A slice of Americana…aka “Walmart”

As you know, I had my tonsils out, exactly eight days ago.  Prior to this I hadn’t had any surgery aside from relatively minor ones…a ganglion cyst removed from my wrist, venous ablation on my legs.  Since I’m in good health, active, and can tolerate pain pretty well, I thought whew, I’d bounce back in no time!  Young kids will have nothing on me!  Well, now I humbly have my tail between my legs, feeling like not just a truck but an 18 wheeler with a trailer attached ran over me, and who knows when I’ll be feeling back to normal.

Not to say that it’s been all bad.  I can’t tolerate the pain meds (make me nauseous and dizzy), so I’ve been getting by with acetaminophen.  According to the message boards I’ve been reading, that’s very rare, the majority of people not only take all their medicine, but often call the doctor and beg for more.  So I am glad about that.  No chance of a painkiller addiction for me, haha, I can’t stand the stuff.  As far as activity, I WANT to be active, but was cautioned not to by my doctor.  Too early of activity, before the scabs fall off, can cause severe bleeding.  That doesn’t sound like anything I want a tiny part of, so I’m spending my days going from the couch to the kitchen, downstairs to pet Arnold (more about that later), sitting on the couch for an hour, then sinking down cozily for an hour’s nap.  Wow, don’t know how I’ll manage to go back to work, I feel like a newborn baby who’s sleep schedule is entirely messed up.

At any rate, the pain wasn’t too bad until the last couple of days, when it got way worse.  The doctor warned me that it would, and I stoically nodded, sure I could take it.  Well, I can, all except for that is, eating.  It is so difficult to eat when your throat feels like little men with ice picks are merrily pecking at it, especially when you attempt to swallow food.  Soft things go down okay, but anything with a tiny bit of substance…a piece of bread, pasta, rice, baked beans…yikes.

So at any rate I’m out of ice cream, and wishing desperately that I had some.  I finally decided to make a Walmart trip, and join the land of the living.  It will be fun to get out, fun to see people, life in general.  To smell the fresh air, drive the car.  Little things that you take entirely for granted until you’re housebound and going out of your mind.

So in the car I went, drove there, and first thing I saw, when I walked in, was a very pleasant looking African American family.  They had their carts huddled together, and were talking.  I was struck by how cute a little girl was, in bright pink, with barrettes in her hair.  As I walked through the store I saw the mixture of people that have marked Aberdeen as of recent years…many more black people, Mexican, people from Burma (Karen), and several other nationalities.  I am ashamed to say that I have heard people in town speak disparagingly of this, that they don’t like the diversity.  I, however, relish it.  It reminds me of when I lived in several big cities.  The people have been nothing but nice to me, and I think it’s good for our children to see that not everyone is the same on the outside (although a good opportunity to teach that we’re the same on the inside).  I was explaining this to a friend, a friend who says she doesn’t like or trust Mexican people, and she said that maybe I didn’t know that several years ago a Mexican man grabbed her purse, knocking her down in the process, as she was going into Kesslers, another grocery store in town.  I replied that yes, I did know about that, but there have been plenty of crimes committed by white people too.  The color of your skin has nothing to do with it.  I’ve never heard her say that she doesn’t trust white people now, after reading some article about a particularly nefarious crime that was committed by one.  In a way I feel sorry for her, and others…for them this is change, and many don’t like it.  For me it’s comfort, what I’m used to.  I like being a melting pot.  It kind of tickles me that little Aberdeen, in the middle of South Dakota, can be one.  It reminds me of how we all need to stick together, to love our fellow humans regardless of external trappings.

This reminds me too of the Hutterites, the religious group here in SD (and in many other places, even worldwide).  They too have an (undeserved) bad rap, and some people treat them as vermin when they go into a store, watching them like crazy and having palpatations almost.  Well, I have visited many, many colonies from when I did respiratory home care, and these are some of the nicest, most generous, caring folks that you’d ever want to meet.  Rarely did I leave someone’s home without a gift of some sort…fruit, homegrown vegetables, a gigantic chocolate bar.  Often I was invited to eat with them too, and oh my the food makes me mouth water even now.  It was delicious, and totally homemade…I daresay their food rarely had a preservative or artificial anything.  It was salt of the earth, wholesome, and it filled not only my stomach but spirit as well.

To further cement my relationship with these wonderful people, at one colony in particular the gentleman that I saw insisted that I put the colony’s phone # in my cell phone.  “That way if you’re ever stuck somewhere you can give us a call and we’ll help you out.”  They would have too…in fact this same gentleman was absolutely aghast when I told him that I had recently moved to a different apartment (this was years ago).  “You should have told me!” he scolded me.  “I would have gotten together a group of men to help!”  Mind you, this Hutterite gentleman had a fatherly interest in me only, he was married, and his wife was the sweetest lady.  He always worried and fussed over me though, and as I don’t have a father it was incredibly touching to me.

That’s how it is with most of us…at a distance we look different.  Perhaps it’s our skin color, clothing, way of life, accent, or a myriad of other things.  Still though, if we resist fear, and look for things that bind us, we could open our lives to friendship, love, and joy that is there, just waiting for us to be open to it.  So, my Walmart, the quintessential tie that binds us, is fine with me.  It’s the American experience.

***************************************************************************************************************************

Not sure about Arnold today.  He’s still weak, still having diarrhea.  I would have taken him to the vet today if I had the carrier, but the woman who has it promises to bring it back tomorrow.  I have a feeling the clinic would have been closed anyway, being as it’s a Friday after the 4th.  At any rate, he slept all day, lapped up a tiny bit of water, and relished my pets.  I made him chicken broth, cooled it, and presented it to him, thinking that he probably needs some salt replacement.  He refused it though, and as I’m sure he really needs an IV I didn’t push it.

Anyway, when I got home from Walmart I wet with warm water a couple of the washcloths I bought specifically for him.  I figured I could clean him and throw them away.  So I opened the door to downstairs and to my shock he was at the top of the stairs.  I let him up, just by the stairs, and cleaned him as best I could.  His eyes are mattery, hair dusty, shedding, and with dried diarrhea on his hind legs and tail.  He’s so far from the Arnold he used to be, with a squeaky clean, silky coat.  The kids used to laugh, that he never quit cleaning himself, which is kind of true…he was fastidiously clean, and well groomed.  He never had dirt on his coat, and he always smelled completely fresh.

After cleaning him I brought him back downstairs.  I could tell he didn’t want to go, and I didn’t blame him at all…he’s always been a people cat, and wanting to be right by us.  So I sat by him for a long time, petting him and giving him attention.  He again lapped a tiny bit of water.  Then, to my shock, he slowly and painfully made his way up the stairs again.  I just couldn’t leave him downstairs again, and when he stood at the back door, wanting to go out, I know that I shouldn’t, but I let him go.  I’m sure my sons will be in horror that I let him out, but in my mind I don’t know how long he has to live.  I don’t want his last days to be stuck in the basement.  He loves to be outdoors, just lying in the grass.  (It has occurred to me that perhaps he’s eaten something poisonous, I will ask the vet about that.)  So I put a bowl of water by the door, and opened the door.  He crept out into the moonlight, and in the dark you can’t tell he’s sick.  I’m hoping perhaps the air and him being happy will help him.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll open the door again (he always comes back) and he’ll be there, happy and hungry.  Of course there’s another part of me that fears that he’ll disappear to die…I did have a cat do that before too.  All I know is that he wanted it so much, and if letting him out can give him a little bit of final happiness, then I’m glad I did.

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