nonBlog: August 2006

Click here for a possibly gratuitous explanation of why my blog is called "nonBlog" and my site is titled "Ceci n'est pas un blog."

Losee's Law, the Proof-Friday, August 25, 2006

My father lives by something he calls Losee's Law: Whatever's going to happen, it'll happen to him. What he means by this is that he has had what seems like every imaginable health problem, one after another, from the time he was 40 until now. At 68, he's had two dozen operations on his back, neck, legs, and shoulders, procedures galore, rampant staph, and Lord knows what else. He's covered with scars, including one down his forehead from when he dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool in the dark. Even his teeth are bad.

I thought Losee's Law had been suspended last month when he managed, miraculously, to cheat death when he had sepsis and was so unstable that it looked as if he would die before he could have the surgery he would need to save his life but which would probably kill him. My sisters and I flew down to be by his side and say good-bye. I told him it was okay for him to go, since I've long known he would rather not be here in this much pain. Then he lived. He's still septic but they're treating him, and he's moving from a hospital-hospital to a rehab hospital next week.

But Losee's Law persists. Yesterday my father's doctor told him that he will never again live alone. He'll need 24-hour care for the rest of his life. He wept and wept. My father has often said that if he can't live in his own apartment, he doesn't want to live anymore. Ironically, he's too well now to take advantage of the options he had last month for refusing the treatment that was keeping him alive. He's stuck here, and in this state. What I'm thinking is: how do I get Losee's Law repealed?


Wide-Open Book -Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Monday I am going to tape a piece for Northern California Public Radio in which I mention, almost in passing, that I had an abortion in college.

When I decided to change my career from that of a business journalist to that of a personal essayist nearly three years ago, I pledged to spare myself nothing. I would tell my story, I would tell the truth, no matter how personal or embarrassing the topic. The more personal or embarrassing the topic, in fact, the better. I have written about the night before I climbed Mount Shasta when I wanted to flirt with men not my husband. I have written about the fact that I let my toddler watch TV and that I've brainwashed Olivia to be a Democrat and that I'm raising my kids without church or synagogue.

But now I know I've reached the zone where my pledge is put to the test. I could easily outline my views about Florida's "Choose Life" license plate without mentioning why I care so much that states not get involved in ratifying the messages of radical groups. But I know that if I don't say why I care so much, what I'm saying just won't stick. I know what it's like to have a career in which you write things that don't stick, or at least a career in which the things I've written that stuck were about topics that didn't move me. I'm done with that. Clearly I'm done with maintaining a normal level of privacy too, and there's no going back.


The Beleaguered Mommy's Unabridged Dictionary -Saturday, August 19, 2006

At the moment we are on vacation in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts with my in-laws in their country home. Until last night, the "we" to which I am referring did not actually include Tom, who flew out with the kids and me a week ago, spent the day with us and my sister's family at a beach club his parents own, and then with persuasive reluctance got back on a plane to fly home to SF to work.

So I think some new definitions are in order.

Vacation: A relaxing sojourn away from home-Italy comes to mind-that includes a minimum of children and a maximum of food, wine, and sex.

Family Trip: A demanding journey away from home-Italy isn't coming to mind just at the moment-when all children are in attendance plus multiple other relatives, and the husband who co-engineered said family may or may not be present.

Tom took one cab, one cross-country flight, and four trains to return to us last night, and at the moment he is back at the house with all three of the Losee-Unger children so I can sit at an Internet café and indulge myself. The actress Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Starman) just tried to sell me a handbag. Now that's a vacation.


My Blue Monster-Saturday, August 12, 2006

Over the years I've gotten a fair amount of guff about my determination to avoid all religion (some of it in public; check out the responses to my last Huffington Post piece about brainwashing Olivia to be a Democrat), but the truth is, I don't need religion. I have my blue monster .

My blue monster is a ceramic bell Olivia made for me in the first grade, and it sits on my desk. It has scales and whiskers and pointy teeth and sticky-uppy eyes like a Star Wars Banta and looks vaguely like an Asian artifact. Once in a while I write a wish on a Post-It and shove it up the monster's hollow innards in an effort to communicate with The Force. I once heard the writer Annie Lamott say that she occasionally puts a note in her God Box for the same reason. She limits her notes to "please," "help," and "thank you," and I have done the same. I reserve the monster for times when I am truly overwhelmed by circumstance and in need of intervention.

When my father had to have an operation this week that would likely kill him but without which he would certainly die (how's that for the definition of a Catch-22), I truly didn't know what to wish for. When I flew down to see him last week he was still alive, but he appeared to be dying. I found myself wishing he felt better for just a short while so I could write down some of his stories and tell him a few more times how much I love him. But I knew he wanted to be done with his pain. So I pulled off a Post It and broke my guidelines by writing, "Just please make it okay somehow." At this point I didn't think "please" or "help" quite covered it.

Then my father had two days of perfect clarity, days when he sounded like himself and his voice was strong and he was back to where he was three years ago. I worried it was that candle-burning-brightly-at-its-end phenomenon. Then I worried that he might recover, but so impaired that he would wish he had died. I put in another Post-It, this time "help." Today he had the surgery that was supposed to kill him, and not only did he survive it but the procedure went well. Even the doctors are shocked. He went into the ICU, my sister says, positively pink in the face. "Maybe I got lucky this time!" he said brightly. I put another Post-It in my monster after my sister and I hung up. It said, "thank you."


It Should be an F Word Monday, August 7, 2006

I use the word "decompensate" a lot. You could say it's one of my favorite words. It almost always gets a laugh, especially when applied to kids whose teeth are falling out willy nilly or husbands who have gone too long without sex. But today it applies to my father, and it's not so funny right now.

My New York sister and I both flew to Fort Lauderdale on an emergency basis last week to join our Florida sister and be with our father, who has sepsis. He's only 68, but he looked like those elderly men with sunken cheeks whose mouths are always open in a silent scream. Once in a while his features would snap back into place and he would say half a sentence, but mostly he just wanted to be fed a continuous stream of ice chips since his digestive system has shut down and he can't take any food.

My father has long been disabled, but when I was a child he was the dad who could beat up your dad. He was nearly six-foot-three and looked like a young, blond Marlon Brando. Then when he got older he looked like Charlton Heston. But now that he is decompensating he doesn't look like any version of himself, famous or otherwise. He has been having operations and medical crises since I was 13, but this is the first time I could say that about him. It seems there's no beating back the crisis he's enduring right now, so all day long I've been wishing he could decompensate all the way back to being the man he once was, only elsewhere.



  • Story in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine about English Channel swimmers who train in the Bay area.
  • KQED Radio Perspective about how Florida has gone into the bumper-sticker business with "Choose Life" license plates.
  • Eat the Press piece in The Huffington Post about Jon Krakauer's curious absence from Outside Magazine's 10th anniversary issue on the 1996 Everest disaster.
  • Double-top-secret book due out fall 2007
    from Adams Media.
  • Fame and fortune; date TBA

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