a conversation. For you are. The give and take of a conversation is what the Alzheimer's sufferer longs for, whether or not the words make any sense. Do not raise your voice as if you are talking to a child. Do not enunciate words in an exaggerated manner. It does not do any good. What matters is your tone and your posture. Both should reflect a relaxed conversation with an old friend. If you can pull that off, what you will have is a relaxed conversation with an old friend, one that will make you feel better as well. 

It is difficult for family members of Alzheimer's victims to pull this off, as they are understandably attached to the person who was, the person who recognized them and hugged them when they arrived. That is why non-family members are so important. We can understand the Alzheimer's patient as they are in the present. 


May 9th

Bigotry in the halls of power

Please read this article about the experience of a woman with dark skin at the White House Press Correspondent's dinner. I hear people so often say there is no bigotry any more, that it is all in people's imagination. The assertion is so insanely false--just ask anybody with brown skin for a story--but people continue to insist that they know better than those who actually have experienced the bigotry. That is offensive. Denying the experience of people is always offensive. And treating people in this manner is sick. 

On the positive side, the Minnesota House today voted in favor of marriage equality. In my opinion, the whole matter should have been decided by a low-level clerk in some office in St. Paul years ago. But no, we have to have two years of political circus. Now, it will be forgotten. In two years, completely forgotten. 

May 8th

Of politics and plants


In apparent response to brother Joe's recent article advocating the decriminalization of marijuana, our fellow greenhouse north of town moved in for the kill! 

They do have a nice place, well worth the stop.  

May 3rd

Aunt Olla back in form


Went in to see how Aunt Olive was doing today and she was in fine form. In fact, her pain didn't even come up until I offered to get her heat pack re-heated. After wanting nothing more than to die two days ago, Olive's focus was once again on the future. She wants to go to Detroit Lakes to see one of her students. She wants to write her memoirs. She wants to sort out all her pictures. Oh, man, so much to do!

Painkillers can do wonders. 

Olla's resilience is something to behold. It is always inspiring. Her only real problem is short-term memory and the ability to come up with names. That frustrates her. But otherwise, her memory for what happened yesterday is just fine. 

Olive was searching her extensive past for the source of her present back pain, and she finally settled on the time she lifted the Model T out of the ditch. I hadn't heard that one before. Olive said she hadn't told anybody before. Then she started telling other tales of events 60-85 years ago which might have hurt her back. They were familiar tales with a new twist, like the time she insisted Mama bring her a ring when Mama went to town for provisions. Mama, despite the family's poverty, came back with a ring, probably of the Cracker Jack box sort. That part of the story was familiar. Only this time, as Olive told it today, she was so eager to get her new ring that she fell down the stairs and fell flat on her back. "Nobody even batted an eye," she said. The fall could have been the source of her present pain. 

Or, maybe not. 

In the past few days, several of Olive's staple stories have been altered to include an ending which has her flat on her back, probably injuring herself in a way which has now come back to haunt her, 85 years later. Skiing accidents. Skating accidents. Lifting cars. Falling down stairs. 

And then there are the nightly strokes. She has had so many that "the blood vessels are just hanging loose in there," Olla claims. 

Finally, Aunt Olla asked, "have you seen my wedding picture?" I had, but she had taken it down because she didn't want to gloat. So, it was in the drawer. And there were two copies. So I took one, the picture above. It is of boyfriend Bunny, 52, and Aunt Olive, 101. They aren't legally married, just dating, but Olive's memory is ambiguous, so she says, "I am really not sure what is going on with it all." But she thinks the world of Bunny and is convinced that he chose her because she's the only one in the Hilton who 1) talks to him on the pontoon rides he provides Hilton residents each summer and 2) doesn't have gray hair. "I really have no competition," she said. "The others don't even talk to him. And they're all gray."

I would say they look like a happy couple. 

May 2nd

George Jones

Here is the first song by George Jones that I liked back in high school. Boy, then you had to hide the fact that you liked country music! Now you don't. This is a minor hit, but to me it is George at his best. 

And then George's prediction about his demise. 

May 1st

Willie turns 80

And here is a sample of his excellence with the blues. People don't realize what a great guitar player he is. Here he is, doing another song he wrote (on the same car trip back in the early 1960s) with the equally great BB King. 

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the passing of George Jones, another of my favorites. 


Aunt Olive was suffering again today. Mightily. I went in and discovered she was only getting one Tylenol every four hours. Silly. She was in excruciating pain, and she is not a complainer. The staff was doing all they could, but the doctors had not gotten back to them for two and a half days. We plotted with one of Olla's favorite staffers and decided that it was so bad that if the doctors didn't call back, we'd just ship her up in the ambulance and then she would get something for her pain. A staffer called with that information, that the family wanted her taken to emergency, and within one hour, the pills were on their way. 

Now, I don't know the realities of the medical hierarchy, but if you can't get a 101-year-old who is in excruciating pain a narcotic or whatever it takes within an hour or two, something is wrong. The staff was entitled to give her a certain amount of pain killer, but they had used up that option. Of course, the big issue is preventing staff from having discretionary access to painkillers, which inevitably, it is true, will result in some stealing the medications for themselves while claiming to have administered it to a patient. The problem of staff stealing pain meds is more prevalent than most know. 

However, when it takes two-and-a-half days to get an old lady in horrific pain some help, that is a problem. With only half a pain pill, Olive was resting comfortably tonight. She should have had it two days ago. I kind of suspect that she was shunted aside merely because she was 101-years-old. 

Human pain is human pain, 101-years-old or not. Yes, if you are 101-years-old and get cancer, or some other condition, it might not be the best idea to go full bore treating the disease. But pain? You always, always, always treat pain. In fact, it is the basic function of the medical field. We all are going to die. It is to get there comfortably that is our best hope. 

The staff at the Hilton gives Olive regular massages, I did the best I could this morning to work on the area of difficult, and sister Tracie, a trained massage therapist, went in this evening. Olla said she was craving fruit, so Tracie called out to the place. Kae immediately made up one of her legendary fruit and vegetable smoothies and brought it in. Olla took a sip and said, "Wow. I am all about this!" 

One cool 101-year-old. 

April 30th

Turning the corner

So much has happened to the climate in the past few days. Yesterday, I went for a run on the railbed. Only last week, it was under drifts. I think it was last Friday that the ditches broke loose. The swamp in front of the house gathered a lot of water, but still is only about 30% full, if that.

The ground is still frozen in many places. However, the weather forecast looks pretty good.

We sit with a huge inventory, hoping to sell everything by June 10. I rest easy that we have done everything possible as far as promotion and preparation of inventory. Joe has managed things very well this spring, getting us readier than we ever have been. But oh man, do we have to sell stuff in the next four weeks. That's when it happens. 

The spring is fun for most of us, but Aunt Olive awoke with horrific back pain yesterday. It is tough to figure out what went wrong. Tests show no infection. It could be her back went out. It could be compression fractures. But it sure is no fun to see her in pain. The staff at the Hilton are so good to her. They keep a hot pack on her back, which makes her feel better. 

Yesterday, Olla thought she was ready to die, but today she thought she'd better wait a while, which is a good sign. She's worried that her funeral would conflict with the busy season at the nursery and then we wouldn't be able to properly plan. So, she is going to try to hang on until the end of the season. I tried to tell her that we'll put on a good funeral no matter when she goes, but you have to be careful not to act too flippant about the date. 

"I could die any moment!" she said to me yesterday. 

"So could I," I said. 

"No sympathy from you," she said with disgust. 

I really hope this back thing straightens out. The staff is doing all they can, as is the doctor. But it is no fun to see Aunt Olive in pain.