Part One: My mom and I used to watch tv a lot when I was taking care of her when she had ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease) including shows like “In Search Of”

My mom and I would watch a lot of television when she was dying of Lou Gehrigs Disease. I would be on a sofa chair in her bedroom. She would be sitting up in her medical bed. There’d be the tray where she had her pretzels or saltines, and her soda (7 up).

The particular episode we were watching one afternoon was In Search Of Bigfoot.

In this episode they showed the grainy film image of Bigfoot walking across some place in the woods. I learn later this is known as the famous Patterson film.

In the mid 1960’s some guy named Patterson and his friend witnessed a Sasquatch (Bigfoot) walking in front of them and started filming it. Patterson said it was about seven feet tall.

In the early afternoon of October 20, Patterson and Gimlin were at Bluff Creek in Northern California. Both were on horseback when they first saw the creature. They said they were in shock.

Patterson estimated he was about 25 feet away from the creature at his closest. Patterson said that his horse reared upon seeing (or perhaps smelling) the figure, and he spent about twenty seconds getting off the horse and getting his camera that he happened to have on him because when you ride horseback, in the nineteen sixties, you always bring your movie camera.

Digression: Google or Bing the typical movie camera of 1965, and see how portable it was. Possible, yes. Likely while riding horseback – no. I’m just saying.

The camera was in a saddlebag and it took him about twenty seconds, he actually counted, I guess, before he could run toward the figure while operating his camera. He yelled “Cover me” to Gimlin, (To which I ask ‘Cover me with what?’ Like is this guy Gimlin going to do – what – if Bigfoot comes at him – throw bananas?) Anyway, our story continues-who thereupon crossed the creek on horseback, rode forward awhile, and, rifle in hand, dismounted (presumably because his horse might have panicked if the creature charged, spoiling his shot).

The figure had walked away from them to a distance of about 120 feet before Patterson began to run after it. The resulting film (about 53 seconds long) is initially quite shaky (and blurry of course) until Patterson gets about 80 feet from the figure. At that point the figure glanced over its right shoulder at the men and Patterson fell to his knees; on Krantz’s map this corresponds to frame 264. To researcher John Green, Patterson would later characterize the creature’s expression as one of “contempt and disgust.” We don’t really see that look when we view the grainy footage though. But this is the Zapruder film of Bigfoot, in essense, and it is all we’ve got.

So Leonard Nimoy says this and my mom, not even bothering to turn her head to face me, says:

“Bullshit”

“Its on film, though.” I say.

“Its Bull- Shit.” she insists. “The gorilla man looked disgusted? I thought he was thirty feet away. And why is the film so blurry?”

“He was nervous.”

“So was your dad when he took photos of the Canyon on our camping trip a few years ago. They aren’t blurry.”

“Dad didn’t see Bigfoot.”

“Either did this guy.”

The film continues. Shortly after glancing over its shoulder, the
blurry grainy creature walks behind a grove of trees, reappears for awhile after Patterson moved ten feet to a better vantage point, then fades into the trees again and is lost to view as the reel of film ran out. Gimlin remounted and followed it on horseback, keeping his distance, until it disappeared around a bend in the road three hundred yards away. Patterson called him back at that point, feeling vulnerable on foot without a rifle, because he feared the creature’s mate might approach- Said Nimoy.

“The creatures mate” my mom says, still able to lift the can of 7up to her mouth, taking a swig before putting it back down. “Now the monkey man is married, too.”

Nimoy offered up the believers reasonings why no bones of Bigfoot creatures have ever been found in the Pacific Northwest. Evidently, it was due to the many scavengers of the area and the highly acidic soil in the region.

They show the film over and over. Its always grainy.

“It looks like a fat guy in a gorilla suit on his way to a campground bathroom.” She says.

“They found footprints mom.” I say.

“Bullshit.” She says, taking a handful of pretzel sticks and chomping them for a minute. “That’s a guy with wooden boards shaped like big feet attached to baseball bats and stomped into the ground. Your dad could make those with his jigsaw.”

She had a point.

Bigfoot walked with a bad posture, hanging low and forward, like an old man hunched over in a forward lean.

“He looks constipated.” Mom says. It goes toward her conclusion he was looking for a bathroom. “Look how he’s hunched forward with those long arms. Your great uncle Frank walked like that in the last two years of his life.”

Nimoy says some witnesses have seen Bigfoot eating berries in the woods.

“Those two guys sat on a case of beer, smoked grass (that’s what mom called pot), and came up with the whole thing.” My mom said.

So my shrink makes a play to lower my antidepressants as if he’s ever been on them and knows what’s its like to be depressed-it’s depressing

So a couple years back I’m sitting across from my shrink and he tells me I should go down on my xanax. But he doesn’t say “I” should. He says “lets” instead.

“Let’s go down on this medication.” He says.

“Bad timing.” I say.

“How’s that?” he asks.

“Well, ‘we’ should not do that because my wife is pregnant, my porch is falling apart, I am more tired than ever, and it feels like the economy is collapsing. And did I mention we don’t have a savings yet for my wifes maternity leave she insists she will take? And my insurance deductible is seven grand. I have a lot on my plate. So let’s not do it.” I say.

I emphasize the word ‘let’s’ so hopefully he gets that I don’t like being talked to like a child, with the ‘let’s’ and ‘we’ when in fact it’s about ‘me’.

“We should think about it though.” He says.

“We don’t have to.” I say. “We are fine just as things are.”

“I just remembered” he says, “My billing person says she can’t get your insurance to pay for our last appointment.”

Ahh, the threat. The passive aggressive threat. No more meds until I pay up his bill. This was a power struggle. He didn’t need me to pay up that minute, but I questioned his authority and challenged his treatment plan – for “us”.

“Let’s call her, then.” I call his bluff.

Here’s what I say about medical billing people who work from their home computers. They are mostly retired old ladies who are in over their heads.
They are inexpensive (because they are in over their heads).

This is about my psychiatrist pulling a stunt about my past due account as I tell him I do not want to go down on my Xanax, a controlled substance. He is basically doing a combination of tough love meets don’t challenge me, but I am not in the mood for it.

Anyway, he nods, and sets his phone to speaker as he dials her number. It rings, no answer. Her voicemail kicks in. Very professional sounding.

HI IT’S ME I AM NOT HERE RIGHT NOW LEAVE A MESSAGE AND I WILL GET BACK TO YOU WHEN I AM.

My shrink leaves a message.

“Hey” my psychiatrist says. “I have Pete here and he wants to talk to you about the past due, give me a call, thanks.”

He hangs up, and a half a minute later his phone rings. It is her, Gramma Moses. That’s mean. Lets call her Whistler’s Mother. He puts her on speaker phone.

“So I have Pete here and he wants to talk to you about his account.” He says. Then he looks over at me and winks at me. I’m not sure why the hell he did that. Is he making a pass at me? What?

“Okay, I have his account on screen.” She says.

I hear what sounds like something tipping over, maybe a cup of coffee, maybe a glass of whiskey, followed by an “excuse me a minute” then a “Ok, I’m back-sorry. What’s your question Peter?”

“My question is how come you keep sending me statements, not necessarily on a regular basis(that is a dig at how inconsistent her statements are mailed – my shrink makes a facial expression of surprise, mission accomplished). They are different colors, and say I still owe money. First, what do the different colored paper colors mean – like I get blue one month, red the other month, and sometime white plain?”

I actually know what Gramma Walton is trying to accomplish. By having different colors, it is supposed to – a) get my attention to act on the past due balance, and – b) stop me from tossing it in the garbage with all the other past due notices I may get. I do neither.

“Well I show you still owe a balance from your last four appointments.” She says, not missing a beat and blowing off my question. “How would you like to pay today?”

“Can I give you my credit card number?” I ask.

I know she doesn’t take credit cards, and it makes me seem like I intend to pay. Remember, Old Yeller does not have a big operation.

“Well, no, I can’t do that.” She says, predictably.

I believe she is giving me the finger over the phone. I feel bad vibes coming from the phone speaker. I am sensitive to the negative vibrations of angry old women. I always have been.

You can’t convince me that when she gets home to her efficiency apartment, dressed in her floral moo-moo, watching television from her worn green sofa, she doesn’t yell and slap at her cat for sniffing out the noodle salad she is eating from a tupperware container (“No human food Josie, you rotten little cat!”).

Maybe she doesn’t own a cat, though.

Meanwhile, back in the present, my shrink is interested also; he moves forward in his chair and has his hands clasped.

“Well, you know insurance companies.” she says.

“Which insurance company are you speaking with?” I ask.

There is a shuffling of papers for a moment, then she says asks-“Medica?”

It isn’t.

“Actually” I say, ”It’s Blue Cross”

“Oh, has it changed?” she asks.

I feel like throwing her a lifeline and saying it has, but screw it. Nobody has ever thrown me a lifeline.

“Actually, no.” I say. “It’s the same one I gave you three years ago.”

Another pause. Then my soul comes back into my body.

“I tell you what,” I say, “I will pay cash for the current appointments starting today.”

She goes for it. When we hang up, I get what I was after all along.

“So” my shrink begins, “I’ll write your prescriptions for the Xanax and Paxil. Let’s just keep going the same way we are going.”

Mission accomplished.

So then I get the official results of my sleep study – first of all, it officially costs $1,600 but I have a high deductible so it’s all my problem

So I am sitting in the office of the sleep doctor going over my test results. They had originally told me it would be about a week or two before the doctor would call, but I actually got a call the afternoon after I had taken the sleep study. The doctor indicated I should come in right away.

It’s that same guy that I annoyed and who annoyed me as well during our last visit.

“First of all, it is as I expected.” He said, holding a three or four page document in his hands, sharing it with me.

What was he expecting, I wondered.

“Okay.” I said.

“You are definitely a candidate for the CPAP.” He continued. “They turned off the lights at ten twenty eight point twenty four seconds and let you sleep unassisted by any device for three hours.”

“Right.” I say.

“During that time, you never got out of Stage two sleep. You were also in WASO for about twenty eight minutes of time during that period.”

“Right.” I say. “What is WASO?”

“Wake time after sleep onset.”

“Right.” I say. “What matters about that?”

“It just means you’re not asleep during that time. It means you’re awake. Some of that does naturally increase as you get older, you are what, forty nine?”

“Forty-seven.” I quickly correct him.

“It’s just that much less of sleep for you to sort of re-charge your batteries.”

“Okay.” I agree.

How could he get my age wrong? Didn’t he see the date of birth up on the upper right hand side of the sheet? For Christ sake I saw it and I was sitting across from him.

He was still talking. I tried to think of a jab I could hit him with. Maybe something about his recessive hairline.

“But really, the important thing is you never left stage two sleep, you never went into REM.” he says.

I almost make a joke about Losing My Religion (REM the band-won a grammy for it). This is the same guy, though, who didn’t get my accordion snoring drawers opening and shutting joke from before. So he probably wouldn’t get my REM joke, either.

It is possible that I am not as funny as I think, but this is just guerrilla comedy – comedy done on the fly to a captive impromptu audiences. Anyway my mind wanders further into the REM thing and I start thinking of the song “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

I keep all this to myself. It is not worth trying it out on this guy. I hear enough crickets chirping in my life. Besides, he’s going bald.

“But here’s more data.” He keeps talking. On the sheet I see a bunch of measurements of numbers on the left side, and on the right side under the header LAB NORMAL RANGE I notice all of my numbers are either below normal (time in Stage four, for example) or above normal (Apnea and other respiratory disturbances for example). “You had one hundred and forty five obstructive apneac events during that three hours – or about one per minute.”

“That’s high isn’t it?” I ask.

“Yes. And they lasted an average of twenty seconds each.”

“That’s bad isn’t it?” I ask.

“It’s not good or bad, I don’t want you to take away – ok, it’s bad.” He says.

“Okay.”

“The good news is there weren’t any spontaneous leg movements during this time.”

“That is good news.” I say. “How is that good news?”

“Well, it means you don’t have PLMD.”

“Well, that’s good, right?” I ask.

“Yeah.” he says.

“What’s PLMD?”

“Periodic Leg Movement Disorder.”

“Wow. What’s that?” I ask.

“It’s actually quite serious.” He says, “It’s also known as Restless Leg Disorder, and believe me, you wouldn’t want it. You feel a tingling and you feel as if pinpricks are penetrating your lower leg, and you feel the need to relieve yourself of the pain by moving and jerking your legs. It’s very uncomfortable.”

The hypochondriac that I am begins to feel pins prickling on my calves. I shudder and kick my legs, one of them knocking the front of one of his legs.

We both adjust our position.

“It not only causes you problems, but obviously, older people like yourself-“

That was kind of a dig. He remembered me correcting my age downward and I think he is pissed that I just kicked him.

“-older people like yourself have their leg movement symptoms increase, and you end up starting flailing around and kicking your bed partner, so it disrupts their sleep also.”

Okay, so I got the memo. It could be worse. Then he continued.

“So then ,the CPAP device was placed on you at about one thirty am. It was left on you until you woke up at six am. You were in REM for about two hours. Frankly, it’s probably the first time in a long time you’ve been in that much uninterrupted REM. You were in stage three sleep for about a half an hour. That’s good REM.”

“You know I really did feel refreshed after that sleep, truthfully, I felt wide awake when I hit the road to go to work. It was good REM.” I agreed.

“That doesn’t surprise me.” He said. “Zero obstructive apneas during the whole time. And look at your oxygen levels-without the mask on, you were at about sixty three percent saturation during some of the time, and after the mask was on you never when below a saturation level of eighty five percent. This definitely helped you.”

There were more numbers he went over with me, but you catch my drift.

So my mom is my age (49) when she gets diagnosed with ALS and has her first piece of medical equipment

Thirty years ago, my mom came home from the U of MN hospital equipped with a cane. So that was the first sign I saw that she was being medicalized.
She didn’t really talk to me for the first couple of days and she napped a lot, but one afternoon she did open up a little bit.
“So what did they tell you?” I asked, still not really having been given the full story yet on what she had.
“Well, the doctors said they finished with the tests and had the results and asked your dad to be there when they gave the results.” She said. “When they came into the room, I asked ‘What’s the prognosis?”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Didn’t you pay attention to Chad Everett on Medical Center?” she asked. “That was you in the beanbag chair watching it with me, right?”
“Yeah.” I said.
“He’d say “What’s the Prognosis?” to one of the X ray lab technicians when they were looking at an x-ray. Don’t you remember?”
“What does it mean?”
“It means what have I got and how long do I have?” she said. Then she continued.
 “They said I had Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.” She said.
“What’s that?” I asked. I had never heard of it.
During the course of her disease, David Niven got it, and died. There was a biography about his life, and my mom and dad bought it, to see what his symptoms were. My mom had seen him on Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas around the time she first found out about her disease, and she said he seemed out of it and drunk. Turns out his slurred speech was the early manifestations of his disease.
“It’s a type of muscular dystrophy where I lose strength in my muscles.”
“How long do you have it?” I asked.
“It lasts a while. But mostly about five years.” She said.
“Then what?” I asked.
She pulled a brochure off the coffee table in the living room where she was lying on the couch, above where I was on the floor, and she handed it to me.
“Read this. It does a better job than I can of saying what it is. I still don’t understand it.” She said.
I took the brochure.
“Go ahead. You can go and read it now if you want. It can answer every question. We were given this by the doctors. It’s for you and your brothers.”
I looked up at her. I had a bad feeling about what I would find in the brochure.
“Go read it” she said. “I’m going to take a short nap before your dad gets home from work.”
“What are we having for supper?” I asked.
“Pepper steak and rice.” She said. “From David Fong’s restaurant. I’m too tired to cook tonight.”

I laugh when I think of how ineffective pre marriage counseling is

So about fifteen years ago my fiance, now my wife, and I are in some pre-marriage counseling session that lasts all day down in the basement of some church. We sit in those folding metal cheap chairs that get pulled off the basement wall when needed. They are brown. We are among a few other couples who signed up for the counseling. Somebody recommended it for us to make sure we knew what we were getting into. I think it was my mother in law.
We are watching a film made in the 1970s about marriage. The narrator is this guy with sideburns, a thick tie, and bell bottom slacks. He is a cliche from his era.

He’s walking through some park, and he sits down on a big rock. He looks down to his shoes, then with the camera slowly zooming in on his face, he looks back up at the camera and gives us sage advice-

“Try to avoid using words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ in your marital interactions” he says.

I think – far out, man.

He continues-

 “…and by all means avoid sarcasm in your conflicts. Remember, you’re making a contract to love and to cherish your loved one for life, and you’re partnering for successful communications to avoid problems down the road .”

Flash forward 14 years. We’re cleaning the house. My wife finds a white notebook stashed in the back of her huge clothing closet with the words Contract For A Successful Marriage written on the front of it.
“What’s this?” she asks me, obviously not recognizing her own handwriting from that day.
“How should I know?” I say, “You always hoard stuff. You never throw anything away!”
Then I put an imaginary gun to my head and pretend to pull the trigger, while saying “Uh-Duh!”
So the counseling stuck.

I think too much sometimes and so does my son

My 8 year old boy thinks too much and it may drive him crazy.He plays the alphabet game in the car (finding the letters of the alphabet, in order, while we drive to the store or wherever) ,on street or storefront signs….I have had to take the long way home just so he can get the “Z” on a sign to a tobacco shop that sells “Zippo” lighters. It’s the only “Z” out there. I have driven around to check if there are any other  Z’s out there in our neighborhood and there are not. Whats so bad about that, you say? Well, if we don’t find the “Z” he throws an absolute fit like we’re ALL GONNA DIE IF WE DON’T GET THE Z.

People use paranoia as often as they use neurotic. But you see I am actually paranoid. And neurotic. Clinically diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I am currently as of this writing on an SSRI (serotonin uptake inhibitor) called Paxil, and I take xanax, a panic attack muffler, as needed, when anxiety (panic) strikes.

 I am also on Testosterone Gel, because evidently I have low “T” like this one commercial I see on tv talks about. On the commercial, there’s a guy who I guess would represent a guy with low “T”, and its not like you’d see him on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, if you get what I mean (Pillsbury dough boy).

I have passed out from fear, I have been so scared I have literally, and I do mean literally, run out of buildings for fear of passing out or dying, or of getting killed by something.

Literally – makes me want to tell you about this guy I used to work with.
He used a phrase all the time. He’d say stuff to try to be intelligent, and analytical, as if he were a thoughtful guy when he was just an idiot. But he’d say stuff like “for all intensive purposes” – intensive purposes – not intents and purposes. And he’d follow it up with “I’m literally jumping out of my skin here.”

He was literally jumping out of his skin.

There was this video on You Tube that showed a whale going after a seal and stripping the seal out of its skin to eat it. Now that is literally jumping out of your skin.

Without your skin, all your organs, muscles and bones would hang out. THAT is what happens when you literally jump out of your skin.
The nerve endings in your skin tell you how things feel when you touch them. If you touch something hot, the nerve endings in your skin respond right away: “Ouch! That’s hot!”
So not only are you gross when you literally jump out of your skin – you are susceptible to burning yourself, which makes it even worse because you look like a fried monster. If you burn yourself after you literally jump out of your skin, and start screaming because now you’ve realized how bad you look (remember, no pain, no nerve endings from the skin not being there – although maybe there is pain since the muscles area exposed, and they have nerve endings I think), you will scare people. Literally.
The third and bottom layer of the skin is called the subcutaneous (say: sub-kyoo-tay-nee-us) layer. It is made mostly of fat and helps your body stay warm and absorb shocks, like if you bang into something or fall down. This layer is where you’ll find the start of hair, too. Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny tube in the skin called a follicle. If this layer is gone, you have no hair.
So again – if you literally jump out of your skin, you become a macabre, gross, screaming (possibly burned) pile of hairless human stuff – then don’t blame people for being turned off to you.
Oh and the skin helps regulate your body’s temperature.

So needless to say, when you literally jump out of your skin you probably are going to die. Especially if it’s snowing out (you will freeze). Especially this past winter with what we have been through in the Midwest.

So when people say phrases like that without realizing what they are saying, I think about how their life would really be if that actually happened.

And I think I have insight as to why my son obsesses over things. Must be his mom.

At my age, ads don’t work on me. They never have. Never will. I could never be affected by them in any way. I ignore them. Always have. But I love the show “Mad Men”.

So I am behind a guy at the drive thru at McDonalds, waiting to order my salad with balsamic vinegar dressing on the side, you know, and of course I am in a hurry, and he yells into the speaker at the menu of the drive thru line “So whats on the Big Mac?” and all I can think of is “You mean to tell me you dont know the answer to that question? Its – two all beef patties special sauce cheese lettuce pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.” And on a side note, Advertising doesn’t work on me, man. I ignore it. BTW, I bought my 8 year old a happy meal so he could get a Shrek guy.

I get diagnosed to have a sleep study because of my snoring

So A couple years ago, in getting ready to having a second child, I find myself sitting across from a doctor in the Sleep Clinic. I am being interviewed to determine whether I should take sleep study. I am answering his questions but I am a little tired.
“And do you take any medications to help you sleep? He asks.
“I take Sominex. About six of them per night.”
“In a row?” he asks.
“One right after another.” I say.
“And what have people said about your sleep?” he asks.
 “My wife says when I snore it’s irregular. And that when I inhale- the house contracts, and when I exhale, the house expands and all the drawers in the house open and slam shut in the rhythm of my snoring. Like one of those Merry Melodies cartoons. The house expands and contracts.”
He is about thirty years old. He doesn’t get the reference.
“You know, like an accordion.” I say, trying to help him, forgetting the advice of my dad once when I was younger, who said if I needed to explain a joke, I shouldn’t tell it in the first place. But I keep reaching to help him with the punch line – struggling to make it funny. “The house even sounds like an accordion, or a harmonica as someone blows or sucks on it.”
He will not validate me. My wife keeps reminding me when I find myself doing this at restaurants with the server, or in grocery stores with the cashiers, that not everyone wants to be a straight man in my little comedy show.
The doctor gives me a soft, faint smile. It’s kind of a Minnesota nice thing. I’ve seen it before. I‘ve done it to other people. It means nothing. It’s a kind of nudge to move on.
“Has she observed you ever stopping breathing?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I say. “As long as for about a minute.”
He nods and jots down a note on his questionnaire. “It’s probably not a whole minute.”
“That’s what she said.”
“I doubt it’s a whole minute.” He says.
We are sitting in his office having a pissing contest over what my wife said.
I wish she was here to take him on. If there’s one thing I have learned about my wife over the years, it’s this: Do not cross her.
She said it was about a minute. So, it was about a minute. It was.
She is a Scorpio – not that I believe in that kind of stuff.
And I am a Cancer. According to the Linda Goodman book on astrological signs we are a perfect match.
At least, we used to be Scorpio and Cancer. I don’t know what we are anymore now that evidently they’ve changed them all around. And for what purpose?
“Okay.” I concede.
“Still” he says, “It obviously was a significant amount of time of not breathing.”
“Yeah.” I say. “About a minute.”
He looks up at me, almost like he was thinking ‘fuck you it wasn’t a minute’.
But it was a minute. My wife said it was.
“Well, you know, you seem like a perfect candidate for the sleep study.”
I nod in agreement.
“But if you’re in doubt, there’s some things you can do to affirm my analysis.”
“Like what?” I ask.
“You can track how many times you wake up at night by doing this. Put a jar or a cup on your nightstand next to your bed. Put some pennies on the nightstand. Every time you get up to go to the bathroom or whatever, put a penny in the cup or jar. Pretty soon you’ll know how many awakenings you have.”
I must have been giving him a look of ‘I don’t understand’ because the next thing he said was “-By the number of pennies in the jar in the morning.”
I got what he meant. That sounded stupid.
“How about I just count them in my head?” I ask.
“Most people can’t remember the next day how many times they may have awoken. This helps keep track. For example, if there are ten pennies in the cup or jar, it means you woke up ten times.”
“Really?” I asked, using the Minnesota nice tone because I felt he was now talking down to me. I mean, I can count.
“Uh, huh.” He affirmed. This guy had no personality. Maybe he wasn’t getting enough sleep.
“Well, I think I kind of don’t need to do that. What else can you go by?”
“You’re an older male, you have irregular night sleep, you snore, you stop breathing, you take Sominex, and I can see your eyes have significant signs of sleep deprivation.”
He said I was an older male.
“When would you like to take the sleep study, we conduct them six nights a week.”
“Here?” I asked.
“Down the hall from here.” He said. “In our Sleep Clinic.”
“Do I have my own room?” I ask.
“Yeah. We monitor you and confirm our pre-diagnosis. Based on how you’ve answered these questions so far, it sounds like you would benefit from it.”
“Can I watch tv?”
“Sure. There’s a television in the room. But eventually we say lights out and turn it off.”
“So then what?” I ask.
“Then while you sleep we monitor your breathing, your heart rhythm, your brain activity, and your oxygen levels.”
“How?”
“By attaching about forty five sensors to your body before tucking you in.”
I stare at him.
“How do I sleep with all that stuff hooked up to me?”
He chuckles.
“A very normal question.” He says. “Believe me, people do eventually fall asleep. If you want I can prescribe an Ambien.”
I tried one of those once. My wife got a prescription to help her sleep through my snoring. She gave me one. Didn’t work at all. Kid stuff.
“I’ll bring a Xanax.” I say. “Or two.”
“Not too many though.” He says. ‘We want an accurate reading for the study. We want to make sure we capture a typical nights patterns of brain, heart and breathing activity.”
“Yeah.” I say. “I am usually sedated to all hell. It will be typical.’


Who invented the internet?

So my eight year old son asks me “Dad, who invented the internet?” while trying to figure out how to get to the college basketball website he liked where it showed current standings (Duke lost).

I am reminded of my eighth grade science partner back in 1975, who I will call “Tom”, cuz that’s his name, and how we had spent a couple weeks writing computer “code” to add two prime numbers together to come up with a third prime number (2+3=5). We would have time at the “media lab” where we would dial in with our written code, and somehow have this printout of the results. Totally cumbersome.

So we’re just standing there, all these kids in our class around us, and Tom starts talking about it.

“Pete, this is so cool to be able to dial in like this.” he says.

I say nothing.

“Isn’t it?” he asks.

“Yeah, really cool” I say, “We just spent two weeks writing some computer language to add two numbers. And they equal five, we found out. After two weeks.”

“No but Pete,” he says, eyes bulging, getting excited, “Do you understand what this could mean? I mean, we’re dialing into Honeywell, and its computer is sharing time with us…think of how many people at other schools its doing this with. Its like someday we could all be connected by computers, and be intermingling in a sort of a….web…if you will, and we’d look at stuff…we could maybe share ideas about stuff, maybe even send letters and look at photos and movies…….” he trailed off, seemingly thinking of the possibilities.

I gave him a blank look, then….

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”  (ie LMAO)

All the kids in the media lab were laughing at him, and he sort of went back to feeding our datacards into the thing that read our whatever.

Tom, according to Facebook, now has a job at some company, mid level management probably. He didn’t respond to my friend request.

So I looked over at my son and said “Tom invented the internet.”

“Who’s Tom?” he asked.

I told him I was really busy reading my email and didn’t have time to answer any more questions about the internet.

Intro to my middle aged life

One night, a couple years back, my mom and I danced barefoot in the backyard of the home where I grew up in Richfield. She had been dead for over 25 years, and appropriately wore a black dress for the occasion. But I found her smile rather macabre. I kept thinking ‘You’re dead. Why are you scaring me?’
We never spoke during our waltz. I remember being a little frightened by her, and as I became aware that I was in fact frightened, she backed away from me and turned to join a group of people dressed in black. These were people from my childhood who had died over the years, and who stood together in a cluster about twenty feet away from us, holding black umbrellas above their heads.
            Evidently, this was one of the few dreams I had been able to have, as my wife, while we were awake, but still lying in bed one morning, tells me I snored really loud the night before. Not just my normal loud irregular snoring, either. This time, she tells me, she thinks I am actually going to die.
“Why?” I asked.
“You stopped breathing.” She said.
I stop breathing and look her in the eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I looked over at you- you were on your back. And you were completely still.”  
“So what were you doing up in the middle of the night?” I asked.
“I couldn’t sleep. I had a nightmare.”
“About what?”
“About being alone.” She said.
“What do you mean?”
“About Jack (our then seven year old son) and our new baby all grown up and gone, and you gone as well.”
“Where did I go?”
“You died.” She said.
I felt a small palpitation in my chest. Then a big THUMP.
“How?” I asked.
“I didn’t dream that part. You were just dead by the time the dream started. Then I woke up and called the Psychic Hotline to see if anything was going to happen to you.”
“Psychic Hotline?” I asked.
I was annoyed. That meant she just racked up $6.99 per minute, and knowing her, about 20 minutes, on our bank account.
“Sorry.” She says.
She knew how I felt.
“So what’d they say?” I asked.
“The psychic lady told me not to worry, I wouldn’t be alone.”
What did that mean?  But I was annoyed at her for more than just that.
“So how long did it take the Psychic lady to tell you that?” I asked, hoping for a low number, in minutes.
“Well, first she had to ask me a bunch of questions.”
“Like what?”
“My childhood. You know, c’mon! They can’t just tap in. You gotta give them information first.”
“How long did it take for them to get all your information so they could “tap” in?”
I said, with an emphasis on tap.
“I don’t know. You’re making fun of it when you say ‘tap’ like that aren’t
you?” she asked.
“How long?”
“I don’t remember.” She said.
“Guess.”
“You’re mad.”
“You think?” I say.
“So let me finish.” She says. “After I got back up here I lay down in bed and couldn’t sleep so I turned to my side to watch you.”
“Just a second.” I say as I get up and go downstairs to where we keep our family computer.
I log into our bank account. There is a charge for $180.00 from a place named K Intl. I learn later the company name is Karma Industries International.
I go back upstairs and crawl back into bed. I stare at my wife with a disapproving, shameful look.
The kind my dad used to give me when I would ask him the difference between a Phillips and a socket screwdriver.
So, I digress here, but when I was sixteen I remember my dad made one last attempt to see if I was really his son, so to speak.
Like, would I ever help him work on the family cars?
No.
I remember sitting on a stool out in the garage with my dad one night. He had his head under the hood of our station wagon. I think he was trying to adjust the carbeurator. I was staring at his back. He had on another one of his white tee shirts with grease and oil stains on it.
 The only reason I was out there was because my mom told me to go out there. I had been watching a television show. My mom came in the livingroom.
“Why don’t you go out to the garage to see what your dad is doing?” she said. It was like a question, but she was kind of telling me to get out of the livingroom.
 “Why?” I asked her, lying in a bean bag chair, eating pretzel sticks out of a blue box. I was watching The Brady Bunch. Not a rerun – the first airing of an episode. That’s how old I am.
“Because I want to watch Merv Griffin.” She said.
“Can’t I just finish my show?” I asked.
“No. Go out and see what your dad is doing.”
“He’s working on the car.” I said.
“You need to get outside more. You’ve been in the house all day watching TV.”
True. It was a Friday night, at the beginning of summer. In the morning my day began with Bewitched, my afternoon with Dark Shadows followed by a couple game shows and then Gilligans Island, The Flintstones, followed by the Time Tunnel and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, interrupted only by supper.
 “So.” I said.
“So you’re starting to get rings under your eyes. It’s not healthy.” She said.
I thought –
 ‘no, what’s not healthy is the rubbery chicken experiment you made for supper tonite with the cream of mushroom soup and minute rice’.
 I said – nothing.
Suddenly, in one move, she grabbed the remote control out of my hand, grabbed my box of pretzels, turned the channel to The Merv Griffin Show, plopped her somewhat larger-than-when- it-was-when-she-married-my-dad body, and started eating. She turned her head to look at me, and repeated- “Go outside to see what your dad is doing.”
As I got up to leave the room I noticed this woman named Charo on Merv Griffin. She was talking with a thick Spanish accent and going “cuchi-cuchi” or something.
Okay, so then I’m outside sitting on a stool while my dad is working on one of the cars we owned. I don’t know what he’s doing. Well, I kind of do. He’s blowing me off.
All of a sudden, he hollers out “Hey! Give me a screwdriver!”
I am startled into reality – I had zoned out and was thinking about whether Greg Brady was really hurt in the surfing accident, and why don’t they get rid of that Amulet – for God’s Sake its bad luck!
“Okay.” I say. I start looking around his work bench.
“Phillips.” He barks.
“Whose?” I asked, trying to think of who Phillip was and wondered what screwdriver he gave my dad.
“Phillips!”
He was always loud. My mom said it was because he worked so close to jet engines. I figured he was pissed off all the time. We were both right. I was more right, though, I think.
I started looking around the workbench, and looked at his screwdrivers – lying all over his workbench, checking if any one of them had the name “Phillip” taped or scratched into the handle. No luck.
“I can’t find one.” I say.
“Huh?” he barked (again-barked. Like a an angry dog).
He gets out from under the hood and turns to face me. I am standing right next to a Phillips screwdriver, which he sees, grabs, and then gives me that shame look I was talking about.
Now, back to the bedroom conversation I am having with my wife-
“I already know you’re mad about the Psychic Hotline.” My wife says while I give her the shame look she has managed to inoculate herself against. “So will you let me finish?”
“Yeah, sorry dad.” I say.
“What?” she asks.
“Huh?” I ask back.
“You just said sorry, dad” she says.
Then she shakes it off.
“You made me forget what I was going to say!” she gives me her shame- angry look. It’s like the one my dad gave me. I have not inoculated myself from it.
“Sorry.” I said, remembering not to call her my dad.
“Oh, ok, now I know.” She continues. “The psychic said you need to get a sleep
study.”
”Really?”  I was incredulous. “You know our medical deductible is six thousand dollars, right?”
“She also said you could die, and not be there for your new son.”
“We’re kind of trying to save for your maternity leave, you know that, right?” I asked.
“Did you hear what I said?” she asked, amping up her voice, making it very easy to hear what she said.
“Yes, I did.” I answered. “But I’m not going to get a sleep study because a psychic quack told you to tell me to get a sleep study.”
“Oh…Okay.” She says, rolling her eyes. “Then hear this. When I was watching you last night-“
“Sleeping.” I said.
“No, I wouldn’t call it that.” She says. “You were spastic. You were on your back, you would stop breathing for a few seconds, then you’d choke, gasp for breathe, snore a couple of times, and then you stopped breathing for like a whole minute.”
That got my attention. A whole minute?  One Mississippi…two Mississippi….you catch my drift.
“Have I ever done that before?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” She says. “But now that we’re having a second child….your SON-“ she leans into me for emphasis, adjusting and jabbing me with her elbow while moving closer. I think it is on purpose, and it kind of hurts. “- you need to make sure you stay safe. I need you here with your child. With our children. They need their father.”
I think she is getting a little dramatic.
“I am not being dramatic!” she says.
My wife has always claimed to be psychic, and I believe it.
“Pete!” she says.
“What?”
“You need to get a sleep study. Promise me you’ll schedule one tomorrow.”
“Sure.” I say. I’m getting tired; the Sominex tablets I took about an hour earlier are kicking in.
“I know what that means. It means you aren’t going to do it.” She said.
“I’m going to do it.” I say, adjusting my position and closing my eyes.
“PETE!” she says. “You’re forty seven.”
I feel her hot peanut butter breath on me. She has adjusted herself so that her face is right above mine. Right before bed she had celery sticks dipped in peanut butter while watching a Bravo reality show about some salon that was being taken over by a chef. Anyway, the intensity of her eyes burns my skin a little. And her elbow digs a little deeper into my ribcage.
“Ow!” I say.
“You’re going to be forty eight when Dylan is born. Did you hear me? FORTY EIGHT!”
I heard her loud and clear. I was going to be “Grampa-Dad”. You know, the guy at his kids beginning soccer fundamentals class with the hearing aid, leaning on his cane.
I am too old to be a new dad, I thought. I am already gray in some spots. On many mornings when I dare to look at myself in the mirror, and I mean really look at myself, I look old. Under my eyes my skin is a dark brown, maybe purplish with a slight yellowing, and I sometimes consider putting on some of my wife’s “concealer” – I had to ask her what it was called, because once I asked her if I could use it, referring to it as eyeliner, and when she got done laughing she asked me if I was going through my Boy George phase (and not in a complimentary way). The rest of the day, and once after that, she hummed the chorus to “Karma Chameleon”.
 I am the ending picture of Dorian Gray.
As Alec Guiness says at the end of the movie ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ just when he realizes his ignorance at insisting the bridge be completed on time –
 What have I done?
I have calculated by the time this new addition to our family is eighteen, I will be sixty six years old. That feels a little old to me. If I make it, even.
I have seen all the books and magazines in the bookstore about how to age with grace, dignity, and spirit. There’s usually a picture of some hot forty something woman on the cover. She is usually standing next to some hot forty something  abs of steel guy, with some gray streaks, both smiling, shiny straight white teeth (Photoshop), and an implied message to make me want to be old.
There’s nothing hot or sexy about being strapped to a bunch of medical equipment, a cold bowl of mush on the hospital tray sitting on your lap. And there’s no lust behind that drool rolling off your chin and onto your bib.
Embrace age, they say. Everything gets better as you age. Old is the new young.
Inside the magazines are articles like “Sexy at seventy!” or “Healthy, Wealthy, Older, Wise – and Hot!”
And Term Life Insurance ads.
As well as pharmaceutical ads. The kind where two old people are in a clawfoot bathtub, smiling at each other. They are drinking wine, and the bath tub is on the sea shore. They watch the sunset from their clawfoot bathtub.
They are naked, or so the ad would lead us to believe.
And I think  ‘Is there no tide to worry about?’
I remember an article I read in a DIY magazine about old claw foot bathtubs. And how they have incredibly high amounts of lead in them. And how according to the Mayo Clinic website, exposure to lead over a long period of time causes infertility. As well as erectile dysfunction.
So why are they in there?
But here’s what else I keep thinking. If forty is the new thirty, then why do I have to bring frozen “samples” to the doctor’s office for some lab analysis. I didn’t do that when I was thirty.
And why do my physicals take longer now than they did when I was really thirty. And why is it that now, when I complain of pains, whether it is chest, legs, ribs (see above, wife’s elbow), or anything else, they end up scheduling me for an MRI. They never used to do that either.
I’m a hypochondriac. I used to ask myself who I had to kill to get doctors to pay attention to me. Now, I’m actually afraid to talk about any of my symptoms.
By the way, I have panic disorder and depression.
Which brings me back to becoming a new dad at age forty eight.
Kids make you young again, they say. I think they make you tired, based on my observations and experience with just one boy. And he’s a pretty mellow boy at that.
Why didn’t I just pull out?
Anyway, I have a vision of where I am wheeled in to my second son’s seventh grade Christmas program. They park me in the back, next to the garbage bin, where all the paper plates with pizza stains on them and all the juice boxes have been thrown. I am actually parked right underneath one of the ventilation fans, so a steady blast of cool air is blowing right on me.
I am frail, and wrapped in a blue blanket. Sewn in white letters are the words “Super Dad!” but because I am so thin and frail, the folds of the blanket to the outside observer, read “Sad!”
My hands are gloved inside overly large blue checkered mittens. My hair is long and white, I have a thick mustache, and my wire spectacles give me the look of a retired puppet maker. Kind of like Gepetto look, but more of a feeb.
The play starts, and while the children are singing “Silver Bells” I begin drooling. Some people notice, and one person, I think he is the school custodian, wipes my face with a blue rag he pulls out from the back of his blue jeans. It has grease stains on it and smells like gasoline (in the future, we are still dependant on foreign oil, so this doesn’t surprise me). I don’t notice much, because I am asleep. And just at the beginning of my sons solo, during a reprise of the verse beginning with “City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks-“  I snore so loud and irregular, because that’s what I do, per my wife, that everyone stops and turns to look in the back. I am choking on my own drool, and I wake up and shout out “Yo Adrian” but nobody can really understand me anyway.
My son is embarrassed beyond belief. He tells everyone he doesn’t know me. Even though they saw him wheel me in.
I am wheeled out of the auditorium. My son is okay with it, and a girl he has a crush on is consoling him, shaking her head back and forth while stroking his hair. I am oblivious to all of this because I am so old.
The custodian now, he is dressed in a formal black suit, black tie, and white button down oxford shirt.
He is wheeling me.
I am brought outside where there is a hearse. The back door opens, my wife steps out, she looks the same as now, except angrier, and she shouts out to me-
“You’re snoring!”
I wake up, look over at her. She is staring at me. I must have fallen asleep while she was asking me to schedule a sleep study. I find it ironic. I have a flash about the Psychic Hotline, how much was charged on our bank card, but decide not to pursue it, and I fall back to sleep.
       My wife – did I mention this yet?  is a very loud snorer. It sounds like she is polishing a bag of rocks when she sleeps.