Today, I took Martine to her orthopedic appointment during a major rainstorm. By the time we left, Martine had replaced the punishing cast that tortured her right arm for the last six weeks with a smaller, more lightweight Ossür Formfit “Wrist Universal” manufactured in, of all places, Iceland.
That means that I am now free to leave Martine at home without worrying that she would be unable to perform some simple everyday task like tying her shoes, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry. That also means that I am no longer always on call to help her with those tasks.
Shortly after she broke her wrist late in November, I felt so stressed at having to double my household duties that I underwent an Addisonian Crisis early in December due to the fact that my body no longer produces adrenaline as I lost my pituitary gland years ago due to a tumor. As the month went on, however, I adjusted.
Fortunately, Martine now has the use of her right hand for everything but heavy lifting, at least for the next two weeks. And she could take baths again and wear regular clothes again. Because of the size of the cast on her right arm, she had to wear my shirts and jackets.
Of course, it will be some time before her right arm feels normal. It has been rigidly immobile for the last six weeks, and the fingers of her right hand are still a bit puffy from the pressure of the cast.
I first met Martine when she was living in Sacramento and working as a civilian at the old Sacramento Army Depot. My mother was alive at the time and lived near McClellan Air Force Base. One day, while I was visiting her, I saw this young woman approach the front door carrying a bag of oranges. It was my first meeting with Martine, whom I invited out on a date set for New Years Eve.
It was a strange date. We saw a Swedish film called My Life as a Dog, then we went out to a Chinese restaurant. We had difficulty finding one, as there were rolling power outages occurring all around the city. But we finally found one where the lights were on.
When I would drive up to visit Martine around Christmas time, she typically listened to a radio station that played nothing but Christmas carols. That didn’t bother me much, except they always snuck in “The Little Drummer Boy” (pa-rum pum pum pum).
Once, as it was nearing midnight on Christmas Day in 1988 or 1989, they started to play that damned song. Somebody at the radio station must have been of my mind, because just as they were to ring out with the nth pa-rum pum pum pum, at the stroke of midnight there was a sound as if a chicken were having its neck wrung. And that was it for the Christmas carols on that station that year. I laughed so hard I started coughing.
Last Tuesday, I posted here that Martine broke her wrist in two places. Worse luck, it was her right wrist; and she is right-handed. I suddenly found myself in the position of being on call fifty times a day or more to help dress her, open jars, wash dishes, help with the laundry, and carry out the garbage and recycling, Neither of us has been in a particularly good mood throughout this ordeal, though our eruptions are fortunately short-lived.
Today Martine had her plastered splint removed and replaced with a fiberglass cast. It turned out she replaced one fiercely uncomfortable hard wrap with another. At first, the fiberglass cast was a vast improvement—until it hardened and pinched as bad as the plaster and splint ever did.
Until such time as Martine’s wrist heals, I am the only pair of working hands in this household.
Today, Martine slipped on a rug in the bathroom and, grabbing for the wall, broke her right wrist in two places. She was in such excruciating pain that she was not able to communicate with me for upwards of a half hour. As soon as she was able to move, I drove her to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital’s emergency room. It was only by clutching a largish container of blue ice that she was able to endure the agony.
We were in the ICU for over six hours while she was X-Rayed, injected with Lidocaine, and bandaged with a splint (twice, after her thumb became numb the first time). For the whole time that I was waiting next to Martine’s gurney, a homeless woman tried to use me as her private nurse while she loudly threatened to check herself out of the hospital if she didn’t get her oatmeal instanter.
It looks like there will be some changes to my schedule as Martine is unable to wash dishes or wet her bandaged splint. I had been planning to visit my brother in Palm Desert this weekend, but we’ll have to reschedule.
My goal is to see Martine through this difficult period, just as she helped me through two broken shoulders and three cracked ribs. That kind of support is an effective way of showing love.
Although the Mexican Day of the Dead actually occurred on November 2, All Souls Day in the Catholic liturgy, the neighborhood of Canoga Park decided to hold their festival today. Martine and I were to meet a friend at the festival, but there was the usual problem with cell phones: It was too loud to here the telephone ring.
That was the first thing that set Martine off. Second was the size of the crowd. Neither of us positively like crowds, but her dislike of them approaches the realm of phobia. Thirdly, she abhors skeletons and costumes that suggest death. Finally, there were a lot of classical cars on display; but they were all tricked out as Mexican low-riders.
Only the first two things set me off, but I was interested in the costumes people wore and the cars. Many of the cars had ofrendas, little memorials to loved ones who have passed on.
An Ofrenda Occupying the Trunk of a Low-Rider
Where Martine did not particularly like Mexican customs, I, on the other hand, have many years of traveling in the Republic and admiring from afar these same customs. I remember one bus ride I had back in the 1980s on the Dia de los Muertos between Mazatlán and Durango. The bus was filled with Mexican families on their way to have a picnic at the cemetery by the grave of their loved ones. I thought it was a splendid custom, and I helped out by holding a baby for a few miles while the young mother who sat next to me was otherwise occupied.
In the end, I knew I had to make it up to Martine. I could have made a scene and called her too thin-skinned, but instead I bought her her first cotton candy in sixty years. Then, on the way home, we stopped at Bea’s Bakery in Reseda for some of their first class pastries.So, in the end, she had some good things to remember.
This last Saturday, Martine and I visited the Grier Musser Museum, which had just re-opened to the public after the Covid-19 lockdown. I have always particularly loved their Halloween antiques, art, and other displays, such as the above throw pillow. Martine wore her witch costume (see yesterday’s post: Decidedly a Good Witch). We both resolved to re-visit them just before Christmas, when their displays will be less horrific.
Tonight, I watched four horror films in a row, three of which were the original Universal Frankenstein releases:
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Plague of Zombies (1966)—a Hammer horror film
I waited by the door just in case some trick-or-treaters would come. As usual none came. I don’t think any have climbed the stairs for upwards of thirty years. I thought this year would be different because my downstairs neighbors are Ukrainian refugees with two young daughters.
Now that Halloween is almost past, I realize we are in the HallowThanksMas Continuum, where three Holidays seem to come one after the other like falling dominoes.
This October, I read four horror-related books in celebration of Halloween:
Tales of Terror from Blackwood’s Magazine (1817-1834)
Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest (1791), the first half of which is set in a spooky abandoned monastery
Edith Wharton’s Ghosts (1937), selected by the author
Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008), a re-telling of the original Mary Shelley story
Above is Martine dressed as a witch—but as a good witch, to be sure! On a whim, she bought a great witch’s hat and dress at a Santa Monica costume shop and has been wearing it everywhere the last few days. The comments she has been receiving during that time have been overwhelmingly positive.
Beware of making any negative comments lest she wave her magic wand at you and turn you into a batrachian (tailless amphibian of the order Anura; a frog or toad).
There it was, occupying its own gallery and lying on its side. A giant inflated pink and white bunny. We were at the Hawaii State Art Museum, right across the street from the Iolani Palace. Actually, we had come to eat at the museum’s much heralded cafe, Artizen by MW. Unaccountably, it was closed that day.
The museum itself is interesting. The budget for the State of Hawaii sets aside a percentage to be used for promoting the arts. One result is the Hawaii State Art Museum, which doesn’t charge admission. Included in its galleries were works of art protesting state projects such as the construction of the H3 limited access highway from west Honolulu to the windward side of O’ahu. I can just imagine the stink that public sponsorship of protest art would cause in California.
In any case, the giant bunny was friendly, and Martine looked happy to have her picture taken with him.
One of the best things about living in Southern California is the availability of good sushi. It’s something you have to be careful of, because sushi made with seafood that is not fresh can not only be disgusting, but can make you ill. So I always insist on going places that have a trained Japanese itamae, or sushi chef.
Also, I will only eat sushi in places where really fresh seafood is available. I have always joked about starting a rock band named Inland Sushi.
When we go to Honolulu next week, I hope to go some places where I can have sushi and Martine, who wouldn’t touch the stuff, could get something she likes close by. That is possible only in shopping malls like the Ala Moana Center and the International Marketplace and Royal Hawaiian Center. There used to be a couple of Japanese food malls near Waikiki, but they were shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I found out in the most brutal way possible. I was in the endocrinologist’s clinic. The doctor mentioned in an aside, “You know, of course, that you’re sterile?” At that point in my life, I was appalled. Of course I wanted to raise a family, with perhaps two offspring. But it was apparently not to be. I had one major adjustment surviving brain surgery a couple years earlier, but now I had another major adjustment in the offing. No kids. No normal family life.
Upon hearing this several acquaintances (they could never really be my friends) would pipe in with, “You can always adopt!” If I adopted a child, it would be mine only by an act of will stretching decades into the future … to care for someone who, biologically, had nothing in common with me. Okay, so I am not Mother Teresa. I make no claims to sainthood.
I made the adjustment. The women I went out with just assumed that I was telling an untruth when I told them I was sterile, so I went along with it until I went to my doctor who tested me and certified that, yes, indeed, I was shooting only blanks.
Now, in my seventies, I look back on my life and am happy that I did not have to raise any children. My one long-term relationship has been with Martine, a woman who did not ever want to have children. I don’t think I would have been a good father, and as Francis Bacon wrote, “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.”