Friday, December 23, 2011

Haunted House

I'd finished hanging bed sheets over the windows. I had radios blasting music both upstairs and down. I had all the lights in the house turned on and all the doors and windows locked tight. The car keys were carefully placed to aid in a hasty exit but it was so dark outside I doubt I'd even attempt to make it to the car. I was ready for my first night alone in the old farm house. And, coincidentally, it was Halloween night. I kept thinking; "I hope no kids show up because I don't have any candy." Obviously this was the least of my worries.

I spread my sleeping bag on the old sofa that the former residents had left behind for me to use. I warmed a cup of hot chocolate in the microwave - also left by former residents - and settled in for the night.

After reading a couple magazines and finishing my cocoa, I turned off MOST of the lights; careful not to look around too much - if there were things moving around in the dark I didn't want to see them. I turned the radios down. I didn't turn it off because if there were things moving around I didn't want to hear them either. I removed my shoes and climbed into the sleeping bag fully clothed (again in case of a hasty exit). I had some extra blankets that I pulled up over my head (just like I'd done so many years ago, as a child growing up in this same house). And soon I was asleep.

I woke a couple times in the night to go to the bathroom. As I walked through the house, I kept focused on my destination, careful not to look around, and each time I climbed back into 'bed' I neglected to pull up as many of the extra blankets. It was hot under there and comfort was more important than my fear of the dark - another thing I remember from my childhood.

I woke just before the first light of dawn (according to my watch because it was still pitch dark outside). I put on my shoes, made a cup of instant coffee and waited for the new day.

As light started to show in the east I took the sheets down from the windows brewed another cup of coffee, and found a good seat to watch the sunrise over the lake. What a show that was. I've never noticed it before but when the sun clears the cloud bank on the horizon all the clouds in the sky get pure white tops over their grey bottoms. Anyway, I'd survived my first night in the house and was richly rewarded for my efforts with this beautiful show.

Maybe living in the country wouldn't be so bad. I didn't realize it right away but I was beginning to soften to the idea. I've lived in the city for over 40 years where it's never dark at night; it's never this quiet; and you are always surrounded by people. Almost all of them could care less who you are or what you do but you can never know for sure - so you're always on your guard. You always know they're out there. As I looked out on the yard, and across the surrounding farm land, the only 'living' thing I could see was a red squirrel. Not very dangerous but worthy of my attention just the same. So I brewed another cup and watched him scurry around the yard and up into the tree tops where he hoped from tree to tree and then down again and off somewhere beyond my view.

After breakfast, I began the days' (months') work of painting walls, fixing outlets, replacing fixtures, repairing leaky pipes. Over the past fifteen years - since my parents moved out - we've rented out this house. Our renters have typically been excellent boarders (all but the first) and they have taken very good care of the house. In most cases they have left it in much better condition than they found it. (yes, we've been very lucky.) Even so, there have been many issues that have needed attention (that aren't worth hiring someone to fix but still build up over time in an old house) and as old renters are usually moving out the same weekend the new renters are moving in, it's hard for me to sneak in to fix these things. I don't feel comfortable entering someone's house (even a tenant's) to fuss about fixing things. And things like painting the walls, replacing fixtures, and adding outlets, go a long way towards making the place presentable to potential renters - especially if I'm going to raise the rent.

So this time I have not advertized the house immediately after the renters moved out so that I can spend some time living in the house (camping would be a better word since it's pretty much empty). I can now work on these projects at my leisure and without interruption. Tackling these projects in an old house always seems to evolve into broader issues and it's nice to have the time to follow wherever these problems lead. I have also discovered that if you live in the house it will quickly 'tell' you about other problems that may be too minor for renters to bother telling you but would be nice to fix anyway. Plus I wanted to try out 'living' on the farm again. It's been over 40 years since I virtually ran screaming away from this farm; it's tedium; it's isolation (remember Luke Skywalker as a boy on Tantuine?) Now, I want to move back? After a lifetime (in many respects) of living far away,  I wanted to spend time here to see how much had really changed. Or how much would still have to change before I was willing to move back.

So, I spent the first part of this day gathering my tools and supplies from the truck and from the shed where I base my operations during my visits to the farm when the house is rented. Among these were two big boom boxes which could provide me with company (music and talk) while I worked alone in the house.

The next few days I worked with the radios blasting on all floors of the house.  Every time I left the house I made sure to lock up - even when I was just going out in the woods. I always locked the car at night - by habit - and one day I was getting ready for the night and had to retrieve one more thing from the car. I flipped the lock and closed the door, realizing too late the keys were still in the ignition (why did I do that?). I didn't have to go anywhere so I just left them for the night. I'd deal with this tomorrow. But it didn't help my piece of mind, that night, knowing my escape vehicle was unavailable.

The next day I found someone to help me open the car. They actually kidded me for; ".. locking this old thing." The rest of the week passed pretty much the same (except for locking the car) and I drove 5 hours back to the city. I was reluctant to leave the house empty but my neighbors had agreed to 'keep an eye on it'.
I looked into buying a home security system but the only ones I could find also required purchasing installation along with a 'service'.  I couldn't see paying someone to install such a simple thing OR paying someone to answer the phone when the system called to report a problem. But this is another story.
A few days passed before I made the return trip to the haunted house.  In this brief time away, I discovered that, in my absence,  much had changed.

( to be continued)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Wave

When faced with new difficulties we have to try resolve them in a way that will fit into the overall model of reality that we hold in our minds; the model which we use to direct our lives.  Often this involves making some hypotheses about the true nature of the problem, inventing some tests to prove or disprove, and then developing a solution that we can live with.  One way to analyze the unknown is to try to relate it to something familiar. Like the wave at a football game.

The Difficulty: 

Nighttime is not my friend. Sleep is not something I look forward to because it is always a venture into the unknown; into the new difficulties in my life; into one of the side effects of bladder surgery. Because I never know, when I go to sleep, whether I will wake up dry or wake up soaked or something in between. For many months after surgery I was plagued with night sweats and I would go through many changes of tee shirts (and blankets, sheets, and pillows) nearly every night. Those eventually stopped and I could finally concentrate on the problem of controlling my new bladder while sleeping. Or at least tuning in to the signals and waking up in time. There seems to be a couple different things going on here:
  1. Drainage; controlling and/or sensing leakage (for want of a better word). A few drops here and there, now and then, that the pad can absorb and keep up with for a long time. I have gotten much better at this over the past year. I noticed one night that as I was settling in to bed I was relaxing (down there) in preparation to sleep - compared to how I felt during the day. I decided to try contracting those muscles and holding that feeling until I went to sleep. This seems to have helped a lot - a surprise to me. 
  2. Flow; often - early in the morning, and after about 8 hours of sleep, I would wake up suddenly to the sensation of a strong flow. Often this would overwhelm the pad and warm my leg or whatever was down stream. And by the time I could muster enough consciousness to shut things down, well, let's just say it was usually too late. Which leads me, finally, to The Wave.
The Wave: 

My surgeon took a lot of pride in the fact that he performs nerve sparing surgery. Most of what he talks about in this regard is sparing the nerves that passed next to the prostate and on down to the penis to control the erection process (he's a young guy and still believes that sex is important). I have come to believe that he was also able to spare the nerves that feed the piece of intestine that he moved and reformed into the neo-bladder. I think you'd have to.

The surgeon has told me that the new bladder doesn't have muscles like the original bladder that contracted and pushed the urine out when I took a pee. Based on my experiences with this neo-bladder I have come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, muscles in the neo-bladder walls that are capable of contracting and emptying the bladder very effectively. The problem is that these are not voluntary muscles, they are not very strong, and I have no control over when they do their work (more or less).

Evidence the fact that I can sit down to pee and work as hard as I can to empty the bladder - all the tricks I have been taught and have learned. When I think I'm finished there are times when, in the process of pushing, etc. I discover that I also need to take a dump. NOW - once I initiate this process and almost immediately, I get a strong flow of urine. So, I've learned that if I really want to clear out the bladder all I need do is take a dump. What's going on here? It could be that in the process of moving this bowel through the lower colon (which passes next to the bladder) I am squeezing the 'bag' - so to speak - in a way that I cannot do either with my diaphragm muscles or through manual external massage.

But an alternative hypothesis has come to mind based on this and other evidence. I believe these muscles are used in the intestine to move digestive materials through the intestine using peristaltic contractions. The Neo-bladder has retained these muscles and the nerves that control them and the net effect is similar to the 'wave' that the fans do at a football game.

Cheerleaders run - in front of one section and then the next - waiving their hands up in the air to get the fans in each section in turn, to stand and cheer and then sit back down while the next section stands and cheers. And so on, as the wave moves around the stadium.

My surgeon removed one of these sections and made it the neo-bladder and in the process kept the nerves intact so the relocated section still 'thinks' its in it's original place in the 'stadium'. So as the peristaltic contraction moves down the intestines and that 'cheerleader' gets to where that relocated section used to be, the neo-bladder contracts (stands up and cheers) as if it were still in it's original place in the intestinal system.

And so (the test)? 

I can imagine that when we are sleeping our body functions shut down along with our minds ( a concept I became very familiar with after my surgery). When we are fully rested our body begins to wake up and the functions fire up again so the body is prepared for whatever the mind decides to ask it to do when it gets around to waking up. So when my intestines wake up, they begin moving things around again and since my neo-bladder still thinks it's intestine, it takes it's turn when the wave passes.

The solution here seems to be to tune my mind to wake up when my body wakes up. This involves both sensing the fact and then (the hard part) acting on it. When my body wakes up it's time for me to get out of bed because if I'm up and moving then I can easily control the wave when it hits. Otherwise I will snooze (like I've done all these years) and then it becomes too late.

This seems to work - as long as I don't mess with things. As long as I don't stay up and get over tired. As long as I don't party too much or eat too much before bedtime. As long as I don't drink anything when I wake up at night (don't know for sure if this makes a difference) but I drink a lot of water in the daytime to make up for it - gotta keep the new system well flushed out. And as long as if I wake up and it's close to morning, I get up.