Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tick tock

There aren't enough hours in the day. I'm reading the latest issue of The Sun, something I have put off because I was working or writing or dealing with family stuff, and the interview with Studs Terkel. I want more. I want to read his books and research his writing and his life but I don't have the time. I have laundry to do and I need to put in a few hours of work to pay the bills. I have to clean the kitchen and go to the market and I need to finish editing the newsletter. I want to spend a little time writing because I have a story boiling merrily on the back burner that kept me from sleeping and dreaming last night. There is also a need to deal with what's happening back in Ohio with my father and the lack of communication that sends me into a fury of useless anger at people because they don't ask questions and won't do their jobs. I also need to finish the proposal package requested by a publisher and it needs to be finished today. There's no time.

I feel a little guilty about taking time off yesterday to relax and read and regenerate because I could have done half of what I need to do today but after working 12- and 14-hour days all last week and putting in time writing, I needed the rest that I should regret today. The only thing I did that could be seen as work was bake a key lime cheesecake for the landlady, but for me that's not really work, that's pure pleasure. I don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddles and I don't have a mixer that can handle two pounds of cream cheese so I use a wooden spoon and do it by hand, but it's not work. I love the way the individual ingredients resist coming together and blending into a harmonious creamy batter that fills the house with the scent of sunshine and sweetness with a hint of soft vanilla as it bakes, the 50 minutes passing like no time at all. Each addition, from the sugar to the eggs and finally the fresh key lime juice, defies inclusion, slipping around and over the spoon while I stir, bobbing up on the edges away from the slow swirling center, skipping away from the relentless movement toward the center and homogeneity. One egg yolk kept popping up and wouldn't break so I toyed with it, dipping the spoon down into the batter and folding the batter around it only to have it pop up again and again whole and unbroken. I smiled and laughed, playing a little longer until the desire to taste the creamy tart-sweet cheesecake today won over the egg yolk's wholeness and I jabbed the spoon into it and worked it slowly into the satiny batter.

While the baking time passes so quickly, the time it takes the cheesecake to rest and cool seems endless. I put the cheesecake in the refrigerator in its springform pan as soon as it come out of the oven and close the door for 24 hours before I can even unmold and cut it. The time passes slowly so I read for a while and fell asleep with the book still in my hands until the phone rang.

At first, I didn't know who was on the other end of the line. They knew me obviously because they talked familiarly. "Why are you asleep?"

"Because I was tired."

"I'll let you go back to sleep."

(Why does someone who wakes you from a sound sleep always say that?)

"No, tell me what you want." I was beginning to wake up.

"We took Dad to the emergency room today."

It was Beanie. I was awake.

"What happened? Is he all right?"

Dad was in pain. His neck hurt and he couldn't bear to swallow. He asked to go to the hospital. He was in tears.

My father's hands are crippled and deformed with arthritis, the joints skewed to the left and right like badly set fractures. He digs in the garden and planted a row of trees on either side of their long driveway from the road to the house. He remodeled the chicken house and painted and hung wallpaper and did a thousand different jobs with his crippled hands and he never complained or winced in pain.

Dad was in pain.

When his heart valve exploded and he was literally drowning in his own blood, his doctor told him he could either go to the hospital or die right there in his office and he'd call the coroner instead.

He asked to go to the hospital.

The only time I have ever seen my father cry was at his father's funeral, a man I barely knew as I scarcely knew most of the people from my father's side, my side, of the family.

He cried. My father cried from the pain as they took him to the hospital.

Anger boiled up inside me as Beanie told me the rest. Intravenous morphine that didn't touch the pain. Waiting for hours to see a doctor who took less than five minutes to pronounce the pain muscular. "You probably slept wrong." OxyContin added to the Dilaudid that didn't touch the pain. An IV line that blew a blood vessel, humped up underneath my father's fragile skin. "It's normal," she said and walked out. My mother gets blood transfusions every month to stay alive and she knows a blown blood vessel when she sees one; she has had many of them. The nurse wouldn't listen. The doctor didn't come back. They sent my father home with a prescription for Percocet. Mom gave him a muscle relaxer at home on top of all the other meds and he is still in pain, still in tears. They did no tests and the possibility of a blood clot in the carotid or jugular didn't occur to the doctors. He slept wrong. He could move his head with some discomfort but he couldn't even swallow without pain. This was no spasming muscle and they didn't even do an MRI or a CT-scan to check.

Take two Percocet and call me when you're dead.

All these disparate ingredients refusing to work together to provide anything useful. Ignorance is bliss and these people are obviously in a constant state of mind-numbing orgasm. It's a national disease. Our melting pot has stopped boiling and blending as the center no longer holds. The egg yolk keeps bobbing up around the spoon no matter how hard I work at slowly combining the ingredients and it isn't funny any more.

It's like the huge cockroach in New Orleans that sauntered into my bedroom while I read Atlas Shrugged. I threw the book at him and he threw it back. He marched right into the room and across the bed on his way to a crack in the old walls to join the party inside, completely oblivious to me or my presence. I was nothing more than a bump in the midst of his road, an insignificant bump. There was nothing I could do but keep on reading before it was time to go to work and leave the apartment to him and his friends rustling between the walls, hoping without hope they'd go away and things would be better.

Things are better. There are no cockroaches here and there is plenty of work and laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping and newsletters to edit in the hours left before the week begins anew and I sit chained to my desk for 12-14 hours a day while I wait for the next phone call that reminds me time is running out and the lunatics are running the asylum and giving out pills instead of cures.

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