Grandma D

 

I don’t generally tell these types of stories about my family. There are a lot of them. I don’t really know where they go in my life. It’s really sad, but also kind of funny in a terrible way.

 

I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately. I am not really sure why. I did not know her at all. She died when I was 22. You might wonder why I didn’t know her considering I was an adult when she died. And the answer is…

 

I don’t know.

 

This is one of those weird things that my family refuses to talk about. I remember her calling sometimes when I was growing up. She’d call and after I said “hello?”

 

She’d say, “It’s Grandma D. Is this Maurna?”

 

And I’d cautiously say “Yes…” (This was before caller ID, for all you youngsters).

This shit was life changing. Suddenly you could avoid people without missing the calls you wanted to get.

There’d be a long pause where I would hold my breath, waiting for her to ask me something, anything about myself. Instead she’d reply with, “Is your father there?”

 

And I’d either say yes and get him, or say no and tell her he’d call back. She never asked me anything about my life. We never said more than those few phrases to each other.

 

Sometimes it felt like we were reading from some alienating, dysfunctional script. But we weren’t. We were just so unknown to each other, it was an impossible barrier to breach. I guess we were alienated and dysfunctional.

 

When she died, I felt nothing. I still feel nothing about her being dead. She was a voice on the phone and a picture I once saw of her. Nothing more.

 

Until my father went out to go through her things. She lived in the desert in Arizona. In a single wide trailer with no AC. Her truck was 40 years old and also had no AC.

 

She was an interesting lady. She owned a co-op that she had started herself. It began with her pulling clothes from the trash (a habit I seem to have picked up) and cleaning and mending them and giving them away to the poor or needy.

Seriously. My favorite shirts are from the trash.

Soon she was going to the dump and picking up broken appliances and fixing them, cleaning them, and taking them to her co-op. Everything was sold by donation only at her co-op. You could work a few days in the shop or just take what you needed.

 

When she died, she had branched out into food as well. She had volunteers that would dumpster dive at grocery stores and collect prepackaged or unspoiled food items to give away too. I hear she was even working with local farmers to donate surpluses.

 

In some ways I really admire her for doing all these things. It is exactly the kind of thing I could see myself doing. But in another way, that fact scares the fuck out of me. Because she was mentally ill.

 

She went to the dentist one day and got sick. For some reason, she decided that the dentist was trying to poison her. She became increasingly convinced of it. So much so that she stopped eating.

And starved herself.

To death.

I don’t really know why she didn’t just lock it up.

When my father went out to her place, he found that she was a hoarder. Most of my family is, in my opinion. She had stacks of clothes waiting to be taken to the co-op. And appliances. And jewelry. And envelopes full of money.

This is about what I imagine.

Lots of money. She was a multi-millionaire. Living in the desert with no AC. Starving herself to death.

 

She was actually my favorite of all my grandparents. And I guess, in a weird way, we were the closest. We seem to have the most in common.

 

I don’t even know why I wrote this. I guess I thought sharing it might get it out of my head a bit. And it did. I promise to be funny again next time.

Undead

It’s no secret that I should probably be dead. Evolutionarily, there is no real reason for my existence. In fact, if I had lived just 50 years ago, I probably would already be dead. I am merely alive through the sheer chance of science and modern medicine.

 

And that makes me undead.

I hope we have the technology to reanimate skeletons when I die. I am so in. After science has it’s way with me.

 

I am living a sort of second life. It is the life beyond what I should have lived. In all honesty, I am probably living a fourth or fifth life at this point.

 

Let’s examine the evidence:

 

I’ve had between 5 and 10 minor to major strokes. I’ve had 5 heart surgeries. Any one of those things should have killed me. Those things have killed many other people before me and will kill many more after me.

My first intentional pun!

I’ve fallen down a flight of stairs. On two separate occasions. Both of which could have resulted in a broken neck. I can only attest my surviving those incidents to my yoga and cat-like reflexes.

My reflexes are as good as this kitten’s.

I swallowed at least one, fairly large piece of glass. Which I suspect is still floating around waiting to lodge itself in some crucial organ. Like my lungs.

microscope lens

Excuse me, I just need to go swallow this real quick.

Not to mention all the things in my environment that are trying to kill me. For example, one time I brushed up against a plant at work. It had been recently sprayed with pesticides. I found out the hard way that I am allergic to them.

 

I broke out in hive all across my neck and throat. And then my face. And then my arms and hands. And then my throat started swelling so bad that I couldn’t turn my head. Or pesky other things, like breathe.

 

 

Know what’s sexy? Not hives.

I still don’t know what the pesticide was. Every once in a while, I will re-discover it and break out in hives again. It’s sort of like being a detective adventurer, except I could die.

 

Then there was the time my air conditioner broke in the middle of summer. I came home to a house that was almost 120 degrees. The AC men came out and fixed it, but after they left, I kept noticing a weird smell.

 

I let it go for a few days, but I felt like it was getting stronger, so I called them back. They said it was leaking freon, which they claim didn’t smell like anything. (Then what was I smelling, huh?!) They couldn’t fix it that day, but assured me it was no big deal. It was only harmful to people with heart problems.

 

It wound up taking them over a week to fix even after I told them I did have heart problems.

 

So, I am sick, and clumsy, and unlucky, and allergic to life. And I haven’t even mentioned my emotional problems. And I can’t even reproduce, not that I wanted to.  So why am I even alive, from an evolutionary standpoint? I really don’t know. Hopefully I am funny enough to be using up all the resources I am.

 

What about you guys? Are any of you undead too?

11 Dumb Ways to Die

I make a lot of jokes on here about the ways I am likely to die. I am not in any particular rush to die, but I am also not afraid of it either. I am a little concerned with how I die however. So I thought I would tell you all the top ways I am convinced I am going to die. (J, if you are reading this, you may want to just stop here, it’s all death jokes after this).

 

I hope this doesn’t  turn into some self-fulfilling prophecy where I get famous for some reason and then some crazy fan decides to murder me. But if it happens, it happens.

 

I have long expected to be stabbed to death in a laundromat. I have mentioned it here and here. I had a death dream about it once. Did you guys see that episode of Adventure Time with the cosmic owl in Jake’s death dream? Like that but in a laundromat instead of space. Also, anyone that has spent time in a laundromat can sympathize with that fear.

Adventure Time!

In all honesty, the way I am truly most likely to die is of a stroke. I’ve already had somewhere between 5-10 of them at this point. I’m starting to feel like my continued existence is taunting life. Like I am daring it to give me more health issues. “Is that all you’ve got, universe?!”

Knowing me, yes. Probably.

I definitely have liver failure to look forward to. Between the heart medications, the migraine medication and now the back pain medication, my liver has aged about 80 years. In case the government is reading this, some medical marijuana would go a long way to reducing my risk of liver failure (nudge, nudge). I’d probably already be dead if I drank on top of my prescription drug usage.

But since I am responsible and care about my lung health, I’d get prescription marijuana brownies.

My most recent ex has inspired many friends, co-workers, and courtroom sheriffs to suggest I buy a gun for home self defense. While I can see the appeal of owning a gun, I have literally never touched a real gun. In fact, I have barely touched a fake gun. My parents didn’t allow us to have fake guns growing up. And you’d best believe that I am an insufferable asshole when I get my hands on one. But I am 100% convinced that if I have a gun in my house, someone is going to break in and shoot me with it. If someone wants to kill me, they need to bring their own gun.

I pretty much act like this. With any toy gun. And make shooting noises.

After this post, where I mentioned my proclivity for roadside peddlers I began to realize my bizarre preferences and idiotic curiosity will possibly lead to my death. I’ll pull over to see the history of the sanitary napkin museum (which I know is a real thing and yes I am dying to go), and be murdered by the curator (no offense to the curator, who I am sure is quite lovely). Because I am a moron and will stop to look at anything I find interesting, which is almost everything.

Someday…someday…

Also, while I’m on the subject, I’m going to tell you a few ways I am worried I am going to die that don’t actually make sense:

 

Zombie apocalypse. There is no way I am living through that shit.

Nope!

 

Traveling back in time and dying from a disease that there is a cure for now, but that didn’t have one then. Apparently, it has a name: Chronohypochondia. 

 

Tripping and accidentally falling off a building/down a flight of stairs or escalator/into a woodchipper/through a piece of glass/out a window.

Only I would die. Or herniate a disc. I’m that good.

Monsters. Even though I don’t believe in them.

 

Cutting myself on some craft supply, like a crystal or animal tooth and dying of some as yet undiscovered disease (though it would hopefully be named after me which would be pretty sweet).

 

Choking to death on something alone in my apartment. Actually, if you guys saw the way I eat, that isn’t so far-fetched.
And then, finally, the way I hope to die. In my 90s, peacefully weeding my herb garden. I’ll be wearing a big straw hat and some god awful pants because I will be a bad ass old lady that does not give a fuck. I hope I just lie down to take a rest and never wake up.

 

UPDATE: I just remembered two other ways I want to die. Spontaneous combustion or in the middle of sex. You cant get too mad at either of those amazing choices.

Hitch-hiking

When I was 26 I lived across the street from the beach. It was a tiny apartment, less than 500 square feet. I didn’t mind the size of the place. What I really minded was that there was no washer and dryer. You may recall from this post, that I firmly believe that I am going to be stabbed to death in a laundromat. I had a death dream.

 

Cosmic Owl!

 

I had to take my laundry down to this seedy beachside laundromat in a Winn Dixie shopping plaza. It wasn’t cool and vintage, it was just gross and old. It was right next door to a seedy beachside bar.

Also, they were always out of order.

I don’t drink, but I spent many Wednesday evenings getting hit on by those drunken morons. I was trapped in the laundromat. It was lit with harsh lighting and there was no air conditioning. The sound of the fans and dryers was maddening. The men next door would see me walk in and come over to ‘keep me company.’ And all the time, I was worried, wondering if I was going to die that evening.

 

One day as I was pulling out of the lot, I saw a very old man crossing the parking lot. He was using a grocery cart as a cane  and limping. I couldn’t tell where he was headed, but I felt compelled to pull over.

 

I rolled down my window. “Excuse me. Can I give you a ride?”

 

The man looked startled. “Oh. I am just walking to the bus stop.” He gestured to the stop that was half a mile away.

 

“I really don’t mind giving you a ride. I’m sure you don’t live too far away.”

 

“Are you sure?” He looked very hesitant about getting into the car with me. Like I might be a serial killer (which is a legitimate concern as there was a female one in that very county).

 

Florida is known for many terrible things.

 

“Yeah. I mean, as long as you aren’t going to murder me or something.”

 

He started laughing very hard. “Well, I think I am too old to murder anyone these days.”

 

“If only you were a few years younger, huh?”

 

He laughed even harder and then succumbed to a coughing fit. I decided to stop kidding with him. I didn’t want to be responsible for his death. Death by laughing.

I love making smokers laugh.

He got in and I drove him to his place. He lived a few miles away. We had a pleasant conversation. He was very thankful for the lift.

 

When I pulled into his complex he turned to me. “I appreciate this so much. You’ve made my day. And my neighbors’ too. They’ll have plenty to say about me getting a ride home from such a pretty young girl.”

 

“Hopefully, I just improved your street cred with the ladies.” And I winked at him. Just so you guys know, I have the unsexiest wink in the world. I invented my own emoticon for it. ;V That’s the face I make when I wink.

 

I don’t know if he got my joke, but he laughed again, probably at my terrible winking skills. And I told him that I was at the laundromat every Wednesday and would be happy to give him a ride home anytime he saw my car there.

 

But I never saw him again. And I haven’t given anyone a lift since.

 

Guns And…

While working in the meter reader type position mentioned here, I had another experience that I wanted to share.

It was a lovely fall day and I was walking through a particularly gorgeous mobile home park. I was happily crunching through the leaves and looking at how beautiful the sky was. I love days like that.

About 300 feet in front of me I saw a man out in his backyard. My route was taking me directly towards him. He seemed very engrossed in whatever he was doing on his work table and I didn’t want to startle him. (I am known to be incredibly quiet and sneaky).

I called out to him. “Hello!”

He looked up at me, clearly startled. I continued to walk towards him.  He was a tall man, taller than me. He was burly and bearded and kind of scary looking (which in my experience are usually the nicest guys). He was wearing what I thought were suspenders.

It turns out it was a gun holster. Which I found out when he pulled a gun from it.

You can understand my confusion.

I stopped dead in my tracks (no pun intended). I looked around me, hoping someone else was around to intervene, or at least bear witness at the murder trial.

I was alone with him. I then looked to try to find a tree or bush or shed to duck behind. But there was nothing. I had stupidly wandered into a clearing like Bambi’s mother.

And children everywhere were traumatized.

I looked up at that perfect blue sky I had just been enjoying. I looked at the fallen leaves I had moments ago been happily crunching.

Luckily, this was during my heart surgery days and I had long ago come to grips with my mortality. I long ago stopped fearing death. I was ready to die whenever death came ( I had just expected it to come on the operating table or recovery room).

All I could think was that I was going to die. After living through all those heart surgeries only to be shot by this random stranger. What a stupid way to die. And that would have been the last thing I thought in this life if he had shot me.

Only a few seconds had passed with all these thoughts racing through my mind.

The man was definitely holding a gun. He looked at it and looked at me. “Oh, don’t be alarmed.” He smiled.  His smile was not reassuring.

How could I not be alarmed? He had clearly seen me. He had pulled a gun on me. What the fuck was going on?!

“There’s a cougar in the woods.”

“Okay.” Was this some kind of code? Was he a spy?

“It climbed a tree and landed in my neighbor’s yard the other day. And since I’m out here working alone… I thought I would feel safer with a gun.”

Turns out he meant a real cougar.

“And you thought I would feel safer with you pulling it on me?”

“No. I didn’t want you to walk up and see me wearing a gun in a holster. But in retrospect, what I did was actually much worse.” He laughed.

I laughed. Still very uncomfortable and unsafe feeling.

“Look, you can come closer. I’ll put my hands up.”

So, even though he had a gun and I didn’t, he put his hands up. I walked towards him.

It turns out he was a really nice guy. He was an artist that did metalworking. (Which is totally sexy). I wound up talking to him for about an hour about his art and my art. It’s too bad he wasn’t 30 years younger.

This stuff is sexy. Or is that just me?

And that’s how a senior citizen pulled a gun on me.

Grey Out, Black Out

Sometimes smart people do very stubborn and dangerous things. Usually those stubborn things involve doctors or dentists. These days I am very conscientious about my health. But that wasn’t always the case.

 

My senior year of high school, I was 17 and walking out to the parking lot at the end of the school day. I was in excellent physical shape and not doing anything remotely exertive. I started feeling weird.

 

I can’t even describe that initial feeling to you. I couldn’t tell what was going on. I just felt…tired. So I sat down for a few minutes. The feeling passed and I never bothered with mentioning it to anyone.

 

The following year, in Miami, I was working in an unventilated storage unit. It was hot and humid and miserable and I started feeling a bit dizzy. So I sat down and again the feeling passed. I figured I was just overheated and again promptly forgot about it.

 

After a few episodes similar to this, my symptoms started to escalate. I began to have the sensation of my vision tunneling. The tunneling began to be followed by a complete grey out. The edges of my vision would darken and begin to contract until I couldn’t see anything. But I was still conscious. It even happened a few times while I was driving.

This is from Wikipedia and is exactly what it looked like. Except for the cows.

This is from Wikipedia and is exactly what it looked like. Except for the cows.

 

Yes, I am saying that I would sometimes be driving, in a moving vehicle, completely blind. And I doubt I am the only one this has happened to. It’s a kind of terrifying thought.

 

By the way, this phenomenon is a common occurrence in aircraft test pilots.

 

But I didn’t think too much of it by that point. I had grown accustomed to these weird experiences. I still didn’t think they were serious enough to inspire me to even schedule a doctor’s appointment.

 

Until it started getting really bad. One day A (my bf at the time) found me collapsed and leaning against the side of the house after doing some yardwork.

 

So I scheduled an appointment with a general practitioner. He couldn’t see me for two weeks, but there was no rush. I assumed it was my blood sugar giving me issues.

 

But my situation escalated faster than I could have predicted. The next day I was at work, driving down a very busy major road. I was in the far right hand lane of a six lane highway.

 

Suddenly, my vision began to tunnel. My face was getting warm and I could both feel and hear the blood circulating in my head. My heartbeat felt like it was pulsating in my brain. I started having trouble breathing. I had never felt an episode with so much intensity before. And then, I completely lost consciousness.

 

When I woke up, I had crossed four lanes of traffic. I was in the left hand turn lane. I was inches away from the guardrail. The guardrail that surrounded a 12 foot deep, water filled median.

But it kind of felt like this.

But it kind of felt like this.

I somehow had not hit anyone. But I was really scared. So scared I began to cry. I didn’t drive again for four months.

My doctor agreed to see me the next day. I lost consciousness twice the next morning trying to get ready for the appointment.

 

But I was still so sure it was my blood sugar. Eating always made me feel better after an episode. I could not have even begun to imagine what else it could have been…

 

It never occurred to me for even one second that I had a serious heart problem and was having a series of mini strokes. It turns out it didn’t occur to my doctor either.

 

When my blood sugar tested fine he told me I was just having panic attacks. But not to worry, “lots of women have them.” Yes, he literally said that to me. I was floored, and went from zero to bitch in 0.3 seconds.

 

I explained to him that while I was sure lots of women had panic attacks, I was not having them. I demanded that he run more tests and refused to leave his office. Unfortunately, when I get really upset I get teary eyed and start to shake.

 

I was terrified he was going to send me away and I was going to die. Or worse, black out again while I was driving and kill someone.

 

When the doctor saw me crying and upset he decided to change his tactic. He pulled me into a back room with a female nurse and asked me if I was being abused. I was in an abusive relationship, but again, that wasn’t the issue at hand.

 

Finally, he ran an EKG on me. Mostly, I think to exhaust every option to satisfy my bitch-o-meter.

An EKG, but way more healthy than mine.

An EKG, but way more healthy than mine.

When the EKG printed out the results, he visibly paled. He handed me the printout and told me to “go immediately to the hospital. If you don’t have your purse or insurance information, go without it. Do not stop to eat, do not go by your home, do not go shopping. Go to the hospital.”

 

I was scared and upset and worried that I was dying. But also? I felt vindicated. Having a panic attack, huh? What a misogynistic asshole he was! But who had the last laugh?

 

That’s right, me. I said there was something wrong with me. And not only was there something wrong with me. There was something seriously wrong with me. In your face, Dr. Asshole.

Needless to say, that douche immediately stopped being my primary care physician.

Stress Test

In between the first two of my heart surgeries I had about a month and a half of downtime. All of it spent at home. Waiting for the blood thinners to kick in to the right level to make it safe to have another heart surgery.

 

It was a rough time.

 

Especially since I was still having serious physical issues. So serious that some days I literally could not stand up without blacking out. I would have to crawl to get to the bathroom.

 

I couldn’t drive at this point in my life, obviously. I couldn’t even walk. So I had to convince people to drive me around. But it wasn’t actually that hard. People tend to pity you when you have heart surgery.

 

One day, my little sister came to pick me up to drive me to the cardiologist’s so I could get my blood levels checked. It was a particularly bad day. It was one of those days where I couldn’t stand.

 

While we were driving to the doctor’s office I started feeling really really bad. My breathing started to get ragged and my sister started freaking out. She could see my heart pounding through my t-shirt.

 

We called my nurse and asked if we should go straight to the hospital. I was having trouble breathing. But she said to just come to the doctor’s office.

 

When we got there, my sister had to get me a wheelchair and wheel me in across the parking lot. By the way, if you have motion sickness (like me) never use a wheelchair if you can help it.

 

Before you start feeling too bad for me, you should know something. When I am feeling that badly physically, I feel incredible emotionally and mentally. It’s probably the lack of oxygen going to my brain. But I feel amazing I am cheerful and happy and upbeat. I tend to make a lot of jokes. The nurses over there love me. I am the youngest, happiest person they see.

 

The nurse checked my stats. My heart rate was so high the EKG couldn’t track it. My blood pressure was 60/30. The nurse felt my pulse and said it was somewhere over 200 bpm.

 

She left the room to cry away from my sister and I. She thought I was dying and didn’t want to upset us.  It turns out I was only having a stroke.

 

My cardiologist came in and told me that I needed to go to the hospital. But first, he wanted to do a stress test. I had never done one before. And being super high and hilarious in my delirious state; I couldn’t refuse. I was ready for any adventure, as long as I could do it lying down.

 

So they injected me with some crazy shit to do a chemical stress test. My heart began beating even more rapidly. I was sweating. I still couldn’t breathe and now I couldn’t talk.

 

My sister was sitting in the room. Watching me. There were several nurses I didn’t know. One I did. And my cardiologist.

 

My cardiologist began rubbing my throat. It felt really weird. I remember thinking this is what you do to a cat to get it to swallow medicine. But the medicine I was getting was via an IV.

 

I’m going to level with you here. I was 100% convinced that I was dying. I’d already had two heart surgeries by this point and I knew what abject misery and pain felt like. This was different.

 

I couldn’t talk. All I could do was look my little sister in the eyes and wonder how scarring it was going to be for her to watch me die. Because I was dying, guys. Really and truly.

 

Once I could speak again, the nurse that injected me asked, “How do you feel?”

 

And I told her. “After both of my heart surgeries I wished I had died on the operating table because I felt so awful. If I had had the energy and ability to kill myself, I genuinely would have. And this is the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than I did after those previous surgeries. And you have proven me wrong today.”

 

Then they called the paramedics. The were both young and super friendly and I asked them if they would pull a sheet over my head when they wheeled me out through the crowded doctor’s office lobby. They wouldn’t. Those guys don’t like to joke about death.

 

I got to ride in an ambulance, across the street, to “my” hospital.

 

When I got there, I was like returning royalty. The charge nurses remembered me. I was the only woman on the entire cardiac floor. And also the only patient under 60. But the high point of this experience was my cardiologist making the hospital let me wear my street clothes instead of a gown.

And also, being high from almost dying.