Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Operation at the Cleveland Clinic

Paul's surgery for lung cancer at the Cleveland Clinic has left me neglecting this "dear diary." He is home now and what follows is the initial writeup I did.

Good Recovery for Paul After Lung Cancer Surgery

Paul is showing a very good recovery today after undergoing four hours' surgery at the Cleveland Clinic yesterday. This morning his color was good and he chatted with Philip, Kim, and me quite readily. He asked me to print off crossword puzzles and bring them along next. This afternoon they removed him from the ICU to a room up on the ninth floor in the thoracic step-down constant nursing unit . There they will re-introduce him to getting back on his feet.
He had in effect two procedures. The first surveyed the lymph nodes in his right lung. Fortunately, they were fine. The second op opened his chest, spread apart the ribs, and removed the cancerous growth at the periphery of the left lung. In doing so, they took only ten percent-of the lung--a good outcome. Phil and Wendy spent most of the day with me yesterday and P and Kim visited this morning. We're very happy with the way things are going right now.
Because the Cleveland Clinic campus is so large I did a lot of walking yesterday and today--and don't feel any the worse for it, either! Last evening when I walked in front of the lobby of the Inter-Continental Hotel, I saw a group of people surrounding an elderly middle-eastern couple who were climbing into a large, black European-looking car. They looked very regal. (A lot of gold glistened about them). One chap in a long, black raincoat stepped menacingly toward me--a bodyguard I guess.
I fell into bed gratefully last night in the Guest House. License plates on cars in the lot came from nearly every state in the union, and while waiting around yesterday I talked with people from San Francisco, Idaho, Kentucky and places in between. I thought, well, Cleveland is a gloomy town much of the time, and the weather is nothing to write home about, but we have the Clinic right here--and that's worth a thousand blessings.
The TV in my room brought in Abu Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait--and a Syrian movie was playing on another channel.
A cousin, whose wife is recovering from a cancer removal under excellent British National Health care, expressed the following sentiments in an email today:-

"We have found that talking about the illness somehow lessens its bogeyman severity. Forgive me for doing so when you have your own concerns. "

(Thank you David. I agree and I think we share some of the same verbal genes).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Hint of Green Thinking?

From the Wall Street Journal a hint of green thinking among that newspaper's dinosaurs:

Latest Gourmet Offering: Tap Water
Amid pressure to cut down on the plastic and glass waste from bottled water, restaurants are dressing up plain old spigot water instead -- installing expensive filters and serving house-made seltzer.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Afternoon Tea With Miss Sycamore

When I moved up from elementary school to secondary school I discovered my new school had something stupendous going on--a class called "English". While I knew that I was English, nobody--certainly not my parents --had ever explained that in the big girls' school there was such a thing as English class. "What?" I thought. "Do we have to have a class that teaches us how to be English?" Elementary school classes had consisted of the basic "Reeling, Writhing, and the Branches of Arithmetic--Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision, " as Mr. Lewis Carroll put it. The reeling and writhing I quite enjoyed, but the branches of arithmetic turned me into a window gazer.

English in secondary school turned out to be heavenly and taught by a proper "English teacher." In English we read novels and plays and poems! Then we talked about them--and learned something about plot and characters. Often the English teacher would read to us while we sat and laughed or cried as the case required. I also discovered that not all my compadres enjoyed English. "Boring, " they said, and took their turn at the window watching the boys play soccer on the playing field. They sat and waited impatiently for gym class or a game of rounders or netball on the playground. How anyone could hanker after gym instead of reading and talking about a good book was beyond my understanding.

In second grade we had reeled and writhed under the guidance of Miss Pierce. Miss Pierce was fierce. How old she was is difficult to say now, but to us in 1938 she appeared to be a hundred. Plastered to her sour face were steel-rimmed spectacles and her greasy gray hair was screwed into a tight bun at the back of her neck. Long, dismal dresses finished off her look (neither the bobbed and shingled flapper era of the 1920s nor the sophisticated Marcelled wave of the 1930s had influenced her one bit).

Although we were only seven years old Miss Pierce regarded us as bitter enemies. She frowned as she entered the door each morning but I can't remember what crimes we committed--perhaps not sitting absolutely still, or perhaps turning around to talk to a girl behind. Whatever the crime, we could expect a heavy blackboard eraser to come crashing down on our heads, expertly hurled from the front of the room. If ever a person deserved her own name it was the piercingly unkind Miss Pierce. Her successors as we moved up through the grades were unremarkable. Long does she remain in memory.

In those days we wrote with pen and ink. The ballpoint pen would not be thought of until after the war. Our desktops contained an inkwell and a little groove for our pens to rest in. When the ink ran dry, Miss Pierce took from her cupboard a large jug of ink and toured the room filling the little empty wells. Our pens required constant attention because the pen-nibs wore out quickly and had to be replaced. Such pens in the hands of little girls created drops and blots that fell all over our pages, stained our fingers, and landed on the sleeves and cuffs of our white uniform shirts. The term "ink-stained wretches" certainly applied to us. We tried out suggested methods to remove the stains. Milk poured directly onto the blot was supposed to erase the ink, but it only helped loosen the blot and spread the ink further By the end of the week--laundry was an arduous task for our mothers in those days of hand washing--our shirts were in a dismal state.

Once we were safely in secondary school, Miss Sycamore, a mild and friendly woman with a face that looked rather like a friendly sheep, hooked us on English. She had us laughing hysterically when she read aloud the antics of Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn. Such freedom those boys had down beside the Mississippi! Mark Twain was the first American writer I had ever encountered and he was the first to reveal certain appealing things about that huge country so far away across the ocean. I learned that in America the people had the strange idea they were equal to one another, that there were no royals (except for actors playing kings and queens), and that whoever presumed to set himself up above the others and act in condescending ways would be jerked off his pedestal promptly.

So it was with great sadness at the end of our first year with Miss Sycamore we heard that she was leaving our school to become headmistress of a village school somewhere in the rural part of our county. The loss of our favorite teacher was so severe I decided to find out where she lived and visit her. Friend Peggy was a co-conspirator. Somehow we found out her address and got in touch with her. She responded by inviting us to tea on a Saturday afternoon.

How Peggy and I worked this out without our parents knowing is lost to me, but it did seem important to keep our plan secret. I think it was based on the fact that parents rarely understood our way of thinking. During vacations in those days children had a great deal of freedom to roam and we both knew our way about trains --the main mode of transport in those days together with buses. Our pocket money paid for our tickets and we traveled down the line past several stations to the small village where our good friend had settled herself in a charming little cottage.

Afternoon tea with Miss Sycamore was wonderful. Over little sandwiches and delicious small cakes we told her how much we missed her and the stories we read in her class, and she told us that she missed us too but it was important for her to move up in the world and become a headmistress. Somehow we understood. .

On the return journey we felt satisfied and renewed. That afternoon we learned something about moving on from disappointments and facing the future. We got over our loss of Miss Sycamore and when the new school year began we met another English teacher who inspired us further by making the plays of Mr Shakespeare and the novels of Mr. Dickens come alive.

Daffy Down Dilly

Climate Change? This is what it's like here this Easter morn. A blizzard raging, fresh snow covering yesterday's tracks, and our daffodils lying like fallen soldiers, beaten down by six days of snow. It might be resurrection day in the Christian calendar but there'll be no rising again for my daffy-down-dillies this spring.

Later we'll be dashing through the snow to P & K's. For Benjamin I have a nice new Benjamin Bunny, a re-published edition of the Warne original, and a big book of mammals filled with gorgeous elephants, meeerkats, rhinos and all the rest (he loves animal books). For Noah, a knitted blanket (by me) that I had to unravel and enlarge because he came into the world too big for it.

by Robert Herrick

FAIR daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon ;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the evensong ;
And, having prayed together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring ;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die,
As your hours do, and dry
Like to the summer's rain ;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Prince and the Pauper

Here in Ohio this morning, green grass, daffodils, warm air blowing in from the west. What more can anyone want?

Last night Philip and Kim took us out to dinner at The Long Horn (a restaurant with western underpinnings.) Everything was meltingly good. Then we went to the Miller-South School for the Arts in Akron and saw their latest production--The Prince and the Pauper. The play is adapted from Mark Twain's novel and the story is about two young boys who look alike. One is Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII, and the other is a ragged street urchin who lives in Pudding Lane in London.

Accidentally, the boys switch roles and suddenly the little prince finds himself in rags and living among the worst elements of the city, while the other boy gets used to being waited upon hand and foot by servants. When the King dies, the prince becomes king, but which of the boys actually sits on the throne with the orb and scepter in his hands? It gets sorted out and the real prince is crowned. He then passes knighthoods and other honors among some of the Pudding Lane people and the pauper stays on as the new king's best friend.

It was a magnificent production. Many in the audience were parents and friends of the actors and technicians and you could tell they were absolutely awed by the challenge the children and the director had taken on and by the pure entertainment value of what they were seeing. This was not your average school play. This was art and we all knew we were seeing something tremendously special.

The director cast two African-American boys as the prince and the pauper and they were perfect as they changed from prince to pauper and back again. They both are twelve years old. As she said in her notes in the program, "The students worked on voice technique and breath control to help them express the language clearly. They also learned Tudor history, customs, and social conventions by actually living the lives of the nobility, the serving classes, guards and sheriffs, ordinary citizens and those living outside the law." She said they were all shocked at the awful disparity between rich and poor and to discover that in England of the time, human beings could actually be bought and sold as slaves.

The Tudor costumes were absolutely gorgeous. You could tell the kids just loved wearing them and they looked as if they had stepped out of a Holbein painting.

In all her productions the kids are taught to handle all the tasks--backstage and management. They manage the lights, sound, makeup, props, and wardrobe. Others are in charge of rehearsals and some are assistants to the director. The director arranged for VIP seating for us.. A tiny little usher took us down to the front and cut a ribbon that served to hold the seats. The ages are from 8-14 (fourth to eighth grade).

Tomorrow Paul will have a long day at the Clinic beginning at 9:30 and ending at 4 p.m. They sent him a map of the campus and an itinerary listing the tests, procedures, and specialists he will see. I will drop him off at the first building and then look for parking space and rejoin him. They have a wonderful cafeteria and I look forward to sampling some of the goodies while I hang around waiting--for good news we all hope for. Will take some crosswords, a book, and some knitting.