Small Things Incorporated: Karma Sucks

Corey Gardner managed to get his big black Dodge Ram to Limpid without having to chain up, but it was close. Between the deepening snow and driving one-handed, the other set of digits busied alternately with tipping the fifth of Jim Beam back and reaching across the seat to massage Julie Carlton’s thigh, it was a true contest. He made it, though, thinking, Touchdown! as the three quarter ton truck came to a halt, parked with perfect precision. Just like he did everything with perfect precision…except hang onto his spot on the Grizzlies football team. Or stay on his feet when that little Terrio witch sucker punched him. It was kind of hard to tell which of those two things hurt the most.

Fortunately, he wasn’t really feeling any pain at the moment. Not drunk, not him, just a pleasant alcoholic glow. Okay, still a little irritated, but only a little. Julie was three times better looking than that tall Paula anyhoo. “Ready to wow the natives, babe?”

He didn’t wait for an answer, just climbed out and went around to help her down from the jacked-up rig, but he could feel her smile. They were getting to know each other pretty quickly, these past few weeks, and liked what they were finding out.

Paula had the better angle, spotting them as they stood at the table by the door, forking over the necessary dollars for admission. There had been others since she and Cherry had arrived a good hour ago; Hall Bannister was smiling as the money continued to add up. “Gardner’s here,” she said, loud enough for her paramour to hear, “and with a date, too. Don’t recognize her; do you?”

Cherry Terrio’s view was blocked by a couple on the dance floor, but Kandace Wilkins happened to be sitting on Paula’s other side, and Kandace was the undisputed Champion Gossip of Limpid. The fifty year old Sunday school teacher also had batsonic hearing, picking up rumors and titillating tidbits and passing them on faster than the National Enquirer. Didn’t seem to be worried about the Ninth Commandment, either; Mrs. Wilkins believed every tittle-tattle tale she broadcast to be absolutely true, so she couldn’t possibly be bearing false witness against her neighbors, now could she?

“That’s Julie Carlton,” she informed them, faded blue eyes alight with pleasure in her pudgy face. “She’s the new music teacher at Granite Crag High School.”

Coming from any other source, that would have been an innocent, factual bit of information… but with Kandace Wilkins, innocence wasn’t in it. There was so much more, unspoken but lying just below the surface, waiting for her listeners to swallow the hook of implication. Older music teacher dating teenager! Scandalous! There will be repercussions!

Cherry and Paula, who as New York City natives had been around the block a time or three, weren’t about to be sucked in that easily. They simply nodded, giving Kandace nothing more. Paula hadn’t noticed the older woman take that seat right next to her or she wouldn’t have said anything in the first place. For a while, they kept careful watch on young Corey, knowing he might just be ornery enough to try stepping on their toes or something as a way of getting revenge for being knocked out by a mere miniscule female. It looked like he had a little more class than that, though; as the admittedly attractive couple hit the floor for dance after dance, Gardner kept himself and his date well away from the Small Things Incorporated pair.

He did wink at them once from about twenty feet away as he twirled Miss Carlton expertly through a song Cherry was positive she should recognize. Something out of the fifties; she was sure of that much. The young music teacher’s cheeks were happily flushed. Whether from sheer joy at the proximity of her alpha male date, the exertion of the dance moves, or both…whatever. She was clearly enjoying herself and Corey didn’t seem to be holding a grudge for his glass jaw.

Not openly, anyway.

The hours went by quickly enough. Paula accepted occasional dance offers from those local lads bold enough to ask, including one old pervert who leered a lot but wisely kept his hands to himself. That old coot could really cut a rug. Cherry didn’t dance unless it was in the boxing ring, but she truly enjoyed people watching.

It was during a lull between songs that the door opened to admit the last attendee of the night. Paula was politely pretending to listen to the gossip woman. Cherry’s attention, on the other hand, focused sharply on the newcomer. She’d seen her around town somewhere. Not at the café; this lost soul didn’t look like she had two nickels to rub together, let alone the price of one of Marvin Terrio’s gourmet cheeseburgers. In her sixties at a guess, though life had clearly ridden her hard and put her up wet. A lyric from the Waylon Jennings version of Will the Wolf Survive popped into mind: Lines etched on an aging face…. She was wearing a ratty old camel’s hair coat that must have dated back to World War II at least. Dull green slacks. At least she had work boots on her feet, capable of keeping her from frostbite on a night like tonight.

And she was arguing with Hall Bannister at the table. Hm… Cherry leaned over to murmur in Paula’s ear. “Be back in a minute.” If the woman needed a dollar to stay, even if just for the warmth of the dance hall…have to be careful, though. Sticky pride and stiff spines….

It didn’t come to that. “Just the person I wanted to see!” The woman’s countenance lit up. Even then, Cherry couldn’t have called the worn woman pretty, certainly not beautiful, but her smile wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.

“Oh?” A cocked eyebrow did wonders for interrogation. She turned her attention to the ever proper Hall Bannister. The man wouldn’t break a rule to save a life, now would he? “You need the dollar for her to say whatever she’s got to say, Hall?”

“Nah.” He waved a hand dismissively. “Go for it.” Quite a difference, dealing with somebody other than the vagrant. Bannister apparently would bend a rule or two, depending on who was asking. Typical.

Memory kicked in. She did know this woman, though only a little, and only from a distance. The Kandace Wilkins gossip train had its uses after all. “Your name is Lisa? Glad to meet you.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Cherry Terrio, but I guess you knew that?”

“Uh…yeah….” The older woman stared at Cherry’s outstretched hand as though it might bite her if she touched it. No, wait. Not that. Her hands were not exactly free of grime–and wrinkles, so maybe she was older than sixty. Could be she was afraid to shake a clean hand.

Well, then. “It’s kind of loud in here. Hall, could you loan me the key to the side room for a few minutes?”

The caretaker didn’t look overly thrilled at that idea, but he did remove the key from the sizeable ring clipped to his belt. Without comment. Cherry looked over to catch Paula’s eye, palm-flashed all ten fingers twice–twenty minutes–got a nod in return, and they were good to go.

Thankfully, the side room was blessedly quiet. Relatively speaking. With a light flipped on, the two women found seats across from one another at the nearest table. “Lay it on me, Lisa,” Cherry said, figuring this might take a while.

She was right.

The words came out in a rush, gushing forth in hopeless denial of the rejection the veteran of many a dumpster dive clearly expected. “My full name is Lisa Lanthorpe. Took back my maiden name after I got divorced. I’m, uh, I’m an ex con. Did twenty years for murder. Got out three months ago. Been all over western Montana–I was incarcerated at Billings, but grew up outside of Kalispell. So I came home, been looking for work all over, and…nobody will hire me. Nobody. Just…nobody. And now winter is here, and I’m about half froze to death, and I ain’t about to go on food stamps or welfare. I just ain’t.”

She stopped, drawing in a shuddering breath, looking Cherry right in the eye, daring her to give her the brushoff. Expecting it. What she did not expect was the nature of Cherry’s questions. “Do you have a place to stay? Four walls and a roof? With heat?”

“Not here. A room at Granite Crag. Ain’t much, and it ain’t for long, neither. Rent’s due next week, I’m behind already, and old Benjamin…he’s okay, but he can’t leave me there forever without being paid.”

“Granite Crag?” This was interesting. “How did you get here tonight? Catch a ride?”

“As if. Walked. Ain’t nobody gonna give the likes of me a ride. I might murderize ’em or something.”

“Hm. That’s a lot of miles to cover on foot. Specially at this time of year. Tell me about the crime.”

“Long story short? I killed my husband. End of story.”

“Did he have it coming?” Cherry asked quietly, zero judgment in her tone.

Lisa scratched her grimy chin with a grimier fingernail. “At the time, I sure thought he did. Now, twenty years hindsight, I don’t know. He beat on me one too many times, and finally I hauled out his service weapon–he was a cop, doncha know, so I’m a cop killer–and blew three holes in him. But could I have done something different? If I’da knowed then what I know now, yes. Could have run, left him, found a place for battered women. But then? Couldn’t even think of anything like that. Would have had to leave Montana, probably. I never been outside the state. Just couldn’t see any other way out.”

“Angry?”

“Mostly scared. I got mad at him after, for him putting me in that spot. Then I got mad at myself for being dumb enough not to find a different way out. You know, something that wouldn’t have put me behind bars for the next twenty years of my life. One of my friends inside, she talked to me all the time about it probably being karma. If so, all I can say is, karma sucks.”

Cherry chuckled. Who could argue with that kind of logic? She’d seen a bit of rather sucky karma herself, though nothing like Lisa’s experience. The dangers of dealing with anyone who’d been through what this woman had been through were obvious, but she liked her style.

A surprising amount of time had passed by the time they finished their conversation. Lisa headed back out into the storm without a backward glance while Cherry returned the kitchen key to Hall Bannister’s protective custody. Midnight already? Must be; some big-voiced fellow was up on the stage, bellowing cheerfully into the microphone, announcing Ladies Choice.

Oh no. Sure enough, blonde Paula bounced right up out of her chair, crossed the room in a hurry, and fake-curtsied to none other than Corey Gardner as she asked him for this dance. Right in front of Julie Carlton! The girl was good. Not only did the derriere-grabbing young hulk rise to accept her invitation with an ear to ear grin; his music teacher date was laughing as her man was stolen away.

Cherry shook her head, hastening to reclaim their seats before somebody else took them. Only Paula. The go-either-way-in-a-heartbeat blonde had been at least half of the reason for the family’s need to get out of New York in a bit of hurry, but you had to admit, there was nobody else like her. Her impulsive moves didn’t always work out, but they weren’t ever boring, either.

The rush to reclaim their sitting spots wasn’t quite rushy enough. By the time Cherry got back to her own seat, Crazy Randy was already plumping his overweight carcass down where Paula had been sitting. Sigh. Silver lining, though; Gossip Lady launched out of her seat like the thing was on fire. Nobody could clear an area like Randall McThorsen. Two hundred pounds at five-four, soft brown eyes buried in lard, but mostly as Looney Tunes as Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck combined. And let’s not forget P-p-porky Pig. He turned his ever eager gaze her way–of course–and started right in.

“Black River!”

What the hey. She’d just finished a sort-of job interview with a convicted murderer and her partner was out there cheek-to-cheeking with the last guy on Earth she should be entertaining. The whole town would be talking before the café opened on Monday. Why not be seen happily conversing with the community’s premier nutcase? “Black River?” She inquired politely, knowing this would really open the floodgates. Responding to Crazy Randy had predictable consequences.

“One hundred and sixty trillion particles!” He nodded enthusiastically. “Magnetite! Black Tourmaline! Garnet!”

“Garnet? Isn’t that a ghost town in Granite County?”

“Rainbow clock! Ten thousand people’s spaces! Rainbow clock!” Randy wasn’t quite spitting with excitement. Close, though. It wasn’t every day another human being–presuming Randy was human, which might be a bit of a stretch–deigned to actually talk to him. “Mental body! Etheric!”

“People generally think you’re a mental body, all right. How old are you, Randy? Thirty-five? Somewhere in there?”

“Divine love! Lawgivers! Genetic breaker! Infections!”

Cherry glanced around. Yep, more space was clearing out around them; she now had three empty seats to her right, while Crazy Randy had four empties to his left. One thing about the boy, he could clear a fair portion of a room in a hurry. Legend had it they’d kicked him out of Warm Springs because he drove them crazy. Drugs didn’t work, and shock therapy had been outlawed in Montana for some time now.

“Tire flat off the rim!”

And so it went. Strangely enough, Cherry realized she was starting to find the man’s nonsensical outbursts entertaining. What did that say about her life? Bemused, she didn’t even realize the Ladies Choice dance was over until Paula stood right in front of her and asked if maybe she was ready to go home.

Home? Yeah, she was ready. “Take care of yourself, Randy,” she said, rising to go.

“Rancher’s choice!” He responded. “Cable car!”

Outside, the silence struck a nearly physical blow. Nothing like stepping into a crisp Montana night full of snow to realize just how loud the dance hall had been. On the way home, she carefully refrained from asking her girl what on Earth she’d been thinking when she asked Corey Gardner to dance. Paula, however, felt no such inhibition. Inhibitions weren’t her main thing, to put it mildly.

“So,” the leggy blonde asked, “how’d it go with the bag lady?”

“Her name is Lisa,” Cherry snapped, “and she’s not a bag lady. She’s a murderer who offed her husband for being a jerk. Which maybe you should keep in mind before setting out to stir up more trouble with the guy I clobbered no so very long ago, you think?”

This struck Paula as hilarious. Her laughter rang out, a sound that made the corners of Cherry’s mouth turn up in spite of herself.

“What? You think it’s funny?”

“Nope!” She stifled herself, albeit with some effort. “I think you’re funny, boss lady!”

“Oh, do you, now?” Visions of whips and chains and handcuffs flitted through her mind. Unfortunately, this girl enjoyed those far too much; they simply wouldn’t work as punishment.

“Sure do.” Sobering, she explained. “Honey, we all know this is a teeny tiny town. I could see half a dozen heads turn when you and Lisa went into the kitchen and locked the door behind you. Part of my move on Corey was to distract those busybodies, give them something else to gawk at. But more than that, our young Mr. Gardner is in my opinion a fine young male with a self image problem fueled by truckloads of testosterone. By letting everybody see him and me dancing together, him minding his manners, the two of us enjoying ourselves, we got a couple of things accomplished. Now he doesn’t have to worry about folks thinking he might be scared to dance with me after what happened last time. The gossip mill will still tsk-tsk! at the music teacher dating him, I suppose, but sweetie, we now have an alliance. Or at least that’s how Corey’s going to see it, him and his Julie and me and you against the smart-mouths of the town. Plus he’s got the idea that two beautiful women want him, even if I am taken. I helped him tonight!”

Cherry thought about that. “You sound mighty sure of yourself. Of course, you usually do. But what about his date? You made her laugh when you stole her dude for that dance. How did you make that okay with her?”

“Oh, that was easy. I just said, Miss Julie, how be I dance with your guy just this one time and really give the smack-talkers something to marvel at? It worked, as you saw. But the real question, Cher, is what about Lisa? She looked like something the cat dragged in.”

“Close enough. Indomitable spirit, that one. She’s wounded, though. I’m going to talk to Dad tomorrow, see if he’s willing to give her a shot at dishwasher. He’s been figuring we wouldn’t need a full time dishwasher until tourist season starts in the spring, but if she worked out, it could be a win-win. As long as she doesn’t get a key to the place and we all keep an eye on the cash register, at least until we get to know her better. She doesn’t have a phone or anything, so she’s going to stop by on Monday, talk to me–and then to Dad, if he’s open to it.”

Paula’s brow furrowed. “What about between now and then? Where’s she going to stay? Eat? Whatever? She’s not from here, is she? I don’t remember seeing her before.”

“I had seen her once and Kandace Wilkins has her on the gossip train, but no, she’s not from Limpid. She walked a bunch of miles, right through the storm, to get here. We decided she’d hit the dumpster out back of the café. Dad had us dump some pretty good stuff before we closed, remember? With this weather, it’s not going to spoil any time soon. As for a place to stay, she already had that figured out. The Jarvos ranch is a couple of miles west of town. Henrik Jarvos and his wife are snowbirds. They won’t be back until spring. In the meantime, the barn isn’t locked–according to Lisa, anyway–and there’s hay in the loft where she can burrow in. She said she stashed her backpack near the edge of town and has a bedroll, so….”

Paula nodded, thoughtful. They both knew it was better to let the woman find her own way; opening their home to her was simply not an option. It might put them at risk, and/or it might weaken Lisa’s resolve to make it on her own. Not to mention World War Three that would erupt if Marvin and Bridget…no. A hand up, then, not a handout…if Marvin Terrio could be persuaded to change his mind about hiring a dishwasher during the slow season.

54 thoughts on “Small Things Incorporated: Karma Sucks

  1. What a wonderful story and set up for even more adventure, Ghost! And I’m glad you waited a while since I have been very busy for the last month… Today I finally had time to sit and enjoy reading your story! 🙂
    As for Karma, it is certainly a pain when it is payback time, but it also gives us opportunities to live new adventures! 🙂
    Hope all is well for you guys down at the fort. Woke with “A Seagoing Clam” in my thoughts this weekend, so all must be working out according to plan… “I crack my shell open and the current flows through”.. was the key line I kept hearing (and yes, you word it differently).
    Lots of Love for you guys!………….. Manny

  2. Glad you liked the story, Manny. The delay in getting this chapter out is simply because I’ve also been “plate full” for the last month. About A Seagoing Clam: Yes, I do believe all is “working out according to plan.” I have no idea when I’ll be performing the song for a sizeable audience, but still practice it nightly and have refined the rendition considerably over time. Now using a finger picking style rather than flat picking on the guitar and have dropped the first scatting intro as superfluous since I’ve got the guitar doing its thing in that spot. Have also written several new songs that are in the practice set: Golden Tongued Wisdom, Vehicle, Waking Dream, and an update of a song dedicated to my long estranged daughters titled Time May Stretch Its Talons.

    The key line you kept hearing is right on, though; that’s exactly the way I word it, except for the addition of the part that says, “…then I clam right back up in my relation with you.”

    Love back atcha. I’ll pass yours on to Pam when we talk (by phone) in the morning; she’s currently staying with her daughter’s family in Utah.

  3. Great chapter, Ghost. Full of busy-bodies, swing-either-wayers, loonies and murderers!

    I was going to ask what you’ve been up to, but you caught me up in your response to Manny’s comment. Pam’s been on my mind lately. I see she’s in Utah. How long has she been there? Is she okay?

  4. Glad you enjoyed the chapter, Sha.

    Since Pam’s been on your mind (psychic much?), here’s the update: I was “on the road” for 10 days, first attending the Eckankar World Wide Seminar in Minneapolis and then looping over to Utah to snag Pam and bring her back to the Border Fort, planning to return her to Utah in mid-November. However, the day I arrived, she was plunging deeply into a psychotic episode. (In case you didn’t know, she was once diagnosed as “severely mentally ill, high functioning.” And now the high functioning part was…malfunctioning.)

    The 900 mile run south was the toughest journey I’ve ever undertaken. Pam’s psychosis worsened more and more. She was hallucinating weirdly and also believed I was driving in the wrong lane and would cause a fatal head-on collision. There were numerous miracles that got us all the way home safely, though, and then back up to ensconce her in the psych wing of the local ER, which is a relatively new facility (regional hospital) and the finest medical facility I’ve ever seen, including the staff.

    I finally got some sleep last night after having run hard (and the latter portion of that run being accomplished while under a barrage of Pam-stress) for 64 hours with a total of four hours of sleep during that stretch, all of it in the truck, but Pam was in a safe place for the night, and that was what mattered.

    When I visited her today, my visit was brief, only ten or fifteen minutes. She was some better, but an ER staff member was spending her entire shift in a school desk type seat parked in Pam’s doorway to keep her from wandering. At one point she spit at me, but still had dry-mouth, so I didn’t get wet. She did say she was no longer seeing colors, but she has no recall of yesterday and had to ask me what she’d been doing (that got her in there). But it was in the end HER decision to go to the hospital…as long as I was somewhat against it; she didn’t like anything of which I approved. There is a deep rage in her toward me and toward her daughter in Utah…in other words, the only people who’ve acted as her caretakers in recent times, so there’s a clue.

    She got more and more agitated while I was there, so I excused myself because of that. Wasn’t moving fast enough out the door, I guess, as she added a loud hyena-cackle laughter that had no amusement in it, just an aggression toward the creature she wished to chase away.

    The hospital has already been in touch with her doctor, gotten her meds approved, and arranged to transfer her to a room in the main portion of the hospital. Personally, I do not believe she is likely to leave institutional care again in this lifetime, though it’s early days and the medical professionals aren’t interested in me at all yet, so maybe they have a miracle or two up their sleeves; you never know.

    So, to answer your question: Is she okay? Depends on the definition of okay. I will say that she’s in the best place she could possibly be for her at this time. I’ve been so impressed with the facility and staff that I stopped to tell a man at the front ER desk today, “I’ve got to say this to you. This is the finest ER facility I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

    He thanked me for that, admitting that’s not something they often hear in the ER!

  5. Ghost, my heart bleeds and my eyes are leaking. I am so, so sorry to hear this. Your heart must be breaking. What you do have is a couple of decades of wonderful times and memories together. I wish I could give you a hug. Know I love you and Pam. If you get an opportunity, please tell her I’m thinking about her.

  6. Yeah, to quote a close family member who just lost his mother last night (to Alzheimer’s), when I brought him up to date on our situation: “It’s not fun, is it?” And no, it’s not.

    But let me share a lyric from a song I wrote not long ago and adapted for Pam:

    “Your mind and body have betrayed you
    “Yet in Soul you are free…..

    I’ll definitely add your name to the bucket full of folks wishing Pam well…if I get the opportunity. The problem for her mentally regarding me is that she believes I’ve betrayed and abandoned her–logic, of course, having nothing to do with it. They had to intubate her today, about an hour later, because she was having severe difficulty breathing. Extreme phlegm, a genetic hand-me-down from her dad. They told me she was resting well after that–the first real rest she’s had all week, I suspect. So I declined to go back into her room, not wanting to risk agitating her again. I spent about 3 hours at the hospital, mostly talking with doctors and a truly wonderful Patient Account Representative. Left Pam flowers, a small vase of white roses, which she hadn’t even been aware of when I left, but they’re there. And I’ve got a talking teddy bear to add tomorrow, from Hallmark. He’s got a Christmas hat and is holding a book. Press his paw and he recites the entire tale of The Night Before Christmas. I figure if I keep taking a little something every day, then if she does get stabilized well–and I know one of the doctors is going to TRY to find an anti-psychotic med for her, though she’s not been on any because she’s terribly allergic to every one she’s tried over the years. So, down the road, if she glares at me, not believing that I was really there for her every day, I can point, “Well, I brought this one on Day Two, this one on Day Three…..”

    May not work, but seems like it’s worth a shot.

  7. Ghost, I can’t even begin to imagine how painful this must be for you. Then I think of Pam and wonder if somewhere in there she’s screaming to get out from under what’s happening to her mind and body.

    Do you have someone staying at the house with you? Or are you welcoming the solitude?

    You’re doing what you can, Ghost. One day Pam will remember what a supportive partner and friend you’ve been. I just hope it’s not on her last day.

  8. Sha, let me respond to your empathetic message “by the numbers” as follows:

    1. I wouldn’t describe the experience as painful per se, though that may be simply because, as the old Chris Le Doux song states about a bull rider, “…to pain and fear he’s no stranger.” (One of his best-ever lyrics, in my opnion.) Stress, a tendency to choke up here and there, very much yes, and the occasional indication of “spacing out” (forgetting to do something my normal routine would include automatically, or circling a few extra aisles at Walmart before coming back to myself).

    2. Pam “in there screaming” to get out…yes, I believe that’s accurate. Seems like it would be so for most people who’d seen their ability to stay in balance deteriorate.

    3. Sure, I’ve got company at the house: Cats, leopard gecko, coyotes (outside on the coyotes!), bunnies, birds, you name it. Basically, I’ve always had a bit of the loner in me; solitude is hardly ever a problem. I only live halfway in this world anyway. 😀

    4. I agree that Pam will remember. Soul never forgets, and whether it’s today or after she leaves this mortal coil makes little difference. For example, Pam and I had not seen or spoken with my second wife, Carolyn, (beloved by both of us) for several years before she passed–and yet a few months after she did, I had a brief but great dream state meeting with her in which she was smiling and beaming like the sun itself (after dying of a cancer that had spread throughout her physical body, including her brain).

    I do realize I’m doing what I can. So are the hospital personnel, and of course the company of Eck Masters is ever present and, to me at least, blindingly obvious.

    Gotta finish my workout, grab a bite, and get going. Hospital visits wait on no man!

  9. “Peace be with you” and may the blessings be. Ghost.
    The song that comes to me is:
    “Wherever you may be I’ll be beside you,
    although you’re many million dreams away.
    Each night I’ll say a prayer a prayer to guide you,
    through every lonely hour of every lonely day…”
    Take care, dear friend.

  10. He also calls me every day when he leaves the hospital to update me. When she is doing a little better health wise, I will go see her and see if she responds to me with less antagonism. She adored my husband and called him her brother. His death may have helped push her over for a bit and maybe seeing me will bring her back a little to herself.

  11. Thank you, Becky. Please keep us posted.

    I’m sorry to hear you lost your husband. I knew he was ill, but hadn’t heard you’d lost him.

    Hugs to you.

  12. Thanks, everybody. Becky has some of this info already, but here’s today’s update:

    1. HUGE improvement in Pam’s situation. Today when I visited, she was sleeping deeply, resting very well indeed. (Sedated, yes, but for all of the 20 years we’ve been together, nothing has given me more peace in my heart than being able to watch Pam sleep. I know when the rest is real.)

    2. The doctor in charge of her respiration stopped by while I was there and, though careful to point out that he was “only” in charge of her breathing, things were looking good. His opinion (with which I was more than happy to concur) is that Pam succumbed to a “perfect storm” of stress that was simply too much and pushed her temporarily over the edge–way-y-y over, but still. And that she’ll be her fine old self in short order. (I’m obviously paraphrasing here.) That “stress storm” included the passing of Becky’s husband, the passing of my aunt (from Alzheimer’s, no less), AND having to be under the same roof for a while with her first husband (and his wife) who visited the home in Utah…TWICE, both when Pam first arrived there and also during the last few days before I picked her up on Monday. So, a base-clearing home run of stress, right there.

    3. Before she finally started being able to rest, I believe she’d been without sleep for at least five full days. Which is enough to mess anybody’s mind up. I’d run those 64 hours on 4 hours of “iffy” sleep, and THAT was enough that I had “vertical double vision” toward the end of it. (All fine now.)

    4. The hospital was already gradually reducing her sedation today. When she comes out from under, I don’t expect her to be hostile. Besides, I’m “cheating”–left her a vase of white roses yesterday, and a teddy bear today. The teddy has a Christmas hat and a book; press his paw and he recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from start to finish. Nurse settled that bear on her bed so that when she opens her eyes, it’s the first thing she’ll see–with her arm more or less cradling it. 😀

  13. Sha, My husband died last Friday morning, and Pam “knew” about it before Fred got there to tell her. She said I told her, but I send all bad news directly to Fred to tell her in person. I know she cannot handle it without him as a buffer. He tells her to her face.

  14. Becky, I am very sorry for your loss, even though we’ve never met face-to-face.
    I am very glad that Pam is stabilizing and could even go back to her regular activities and life: bringing joy to your own life, Ghost. 🙂
    May the blessings be, everyone.

    Manny

  15. That’s encouraging news, Ghost. Yes, I’d say Pam was more than ready for that storm to sweep away the extreme amount of stress she’s been under. We all need to “clean out” from time to time.

    Becky, knowing Ghost and Pam’s soul experiences, your soul probably spoke to her that morning.

    Peace to all of you.

  16. Daily update: Pam is still under sedation. They didn’t get a chance to try reducing the sedation today because early in the a.m. she sat bolt upright–in the words of one R.N., “…was all over the place.” In other words, she was shaking off the sedative they were using despite it continually dripping into her veins. So they ADDED a second–propofol, actually, the one Michael Jackson used to kill himself. That’s right; it’s taking TWO drugs to keep her sedated–our redhead is one tough little cookie.

    On the other hand, I was informed that she has been, in general, “much less agitated” today–she’s throwing off the neuroleptic malignancy quite rapidly. Which does not surprise me; Pam has always processed drugs through her system much more rapidly than most people could do it.

  17. Thanks for the update, Ghost. Some people’s bodies neutralize drugs, so its difficult to medicate them. I’m glad the hospital personnel are staying on top of things. May the blessings be.
    Manny

  18. Early Sunday morning, November 6, 2016, update:

    I’ve not posted here for some days, so here’s the latest on Pam, which is not good. By the numbers (crunching the short version):

    1. Last Tuesday evening, the hospital staff at Sierra Vista had to admit Pam’s situation was more complicated than they could handle as they were unable to get her off sedation without her becoming agitated again…and thus they could not get the breathing tube out. So she was transferred to Carondolet St. Joseph’s hospital in Tucson, flown up there. Which was a good call; the Neuro ICU at St. Joe’s is well staffed with skilled personnel.

    2. Since that date, there have been roller coaster emotional ups and downs as Pam did show progress in her mental stability and was able eventually to cooperate with commands and let them know that yes, she was ready to have the tube out three days ago.

    3. Unfortunately, she gradually became more agitated again, frustrated at me (I was in the room for that one) for not being able to lip read her perfectly–when a breathing tube comes out, you can’t talk for a while because the tube pressing on your larynx has silenced your voice box for a while. I eventually had to leave the room, and over time (fifteen minutes?) they had to stick the tube back in and sedate her again because she once again could not breathe (at least not well) and her oxygen level was dropping.

    4. On Saturday, when I got to the hospital, Dr. Dunne flagged me down on the way by his desk. “We’ve got her extubated again,” he said, “but we’re probably going to have to reintubate. She’s on a mask, but…I’ve got a pulmonary specialist coming over to consult.”

    “Do you think it might be better if she did NOT see me today?” I asked. (Logically, because she gets so fired up trying to talk to me–on Friday there was brief encouragement, she knew I was there even under sedation, you could tell–but….).

    We agreed that I would go home and he would either call me, or I would be back on Monday. Having run pedal-to-the-metal on this for 14 straight days, I’d hit my wall and needed to slow down before I crashed, too…and as Dr. Dunne stated, “We don’t need TWO of you in here!” So my plan is to cut back to visiting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until further notice. (The last two nights, I’d fallen into bed at 7:00 p.m. and stayed there until 7:00 a.m., which is a severe warning for me.)

    5. My gut feeling (and I’m not alone on this) is that Pammie is not going to make it. She’s been in-hospital for 12 days, intubated for 10, with no rosy rainbows in sight. Except for a couple of silver linings: Thanks to the IV meds, she’s out of pain for the first time in 18 years; why WOULD she want to come fully back into this world of physical agony? And she’s left nothing on the table, left no fences unmended that could be mended, worked out every possible reconciliation, atoned for every past misstep she could atone for.

    Not to mention the dream I had tonight about a house with a 50 foot reddish octopus living in the attic….

    Could I be wrong? Sure; I’m not trying to play God. And even if I’m right, who knows how long her hospital stay could go before she finally leaves the body for good? But when you put together all of her health challenges (both physical and mental), the lengthening time of her apparent lung failure, and so on and so forth…..

    We’ll keep you posted, at least every so often. And thanks (you know who you are) for caring so very much.

  19. Thanks for the update, Ghost. It’s all so very sad, but honestly, I think it’s time Pam leave her body which is so wracked with pain that it’s affecting her mind. I know she hates that that’s happening. I think she has a message for you – one last conversation – before she’ll let herself go.

    The fact that you slept 12 hours straight and had the dream about the red octopus in the attic means a couple of things:

    1. You not only need the rest, but Pam’s soul is reaching out to yours. You communicate via dreams.
    2. The attic signifies how trapped she feels. The tentacles signify she’s reaching out and has many things to say to you. She can’t do it in her current “person” state. Again, the dreams.Your souls can come together without the hindrance of the conscious state. Hers it too riddled with pain and conflict.

    I love you both, Ghost. You know that. Please tell Pam I’m on her side and wish her peace.

    Love,
    Sha

  20. My human consciousness wishes you were wrong, Ghost, and I am of the opinion that no one deserves to be in permanent pain and suffering, which includes you – of course.
    I’m glad you were able to get some sleep, and hope that today’s visit went better for you and Pam. At these times it is hard to rememeber that “Love is all”, or as the Beatles put it, “Love is all there is”.
    May the blessings be…….. Manny

  21. Sha: Thanks, but I must disagree a bit with your interpretation of my dream. It’s a tricky thing, understanding a dream for someone else–each of us has his or her own symbology, as unique as a fingerprint, and a really individualized dream censor that does its best to alter the deeper messages to save wear and tear on our psyches. Basically, I don’t see the octopus as Pam “reaching out” but as something really huge and out of place (sea creature in a landlubber attic) in her brain…which is what she’s said for years, that something was “really wrong” in there. And that could agree with your “trapped” interpretation, so we’re not terribly far apart there, but like they say, the devil is in the details.

    As for “reaching out” to me…I don’t think so. We’ve had a few direct inner conversations, dreams, etc., that I’ve not listed here, but I don’t believe this dream had much to do with me except regarding how I see her situation. Nor do I see a last comment from her to be overly likely since the breathing tube suppresses her vocal cords entirely–although a message through other means, Soul to Soul or whatever, is of course entirely possible. Basically, she and I’ve left nothing on the table in our relationship; nothing really needs to be said.

    I did have a dream this morning where she was packing a suitcase. That one looks pretty easy to comprehend….
    ——————–
    Manny: I did not go to visit Pam on November 6 (Sunday), but will be going later today (Monday), and will probably post an update here tonight or early tomorrow. You know, it’s really NOT hard for me to remember at this time that love is what counts. As one of my own song lyrics states, “Only love endures.”

    May the blessings be.

  22. UPDATE: As of Monday (early afternoon) when I visited Pam, she was…AWAKE, off the breathing tube and fully lucid. Not able to speak yet (larynx still needed to recover) but “totally Pam” in every other way. Example: Convinced “They tried to kill me.” (She wrote that on a clipboard I rounded up for her.) Meaning swollen arms from all the IV intrusions. Example: Couple of very cool respiratory therapist types were in the room when I got there, smiling wide and enjoying Pam. Her eyes were closed at the time, but they’d asked her if she could give them a Thumbs Up…and she’d promptly flipped them the bird.

    Her irritations were Pam-normal, with most of our time together (about an hour and a half) her eyes sparkling in good humor and yep, giving me orders. Like lip balm, so I got a tube of Carmex from a nurse. And that we needed the phlegm-sucker machine she was using, so I got one ordered from Amazon–not the identical machine used in the ICU, of course, but looks like it should do the job. And jams, meaning make sure she has some jammies to wear, presumably when she’s ready to leave the hospital.

    Now, I DID notice that “all she needed” to snap back around was for me to LEAVE HER ALONE in the hospital for a couple of days and BELIEVE she might NOT make it–so she could, you know, prove me and everybody else wrong! 😀

    Staying home today, with Pam’s full approval; she was clearly concerned about the strain her hospitalization had put on me. So yeah, Pam is ba-a-ack! One tough little redhead.

  23. Thanks, Sha. Today’s news is a little less so in that Pam’s breathing off-tube is still not 100%. RN from the hospital called me, not about that specifically, but did give me that update while she was asking for authorization to back up the “okay” Pam had given her for a nose-to-stomach feeding tube (meds and nutrition). Susan (RN) reported that Pam was “somewhat confused” today, but with her advancing dementia, that’s hardly unusual.

  24. Thanks for the update and good news, Ghost! I’m glad Pam is getting back to “normal” for you. As for the “Jams”, maybe you should take her some boysenberry jams and crackers (unless she’s allergic to it). 😉
    My love to all of you!………………. Manny

  25. Thanks for commenting, Manny. It’s still not clear which way Pam is going to go. As of Wednesday (when I visited), her breathing was better and she was up in a chair for the first time, BUT she cannot swallow, not even an ice chip or sip of water, so boysenberry jam and crackers would be…well, probably fatal. (Not to mention the fact that she would avoid any fruit with seeds anyway, as the seeds like to get stuck painfully under her dental implants.) Still can’t talk (make much noise) either, but her mind was crystal clear.

  26. I’m glad she was able to get out of bed, and am sorry about her not being able to have the jam and crackers… I wonder what the dream means… but it doesn’t matter. Just give her my love, please. 🙂
    thanks for the update!
    Manny

  27. Thanks, Manny. Update as of yesterday (Nov. 13):

    1. Two days after my last update, it looked like Pam was dying for sure. She was not interested in having a PEG (stomach wall insertion) feeding tube installed, the nose tube could not be left in place indefinitely, and she still couldn’t swallow, though she was alert enough that she could work with me somewhat on various decisions.

    2. A really super-social-worker got to work and found a room for her at a residential hospice in Tucson, the nose tube was removed, and she was transferred to the hospice within a matter of hours, a speed that rather astonished the hospital staff. We had some obvious spiritual help with that one for sure. But when I left the hospital (an hour or so before her transfer) I was none too sure she was going to die–because shortly before I left, when none of the staff were in the room to stop us, she had me feed her some ice chips from the drink of water I’d gotten for myself at the nurses’ station…and she managed to get them down.

    3. That was on Wednesday. I stayed home on Thursday, mostly because I can’t handle the drive-and-visit every day, using the day to go to a walk-in clinic for an infection of my own that had been dogging me from the day Pam was first intubated. So at least I’m on antibiotics now, and will hopefully get some relief eventually. However, staff from the hospice did call me that day, got some background, and told me Pam had managed several tablespoons of water plus wanted to try to eat something, so she’d been given some applesauce. Swallowing efforts were obviously getting better. She’d also gotten a shower, obviously with help, but a shower nonetheless.

    4. When I got there yesterday (Friday) afternoon, she was sitting in a recliner and greeted me with a mini-wave and a smile. By the time I left, they’d removed the urine catheter, so now the only invasive thing she has going is the muscle needle for meds. She told me she’d been “eating all day,” though with Pam I have no idea what that really means. Staff did mention she’d had some Jell-O. Getting her voice back; it wasn’t yet to talk-on-the-phone standards by any means, but a whole lot easier to figure out what she was saying than it had been two days earlier. She was able to walk with my support (which worried the staff–liability issues and all–since they have no clue about the 20 year “support program” Pam and I have been working). It was stated that she might be able to go home within a matter of days; they need to see if she can take meds orally (instead of by needle) for a 24 hour period, and then maybe….

    5. I won’t be going up today, but the staff doctor–who is only there from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., so I haven’t talked with him yet–is supposed to call me later this morning. We’ll see how it goes.

    6. Overall, Pam is clearly very much underweight (though the hospice doesn’t even have a scale–social worker did a double take when I remarked, “Dead people don’t need to be weighed, huh?” Other than that, she’s on her game, ordinary amusements and irritations (Pam-normal) showing, with a fierce desire to get back on her feet and back up to hang with her daughter in Utah some more, as soon as possible.

    Further update in a few more days, most likely.

  28. thanks for the Update, Ghost. May the blessings be. I’m glad Pam has improved and might go back home soon, though that is still up to Soul to decide.
    I’m glad you got your antibiotics… infections are no good at any age.
    Take care, dear friend. You and Pam are in my heart. 😉
    Manny

  29. Thanks for the update, Ghost. Pam’s a fighter. It just isn’t her time yet.

    Glad you addressed the infection. Not only is it no good for you, but also for Pam’s weakened condition.

    My thoughts are with you both.

    Much love,
    Sha

  30. Thanks, y’all. Pam was released from hospice at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning and is home at the Border Fort–sleeping now (and joyous to be doing so in quiet surroundings in her Sleep Number bed). Starting at midnight Monday, she began eating ferociously, and continued that at home. Was back up to 80 lb. by the time she got here, and climbing. Gaining strength every hour.

    Plan now is to see both her hairdresser and her regular doctor on Friday, grab her med refills on Saturday, and head back up to Utah. Not only does Amy have her apartment ready, but the exact kitten Pam wanted showed up, just walking down the highway, 3 weeks old, bottle fed by Amy the past 2 weeks. We KNOW which former cat of ours has reincarnated in this new form for Pam. Very cool, obviously unfinished business in Utah.

    And we also found out the BIGGEST trigger that set off her psychotic episode. She had tuned in (without knowing this consciously) on Allen, the hired hand I fired in September. The lad went downhill fast after that, “street life” shall we say, and was stabbed in the gut by a neighbor his own age–a fellow Pam and I knew but always considered bad news. Said bad news is behind bars now, but Pam likely did NOT know that part, explaining her extreme anxiety about returning to Arizona. And we have zero doubt that Pam took on some small portion of Allen’s karma when he was attacked, likely keeping him from being killed on the spot (a knife thrust like that could easily go either way), due to her love for Allen despite her disappointment in his chosen route in life.

    We did not find this out from Allen himself, but from a business friend in town. Allen had stopped in there to attempt to hustle orders for his fire suppression business, had obviously degraded massively since the last time any of us had seen him, and our friend started putting that together with a couple of newspaper articles on the stabbing. Karma karma!

  31. Wow, Ghost. What an incredible turn of events! I’m thrilled Pam has overcome. Just wish she wasn’t so receptive to the bad karma out there.

    Very cool about the kitty, tho. I’m just tickled pink that she’s out of hospice and is on the mend. Please give her a big hug from me.

  32. Sha, Pam happens to be up at the moment–and eating! (Cherry cheese Danish). Says thanks for the “big hug” even though we don’t do that literally due to her body being too painful to touch per se. Air hugs work, though.

    One of the doctors Amy works with says that Pam’s progress this quickly after that much intubation as astounding. Of course, pretty much everything about Pam is in that category anyway, so….

    It’s not so much that she’s overly “receptive to bad karma” in general. In this case, she (as Soul, not at the human consciousness level) simply came close to fatally miscalculating the amount of karma she could take on for the lad. And she’s done with him now, so next time he faces Death, he’s on his own. I do understand about taking on (as Soul) karma for a friend, what you might call a risk of the heart. In 2006, I wrecked our Subaru in a high speed sideswipe on the Interstate due to a moment of inattention on my part, very NOT typical for me, and later realized I’d taken on a friend’s karma that allowed him to overcome a psychological problem long enough to at least communicate with me for a bit. My “offering” was considerably less daunting, obviously–both the Subaru and the pickup I sideswiped were drivable, fender repairs for both vehicles came to something like $6,000 total, and that was that. Much “lighter” karma than what she took on….

  33. Ghost, I am really glad for you and Pam, and send you both huge HUgs! 🙂
    Was thinking of you last night, when some students were proposing using used plastic water bottles to build a greenhouse… I was thinking that the bottles might even serve as very low cost construction materials . Any experience with this? Any ideas I can share with the kids?

    Finally, when are you and Pam taking your trip? Is she already strong enough to travel?
    Take care, guys! Love you!………….. Manny

  34. Thanks, Manny. It’s really not so much a matter of Pam being strong enough to travel as that she needs to get away from Arizona and up to Utah where she has a five-adult family under one roof for support, including her daughter who’s going to go to part time work in order to be home with her Mom more. En route, as needed, she can lie down in the truck’s back seat, where we “pad up” a bed for her. Longer bodies couldn’t be comfortable there, but she can. As for when we’re leaving, I don’t like to discuss the specifics until after I’m back–security issues. Our place is fairly remote, more secure than most, and also protected to some degree by watchful neighbors and a pet caretaker who pops in any old time of the day, but why tempt the foolish people?

    I’ve read a number of Internet articles on using bottles for construction of houses, but most of those (if memory serves) were glass bottles, not plastic. I’ve not built with anything like that but do know that the sun will eventually degrade plastic bottles big time, making them brittle and eventually worthless. There are only certain building materials that can stand up to long exposure to the sun. Even the earthbags used in the Border Fort had to be protected from the sun as soon as possible. We knew that, and where I built a small “baffle wall” to muffle sound from one of our earlier generators, some of the bags were deliberately left exposed–with dramatic results. The wall is still standing, but the plastic bag fabric is pretty much shredded due to sun damage; only the fact that our local clay soil dries almost as hard as brick has been enough to keep the wall in place.

  35. No problem, Ghost. I totally understand and agree. 🙂 Pam will ride in the arms of Spirit, protected so she may do what she has to do.
    As for the plastic bottles, you confirmed my thoughts, and I will suggest to the students that they plan for this to happen (which should allow mulching of the damaged plastic) and now I want to figure out how they can make the structure rigid… coat hangers and concrete mix inside the bottles maybe, to create solid collumns on which to hang the replaceable walls of plastic? The Collumns would survive the bottle’s degradation… Just had a spiritual insight: our outer bodies are like the plastic bottles and our experiences and past lives are the reinforced concrete that Soul is putting together… 😉
    May the blessings be! Hugs for you and Pam!…… Manny
    Thanks again!

  36. Great insight, Manny. Of course, those past lives (reinforced concrete) tend to fall away eventually, too–when Soul reaches God consciousness and eons of karma get stripped away in a flash–but in the meantime, great analogy!

    Pam did very well today, both at her hair appointment and her medical appointment. Surrounded by love at both, like two family gatherings. At the doctor’s, it was their last clinic appointment for the week, and they (Dr., nurse, and student doctor about to graduate) all hung around with us for many minutes after closing time, just…hanging around, chatting! Pure love!

    She was thoroughly worn out by the end of it all and went right to bed when we got home, but her swallowing had much improved by day’s end and she ate well–voraciously!–all day, too. 😀

  37. I’m very glad Pam has improved so much and ate well. As you can tell from my photograph, food is still a major player in my life! LOL

    As for the analogy, I will say what you’ve heard before: The ECK made me do it! LOL
    Now, my thought is on finding a poor man’s concrete…
    My love for you and pam!…………. Manny

  38. Thanks, Manny. We left for Utah on Saturday afternoon, got there around noon on Sunday. I slept from around 5:00 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. on Monday, got up and eventually headed to town(s) (Walmart at Perry, then various home furnishing stores in Ogden, shopping most of the day for stuff Pam needed and/or wanted me to handle before I left. New fridge, recliner that would go with the couch she’d purchased earlier, mini blinds, bedroom dresser and nightstand, etc.

    Finished all that, did a few things for Pam at her apartment–which is really NICE–and headed back south that same day (Monday) just as it was getting dark. Napped 5 hours in the truck at Nephi, headed on, and got back home last night (Tuesday) at 6:30 p.m. Fed the cats and crashed into bed for 14 hours.

    Pam is continuing to improve at a rapid pace. And once her new kitten, a little calico female named Luna, gets to the veterinarian on Friday to be wormed and something to stop her diarrhea, she (Pam) should do even better! (Nothing like a cat who can’t cross the carpet to get the litter box in time….!) But little Luna started out as a feral kitten, as has been the case for every cat we’ve ever had.

  39. This is wonderful news!
    Thanks for sharing, Ghost!
    I’ve got the house full of guests, so I can’t write extensively..
    I’m very glad that Pam is better and already set up in her apartment, and that the kitten is in good hands. Poor kitten, reacting badly to the good food… 😉 Like giving and old car high octane gas! LOL
    May the blessings be, dear friend……… Manny

  40. Good to hear Pam is doing well. Hoping Luna improves quickly and makes it to her litter box. Hope you all enjoy your day tomorrow.

  41. Manny and Becky: Thanks for the high fives. (Luna, we believe, reacted badly to having been severely hydrated and nearly starved when she was first found, needs worming among other things, and most likely got a rough start in her first weeks as a feral kitten. No little critter of her relative age would be wandering down the road by herself unless Mama didn’t make it back to the home nest one day, hunger then eventually driving the near-infant to try to make it “somewhere safe” on her own. Which she did; it just takes another (vet) step to complete the safe-making process.)

    Happy Thanksgiving. I know we have plenty to be thankful for. 🙂

  42. Thanks, Sha. Me too. She’s now been in her mother-in-law apartment (in Utah, at her daughter’s) for one full week and loving it so far. She’ll still doctor down here but spend more time up there as Amy is going to go to part time work at the clinic (she’s a nurse) and there are four other family members which adds up to more “cover” than I can provide on a 24/7 basis. Luna kitten did not work out–got ornery and wouldn’t use the litter box, so she was consigned to the barn cat routine–but Amy’s somewhat older kitten, Meow-Meow, has now been donated to Pam with excellent results. Turns out when Pam left last time, Meow-Meow sat by her door for 5 solid days, waiting for her to come back. They are BONDED.

  43. This is wonderful news, Ghost! I’m very glad that Pam is doing so well and that your evaluation of the karmic episode was on target… Sorry about Luna, very happy about Meouw-Meouw… 🙂 My experience with untrained kittens was quite stinky but fortunately very… LOL As I understood it, all cats want to bury their “stuff” and so are easily house-trained, but this obviously was not true with Luna. Take care! Send my love to Pam!
    Manny

  44. Consider your love to Pam sent, Manny. Curious thing about Meow-Meow: She does NOT care to eat the high end Science Diet canned food I made a special effort to get for her–apparently does not equate pate with “real food.” Guess she’s a bit of a “redneck cat,” prefers down-home cooking….:)

  45. Sounds like Meow-Meow and Pam are meant to be together. I’m so glad Pam’s settling into her new apartment and has so many people around who love her.

    How far is Utah from the Border Fort?

  46. Amy’s home (with Pam’s apartment) is located in northern Utah in the Corinne area, 365 miles north of the southern Utah border. The route I run (which is not exactly the one recommended by MapQuest) runs north through all of Arizona and part of southern Utah, then jogs left over a small mountain pass to pick up I-15 at a point 109 miles north of said southern Utah border, leaving 256 miles of freeway and a dozen or so of two lane highway to Pam’s location. Total run one way is right at 960 miles from the Border Fort.

  47. Another great one. My top favorites of Willie’s, however, tend to be duets with other people–Pancho and Left with Merle Haggard, or (number on favorite of all time), Seven Spanish Angels with Ray Charles.

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