Saturday, November 12, 2011

What did I forget?

I tried to spilt one cortisone tablet into two this morning in order to take in a reduced dosage but the tablet crushed into tiny pieces. I trust it’s not a omen, a bad omen for the day ahead.

The day ahead makes me breathless, so much to do that even now settling down to write seems excessive. I have no time. I must clean out the kitchen in readiness for my third daughter’s birthday party tomorrow. I must wrap presents in readiness for my youngest daughter’s birthday dinner tonight.

Two daughters turn significant ages in the space of a week, one an eighteen year old at the end of her school life, the other a twenty five year old about to be admitted to practice as a lawyer. Both girls bright and capable, both eager to celebrate and be celebrated and only last week it was my turn.

Birthdays roll along. They are such indicators of the passage of time.

Foul tasting stuff cortisone. I just swallowed the crushed cortisone tablet and had to wash it down with a great gulp of tea and even now the bitter taste lingers at the back of my tongue. It’s hard to be rid of it.

Every so often I think about my thesis and whether someone is reading it and what they might think of it. Whether someone is rolling their eyes in disgust or whether someone else is getting pleasure out of it.

It’s a strange waiting time, not so bad at the moment because it is early in the wait. I imagine in a month or two or maybe more I will start to get anxious with the thought that any day now I will hear the news. But from here it seems too far away.

The sun streams into my writing room so fiercely that I can barely see the screen. Dust motes collect on the glass and even as I wipe them away new ones take their place.

When I am unsettled like this, when the lure of activity comes over me like a rash, all I want to do is get up and about and do all the jobs I have listed in my mind. I do not want to sit here at the computer typing words onto a screen. I do not want to engage with my thoughts. I am on the run, a cortisone induced run perhaps, though I think that may be fanciful.

I have kept the dosage to a minimum merely trying to avoid a recurrence of the dreadful rash that overtook me several weeks ago and appeared to be making a return only a few days ago.

It seems to have settled again as I wean myself off the cortisone.

You need to reduce the dose of cortisone gradually the doctor told me, in order to trick your body into believing that it needs to start producing its own again, otherwise it might shut up shop believing the rush will come from elsewhere.

That’s very much a layman’s way of describing a physiological process and the ways in which the introduction of chemicals can fool your body into believing it need not do its own work.

The phone rings and it’s my mother. Her accent thick over the line.
‘I want to talk to you,’ she says. She sounds breathless. ‘What did I forget? Oh yes, I think I forgot your birthday. I’m sorry. I forget everything.’
‘That’s okay,’ I say. ‘Don’t worry.’
‘You’re so good to me and then I forget your birthday.’
I try again to reassure my mother, to let her know I understand. ‘It’s hard to remember one day from the next.’
‘I’m alright,’ my mother says but her voice sounds broken. It’s just that it comes back to me all of a sudden.’
The conversation ends here after I promise to visit the next day.
‘You’re busy, I know’ my mother says. Now it’s her turn to understand.

My mother when she was beginning to develop a memory circa 1919.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

The bitter taste of a necessary bane.
The cortisone or people's reaction to reading your thesis?
Long bow, but it was a connection that crossed my mind as I read your post.
Glad you have made good progress with both.
Oh, and a happy belated birthday.
Karen C

Snowbrush said...

Elisabeth, I don't know if you used a pill cutter, but I'll just say that they work better than a knife or trying to break the pill along a factory score line. Yet, even with a pill cutter, some pills are going to crumble. I don't know why they can't glue them together better.

Christine said...

Likewise, belated birthday wishes. I am sorry to learn you are still struggling with that rash. Hopefully the cortisone is doing its work and hopefully they thesis readers will do theirs'.

Marja said...

A belated happy birthday to you and happy birthday with your daughters.
I know the feeling of having so much to do. I am a bit overwelmed at the moment myself. About the thesis. You are such a greater witer I trust completely that they will love it.
Love the picture of your mum and the nice words "for my sweet ant Greet. What a nice selfmade? present

Ms. Moon said...

Life- bitter at times and never easy to break off into manageable pieces.

River said...

A tiny spoonful of honey will take away the bitter taste.
Tha's a nice photo of your mum, tiered skirts were very popular back then weren't they?

Glenn Ingersoll said...

The lingering bitterness of the medicine, the persistent presence of dust. Evocative details.

"beginning to develop a memory ..."

Les Trois Jardins said...

Hi Elisabeth,
My internet connection is very fickle and many a time my comments on your blog disappeared into cyber space forever.
Anyhow, one more try: happy birthday to you and your daughters.
The sun stands low and I just cannot bear seeing what needs to be done, but there is a saying: a working woman must accept seeing dust. Your guests will acknowledge you for the warm welcome, the party they are sharing with you, not because of the dust you have cleaned away ...
As to your mother: I read the tremendous fight in your posts, the war traumatised issues between your family. Your mother was an adorable girl in that picture, with hopes and dreams and as her life went on had to cope with the situation and deal with it. We can say certain things are not the way we would have done it, but we have to do things with the tools we have been given.
Life is so short, Elisabeth, try to relax, walk out of your house today and breath in the fresh open air. Be aware of whom you really are and the beauty around you. Your thesis will be alright, you are a wonderful writer.
Dank je voor je lieve woorden op mijn blog!
Happy day!
Jacoba

Isabel Doyle said...

Best wishes for all the family birthdays (including late ones for your birthday) - interesting how they clump together, isn't it? In my family there are too many in February.

Many drugs seem to play tricks and need managing.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve just weaned myself of a corticosteroid inhaler. When I was having my mental health problems a while back one of the side-effects was an increase in the frequency and severity of my asthma attacks and the only solution was to use a preventative inhaler in addition to my regular Ventolin inhaler. I had expected to wean myself off it sooner than this but it took a while. I have no problems taking medication when it’s needed but I worry that if I use something for too long my body will develop a resistance to it and I’ll need to move onto stronger and stronger medicines.

I used to find waiting for things much harder than I do these days. As I’ve said before (possibly to you but it’s really hard to remember who I’ve said what to these days) when I was younger I used to go round saying, “I know three definitions of ‘patience’: a girl’s name, a game of cards and an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan – I know no other,” and that is how I felt whereas nowadays time passes so quickly. In Milligan and Murphy the two protagonists meet an old man on the road who they find is looking for someone and one of them asks him what he’s going to do if he finds him, to which the old man replies:

“When I find him? Oh, I don’t expect to find him. Finding him has never been the issue. Looking has; looking rather than waiting. It’s more… proactive, looking for what you know you’ll never find rather than waiting for what will never arrive. Don’t you think?”

I had to go to the bank yesterday – something that couldn’t be handled over the phone – and the nice lady who helped said that I’d get the document I was looking for in a few weeks. And do you know what? I never batted an eye. She also kept apologising for how long everything was taking. This is something I’ve experienced with this bank before. I’ve even had staff approach me in the queue telling me it’ll only be a few moments before I’m seen and there’s maybe one person in front of me and I can see it’s going to be only a very short time before I’m going to be attended to. It’s nice, I suppose, but a bit unnecessary and I don’t like the subservient atmosphere that comes with such attentiveness.

What does annoy me is when people give me a time frame and then don’t do what they’ve said they’re going to do within that given time frame. I was taught at work to never say I’d call someone back in ten minutes when I knew full well I was going to be half an hour. Better to say half an hour and call them back in twenty minutes.

I’m glad your mum called. Days – and by that I mean specific dates – aren’t so important as being remembered. I sometimes feel birthdays and anniversaries are like little tests, ways of proving our love: he remembered me at a specific time = he must love me. My wife half-jokingly-half-seriously referred to Valentine’s day as “a holy day of obligation” and, although I’m a dutiful person and wouldn’t forget, love trumps duty every time. I don’t shower her with little pressies these days. In the first few years it was common for me to turn up with some bit of jewellery or flowers or a nice bottle of wine. Now, mainly because I go out so rarely, it doesn’t happen so much and it’s more likely to be a cake but I prefer these spontaneous expressions rather than the official ones.

persiflage said...

Your mother will be glad she did remember your birthday, and I am sure that you are too. I too was going to suggest having honey with the cortisone. I remember giving children tablets with jam or honey. I hope that rash stays away.
I had not realised your thesis had been finished. Well done. What an achievement for you. I am sure all your family and blogging friends feel very proud of you.
I had dinner with a friend the other night and one of the other guests had been to an FCJ school in England. Such coincidences. I was the first FCJ student she'd met since then! Small world. and all because we started talking about Ireland.

Alittlesprite said...

I know how you feel right now... I have to swallow five evil tasting little steroid tablets with my coffee in the morning.
Congrats to your girls birthdays :)

susan t. landry said...

elisabeth,
i like how well your writing in this posting expresses the sense of momentum and agitation that the content suggests. time in its callous march sometimes feels right, it has a rhythm that we can work with, live with; other times it's just a hopeless scramble. to be honest, sometimes i forget how old my son is; his actual age is unreal, a year or two in either direction doesnt make it any more real!
best to you...

Laoch of Chicago said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pill_splitting#Pill_splitters

Lolamouse said...

Belated birthday wishes to all. Nice metaphor with the cortisone crumbling. We try to regain a little control, and our lives crumble around us! Nothing can be easy, huh?

Anonymous said...

re: the bitter aftertaste of cortisone.
One of my sons was asthmatic and required cortisone when he was still quite young. Having been warned by the GP that the taste would make it difficult to administer I asked if I could crush it and hide it in a favourite food.
The doctor replied that it wasn't a good idea. "He'll never eat that food again!"
I work with people who rely on cortisone just to get out of bed everyday and a very dear friend has a condition where his body no longer makes its own cortisone and so he is reliant on it - and adjusting the dose - every day. Unfortunately, he has a co-morbidity that is threatened by the cortisone he relies on to stay alive. So he is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting his meds.

A short course for a specific period? There are worse things - believe me.
Karen C

Kathryn Magendie said...

I saw so much in this post - melancholy, hope, love, loss, beginnings, endings - and the photo at the end -so poignant.

Happy Belated Birthday to you, as well . . .

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the birthday greetings, Karen and for your thoughts on the efficacy of cortisone. I'm not so skeptical of its benefits now.

Elisabeth said...

Maybe they could glue pills together better, Snow, but it might interfere with their composition. We wouldn't want to add any unnecessary extras into our bodies now, would we?

Thanks, Snow.

Elisabeth said...

The rash has disappeared again, Christine. Thanks to the wonders of cortisone and this time I hope it's gone for good.

thanks for the birthday greetings.

Elisabeth said...

I knew some of my Dutch friends might be able to translate the words on my mother's photo, Marja.

Thanks for your kind birthday greetings to me and mine. I'm only now beginning to feel a little more settled after yesterday's run of birthday celebrations but we start up again next week.

And then - wouldn't you know it? - it'll be time for Christmas.

Thanks, too, for your optimism about my thesis. It's reassuring.

Thanks, Marja.

Elisabeth said...

Oh those damned unmanageable pieces of life, Ms Moon, the bitter pills we have to swallow. But somehow we do.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

I have my doubts that even honey could hide the taste of a crushed cortisone pill, River. Though I may be wrong here.

I'm glad you like my mother's photo in her cute tiered skirt. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Those little details - the dust, the taste - are often the stuff of memory, as you suggest, Glenn. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Ah Jacoba, another of my dear Dutch friends. I can only imagine all those other messages from you that have disappeared into the ether, but it's good to know they exist, like dust motes which can be very beautiful.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment here. Life is a struggle, especially when it is busty and made more complex by the demands of our pasts and our present connections and all the other issues, things and people that fill our lives.

I'm not sure I would want it any other way. It's all part of the rich tapestry of life.

Thanks, Jacoba.

Elisabeth said...

February is a significant month for me, too, Isabel - my father's birthday, my oldest daughter's birthday and ten days later the anniversary of his death in 1982, which coincides with the anniversary of the date of death of his first born daughter in 1945.

Life and death hold hands throughout our lives and anniversaries to me are the great markers of this.

Thanks for your birthday wishes, Isabel.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you on the importance of spontaneous show f affection, in whatever form they come, Jim, rather than the official ones on so-called 'holy days of obligation'. Please thank Carrie for this wonderful expression.

As for waiting, I'm reasonably good at it, but like you i hate to be told something will take ten minutes and then to be told, sorry, another half hour and then still later only another half hour when the person on the giving end knew all along it'd take over an hour.

Waiting is meaningful for infants big time. It's the difference between life and death or maybe feels like that for us when we're tiny and completely helpless.
I suspect that's where all the angst about being kept waiting begins. When we are adults and fined ourselves still out of control and dependent on the good will of others, it can be disturbing. That's why it matters when people can recognise how difficult it is to wait.

I loathe the fact that when I go for a medical appointment I must factor in a certain amount of indeterminate waiting. I can understand at some level that it might be inevitable but I also think medical practitioners could work out their schedules better. Everyone's time matters, not only those pf the doctor.

Still to give the medical establishment credit I think they are trying harder these days to work these things out. I know emergencies happen that can take longer than expected.

I suppose the same could be said for tradesmen. So often things take longer than planned. For novel writers, too.

For all of us, if it comes down to it. We might want certainty, but we may still be kept waiting, or keep others waiting.

Even in the blogospehre, where our responses - like this lot from me today - can be a bit long in the tooth in coming, we must wait.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

Your comment here, Persiflage, reminds me yet again of what a small world it is - the FCJ reference.

When I was at school all those years ago I imagined what it might be like to be an 'old girl'. Now I am one, I find myself disappointed that I can rarely locate the ones I felt closest to then.

Have you see the Face Book connection to the Vaucluse branch of the FCJs? I imagine Genezzano has its own counterpart.

I am glad my mother remembered my birthday, but in some ways, she reassured me last night, she did not entirely forget. She noticed it marked in her calendar and had intended to ring me but by the time she was sitting back near the phone the intention had slipped away again.

Thanks, Persiflage.

Elisabeth said...

Five foul tasting tablets for breakfast, Little sprite, it sounds grim. Presumably it all helps.

Thanks for your good wishes for my girls. And happy pill taking. I'll think of you in the morning when next I take my half.

Elisabeth said...

Susan, when I reminded my mother during my visit last night that my youngest daughter at 18 is now an adult and that I have no more children of child age, she said half jokingly: 'you must be old'.

It's all relative, this age business.

I, too, can scarcely believe I have a daughter who will soon turn thirty. How fast the years roll along.

Thanks, Susan.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the pill splitting link, Loach. It's much appreciated.

This morning I snapped the pill between my fingers aiming at the central indentation and it worked better than when I had applied a knife. It still tastes awful, though.

Elisabeth said...

Life crumbles around us, Lolamouse, and our bodies become a clear measure of this . At least the pills can help us to survive a little longer.

Thanks for your birthday wishes.

Elisabeth said...

A short course- of cortisone, or anything else for that matter for a specific period?- Karen. There are worse things. I believe you. Thanks for the reassurance. I need it. It's too easy to become precious about medications. Thanks again.

Elisabeth said...

The threads of our lives come together in surprising ways, Kathryn. Thanks for seeing them here and for your birthday wishes.

aguja said...

Wise doctor!

The photograph of your mother is precious indeed.

Kirk said...

Your post reminded me that I have to take my pills.

Great ending!

Anonymous said...

Firstly, let me apologise to everyone who has ever had to wait and wait to see the doctor even though a specific appointment time was made.
I work in a specialist practice.
At the moment we are making bookings for February.
Do you want to wait until February, especially if you are in pain or discomfort and the anxiety of not knowing is more than you can bear? Or you have a child suffering? Or a loved one?
So we listen to you and try to determine which of you is genuinely in need and those of you who think that by agitating they can get a bit further ahead in the queue.
Sometimes it is the GP who really does know the difference asking us to squeeze in an urgent case.
We try to keep our appointments under 40 people in an 8 hour day! Ideally, we would like to keep it under 30 people or 20, but then you would have to wait until April/May/June for an appointment.
It is very difficult to say to someone that while their symptoms may feel bad at this very moment it will probably self-limit. They don't want to hear that from us, they want to hear it from the doctor! Today!
If we give the advice that we are sure he will give, we will be in breach of medical ethics and yet we can safely predict 85% of the callers problems.
Everyone thinks they will only need 5 minutes with the doctor - and then it is the staffs fault that 5 mins becomes 25 mins.
If anyone has an answer to this conundrum - please let me know and I will take it to my staff.

Sorry Elisabeth - railroaded your blog a bit, there.
Karen C

Elisabeth said...

It is a wonderful photo of my mother, one she treasures, as now do I. Thanks, Aguja.

Elisabeth said...

Anything to oblige, Kirk. It helps to be reminded of the need to keep up with your pills.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

It's good to hear from the coal face, Karen, about all these difficulties in dealing with the wait times in medical practices.

Even as I referred to this earlier, the horrors of having to wait within medical establishments when you have a prearranged appointment, I was mindful of how you, in particular, might read my comment ,given your work within the medical world.

There's another issue here that troubles me, given the apparent shortage of medical practitioners across Australia, and presumably elsewhere, the failure to facilitate the opportunity for overseas trained doctors to upgrade their skills to a reasonable competent and safe level in a culturally sensitive way and at a manageable cost to the doctors trying to upgrade.

I suspect that the hierarchy within medical education might at times tend towards elitist notions of who is allowed in and who not. The same applies to other professions I'm sure, including the psychologists and the lawyers.

If only we could talk more openly about these things and have our grievances heard, then we might be able to arrive at better solutions.

Thanks again, Karen. Your gentle hijack is welcome.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Elisabeth. I understand what you are saying, having worked with many professionals in exactly that position. Fully qualified yet unable to practice valuable skills. Elitism is part of the problem but occasionally it works as our best protection.
Even so, if we ever get a government that actually implements strategy it could change the face of medicine and health care here in Aus.
We could talk about this ALL day - but we won't. (The issue of M/care, private insurance and peoples expectations is also another of my bug-bears, but I digress!)
Karen C

yaya said...

Elisabeth, Thank you for visiting my blog. You are a very busy lady indeed! Congrats on finishing your thesis and I hope it all goes well for you. Happy Birthday also to you and your daughters. They both sound like you, very smart and taking on the world! Sometimes I feel like I don't measure up to the accomplished woman I've met in this blogging world! But we all have our talents and abilities and I enjoy reading about what people all over the world are doing. Have a wonderful week. I also wanted to say that I love the picture of your Mother..so sweet and innocent.

erin said...

i feel as though this story is a crocheted table cloth on the table at a great familiar feast. who knows why you gather, but you gather. and one snip in the cloth and who knows how it might undo...

life is just damned hard sometimes, isn't it?

this is truly your mother? i clicked on it. her cheeks are too perfect. this can't be a real child, can it? and her necklace tied beneath her sash. oh, it hurts me, she is so cute.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

What I appreciate most about this write, Elisabeth, is that you find writing to be what grounds you and gets you back to balance, at least that's how I read it. I, too, love how you gather the bits of your life onto a string and I feel them grounded in myself when I read you.

Happy Birthday a bit late! And to your girls too. It must be like Christmas at your place in these weeks! May your body take over from the cortisone and be true to itself, rash-free.

Dave King said...

I feel for you tablet-wise, have had that happen a few times. Also passage-of-time-wise. Time rolls on and you can't believe how old the kids are. Ours now worry about us as much as we worry about them - nearly!

Elisabeth said...

Elitism is a problem, as you say, Karen and to me it's different from upholding standards, which is an essential activity. We could debate these issues endlessly, but it's enough here to recognise them perhaps.
Thanks, Karen.

Elisabeth said...

Ah Yaya, I fear you underestimate yourself. Easily done in the blogosphere where we can sometimes inspire one another and at other times feel very inadequate about our offerings.

In the end we are most likely ordinary folk trying to communicate to one another.

Thanks, Yaya.

Elisabeth said...

This is an old photo of my mother and somewhat perished. My husband photoshopped some of the damaged areas which might give her the look of a doll, but it is indeed an accurate representation of my mother around her second or third birthday circa 1919-1920.

Thanks for your glorious description of these stories, as a table cloth crocheted out of words. And, yes it is all to easy to drop a stitch.
Thanks Erin.

Elisabeth said...

Writing certainly helps to ground me, as you suggest Ruth. It also helps me to make sense of events and experiences that might at times seem incomprehensible.

Thanks for your kind words here.

Elisabeth said...

We're still at the stage, Dave, where we must worry about our children and they are less likely to worry about us, though this will change I expect once we begin to drop our bundles, which is ahead of us, just over the horizon.

Thanks, Dave.

JeannetteLS said...

The comments, as well as the entry intrigued me. I'm not going to repeat much except the hope that the celebrations have been just that. And we who read your blog are really happy you were born, so we can celebrate that well beyond your birthday--which I did not notice.

I was away from blogging, for a bit. The descriptions of the cortisone linger for me and inspire me, actually. But, then, I haven't had to TAKE the yucky stuff in a couple of years! I'm glad it is now working as you wean yourself off.

Doing it quickly can also give you headaches and the jumps--nasty side effects.

Take care, Elisabeth!

Niamh B said...

reading this reminded me i need to wish my cousin happy bday, so thanks for that, and hope you had a good one, enjoyed the read as always

Cait O'Connor said...

Many happy returns. Beautiful writing. The photo of your mother is so lovely.

Elisabeth said...

I'm down to the last fraction of cortisone, Jeanette, and thankfully no jumps or headaches and no withdrawal symptoms. The other symptoms, the itch etc for which i took the cortisone in the first place have all gone, too.

The celebratory period is not yet over as my third daughter celebrates her birthday today and we will have a lunch in her honour along with all the other November birthdays on Sunday to make include the daughter who has been off overseas for the last three months and has only just returned today.

I am on a roll of feverish activity with so much to do and a family wedding of one of our nieces tomorrow.

Thanks, Jeanette. It's good to see you blogging again.

Elisabeth said...

It's lovely to see you here, Cait, and thanks for your kind words.

Elisabeth said...

I'm glad to have reminded you of your cousin's birthday, Niamh. I reckon we need all the reminders we can get.

Thanks.

KleinsteMotte said...

How can the acceptance of your thesis be in debate? Once you are in the program is it not likely you'll be accepted? Is it not he job of those who mentor you to ensure your success? if you fail don't they?
Congrats on all the birthdays that seem to flow together. Have some FUN!

Zuzana said...

This post made me realize how fleeting life is; we laugh, we love, we cry a bit, we struggle most of the time - and then we start to forget and before we know it, it is all over... So we better live each day to the full.;)
Love that vintage image, what a cutie your mom was.;))
xoxo

Elisabeth said...

I'd like to think there can be no doubt about my thesis getting through, Kleinstemotte, but I have found the world to be a strange place at times and it is not totally impossible that some person who reads my thesis and has the power to say 'no' might do so. I hope not, but it's possible and I am not inclined to count my chickens too soon.

Thanks again, Kleinstemotte for your confidence in me and for your good wishes.

Elisabeth said...

I realise more and more every day, Zuzana the fleeting nature of life. As they say time speeds up as we grow older.

Thanks, Zuzana.