Just about Life

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The 2014 Hugos - Best FancastSo.  It’s been a crazy couple weeks around here.  This will be a long post.

Let’s start of with the good. On Sunday, August 17th, at LonCon3 – the 2014 WorldCon – I won a Hugo award for Best Fancast at 1:43 pm local Colorado time.  John DeNardo and JP Frantz decided when we were nominated to put my name on the ballot alone because, in John’s words, “You do all the heavy lifting.”  I was humbled by that, by the nomination itself, and with the win. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the trip to London.  I had some ideas on how I could get there, but life just kept interrupting and I couldn’t make it happen.  Instead, I asked Gail Carriger if she, in the event of a win, would accept on my behalf.  She said yes.

I watched the live streaming event from my home in Denver along with my mom.  The thrill of hearing your name called is wonderful, and I thank everyone who voted, and Gail for accepting for me, and the people who laughed at the jokes I put in the speech.

At 1:53 pm local Colorado time, I had called 911 and there was a group of firefighters and EMT’s in my kitchen helping my mom, who fell in the backyard and broke her leg.

She broke both bones in her right leg, dislocated her ankle, and broke her foot.  How?  She got really excited when my name was called at the Hugo’s.  She called one of her sisters and told her immediately.  Then she hopped up and said she was going to go feed the birds.  She stepped outside and came back in, complaining about how the squirrels were getting into the bird feeder.  I was still watching the live stream and trying to respond to people on Twitter and Facebook while also texting back and forth with Michelle.  Next thing I know, my mom is shouting.  I thought she was shouting at the squirrels, which she’s been known to do.  But she kept shouting, so I jumped up and went into the backyard.  She wasn’t there.  I heard pounding on the door that leads to the garage from the kitchen.

2014_08_moms_ankle_01My kitchen has a door into the garage.  The garage has a door into the backyard.  It was there she fell, and dragged herself to the kitchen door to get my attention while I was looking for her in the backyard.  I could see that the leg was bad.  The bone in her ankle was bulging in a way it should not bulge.  I got her into the kitchen and called 911.  She didn’t want me to – she wanted me to get her in the car myself and drive to the hospital, but there was no way that was happening.  To their credit, the EMT’s were there fast.  They put a splint on the leg, lifted her up and got her into the ambulance.

Once they were on the way, I ran upstairs, put on my jeans (I hadn’t even showered yet), texted Michelle to let her know what was going on, and ran.

I spent the next 7 hours at the hospital.  They kicked me out into the waiting area for an hour while they set the leg and put the ankle back in the socket.  When I was brought back in, they told me the break was worse than they thought and would require surgery.  They admitted her to the hospital.  I’d been sent home around 7 to get some food – the first for me that day.  I couldn’t actually keep it down though.  My nerves were wrecked.  I laid down on the couch for a few minutes and then headed back to the hospital where I stayed with mom until she fell asleep around 11.

At which point I realized I didn’t have my house keys.  I don’t keep them on my car key ring any more because I saw a story once about how too much weight on your keychain can damage the steering column on your car.  This meant I was locked out.  So I had to drive to where Michelle was staying in Monument to get the key I’d given her when she needed to come up to DIA and didn’t want to pay to park there, and instead hung out at my house while I was at work.  So I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2 am.

2014_mom_ankle_pinsI spent the next day (Monday) at the hospital while mom was in surgery.  My aunt and uncle sat with me until we heard she was out of surgery and back in her room.  They also forced me to eat.  The surgeon had set the bones and had to put pins and braces in to put everything together correctly.  They told us she would need 8 weeks with no weight bearing on the right leg.  Period.

My house is a two-story, her room is upstairs.  She would need someone with her all the time and would be mostly immobile.  They told me she would need a toilet riser – this device you install on top of your toilet to give stability and handles and makes it easier to stand up.  Also, a wheelchair.  A ramp for the wheelchair.  And lastly, a portable toilet.  None of which would be paid for by insurance.  Insurance would give her a walker, which she would need and be trained to use there at the hospital.

I found the Assistance League of Denver, an organization who helps people like us with medical equipment the insurance companies won’t help with.  They were able to get me  three items I needed – wheelchair, toilet riser and portable toilet – for free.  I can’t fully express how much this helped me.  I was already feeling a lot of stress and this relieved a lot of that stress.  They are able to do this thanks to donations and sales at their thrift shop.  I am already gathering a ton of old clothing and books to donate to help them and thank them.  If you can too, that would rock.

The ramp was a chore.  To get a temporary ramp would cost me $300 to install and $225 a month to rent.  Neither of which I could afford.  My uncle came through with an aluminum ramp his son left at his house.

Needing someone to be at the house with mom, I called my brother and asked if he could come out and help.  He said yes.  I bought him a plane ticket that night.  Mom and I would still have a couple days where I’d be her primary care giver and that was fine.  I have hard wood floors with a large area rug in my living room.  The rug had to come up – her walker wouldn’t work on it.  So I had to prep the room for mom’s arrival, moving furniture, pulling up the rug, etc and so on.  Tuesday mom was miserable and they decided not to let her go home.  I couldn’t believe they were even considering it, but they said if she were in her fifties, they would’ve.  Weird.  Wednesday I got mom home.  She was happy to be out of the hospital, despite her inability to get around or do much for herself.

During all of this, I wasn’t sleeping.  My mattress was 15 years old.  It stopped being comfortable a few years back.  I added one of those foam pads a couple years ago and that helped a lot, but in recent months, it was causing me a lot of pain and costing me nights of sleep.  I’d been sleeping on the very edge of the mattress for a week because it was the only spot where I could sleep at all.  But I had headaches every morning and something needed to change.  But not yet.

My brother flew in on Friday and we spent the weekend getting acclimated to everything.  I’ve told him many times since his arrival, I wouldn’t be able to do this without him, and I really appreciate him being willing to come here and help.  The week following mom’s fall, I missed a lot of work.  I did go in and grab my laptop so I could work remotely, but it’s not the same as being there with no distractions.  I work for a great company (GolfTEC) and have an awesome and supportive boss who understood and helped me a lot – I’m very grateful for that.

The New bedOn Friday night, I bought a new mattress.  I just couldn’t take it any more.  It was hard to help mom when I was popping ibuprofen for back and shoulder aches, and massive head aches.  They were advertising same day delivery and I had had enough.  I went in, bought the mattress and was told they could deliver it Tuesday.  I asked about their same day delivery and was told they could get it out Saturday.  Awesome.  Saturday I got up, stripped my bed and was ready for them at 3.  The mattress was the wrong size.  15 years ago, I paid for a California King – this massive, tall, pillow top thing that, according to the delivery guys, was just a regular old King.  Fuck.  The California King mattress and box spring would not fit on my bed frame.  They left, telling me they could be back the next day with the correct mattress – just call the store.  I did.  And was told I could have the correct mattress on Tuesday.  I threw a fit.  Why were they advertising same day delivery if they couldn’t deliver same day?  The guy said he’d get it to me Sunday by 3.  Sunday at 3 he called to tell me it would be Monday.  Monday they called to tell me it would be Tuesday.  So if you see an ad from Denver Mattress about ‘same day delivery’ they are flat out lying to you.

Despite all the shit it took to get the new mattress, I am now sleeping again.  Sleeping well.  Through the night and waking with no pain in the morning.  It’s more of a relief than you can imagine.

I also had to reschedule an interview I’d planned with Brent Weeks the week mom broke her leg.  This was after Brent had already rescheduled it once himself due to some stuff that came up in his neck of the woods.  We agreed to have lunch on the 30th when he would be in town for a book signing, and to do the interview after his book tour.

I’m up to Monday, the 25th of August.  My grams always said that bad things happen in threes.  I’d been waiting for ‘the other shoe’ to drop.  Shoe number two was Michelle and I breaking up on Monday night.  I didn’t expect it at all, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.  I don’t actually want to talk about it except to say that it happened – sorry.

At work, this was the last week of our major end of the year sales event, so it was all hands on deck and very busy.  My brother and I trade shifts of being on call during the night to help our mom get up if she needs to use the bathroom, so some days I am more tired than others – and all week, I bought coffee on the way to work.  Strong coffee.  Which I have never done before.  After work, I am going to the store, getting whatever we need, making dinner, etc.  I’m also giving my brother a break and sitting with mom or helping her with whatever she needs so he can relax for a minute.  Then it’s 11 and time to go to bed so I can start it all over again.

With everything going on, I haven’t actually celebrated the Hugo Win.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to given everything going on.

Lunch with the WeeksFor Labor Day weekend, I’d planned a quiet time at home working on some blogging and writing, helping mom, and again, giving my brother a bit of a break.  I did have the lunch on Saturday with Brent Weeks and his wife Kristi, who are on a book tour to support his new book, The Broken Eye.  Brent would be signing books at the LoDo location of The Tattered Cover from 2-5 pm.  I met them around noon and we had a lovely lunch at a little Taco Bistro around the corner.  Don’t tell Chuck Wendig or he’ll want to come back to Denver just to have tacos there.  I also gave them a ride to the airport after the signing.  I have always been impressed with how certain authors interact with their fans.  Brent is one of them.  A class act all the way through.  I hope when I have books out and fans coming to see me, I can be as gracious as he is with his fans.

Sunday dawned and while I was in the shower, my brother pounded on the door.  I thought he was messing with me, as brother’s do.  But he kept pounding.  I shouted, “What?”

“You’ve got water and sewage backing up into your basement!”

Fuck.

I got out of the shower thinking, “Huh.  Grams was right.  Bad things happen in threes after all.”  I went into the basement.  I have an unfinished utility room in the corner of an otherwise finished basement.  It has concrete floors and walls, hosts my washer, dryer, furnace and water heater, and has a little condensate drain between the water heater and the furnace.  There was standing water coming up from that drain and a smell that can only be described as the worst thing you have ever smelled in your life times twelve and if it doesn’t also make you gag and dry heave, you aren’t there yet.  My brother is much more capable in fixing things than I am and he went right into we need to do this and that.  We started with: get a snake.

The snakes are these wonderfully disgusting devices.  Coiled metal that you feed into pipes and spin in order to snag and clear clogs.  They’re disgusting because you pull them back covered in those ‘clogs’; feces, toilet paper and anything else you flush and never think of again.  My brother and I used our brand new, 25 ft snake, trying to clear the clog.  It didn’t work.  We did pull up what we believed to be the culprit: ‘flushable’ sanitary wipes.  With my mom unable to always get to the ‘real’ bathroom, and having to use the portable toilet, we thought those would be a great idea.

Turns out, you can absolutely flush them, but they don’t break up quickly.  Which caused us a problem fairly quickly.

The snake couldn’t catch anything of ‘substance’. We started searching all around the house for the ‘clean out’; a piece of pipe with a cap or plug giving you access to ‘the main line’.  We thought the drain we were using just wasn’t the right place to try and snake the pipe.  We searched and searched and then finally found another drain in the same room right next to the dryer.  After trying to snake that for a while, we decided that still wasn’t it and went back outside again.  Still nothing.  We return to the basement. We decide to try Drano.  We poured it down both drains and let it sit for an hour before flushing them with hot water.

We thought that had worked, so we cleaned up all the water and everything that had come up from the drain.  I never want to think about that again.  Seriously.  My stomach roils just writing about it now.  And we were wrong about having fixed it.  One toilet flush and we had another flood.  I’m staring at this black pipe in the corner and notice it has a cap.  Sure as shit, that’s the clean out.  And theres a wall right in front of it.  But we were exhausted.  And everyone needed to eat.  So while I made baked mostaccioli, my brother called our uncle.

At 9:30 am today (Monday), our uncle showed up with his son and a 50 ft, motorized version of the snake.  He cut a hole in the wall with a tiny little saw and for two grueling hours, my cousin and brother fed the line in, and pulled it back out while my uncle kept checking the water levels in the drains and everyone made incredibly inappropriate jokes.  Again, what came out of those pipes I won’t write about, except to say – there were roots.  Roots in the line.  Joy.  I’ve got the stuff that’s supposed to take care of that, but, ugh.  It was essentially a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and those ‘flushable’ sanitary wipes may have helped else I wouldn’t have known the problem was there at all.  It all appears to be fixed now.  We can once again flush with confidence.

You’ll notice a lack of photos of this whole endeavor.  That is entirely on purpose.  You’re welcome.

When they left, I attacked that concrete floor with bleach.  Lots and lots of bleach.  My brother took a shower while I cleaned, and then I took a shower.  After, I decided we needed something, anything, good.  So I went and got steaks for him, me and mom.  We grilled them and baked potatoes and had an awesome dinner to cap off an otherwise shitty weekend.  Pun intended.

As for the rest of it.  I haven’t written anything other than this blog post in over a week.

I’m mostly on auto-pilot and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

I haven’t recorded any podcasts, and I need to.

Life.  If it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger, right?

5 comments for “Just about Life

  1. September 2, 2014 at 7:25 am

    The only possible response is: Good God, I’m so sorry. About all of it (except the Hugo and the new mattress-congrats on both of those). mb

  2. September 2, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Damn, Patrick. Hope life starts to rise of this current valley of suck.

  3. September 2, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Holy Motherfuck of All Disastrous Weeks! Dude… you need a strong bottle of scotch to relax with. Yeah. Yeah. I know you don’t drink, and if all of that didn’t drive you to the booze, nothing will.

    Quick responses to various points:

    1) CONGRATS on the Hugo!
    2) You are a GREAT son for taking such great care of your mom. I hope she recovers quickly.
    3) Sorry to hear about you and Michelle. That sucks, dude.
    4) Roots in the sewer line? Ugh. That’s a pain in the ass. Been there. Done that. It’s “unpleasant” to say the least, and you describe it quite well.
    5) I hope you enjoyed your steak!

    PS: As always, I’m a phone call and maybe an hour drive away (if at home) and much closer (if at work). If you need something (even if it’s a food/grocery delivery or someone to chat with) give me a ring. I’m there.

  4. September 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Oh. My. God. You poor, poor man… I feel your pain.

  5. Jessica Strider
    September 2, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear that things have been so crappy (except for your much deserved Hugo win -congrats on that). I hope things get better soon.

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