A Moving Experience

Actually, we have yet to move, but we’ve begun going around neighborhoods with notebook and pen, and jotting down the phone numbers for potential rentals.  One of the reasons we want to move is so that Susie is closer to her new school, St. Mary Magdalene, which she starts on Monday (as a fifth-grader).  (I’ve become the classic liberal: I’ll talk your ear off about how wonderful public education is… for other people’s children.)

We’ve been to one house today, and it needs major work, even after its current tenants move out.  There was coagulated food on the counter, the whole place smelled like dirty laundry and cigarettes, the bathtub will have to be completely regrouted, light fixtures were hanging by a single wire from the walls.  The woman who lives there now (who will be taking a new job out of state in 1-2 weeks) told us how the landlord is very good about repairing things and having Orkin come in to spray for bugs, but that place needs a major overhaul before we will even consider it, and Steph plans to tell him that.  She’ll tell him that he should not even show the place until after it’s been fixed up.

It’s a shame, too, because we would like to be this close to the school.  The layout is about the same as where we live now, so setting the place up would be easier.  (I hate the idea of the move itself: I wish we could just gather everything in one room and beam it over to the new house.)

I saw the inside of St. Mary Magdalene for the first time Thursday night, for orientation and buying gym uniforms, planners, etc. inside the gym.  I only caught a brief glance of the classrooms themselves, but I’m sure we’ll get the low-down from Susie after school Monday.

Yesterday marked the end of the first week of switched hours at work.  In my three years working for the Industrial Commission (I marked three years yesterday), I’ve always worked 8-4:45 p.m.  Last week I switched to 7-3:45 p.m., mainly to lessen the time Susie will have to spend home alone once she’s done with school.

Since the Columbus Public School’s buses are so unreliable (the schedules have not been mailed to parents!), we’ve decided Susie is going to ride the COTA bus each day.  It’s reliable, and it drops her off about two blocks from her school.  In the previous school handbooks, it said the students were forbidden to bring cell phones to school.  Thursday night, Steph and I spoke to the priest there, and explained the public-transportation situation.  I told him we insist that Susie have her cell phone while she’s on the bus.  During school, she could keep it with her teacher or at the office, shut off.  He understood our plight, and showed us the policy had changed.  Cell phones have to stay turned off during school, but kids can have them.  (Otherwise, there are hassles about getting rides home, or parents calling to say they’re running late, etc.)

Susie is excited to be going to school… something I never was.

Sleepover for Susie, Steph Zoned Out from Antihistamines

We promised Susie that she could have a sleepover as soon as her bedroom was tidy again (which I thought meant that we’d never have to worry about sleepovers again).  But she surprised both of us by cleaning the room up, and not just shoving everything under the bed either.  So she had two friends over (Rosemary and Tierney, who are both 12), and they had a wonderful (and loud) time together.  Steph and I stayed downstairs and watched a DVD of The L Word‘s first season.  We enjoyed it quite a lot, but we noticed that there is always a problem with a drama that is made up of same-sex couples–it’s hard to remember who’s with who, and hard to keep the relationships straight (if you’ll pardon the expression).  We’ve had the problem with The L Word, and the same thing happened with Love! Valour! Compassion! and Longtime Companion.  You really can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

Tierney has had a pretty rough life, as have most of the kids in the neighborhood where we live.  I won’t elaborate on it here, but she never fails to be in awe of my study (it’s not doubling as my bedroom anymore, by the way!)–all the books, the typewriter, all my handwritten stuff.  Taking a page from Henry Fool, I followed the title character’s advice when Tierney left.  While she was getting her things together, I got out a blank composition book that was going to be a future diary volume, and gave it to her, along with a pen.  As much of a bastard as Henry Fool is, when he meets the insular, sullen, and very socially awkward sanitation worker Simon Grim, he tells him the right thing:

Simon looks at him. Henry stands and grabs a notebook from off the mantelpiece. He tears out a few pages and shoves them in his pocket. He hands the now fresh writing tablet to Simon.

                         Here. Take this. And…

               He searches his pockets and finds a pencil.

                         …this. Keep them with you at all
                         times. You ever feel like you got
                         something to say and you can’t get
                         it out, stop and write it down. OK?
Both Steph and Susie were sneezing like mad yesterday and today, mainly from the combination of cat dander and ragweed.  When I took Susie to the library, we stopped at Family Dollar and bought some antihistamines, and Susie was so desperate she took them at the water fountain at the library.  Steph took it and was barely awake for much of the evening–even when I got up to put pizzas in the oven for the girls and us.  Susie and I are at the Sullivant Library on the OSU campus right now, but we’ll be heading home soon (and I still have to buy a book of stamps!)

I apologize for the dullness of this entry, but the biggest thing–other than the sleepvoer–was shopping at Kroger yesterday afternoon.

My fear is that I am heading into a manic phase, so getting any of this prose to hang together sensibly may be an issue.  But if you come to my place, you won’t go by the typewriter and see reams and reams and reams of All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, like in The Shining.

Back Home Tomorrow

Tomorrow, we will be back home in Franklinton, where pro wrestling is real and the moon landing is fake.  I have not had a negative moment the whole time that Steph, Susie, and I have been guests of Pat and Tanya’s, and we are so truly grateful for their generosity and their love.  Susie and Gianna loved being together–having another girl to hang out with was wonderful for both of them.  It did, however, cause an odd-person-out situation with Sasha, Pat and Tanya’s son, who is six.  The kids did their best to keep that to a minimum, but I guess it can’t be helped altogether, despite your best efforts.

The heat wave seems to be over.  Yesterday, Pat and Steph went to Lowe’s, and Pat bought us a Samsung air conditioner, and he and I installed it tonight.  I learned it wasn’t as simple as just opening the box, popping it in the window, and hitting the “on” switch.  The air conditioner didn’t completely fit the window, so while Pat was putting the chassis together, I had to get two chunks of cement from across the alley (where a house had just been torn down, and where they have yet to clear the rubble) to support and compensate.  By the time Pat and I were finished (Pat did the bulk of the work; I stood there and handed things to him when needed), it was almost dark.  My cell phone rang before Pat and I were even a mile away from the house.  It was Steph, and between the two of us we decided that it was probably better if we stayed here one more night.  It was too late in the day to uproot Susie, and she seemed to be having a ball (I could hear this in the background).  Before I took Pat’s Toshiba laptop downstairs to watch YouTube and to begin this blog entry, they were in the room Steph and I have been using, watching Bride and Prejudice.

This week, we have truly learned who our friends are, and how they were willing to help us without our having to ask.  When I texted Pat that Steph was in the hospital, I just wanted him to call or come by the room to pay his respects.  When he asked if there was anything he could do, all I said was to call Steph, and I sent him her phone number.  Less than an hour later, he invited Susie and me (and Steph, when she was released) to stay with them until the heat wave passed.  (Susie benefited the most; she was pretty shaken up by the hospitalization, and keeping her in theatre camp and having a girl her age–Gianna–to play with diverted her from worrying excessively about Steph.)

Pat and I left the air conditioner running, so the bedroom should be a comfortable 68 degrees F. when we’re back tomorrow.

My Name is in the Stanford Library!!

My fellow LiveJournaler (-ist?) Robert Nedelkoff (Hillegas) informed me via E-mail earlier this week that I am mentioned (very briefly, only a line or two) in the inventory of Allen Ginsberg’s papers at Stanford University.  A year or two before he died in 1997, Ginsberg sold his collection of papers, manuscripts, galley proofs, journals, and mail to Stanford for at least $1 million, which at that time was a record for buying a private manuscript collection.  (The record will be demolished after I shake off this mortal coil, when Ohio U. will shell out God knows how much for my diaries, etc.)

Ginsberg had a reputation–100% deserved, it would seem–for never throwing away any letters or other correspondence that came his way.  In the fall of 1990, when I was living on West McMillan Street in Clifton (Cincinnati), above a Christian Science Reading Room and a computer store, I wrote Ginsberg a letter the evening I met Robert Lowry for the first time.  (Lowry was a Cincinnati-born writer who enjoyed some prominence and much respect after World War II, and was praised by Hemingway, Mailer, and Vidal.  Due to mental illnesses incorrectly diagnosed and treated, he was unable to have anything published by the early 1960s, and died in 1994 at the age of 74 with all but one of his novels (The Violent Wedding) out of print.  I knew him most of the last four years of his life, as he was living in the decrepit Fort Washington Hotel in downtown Cincinnati and drinking his Social Security checks.

I wrote Ginsberg after spending a Saturday afternoon talking and drinking with Lowry in a downtown bar, mainly because Lowry had boasted of publishing excerpts of Jack Kerouac’s Some of the Dharma, a book of Buddhist meditations, in a short-lived newsletter Lowry produced in the Bowery.  I wrote to Ginsberg to see what he knew about this, and an aide of his wrote to tell me he didn’t recall Kerouac ever mentioning Lowry to him.  (This later proved to be an error; the second volume of Kerouac’s SELECTED LETTERS reprints a letter from Kerouac to Ginsberg recommending that he try Lowry for publishing some work the major publishers wouldn’t touch.)  I had written Ginsberg a letter describing the encounter, and Xeroxing the article “Writer’s Cramp,” where I had first heard of Lowry.  It had appeared in Clifton, which was the best literary magazine the University of Cincinnati ever had.  (Granted, that’s like owning Honolulu’s most successful snowmobile shop, but Clifton was damn good.)

Hello, I should be going, but I’ve neglected this blog too much lately–I just wish I was getting up to speed with happier news.

Steph is in her second night at Grant Hospital in the Cardiovascular Unit.  On Monday morning, she began having shortness of breath, dizziness when standing, swelling in her feet, and complete numbness in her fingers.  I took Susie to musical theatre camp, and was headed from the Davis Center to work when Steph phoned me and said I needed to come home at once.  I took the first bus back, and Steph said she needed to go to the hospital because of the symptoms I described above.

We had attributed it to the heat, which has had Columbus in its grip since Saturday (the heat index was 105 degrees Fahrenheit today).  We do not have an air conditioner, and an hour or two in our place makes you look like you’ve taken a shower fully dressed.  On Saturday, Steph retched after lunch with a friend.  We suspected a combination of the heat and too much spicy hummus.  Sunday she seemed fine, as we were at Target buying Susie some last minute school clothes.  (So as to continue the holographic diary, I bought two composition books for $1 from the school supplies display.)

Anyway, back to Monday.  A former co-worker of Steph’s drove us to Grant Hospital, where her cardiologist has privileges.  (A little background here: Steph was born with a subaortic stenosis.  This surfaced when she went into congestive heart failure delivering Susie in October ’97.  The stenosis was corrected–the doctor took out the clogged valve, cleaned all the goop out of it, and put the valve back–in February ’99.  This was the first time the procedure was performed on an adult, so she may be the centerfold in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Steph had four tubes of blood drawn, a chest X ray, and a dose of nitroglycerine.  The results were faxed to her doctor, and he decided she needed to be admitted.  We waited in a curtained cubicle for about three hours, and it was another two and a half hours before they found her a room.  She had a bad headache from the nitroglycerine, and the slop the hospital gave her for food was so bad I made a run to Subway for her (and myself).

Susie was shocked when I told her where her mother was.  We visited her after camp, and left her for the night.  She had to fast after dinner (no food or liquids–not even water) because of a stress test in the morning.

Or so we thought.  I took Susie to camp, and dropped off a bag for Steph (clean clothes, bra, underwear, her cell phone charger, the morning newspaper), and headed to work.

The stress test wasn’t until mid-afternoon.  Steph’s blood sugar was in the toilet, and she was jonesing for food.  But she perked up after they fed her.  She still feels crummy, and they are not sure just what is wrong, but the wisdom at the moment is that they can rule out a heart attack.  We suspect sleep apnea at the moment, which is depriving both the heart and brain of oxygen whenever it happens.  (I have been treated for it, and slept with a C-PAP for awhile.  Once I lost weight, the problem went away.)  Steph felt a little queasy when Susie and I visited her, and the highlight of our visit was when Steph lost her lunch and dinner in a bedside wastebasket.  Susie had a ball playing with the hospital bed–it became her personal ball pit.

I will wrap up this entry soon, since it is after 1 a.m. EDST here.  However, I cannot without expressing some gratitude.  As I mentioned above, our half-double lacks air conditioning.  During the day, I texted my old friend Pat Collins about Steph’s hospitalization.  He and his wife Tanya have invited Susie and me–and Steph, once she’s released–to stay with them until the heat wave passes.  They’re also looking for an air conditioner for us.

That is where I am typing this.  I am using a Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop.  Susie is asleep in the next room, sharing a bed with Gianna, Pat and Tanya’s daughter, six weeks younger than Susie.  We are truly blessed to have this family in our lives.

Our history with Pat and Tanya is complicated.  Steph knew Pat before she knew me.  She knew him from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which she was attending at the time.  At the same time, I was attending the Unitarian Universalist Church along with Matt, an old friend from both Ohio U. and Marietta.  Matt introduced me to Tanya, whom he was dating at the time.  Once they broke up, Tanya happened to be at the Unitarian Church on a Sunday when Pat, Steph, and I went there together.  They hit it off right away.  Pat was one of the best men at our wedding.  When he married Tanya, I stood up for him.

Tanya, while she was pregnant with Gianna, was the midwife who helped deliver Susie.  We spent some 38 hours together in Grant Hospital’s birthing suite until Susie was born at 1:13 p.m., October 6, 1997.

So you see, there will always be some type of bond here.