Mom Update #3

Diane and I are spending the night in Mom’s room at the hospital; they’ve got a fold-out bed in the room and have brought in a recliner, so we can be as comfortable as possible (it sure beats trying to sleep on a regular chair, which is all most hospitals seem to provide). Mom’s been sleeping much of the day, but she did wake up enough to talk to her brother on the phone.

Things are quiet here — even though the hospital runs 24/7, the night is definitely “down”. There are a couple of empty rooms on the hallway, too, which further reduces the hubbub.

Mom was restless about 30 minutes ago, and Diane suggested music — Mom asked for Rachmaninoff, but I only had one piece on my computer. So then I thought about seeing if I could make XM’s streaming audio work over Verizon’s “BroadbandAccess” — and it worked just fine. I put it on the 40’s channel, and Mom clearly recognized the music they were playing…then the Atavin kicked in and she went back to sleep.

It’s nearly midnight — I think it’s time for us to try to join her. It may not be easy, though — Mom snores.

Mom Update #2

I didn’t spend the night at the hospital after all — my niece offered to stay so that I could go back to the house and sleep in a real bed.

I’ve been back here since about 10:30am — they’d given Mom’s some Atavin just before 10, and so Mom’s been sleeping pretty well since I arrived. I’m going to make a quick trip back to the house to pick up Diane and Jeff, and if I’m lucky, Mom will be more awake when we return.

Thanks for your support

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone who’s commented, e-mailed, or phoned to express your support, prayers, and love for Mom. I’m passing along the messages.

Mom Update #1

We enjoyed JetBlue’s “ShutEye” service from SJC-JFK (the skycap at San Jose got us seats together instead of being scattered in middle seats all over the plane — but the seats were at the front bulkhead, which meant there was light and noise from the crew, so we had more redeye than shuteye), followed by a quick hop to Richmond; we were at the hospital by 10:30am.

Mom was awake and she was happy to see us (and we were happy to see her!) — all of us spent some time with her before her energy sagged and she fell asleep. We took that as our cue to go to my brother’s house and change, then I came back to the hospital so my brother could get away. Mom was still napping lightly, but a few minutes later, one of my nieces came in, wearing heels. The “tick-tick-tick” was enough to wake Mom somewhat — and a few minutes later, we administered a miracle drug which woke her completely: some of an Edy’s Strawberry Whole Fruit Bar. As the nutritional analysis shows, it’s loaded with energy…and so was Mom!

A few minutes later, my older niece stopped by on her way to work — her timing was great with respect to Mom’s energy level, and they had a good conversation, some of which brought back memories for me, too (especially of a song Mom sang to my brother and me when we were young, and then she inflicted it on the grandchildren, too!). But then the nurse came in and gave Mom some medication, and now she’s asleep again.

My younger niece and I are still here — she’s going to stay through dinner, and then I plan to be here all night (with both of us sleeping, I hope). I doubt I’ll write another update tonight — this one has taken me two hours (hospitals are busy places!).

My most faithful reader

Ever since I’ve started blogging, I’ve had one reader who I could count on to read every entry, to comment occasionally, and even to gently nudge me if I didn’t blog for a long time. I am referring, of course, to my Mom.

But I’m afraid (in more than one sense of the word) that I’m going to lose her very soon, and that’s why we’re sitting at SJC waiting to board a flight to take us back to Richmond.

All was well three weeks ago; then she started to suffer shortness of breath — enough that she went to the doctor, who diagnosed her as having pneumonia and recommended that she be admitted to the hospital for tests. They found the problem: lung cancer. The pulmonary specialist who made the diagnosis told her the prognosis very bluntly and then went on his merry way. That was Friday, April 4, as I was flying home from my trip to the IBM Research Spring Strategy Session.

On the 5th, we flew to Valley Stream for a long-scheduled trip including a few days in Richmond. Mom was back in her apartment and seemed to be doing well — until the night before we went to Richmond. She fell that night and couldn’t get up — but she was able to call my brother and sister-in-law, who were able to help her. And she arranged to have help during the day.

We arrived on the 11th and had a nice visit. We knew about the cancer, but we all tried not to let it dominate our time — and so we visited the University of Richmond, went to ComedySportz, and continued on to Washington on Saturday, as scheduled. I could tell that she was a bit weaker than before, but things didn’t seem dire.

Tuesday night, we flew home. I spent Wednesday at home working (clearing 500 pieces of mail can be done as easily at home as in the office!), and all was fine. Until about 4:30pm, when my brother called me — Mom had had problems the night before, and had fallen in the bathroom and hit her head. She wears a ADT pendant, which she pressed — they called 911 and then my brother. She didn’t want to go to the hospital, and seemed to be holding her own, so he stayed with her.

About 7pm (Pacific), my brother called again. Mom was complaining of being terribly cold, so they were going to the hospital. Later on, he said she was unconscious and not expected to live through the night, so we booked tickets for the 6:30am flight and spent most of the rest of the night packing. We got a couple of hours of sleep (which was probably more than he and his wife managed), woke up at 3:15, and were in a taxi at 4:45, en route to the airport.

Just as we turned into the airport, my phone rang. It was my brother, with the welcome news that Mom had had a transfusion, had strengthened, was talking, and didn’t want us to come out. I didn’t believe it until she told me herself — then we had the taxi take us home and went back to sleep. It was the best trip to nowhere I’d ever had.

We woke around 9 and went to work. I was telling my manager about the story when my phone rang — it was my brother, with bad news again. Mom was bleeding and the prognosis was unclear. I kept working, but started investigating flight alternatives.

The phone calls kept coming, and the news got grimmer with each one. So I booked tickets (again), and here we are.

Jeff and I were able to talk to Mom for a minute or so this evening, and each of us told her how much she means to us. She was able to respond, and my brother told me she was smiling.

I told her how much I loved her, and how she had not only taught me to be a mensch, but that she was a wonderful example of one.

If a miracle happens and you’re able to read this, Mom, I know you’ll be embarrassed. And I don’t care. I love you.

And home again

It’s been wonderful not having to set an alarm, although we might have done better this morning if we had set one. Despite that, we still had enough time to have breakfast at Open City before dashing to the National Zoo for a quick cache hunt (we’d also hoped to see the Bat Cave, which Jeff had really enjoyed when we last visited about twelve years ago, but it’s permanently closed).

After that, we made a quick foray to Bombe Chest, the consignment shop of the Jewish Social Service Agency of Metropolitan Washington — Diane had seen a Lenox Seder Plate like the one we’d lost in the Loma Prieta earthquake in their window when we arrived Saturday night; of course, the shop was closed then. This morning, the plate was gone from the window, but only because they’d put away their Passover items, so Diane bought it and we hauled it home with us. Then back to Open City to get dinner for the plane, off to Dulles, and home (via Long Beach).

We managed to watch most of the last two episodes of The Next Food Network Star on the plane, so it’s time to decide: Reggie or Guy.

But even more importantly, it’s time to call it a night. So I will.

Into every trip, a little rain must fall

I was hoping the rain last night had met our quota for this trip, but that was not to be. This morning was very wet — though I can’t really complain, since none of us found puddles or got splashed. We went back to Open City for breakfast, then took the Metro back to touristland. We got Capitol tour tickets for mid-afternoon, then went back to the Botanic Garden to dry off and look around — the Botanic Garden was probably the tourism find of the trip for us.

We decided to go to Ollie’s Trolley for lunch (Metro daypasses are a mixed blessing, I guess). The Ollieburgers weren’t as good as either Diane or I remembered them as having been when we had them at Lums in Florida, but they were OK — and the line was short. Unfortunately, the restaurant lost its water supply while we were eating, so we had to go across the street to Barnes and Noble to find working bathrooms.

Then we returned to Capitol Hill and visited the Supreme Court. There had been long lines there earlier in the morning because the Justices were hearing oral arguments, but there wasn’t an afternoon session, so we didn’t have to wait. We looked around and stayed for a courtroom lecture at 1:30 — while we were waiting in line, we saw some friends from Shir Hadash, much to everyone’s surprise. The lecture was interesting; I do wish we’d been able to sit closer to the front so we could have seen the friezes on all four sides of the courtroom.

The rain stopped while we were in the Supreme Court, which made it far more pleasant to walk over to the Capitol for our tour. We hadn’t made arrangements in advance for a staff-led tour or gallery passes, so we just did the “regular” tour; it was good, though it was difficult to hear the guide at times. Next time, I’ll plan farther ahead (it’s not as though we didn’t know we were coming to Washington months ago!).

Jeff wanted to go back to Air and Space; Diane and I didn’t. So we dropped him off and wandered over to the Hirshhorn to be bewildered by some of the art (at least I was). I like some modern art. But there’s a lot where I wonder why I’m not included in the joke, because it can’t be real — and the Hirshhorn had more than its share of that type. Canvasses in shades of white just don’t do it for me, I’m afraid.

We had less than an hour before the museum closed, which was actually enough for me; then we rejoined Jeff and did two geocaches on our way back to the Metro. We got off at Dupont Circle again, and this time ended up at Thaiphoon, which we enjoyed. Jeff went for the fully-spiced version of Drunken Noodles and seemed to like it (and, of course, he couldn’t cut the spice with a beer!).

After dinner, we stopped at a cache around the corner from the restaurant, then stopped at Larry’s Ice Cream (good, but the portions were pretty small for the price, though probably adequate for the tenth day of a vacation). Before returning to the Metro and our hotel, we found one last cache for the evening.

Tomorrow, we only have a few hours in DC before we have to head for the airport. I had originally thought about taking Jeff to see Georgetown University, but their tour schedule doesn’t quite fit our flight plans, so we’ll do something else instead. There’s at least one cache at the National Zoo….

I’m not wild about Harry’s

It’s been a long day of tourism, geocaching, and eating.

We started the day in good form, having breakfast at Open City (since their website is only one image, check out their parent’s site instead). We were lucky enough to get a table immediately — the line kept building, and by the time we passed them again on our way to the Metro, there were many many people waiting.

After breakfast, we went back to the hotel to pick up our gear (camera, Palm, and GPS receiver) so we’d be ready for anything. Jeff had plotted out our route; we grabbed day passes and set out for our first stop, the Supreme Court. Since it was Sunday, it wasn’t open — but the outside was impressive. From there, we made a quick detour to the Library of Congress to pick up our first cache of the day; luckily, it was on the outside, since the Library was closed, too.

Then we walked over to the Capitol, which was, of course, closed — and unlike the other two buildings, we couldn’t just walk up the stairs any more. Technically speaking, I guess that meant we didn’t quite get to the virtual cache there, but the owner acknowledged the problems in the cache entry, so we logged it anyway.

Our third cache was at a place we wouldn’t have otherwise visited — and it was well-hidden by greenery, too.

By this time, we were starting to get hungry; we didn’t want to brave the crowds at the eateries at the Smithsonian, and we’d found what looked like a good place to eat during our wanderings yesterday: Ollie’s Trolley. Both Diane and I have fond memories of the Ollieburger from Lums, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity — so, after a brief stop to pick up one more cache (and find restrooms), we took the Metro to Metro Center and walked down to the Trolley.

It was closed. There was only one open restaurant visible, also part of the Hotel Harrington: Harry’s Pub. It didn’t look impressive, but we were hungry, so we decided to give it a try. Not a good decision. I ordered a chicken sandwich without mayo — when it came, not only was it slathered with mayo, but they’d given me an extra container of mayo on the side. Jeff ordered spaghetti without meatballs — he got four. Diane’s order came out OK, but her Diet Coke was flat. And when the bill came, they’d charged $13.75 for the spaghetti, which was supposed to cost $9.75 (still outrageous). After I pointed out that problem and the waitress recomputed the bill, the final total was $10 less than the first time around (but this time, I’d checked the math and it was correct). I decided to pay with cash so they couldn’t screw around with my credit card after I left. I still want to hit Ollie’s Trolley tomorrow, but it’ll be with misgivings.

After lunch, we walked over to Ford’s Theater for yet another cache. This one was slightly tricky, requiring some effort to find the right answers. We also toured The House Where Lincoln Died before returning to the Mall.

Diane wanted to visit the Cezanne exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, but when we emerged from the Metro, I discovered we were mere feet from one more cache, so we logged it (with a detour to Starbucks to get the taste of Harry’s out of our mouths). Then we toured the Cezanne exhibit (no lines!) and a bit more of the Gallery before giving Jeff his chance at Air and Space. We stayed there till they closed the place, then walked to the National Archives and toured the exhibits downstairs before paying our respects to the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights — that kept us busy until the Archives closed at 7.

We finished the evening with dinner at Levante’s, which was quite tasty (I had lamb pide, Diane had spinach pie, and Jeff had chicken skewers) — between the entrees and the delicious bread, we were too full for dessert (and they didn’t have anything very chocolaty on the menu anyway). The rain, which was originally predicted for 3pm, started while we were eating, so we dashed back to the Metro instead of walking back to the hotel.

Tomorrow should be another busy day; Jeff wants to go into the Capitol and Washington Monument. I wonder how the lines will be on Easter Monday?

Slow traffic

I had hoped to be on the road to Washington by 11am this morning. Didn’t happen. But we did leave my brother’s house by 11:30; I tried to convince Diane and Jeff that we should make another shot at Ocultado, but I failed in that, too. We did, however, make a quick stop at Stein Mart so that I could buy a short-sleeve shirt; the weather was significantly warmer than it was when we packed for this trip.

Lunch was, as all too often happens, at the Arby’s at exit 126, just south of Fredericksburg. There’s nothing special about this particular Arby’s; it’s just handy.

It’s a good thing we decided to have lunch when we did, though, because almost as soon as we got back on the highway, the traffic slowed to a crawl and stayed that way almost all the way to the Beltway. Of course, the express lanes on I-95 were going the other way. Once we cleared the Beltway, speeds picked up, but I was worried about being able to check into our hotel and make it back to Hertz before they closed at 3:30, so when I saw we were near 11th Street NW, I detoured to Hertz, dropped the car, and picked up a taxi. DC cab fares are weird — they use a zone map rather than a meter, and they add additional charges per passenger and per piece of luggage — so I can’t tell if I was ripped off or not, but $14 seemed pretty high for a short ride. But it beat having to drive back down to National Airport, so I guess the price was right.

We’re staying at the Omni Shoreham, which we got through Priceline for $80/night plus service charges. This, by far, the best $80 hotel I’ve ever stayed in (the rack rate for the room is about $300, and the AAA rate is somewhere over $140 with tax). And, unlike most expensive hotels, they even have free Wi-Fi.

By the time we were settled in our rooms, it was about 3:30; rather than dash to a museum and only being able to spend a few minutes there, we took Metro to Metro Center and then walked over to the White House, then down to the Mall and onward to the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. Then we turned north, stopping at the WW II Memorial en route to the Metro back to the hotel. Lots of walking!

We had dinner at the second-closest restaurant to the Woodley Park Metro station. The closest was McDonald’s. We passed right by it and went to Medaterra, where Diane and Jeff had chicken dishes and I had lamb skewers (I could smell them cooking and couldn’t resist). It was a lovely evening, so we, along with all of the other patrons, chose the sidewalk tables — partway through our meal, they asked us to please switch tables, because they had put our table in front of the cleaner’s next door and weren’t supposed to do so. We were pleasantly surprised when they brought out dessert on the house: saria, a milk custard with berries. It wasn’t chocolate, but it was very tasty.

Jeff is going to plan tomorrow’s sight-seeing; it should be interesting.

Caching in the park

Today felt almost like a summer day in Richmond — warm and humid. But, if my memory serves me correctly, not nearly as hot nor as humid as true summer.

We started the day by going geocaching in Pouncey Tract Park along with my brother and nephew — there were at least three caches there, and we found two of them (the other has a difficulty rating of 4 out of 5; we weren’t the only ones to give up, though I intend to try it again sometime). We called it a morning just in time to beat the first few raindrops, too.

After that, Diane, Jeff, and I went over to my Mom’s house to help her get rid of a pile of obsolete paperwork (that seems to be a theme of this trip!). Unlike earlier this week at Diane’s dad’s house, Jeff didn’t have to man the shredder — instead, we collected several bagfuls of paper to bring to my brother for later destruction.

When it came time for dinner, we made a mistake, although we enjoyed dinner a lot. We went to Peking Restaurant on West Broad Street, where we had two kinds of tasty chicken, and then we had dessert at Celesti Gelati — again, tasty. The mistake wasn’t obvious until we arrived at ComedySportz, which, unlike ComedySportz San Jose, has a heavy emphasis on food — in fact, they have a one item per person minimum in addition to the admission charge. Fortunately, they sold bottled water (it was fortunate in another respect — the air conditioning wasn’t working), but if I’d realized that they served food and had a fairly broad menu, it would have been easier (and probably less caloric) to have eaten there.

The show was great fun; it was slightly different from the shows I’ve seen in San Jose (for one thing, the teams were larger: four people per team), and I’d happily return.

Then it was back to my Mom’s house for the last time on this trip…we stayed there through a thunderstorm, and now we’re back at my brother’s. Tomorrow, we’re off to Washington.