Another Back-In-The-Day…When medicines were not advertised, just prescribed by doctors…When doctors could safely spend more time on house calls than in their offices…And people were more accustomed to home remedies than using OTC and proscribed medicines.

The Old Hand

Mom’s medicines were fairly normal for the times, Vicks, aspirin, iodine, and lots of TLC. She forced us to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil as a preventive medicine. Dad, though, had two items that he believed were the most important first-aid items ever made, namely a tin of carbolic salve and a bottle of horse liniment. These products were delivered to the house by the Watkin’s Man, a contemporary of the Fuller Brush Man, and precursor of the Avon Lady. Dad made sure we always had a supply of both medicines in the house and in the barn.

The carbolic salve came in a tin that resembled an oversized hockey puck. It was hard to get the cover off the first time; but you just rubbed a little of the salve on the inside rim of the cover, and it came off like a breeze afterwards. It was a Swiss Army knife of medicines. A cut on a fetlock, a festering harness sore, just slather a glob of carbolic salve on. A skinned knee, a boil on the butt, slather a glob of carbolic salve on.

A family down the road used axle grease for the same purpose. Both products had the same origins, dinosaurs, dead for eons. But the carbolic salve had a strong medicinal odor that lent assurance that it was working.

But it’s odor didn’t compare with the pungent perfume of the horse liniment. That had the potency to mask even the everyday fragrances of the barn. Whew! If man or beast had aching muscles, just rub in the liniment. Not only did it ease the ache, it gave you plenty of elbow room at school. It also worked to cure a horse of a croupy cough, although getting it down it’s throat was a real chore.

And then there was the times that us kids had a croupy cough… Dad made a horse liniment toddy: hot water, a dose of liniment, and lots of spoonfuls of sugar. Mom always pointed out that the label said it was not for human consumption. Dad always countered with, it’ll cure what ails ’em, and put a little hair on their chests. My brothers and I always protested because it had a terrible taste. My sister always cried because she didn’t want hair on her chest. Now I don’t know if it was because of it’s medical value, or because of the threat of having to drink another toddy if the cough persisted; but it worked.

Pub 1/20/12, St.Paul Pioneer Press


Just checked the Watkins web site. Both products are there for the buying if interested.

The old timers around the village had other favorite remedies. The women favored reciting the rosary with the sick person…’Wake up, we only got two more decades to go’… The men favored a pint of blackberry brandy from Judge Shanno’s liquor store. ‘After chores you kill the jug, climb in bed under a couple quilts, and sweat it out overnight. Might not always cure you but you’ll have good dreams.’

WARNING: These friendly tips are for use only in those olde tyme illnesses and should not replace the words to live by today, hunker down, wash your hands, and keep a Social Distance from everyone.



the fall


BRAIN SURGERY!!! I compared the Pace Maker insertion and aftermath with a walk in the park. Well, brain surgery and aftermath was more of a walk in ankle-high mud.

The ride from the doctor’s office to the hospital where the brain operation, if needed, was to take place was the same as the ambulance ride to where the Pacemaker was inserted was the same, except it took longer, and for the most part there was silence.

A few attempts at conversation was made by Gina, my wife, to our oldest son David who was driving. David answered in just a few words as possible. As for me, I was left to my own thoughts. Deep breathing and playing the radio in my mind.

An old time paratrooper taught me about playing the radio in my mind. Before the jump we would fly around an hour, maybe two. Packed like the proverbial sardines, couldn’t move. The noise of the plane so loud you couldn’t talk to the man next to you. If I managed to fall asleep, I would dream. See the trombone movie shot of the fall in the movie VERTIGO. Wake up in a sweat.

I noticed during the flight how Sgt. Estes would be sitting with eyes closed, breathing deep, bobbing his head, and tapping a boot. I asked him about that one night when we were having a beer in Fayetteville.

I listen to my radio in my head. You know how a song plays in your mind sometimes and it drives you goofy after a while. Well you can change the station. Think real hard on a song you want to hear and pretty soon it’ll come on. Do that and you won’t be thinking about what is going to happen outside that plane door.

‘Thinking about what’s going to happen gets you worrying. Pretty soon get you antsy. Doesn’t change the results any. Could cause you to make a mistake when you do jump.

‘Better to just breath deep and listen to the radio in your head and relax.’

So riding to the hospital to see about the fluid in my head, I listened to the radio in my head.

The year I graduated, 1956, the movie THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH premiered and the song that figured so prominently in it was a big hit for Doris Day. It also spoke to me at a time I was now in charge of making the big decisions of my life. It was old fashion music, far removed from the Elvis revolution; but I liked it.Still do. The cheerful styling of Doris Day. Her cheerful smile.

That was the song I tuned to in my mind as we went to the hospital.


What ever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que Sera, Sera

Eyes closed. Deep breaths. Listened to the music and in my imagination I saw the noble brain surgeon, James Steward, working to heal me.

And wiping the sweat from his brow was Alfred Hitchcock dressed as a nurse, performing his required cameo in his movie.

My daydream helped relax me.

I had no more gotten into the hospital gown in my new room, which looked like my old room except it was a floor higher, than they transported me to the Cscan room. Nothing in the room had changed since I was here last, five weeks before, except the results of the scan. But the fluid had still remained the size of a ‘clemetine’ and had not grown to the that of a full blown orange.

Back in the room it was check the vitals time, but before I got in bed I went to the rest room. I didn’t see a ‘hat’ and went back out and told the nurse. She laughed and told me they didn’t measure output on this floor. Nice to get the ground rules out of the way. Then I asked if nurses went from floor to floor. When she told me no I was relieved. It meant Nurse Mini-Ratched would not be one of my problems.

My vitals checked out. And I didn’t catch diabetes since I was here last. I mentioned that I had not had breakfast or lunch. An aide called down to have some food sent up for me. I asked not to have a turkey sandwich butI wouldn’t mind a tuna sandwich, a couple cups of that green Jello,and a cup of coffee. No coffee was on my food approval form, I was told.

It was a cloudy day for me. I wasn’t in LaLa Land, but I wasn’t fully awake. I knew that the next morning Gina had to take a stress test in conjunction with her nose operation coming up in the fall. I asked David to take her home. Kissed her and wished her the best with the test. She didn’t look happy when she left, promising to come back as soon as the test was over.

I don’t remember much about that rest of the day and night. I know there was a ballgame on TV but I didn’t bother to turn it on. I imagine the night was filled with checking the vitals etc.. I woke up when Gina kissed my forehead. She said her test went well. My mind was cloudy. Que Sera, Sera. Then the darkness came.

And the bad dreams!

They came after the operation. They came when I was slowly coming out of the anesthesia. General, not local. No LaLa Land.

Thanks goodness I don’t remember most of them. The two I remember are bad enough. Nightmares!

One was that all the dreams I was having were on a film loop that would play over and over. Every time I fell asleep from here on.

And the one that really got to me was the cougar attack!

When I mentioned a dream about a cougar, naturally one of my sons laughed. I told him not the kind of cougar he was thinking about.

This was an attack by a cougar, puma, mountain lion, catamount, panther, painter- a very big ferocious pussy cat. I heard the painter scream! It came flying through the air at me! I smelled blood on it’s breath. It stopped, suspended in air, inches from my face.Then it disappeared into the darkness.

I must have had some very bad reactions to that dream because I could feel hands on me and hear Gina’s voice telling me ‘Relax, relax, it’s just a dream, nothing to worry about.’

‘Honey,’ I warned her, ‘Please get away from me. If the cougar comes at me again, and I have to fight, I don’t want to accidentally hit you. Please get away from me!’

Naturally, she didn’t heed my warning but continued to try and sooth me. The cat didn’t come back and I did not have to fight it off.

The nightmare was perhaps triggered by a cougar out west attacking two bicyclist, killing one and injuring another a few weeks before. But the cat in my dream was not the recent killer, but one from my past, my early years, the Autumn Cat.

This particular cougar had been sighted around Mendota in the early fall for several years, always leaving behind a partially eaten carcass of a calf, once a spring colt. It was always about the same time of the year that it’s migratory circle brought it back to Mendota.

I had heard it called many things, cougar, puma, painter, panther, catamount, so one day I went up to the room in the Grandpa’s workshop where Fred LaBatte lived. Fred was a French/Dakotah old-timer who worked sometimes as a hired man for Grandpa. I told him all the names people were calling the Autumn Cat, and wanted to know the right one. Fred told me the animal went by all those names and more.

To the East, the Old People have a name for it that means, ‘Fire Cat that screams from the bottoms of Hell’. The animal does not growl, only screams. And, young Donnie, if you hear the painter’s scream, it may be too late already.’

It was an early fall eve. I was bringing a sauce pan of warm milk to the ferrets we had in four cages in the old barn down in the far corner of the barnyard. Hobo, my dog and my shadow was walking beside me; but he started acting strange as we neared the old barn, low growls followed by whimpering, hitting his body against my leg. Walking along the said of the shed, he actually stood in front of me and growled when we got close to the Dutch door. I peered around and saw the top half was open and the bottom half was hooked shut, as usual. If there was something inside it had to be an owl or maybe a hawk, something that could fly in the top of the door.

I kneed Hobo aside and was about two feet from the door when I heard the most godawful scream’! Both Hobo and myself turned to stone.

A large tawny blur erupted though the open part of the door. I felt the wind as it flew past my face. The Autumn Cat! I had heard the painter scream and prayed it wasn’t too late already.

It hit the ground running. It cleared the fence by a good two feet and kept going across the hay field, disappearing in the woods on the other side. Thank goodness!

Hobo had given out a little bark and took a step to chase it but I yelled ‘Stay’! He looked up at me and wagged his tail. I think he was thankful I had given him a reason not to chase the cat.

Had the cat waited a beat or two before it screamed, I would have been standing in front of the door when it leaped out.

I opened the bottom door and waited a bit for my eyes to adjust to the dusk. When I did see what the cougar had done, I went outside and vomited and Hobo whined.

All four cages were ripped apart, destroyed, and on the ground were the remains of the ferrets.

The cat continued to make it rounds for several more years; but I never saw the cougar nor heard it’s scream again…Until my nightmare!

It was nine hours from the time I left my room until they brought me back. It wasn’t until the early afternoon the next day that I was able to sit up and carry on a conversation. Oh, what a relief to know I could carry on a conversation. It was one of the things I worried about ever doing again prior to the surgery.

‘You sure talked a lot when you were coming to,’ Gina told me. ‘Loud! And sometimes you were even funny.

‘Everybody laughed when you hollered, “If you can’t do your f…ing job, get a f…er that can do the f…ing thing.” Only you used the complete word. I was so embarrassed.’

The two women in white uniforms standing by the bed laughed.

‘Sorry, honey. But at least I didn’t hit you.’

‘Oh, no,’ Gina said, ‘But you sure scared me. You and your cougar nightmare!. You made me cry.’

‘You had me scared too,’ said the taller, younger of the two nurses. ‘I was trying to calm you down and then you warned us you might punch somebody.’ She had a soft soothing voice and a nice smile.

‘Oh, Don,’ Gina said,’ you never met Dr. Angelique, your brain surgeon.’

Could have floored me when the tall young ‘nurse’ smiled and took my hand. I would have pegged her for student nurse, maybe an intern; but never a full fledged doctor and a brain surgeon to boot. She looked much too young.

She must have been a child prodigy, the kind that 60 Minutes likes to do a piece on. The youngster that has enough credits for a BA, but not enough years to take Drivers’ Ed.

And if she was in civilian clothes a body would think she belonged on a fashion runway, or maybe walking down the Red Carpet…Never in an operating room.

Gina had thought the same thing when she first met Dr. Angelique. I had been prepped and ready to be operated on when this tall, willowy, woman walked into the PreOp room. She had on a reddish dress that certainly wasn’t something she could have bought off the rack at Macy’s. And she was wearing matching shoes with high stiletto heels. Gina first thought was what was a fashion model doing in this room. And then when this ‘model’ began to ask questions and give orders…

One of the nurses, seeing the look on my wife’s face, mouthed the words, ‘She’s the surgeon.’ Gina said all she could think of was the high stiletto heels and hoping the doctor would operate with different shoes on

And when Dr. Angelique went to change, the same nurse told Gina how lucky I was to have her as my surgeon. ‘She’s the best,’and another nurse agreed.

Standing there in my room, the surgeon explained she had three choices concerning the fluid in my brain: do nothing, drill holes and drain it, cut open my skull and take the fluid out. The first was out of the question. The second was iffy at best and prone to infection. So she took the third, drastic but the best option.

‘In a day or two, you can touch the staples I put in your head. I take those out in a week or so. The stitches I used will dissolve by themselves. Oh, l your Cscan shows all the fluid is out. The procedure was a success.’

Even though she looked too young to cut open my head, her voice was such I had complete trust in her judgment and her work. Her parents must have had a premonition when they named her Angelique…Little Angel.

I asked her how long it would be before I could have some coffee. She said right away and called down to the kitchen to bring me up some coffee. And she told them that from now I had no more restrictions on coffee.

Once when a young man was collecting my food plates he asked how the coffee tasted. I told him it was okay. He laughed and said that was good to hear. They were laughing in the kitchen about me ordering coffee when I was under sedation.

He said he heard I ordered it about three times and finally I hollered they could stick their coffee. It tastes like horse piss anyway.

‘Gosh, another embarrassing thing I said when I was under the gas. Tell them in the kitchen I really apologize for what I said. I shouldn’t have compared it to horse piss because I honestly never tasted horse piss in my life.’

I spent five days in the hospital all toll. Things were pretty quiet after the operation. The nurses and nurses aides were nice and caring. Dr. Angelique checked in often to see how I was doing, along with the hospital doctor du jour.

There were two physical therapists that worked with me a lot, a young gal and an older woman. The young’un smiled a lot and was content to tie a belt around my chest and we walked around while she held onto the belt in case I fell. The older one at first asked me questions and made me memorize things and tell her later what they were. She liked the fact my brain was functioning; but not as much as I did. If things had gone south on me, could tolerate physical problems, but not mental problems.

Both of the women wanted me to use the walker instead of my cane. I tried to explain that a walker was not the thing for getting around in our house. It has four levels with six or seven steps to navigate to a different level and none of the levels were big enough to warrant a walker.

The younger one understood when I proved to her the stairs were no problem. There were handrails on each one. And she saw for herself when she took me in a ‘gym’ that had a seven stair mockup, which I had no problem going up and down. I explained I could get around walking upright with my cane better than walking hunched over using a walker.

Not so with the older therapist though. She demanded I use the walker instead of the cane. My explanations fell on deaf, stubborn ears. She thought I should go spend a few weeks in a half- way house to rehab before I went home. And I should sell my house and move into a one-level apartment.

Sell our house! Sure someday we will have to do what she says but now is not the time. I began to say something I would probably regret saying. She might insist I had to spend time to a half-way house before she would sign off on me. I bit my tongue and went along with her.

Sure, we would buy a walker. I knew they had them at the Good Will for a nice price. We could sell the house and move into a one-level dwelling. Then I could buy an exercise device. Something small, like maybe a Stair Master. I said I heard they were very good and asked what she thought about them. She agreed.

I wanted to say if that machine is so good to use, why aren’t the stairs in my house any different, but I caught myself in time. Silly ditz!

She stood there smiling while I told her what she wanted to hear. If I told her what I really was going to do she wouldn’t have been smiling.

She gave her okay for me to leave the hospital and didn’t mention anything about wanting me to go to a half-way house for rehab.

Both the hospital doctor and Dr. Angelique gave me the okay to go home on the 5th day. What a relief to go into my son’s car. The walk from the car to the house took a lot out of me, I’ll admit; but I was home. I sat at the kitchen table and drank a cup of coffee while I looked out the French doors.

I watched the rabbits hopping around and the squirrels climbing the trees. The small song birds flitting around. Looked out to the pond and saw wild ducks and geese swimming about. I knew if I stayed there long enough I would see the herd of deer that always came out of the woods and maybe see the flock of wild turkeys. An owl or a hawk would fly in and land on limb and the little birds and critters would hide until the raptor left. If the trees weren’t in the way I would be able to see the Nature Park and Mud Lake across the road. And to think the boss therapist wanted me to sell our little bit of paradise.

I watched JEOPARDY and while I wasn’t as good at it as I was say five years before, I was as good as I was before the fall. I made a request to Gina, would she make some of that green jello to go along with supper.

We both had a lot of doctors’ visits and tests, and Gina had her nose operation coming up, (She came out of it with flying colors. She’s tough. Sweet and loving, but tough.); but what the heck it looked like, thanks to my good doctors, that I was coming out of the fall only a little worse for wear than I was when it happened. Oh yes, I lost a lot of the summer, due to doctor appointments, and living in Minnesota, summers are precious times. Winter is coming and in Minnesota, winters are for the young. And come tomorrow, well… all I can say is:

‘What ever will be, will be.

End Act III. Curtain Closes to the sound of

Doris Day singing



the fall


Now you’ll probably feel something here,’ the doctor warned.

I did. If felt like a long paper-cut under my collar bone. I was glad I couldn’t see much of anything because of the blue veil over my face.

For the next couple hours, I didn’t feel any real pain, just a dullness as the doctor was making the pocket for the device, planting the device, hooking up the two electrodes to my heart via two veins. By the time he sewed me up, I was too bored to pay any attention to the sharp needle. I was also catching up some much needed sleep.

During the early part of the procedure I paid a little attention to the conversation between the doctor and the nurses. Just small talk. Nothing about what they were working on.

‘We got tickets for tonight’s Twins game,’ the doctor said.

I perked up.

‘I hope they call it off early so we don’t have to go and sit in the weather to make our rain checks good.’

‘Not rain checks tonight, snow checks,’ I interjected. ‘Predicting four to six inches.’

I can talk baseball anytime, anyplace.

Knowing that the doctor was a baseball fan gave me more confidence in him doing a good job on me.

‘I always consider winter is over when the Twins open the season,’ I heard the doctor say. ‘And when I go to the ballpark and see my first game of the year, I know it is officially spring. Not this year though. Bad weather and bad scheduling.’

A feminine voice spoke up. ‘It’s always such a shame when you look forward to something and it’s canceled.’

Somebody said,’C’est la vie’.

‘Sounds like the voice of experience, Mr. Ostertag,’ the doctor commented.

And then I realized who said it. ‘Many times,’ I answered. ‘Like you said, bad weather or bad timing.’ I could feel myself going into a deeper relaxation.

(C’est la vie! Brought back memories of growing up in Mendota, a small village across the rivers from St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was where the French-Canadian fur trappers sold their pelts they caught in Dakota territory. Many stayed and settled. My mother was a descendant of those early settlers. She was also in the first generation in the village that had English, not French, as the primary language.

The old-timers could talk English but they talked French among each other. And no matter what language they were using at the time, ‘C’est la vie’ was an important part of their conversations.

‘Pierre got a broken leg. His bay mare gave him a good kick.’

‘C’est la vie.’

‘Pierre and Marie going to have the first baby – already.’

‘C’est la vie.’

Mom could get by in French but my generation only knew a little: ‘comment sa va’,’J’ai faim’ ‘merci’. And some words that brought the age-old motherly threat, ‘Say that again and I’ll wash your mouth out with soap’.)

I settled deeper in La La Land and heard in my mind Chuck Berry singing his song, ‘C’est la vie say the old folks, but you never can tell,’ and watched him schuffle-dance across the stage and then the video segued into Travolta and Thurman dance to it in PULP FICTION.

My entertainment and sleep was abruptly stopped when the doctor pulled the veil from my face and announced the procedure was done and went well.

Back in the room I realized that the procedure could have been an In and Out the same day. It was a walk in the park. But by staying into the next day it changed from an Out Patient procedure to an In Patient and cut my out-of-pocket cost considerably. The doctor explained that to me this monetary advantage when I suggested I felt good enough to go home that day. He neglected to mention my age had something to do with me spending the night.

And if I had gone home the same day I would have missed out on the hospital supper, (My chart still said no coffee, and when I told the nurse I had coffee with the doctor’s permission right after the procedure; and she said she would get some out of the break room. After the first sip I knew why they didn’t want to give the patients coffee, they were ashamed of it.), the every four hours ‘checking my vitals’ and all the poking and prodding that accompanied such going-on’s. And I would have missed out on Nurse Mini-Ratched.

My wife and son, Danny, were sitting on the couch getting ready to go home when this little Asian dynamo came bursting into the room. I was just exiting the rest room. Without so much as a hello or how do you feel, or baise mon cul, she brushed past me and went into the rest room. I sat down in the reclining chair.

The writers in the 40’s like Hammitt and Chandler would have described her as a lovely porcelain China doll. But when she opened her mouth, she came right out of the 60’s, Ken Kesey’s Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

She came back to the door of the rest room and she screamed at me, several times. Her high frequency voice was such that my hearing aid would have trouble understanding even if she did calm down a bit. And to further complicate things she had a thick accent, Mhong, Japanese?.

I could swear she was telling me to go pee in a hat. I looked for help from my wife or son, but they both just shrugged their shoulders.

I made up my mind. She was telling me to go pee in a hat. I followed her into the rest room. I planned to tell her to go piss up a rope!

She went to shelf in the far corner and took what looked like a small plastic party- sombrero. She shook it at me. She turned it upside down and laid it on the toilet seat with the brim preventing it from falling in.

‘You pee in the hat,’ she demanded. ‘We need to measure what you drink and what you pee,’ she shouted, shaking her finger at me.

‘Hey, lady,’ I said angrily, ‘I’ll play your a games but I have to know the rules. I’ve been here for hours and nobody else told me about measuring my piss!’

‘You just pee in the hat, mister,’ she said ‘Just pee in the hat,’ and she stomped out of the room after almost getting tangled up in my oxygen hose that I had to drag with me.

All the medical staffers that worked on me in the two hospitals the last several days were kind and made me feel at ease. And then there was this little ball of fire. Nurse Mini-Ratchet!

I showed her though. I refused to get into the bed when she wanted me to and stayed in the big chair and used the darn plastic urinal. Actually, I don’t think it bothered her where I slept. I know she waited until I had just got back to sleep to come into the room to do her measuring and complaining that my intake was greater than my output. This went on about every half hour.

I thought about just pouring a little water in the plastic urinal with my urine to make my output more to her liking. Get her off my back, and let me get some sleep. But I remembered about what happened to McMurphy in CUCKOO’ S NEST when he crossed Nurse Ratched. And what happened in real life to Jerry, a part time stagehand.

(Jerry was in the VA hospital being treated for a flare up of something he had contracted back in Nam. He had spent several weeks already in the hospital and was bored. He came up with what he thought was a good joke. He took his breakfast apple juice and hid it under the clean towels in the rest room.

Later when the nurse handed him the daily specimen bottle he took it into the rest room and poured the apple juice in it. He went to hand it to the nurse but quickly pulled it back.

‘Awful pale,’ he said. ‘I’ll just pass it through again.’ And he drank the juice down in one swallow.

The nurse gagged. Jerry laughed.

He managed, through his laughing fit, to tell her what he had done. He thought it was funny. The nurse did not.

She got the last laugh. She arranged to have him spend two days in the Psych Ward to undergo a mental evaluation.)

Mini-Ratchet came in this one time, did her measurements and left the room. She came back about ten minutes later. She was pulling a monitor on wheels with one hand and had a wand which was connected to the contraption in her other hand . She announced she was going to check my bladder.

I contradicted her. I suggested she stick the wand between her legs and fly out of my room.

She let out a ‘humph’, and stomped out of the room. I hollered a C’est la vie and one of the forbidden French phrases to her and she left me alone. Dieu merci!

When the next nurse came on shift at midnight was like night and day. She asked me in a soft voice if I would like to move into the bed. I was more than willing. Believe it or not, I went to sleep and no one woke me, even to check my vitals, much less measure my pee.

The doctor came in after breakfast, checked out his work and my vitals, and then pronounced me fit to go home. My wife was still home waiting for one of the boys to take her to the hospital. The nurse asked me my wife’s name and said she would call her to tell her the good news and what she would have to do to get me released.

In the Army when someone asked you your name, you automatically spout out your name, rank, and serial number. In the hospital the question was answered with name and date of birth. When the nurse asked for Gina’s name, I gave her the name and automatically added Gina’s date of birth.

When the nurse finished explaining to my wife to go to the business office and get all the paper work for my release, I signaled for the phone.

I reminded Gina that when I came it was spring and now it’s winter again so be sure and bring warmer clothes – and a hat. She was way ahead of me on the clothes and reminded me that I had a cap in the hospital already. I repeated she better bring a hat just in case I needed to pee on the way home. I thought it was funny but Gina didn’t just let it slide by.

I imagined Mini-Ratched was pleased that I had left and wouldn’t be around for her shift. I know I was very pleased; even in the cold and blizzard conditions, and the fact the rest of the Twins first home stand had been rescheduled to be played in baseball weather.

My life changed. I revolved around doctor’s appointments. My regular doctor, the heart clinic, the brain clinic. The later was the most crucial to monitor my brain in case of a fluid buildup which often occurs after a blow to head. Each week I went to the hospital and had a Cscan. Then I went to the brain clinic where a tech looked at the scan. Each time it showed no fluid. Things were looking good.

Not good enough for me to fly to Tulsa for our oldest grandchild’s wedding though. That really hurt me. Almost everyone in the entire family flew out to the wedding of Erik and Erin.

Our first grandchild! Gina was Grandma Day Care and I was Erik’s Poppa Reader. First Dr. Suess and as Eric grew older, the Harry Potter books as soon as they were published. And I had to miss his wedding.

In addition to my medical problems, my wife had an operation coming up, scheduled before my fall, to help her breath. Something she should have had done years ago. She had doctor appointments and tests leading up to the surgery which would entail grafting a piece of bone in her nose.

Getting around to our doctor appointments and going to the stores presented no problem even though I shouldn’t drive, and my wife couldn’t drive. Between the sons, daughter-in-laws, and the older grandkids, we were never at loss for a driver. Family! Wonderful family!

On the 5th week after the fall, the brain technician said things were looking so good, I could maybe be ‘discharged’ the next week and do monthly checkups instead of weekly.

I was in good spirits the next week when I went through the Cscan and then over to the brain clinic. The tech took one look at the scan film that came via the internet to the office; she gasped and my good spirits changed to a deep depression.

She said I had a fluid lump about the size of a ‘clementine’ competing with my brain for space in my cranium. She would contact the surgeon and the hospital. And I would get in the car, my oldest son was driving, and get to the hospital on the double. ASAP! Do not pass GO and collect $200. Whatever! Just get a going!


End Act II. Curtain closes to the sound of Chuck Berry singing:


#@#%*&* Medical Forms

Medical Form

In my younger years I didn’t need to see a doctor much; and when I did, the family doctor took care of what was ailing me. Growing older, health issues have become more frequent and complicated; and now when I go to my family doctor,  or rather my Primary Health Care Provider, he listens to my complaints, gives me a simple once-over, shakes his head, clicks his tongue, and hands me the name of a specialist he wants me to see.

I have almost nothing against specialists. You got clogged plumbing, you don’t call in a roofer. The problem is there is always those #@#%*&* medical forms you have to fill out. Some ailments I don’t remember. Others I want to forget. Have no idea in what year I had them. I’m at a loss for their proper names, and the names of the procedures and prescriptions that ‘cured’ me.  Doesn’t bother my wife though. She can speak ‘Doctor’.

My wife eventually put our medical history in her computer. Of course, no medical establishment accepts her printout. They need the history on their own Specific Forms. But she brings along with printout as a cheat sheet. She fills the forms and I read my book.

I had to go to a new specialist the other day. This time, we received his Specific Form in the mail so it could be filled out prior to the appointment. I didn’t feel so bad when I went to the desk to check in and gave the filled out forms to the receptionist; but it was short-lived. She handed me a clipboard complete with a pen that had feathers glued to it, and of course, a form to read and fill out. Grrrr!

I spotted my wife sitting next to a empty chair between the door and a hallway. ‘More #@#%*&* forms to fill out,’ I said, plopping down in the chair. ‘And I looked down that hallway for a Men’s Room. Didn’t see one. I suppose they figure if they keep the #@#%*&* thing hidden, they won’t have to clean it as much.’

I printed my name complete with middle initial as requested. ‘Don’t know how long I can hold it though. Hope there’ll be a toilet by the exam room. What’s the #@#%*&* date?’

‘The date,’ I heard a strange high-pitched voice say, ‘is the sixteenth.’

I turned my head and did a double-take. The hair and the getup kind of looked like my wife’s; but the face was that of a complete stranger. A stranger with a frightened look as she pulled back from me.

I tried to apologize, telling her I thought it was my wife I was sitting next to . ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have used that kind of….’

‘I think your wife is over there,’ she said in a much more normal voice, pointing across the waiting room, and she kind of flicked her wrist to shoo me away.

It was a long walk what with the woman staring at the back of my head and my wife staring into my face. I took a good look this time and made certain it was my wife I was sitting down next to. I quickly went to work on the form.

‘Who’s that woman?’ my wife asked.

‘Don’t know,’ I said, working on the forms. ‘It’s the sixteenth, right?’

‘Yes! So you don’t know that woman?’

‘Total stranger,’ I replied, quickly putting my initials next to all the check marks.

‘Total stranger? And you just went and sat down next to her. Did you think you remembered her from someplace?

‘Well, she looked like someone I thought I knew,’ I said, as I signed my full name, complete with my middle initial, ‘But I was wrong.’ I stood and brought the completed form to the desk, glancing to the empty chair where the woman had sat. ‘But I got a hunch we’ll both remember our first meeting,’ I mumbled and added, ‘#@#%*&* medical forms!’

The Old Hand

Published Bulletin Board, St Paul Dispatch