Unicorns

Yesterday was one of those days, not awful, just kind of hard, the sort of day you can handle but would really prefer not to, like flossing your teeth. Afterwards, you’re glad you did but wouldn’t ever choose to do it again, all the while knowing you will have to.

It started off with a drive into Hilo in pouring rain, Puna style. It pours, it stops, it drizzles, it pours again. I was a little old lady hunch over the steering wheel, desperately searching for the road in front of us. My right wrist developed battle fatigue from turning the wipers on and off so many times.

Safe but already tired, we arrived in town and began chipping away at our list of chores.

  • Hearing test – check
  • Buy a sandwich – check
  • Stock up on soy milk – check
  • Eat sandwich in eye doctor’s parking lot – check
  • Eye doctor appointment – check
  • Haircut (Finally! We were both starting to look like old mops.) – check

At last we returned to the peace and quiet of home. As I gave myself a mental pat on the back for getting everything done, I noticed that the lights on Leo’s unicorn headset were blinking.

I had a moment of panic. We hear such awful stories about zombie meth heads in this area, breaking into people’s homes and doing awful things. Had someone broken in and (gasp!) left Leo’s lights blinking? I took a quick look around but nothing else seemed to be amiss. So I plucked the headset off Leo’s fuzzy head and switched the lights off. But they kept on blinking. I switched again and again, my wonder and frustration building as sinister shadows reached for my toes from under the bed and ominous music welled up in the background.

What…how…why…huh?

In desperation, I pulled the cover off the battery case and discovered that one of the batteries had corroded and fused itself to its neighbor. I suppose this closed a circuit–or summoned a ghost–and Leo’s lights were merrily blinking their way toward dead battery heaven. I grabbed my trusty pliers, plucked the offending batteries from their nest. The lights calmed; the music faded; the sinister fingers shriveled and receded to the region of dust bunnies and lost tissues under the bed. I returned Leo to the top of the hat rack, unicorn headset bereft of batteries. He didn’t seem to mind.

My heart was still aflutter when we discovered a box by the front door. Inside there was a nest of soft green tissue and when I pulled it away, a serene white unicorn looked up at me and winked.

The rain stopped, the clouds parted and all the stresses of the day melted into that soft gaze, a gentle reminder that we have to do whatever we have to do, but whether or not it troubles us is a matter of choice.

Thank you, Pa. You made my day…and week…and month…maybe even the whole year.

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When life gives you lemons

The lemon trees in the back yard produce lemons as plump and juicy as grapefruits, their flesh nearly as sweet as oranges. The scent of their flowers warp speeds me to a land where merry-go-round horses are hand carved from solid wood and all have glass eyes and they’re always open and rides are free. Yeah, they’re that good.

One of our two trees was a graft. The lower part, the Meyer lemon, struggles valiantly against gravity as its magnificent offspring drag its slender branches toward the earth. The upper portion, though, was something else, something that grew straight and true, reaching toward the sky but vehemently refusing to bud. It stood armed with nasty thorns, each over an inch long, a biological nose-thumbing, if you will.

Needless to say, its snotty attitude left us unimpressed. Armed with our superior position on the food chain and a small hand saw, Rochi removed the offending menace. But in the process of being tossed into the jungle, the black-hearted knave saw an opening for revenge and plunged one of its thorns into Rochi’s thumb. We put some ice on it and tried to push aside the stories we’d heard about the plethora of bacteria and bugs and snails and rats and other threats great and small that lurk in the guise of paradise.

By the next morning, the thumb had swelled up to the size of Mauna Kea and a worrisome pink line was meandering along the inside of his arm toward his elbow. I consulted Dr. Google, who had nothing good to say about the situation, so we hopped into the car and headed for urgent care, where the doctor likewise had nothing good to say and told us to go to the hospital. We detoured back home for breakfast and coffee and I packed some PB and J sandwiches (I wasn’t a Girl Scout for nothing) and off we went.

In the interest of accuracy, it wasn’t peanut butter. It was cashew butter, made from raw organic cashews that I had roasted and ground myself. Cashew butter is peanut butter that has been sent to finishing school and now makes all other nut butters look like cheap knock-offs from China.

The Nut Butter Revue

The ER doc prescribed masses of antibiotics and that was an end to it. Feeling relieved but in need of a little pampering, I suggested that we treat ourselves to cheeseburgers but Rochi suggested it was well past 2:00 and too late for a heavy lunch.

“OK,” sez I. “Point well taken. How about we eat the PB&J in the car and then share a hot fudge sundae?”

So that’s what we did. And it was magnificent.

Hope

We had to fly to Honolulu on Tuesday.

It seems odd to write that.

We had to fly to Honolulu.

In my experience, most people rather want to fly to Honolulu. But it’s true. We had to. The Big Island’s small population cannot support the range of medicine one might wish for, so we had to fly to Honolulu to see an ear specialist.

If I had ever had illusions of an exotic island-hopping lifestyle, the trip squashed them pretty flat. In addition to the usual travel arrangements, I got a special dispensation from the Ministry of the Plague to be exempted from Covid testing and/or quarantine, with the understanding that we would go directly to the appointment and come directly back home, which was fine by us. We had to go. We didn’t want to, and a thoroughly putrid lunch at the food court across from the medical center sent us hightailing our way back to the airport, begging to be put on an earlier flight back to Hilo

The news from the doctor was all good. He was not fazed in the least by Rochi’s history or current symptoms. In fact, he said, “When these things happen…”

…and I fell out of my chair.

When these things happen…

After Rochi had had an endless series of ear infections starting in the spring of 2019, and because of the absurd situation with health insurance in the US, we had gone back to Japan last fall to seek treatment. Health insurance was granted without question and he received treatment from supposedly the best doctors in the best hospitals. But one after the other, they scratched their butts and said, “Gee. I’ve never seen this before. Let me pump you full of drugs and see what happens.”

As it turns out, that was the right thing to do. When these things happen, the only treatment available is antibiotics and steroids, which he received in abundance. And in time, they worked. The inflammation and infection both passed, leaving his body 40 pounds under weight and his head full of glitches and quirks. If he wasn’t so gosh darned stubborn, we wouldn’t be here, now, napping under a pile of sympathetic cats. But after months of treatment, in and out of three different hospitals, not one doctor ever gave us a clear diagnosis. All we ever got was a lot of sympathetic nodding accompanied by butt scratching in three part harmony.

When these things happen… The Honolulu doctor didn’t try to give it a name, but he also didn’t act like he’d just this moment started medical school and didn’t yet know the difference between a stethoscope and an enema bag.

When these things happen… The tender skin in the outer ear can get dry and then bacteria can get through, especially the kind that thrives here in the jungle. It makes its way to the inner ear and then hops an express train for points further inside the skull. The doctor gave us a steroid ointment, saying Rochi should apply a tiny amount to the external ear if it ever feels itchy and that should solve the problem. Also, he said that when these things happen, they rarely recur so there is very little likelihood that it will ever happen again.

Golly.

So if he had moisturized his ears, none of this would have happened? I am by nature wary of easy answers, but if dry skin was the culprit that led to so much misery, I wonder what that might say about Covid. If a butterfly in Harare hadn’t flapped its wings, or little Johnny Slobsky hadn’t dropped a Snickers wrapper at the corner of Main and Elm, or the whales had migrated east instead of south, or I had decided to have ravioli instead of lasagna, would Covid never have happened? Would the world be a different place? A better place?

I have no answers for unanswerable questions. Instead, I will leave you with this: Wash behind your ears, not inside them.

And this: Never give up hope, but don’t expect too much.

Tread gently into the new year, dear reader. Keep your heart and mind open to possibilities. Sometimes we have to, but if we’re lucky, more often we want to.