Chapter 1,000 in The Mama Saga by Devon Miller-Duggan

Chapter 1,000 in The Mama Saga

When I left the house to have an early morning mammogram, I checked in and she was lucid and fine. When her aide arrived half an hour later, The Mama was lucid and fine. She was fine when I came home. She was fine until sometime around noon when the aide sent my daughter up with the message that The Mama was having a stroke. My daughter clearly thought one of them was being dramatic (both are maybe prone to that, and since TM has both dementia and 50+ years of MS, we can’t always tell what’s going on). But the aide, who is wise and has seen a few things, was correct. So I stuck an uncoated aspirin under TM’s tongue and called an ambulance. Dithered a bit about whether to have her taken to the Level 1 Trauma ED, where I have had a number of pretty non-happy experiences that went on for hours and hours, or the Level 2 to which I usually take her because it’s fast, nicer, and reliable. Went for Level 1, partially because that’s the hospital that has a floor dedicated to the Hospice outfit that we’ve had good experience with. It turns out that being a critical case in a Level 1 is an immeasurably different experience than being a mere kidney stone or busted something or other. Other than to say that from beginning to discharge, every human we had contact with was operating at peak humanity and peak competence, I’ll spare you the details. What was interesting was The Mama. First, in case you ever wondered, no matter how entangled/close/intimate you might be with your loved one, when they super-focus on you pleadingly in the ED and repeat “NO, NO, NO…” over and over, you will probably not know what they are saying “no” to. “Don’t let me die,” “don’t let them take me away from you for a CT scan,” “I am damn well NOT having a stroke,” and “let me go; no intervention” are all among the possibilities, and aphasia pretty likely will make it impossible, absent a Vulcan mind-meld, for you to tell what you are being asked to do or not do. This is the point where I offer a public service suggestion: you cannot possibly imagine how important it will be to have a legal directive and a POA with you, because the ED is definitely not the place to figure out that stuff, let alone have to make guesses or judgement calls. Because no matter how good you are in an emergency, you will be dumb enough to ask a neurologist you will later find out is an MD/PhD whether he has any experience with MS, and that is no predictor for good decision-making.

Back to The Mama. It was a monster arterial clot. Since, unlike invasive interventions, are on the table, I okayed TPA but no transfusions should it cause a bleed. It worked like whoever invented it dreamt it would. She was better 15 minutes after they administered it. Which meant we were back to her normal cycle of mild aphasia followed by periods of clear speech, followed by milder aphasia-Lather, Rinse, Repeat. There were three interesting bits: the first was when she spent 20 labored minutes trying to get out a sentence that finally formed into “I don’t want anything to be wrong with me that will affect anyone else!” Since this is about 8 hours after she’s been admitted and I am several flavors of gonzo-tired/wired, my unspoken immediate response to that was “too late for that one, Mama!’ But I did what you do and kissed her on the forehead and said “I know. It’s okay.” The second happened shortly after that. She’s gotten super-sensitive to discomfort as the dementia has progressed. She has a particular animus for BP cuffs and pretty much always looks at me like I am feeding her to a dragon when a nurse pumps the cuff. Having spent much of the day fretting at it, she suddenly figured out that she could slip it off, so she did. And then spend a good 2 minutes giggling maniacally. That was both hilarious and disconcerting. I was glad my daughter was there to see it. Otherwise the whole family would have accused me of hyperbole later… And the third interesting/revealing/weird moment was during one of the every-20-minutes neuro-exams—the verbal part. It went sort of like this:

Nurse: What’s your name?

TM (giggling and twinkling her eyes): Devon.

Nurse: Do you know where we are?

TM (still twinkling): Devon

Nurse: What’s your birthday?

TM (twinkling and bobbing her head happily): Devon

Nurse (with infinite patience): Do you know why you’re here?

TM (serious now): Devon

Nurse (giving up, looking at me quizzically): Well, that was interesting.

My Daughter (looking sympathetically at me, talking to the Nurse): You have no idea.

Me: blank, blurry “save me” stare at the ceiling, then nod to nurse, who then seamlessly moves on to the physical part of the exam and pretends she didn’t just witness that. I figure that the nurses in the Neuro-ICU probably see lots of weird interactions.

So here we are back home and back to what vaguely passes for normal. The world inside my house certainly runs in extremes. On the one hand, I started sobbing while carrying a basket of laundry upstairs this morning. Not a big deal—I suspect this will happen off and on for a few days. But my 19-month-old grand-daughter, who lives here and was behind the gate in her parents’ living room about 20 feet away (her parents were talking about job hunting and didn’t hear me—I wasn’t very loud) heard me and came over to the gate, leaned her head against it and started chanting “Oma, Oma, Oma!” until I took a nice deep breath and told her I was okay. Then she went back to stepping on all her noisiest toys while her parents were talking. Like a toddler should.


One of the weirdest public statues I have ever seen!

“Vytaiemo” is the traditional Ukranian greeting of welcome.This is a memorial to the first Ukranian immigrants to Canada, 1891-1892. The bread and salt placed on an embroidered towel is a traditional welcome representing life.

It’s a nice sentiment, but who is the veiled figure? The spirit of the tablecloth? Or?

Stranger in a Strange Ceilidh by Miriam Sagan

Stranger in a Strange Ceilidh

Here on Cape Breton, we knew we wanted to go to a ceilidh (pronounced kay-ly) which is a Scottish fiddling and dancing gathering. For a modest fee we gained admission to the hall, and toe tapping music, amid a mostly older crowd of…Scottish looking Canadians.
I’ve spent a lot of my life at the edge of cultures not my own…and how could that not be, seeing I left my Jewish New Jersey family the day of high school graduation. And for the most part I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and trusted my ability not to make a complete fool of myself (or to rectify that with self deprecating humor). So when I asked an aged gent if I could sit in one of the three vacant chairs at his table, I did expect a yes. But got a sullen stare. Experience has taught me to double check if someone can actually hear me, and speak English, which was confirmed by the following:
Me: Or maybe I’d just move one right here? (Gesturing a foot away).
Him: We’ve been told to never move the chairs.
Well, the guy was rude. I’m a gray-haired old lady, but apparently I was a stranger and not entitled to a chair. Smarting, I settled into a cozy nook further into the scene with Rich. And a lively scene it was—people square dancing with vigor.
Almost immediately a pleasant guy came over and said: do come sit with us—we’d like to invite you—not like…that fellow over there!
I was touched, and said so, but we were comfortably ensconced, and stayed put. I had coffee and chowder, and a long conversation with people around me, who cannot be said at that point to be completely sober. The upshots of which included:

If you give chickens names, then you cannot eat them.

If your motorcycle crashes in the snow in a remote part of Canada, you will never be found.

Farming is difficult, and young folks would rather move to the city. (I could have had an identical conversation in Itoshima, Japan or northern New Mexico).

In Irish step dancing they move their arms, but not in Scottish step dancing. (At this point the waitress was step dancing).

It has been cold.

It has been wet.

This is often the case.

The musicians played for three straight hours without a break. My head was full of Yeats and songs about fiddle contests with the devil. I got asked to dance, but didn’t have the nerve (maybe next time). Maybe if I was local I’d have know the first guy at the table was cranky or saving the chairs for someone. But it did work out, being a stranger.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad, or maybe vica versa…

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad, or maybe vica versa…Anyway, Red Hen is one of my publishers (Archeology of Desire) and this astonishing report is from Melville House (edited for blog).

June 26, 2018
Red Hen Press, an independent publisher based in Los Angeles, has spent days refusing to carry food to Sarah Huckabee Sanders
by Ian Dreiblatt
Someday, historians may have to explain why, in the hot summer of 2018, a number of American conservatives grew incensed at an independent literary publisher for failing to promise to bring them food.
I believe it was Thucydides who first raised the immortal question: “The fuuuuck?”
Let us begin at the beginning.
So, in case you’ve been in a sealed capsule at the base of the Mariana Trench, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders kicked up a duststorm this weekend when she went public with the news that her family had been denied service at a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia called the Red Hen. The reason was straightforward — as the restaurant’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, explained to the Washington Post’s Avi Selk and Sarah Murray, her staff had not wanted to serve Sanders, whose day job involves publicly defending the “inhumane and unethical” Trump administration and demeaning journalists. Wilkinson, who seems pretty conflict-averse, explains, “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.” She asked Sanders to leave.
Now. Ok. It’s no surprise that this did not play well to the MAGA crowd. That’s fine. I mean, it doesn’t really make sense—these are, in most cases, folks who support the right of businesses to decline service to particular costumers on the basis of their religious beliefs, and Sanders’s day job is to trounce moral scruples and ethical imperatives of the kind found in nearly all religions—but it’s to be expected. Trump’s approval rating has just fallen to forty-one percent, which suggests that much of the country considers his staffers to be deserving of restaurant service.
What is surprising, though, is how little some of those angry Trump supporters appear to care which “Red Hen” they’re vituperating. A completely unrelated DC restaurant, also called the Red Hen, was egged over the incident. A restaurant called the Olde Red Hen in Collingwood, Ontario—in another country entirely—received a flood of online harassment. And Red Hen Press, our LA-based partners in publishing Steve Almond, and a restaurant in no sense whatever, has been fielding attacks on Twitter, Facebook, and the phone.
When one user threw out a meme urging supporters to “advertise their bigotry,” tagging the press and the DC restaurant, Red Hen responded, “Red Hen Press is a non-profit book publishing company based out of Los Angeles. @RedHenDC is also not the correct restaurant. Hens are popular logos!” (The restaurant jumped in with a spirited Yas Queen gif.)

From the looks of things, this must be getting exhausting:

It should be noted that some of the affronted MAGAites, on learning that the LA-based non-profit publisher Red Hen Press has no say in who gets served at a random restaurant in Virginia, have been reasonable, cordial, and even downright friendly, apologizing for the mistake and moving on. But others have continued to load flaming garbage into the typhoon, which shows no sign of abating.
Anyhow, we reached out to Red Hen HQ, where, flaming garbage typhoon nothwithstanding, spirits seemed to be holding up. Deputy director Tobi Harper explained that the tweets haven’t been the worst of it: “We came into the office this morning to find eight voicemails on various departments’ phones, ranging from polite discontent to rage fueled yelling. Considering how these customers googled us, missed the fact that we’re a publisher, and then listened to our voicemail to be routed to departments such as ‘editorial’ and ‘media,’ it would be funnier if it wasn’t so alarming.”
An official statement from the house reads:
“Red Hen” is not a restaurant franchise, it is a name incidentally shared by many independent and unaffiliated companies. As for us at “Red Hen Press” (a book publishing company, not a well-named panini shop), we’re reminded of an excerpt from our recently published Bad Stories by Steve Almond, “In a broader sense, our embrace of the Internet has deregulated the social contract. In our quest for open source knowledge we have created a public forum plagued by unsourced misinformation. In our yearning for connection, we have fashioned digital bunkers in which citizens sit alone for hours expressing primal negative emotions without fear of consequence, even with some hope of acclaim. This ethical bifurcation is the psychic fingerprint of the Internet. We have come to accept cruelty and deceit as inevitable in our civic life, and our leaders.”
Truly, ours is an age when the comedians envy the journalists. To our friends at Red Hen: stay strong. Sorry you’re dealing with this. We are with you in Rockland.

Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.

World’s Largest Lobster

I’ve seen Japan’s largest wooden Buddha and the world’s largest pistachio nut in Alamogordo, NM. So I cannot be said to have wasted my life.
Now–the largest lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick. But why isn’t called a statue? Plainly it is not headed for my lobster roll lunch any time soon.

Anne of Green Gables Vs. Donald Trump: A Tale of Two Borders by Miriam Sagan

I crossed the border this week—the northern border, on what now appears to be our annual pilgrimage to Canada and a break (at least imaginatively ) from Trumplandia. And I’ve been in Anne of Green Gables country—Prince Edward Island. We just visited the birth place of her author and creator—Lucy Maud Montgomery—and saw the homestead where Montgomery wrote and the cemetery where she is buried. It looks much the way I imagined—gentle low lying country, many views marked by the meeting of sky and sea. Green fields dotted with cows and little churches.The Atlantic.

I got a note from my friend Ana, distraught as I and so many others are, over the immigration crisis on the southern border. Ana said she was re-reading Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” in an effort to keep cheerful. Ana and I share a great love of literature, and a belief in its healing power. A story need not apply to the details of our situation to help us—it is the human spirit which prevails.
I read Anne of Green Gables—the entire series—as an adult, during a time of crisis. It was passed on to me by another writer who was in a different kind of crisis, brought on by the dark material she was working on. “I think this will help,” she said, and left the first volume on my porch. It did.
As women, we need our heroines, who may sometimes be feisty girls. The “feminine”—or social construct of the female—can so often be degraded and victimized. As a reader, I’ve spent a lifetime looking for the antidote. Anne—a displaced orphan, classically enough—is determined to survive. Her survival isn’t just personal—it is also deeply social. I could feel that sense of community immediately on PEI. Nothing is perfect, and I’m sure Canada isn’t, but it is a relief compared to the USA where even ordinary neighborliness seems beyond our reach.
Anne is now on Netflix—it seems like the perfect time to watch. The opening scene has Anne quoting from “Jane Eyre”—a book whose moral core has helped anyone who has cracked its covers. My gratitude to women writers is boundless, and today I want to thank the Canadian ones, from Montgomery to Atwood.