December 8, 2019

UC Davis Medical Center

I’ve been in a ruminative mood with lots of strange dreams this week which means its time for another one of my long stream of consciousness posts which you can either read with bated breath or scroll on past looking for the next cat meme or political post guaranteed to raise your blood pressure. I think I know where some of it’s coming from; I’m not sure about other contributors.

This past week started slow as I recovered from my major GI bug that I managed to pick up in Seattle over Thanksgiving weekend. It knocked me over for a couple of days but I was up and moving again pretty much by Monday night, as long as I chose my foods carefully and kept myself hydrated. I called in sick on Monday, something I very rarely do but with my 100 and some sick days in the bank, I figured I could use one and I would have been a complete basket case if I had tried to do a double clinic day on my first day out of bed. I think disturbed electrolytes started me off on a week of rather odd dreams, most of which I barely remember, but seem to be drawing on my distant past as Steve has been somewhat prominent in them. He hasn’t been showing up in my dreams much for some years. Not sure if he’s got a message for me and couldn’t get hold of someone in their bathroom (I told that story another time) or if I’m just having to process something about our relationship and his death. That’s been the one thing about the last year or so that I hadn’t really expected. When Tommy died, I knew I would have a lot to work through (having been through it before with Steve) but what has ended up happening is I never really finished processing Steve’s death. Just sublimated it when Tommy and I got together and now I find that I’m having to work on both losses simultaneously. At least I’m not the wife of Bath… yet…

Two things happened early this week that have probably added into all this. The first was an email from a national search firm. I get these all of the time, usually inviting me to apply for fabulous and lucrative positions in geriatrics in Kalamazoo, Michigan or Allentown, Pennsylvania. I’m sure they’re both nice places but not the sort of place I’d pull up stakes for and move without an orthopedist’s salary attached. This one asked me to consider applying to be the Chief of the brand new geriatrics program at UC Davis. (I was the acting chief of the old geriatrics program at UC Davis in 1998 when the university deliberately blew it up sending my and Steve’s lives into chaos for some time. The fallout from that was what brought us to Alabama and insured that I got to take care of a dying partner thousands of miles away from my friends and family). I wrote them back a very terse note basically stating that I found it somewhat ironic that I would even be asked about that position and not just no thanks, but NO THANKS. I pity whomever does take that job. The community organizations in senior care have long institutional memories and none of the Sacramento Valley ones are likely to be overly friendly to UC Davis’s new venture given their track record.

The second was a quick visit from Katherine Gundling, my best friend from my Sacramento days (who was also ultimately treated badly treated by UC Davis and fled to UC San Francisco where she had a distinguished career in Allergy and Immunology). We hadn’t seen each other for years and she and her husband were in Asheville for the long weekend so made arrangements to swing through town so we could cash up. Katherine was intimately connected to me and Steve as a couple for years, but never knew Tommy terribly well and it was nice to talk over old times and past lives for an afternoon. She had helped me scatter Steve’s ashes in the desert outside of San Diego all those years ago, but she had never heard the sequel story of what had happened with the bit I kept back to take to Kentucky so I had to regale her with that one (also written up earlier in this space). Talking over all of that, I’m not sure that I’m not on some level still grieving my west coast life that was so thoroughly destroyed by forces beyond my control. Steve is the most obvious manifestation of that, but hardly the only one. If all that had not happened, where would I be? Still in Sacramento? Assuming Steve would have still died at the same time, who might I have found there? I would never have met Tommy who profoundly changed me for the better so might I have ended up in a far worse place that I am?

That theme of ‘might have been’ is prominent in Dear Brutus, the play that I am in that performs this next week (Eastlake Methodist Church – Oporto-Madrid and 2nd Avenue South – Thurs – Sat at 7:30 and Sun at 2:30). My character, Will Dearth, a failed artist and alcoholic, gets a second chance as a single father through Puck’s midsummer night’s magic,,, or does he. The part has been a challenge. Barrie writes in a heightened flowery Edwardian tone which bears little relationship to normal American speech patterns and trying to get the lines right has been a small nightmare. I generally play supporting parts in musicals that have two dozen lines and a verse of a song so having to get all this down has taken about all of my mental faculties. I suppose it’s good mental exercise at my age although I doubt it’s going to protect me in the end from the genetic dementia that runs in my family. My nieces had better be prepared for dear old dotty Uncle Andrew at some point. The show is coming together relatively well and is an opportunity to see a charming play from another world and time (having been written just before Edwardian society exploded into the jazz age).

I’m trying to decide what to do about the holidays this year. No running away. I will be here but I haven’t yet found the energy or heart to get down in the basement and go through the Christmas stuff for decorating. We did the house up every year because of our famous Christmas open house which went on from 2003-2017. Usually about this time, we’d be making lists, fighting over the decorations, trying to produce the church holiday pageant out of the dining room, relearning Messiah parts, and starting to lay in party groceries. I can’t do any of that with just me. You have to have someone constantly pushing you to be best to be able to have all that going on. I’ve toyed with somehow bringing back the Sunday after Christmas open house in some way but I can’t do the food like he did and the thought of the house prep just makes me feel tired. I’m thinking I might keep two traditions… one from me and Steve which was a movie on Christmas afternoon… and one from me and Tommy which was dinner at Hooters on Christmas night (it’s one of the few places that’s open). I’ll probably get around to putting up one tree eventually (after the show closes) but I’m not going to do much more than that. I’m wondering if I should give my famous theme trees like Marilyn Monroe away as part of my downsizing.

Tomorrow is Monday again which means double clinic day which means I should be nice and exhausted by the time I get to tech rehearsal. Better have two cups of coffee in the morning.

If you’re still reading this, you’re a masochist.

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