In the tenth circle of hell that is Branson, Missouri, there exists any number of things that attack the senses and flush good taste down the toilet. Imagine a place that caters to retirement-aged folks with a taste for sparkly shirts festooned with eagles carrying American flags and musical shows sporting people pretending to be Elvis, Little Richard, and Brittany Spears. Now add heat and horrible traffic. Today on my way to Starbucks for an afternoon of hot internet action, I noticed that a new restaurant called The Rowdy Beaver had sprouted up from the concrete. There are few other places outside of Las Vegas where I can imagine the chamber of commerce saying, ‘Sure’, to such a name, although I’m fairly certain that the definitions of ‘rowdy’ and ‘beaver’ differ pretty significantly based on location.
Only the love of my grandmother could bring me back to this place. She and my grandfather moved here when it was still an idyllic little slice of mountainous heaven and watched from a distance as the place turned into the butt of endless jokes. For years now, it’s the been the first leg of my biannual ROAD TRIP OF FAMILIAL PENANCE, though time with grandma is anything but penance. This stop generally serves to soften the blow of those to follow. I called my grandmother a little over a week ago to discuss the current state of the weather and my traveling through it to see her. She reported that in an act of irony too delicious to imagine, the hand of God appeared to be trying to destroy large stretches of the bible belt, so I should probably put off the visit for a week or so. Sound advice. Then, me being me, my next thought was, ‘Of course, now something horrible will probably happen to her this week.’
Last Saturday night, I was sitting along the 3rd-base line watching the Durham Bulls lose to Charlotte when my phone rang with my mother’s report that grandma was in the hospital having had what the doctors were saying was a mild heart attack, pneumonia, sugar diabetes, gout, lazy eye, etc. ‘Of course she is’, I said. Then being forever skeptical of mom’s ability to keep bias at bay, I served up a battery of questions to clarify the butter that constitutes most of her doomsday proclamations. The doctors were using words like ‘possibility’ and ‘might’ve’ a lot, which means that nothing was written in stone except that grandma was demanding to be set free from the hospital, refusing to take the booklet of prescriptions that doctors throw at the elderly to cover their own asses, and was generally being herself. Having heard this, I morphed into the voice of reason, gave mom the ‘Shit happens’ speech, reminded her that 89-year olds sometimes have health issues, and that all would be well one way or the other. Then I hung up and finished my bratwurst.
I threw the dogs in the car Monday morning, drove 16 hours, and had grandma tell me the whole story in person. Imagine, if you will, a scale created to weigh the seriousness of the stories put forth by my mother and grandmother regarding what happened, re: Hospital Visit. My mother’s story, represented by ‘GAH!!!’, would be perfectly balanced by my grandmother’s ‘pfft’. In order to get the real story, I accompanied grandma to her ‘second opinion’ doctor yesterday where I got to see and hear about what the blood work at the hospital showed, what the cardiologist actually saw, and what all of the ‘possibilities’ meant. I’ll openly admit right here what a huge bonus it is to understand what all of the biochemical hogwash means when a doctor starts throwing around medical blah blah. There’s a certain degree of ego-stroke action that happens when you ask a very specific question that makes the doctor look at you momentarily with that puppy-dog-head-tilt kind of thing before answering.
The bottom lines: Grandma had a mild heart attack. The blood work showed elevated levels of stuff that pointed to a number of possible causes/results. The doctors’ knee-jerk reactions were to prescribe drugs to cover all of the possibilities, which, had my grandmother taken all of them, quite possibly could’ve given her another heart attack. And their diagnosis of ‘sugar diabetes’ was just fucking stupid. The extent of the second-opinion recommendation for drug swallowing was to take a baby aspirin once of day for the rest of her life. Grandma’s right in being skeptical of prescription drugs, which probably explains why she’s been the picture of health all her life. Still, I had to talk her into agreeing to take the baby aspirin. This weekend I get to explain to the rest of the immediate family exactly what happened. I’m not fond of playing the role of Dad to both the maternal members of my family.
End of story. No moral.
In other news, grandma lives on what was supposed to be a golf course, but ended up becoming hay fields surrounded by woods. After they mow for the hay in the summer, the fairways can be walked unencumbered by the feeling of having to slash your way through the Amazon. Here I can let the dogs run free and wild like the furry little animals that they are during our walks. From time to time, they’ll see a deer or a fox or some other wildlife bounding along and will give chase in blurs of speed that one might not expect from collies. It’s impressive. Last night, they both tore off into the woods in hot pursuit of a couple deer. Eli returned after a few minutes, but Sophie didn’t. I walked Eli back to the house, then returned to walk up and down the woodline for about an hour calling her name until finally giving up. I walked back to the house to find that she’d returned ~45 minutes earlier, leaving me to fret and sweat and curse and wallow in guilt oblivion. The gene for this appears to exist in all female mammals.
Sir @ July 22, 2010