Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not This Again!

My sister--

the one who broke her left femur last November, two weeks before I broke my right femur
the one who never had osteoporosis, but just osteopenia
the one who was treated for her osteopenia with Fosamax
the one who was subsequently found to have a hairline fracture in her right femur
the one who had her right femur "rodded prophylactically" in December

yes, that sister

well, yesterday she fell while walking in Newport Park in Door County, WI,
and turned her hairline fracture into a "completed" fracture. The pain was
excruciating. It looks like the hairline fracture never began to heal after the rod was implanted.


What she and I and all of us in the Femur Fracture Friendship Group have to remember is that after a rod is implanted, healing takes a long time. It may even be delayed for months.  If and when new bone forms, the new bone bonds with old, brittle Fosamax-built bone. Furthermore, Fosamax stays in your system for 10 years.  Some of us will not live long enough to be rid of bones-by-Fosamax. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Bulldog Named Margaret

Back in the day, dogs ran all over the neighborhood. A cute French bulldog often came visiting because Mom gave treats to all comers. I called her "Margaret."

My dad asked, "Is that dog's name really 'Margaret'?"

"No, " I said, "we just call her that."

"But why 'Margaret?'"

"Because she looks like Margaret E.," I said, naming a well-known dowager-about-town.

"Oh, she does not!" exclaimed Dad, rather indignantly.

I saw him look at the dog again and suppress a smile.

Ai yi! Fate pays us back. Now I am a "dowager-about-town" and worried about starting to look like a French bulldog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Around 5 AM on Friday, a minor earthquake (magnitude: 3.6) woke some people in the Washington, DC area. I slept through this one. 

I was awake (well, propped up at my desk, anyway) when another small quake shook nearby Columbia, MD in 1993. My chair rolled slightly. Later, the office comedian yelled over to our Branch Chief, "Hey, Keith!  Your wife called. She said the earth moved and you weren't there."

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Departures" (Japanese movie)

Last night we watched a movie recommended by my sister, Margaret, about a young cello player who loses his job when the orchestra is disbanded. Desperate, he returns to his rural hometown far from Tokyo and reluctantly takes a job as an "encasketer". What is an "encasketer," you may ask. For all my knowledge--albeit superficial--of  Japanese culture, I have to admit that I've never heard of this practice. It entails the reverent preparation of the body for burial in full view of the mourners and placing it in the casket, at which point the funeral directors take over. 

Watching the elaborate ceremony, I said to myself, "But I thought everyone in Japan was cremated." Surely they wouldn't go through all this and then cremate the body, but that's just what they did. 

Although I'd never known about this old custom, I was proud to have guessed that the "boss," the apprentice encasketer, and the secretary were observing a new one. One scene shows them digging into a bucket of fried chicken with gusto. I said to Phil, "I'll bet it's Christmas." Sure enough, the camera pulled back, revealing a small Christmas tree with twinkling lights. It's the custom in Japan to order Kentucky fried chicken at Christmas because Colonel Sanders looks like Santa Claus.

Here's my guess about why the husband keeps his job a secret from his wife and why she  freaks out when she learns the truth. The Japanese don't like to talk about it, but Japan retains the vestiges of a caste system. Members of this caste are called the "eta," or untouchables. No one knows how they came to be set apart, but some think they long ago took on the task of disposing of dead animals. The native religion, Shinto, makes a big deal out of ritual purity. Shoes are not allowed in the house, and a separate pair of slippers must be worn for trips to the bathroom. My guess is that anyone who handles a dead body is considered "unclean." When the wife finds out about her husband's work, she screams, "You're filthy!" and runs off to Tokyo. But that's not the end of this story, which is told with love and tenderness.