Friday, February 28, 2014

William Shakespeare said the world was a stage and all the people in it actors, but I think that some people are more like characters and some of these characters that arrive at the emergency department, we call “frequent flyers.” They are the repeat visitors. Some come as drug seekers, some are actually sick, others want to be the center of interest, even for a few hours, and then there are those who are just lonely.
We had a married couple, I think, who didn’t quite fall into any of these categories, but straddled several. They came very close to being frequent flyers. I think they came just because they could come to the hospital and would not have to pay for it. We named them Prince Charles and Princess Dianna. Charles and Dianna were their real names. But there were no guards from Buckingham Palace, no British intelligence, or secret service who would come in with them when they appeared.
The closest thing to being escorted occurred when Prince Charles came in by ambulance one night. He was accompanied only by a couple of medical attendants. He and Dianna carried the “gold card.”  Pennsylvania welfare cards were yellow. You’ve heard the commercial, “It’s the gold card, don’t leave home without it.” and this couple never did.
Before anybody complains about my comment, I just want to say, there are people who are unable to work due to a disability SHOULD have assistance. But there are those people who are able bodied and intelligent who should NOT be eligible for those benefits.
I feel that Charles was one of the latter. He was intelligent and if he can have sex, he’s able bodied enough to find a job. At an earlier visit he told me while he was in the triage area, ‘I was teaching the old lady how to play chess tonight before we came in.” He has to have some smarts to play chess, right.
So, let me get back to the story. Charles was brought in by ambulance. As he was moved onto our bed, I noticed that under him was one of the dirtiest, filthiest, spotted, and stained sheets that I had ever seen or ever hope to see and he was completely naked.  The spots were not the pattern of the sheet. He told us that he and his wife were having sex when his “back went out.”
He was given x-rays, medicated, and discharged. We gave him a pair of pajama bottoms Because he had arrived “au natural” and a patient gown to wear home. He was to bring them back, but I doubt that he did. We probably doubled his wardrobe.
He and Dianna had hardly disappeared behind the exit door, when she came bounding back into the emergency room. “Where’s my sheet? Where’s my sheet? I need to put it back on the bed when we get home.”
The nurses looked at each other thinking the same thought. “Who would put that filthy thing back onto the bed?” We shrugged, gloved up, and dug through the dirty linen bag to find her sheet and gave it back to her.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cold Shoulder

I am so very weary of the cold. I was spoiled by the few days of warmth that somehow managed to slip into Western Pennsylvania. I loved the sunshine and enjoyed seeing the mounds of snow reduced to dirty ridges.
Driving back from a meeting Sunday evening before dusk, I saw the falling snow. I can't believe that I actually thought it looked beautiful, but it did. The white, wind driven snow against dull gray-brown of the tree clusters was such a contrast. It brightened a Winter weary world even though it was snow.
I still shovel my driveway. I carry the shovelfuls of snow across the roadway and toss it into the empty field. If I don't. it creates mounds that creates drifts. When the snowplows come through, they shove all of the snow back into my drive and I have more to clean out. By carrying it across the road, it stays out of my driveway.
I think that Penn-Dot has someone watching with binoculars on the hill above my place for me to get close to finishing the shoveling. When I get close, they call the snowplow truck. The truck comes barreling through to refill my drive. That doesn't make me happy, but I do like that they are keeping the roads open.
Come on Spring.

Monday, February 24, 2014

High School Memories

A television program, with two men wrestling, made me think of high school memories of gym class. I was chubby and still am. Wrestling was only one of the many activities that I wasn’t good at performing. Needless to say, I didn’t like gym. Climbing ropes were a bane. Push-ups were a complete failure. Running laps, after several circuits, pooped me. Basketball, I wasn’t too bad.
I wasn’t a dancer and when square dancing was the class, I barely managed to follow the fast spoken calls to allemande left, do-si- do, and other steps took awhile travelling from ears to brain and then to feet.
All through junior high and senior high, gym was far from my forte.

One class that really made an impression was swimming. I could swim, not well, but I could make it across the pool and back. The thing about swimming class that left the most lasting and impactful recollection was that we swam nude, naked as a jaybird, exposed, and sky clad.
The one occurrence that would have caused the coach/ teacher to have been canned was in a way funny and yet risqué. It would have probably led to legal action today.
The teacher said “Take any valuables you have down to the pool for safe keeping.”
Standing in front of lockers, our clothing disappeared from our bodies and into the lockers. Once we were nude, we were herded down a spiral metal staircase to the indoor pool. The chlorine hit my nostrils long before I could see the blue-green tile lined pool. There was an older small, wooden table at one edge of the pool. The instructor said, “Put your valuables on the table where it can be watched. The guys walked up to the table to deposit their wallets and watches on the countertop.  One wise cracker strolled over to the table, collected his family jewels in his hand, and placed them on the table top.
           The teacher was standing at the table and slammed a paddle that he held in his hand very close to the wise kids genitalia. The youth jumped back, scared and trembling.

“I’ll be right back and STAY OUT of the pool.”
The teacher scurried up the stairs, disappearing at the top. Now comes the most memorable legal action part of the story. Another student stooped over in the teacher’s extended absence and began to splash other kids. He failed to notice that the instructor had returned through a side door. The youth was still bent over, laughing, and splashing. Quietly the teacher slipped up behind the misbehaving student and kicked him on one of his upturned butt cheeks.
It wasn’t a push. It was a full-force, sneaker-clad, solid boot in the derriere. The kid ended up near the center of the pool with a huge splash. It was a major surprise to the whole class, but especially to the prankster.
When the young man climbed out of the pool, he was wet and embarrassed, but the teacher had left his mark prominently on the youth’s right buttock. A sneaker shaped, bright red, ridge treaded imprint glowed throughout the rest of the swimming class.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It Was a Good Day
I got up a bit later than normal. I needed to go to Frick hospital for blood work and x rays. Once they were finished, my daughter Anna and I ate breakfast at the coffee shop. We had planned most of the morning. I stopped at Walmart to get refills on my medications.
The rain dampened the day that far, but the day dried even though there was little sun. We drove to the old Laurel Mall to browse the flea markets and displays. We are both junk collectors and like to see prices of things we might want to buy or things that we already own.
I also took some older comic books to sell. They were given to me and I'm not into comic books. I took what the man offered. I didn't have a need for them, so I sold them.
We did a bit of shopping at Pechin's. It is so much different from the old add on store building where shoppers could see rats and holes in the floor to see the stream flowing below. Where some women crawled on their knees after the meat cart tossing the packages of beef over their shoulders to their husbands who were following along with the shopping buggies. It was a place where the cashiers at the check out lines would be heard yelling, "Carry out!"
Those things are all lost and only memories.
We stopped at McDonald's for lunch which was fortuitous. And and I met many old friends that we'd not seen in quite a few years. It wasn't an exciting day, but it was very enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Making a Mobile Garage
Late one evening I was driving to work in my yellow Chevrolet Nova. I was relaxed and the radio was playing. I was driving a few miles over the speed limit. As I neared the entrance to a local campground/ trailer park, I saw a self-contained recreational vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. I saw it slow. I wasn’t that far away from the vehicle or the entrance to the park. I thought he was going to wait until I passed before he would turn in front of me to enter the park. My car was bright yellow. There was no way he could miss seeing me.
The distance narrowed even more. All of a sudden, the driver turned his vehicle across my lane to enter the camping area. He effectively blocked both lanes of the highway. I couldn’t go around it and I certainly didn’t want to go through it.

I slammed o my brakes. My tires started howling and leaving log black marks on the concrete. I was fighting the wheel to keep my car on the road and stop it from sliding sideways. I thought. “Here we go. I get to create the first mobile car garage!”
I managed to stop about two feet parallel to the passenger’s side of the R. V.
The driver shot me a “Where did you come from?” look.
I wanted so badly to get out of my car and kick him in his butt. There were several reasons I didn’t at least get out and tell him what I thought.
 I didn’t want to be late for work, if I did get out I might want to do more than talk with him, and lastly I wasn’t sure I could stand once I did get out of my car. My legs felt so weak and were shaking so much, I wasn’t sure they could bear my weight.
I turned my car and headed to work.
I don’t understand people from the bigger cities. They leave a crowded and congested urban setting to come to these R. V. parks where they are crowded into parking spots. They trade one crowded neighborhood for another. They have to be crazy to pay for these camping areas (As the driver of that R.V. proved.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Remarkable Morning Memories

I was up this morning before the sun came up. I needed to clear the driveway because I had a doctor’s appointment. It was six degrees out and it was cold. The one blessing was, there was little wind. As I began shoveling, I was looking at the sky. The horizon was a soft coral ant the sky over head went from a pale blue to a darker blue gray.
Cross-crossed were the eighteen or so contrails of jet airplanes. Their water vapor trails ranged from the customary white to a banana yellow, reflecting back the still hidden sun’s rays. To the west, the full moon still lingered with its rich creamy white face giving a last smile before going to bed.
The contrails reminded me of a story that a fellow fireman once told me about his stint in the air force. One day he’d been talking to a pilot and the air jockey asked, “Where are you from?”
My friend Richard said, “Oh, it’s a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
The pilot said, “Go ahead and try me.”
“It’s a little place called Indian Head.” Dick replied.
“I know where that is.” The pilot said. “That’s where several main air routes cross over.” He also said and warned, “If you’ve never had an air accident, someday you will. You need to be prepared for a crash. It will happen.”
This was many years before the crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.


Another G I told another story to me about how everybody had a double somewhere in the world. When he was stationed in another country a man approached him. He was in the Army as well and asked, “How are your parents?”
The man who told me the story had the last name of Eutsey. He told the other G I, “They’re fine.”
The G I asked, “How is your brother?”
Eutsey said, “He’s fine.”
“How’s your sister?”
“I don‘t have a sister.”
“Yes you do. I know you and your family.”
“It’s my family. I should know my brothers and sisters.”
When they sat and talked, they both came from similar small villages with a crossroad that had a church on one corner, a grocery store on another, a community center and a house on the others. Both villages had Eutseys living near them and there must have been a strong physical resemblance, but one town was located in Pennsylvania and the other was in Iowa.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Up For Grabs
Eileen worked in the computer room on the night shift. She would always amble down to the emergency room to buy a cup of coffee before the beginning of her shift. She was the only person in the I. T. area and didn’t like to make a pot of coffee for just herself. She would chat for a few minutes until her shift started before reporting to work.
The coffee pot in the emergency department sat on a stand at the end of long, narrow nurse’s lounge.
I got a page from the emergency room. When I answered, the nurse asked if I could come down, not explaining exactly why I was needed. She pointed to an exam room with the door closed. I gave her a look and she pointed again. “Eileen needs to talk to you.”

When I entered, Eileen was crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m gonna get fired!” she wailed. “They’re going to fire me.”
“Wait! Wait! What do you mean you’re going to get fired?” I asked. “What in the world happened?” Eileen was the most meek and timid person that I knew at the hospital. I could not imagine anything that she could have done to get herself fired.
She said, “I hit the Dr. Allen.”
“Okay?” And I paused. I didn’t know what else to say to her. I needed to hear more. I wanted to hear the details before I aid anymore.

She began to explain between her sobs, “I walked into the nurse’s lounge to get a cup of coffee. The doctor was sitting on a chair at the side of the room. He was the same doctor who brought his girlfriend in to visit at night. As I walked by him, he grabbed my leg behind my knee and I hit him on the top of his head with my coffee cup.” She had the two pieces of the cup in her hands. The coffee mug was one that had a cup nestled inside the other to make it insulated.
She explained that she was ex-army and any sudden noise, unexpected moves, or if she was touched when she wasn’t expecting it, she lashed out.
I chuckled and then explained, “You’re not in trouble. If anyone’s in trouble, he is. If he says anything, he could be accused of sexual harassment. He had no right to touch you in any way. You could even have him arrested for assault if he wants to complain. He’s not going to do anything. Dry your eyes and get back to work.”

Eileen thanked me later that night. She said, “I was so worked up and I was so afraid I would lose my job.”
The funny thing about the whole incident was the doctor walked around for several days with a reddened area across his scalp and a scrape on the top of his bald head. I wonder how he explained that to his girlfriend.
Several other odd occurrences in the hospital were traced back to him. It was found out later that this physician had bouts of manic depression and that explained why he would occasionally dial into the overhead paging system, flush the commode, and laugh hysterically before hanging up.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Speaking of...
Dr. Vandyk had a few phrases that he would use frequently. He used “Bah! Humbug!” when someone would wish him a Merry Christmas or someone would try to compliment him. One of the ward clerks that he knew as a baby he would tease sometime, but at Christmas he would say, “Are you ready for your Christmas goose?” and he would poke her in the ribs or the buttocks with the end of his pen.
A patient would arrive with a complaint of chest pain. He would run the minimal tests and admit the person to a monitored bed. He told us more than once as he wrote the order to admit the person, “pain from nipples to nuts. Admit them and let God sort them out in the morning.”
This did three things; it minimized his testing and evaluating the results, it allowed the person to be observed overnight, and the physician who accepted the admission was responsible for interpreting and deciding the severity of the malady.
A phrase he repeated when a staff member or a patient was in a stressful situation, “This too shall pass.” (He also used it when a patient presented with a fecal impaction or a child who had swallowed a coin or when he had a person who came in because of constipation.)
When he took careof someone who was overweight, he would say, “So round, so firm, so fully packed.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

Taking a Hard Write

I’ve been working hard at writing a series of short stories over the past eighteen months or so. The tales are detective stories. One of the detectives is a blonde private eye named Mary Alice Brandon. I have written one tale about her solving a murder after being hired to follow a husband for a woman who thought that he was cheating. I am in the middle of another tale for her as well. I am hung up on the ending, but as long as I can find one I will be happy.

My second “detective” is a reluctant one. His name is Luigi Garibaldi and has been a gambler scared from the major casinos because of a dalliance with an owner’s wife. He has clues fall into his lap and he has to follow up to help solve the crimes. Two of the crimes he solves are murders and the other is the assault and thefts of religious items.

The last detective is a retired Pittsburgh cop who has cases dumped in his lap by friends and relatives. He is helped by his muse Adrian Monk who has certain ways to pass on clues and give support to Tommy Two Shoes. Tommy Two Shoes is his nickname. Because he was a cop, he doesn’t investigate murders or cases that normally involve the police unless he is directly involved like in “Coin Operated” and “Crime Hits Home.” In "Coin Operated" a neighbor suffers a break-in and Tommy is there to assist her and finds clues that eventually solves the crime.

The introduction to Tommy is his first venture into writing mysteries when he attends a retreat for mystery writers. The story “A Soft Spot for Redheads” occurs as he makes friends with a coppery haired café owner and decides to help her parents solve an ongoing problem at their trailer park in Florida. The follow up to that tale is “Crime Hits Home” and is an attempted robbery of that henna haired beauty while Tommy is in the café and he is assaulted. He works this case because of the feeling that he’d been insulted as a man and a cop. The coppery haired woman makes a request when her boyfriend is missing and the police are unwilling to investigate when he had been missing for such a short time. “The Burden of Love” causes Tommy to look for the waylaid boyfriend, solve another crime, and find a woman more his own age to date.

The last two are more of a personal nature and revolve round family matters. “Missing” is a story where Tommy tries to solve the mysterious disappearance of a younger brother that happened fifty years prior. The last story “More or Les” causes Tommy to look for a Les Paul guitar that had been stolen from his nephew.

I have a woman who is reviewing them to publish as a series in a book. She is doing the proof reading and will help with the publication. This is one reason that I had to cut back my blog writing from every day to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Friday, February 7, 2014

When to Let Someone Else Choose
There were several confused patients on one of the medical/surgical floor and there were not enough beds close to the nursing station for all of these people who were more likely to fall. We always tried to place the confused people nearer the station where they could be watched more closely. My grandfather just happened to be one of the confused patients who was far away from the nursing station.

A bed came open closer to the station when another patient was discharged. The charge nurse of the floor approached me. She asked me, “Do you want me to move your grandfather closer to the station?”I knew that there were several other confused people on the floor who also should be nearer to the nursing desk. I replied, “Cindy, you tell me. Who is the most confused? Who needs to be moved first?
There were two reasons why I allowed her to make the decision. She knew the patients better than I did, because she was on the floor for longer periods of time than I was as a nursing supervisor.
The second reason I chose not to make the decision was that he was my grandfather. He was in a three bed room and I knew one of the other patients in the room. He knew that it was my grandfather who was in the room with him.
I knew the type of man that the other patient was and I perceived that if my grandfather was moved from a three bed room into a two bed room, the man would complain and say I had shown favoritism in moving my granddad into a room with only two beds.

The charge nurse made the decision to move my grandfather closer. His former roommate, the one who I knew would cause trouble, did. He called administration and complained. When one of the higher up managers approached me, I referred her to the charge nurse and said, “I left the decision who to move up to her. I had no part in which person she chose to move closer. There’s no truth in this man's complaints.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Good Sport

My brother Ken is an avid sportsman. He has always enjoyed golf, baseball, hunting or almost anything that occurs out of doors. When he played golf on his downtime as a caddy, he would come in one or two strokes either behind or in front of the course’s professional golfer.
In hunting, only the seasons changed as to what game he was hunting and the weapon he used not the desire to hunt; bow and arrow, rifle, or shotgun. He enjoys fishing as well, but not as much as hunting. He went out West to hunt elk one year, riding a horse into the mountains on the tour.
When he played baseball, he played in a local league for young men. The league played their games on Sunday afternoons. If we wanted to know if he had a game that Sunday, we’d tease by saying, “Are you going to the church of the swinging bat today?”

He was attracted to fast cars, motorcycles, and A.T.V.s. They were a past passion in his life although the A.T.V. is an integral part of his hunting now.
I think his two favorite cars were a pale yellow mustang, his first car and a 1976 Dodge Demon that was black with white stripes painted across the hood, roof, and trunk. I always thought it looked like a skunk. Ken tricked and souped it up for speed and took it to the drag races to compete. The large air scoop rose above the hood.
He’s slowed a bit since then and has just finished restoring a Jeep, painting it red. Red was our dad’s favorite color. It’s his baby and it stays up on blocks during the winter in the garage. His cars are a little less powerful than before, but he still likes to work on them.

The one thread that has wound through all of his other passions was to meet and date women, looking for that one special person that he loved as much as he did all of his other passions.
My grandmother Miner had a favorite saying, “There’s never a pot too crooked that a lid won’t fit.” I think he’s been looking for that lid and has finally found her.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Granddad’s House

My grandparents Beck’s house was built by him along a stream called Back Creek which flowed into Indian Creek near the town of Indian Head, Pennsylvania. It was built from reclaimed wood from their old farm house up on White Horse Mountain. It was a large cottage of four rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second. Once built, he covered it with brown mineral-coated Insulbrick.

My sister Kathy and her husband Doug bought the house while my grandparents were alive and allowed them to live there until they were no longer able to take care of the house and themselves.
When Doug and Kathy moved in, the house was a mélange of small rooms and Easter egg colors. Slowly over the years Doug remodeled one room at a time, making the rustic cottage into a house worthy of a magazine spread. He removed walls, replaced floors, rewired, and relocated bathrooms. He hung new lighting, built cupboards, closets, and lighted cubby holes for displaying heirlooms.

The floors are made of hardwoods with inlay designs. While he was remodeling a long, built-in side porch and tore off the old brown Insulbrick covering he found wide, rough-cut, wormy chestnut boards placed on the diagonal. Doug removed the nails, then smoothed and sealed them to make a beautiful accent wall. He made a French door entrance to the multi-windowed porch from the living room. He and Kathy made a cut glass/ stained glass window to allow more light to come into the living room.
Doug added a wraparound porch to the front of the house and he is remodeling the kitchen now. His skills are not limited to carpentry; he rebuilt an outside chimney made of mortar and rock. He is an artist as well. Near the top of the chimney he created the image of an American Indian wearing a war bonnet of different rocks and stones.

My grandfather had done many things and could be called a carpenter as well, but only to the point that he could build something that was level and square. However Doug is a true craftsman and very skilled in his labors.