And They Didn’t Charge for Parking…

Sometimes things in life have a way of sneaking up on you. A few pounds weight gain. The end of the month. A surprise ending in a movie. A heart attack wasn’t really something I would have put on that list, though.

In hindsight (now that we’ve read all the webMD pages about heart disease) he had every symptom. But we weren’t thinking in terms of, “Oh, could this be a heart attack?” He had shortness of breath. But he had also just climbed two flights of stairs to get to my house. He had weight gain. But he had also eaten out almost every night for the past couple of weeks, and indulged in an abundance of holiday goodies. His feet and legs were swollen. But we had spent the day walking around Biltmore House and had been on our feet for hours.

We were enjoying the afternoon together when he complained about shortness of breath, and that he might need an inhaler. I suggested we go to the newly opened urgent care center, less than a mile from my house. He insisted it wasn’t a big deal. I went online and showed him there was an appointment available in the next 10 minutes and encouraged him to put his coat on.

The staff at the urgent care center instructed us to go the the ER right away. He said it could wait until they got back to Winston-Salem, where they live. I suggested we go to the ER right away, because the staff at the urgent care center really had nothing to gain by recommending we visit the ER (I didn’t think they would receive kickbacks for ER referrals…). We all agreed to go to the ER. Then I realized I had no idea where the ER was. Fortunately, my first three months in town hadn’t necessitated a hospital visit. The urgent care staff told us to go to Mission Health Hospital. We thanked them and headed over. I dropped off my parents at the entrance to the ER, then parked the car. I was worried that I didn’t have a ticket or placard for the car, and wondered if it was okay to leave the car in the lot. I had this thought that people in emergency situations often don’t think clearly, or make mistakes they normally wouldn’t. The last thing I needed was to come back to an empty spot and a towed car.

The ER staff ran tests for several hours, then said he’d need to be admitted. He’d had a heart attack, and they placed him on medicine that needed monitoring.

A heart attack?

Granted, my knowledge of heart attacks is rare, and mostly from the media. I remembered Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son talking about “the big one” and clutching at his chest. There have been dozens of tv shows and movies where someone has a heart attack and immediately collapses. That hadn’t happened. We had walked around Biltmore House just that morning. Dad was moving slower than usual, but he’s also in his late 70s, so I gave him some slack. There are days that I move slower than usual, too.

So there we were, Christmas week, in a hospital room overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains – dad in the hospital bed, mom in one chair, and me in the other. I asked the staff if I needed a parking permit and they said no, the lot I was in was fine. Every hospital staff member was outstanding. The doctors, the nurses, the nurse practitioners, the dietitians, the hospitalists, the administrative folks – every person answered our questions in a compassionate matter, smiled, and was, well, simply a lovely human. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was pleasantly surprised by the care and quality of service that we received.

And we were so grateful. That this happened while we were together. That this didn’t happen while one of us was on our frequent travels. That I work for a company that didn’t blink an eye when I said, “I need to take the next few days off to help care for my dad.” That they have health insurance so that this unexpected event won’t bankrupt them. And, this may seem silly, but that we didn’t have to pay for parking (and my car wasn’t towed). Small things delight me.

They discharged him with instructions to follow up with his primary care physician and a cardiologist once he was back home. And to exercise more. And to eat a low sodium diet. We went to the grocery store and were surprised at how much sodium is in so many foods. We searched online for low-sodium recipes and foods. We talked about exercise routines. And we were thankful that we spent another Christmas together, even though it wasn’t how we expected.

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Please, just go

The past few nights I’ve heard noises from inside the walls. At first I thought that it was the wind, or maybe a squirrel on the roof, or maybe just the creaks and groans of a 100-year-old house. And last night I was terrified as it sounded like something was clawing through the plaster walls, right into my bedroom.

I did what you should never do if you want to approach a situation rationally. I Googled.

And there were stories of people who didn’t think the problem was serious, waited too long, and then had to deal with decomposing animals in their walls. So I Googled some more. And found a humane animal removal service, locally owned, who focused on relocation.

I called first thing this morning and they had just had a cancellation for this afternoon. He would be here at 3 pm to investigate.

We walked into the attic and he noted, “Wow, there’s a lot of room for storage up here.” (I didn’t tell him that attics freak me out so I’d never actually been up there.) He poked around, but couldn’t find anything (which I supposed was good?). We went into the basement and he again noted, “There’s a lot of room for storage down here.” (Again I didn’t tell him I avoid the basement as much as possible because of the huge gas furnace that lives down there, that I’m sure will erupt into a gas bomb at any point. I’m not quite used to home ownership.) He didn’t find anything in the basement either. Good? Except now I’m concerned that I’m hearing things that aren’t real.

He said he was going to take a look outside and up on the roof. Twenty minutes later he came inside with photos of a family of raccoons nesting in my unused chimneys (when I moved in the inspector told me the chimneys didn’t have a flue, and would likely catch on fire if I ever tried to use them. The fireplaces have been sealed off from the interior.). I was marveling at how cute they were when he mentioned he had to fill out a wildlife damage control form and file it with the state. I didn’t think anything of it, and kind of assumed that we were done. Raccoons using the chimney I wasn’t using didn’t seem like such a bad thing. I didn’t really care for the noises at night, but now I knew what they were. No biggie, right? He told me that he’d set traps, and once they were out, would seal off the chimney tops so nothing else could come in.

Then he mentioned they would have to euthanize the raccoons.

What?

“But on your website you said that you specialize in relocation.” “Ma’am (he called me ma’am a lot and I couldn’t decide if I liked it or was annoyed by it), there was recently a rabies epidemic among raccoons. When we catch them, we’re required to report them to the state and euthanize them.”

At that point, I almost burst into tears.

Was I crying because of the fate of the raccoon family, nestled in my chimney?
Was I crying because I’ve never voluntarily (?) killed a living animal (I’m not a vegetarian so I realize some people would argue that I kill animals on a regular basis…)?
Was I crying because I was in a new town, away from my friends and loved ones, and refusing to admit that this was hard?
Was I crying because I’m about to turn a milestone age and life (while pretty fabulous) isn’t anything like I thought it would be like?

I asked him what the options were, and he described the traps they could use, ranging from a cage with food in it (that I associate with Bugs Bunny cartoons) to a trap that would immediately kill the raccoon. I asked to please use the cages. He mentioned that raccoons are smart, and often just take the food, without triggering the trap. I told him that was fine. He set them around the trees where claw marks indicated that raccoons had used them to climb to the roof (then down into the chimney).

I’m secretly hoping that the raccoons, being smart, see the cages and understand the gig is up, and relocate to another wooded area on their own. One can hope, right?

I’m a Bona Fide Homeowner

My house here in Asheville came with a programmable heating and cooling system that I couldn’t seem to figure out. Basically, the house was either 70+ degrees or the heat was off (rendering the house a cool 59 degrees). Friends encouraged me to get a Nest Learning Thermostat. I was intrigued by the remote control aspect of setting heat/cooling. And the box was so small. How hard could it be to install?

I panicked momentarily when one of the first instructions was “Switch off power – this protects you and avoids blowing a fuse in your equipment.” Did I really want to do something that could potentially electrocute me? And then I wondered how long it would take to find my body. I have plans for Thanksgiving, but that’s nearly two weeks away. And there probably wouldn’t be a smell, because the heating would be disabled, and so I’d be preserved in my chilly 59 degree house.

I searched for professional installers and then thought, “This is ridiculous.” Let me at least watch the installation video before calling someone to come out to install a thermostat.

After watching the video, I thought, “I think I can do this.”

And, so step by step I switched off the power, removed the current system (marveled at layers and layers of paint and wallpaper), labeled the wires, disconnected wires, drilled new holes for the Nest unit, mounted the Nest base, unmounted the Nest base because I should have mounted the optional trim plate first, mounted the optional trim plate, realized I’ll need to repaint because said layers and layers of paint are still visible, remounted the Nest base, connected the wires, attached the display, switched the power back on, and prayed.

And it worked! Homeowner, am I!

NC Voter!

In San Francisco, I was registered as a permanent absentee voter. The ballots in San Francisco were usually multiple very long pages, front and back, with enough propositions in each election to go through the alphabet at least once. I collected the fliers and booklets and information packets about the initiatives and the candidates in one spot in the weeks preceding the election, then the weekend before the election I would set aside an evening, read through the literature, research pros and cons, and spend a few hours marking my ballot before then dropping it in the mail or taking it to a polling place in person on election day.

I knew that we had an election today, but didn’t receive anything in the mail – no sample ballot, no arguments for or against initiatives, no campaign propaganda. I was flummoxed. I have my voter registration card, so (I thought) I knew where to go. After some searching, I found a sample ballot online. And it was one page. Mayor, City Council, and a redistricting initiative. I researched the candidates and the initiative and drove to the polling place. The volunteers greeted me, I received a ballot, and I voted, all in about 10 minutes. I scanned my ballot and received an “I Voted” sticker. I kind of love this way of voting. IMG_2057.JPG