Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Got the Ol' Lawnmower Blues

When I was a lad I earned money by going about talking neighbors into letting me mow their yard or wash their car. I had those as chores at home  too. To my mind I didn't get paid to mow my own backyard, although I got a quarter allowance every week. Somehow the idea of that quarter being earned income didn't compute in my pee-wee brain. I was a notorious procrastinator when it came to chores, except burning the trash in the big 55 gallon drum out back. I liked to light a fire and pretend it was a burning city.

Sometimes on those really hot days of August washing the car wasn't so bad either.

But I had little fondness for lawn mowing then or ever after. I considered it one of the great flukes of mankind or was it one of the curses placed on Adam after the fall. What a brilliant idea this, shave down the grasses and create a perpetual labor to be repeated ad nauseum during the hottest months of the year.

Nonetheless, through the decades I have managed to manicure my own grounds to the satisfaction of county codes, if not always to the particulars of some of my more green-thumb cursed neighbors.

As a boy, of course, I used a push mower, you know, no motor, all elbow grease. Very few people around had a power mower in those days, except those some where above the average blue collar families such as mine. Despite the fact that power mowers became to eventually outnumber the old muscle powered devices throughout suburbia, I continued to use such devices halfway into the 1990s.

I probably wouldn't have stopped then if my thyroid hadn't blown it circuits. When that gland decided to go rogue it sapped away my strength, even to the point I could barely walk. I certainly wasn't in shape to force a mower over our less than even grounds. I broke down and bought my first power mower. That was some time around 1995.

I think it ran pretty well for several years, but everything breaks eventually and one day I found it lying still behind the shed, four wheels motionless toward the sky. I tried CPR (crank, pull, repeat), but it was too little too late. It was gone. I went out and bought a replacement.

This time I got one of those self-propelled babies with the big bag on back. Man, it was just more ease on a task I despised, and we found we could suck up autumn leaves in that bag. If there was something I disliked more than mowing, it was leaf raking. Hey, you were dumb enough to jump off that tree, so just lay there and rot!

My wife never quite shared my attitude. She believed in a proper disposal of departed leaves, so crunching up dead leaves in a bag was a blessing.

That mower went belly up as well after a few seasons. It didn't seem to last as long as the former one
actually. The problem was in the self-propulsion. Something kind of went off track there and I couldn't get it back where it should be and the machine became a bear to push. I shoved it aside into the lawnmower graveyard (pictured right) and went out and bought another of its kin, only with more power and bigger bag.

Well, this did me well until two years ago and suddenly it got temperamental. It'd start up instantly, but after I mowed several rows it would sputter out. It would rest a bit and then stubbornly not start until about the time pulling cord had turned my arm into a rubber band. Over the course of summer these rests grew longer and the starts grew harder and finally it gave up the ghost.

I thought this sounded like a clogged fuel filter. I went to Sears and found a fuel filter that I though was for my machine. I even asked the clerk and he agreed, so I bought it. I went home and torn the thing apart and what to my surprise did I find? This model mower did not have a fuel filter.

Thus last year I went up to Home Depot and got a new mower. I stood there and stared at an old-time push
mower for a long time, but since my wife often chooses to go out and mow the front yard (before neighbors begin throwing things), I figured she would prefer an engine. Our budget is an ever shrinking commodity anymore, so I went for the cheapest power mower on display, just over a hundred buck. (I think the non-powered push mower actually cost more.)  This was your basic basic. It had wheels and it had a blade and it had a motor, but you supplied the push. There was no bag. It simply mulched up the grass and spit it out over the lot. It was a cool black.

It was wonderful. Without those self-propellant gears and no bag growing fuller by the row it proved light and fast. I mean I could blaze through all my yards and even do the east side of the house where none of my other mowers choose to go. We use to have to go hack that stuff down with weedwackers and sling blades.

But not real long into the season something odd happened. I was racing along in the back yard with the mower roaring when suddenly it started going put-put-put. It kept running and it kept cutting, but at a snails pace. I tiptoed along behind. If I sped too fast into high grass it would stall. But then after several more rows of this turtle speed it would kick up into high gear again and we would be back whizzing along lopping off their heads. And then again back to put-put-put. We nursed this thing through the summer and fall, but then it too gasped out one last put-put and died.

Wednesday I was back in Sears looking at lawn mowers. It isn't that I wanted to buy a new mower and my budget is even worse than last year, but the grass is inching up and we must do what we must do. I admit, I stood again drooling over the old powerless push mower, but because of recent health issues I have once again grown weak and need the motorized help.

I next turned my sights on a battery powered mower. Wouldn't that be nice if it could do the job? There
would be no more running to the gas station and no more of that terrible noise. I could be environmentally friendly mowing away in peace and quiet. I inquired of the clerk about this machine. She was very nice, very helpful. It seemed it would do my sized lot, but battery charge (6 hours to fully charge) would depend on length of grass (keep it under 2 inches), and how wet the grass is (keep it pretty dry). I was tempted, but still didn't want to spend the money on something that might not do the job.

I turned and pointed to the cheapest gas-guzzling, plain vanilla, bagless animal and said, "Ill take that one." After paying the $170 (oh yeah this was the absolute cheapest one and on sale no less), I went down to the pickup area to receive my purchase. I dutifully pulled my car up along the loading zone. Inside I ran my receipt over a scanner and my name popped up on a status screen above my head. Shouldn't take long, I was the only one there.

As I waited in my queue of one a stock person came out the flappy doors of the warehouse and passed by me.

What a downcast face he had. His chin was so low it was in danger of being bumped off by his shoe. He looked like the dead walking.  I got the feeling he wasn't overly thrilled with his lot in life, but he was quickly gone before I could offer him any solace. He would have probably eaten my brain if I had anyway.

A time or so later the warehouse doors flopped outward again and another glum young man came out behind a flat cart on which perched a large box. He said nothing. As he angled forward I could see "Lawn Mower" in big black letters on the side of the box. Ah, this must be mine!

He continued mutely pass me and out the door to the sidewalk, then down a ramp in the curb and around my car. Still not a word, no, "Are you Mr. Meredith?", no, "You waiting for a lawnmower?", no simple, "Hello". I walked to the rear of my car and opened the truck. He lifted the box off the hand truck and slid it in. Still not a word. I think Sears has Zombies manning their customer service pickup.  I think he might have mumbled something when I said, "Thank you," but I couldn't make it out. He never even asked to check my receipt. He never even looked my in the eyes. I could have been anyone just snatching up a free lawnmower and he wouldn't have cared.

I worked as a stock person most of the last decade. This is not how I ever dealt with customers. This is not the way any store should want to be represented by their employees. I don't get these young men. With where the unemployment rate is these days (and it is understated to boot) any one having a job should be grateful to have it. If you don't like your job, then look for something else, but don't take your frustration out on the client.

Enough preaching, I drove home to assemble my new acquisition. I soon learned what a sad state I am
in these days. I cut open the box and lifted it out. Construction was not complicated. You know, hook a cable on the handle as well as the pull cord. Pull the handles to full height by loosing and tightening some large wing nuts. Attach the mulch guard and the rear wheels. Adjust the front wheels. Put in oil.

I couldn't even finish. By the time I got to attaching the mulch guard I was too tired to stand. I packed up my tools and called it a day.  I went out this morning and finished up. I still need to get gas, but that's okay. I wasn't going to pull the cord and start mowing today in this heat anyway broke the record by 3 degrees today at 88). The grass isn't that bad yet that it can't wait for a cooler day for its execution.

So I tell the little woman I got a new mower. "Does it have a bag," she asked.

"You thinking about the leaves," I asked.


"That's the fall. Let's worry about the leaves when the leaves fall."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who Is that Old Man Dogging My Steps?

You're walkin' along, hummin' a song, when outta a clear blue sky; wham! Bam! You're feelin' like some old guy.

In case you missed it in a previous post, I recently underwent an emergency endoscopy and colonoscopy, not to mention a stat, immediate blood test of my hemoglobin. My hemoglobin was down, but not critically so.

The reason for all this was the day after Easter I had black and sticky stools, road tar, as the doctor called it. I know, discussing a bowel movement is a gross subject, but we're all adult here so man or woman up. What it meant was I was bleeding somewhere in the digestive tubes. This isn't exactly the thing you say, "Whoopee, look at me," about. After an initial reaction of, "Yeuw!" your next thought is, "Am I doomed?" Then you call the doctor. Well, in my case, ever optimistic, overly proud of my super-active immune system (I mean the blasted thing has never known when to stop thus giving me psoriasis, arthritis, Grave's Disease and a bummed up [now dead] thyroid, but also pretty well zapped colds and healed wounds quick) and phobic fear of people sticking needles through my flesh, I waited a couple more days. After all, if history proved correct, it'd go away.

Stupid history, it didn't go away.

And so I made a visit to Dr. Sue (my primary physician) who arranged the emergency oscopies a week later with a Dr. Beswick.  That is my primary
doctor pictured on the left. My friend Ron did not want to believe that my doctor looked like that, but indeed she do. Dr. Beswick is on the right. He looks like he looks, too.

Anyway, the upshot of all this inner perusing of my body showed I had an ulcer in the distal bulb, and obviously it's a bleeder.

It's also a rare little varmint. Naturally, I am always in the unusual minority in these things. Most people who get psoriasis don't get it to the extent I have. Many more women than men get thyroidism and almost nobody had it flip from hypo to hyper within a year. There are only about 5% of people who get an ulcer in the distal bulb.  (Where is this kind of luck when I buy Powerball tickets?)  95% of the duodenal ulcers posit themselves up at the top near the stomach. Mine decided on the more remote area to the back of the duodenum. The duodenum is the first section of the small intestines where food is further broken down after leaving the stomach. It isn't real long. The ulcers toward the top, near the stomach, perforate; those to the bottom where it narrows just before the next section of small intestines, bleed.

My guess is I am suffering from anemia, which is why I tend to tire easily and why my walks have
gone from four to five miles to a pathetic two. Apparently my anemic condition isn't dire enough to be too threatening or I'd be in the hospital, as Dr. Sue had warned she would do if my hemoglobin was too low. I am not experiencing any shortness of breath or confusion, beyond my normal confused state. I just get weary much sooner when I do anything.

Exactly what we do about the creepy old man dogging my footsteps I don't know yet. I meet with the doctor, the guy on the right, not the pretty one on the left, on May 1 and find out what we are going to do. I guess he'll have the biopsies' results then and we'll see if I got bacteria in there. If I do then antiboptics are a-comin' my way, do-dah, do-dah!

They use to think ulcers were caused by what you ate or by stress. Now they know there is a sneaky little creature named Helicobacter pylori (alias H. pylori) that's the culprit. I hate to tell you this, but he and his ilk are floating around in your guts too. It's a bacteria natural to those environs of our body. I don't think they know why old H. (can I call him H. for short) goes all postal on some of us.

Of course, the little beast has put police tape around a lot of foods I can eat. If they don't cause the ulcer, they do agitate it once it's there, so no mo' of certain foods for me for a while.

(Translation: if you like it, you probably can't eat it.)

On left, hoagies and chips, native foodstuff - can't eat!

Is that downright criminal, or what?

No hot dogs, no pizza, no cheesesteaks, no chili, no spice, no mustard, no ketchup, no tomatoes, no oranges, lemons or limes or grapefruits or pineapple or juices thereof, no carbonated beverages, no coffee, no tea -hot or iced - no chocolate milk, no chocolate period, no peppermint, no alcohol of course, no French fries - no fried anything, no black pepper and certainly no red pepper, no onions, sauerkraut, bell peppers, cauliflower or broccoli, no pickled vegetables, garlic, ginger or nutmeg. There is one bright spot - no Brussels sprouts!

I can have seafood, but I don't like seafood.

I can have cabbage juice; really, CABBAGE JUICE!  Yum!

Whoever that old man is dogging my steps, he has terrible tastes in food.

Man, don't that cabbage juice look good? (right)

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)  duodental

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Bible Series" on History: Part 5 Have I Been Too Hard on It?

I have throughout my running commentary on this series been somewhat brutal about its accuracy. Perhaps I should be more forgiving. I understand the difficulties of the undertaking to a certain extent. But you also have to realize the subject is very dear to my heart and they didn't have to do some of the things they did.

Film is a powerful medium. People look at a movie based on a true story and they accept what they see as truth when often it isn't. When Pontius Pilate asked, "What is truth?", he asked a very profound question. What is truth in this world? When you turn on the TV and hear talking heads arguing any subject, can you really discern the truth? Truth is a rarity, so when you believe someone is truthful and then you catch them in a lie, even a little lie, it is very hard to ever believe them again.

We can even look at the film to see how hard trust is to regain by their presentation of Paul. When he first appears he stirs the crowd up against Steven, even picking up the first stone. (Scripture simply says that when Steven was stoned there was a young man in the crowd who had their cloaks at his feet and his name was Saul of Tarsus. In this episode he is always referred to as Paul and never Saul.) Saul then goes on a rampage of brutalizing Christians. (Let's overlook the meeting with Caiaphus and being assigned Malkis to help him.) The point is, after his conversion, Paul has a hard time persuading the Christians to trust him. Once trust is lost it is hard to regain.

I didn't really care for this portrayal of Saul/Paul as something of a sociopathic maniac in the beginning by the way, but who knows...maybe he was.

Anyway, I believe the Scriptures and I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I also had History Channel as a favorite for several years. I enjoyed their various historic enactments. But if they are to take historic events and change happenings and characters and take literary license for the sake of dramatic effect, how can I trust anything they say?

I never expected "The Bible Series" to be perfect, but I never expected so much to either be added or deleted for the sake of entertainment. My real hope, especially as it proved popular, is for people unfamiliar with the Bible to go to Scriptures with real interest and this would open them up to discuss the meanings of The Word. But what happens if they turn to the Scriptures and find a number of things quiet different from the TV series?  Will they trust either?

But you know, the Word of God and The Gospel have survived thousands of years and all kinds of attacks. God's Word has a way of being heard and getting under the skin, even if the ones presenting it do so out of wrong intent. Certainly the Passion scenes were gripping. These made we winch several times.

Of course, they stuck with traditional images, rather than perhaps historic fact. Most likely Jesus would have carried the patibulum or crossbar of the cross upon his back, as the thieves did. The patibulum generally weighted about 100 pounds. You can imagine then what the longer piece, the stiles weighted. Christ would have struggled with the crosspiece alone in his beaten state, especially after a scourging. He would have loss a lot of blood and been dehydrated. Remember he hadn't eaten and had little or nothing to drink over this period of time as well.

The other tradition used was portraying Simon of Cyrene as a Black Man. This belief came about because Cyrene is in Libya. However, there existed at the time a large colony of Israelites living in Libya, around 100,000. It is more likely Simon was one of these Jewish colonists come to Jerusalem for the Passover. But these are small points and it is possible Simon was black.

I was cringing more at how they presented Mary Magdalene as one of the Apostles, speaking in tongues at Pentecost, urging the Disciples to show faith and going out to spread the message (Mary apparently taking the Gospel to Antioch, right).

I was also a bit mystified at the scene where John hung from a chain and these Roman Guards poured a bowl of something into his mouth. The narrator had been telling us how each of the Apostles died and said, "John was poisoned in Rome.

A little later we are told the "Roman's failed to kill John, however" and he was banished to Patmos.We see John's eyes open as he lays on the prison floor and then he spits up.

I went searching for this tale and could find nothing about the Roman's poisoning John. The only "legend" I found was that the Roman's had thrown John into a pot of boiling oil to kill him, but he didn't die.

Anyway, enough of my carping because much of what was shown was close to Scripture. I think the Word of God gets heard where people have become seekers, even if in the mouth of demons. That seemed to be somewhat the attitude of Paul and that's good enough for me.

Philippians 1:15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

And so I rejoice too.

And in Luke 9:49-50 we find:

 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

In the end, The Bible Series is for us, because it opens the doors and makes it easier to talk of these things.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Get ready for Your Colonoscopy or A Night at the Races

As we meander, and drink and eat, our way through earthly life and earthly delights, we get to experience new adventures. Some of these may be the direct result of too much of those earthly delights. One such adventure is a kind of light at the end of the tunnel called a colonoscopy. It is something you keep hearing you should get when you reach a certain age.  I am actually past that recommended certain age and had never had this procedure. I am not big on doctors and hospitals and needles in the arm.

However on Palm Sunday after coming home from church I felt extremely tired and fell asleep for a couple hours on the sofa. When I woke up, I found I couldn't walk across our living room without feeling woozy and having to sit down.

I thought I was getting the flu back, specifically the stomach flu. I had been going through a wretched couple weeks as far as my body was concerned. Two weeks earlier arthritis visited my left wrist and
hand. I had never had an attack there before and this was one  like the invasion on D-day; Mr Arthur Itis brought his heavy forces to bear. The pain was intense and basically rendered my left hand useless. (Oddly coincidental that one year ago my mother had a stroke that took away her use of the left hand.)

The pain was so bad I began doing something I rarely do. I began popping pills, first Tylenol and then aspirin. Oh, I was swallowing two aspirin tablet every eight hours every day. Then in the middle of the following week I had an ache across my midsection and I felt tired and cold. I could not get warm at all. That was when I decided on The Flu. It seemed mild, though, until Palm Sunday afternoon. And then Monday morning came.

I awoke early as usual, but the need to get to the bathroom was not as usual. Yes, waking up and having to immediately empty the bladder is pretty common, but this was the sit down variety of things and that was not normal. It was urgent, and it was messy and it was a lot. Well, you expect that with the flu and I figured maybe this is the start of getting it out of my system, until I reached to flush and saw it was black.

When it is black, and sticky like road tar, it means one thing. I was bleeding internally somewhere.

Of course, first thing I did once cleaned up and dressed was Google the matter. What could cause this phenomena?  One of the possibilities was the stomach flu or more specifically gastroenteritis of the bacterial form, something more common in us older folk and has the symptoms I had. I decided to let some time go by and see if it all went away, as my sickness generally do, but not this time. I was weak and woozy and tired and cold as anything on Monday. I was able to walk a bit further on Tuesday, all the way across a room. Wednesday I was about the same, but things were still coming out black, so I called my doctor and got an appointment for the Thursday before Easter. (Yes, that's my doctor on the left. Yes, I have a female doctor. Now some may be wondering why I resist going to the doctor when she looks like that? I sometime wonder the same thing.)

Doctor Sue (first name), looked me over and expected I might have an ulcer. I drink a lot of coffee, drink some alcohol, was popping aspirin and pretty much eat whatever I want, plus this has been a stressful year. My blood pressure was up, my weight was down and she thought I was down a pint in blood. She wrote me an order for a hemoglobin test. She said go directly to the lab, do not pass go, do not collect $200. She put STAT at the top of the order. She said the results would reach her by 3:00 PM and if my hemoglobin was too low she would put me right in the hospital.

I didn't want to go into the hospital -- ever, but especially then. I wanted to be at Iron Faith Fellowship's Sunrise Service atop a hill at 6:00 AM Easter.  I did go to the lab, she did get her results, and although my hemoglobin was down some it wasn't terribly low, so I avoided hospital.

Dr. Sue arranged an emergency colonoscopy for me, which I could not avoid and that brings me to this week and this subject.  The video is of my day before the procedure as I went through the dreaded preparation. Oh, what tales of woe and terror I have heard about this preparation, especially during that week when I told the world it was coming. People chuckled knowingly, patted me on the back, consoled me and some wanted to see my reaction when I began to drink the required magic potion and so the resulting video. I promised my friend, Ron, I would record that moment.

I had seen his video doing it, his grimace, his attempted to sip it down, his frustration, his grasping his stomach in disgust and his gagging (photos of Ron's agony surround these lines)  and I knew he wanted to see my suffering in return.

If you watch my video, I suggest scrolling down to the bottom of my Blog and turning off the music. It will be better viewing if you click the little square of corners on the lower right of the video frame and make it full screen view. (Don't worry there are no gross images in this film, unless some think my face be gross enough.)

I certainly didn't look forward to last Wednesday with glee. I didn't really worry about it either. I just went about as normal and you know what? It came without me worrying anyway. I had to drink a half gallon of a special brew, doing one 8 ounce glass every half hour. I was amazed how quickly each half hour went by, but you know what they say, "Time flies when you're having fun."

After the elixir I was also amazed at how fast and often the results came as well and how they lasted
long into the night. I managed to fall asleep at some point only to be awoken at 3:50 for some more emptying. And before I knew it my sleepy wife and I were on our way to the Endoscopy Center of Delaware.  I am glad I insist on always leaving early for unfamiliar destinations. For a while it appeared I made a mistake and we would arrive a half-hour early. Traffic had zipped down I-95 despite construction. We were off the proper ramp and then realized we couldn't quite understand the Google Map claims of where streets were supposed to be. After a few missed turns we did manage to locate the center.

My wife is not an early riser. I would normally allowed her to sleep (my appointment was for 8:15 AM), but the center insisted I needed a driver to collect my carcass afterward, so she had to get up and come along, but not without reason. I was in no condition to drive home with the euphoric high I experienced from the anesthesia. I was as mellowed out as a projectionist at a Cheech & Chong film festival.

The people at the center from receptionist to physician couldn't have been nicer. The nurse got my IV in with almost no pain. She got me a blanket because I was cold. There was a reason for my shivers.

 "Take everything off, except your socks," she said, "and put on that gown."

 You know, that gown, the one with the air conditioned back.  (How do you tie those things anyway?)

"I can tie the neck for you," said the nurse, "but I'd just leave the waist untied."

I was hooked up and soon wheeled to another room. The doctor was there and a nurse and a technician and...people just kept joining the let's see what's up Larry party. The doctor suggested we get an Endoscopy as well as the Colonoscopy. We all signed some papers and I was prepped for attack from all sides. One of these strangers, who now had more familiarity with my nether regions than most, stuck this plastic bite do-dad between my teeth and told me to roll over on my side. The anesthesiologist put something through the IV and_________

_______And I woke up back in the dressing cubicle with my wife. I dressed as she went for the car. I was escorted out and we rode home with me repeating things over and over again just as giddy as can be.

These were the results of this Star Trek episode, people going where no person has gone before.

Angioectasia in the cecum
Medium hiatal hernia
Normal mucosa in the esophagus
Granularity and friability in the antrum compatible with gastritis (biopsy taken)
Ulcer in the distal bulb (biopsy taken)

Yeah, I looked all those things up on line, now it's your turn.

Upshot is, yeah, I got an ulcer.

The recommendations are:

Regular diet
Resume current medications
Follow-up with the Doctor in three weeks
If bacteria are present on the biopsies, may recommend treatment with antibiotics.

It other words, if I do have gastritis I'll get medication.  I will find out more on May 1 at my follow-up.

But now you have seen how really simple this all is, don't fear having one if over that certain age.