The Fall

It’s 5:36 on the morning of January 31, 2018. I had set an early alarm and am walking out the front door of our house looking at the sky. The security footage shows me linger on the sidewalk in front of the house for several minutes before turning south to climb the hill to the end of our street for a better view of the cloudy sky.

10 minutes later the camera shows my return – carefully walking across the front yard holding my left forearm stiffly in front of me with my right hand. At the front door I try the doorbell three times before finding a way to open the door with my feet.

The inside camera doesn’t catch my entry through the front door but it is activated when I walk through the kitchen and come to rest at the dining room table, forearm on the table. A few minutes later Tina appears and I shuffle out the front door for our trip to the emergency room.

As I watched it for the first time, I was surprised at how little of the pain was visible in those silent images. There is just one moment as I wait for Tina to respond to the doorbell that I throw my head back wailing but the moment passes quickly.


It was a futile quest. Typical Oregon clouds blocked any view of the rare super blue moon eclipse. Even before setting the alarm I knew this was likely but I thought it was worth a try and it was only one hour earlier than I had been waking recently.

As I hiked up the hill I remembered the numerous times this climb had been difficult and now it was easy. When I got to the top, I walked to the next street over and scanned the sky. Nothing. “Where should I be looking?” I wondered as I turned around and began walking back. I pulled up the web browser on my phone as I formulated the Google search phrase in my mind. Before I could type it, I stepped off the sidewalk and into a world of pain.

It was the curb strip and it was landscaped with lava rocks. I was laying face down and my left arm hurt a lot. I lay there moaning and swearing for a bit before attempting to get up. However, when I pushed up with my left arm, I felt no resistance from the ground. Confused, I looked up at my forearm and was surprised to see it was laying at a different angle than it “felt.” Instead of facing the ground, ready to push off, it was laying at a 45° angle the other way and on the other side, a position that is normally not possible because the shoulder won’t rotate far enough. I knew then it was bad.

More swearing and lots of self-recrimination (“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”). My phone was within reach so I called Tina who was still sleeping at home. It was 5:39 when I made the first call and 5:40 when I gave up after the third. I briefly considered a FaceTime call but abandoned that idea when my phone told me I had disabled it for cell data.

I needed to stand and I needed to walk the four blocks back to the house. I needed to keep my arm from flopping while I walked. Once I got to the house, I knew Tina could take over and make the remaining decisions such as whether we should go to urgent care or the emergency room.

I gathered my wits, grasped my left wrist with my right hand and lifted my left arm off the ground. I lurched to my knees, carefully centered my gravity and then stood. “Yes. Good. Ok. Ok.” I muttered as I turned towards home, eyes fixed on the ground immediately in front of me for fear of another misstep.

I had only taken a couple of steps before realizing that my sweat pants had slid down and would be a problem for walking. Except neither hand was free to pull them up. A nearby hedge was just the right height to temporarily rest my bad arm and pull up my pants with the good one.

Half a block later the problem arose again and I looked for a new arm rest. The problem with pulling up pants one-handed is that it is very difficult to pull up the side opposite your hand properly. I managed to get the waistband completely over my left buttock this time and was soon back to walking slowly and muttering encouragement to myself. “Just a little further. Almost there. We got this.” (Yes, I refer to myself as “we” for conversations in my head.)

Halfway home and I realized I was not wearing my glasses. I did not consider turning back to retrieve them. The thought was preposterous.

When got home I knew that I had to be especially careful crossing the yard. If I fell again, it could be disastrous. I walked very slowly and very carefully across the grass, feeling each step fully before shifting my weight forward. I tried the doorbell but Tina was fast asleep so I opened the door with my foot and walked inside yelling Tina’s name.

I went to the bedroom and she still lay in bed undisturbed. I sat on the edge of the bed by her feet, reached over and shook her. I waited for her to rouse and remove her earplugs before saying, “I fell and may have broken my arm. You have to take me to the hospital.” It took her a few seconds to realize what was happening but then she got out of bed and started dressing.

I wandered out to the dining room where I sat at the nearest chair, rested my injured arm on the table and began sobbing uncontrollably. I knew that I had done what was necessary to get help and now I could trust others to take care of me. The entirety of my situation came crashing down and I collapsed underneath the weight. My whole body shook and all my recent failures flooded my consciousness.

I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breath, a technique used in mindful meditation. Time crawled. Soon I began wailing “What is taking so long?” over and over. The pain was immense and I knew it was not ending any time soon. Aside from the pain, the visceral feeling of danger felt like an existential threat. I was completely in fight-flight-freeze mode and all rationality had been suspended.

Tina came out and began reassuring me. She helped me out the door and into the car. She drove to the scene of the accident to retrieve my glasses and then on to the emergency room. The fifteen minute drive to the hospital seemed to take an eternity but I was calmer by this time and tried intermittently to focus on my breath again. It seemed to work but when I opened my eyes, we were hardly any closer than when I closed them. The swearing and self-deprecation continued throughout. I also came to realize that eventually I might be faced with even more pain while my arm was being put back into place.

Tina parked near the emergency room entrance in a handicap spot and put her placard (which she keeps in her purse) on the dashboard. The waiting room was relatively empty when we arrived and I was admitted immediately. After standing in the admission office for a few minutes (I was afraid you sit because I didn’t know how hard or painful rising from the chair would be), we were walked to a room with a bed on which I sat to be evaluated.

It was quickly determined that x-rays would be needed. I was offered a wheelchair but I declined, still fearing the painful consequences of standing from a low seated position. We walked to the radiology room just outside of the ER where they thankfully had a downward facing projector which allowed me to rest my arm on the detector pad.

My actual x-ray

The x-rays showed that I had suffered a “simple dislocation” of the elbow which essentially means that there were no fractures. Obviously, that was good news but I knew that the possibility of more and greater pain lay ahead during the reduction maneuver that is used to restore the elbow to normal alignment. When the doctor told me that I would be “under” for the procedure, I immediately told him that I loved him. I was only half-joking.

When I awoke from the anesthesia (propofol), my arm was in a splint and a sling. When we checked out a short time later, the pain was considerably less and the events of the morning already felt like a fading memory.


It is now two weeks later during which time I have worn two splints and a brace but now my arm is free again. Physical therapy starts next week.

Daily habit goals, November

Time Action
07:00 Wake
08:30 Get out of bed
Clean bite guard
Blood sugar
Make coffee
Kitchen chores while waiting
Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:00 Apply for jobs/career development
Medications with second cup of coffee
11:00 iOS developer training
13:00 Bike ride (10 miles minimum)
14:00 Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30 Meditation
15:00 iOS developer training
16:30 Chores
19:00 Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30 Free time for…
…Music
…Chores
…Reading books
…TV
22:15 Brush teeth
Bite guard
Bed

Daily habit goals, October

Time Action
08:00 Wake
08:30 Clean bite guard
Blood sugar
08:35 Bike ride (10 miles minimum)
09:30 Make coffee
Kitchen chores while waiting
Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:45 Apply for jobs
Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00 iOS developer training
12:30 Chores
14:00 Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30 Meditation
15:00 iOS developer training
16:30 Bike ride
19:00 Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30 Free time for…
…Music
…Chores
…Reading books
…TV
22:15 Brush teeth
Bite guard
Bed

Daily habit goals, July

Time Action
08:00 Wake
08:30 Clean bite guard
Blood sugar
Put water on to boil
Retrieve ear phones
Walk
8:45 Make coffee
Kitchen chores while waiting
Make/eat peanut butter toast (15g carbs)
09:00 The Daily Bowie
Apply for jobs
09:30 Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00 iOS developer training
12:30 Yard work
14:00 Lunch (60g carbs)
14:30 Meditation/mindfulness
15:00 iOS developer training
16:30 Yard work/chores
19:00 Dinner (60g carbs)
19:30 Free time for…
…Music
…Chores
…Reading books
…Walking
…TV
22:30 Brush teeth
Bite guard
Bed

Daily habit goals for 2017, revisited

Time Action
08:00 Wake
08:30 Clean bite guard
Blood sugar
Make coffee
Kitchen chores while waiting
Make/eat protein breakfast*
09:00 Apply for jobs
09:30 Medications (second cup of coffee)
11:00 Mindfulness
11:30 Lunch: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
13:00 Blood sugar
15:30 Snack
15:30 Yard work/home repairs
18:00 Dinner: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
19:30 Free time for…
…Music
…Chores
…Reading books
…Walking
…TV
22:30 Brush teeth
Bed

* snack pack, peanut butter toast

Daily habit goals for 2017

Time Action
08:00 Wake
08:30 Brush teeth
Blood sugar
Start hot water
Walk
09:00 Make coffee
Make/eat protein breakfast*
09:15 Begin work
09:30 Medications (second cup)
11:00 Standup
11:30 Lunch: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
13:00 Blood sugar
15:30 Snack
17:30 Chores
18:00 Dinner: (tbd) calories and (tbd) carbs
19:30 Free time for…
…Mindfulness
…Music
…Chores
…Reading books
…Second walk
…TV
22:00 Brush teeth
Bed

* eggs, snack pack, peanut butter toast, cottage cheese, string cheese

Letter to my Uncle Lorell who is dying

September 3, 2011

 

Dear Lorell,

When I was a kid there were few things I liked more than going to my uncles’ farms. Being a “city slicker” (as my classmates often called me), the farm was a completely different world to me. When I visited my Uncle Merlin’s farm it was mostly about hanging out with my cousins who were close in age to me, but when I visited your farm, it was always about you and I spending time together. That is a gift that I will always treasure.

One time when I was there “helping” you, we tried to take a dent out of the local rat population. I’ll never forget when you lifted up a piece of plywood (or maybe it was corrugated tin) that was laying behind the big machine shed. The plywood was laying on a small pile of corn and when you lifted it, it revealed several rat “tunnels” and the rats inside them. I was surprised but you were not because you had a gun and started shooting the rats as they scurried away. Guns, rats, tunnels – everything about being on the farm was so cool.

You’ve always been there. You were at Grandma Christensen’s for all those Christmases with the toys in the bedrooms and the money in the envelopes. And you were at Grandma Ring’s for the oyster stew. I remember sitting in that little living room watching Vitas Gerulaitis play tennis and you laughing when I joked that his name sounded like a disease. Harold was there. And my dad. And Gene.

So many memories I have of you and so little time to tell you about them. You kept your golf cart in Grandma Ring’s garage. You drove that giant green Cadillac. You visited me at my first house in Portland. Remember? You got lost and I told you “find the first bridge you see and cross it.” I was so sad to spend what I thought would be our last birthday together three years ago but now I’m so glad that you have had three more years in this world. I’ve never had a birthday where I didn’t think of you. And I never will.

As I sit here with all these thoughts and memories swirling through my head, I’m desperately trying to figure out how to end this note to you in a meaningful way. I suppose that life mostly doesn’t come to an end in a dramatic or meaningful way so perhaps I should just end this by saying that I thank you for your many kindnesses towards me over the last (almost) 45 years and that I think you’ve been a good uncle and a fine man. I also thank you for my double cousins without whom my life would be lesser. I hope that you reach the end of your days peacefully and without regret. And I love you.

Mick

Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 25, 2011

A few years ago I used to ride with Portland Critical Mass every month. Eventually, the numbers became so small that it seemed pointless to continue. Still, I’ve long felt a kinship with Critical Mass rides everywhere. Thus, seeing the following video taken Friday night in Brazil almost made me cry. One minute into the video, the joy and serenity is replaced with insane violence:


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All I Got For Xmas 2010



All I Got For Xmas 2010
Originally uploaded by rynosoft

Once again I had a very bountiful Christmas. Click the picture to see the details but my gifts included:

  • Earth: The Book
  • Microwave safe soup bowl
  • Soup spoons
  • Chopsticks
  • Microwave safe coffee cups
  • Instant coffee
  • My four favorite Beatles albums remastered
  • $75 in cash
  • Personal audio mixer
  • Let It Be…Naked
  • Sugar free candy
  • New earphones for my iPhone
  • Six pack of grilling sauces/rubs
  • Two iTunes gift certificates worth $45 (not pictured) – redeeming for various apps and songs
  • Amazon gift certificate for $50 (not pictured) – redeemed for iLife ’11

Thanks to Buddy, Leroy, Tom, Jan, Michelle & Ric, Tina, Thomas, Graham and the Kittens. I know I’m hard to shop for and appreciate when people do so anyway.

An Extra Day in Milwaukee

I spent most of last week in Milwaukee (actually Menomonee Falls), Wisconsin, searching for the cause of a crash in our software that is adversely affecting a client. I flew into Milwaukee on Monday, spent three days on the client site and planned to fly back home Thursday evening. Thursday morning I glanced at my Google Calendar on my iPhone for my departure time. This is what I saw:
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