Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zen hospice journal - Saturday 12/15/12

Bob, Terry, & Jean
The first guests to arrive on Saturday were Bob and Terry Bulwa, who brought the Scrabble set shown in the photo.  But Jean was sleepy when they arrived around 11, and still not feeling up to socializing when I came at noon.  They decided to give us more time, waiting downstairs in what the Zen Center calls their family room. Then they came up to say good-bye at the same time the Dr. Jennifer Clarke came to drop off a prescription.
Dr. Clarke was the physician Jean saw when she was at UCSF last on Thanksgiving week, the one who had to give Jean the bad news that she was running out of treatment options.  Despite the sad circumstances, she made a good impression on Jean, and the feeling must have been mutual -- it's not every day you hear about a doctor making a house call.
While Dr. Clarke examined Jean's wrist, still in a brace from the October 28 fracture, her husband Art Clarke chatted with the Bulwas.  Art is from Ireland, and regrets the time he spent trying to lose his Irish accent after coming to America -- a futile task, and unnecessary since Irish accents are so charming to the American ear.  Bob told Art about Contra dancing, similar to the Irish step dancing that Art knew well. And from there it was a short hop to the story of Bob and Terry's romance.  They met because they were both part of the Bay Area folk music community, and married in 1998 (secretly on March 30, publicly on August 1).  We were married that same year, March 21, and have always considered ourselves something like classmates.  But as fate would have it, we could not be part of either of the Bulwa weddings.  By March 30 we were on our honeymoon, and on August 1 we were in Ann Arbor for our wedding reception.
Chef Cushway

After the Clarke's left, then the Bulwas, we had another wave of visitors.  First there was Phil Cushway, who came bearing five Chocolate Orange Mousse confections he'd made on Jean's request.  The Zen Hospice chef had also prepared chocolate mousse, which Jean had sampled, and it seemed only sporting to compare his efforts to Phil’s.  Per Phil, he was clearly the winner.  Where the Zen version was as dense as fudge, his was light and airy.  Later on in the afternoon, he asked Jean if she would countenance a follow-up effort, strawberry shortcake. Jean gave her consent, and Phil promised to bring it by soon.
Glenn & Alicia
 The next visiors to arrive were my niece Alicia Pico and her dad, my brother Glenn Pico, coming to see Jean from Sacramento.  Alicia is in her freshman year of high school, and next week she has final exams.  She says high school is OK.  While teachers still pile on the homework, there is less busy week than in Junior High. One thing she's glad about, she had her braces off in the spring.  Check out the photo, the lass has a beautiful smile.
Glenn is busy with final exams next week too, but from the other side of the desk.  He teaches math at a community college, and next week is his students' last chance this semester.  When the exams are done and graded, he plans on coming down to see Jean again.

After Glenn and Alicia, Joseph Balaoro came bearing videos of his two cats, Zulu and Khan.  He also promoted the reputation of these charming creatures by sending the photo shown above. Like Jean, Joseph is of course a cat person, and at one time was considering adopting one of the slew of outdoor cats that Jean feeds, and names.
Zulu & Khan

Joseph Balaoro
Finally, Karen Creech, a very frequent visitor, came with a pleasant surprise.  Yesterday she had asked whether it would be more comfortable sleeping on some roll-up sleeping bag pads she had, and I said it's worth a try. But Karen decided roll-ups weren't good enough, and instead bought a folding mattress pad for me to use.
You may wish to pause for a moment, as I did, and reflect on this.  It seems there are people whose behavior offers no explanation other than compassion. This might force you to alter your conception of human nature.  And this, in turn, might cause us to question ourselves.  You may think you have a broad, tolerant expectation of the range of human behaviors.  Why, of all things, would compassion be surprising?
By this time Jean was ready to party.  Seven of us were crowded into her room at the hospice, and the social magic started to happen; the conversation became lively, freewheeling of general interest.  Here is a brief recap, and may it inspire you beat it down to the Zen hospice and participate in the discussions.
It started with Phil making a joke about being a book designer who integrated text and images, every page was a work of art. "I special in pornography," he said, "what men really want."  But then he went on to talk, with feeling, about his latest project, a volume of protest poetry centered on Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in Washington DC.  Phil said that one thing he'd learned from his work on the book was the importance of churches in the Civil Rights movements.  Based on this, he thought they must be central to all American movements for justice and equality.
Karen challenged him.  "What about gay right?" she asked. Stonewall was a bar, not a church.  And someone else mentioned abortion.  Did the Catholic Church's stance on this issue put it in the forefront of the struggle for gender equality?
Later on, Glenn brought the discussion back to race, with an anecdote from his job as a community college math teacher.  Every year his college has a math contest, and this year, for the very first time, a black male won the contest.  Glenn tried to interest the campus newspaper in the story, but there were no takes  Because they just weren't interested?  Because race issues ar
e too difficult to discuss?  Glenn asked us.  I ask you.