Flattery, thy name is …

DarrenTwissell_Old man ring_thI must be looking good at the gym!

I had completed the first half of my grueling cardio workout (OK … a slightly grueling 20 minutes on the elliptical), and decided to take advantage of an open basketball court instead of Part II on the treadmill (normally 25 minutes).

My gazelle-like movements on the court (Picture a very old, slightly overweight gazelle.), abundance of old-guy energy, and my deadly accurate, quick release was obviously turning some heads.  I’m pretty sure I sealed the deal when they saw my signature Jabbar-like sky hook.

That would be Maurice Jabbar, a 75 year-old I once saw play in the Smithsonian Geriatric League.  He owned that guy in the wheelchair! And maybe “sky hook” is a bit of an over-sell; but it sounds a lot sexier than “hop hook”!

No, it looked nothing like this ..
No, it looked nothing like this ..

Anyways … I’m working up a good sweat and in mid turn-around jumper (Picture … Well, you get the picture already.)  I sense someone behind.

“Hey, want to play two-on-two?”

It’s a guy about half my age.  (OK … Half my age 10 years ago …. maybe 15)  Obviously he was impressed.  Or maybe just really desperate for a playing partner.

What he doesn’t realize is I’m very near passing out; everything south of my waist (Yes, everything!) is groaning for me to stop; and I feel one sudden move away from a major muscle spasm.

I must have looked at him like he had six heads, because he suddenly looked alarmed and glanced around … probably to locate the nearest portable defibrillator.

I took in a huge breath; mustered all my remaining strength; and very slowly told him, “Thanks, but … I’m … almost done … here.  And … have to … go soon.  Besides … you guys … are … way … too young … for me …”

He looked either disappointed or relieved that he wouldn’t have to administer CPR.  It was tough to tell through the gauzy haze of my overheated, sweat-drenched face.

“But you’ll be on my side.”, he said.

My guess is he was an ER doc.

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Because it’s mine

Was so, so close to having the garage finally cleared out from the renovations.

Plenty of room to move around.  No more playing Sliding Block Puzzle just to find the tool box.  Maybe even fit two cars in there for the snows expected tomorrow!

(Get your milk and bread! NOW!!)

And then it was finally time to get the father-in-law moved in.

Mike's Scratch 'n Dent

Mike’s Scratch ‘n Dent

I hate my life.

But my wife had some comforting words, “Stop whining.”

She doesn’t understand me.

A Cranky GrandPop’s most Excellent Adventure …

Me and Harper Jeanine

Me and Harper Jeanine

Last week was a week to end all weeks!

OK … Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.  But for Carol and I, it was definitely a week of incredible joy sandwiched by high-levels of anxiety and a touch of aggravation with an extremely cold coating of Winter.

The almost Head Injury

The Aggravation portion of the week started last Friday when I noticed a 7 degree difference between the house heater’s thermostat setting and inside temperature.  After ten minutes of playing with the thermostat while listening for the reassuring sound of the heater kicking on (a well-known method of heater evaluation), my wife offered some of her folksy wisdom.

“The heater’s not going to come on just because you’re staring at it.”

I couldn’t argue with her.

Fortunately the heater eventually came on by itself, but it was a portent of things to come.  And on Sunday morning I woke to a cold house and no heat from a unit just a year-and-a-half old (Lennox).

Sunday was a miserable day with rain freezing on the ground.  Not that I appreciated that as I frantically called my very responsive HVAC guy.

Dan described the potential pitfalls of ice damming up outlet vents and warned of the nasty, icy weather outside.  The first thing he wanted me to do was check the opening on the outlet vent for over-icing.

Of course I was half listening (Carol would be shocked …) as I wiggled into boots to contend with the snow piled up around the side of the house where the vent was located.

So I stepped out of the house, crossed the porch; stepped casually onto the first step … And promptly landed right on my gluteus maximus after a failed Flying Salchow with a Twist.  Nothing hurt but my pride and my wet, cold butt.  The scary part was feeling the back of my head lightly thumping the cement porch, inches from a serious head injury.

The solution to getting heat into our home this day ended up being the skillful hammering – That’s right, hammering – on a half dollar-sized piece of indubitably foreign-manufactured plastic that forms a pressure switch.

As I triumphantly declared “Heat on!”, Dan the heater guy, promptly offered me all his weekend emergency service calls!

Harper Jeanine (Needless to say, the highlight of the week/month/year!)

Princess Harper

Princess Harper

Sunday night the alarms went off.  A simple call from the northern edge of the Shortall family, a small town near Williamsport, set in motion a whirlwind of grand parenting speculation and frantic decision-making.

Mom’s water had broken and the Launch Clock was running!

We opted to wait until first thing Monday morning to leave for the Home of the Little League World Series hospital because the weather up north consisted mainly of freezing rain. And of course, shortly before we were to leave on our three-hour race to the north, we got the call that we were Grandparents!

Harper Jeanine … 7 pounds, 12 ounces of incredible unbaby-ugly cuteness was born at 0719 hours at Williamsport Hospital!!

And with hitting official Grand Pop status, I aged a decade – mentally – in an instant.

But without a trace of subjective Proud GrandPop blathering, I can assure you that she is in fact the Most Beautiful Baby of 2014!

She has all her fingers and toes. (I checked several times.)  She smells of new-baby-scented perfection. (I checked several times.)  And Harper Jeanine looks a lot like me. (That I checked a few more than several times.)

There is no doubt she is the product of a perfectly developed and extremely attractive gene pool, of which of course I consider myself Lead Specimen.  And no, I am not saddled with an overactive self-perception!

Heat?  Who needs heat?!?

004c0803llold-man-winter-blowing-bad-weather-into-a-city-postersAfter a joyous day of baby coddling and embarrassing goo-goo talk, Father Winter decided to ratchet up my desire to retire to Arizona with two days of the coldest weather many will remember ever experiencing.  The Wind-chill in Williamsport on Tuesday began at -6 and wormed to a toasty +10 by mid-afternoon.

Since I was tasked with welfare checks on our new tenant, my father-in-law, who declined to make the trip with us, I made several “What’s up?” calls home.  When I asked my FIL how everything was on Tuesday morning, he told me the house was cold.

uh oh …

“How cold?”, I asked, “What’s the thermostat reading?”

He laughed, and told me without a hint of concern, “53″.

uh oh …

Now fortunately, I have a very good neighbor, an ex-Marine who loves a good crisis.  He’s a dependable, no-nonsense, get-it-done type.  We help each other out whenever we can.  Everything good neighbors are supposed to do.

No one wants a frozen Pop-Pop

What I felt like going out to my car Tuesday morning

And he’s good friends with my former Marine HVAC guy!  So, with a minimum of frantic scrambling, more pressure switch pounding, and frequent house checks by the Marines, we were able to avoid Frozen Pop-Pop Syndrome.

Getting the cheap foreign-made replacement part was another problem altogether, complicated by the horrendous weather, or so the parts supply source kept telling us.

So for two days I spent a bit of time making phone calls and requesting neighborly Wellness Checks.  And I harassed my helpless HVAC guy who eventually had to beg the required part from his Lennox tech rep.

This Winter is stacking up to be a real (select your favorite Adjective of Disbelief here).  But Harper Jeanine is here, and everything will end up just fine!

OK, since you insist …

What could be better?!?

What could be better?!?

Cranky Man down!

Now that's fainting!

Now that’s fainting!

“Carol … Something’s wrong.”

She turned from watching the Phillies’ Cliff Lee on the mound, “What?”

“Something’s not right with me.”  And that quickly, I was out cold.

The next thing I remember is coming out of this fog, my head drooped slightly.  I’m freezing cold.  I sense I’m still at the ballgame; but I can’t figure out how it got so damn cold at Citizens Bank Park.

Ice bags … There are pounds of ice in bags on my neck and shoulders.

Uh oh …

Then the yelling started … “Mike!!  Mike!!  Can you hear me?!?”  Not just one voice either … a lot of them … No, not good.

My surroundings are under water; all these wavy figures are hovering over me.  People … lots of people … standing in the early stages of a Phillies game.

No, not good at all.

As things are become clearer, I try to find Carol.  The look on her face is a glaze of immense relief over deep concern.

Man, am I in trouble …

That fast and a Phillies game on a warm, humid September 11 turned into a six-hour medical ordeal.

The heat had nothing to do with it.  Neither did the one beer I barely touched.   I was feeling fine all day; had cut the grass in the mounting heat the previous evening with no problems.

We arrived just before the start of the game; and I was standing in the aisle minutes before for The National Anthem following the annual 9-11 remembrance.  My only problem at the time was this stabbing pain high on the right side of my ribcage towards my back.

This illustrates something about my thing.

This illustrates something about my thing.

The pain was a couple of days old, self-diagnosed as a pulled muscle …

(Hey, I spent six months pre-pre-med in college, ya know.)

… probably the result of moving boxes or bags of solar salt for the water softener.  It was intermittent and seemed random, but very sharp when it acted up.

For some reason on Wednesday night the pain was driving me nuts.  Couldn’t get comfortable in my seat.  Kept stretching and twisting my back which seemed to help a bit.  It was the worst the pain had been since it started several days ago.

Finally, I get situated in a position that didn’t provoke any spasms and settled down to watch the game.  For all of maybe 10 minutes …

As I’m sitting there, gazing towards the outfield, I suddenly get this weird feeling, a spell of dizziness I expect to pass quickly.  Only it doesn’t.  It starts getting heavier and heavier, as though someone had placed a wet bag of sand on my head.

I feel groggy, not nauseous … But something is definitely wrong.  My vision gets murky.

I start to panic a bit because I can’t figure out what’s going on.  What do I do?

Should I try to make it up to the concourse for help?  Do I tell Carol?  If I tell her, game over … rightfully … with swarming EMS teams and maybe even a medevac extraction from behind second base!

… And a chance to meet Chase and Jimmy!

So – of course – I decide to see if this will pass before I set off The Panic.  Wishful thinking – most times – only gets you so far.

All this took place in the span of maybe 60-90 seconds.

When I broke out into a cold sweat, I gave up the struggle to hide my oncoming Medical Attack (a professional medical term).  That’s when I turned to Carol and this blog post begins.

The episode was scary enough for me.  But I feel terrible for what I put Carol through.  She told me I was out of it, lips blue, face white, at one point convulsing, and unable to speak briefly when I did wake up …

… Minutes later apparently, and I remember not a thing from the moment I turned to her to waking up under all those bags of ice.

There ... That's better ...

There … That’s better …

This was one of those moments when I was glad I married a very beautiful, accomplished, and knowledgeable nurse!

Fortunately, I was still sitting down when the lights when out.  And after a preliminary evaluation at the Citizens Bank Park first-aid station and a more thorough going over at Abington Memorial Hospital’s ER, no obvious physical cause was found.

That’s a bit maddening though.  Not knowing the whats and whys, only a theory.

The predominant theory appears to be the passing of a kidney stone or some other blockage that caused the back pain (which has disappeared since Wednesday’s episode), and triggering something called a vasovagal reaction to the pain.

It’s a weird, somewhat embarrassing explanation that seems to fit the circumstances.  I had never heard of it, but every medical expert we have seen favors the theory.

Could have been a lot worse.

One lesson learned was it ain’t funny – apparently – to the spousal unit left to manage the care and maintenance of a cherished (might be a stretch here …) fainter, especially when there’s no readily available explanation.  Got in Big Trouble posting my little adventure on a favorite social media site in mid-evaluation.

Unknown-3She promptly dislocated my iPhone from my possession.

Lesson:  Never piss off a nurse!

I finish this with very high praise for the guest relations and first-aid personnel at Citizens Bank Park.  They were responsive, professional, and very understanding given the circumstances.  The Phillies guest staff did an excellent job!

Thanks to all!

The “G” word

How things like this start

How things like this get started

This was inevitable … the grandest development of being a Parent once the most active roles of being a Parent have run their natural course.

I’m going to be a Grandfather!

Yikes …

This is Great, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s more than a little intimidating.  Not that I find the “challenges” as difficult or the responsibilities particularly daunting.

It’s that G word …


I guess – after all these years considering the possibility and acknowledging the inevitability - I’m just not quite mentally prepared for such an esteemed and wordly title.

Damn, I’m getting old!

Congrats to Michael & Janelle, Jeanine & Jeff, Carol and Little Old Me!!

The Cranky Hobo

images-1Life at my house is officially in total upheaval.  And like a lot of people, I detest disruption in my daily routine, the fabric of my life.  However, change is the inevitable development of these middle-aged years.

Just as many males will meander through the various temptations of the Mid-Life Crisis … convertibles, sky-diving, yoga, andro-gels, and women much too young to take them seriously;  many females find one significant outlet for their restless middle years …

Home Remodeling!

It’s an age-old phenomena.  Every husband, lover, or significant other will eventually experience the dread, the uncertainty of the day they step through the front door to find paint swatches scattered across the vestibule/bathroom/kitchen or hear the warning claxon of those immortal words, “Honey, I’ve been thinking …”

Yeah, right ...  This has never happened.

Yeah, right … Assuming it’s a married couple, my bet is this never happens.

No fun nor favorable experience ever grew from such innocent beginnings.

That’s not to say that the End Results are not good, uplifting, exciting, renewing …

But no one, who is not a contractor or do-it-themselves nut job, EVER enjoyed the in-between parts.  The preparation, the shopping, the displacement, the mess, the shopping, the selection process, the color wheel migraines, the shopping, the second thoughts, the changes to all the decisions you thought were already made, the re-shopping, and worst of all the construction disruption …

And that’s where I am stuck now … in the worst possible space in the house … my refuge, my quiet place, my comfort zone, my Fortress of Solitude …

Yes, they are tearing apart my master bath.  Bad enough the bedroom, but the bathroom too?!?

Now what am I going to do?

Apparently, it’s living as a Hobo!

Living out of boxes and cardboard “valets” … Nothing where it’s supposed to be.  Nothing where it can be found without crawling around on all fours and opening no less than three 20-gallon sized Rubbermaid containers.

Showering in the Commoners Bathroom (Ew … What is THAT?!?) and soon to be sleeping in a strange, cramped bed.

No man was meant to live like this!

And right about now, there’s this very attractive, extremely gifted housewife, sitting at her desktop Mac, reading this blog with a building whistle of steam leaking from her ears, muttering, “Oh stop being such a baby!  Why can’t you be excited?!? They’ll be done in two weeks!”

Mona Lisa's iconic smile rumored to be the result of Color Wheel Dementia during rehab of her Camden, NJ row house.

Mona Lisa’s iconic smile rumored to be the result of Color Wheel Dementia during rehab of her Camden, NJ row house.

Yeah, right … And I’m Mona Lisa.

It’s already been roughly three months of shopping and searching, searching and sampling, sampling and spending … and we haven’t even gotten to the Color Wheel of Mind Numbing Choices.

“Honey, do you like the Tawny Apricot Caramel (beige) or the Cinnamon Mud Brickle (reddish beige)?”

Of course, it will all look magnificent once it’s completed, as it always does.  She does have a gift for getting it right.

It’s just those intervening 18 weeks in Hobo Hell I dread.

Two weeks?!?  Yeah, right …