Friday, November 23, 2012



I woke up from my nap this afternoon with a horrible sensation of wet sheets beneath me. I realized somehow my Foley catheter had failed, and urine was flowing into the bed instead of down the tube. I called the nursing service at 4:45 pm on Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend and of course got a call sorter, not a nurse. She promised to relay on my message.

When Debra arrived, she had a look and said she thought the Foley had somehow come out. She was wrong in that assessment. I waited an hour, unable to clean up or change the linen because urine was still flowing out periodically. I did stop drinking anything. Then Lettie arrived, who was my home nurse last year, competent and familiar, though not as adept as Jessica.

Lettie's investigation showed the Foley was still seated but had apparently become plugged by sediment, possibly from the recent UTI. She removed it and we began setting up for a procedure. I said to Debra "You need to shut Scout in the other room", because she was already eyeing the intoxicatingly rustling sterile packs the nurse was pulling out. Scout instantly vanished under my bed, indicating she has more vocabulary than we realized. Her own curiosity undid her, however, two minutes later when she sprang out to pounce on the new tube and Debra nabbed her.

The insertion hurt more than usual, and Lettie couldn't get flow right away to be sure it was in the right place. I drank down a bottle of water and within a few minutes urine began trickling into the tube. There was also a lot of blood at first, indicating Lettie had scraped me a little. She had trouble "finding the right hole", as she put it.

She inflated the bulb that locks everything down, washed her hands and zoomed off, leaving Debra to put everything away, then clean me up and redo the bed. I finally ate dinner an hour late but giddy with relief. I took a pain pill and answered Margot's skype, probably our last before she gets here six days from now. The family wedding she is attending in Florida will likely take up all her spare time before then. Famine before the feast.

As we were chatting, Scout came to cuddle and pose for pictures. Abruptly she wheeled and bit me hard enough on the nose to draw a stream of blood. Margot managed to grab a shot as Scout streaked away. Payback, I suppose, for denying her a box seat at the Foley Show.



(Photo by Y.L. Bordelon)

The appearance last night of a raccoon (named Bourland*, explanation below) alters the wildlife environment on my patio. Opossums, I have learned, carry virtually no disease, actually less than cats and dogs, and are rarely destructive for any reason. In the wild they eat mice and rats, roaches and other damaging insects, and often feed on our North American pit vipers because they are immune to the venom. Raccoons, on the other hand, are Trouble, both for humans and other animals. And do often carry rabies.

So Bourland will have to be discouraged. Toward that end, we have moved the cracked corn to the highest bird feeder with a tiny tray that is a hassle for anything not flying to reach, and no pecans tonight.

I did research during the wee hours while possum watching. From what I can deduce, this very unusual collection on my patio represents a litter likely started last January that emerged from Puddy's pouch (if indeed Puddy is the mama) around 3-4 months ago. When pickings are good and predation is low, siblings will sometimes remain together until they begin mating, usually after six months of age. By late December, our familiars will have separated or (even more likely) been picked off by cars, dogs, and owls.

Tempis fugit, especially for Didelphimorphia.

And, being a poet, I am reminded now of A.E. Housman's admonition:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

*Bourland is named for my great-great-great-grandfather, self-proclaimed "Colonel" James Bourland, a major slave-owner who arrived in Texas soon after its establishment as a Republic and set up a mini-empire along the Red River in Cooke County. He went through two wives and several armed conflicts. With his son-in-law Austin Brooks Manion, he built a trading post on the Red River in Chickasaw Territory directly across from Texas. There he became rich by selling (illegally) both firearms and whiskey to the recently dispossessed native peoples being forced into Oklahoma from all over their ancestral lands in the U.S. When eventually a group of native men proved unable to handle liquor and set out on reprisal against white encroachment, Bourland would pull together a vigilante posse to track them down, kill them, and take back the guns for resale.

Bourland is especially infamous for his role in the Great Hanging at Gainesville in 1862.



(Scout headshot 14 November 2012)

Scout continues to be Very Interested in my insulin injections and glucose testing. I allow her to sniff of the Flexpen or the alcohol swab (the latter drawing a grimace and head shake), and I give her the discarded needle caps to play with as I slide the needles into sharps containers. But the actual injections require her to remain at a sterile distance, and she finds this hard cheese indeed.

So in the last several days, she has developed the routine of running to her handball court as I dial up the dose with an enticing series of clicks, then racing back as a streak of orange over the end of the bed and up my leg to my belly as the needle goes into me. She gets just close enough to whip out a velvety paw and tap the top of my hand, counting coup, before zooming back off the bed too fast for me to react. She repeats this for the second inkection, and on skidding back to an unreachable zone, she grins at me defiantly, having scored what appear to be ultimate kitten points.


Thursday, November 22, 2012


I am short on sleep today for none of the usual holiday reasons: Last night was a THREE-POSSUM extravaganza.

Around 11, the one I've been calling Plum (I think) showed up, climbing the birdfeeder pole to eat cracked corn and the last of the old pecans. I watched intermittently, my attention also caught by the discovery on Youtube of a channel with a massive cache of 1970's-era British TV dramas, including the first Jemima Shore mysteries.

On one of my glances out the window, my pulse quickened to see a second possum on the ground below the feeder. Both were similar in size, demonstrably smaller than Puddy and without her white patches. They also lacked her, shall we say, gravitas: There was an air of not-quite-maturity about them.

After eating, the first one moved over to sit on the rectangular planter where I have succulents growing. The second one -- whom I have dubbed Tate (his full name is Prostate, a moniker chose by illiterate Puddy because it has such a regal sound to it) -- then climbed to his turn at the feeder. When Tate was done, he descended the pole and disappeared from view for a few minutes. Plum had nearly dozed off in the planter.

Then I was electrified to see Tate coming over the edge of the planter and nuzzling the back fur of Plum. Was there about to be a territorial squabble? No, it was a friendly greeting, perhaps that of siblings. They shared the planter companionably (except woe to the squashed succulents) and took turns dozing or looking around warily.

I myself kept going to sleep and then waking back up to enjoy the show. Scout had decided the best spot for her was at the head of my bed, far from the window and jammed against my shoulder, where she was grooming noisily in between surveillance. Around 4 a.m., I saw Plum crane his neck over the side of the feeder, as if watching something on the ground. I strained upward, and there was a third possum, snuffling among birdseed detritus on my patio! This one was of a size with the other two, and she stood up at one point to sniff briefly at Plum in an acknowledging manner. I have my channels open to receive her name when it is transmitted to me.

Clearly Patio de Jochild has become an after-hours joint for trendy marsupials. I didn't think they congregated in this manner; perhaps this is a litter (Puddy's?) which has not yet separated, although they are at the upper end of juvenile if so. A week from today Margot will arrive, and I am avid to share this naturalist opportunity with her.

I am now listening to "A Splendid Table" on KUT, sharing turkey confidentials from Ina Garten, Samuel Marcus, Bitty, etc. I have already sung along to "Alice's Restaurant", completely bemusing Tammi, whom I allowed to leave an hour early to join her family. All our fabulous cooking is gathered on a plate I will heat and eat at noon when I switch over to TV for the National Dog Show. Though the coconut cream pie may not last that long -- it's a mile high and calling my name.

I'm thinking leftover cornbread-pecan stuffing leftovers for tonight's possum buffet...



You can get anything you want at  Alice's Restaurant.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Zach the new volunteer grocery shopper from Meals On Wheels accidentally bought dried cranberries instead of fresh cranberries, so I wasn't sure how to prepare them. I dumped the bag into a saucepan with half a cup of orange juice plus the chunks of a peeled Clementine and simmered it together for half an hour, until the liquid was absorbed. Seriously, this is the best cranberry relish I've ever tasted!

Tammi (my morning attendant) and I also just put together Yukon Gold mashed potatoes; sweet potatoes simmered in cream and butter before mashing; and stuffing made with stale whole-grain conrbread, roasted pecans, spicy sausage, water chestnuts, scallions, tons of garlic, Win and Sheldon's lemon sage, one egg, and some hot beef broth.

Tomorrow's final feast with include pot roast, salad, and a coconut cream pie. All in small portions but it will still be a glycemic hit. However, one of the (many) pleasures about not having to share an unpleasant holiday with family is that I can eat the protein and pie of my choice, with sides as I like 'em. While watching the national dog show nekkid, feeding a kitten from my plate, and no social service visits guaranteed all day. Crip heaven!



The year we lived in Brasil, Mama got hepatitis and for a few months did almost nothing at all except smoke Tareytons and read 2-year-old movie magazines. We had a cook, Suliadora, who kept us fed; a laundry pushcart guy who came by one a week to wash all our clothes; and theoretically I was, at 12, old enough to keep Bill from too much trouble. If you've heard some of the stories from that time, you'll know I sometimes failed in the latter.

One of the great thrills about living on that house on Rua Joao Alves is that Bill and I each had our own room. It was for each of us our first taste of real privacy, and I seized it in my teeth. I actually had a key that locked my bedroom door, an old-fashioned skeleton key, and I began insisting nobody, not Mama or Suliadora, go into my room without my consent. Mama bristled but was too ill to fight it out with me.

Bill didn't care but, at age 8, he simply let his own room become a trash-heap. Eventually, Mama resorted to nagging us nonstop about our need to clean our rooms, and unknowingly made sure I would not cooperate by intimating I should actually help Bill with his, since he was so much younger.

Help the baby clean his mess? Never gonna happen.

One of the oddities of being a doodlebugger's kid who lived in constant transience is that we were not just isolated as a family, we were expected to be and remain friends with the other children who worked for the same company as my Dad. Our paths would cross in a sporadic manner as our fathers sometimes worked on the same crew in the same small town, and we had a bond with these other kids that I think is similar to army brats or the children of migrant farm workers. No matter the age or personality difference, we had to make nice with the other GSI kids.

Thus, in Aracaju, we were forced into the orbit of Paola, whose father was Daddy's cohort and whose mother was a feud-loving Sicilian, Fulvia, he'd married along the way. Paola would nowadays be diagnosed as ADHD with severe anger control issues. She was halfway between me and Bill in age, and playing anything with her seemed to inevitably result in her having a raging tantrum where she broke our things and ran weeping to her mother. Everyone, including Mama, was frightened of Fulvia, so we cheated clumsily during any game with Paola to make sure she won or was appeased. This seldom worked.

Until, after a round of Mother May I and Simon Says, I dimly remembered a boring little kid's entertainment called Mother's Coming. The set up was that someone played Mother, a stern-faced tyrant who stood at the end of the hall and began walking, extremely slowly, toward the child's bedroom. Someone hissed "Mother's coming!" in a tone of horror, and those in the bedroom had to get it completely cleaned up, bed made, floor swept, etc before her hand reached the knob and turned it.

This approaching maternal doom struck a deep chord in Paola, and the need for frenzied, even chaotic, tidying was a job she could handle. She would fly into action, shrieking at us to help, and after two rounds the room would be spic and span. She never wanted to take a turn as approaching Mother, preferring the release of cleaning. 

We exploited her relentlessly, without shame.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


(Fruit fly ovaries and uterus; photo by Gunnar Newquist)

Last night Plum showed up at 11:30ish and ate very cautiously. No sign of Puddy. I am not sure what's going on in Possomville. Margot did some research yesterday, and I did more today. Some brief highlights:

  • The name comes from the Powhattan word aposoum meaning white beast, and was first written in English in 1610.
  • They have awn hair only, and the fur is very soft.
  • Females have a bifurcated vagina and males have a bifurcated penis.
  • Their jaw is unusually full of teeth, and they have a hind digit without a claw that is opposable, as well as a prehensile tail.
  • They are usually solitary and nomadic, and their diet relies on carrion, though they are omnivorous. They can nurse up to 13 in their pouch, but often give birth to more because many newborns fail to find and attach to a teat.
  • They reach old age quickly.
  • "Playing possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal, is an involuntary act on their part but not always available to juvenile possums.

In other news, I had recertification assessments today by Andy the PT director and an RN from Gilead who chatted my head off and encouraged Scout's brattiest behavior. I answered the phone all day because I was waiting on a callback from the Star Plus Waiver worker, but she did not return my voice mail this morning. I was very cranky and antisocial by mid-afternoon.



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Monday, November 19, 2012


(A good approximation of Puddy's visage)

My friend Blue says possums don't like to share territory, so the best way to keep possums from moving into your attic, say, is to build a possum house for just one who will then keep all others away. Naturally, the day she passes on this information is when TWO possums decide to show up in succession at Casa de Jochild.

The first was Puddy, massive, contemplative (assuming she has a brain), with two white patches on her left rear flank. We had set out a sample snack for her: A few baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and very old pecans. She munched through the pecans with evident zest, took one bite of a carrot and dropped it, and after almost two hours, shambled off into the night.

Half an hour later, I was startled to see her back. But then I realized it was half Puddy's size, without the patch: a juvenile? Perhaps her offspring? I have named him Pelham, Plum for short. Either of them seem to horrify Scout equally. She watches from behind the corduroy mustard chair, buried in shadow and with a gauzy curtain concealing her further.

Plum finished off the pecans but left the baby carrots as well. Margot says perhaps possums are not concerned about night vision. From what I've observed, they jolly well ought to be: Seems like all their sensory apparatus is appallingly dim. More likely they simply don't like carrots.