Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

February 23, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 12:34 pm on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This morning there were seven red finches in a row on the topmost branch of the plum bush, all facing me and without a clue how lovely they looked in the sunlight. How bright and fine everything appeared for a change! This was the first day that remained sunny throughout in a very long time.

In a recently acquired book on care and maintenance of orchids, dear Charles read that spraying the plants with Listerine mouthwash will either kill or drive away aphids, white fly, and all other pests. He has taken to this wisdom with his usual vigor, and now, at least once a week, there arises from the greenhouse the scent of great amounts of mouthwash. Who knew how overwhelming that would be? In spite of the cold I fling open the windows and breathe deeply. If the check out people at the store take note of the frequent purchase of multiple bottles of mouthwash by the dignified looking gentleman, do they wonder why he needs so much? And if they asked, would they believe him if he said it was for his orchids?

Today we went to visit the oncologist. The conversation was a very satisfying one, because he answered all sorts of questions that we had likely asked before, but needed to ask again. One concerned the nature of “blasts”. He told us they are infant cells formed in the bone marrow, but not yet designated for the job they are to perform, whether that of the white cells, or red, or other. The cancer causes these useless cells to continue to proliferate, taking up more and more space and causing the body to be unable to create the needed mature cells for it to function correctly. It appears that well over 35% of my blood is given over to blasts now and the number continues to grow.

We visited about all sorts of things, though the question at the core was really “How much longer will I live?” I think this question has been hovering over humanity from the beginning, and we know well that only God knows, but we ask anyway. Jesus says to his disciples, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26) It is always the words and wisdom of Scripture and the beauty of the hymns of the faith that carry me onward, so now I become the child again and pray:

“Now the light has gone away; Father, listen while I pray,
Asking Thee to watch and keep And to send me quiet sleep.

Jesus, Savior, wash away All that has been wrong today;
Help me ev’ry day to be Good and gentle, more like Thee.

Let my near and dear ones be Always near and dear to Thee;
Oh, bring me and all I love to Thy happy home above”.

February 16, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 11:40 pm on Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This has been a colorful week. On Wednesday I received two bags of “packed red cells” and on Sunday, daughter Janna, the twin granddaughters and myself were caught in a “whiteout” on the highway between Seward and Lincoln. Blue is sure to come soon.

Is This My Car?
As before, the blood transfusion brought vast relief and as before, there are some signs that something else is working on “life continued” within my body. The first thing I noticed after spending the day at the hospital was getting into my car; as I got behind the wheel, I had a very strong message, “This isn’t my car!” It was very strange and disorienting, but I looked at the keys in my hand, and my second thought was an overriding, “Don’t be ridiculous” and I commenced to start the car and return home. I have not had the grand “bump” that I did in December, but I do have more energy. The pain level has increased so I am in need of more opiates in order to function. I consider what other things the blood has brought to me, and I feel that this time, perhaps the blood came from a serious and sad person. Of course, our never-ending winter with the mostly grey skies may also be an influence.

Last Thursday, Janna, Fiona and Ursula drove from Lake Bluff to spend a long weekend with us; it was a wonderful surprise. On Sunday, we loaded valentines, a bouquet of roses and valentine cookies (made and decorated by the twins and their grandmother) into the car and started out for Lincoln. We planned on church first, then a Valentine’s Day party at Heidi’s house. Charles left early in the morning and called after the first service to tell us that driving was slow but manageable when he made the trip. We started off and ran into a complete “whiteout” which is truly dreadful. We were headed east, and could see nothing at all. We needed to turn around, but that was a huge challenge since we had to find a place to cross the left lane in order to reverse our journey. We would meet cars that we couldn’t see until they were within ten feet of us. Janna saw a driveway to a farm where trees blocked the blowing snow, so she was able to cross the highway and pull into it. The car behind us did the same thing. We maneuvered the car around, and got back on the road. We had a number of miles to go, and these were just as harrowing going westward. We made it home again without incident–Janna is a veteran of many road trips and a very competent driver and she said this was one of her worst driving experiences, ever.

Later in the morning, we had our own Transfiguration Day worship with the readings and singing of psalms and hymns. Before we started, I asked Ursula if she knew about Transfiguration, and she said, “Oh yes, I learned about it in Harry Potter.” As we held our own service, we too were enveloped in white; but ours was snow blowing fiercely past the windows. We were relieved when Charles came home safely – he reported seeing many accidents en route. It was one of those unforgettable days.

Today, Janna and the girls returned home. We find the house very still though the sounds of happy laughter and music still linger in the corners of the rooms. Alphie’s sorrowful looks convey to us that he notices the absence of many more hands, hugs and walks. Ash Wednesday arrives tomorrow and Lent begins. Forty days later on the first Sunday in April, Easter is celebrated, and by then, spring will surely be here, too.

February 9, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 5:41 pm on Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A white sky, snow on the ground, and patient grey tree branches moving in the cold wind define this day. The sharp shinned hawk seems to be constantly on the hunt, keeping the small birds away from the feeders. I just saw it try for a finch that had tucked itself into the small twigs of the Korean lilac. The hawk got tangled up and in those few seconds the finch flew off into bushes that are wrapped in wild rose vines. This is the best place of all for the small birds because the thorns make it inaccessible to raptors.

Our trip to Kansas City was good. We spent the entire time in the Crown Center because the snows and rains kept falling and my energy level dictated a limited menu of activities. Our room was on the 14th floor of the hotel, and there were floor to ceiling windows along one entire wall, so we looked out over the city with all of its changing activities during the daylight hours, and the myriad lights after dark. When we went about, Charles pushed me in a wheelchair. “Glorious” was great fun with the actors presenting the story with much charm and verve. The woman who played the lead was wincingly convincing*.

Early last week I had a sudden drop in the hemoglobin count accompanied by an increase in the bone pain, and I believe that this was the onset of a return to living on my own blood resources. The tired that arrives with the failing red blood is like none other that I have experienced. There is the “good tired” that one feels after working very hard and getting something virtuous completed, or the “good tired” of having had a really great party. Then there is the “tired” of looking out at winter for another set of days, or the “tired” of the political landscape. This blood tired is a withdrawal of “being”. There is less appetite for every part of life, including food or social interaction. Moving about is painful and cumbersome and sleep comes at any time of the day with the eyelids descending and conscious thought retreating. I will get a blood transfusion very soon, and hopefully, good days will return again.

*I might have said “convincingly wincing” – but I think that would have made the meaning confusing.

February 2, 2010

Filed under: — Constance at 10:54 pm on Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The great fable of the ground hog and its shadow sighting announces that there will be six more weeks of winter. Charles says, “I’m not surprised” and I say, “Oh good grief, what utter nonsense!” A cardinal sang out its spring song yesterday morning and I shall choose to go with the wisdom of the red bird of Sanctuary as translated by a desperately winter-weary soul. Charles then related that in his youth the small town in Kansas near his birthplace held an annual “Ground Hog Day’s Supper” at which event mountain oysters were served. I asked immediately, “Did you eat them?” “Can’t remember” he replied, and the whole conversation died with one final “Eeewww” from me.

This weekend we drive to Kansas City where we will attend the musical, “Glorious!” which is about Florence Foster-Jenkins, the woman who thought herself to be the best coloratura soprano in the world. She was in fact remarkably dreadful, but because she had wealth and was a part of the New York social set of the time, she gave recitals at her own charitable functions, finally agreeing to sing at Carnegie Hall to a sold out crowd at the age of seventy-six. Apparently, it was only then that she began to suspect that her attraction was not her beauteous voice – since she died shortly thereafter, it would not have been a great burden to bear. She can be found on YouTube and her music continues to have listeners to this day.

My energy is seeping away again. The last blood transfusion has lasted 49 days and that is good – the not so good part is the growing need for more sleep and rest. Meanwhile, I continue to have high hopes for an early spring, though the snow remains everywhere and the birds are tucking away pounds and pounds of seeds each day because of the low temperatures. Kansas City will not have cherry blossoms and palm trees, but a small winter’s adventure at a few degrees more warmth will be a wonderful change.