I’m So Scared That I’m Laughing


Nine more days until the nice neurosurgeon and the lovely ENT drill a hole in my head to carefully, slowly, delicately take out the tumor that is trying to strangle my facial nerves and knock me on my butt.

I’m scared. I do NOT want to be out cold for 8 or 9 hours while people are poking around in my brain. I do NOT want to be stuck in a big, loud, brightly lit, big city hospital for four or five days. I do NOT want to be in pain.

I’m scared.

But I am taking the sage advice of my older brother, who is powering through cancer treatment with the attitude that “it is what it is, and all will be well.” I am channeling the courage and strength of my friend Fran, a young mom who is dealing with breast cancer treatments by facing it directly and looking forward to having it behind her.

And I’m leaning on my sister, who is always hilarious. She has the most wonderful gallows humor that lifts her through life’s many struggles.

Therefore, let me tell you a few things about being an overweight, clumsy old woman with an acoustic neuroma. First of all, I have named him “Stanley.” I want to personalize him, and I want to make him something that is separate from me and my own personal body. Stanley seems like a good name for someone annoying, frustrating and slightly toxic. Someone who has been bugging you for years but who won’t go away.

On Aug. 5 we will send Stanley on his merry way and finally be free of him.

I am also choosing to look at the hilarious side of my wonky, wobbly self. Picture this: in the middle of an average day, when I am thinking about dinner and not about Stanley, I calmly reach into my dryer to pull out the clean clothes. WHOMP. I suddenly and unceremoniously tip over and land on my knees in my laundry basket. Oopsie. Nothing hurts, so what can you do except laugh?

I reach down casually to pull some weeds out of my garden. Same deal. WHOMPIE. I end up with a marigold up my nose. Could be worse, to quote my dear departed Momma.

I see myself walking down the hallway in my house, bonk on the right wall, bonk on the left. Sheesh. I am walking like a drunk and it’s 10 AM. Even my dogs look judgemental. What are you gonna do, right? It’s funny!

It’s funny to wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why someone is honking a car horn in this rural spot, and to realize that the sound is inside my head. It’s even funnier when everyone reacts to a sound and I say, “Oh, you mean that isn’t my brain?”

This will also be quite a learning experience, right? I studied a bit of brain anatomy and neurology many years ago when I was a grad student in speech/language pathology. It was cool to go over my MRI with the doctors. I look forward to seeing scans after Stanley moves out.

I’m also making plans for after the surgery. I am determined to get back to my old self as soon as possible. They say that recovery from this can take months, but I am looking to speed it up. In my effort to do that, I am doing a LOT of vestibular stimulation through my physical therapist. This means that at various times (like waiting in line for an amusement park ride with my grandkids) I stare at one spot in front of me and slowly swing my head from left to right and up and down. I look like an escapee from a local asylum.

It gives me lots of space in crowds, but it’s a little embarrassing. At least for my family. I don’t personally care how I look. I gotta get Stanley out and get back to life!

I am spending these next few days trying to relax. I am distracting myself with the sweet antics of bunnies and chipmunks in the yard. I am spending time with the people I love most dearly. Next week we’re having a “Bye, Stanley” party to celebrate and send him off. I hope to get to the ocean, my most healing and soothing place.

If you have any funny stories to share, please do! Stories about your own wobbles and wonkiness or about a friend’s experiences. Anything.

I have to laugh for nine more days.

After that I plan to moan, groan and demand that everybody baby me for a couple of weeks.

Caught in Amber


Photo by Natalia Soto on Unsplash

Waiting is such a difficult thing. I have been waiting for weeks to have surgery that will hopefully relieve some of the symptoms I am having from an acoustic neuroma. I don’t know how hard the surgery will be (How long will I be unconscious? How difficult will the microsurgery be? What complications might appear?) I don’t know what I will be feelings after it’s over. (How nauseous will I be? How manageable will the pain be? How long will it take before I can come home? Will I be safe to walk on my own?)

I was lucky; my surgery was scheduled only four weeks after I met my neurosurgeon.

Only four long, scary, challenging weeks. I am trying as hard as I can to stay busy. I am playing my violin, I am reading. I still play with and watch the grandkids. I am visiting local farmers markets and keeping up with news.

None of that matters.

I wake up scared and I spend all day trying to distract myself.

But I feel stuck. I feel helpless and immobilized.

I am like a tiny bug, trapped within a drop of amber, frozen in time and place.

Waiting.

I am a very very patient Nonni and was a very patient teacher.

I am NOT a patient patient. Let’s get it done. I want that tumor out of there. I want it out NOW. I want it gone so I can begin the next phase of life, whatever it looks like. I am ready to be partially deaf. I am ready to be off balance and to have a slightly droopy smile, all of which is likely.

I just can’t stand the waiting. Sitting still in my bubble of amber, unable to move forward, unable to help myself.

Sigh.

Maybe I’ll check out some online sales.

Advice to Doctors


As if I’m qualified……

Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

This may seem counterintuitive, but it is a message I’d really like to send to every doctor/surgeon/med student in the world.

You guys have read this already, but I have developed a benign tumor on my right acoustic nerve. It is called an “Acoustic neuroma” or a “Schwannoma”. Either way doesn’t that sound wicked scary?????

Well, it did to me. I have lost some hearing in one ear. I am off balance and walking like a drunken sailor even when I am neither. My lower lip is numb on the right side and my tongue tip is itchy and numb. I have a TUMOR on my freakin’ BRAIN.

I have not been the epitome of grace and acceptance. No. I have been the epitome of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

Now, I will be honest. It isn’t that I am thinking “why me?” Not at all. I am the luckiest human being that I have ever even heard of. Literally everything has gone my way. For my entire life. I have no right and no reason to ask “Why me?”

But I have been asking, “What horrible tortures are going to happen to me?” I have done the unthinkable and checked Google for “Acoustic Neuromas”. I even joined a FB group of “Acoustic Neuroma Survivors”.

Bad ideas. Bad, bad ideas. All full of “I am worse now than I was before surgery!” and “My surgery lasted 15 hours and I was in the hospital for 2 weeks!”

I got scared.

I got really scared. I am not a sick person. I do not do the hospital/surgery/recovery thing.

I’m NONNI, dammit! I play with kids! I cook! I do finger painting and cookie baking and block building and bike riding! I am NONNI!

So.

We drove into Boston this morning to meet the neurosurgeon who works with my chosen ENT surgeon. We parked in the garage. We noted where our car was parked (3D!). We followed the sign that said “EXIT”. We came to a wall. We went back up. We followed another sign that said “EXIT”. We came to a door marked “Emergency Exit ONLY!” We looked at each other. We went back up the stairs. We searched. We looked around.

At last, at last, we found our way out of the parking garage and onto a HUGE city street. Filled with cars and trucks and people and noise and stuff.

It took us almost a half hour to meander our way to the correct corridor in the correct building of the correct Boston hospital. We checked in and filled out papers and tried to relax.

And this is where my advice to doctors comes in.

After short wait, we were taken in to meet with my neurosurgeon. That man who would, theoretically, be drilling into my skull in the next few weeks.

He was kind, friendly, accessible, and open. All good. He ran through my various options, from “Let’s just wait and see” to a non-invasive gamma knife treatment, to the plain old “slice up your skull and dig out the tumor” scalpel surgery.

I already knew that I preferred the surgery, and when our conversation was finished, it was very clear that he agreed. As my ENT surgeon had agreed earlier.

I left the office feeling much calmer and more reassured than I’d been in many weeks. And you want to know why?

It wasn’t because he agreed on surgery. It wasn’t because he was very thorough, and spent as much time as I needed to review my MRI and CT scans. It wasn’t even because he’s the chief of Head and Neck Surgery at one of the best hospitals in the country.

Nope.

It was because he was remarkably unimpressed with my situation. It was almost a big yawn for him. It was unremarkable and unimpressive and I am certain that tonight when his wife asks about his day, I will not come to mind for a second.

So that is my advice to young medical professionals today. Be unimpressed. Be ever so slightly bored with your patient’s scary crisis.

For me, at least, this was the most reassuring message I could have possibly received.

Feeling Mortal


Nothing like upcoming brain surgery to keep a person humble.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

My, what an interesting place to find myself on this journey of life.

I think I have mentioned that I have a benign tumor on my right acoustic nerve. It’s called an acoustic neuroma. It’s pretty rare, as it happens in about 1 in 100,000 people in the US annually. Lucky me!

Because I am always worried about how my reactions will impact other people, I have been working very hard to stay calm since my diagnosis in April. It wasn’t hard, actually, because I don’t have a lot of symptoms, and it was easy to pretend it wasn’t there. Sure, I have lost about half of the hearing in my right ear, but that can be alleviated by sitting to the left of my friends. I am off-balance, but as a clumsy, chubby old lady, that hasn’t been so hard to deal with, either.

I have made my doctor’s appointments, gone to my CT and MRI scans, talked with audiologists, ENT specialists and PTs. Calm, on top of things, that’s been me.

“Oh, don’t worry,” I’ve said to my kids. “It isn’t cancer.”

But.

I am now two days away from meeting “my” neurosurgeon. And at odd moments in the day, I think, “Wait, I have a NEUROSURGEON??????” I have researched the upcoming procedure and have talked to my ENT. And I know that I have to go into a Boston hospital (only 1 1/2 hours away, but it feels like a foreign land). I will undergo roughly 8 hours of “microsurgery” through the bone behind my ear. When I wake up in the ICU, I will be dizzy, nauseous and in pain.

I’ll have to stay in there, far from home, for about 4-5 days. I may not be able to walk without assistance for a few weeks. I may not be able to drive for months. I will lose all of the hearing my right ear,, becoming totally deaf on that side.

I have been a singer with various local choirs for years. I love to sing. I am learning to play the violin and have made a lot of progress. I am a speech pathologist; I live by the auditory world. All of that feels threatened now.

None of this is life-threatening. I should be much calmer. I know two young, brave moms who are facing life-threatening cancer. I have a brother undergoing cancer treatments and a nephew undergoing years of treatment for leukemia.

But I am realizing something this week:

I do not know how to be that brave.

I’m afraid of being unconscious for a whole day. I’m afraid of being out of control. I’m afraid of the pain and the weakness. I am terribly afraid of who is going to come home from the hospital.

None of this feels like “me”.

I want to get up in some strange public place and shout out, “Wait!!!!! I can’t have brain surgery! I’m Nonni!”

Mostly, I am so terribly afraid that I won’t be strong or stable enough to take care of my sweet baby Max. I am so terribly afraid that after I have this surgery, I won’t be me. I won’t be myself.

All of this has me thinking about life. And about death. About what is really important.

I feel so mortal.

I am sad, too, that I’m going through my first medical crisis without my Mommy. Sure, I’m 66! I’m gray-haired. I’m a grandma! But as I try to be brave about the scariest thing I’ve ever faced, I I still wish that had my Mom to tell me it will all be OK.

If any of you have been through acoustic neuroma surgery, can you let me know how it went???

We Have Offended An Evil Genie


I’m sure of it.

Somewhere, somehow, in the past few months, Paul and I have definitely offended some seriously evil force in the universe.

If you saw my last post, where I said “It could be worse“, you know that my usually reliable good luck has kind of evaporated. What with the return of Covid, my strange blood issues and upcoming cancer surgery, a big old hurricane coming along….it’s beginning to feel like this might be a good time to huddle on the bed in the pile of bubble wrap.

Because, you know what?

Stuff just got worse.

Yup.

Last evening it was starting to seem as if things were getting better. Hurricane Henri had slipped to the west of us, and our power had stayed on. All of our kids were safe at their homes, and there wasn’t any damage to the venue where our son’s wedding is set to take place.

So around 7 pm, after cleaning up dinner, I told Paul that I was really, really, REALLY in need of a night of sleep. My pattern for the previous two weeks had been to sleep from about 10 to 12 and then to lie awake like a rigid, frantic, panic stricken heart attack victim until around 4AM, when I’d doze for two more hours.

I was tired.

As in: I was so tired that there were moments when I was starting to wonder if I was real or if I was a badly drawn avatar making my way through a pretend universe.

Yup.

Wicked tired.

But it was Sunday night, with nothing on the agenda for Monday. No pressing issues, no incoming storm surge, nothing. So I decided to take matters into my own aging yet hip hands. Now that I had finally weaned off of the loathesome prednisone, I’d knock myself into sweet, sweet oblivion and FINALLY get a few hours of decent rest.

I scooped up a lovely 1/2 teaspoon of what we lovingly refer to as “Kelly’s Magic Butter”. A tasty, herbal butter loaded with the fabulous weed grown by our dear friends.

Now, I have to explain that I have a medical marijuana card from the state of Massachusetts, and I regularly use a few cannabis gummies to help me to manage pain and insomnia. But over the course of two weeks on prednisone, I had found that my nice little indica candies were doing NOTHING.

It was time for the big guns. The big, non-narcotic, safe, tasty sleepy guns. Kelly’s Butter. Yum. I made my toast, I ate my butter, I felt all relaxed and happy. I went to bed at about 8 with a good book and cup of herb tea. Paul was reading in the living room, happy, well fed and untroubled.

I can’t begin to describe how peaceful and happy I felt as the magic butter did it’s work on my achy muscles. I closed my book, curled up with a sigh of pleasure, and I FELL ASLEEP.

Hahahahahaha.

Yeah.

Roughly 40 minutes after my descent into oblivion, my poor hubby gently shook me awake. “Honey, I need help.”

Poor Paul had spent the past hour and a half fighting an increasing bout of abdominal pain. He had gone from “oh, oh, indigestion” to “I think I’m dying” without ever even bothering me.

A fact which is illustrative on two points. A) the man is a saint and B) when I’m on prednisone, you better be facing imminent death before you bother me.

I tried to rouse, I really did. I got out of the bed. I washed my face. I asked a couple of questions about symptoms. I think. I mean, I tried to ask them.

Maybe I just frowned and mumbled something about getting some rest. I’m not sure. All I know is that I was desperately trying to figure out if I was real, to identify the source of the funny music I was hearing in my left ear and to appear supportive of my clearly suffering beloved partner.

In between his bouts of moaning and vomiting, I got myself into a cold shower. I drank about a gallon of water, and I thought I was thinking clearly.

I wasn’t.

I grabbed my purse and told Paul that I’d get him into the car and drive him the 10 minutes to the emergency room.

Luckily, in spite of his pain and suffering, he knew the sight of a kite-high old woman and overrode my suggestion.

We called our son-in-law, who came by to take us to the hospital.

So.

Things got worse, right? M’hm.

Paul spent last night going through diagnostic testing in our local ER. I was there beside him, in a recliner, with a pillow and blanket. Trying to stay remotely coherent.

Luckily, it’s 2021, and I fessed up to the medical staff.

“I have been having some bad insomnia….blah, blah….prednisone….blah, blah…..medical card…….”

The lovely nurse gave a little chuckle, handed me a big pitcher of ice water and left the room.

So it was a lonnnnnnnnnnnnng night of dozing for ten minutes at a time in a plastic recliner, jerking awake every time the door opened or the lights came on or I dreamed that I was being attacked by a giant polar bear.

I couldn’t relax because my hubs was in pain, because my dogs were outside in the remaining hurricane winds, and my mouth was so dry I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pry my tongue off my palate.

Finally, the sun came up, and I called my daughter for a ride home. Paul was headed for surgery, and I was free to collapse.

Except that when I got home, I was too wound up to sleep. I let the dogs in, fed them, sent a few emails out to let people know what was happening. I managed to doze off around 7.

And the texts started coming in at 7:10.

So I was up for the day by 8, and was too anxious, too wound up and way too tired to know what to do with myself.

Given the past month of medical bullshit, I decided that it would be a good idea to “change the energy” in the house.

Yup.

I cleaned the upholstery, vacuumed the entire upstairs, rearranged the living room furniture, changed all the knicknacks on several shelves and burned sage. At the time, I thought that it made sense to make myself as physically tired as possible. Because…..you know…..sleep.

By around 1pm, I was finished with everything. I had cleaned and organized. I had cancelled Paul’s clients for the next two days, spoken to all the key family and friends and I was waiting for a call from the surgeon.

And I waited. Awake.

And I waited some more.

Finally at about 1:30, I called the hospital to check in on my patient.

“Good news” said the cheery nurse. “He did great! He can come home tonight!”

WHAT?!

My heart beat ramped up to about 220, and my head started to pound.

I explained the situation to the nice nurse. I tried to convey the fact that I am an old lady with a bad temper who has slept for about 15 seconds in the past week. “I can’t do it, ” I tried to tell her. “I can’t take care of him. It won’t be safe for either of us.”

Pshaw.

They assured me I’d be fine. They had great faith in me!!!

“Come get him in an hour!”

So. I hung up the phone.

I sobbed. I cried. I swore a little bit.

I put the dogs out so I could get Paul in the house safely. I washed my face. I put some ice cubes in my armpits. I drank some Tulsi tea.

Then I sat down to wait for the call from the hospital, telling me that the patient was ready for the world’s oldest, crabbiest, most exhausted nurse to come get him.

I only had a couple of minutes to feel sorry for myself. Then my phone sent out a shriek, and the TV started to bleat out an alarm.

“A tornado warning has been issued for our area.”

Are.

You.

Kidding.

Me.

I don’t know when or how it happened, but there it is.

We have rather obviously offended a very evil genie.

Time to Stop Blaming Myself


I grew up in an Italian Catholic family, which means that guilt is my middle name. I grew up feeling guilty for an unmade bed, a missed homework assignment, and a mean comment tossed out to one of my siblings.

I grew up feeling guilty for being a terrible athlete, even though I was a decent musician and writer. I grew up feeling that my testy moods were my fault, although I understood that the hormones of adolescence were the likely culprits.

As I grew into adulthood, I shifted my guilt feelings just a bit. I learned to feel bad about myself if I ate an ice cream cone, knowing that I might get fat (guilt) and not look as lovely as I was expected to look. I learned to feel a deep sense of guilt for every mistake, every emotional outburst and every weak moment experienced by my kids.

Guilt, a feeling of deep unworthiness, was my defining characteristic.

But you know what? I sort of got over that feeling, for the most part. At some point in my 50 year relationship with my husband, I realized that he wasn’t actually upset with me for gaining a pound, missing a bill, having a bad day. He accepted me. He didn’t expect perfection from me, and I slowly, slowly learned to let go of the same expectation of myself.

And being a mother changed my view of my worthiness, too. My kids were great. They were happy, healthy, loving and secure. They were far from perfect, but for some reason, that was OK with me. In return, my own lack of perfection as their mother didn’t make any of them look at me as if I was a bug under a shoe. Instead, they taught me to laugh at my cranky moments, to embrace my human mommy self and to accept the fact that life has some pretty rough edges.

I have been evolving for about 6 decades. You’d think I would be pretty secure by now, right?

Enter the thought of physical frailty, and I am right back in my most guilt wracked days of self-loathing.

You see, when I was growing up, we all admired those older folks who remained hale and hearty. My uncle, who cut down a giant oak tree in his yard at the age of 70, was a family hero. My Nana, who lived on her own until the age of 99, and who took no medications, was a superhero.

I thought, for some reason, that my own aging experience would be just like theirs. I keep active. I eat well. I am always learning and thinking.

I thought that would do it.

But when I found myself struggling with ongoing pain and fatigue, and eventually was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I immediately asked, “What did I do wrong to cause this?” It felt like my fault, although I have no idea why that is true.

In the past few years, I’ve added a minor heart issue and two unrelated blood disorders to my medical records. I am smart enough, and informed enough, to know that having an inherited blood disorder can’t be my fault. I understand that having a condition labelled “idiopathic” means that even the highly trained doctors I meet with have no idea why this has hit me.

I still feel responsible. Deep in my heart, I constantly ask myself, “If I had just gone to a pilates class, would this have happened?”

Now I find myself on the scary edge of the cancer world. I have a very early, well contained, breast cancer. I need a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. It’s fine. It’s not like, “real” cancer. It just has to be dealt with.

My treatment is slightly complicated by my blood issues, meaning that before I can be treated by the surgeon and sent on to the oncologist, I need to meet again with the hematologist. There will be some extra blood tests and some platelets transfused.

Not a biggie.

I’m not scared (although I’m not happy, either).

But I do feel guilty.

I know it’s stupid. I know it.

But as I lie awake at night, pondering the next few months, I find my thoughts running along a familiar track. “If you had just worked out more……” “if you didn’t drink alcohol……” “Why didn’t you become a vegan?”

I don’t understand this thinking at all.

When my family and friends run into health issues, I never, ever, ever blame them for their bad luck. I don’t.

So why do I blame me?

I don’t know.

But I do know that I need you guys to respond, and to tell me that at 65 years old, stuff happens. People get sick. They get injured.

It’s life.

It’s not my fault.

Right?

Grace Under Pressure?


You know, when I’m daydreaming and sort of just fantasizing about life, I picture myself as a person who would display enormous grace under pressure.

I imagine myself hearing scary news and reacting in a calm and measured way. “Well,” I imagine myself saying to my doctor, “I’m just so happy that I live in a time when there are good treatments for this disease.”

I see the looks that my dear family would share. “Isn’t she amazing?” I imagine them murmuring. “So brave.”

When I picture myself (too often these days) facing a world on fire, a world where the grid has gone down and the food supply chain is broken, I see a strong, brave woman. I see myself channeling my inner Ma Joad, bracing myself to face the danger with a sturdy back and an unflappable courage.

In my head, I am always serene but strong. I do not waver. I smile through the darkest moments. I rise above the challenges that face me, ready to take on any struggle in order to take care of those I love.

I am, of course, completely full of shit as far as this fantasy is concerned.

I know this because for the one and only time in my life (so far), I have a couple of minor medical issues facing me. I am not dying. I do not have a terminal illness. I sort of have more of an annoying few days of medical tests to make sure I don’t need some medical intervention.

Should be nothing.

But it’s something.

The reality of my life is this:

I am not a serene, calm, accepting older woman who is ready to take on any challenge. Instead, I am a scared, whiny, weepy mess of a woman who wants to curl up under my covers with a box of cookies and a glass of wine. I want my kids. I want my mommy. I want a boatload of m&ms.

I am disappointed in me, to be honest. I’m afraid that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, I won’t be the one to organize the neighbors into a rescue force. I won’t be the kind and wise lady who sets up a foraging team to feed the kids in town. I doubt that I’ll be the resilient leader who looks at the reality of the situation yet manages to stay hopeful in the face of disaster.

I suspect, to my chagrin, that if I get scary medical news in the next few weeks I’ll start whimpering and I won’t stop until I’m either all alone or no longer capable of whimpering.

I don’t want to be a horrible and wimpy aging human. I don’t.

But I’m not sure how to turn myself into the person I see in my head.

Any suggestions?

Nonni Hits the Dispensary


Back in the olden days, when I was young and we called it “grass”, I rarely indulged in recreational marijuana.

But times have changed, and Nonni has joined the growing list of aging potheads.

Thanks to a few conflicting but minor ailments, I am now a fibromyalgia patient who can’t take any over the counter pain medications. Nor can I drink alcohol (hello there, aging liver!). I am trying to cut down on the medication that helps me to manage the fibromyalgia discomfort, which means that at the moment the only part of me that doesn’t hurt is my right earlobe.

Enter the magical joy of the Medical Marijuana Card!! Ta, da! Safe and happy pain relief (I hope!)

For the past few years I’ve been the lucky beneficiary of weed guidance from my kids. My sons and son-in-law have helped me to find relief from insomnia by providing me with cannabis infused butter. They’ve introduced me to the new version of smoked weed, which smells like a dead skunk, burns like a forest fire and can make you melt into your sofa cushions like hot wax.

Not exactly perfect for this old lady….

Anyway, the other day I had a telehealth visit with a lovely young (as in, probably a sixth grader) Nurse Practitioner. I didn’t even need any medical records. I just self reported all of my ouchie booboos, and presto! She certified me!

(No, not that kind of “certified”, although many have told me that I am definitely certifiable.)

She approved me for a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Card, good for one year.

I then spent about an hour maneuvering the state’s website and paperwork, and printed out my temporary card. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Off to the local dispensary I went!

Well, holy confusion.

Luckily for me, the kind, patient young people behind the counter were more than willing to explain things to their gray haired befuddled patient/customer. They barely even snickered.

The young man who was helping me explained the differences between the strains of weed. Did I want to be energized and given pain relief? “Yes, please.” OK! Sativa it is!!!! But he warned me that in some people it can increase anxiety. “No, please.” OK, then Indica it is! But that would make me sleepy and sedated.

Eventually he advised a hybrid.

But then we had to talk about THC to CBD ratio. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory versus pain relief and high. Or something like that. And don’t forget, there are many other cannabinoids that are helpful for other issues, like inflammation and appetite suppression. We looked at charts. We looked at graphs. We looked at printouts and glossy images. He talked. I bit my lip behind my mask and hoped my eyes looked intelligent.

Eventually, he seemed to feel like he knew exactly the right potion for granny here and jotted down a few notes. All was good. I had pretty much stayed with him so far, and was feeling fairly hip.

Until he started to talk about terpines.

Which sound to me like some type of fire accelerant but are actually related to smell (I think?) and to various types of high but also (maybe) have different health effects. Anyway, we had to consider our terpine preferences.

By now I was just nodding and sweating. There was a line of people waiting outside, six feet apart from each other, but looking a little surly. I just wanted to get my goodies and go home.

But my young and enthusiastic pharmacy major friend wasn’t done yet. Now I had to think about how to take my weed. I could choose lozenges, infused edibles, gummies, sublingual drops, topical rubs, roll on oil, vape, flower or something that was either wax or oil. Oh, and there was even a choice of various “sauces”!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor for a backache, I just want him to write something down on paper and send me to the pharmacy. I do not want to have to decide on my dosage, my route of ingestion or the flavor of the drug.

My little brain was awhirl. I did NOT want to look stupid. I was NOT ready for the teenagers to laugh at me.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were other “mature” people in the place, but most of them looked like they had been using weed every single day since Woodstock. Some of them were apparently using it to help cut down on their meth use.

I kept nodding my head, and saying, “Sure, whatever you recommend.” I kept trying to repeat, “Just make the ouchie booboos go away.”

Finally I thought I was ready to order. I wanted a topical cream, some sublingual drops and one vape for sleep. I pulled out the vape I’ve been using, and told the young man that when I had gotten a new cartridge recently, it just wasn’t staying in the device. Something was wrong.

The 13 year old working beside him looked at me over her flowered mask. She frowned. “You did remember to unscrew the magnet from the old cartridge and put it on the new one, didn’t you?”

The room filled with giggles and chortles as my face turned purple. I looked around at the experts, several of whom already appeared high, and shrugged my shoulders.

“Who knew?”, I laughed, getting into my role as the funny old lady butt of the joke. “You know, we should write a show for Netflix about this situation. We could call it Nonni at the Dispensary.”

Now the laughs were real, and kind and good natured. “Welcome, Nonni!” my young man barista said. “Here’s your product.”

Thanks to a “first time customer” offer, Nonni went home with two vape cartridges, lozenges, sub-lingual tincture, cream and ointment. As of right now, everything still hurts.

I just don’t care as much!

No Guilt Nonni


Oh, my. Poor Nonni.

If you’ve read my recent post about snow tubing, you’ll know that I have a pretty badly bruised right arm and some cracked or bruised ribs.

This is, without a doubt, my biggest ever “ouchie”. I am finding it very hard to sleep (did you know that you need your thoracic ribs to roll over?), to laugh (holy chest pain), to sneeze (catch me, I’m going to faint) or to cough (I’m going to throw up, I mean it, get that bucket, I am serious!)

My right arm just keeps swelling, getting more and more purple/black/orange/blue/yellow with every passing hour.

Me no likies. Me wicked sore.

Nevertheless, being Nonni, I agreed to watch the kids yesterday. My daughter stepped up on Tuesday, so I did get a whole day of rest after my big tubing adventure.

But after that, I really wanted to see the kids. I missed them! I needed them! So yesterday I took care of my two grandchildren. I wanted them. I needed to be with them.

And I wanted to prove that I could handle a little ol’ tubing crash without missing a beat.

So I lifted Johnny with my left arm (ouch. I didn’t know my ribs would be so connected). I snuggled Ellie on my lap (Yikes, did you know your ribs were connected to your lap?) I changed some diapers and served some meals and some snacks. I helped Johnny climb into his crib for a nap (oh, man, ribs are used for lifting on the other side?), but I had to lift him out when he woke up (ouch, ow, ow, ouw).

You get the picture, right?

One cannot Nonni with only one working arm.

Last night I woke up every time I tried to 1) roll over 2) cough 3) breathe. Every rib I have ever met seemed to be screaming at me.

When I got up this morning, I was surprised (and completely disgusted) to see that my entire right arm was swollen like a sausage.

Yuck.

But what could a Nonni do? I got up, took my shower without looking at the ugly purple appendage on my right, and got ready to take care of the kids.

I tried. I did.

But.

You cannot wrestle an 18 month old boy out of his poopie clothes and into his clean ones without your ribs. You can’t snuggle a sad 3 year old in your arms without using your right arm. No matter how hard you try, you can’t wipe down two wet dogs with one working arm. You can’t make pasta, or a sandwich, or get a snack for three hungry toddlers without dragging that aching right arm into service.

So.

I did it.

I did what no self-respecting Italian Nonni would ever do.

I asked for help.

I texted my daughter, telling her that I wasn’t able to keep the kids safe with my one working arm. I told her that she needed to come home from work early, and that I didn’t think I should have the kids tomorrow.

I felt breathless with guilt. I felt weak, worthless, upset, guilty.

And then my daughter came home.

“Mom,” she said calmly, “You’re hurt. You can’t watch the kids. It’s fine.”

And just like that, the guilt and weakness and oh-poor-me lifted off of me.

Tomorrow I plan to sit still, with ice on my arm. I plan to read. I plan to take my ibuprofen and use my ice packs.

Tomorrow I will be Boo-Boo Nonni instead of Super Nonni. And I will be OK with that.

It isn’t easy, let me tell you, but even an Italian Nonni can find a way to give her swollen purple arm and her smashed up ribs a chance to heal.

Thanks, Kate!!!

This was the first night….you should see how gross it is now…….

Jeez, what a jerk


close up me

Do you ever have those days when you know, with absolute certainty, that you are a big fat jerk?

I do.

More often than I like, actually.

I mean, I try to be a good person. I try to be kind, to be generous, to be welcoming. I do. I try.

But sometimes in the middle of a visit or a social event, I step back just long enough (like 2 seconds) to listen to myself, and I have to think, “Oh, my God. What a JERK.”

Sometimes it’s because I’m not listening well enough. Sometimes I catch myself doing that awful, selfish thing. I sorta, kinda listen to the other person just because I’m dying for the other person to pause so I can respond.

Awful.

And then there is the whole “I know everything” syndrome from which I have suffered for years. I HATE people who answer every comment with how much more they know about everything than I do.

No kidding. I can’t STAND that. I mean, maybe I mention something about making homemade ravioli and the other person immediately jumps into a long lecture about the proper ratio of semolina to whole wheat flour. It does not matter if that person lived in Tuscany for a year studying under a master chef. It still just plain pisses. me. off.

So why do I do the same thing to my own friends and family?

I don’t know.

The other day I had a rare and very treasured visit from two family members. Two wonderful women who I’ve loved for 40 years. Women who are kind, smart, funny, loving, and (thankfully) forgiving. We started to talk about the medical issues that face us in middle age. You know, aches, pains, insomnia….I should have listened. I should have asked how they were feeling. I should have commiserated and made supportive sounds.

Instead I launched into a stupid lecture about medical treatments, benzodiazepine dependence and the benefits of cannabis butter.

Seriously?

Even as the words were flowing like a backed up sink right out of my big mouth, I was thinking, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!”

Sigh.

I guess its a good thing to recognize my weaknesses and personal foibles. That way I can a) keep myself awake for three nights in a row telling myself that I’m a horrible person and am totally undeserving of friends and b) work toward being a better listener, friend, relative.

It also helps to put these thoughts into a little blog that is rarely read. That way I’ve thrown it out there, given it to the universe and possibly garnered a few supportive comments.

BUT: tell me the truth! Don’t you just HATE those know it all types?