31 July 2018

Uh! Oh!

Normally when my Lyft or Uber driver shows up, I greet him or her by the first name. Other than being nice, this also reconfirms to me and him/her that I am in the right car.

This one is going to be interesting…

29 July 2018

Busy Bee !!

As much as I hate this creatures – carpenter bees – for drilling those holes in outside wooden structures, they are amazing to watch as they flit from one hibiscus flower to another drenching themselves with all those pollens from the anthers. Pollination in full flow!!

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28 July 2018

That was a pretty unique ride…

First off, we had the most number of people show up – 11. There were riders born in Colombia, riders born in Mexico, riders born in India, riders born in the USA and I think one rider was born in East Africa.

For me this was the longest ride – nearly 200 miles. Crossed the 1000 mile ride in a month mark for the first time. And did the Suches route for the first time too!!

With all the breaks and all, it took us over 6 hours or so.

27 July 2018

By now, you would think I should be used to it… but I am not.

As exciting as it is to spend time with and help hospice patients, the one inevitable thing you are signing up for is that eventually they will move on from this world. After going thru over half a dozen such patients transitioning in the last nine months that I have been working with hospices, you would think that I would be used to it. And yet, the hard truth is that you never get used to it. Each and every one of them hits you and hits you true. No amount of reminding yourself everyday of the finiteness of life ever prepares you to deal with it when the end actually presents itself.

I was in California earlier this week. After the meetings, I noticed that there was a mail in my box titled “Mr. Forrester” (name changed). I quickly opened it and read that he was “declining”. “Declining” in hospice speak means you are now transitioning. It is a matter of hours or at best a couple of days. I responded quickly that I had seen him the previous Thursday and will swing by moment I was back in Atlanta.

I should not have bothered about it. For five emails later, there was another email informing me that I was not going to get a chance to see him again.

The flight back seemed much longer than it really was. I was given charge of Mr. Forrester about three months back. Towards the beginning, he was able to speak somewhat coherently. I had read up on his case study. He was a Colonel by rank who had seen active duty for some time. One day, I had visited him when his daughter was there too. She had sat me down and told many a story of her dad.

I knew that he was deteriorating rapidly. He could barely talk. Whatever little he did, he was completely incoherent. The last day when I saw him, he was constantly drooling and could barely lift his head. He lifted it once and cracked a smile. It was mostly quiet time with me asking him gently about small stuff and he taking quite some time before nodding to indicate yes or no.

This picture is from a few weeks back (he is the one closest to you). That was the best spirits I had seen him in. We had some very old songs put on the TV (you will be amazed what Spotify can do !!). Many of the patients like him seem to get energized – some – like him – even tried to sing along.

The hard part of getting to know each one of them and their life story is realizing that you will not see them again. I will still go to the hospice and meet others but he won’t be there. I will, by habit, poke my head into his room and realize that somebody else is there. I will probably go in and talk to the new patient too (I do not have to confine my time only to those that have been assigned to me). But it would not be Mr. Forrester.

Sometimes those long hours with somebody like Mr. Forrester where you are essentially having one way conversations among bouts of awkward silence can be trying. And then you realize in times like this – that was so much better than now – when you do not even have him to go sit next to.

And yet, that is by design. If you accept life, you have to accept death. Presence can be defined only in the context of absence. A journey eventually will end in its destination.

One just hopes that in those walks pushing him in the wheelchair in the yard, in those helping with Kleenex to clean the drool, in those squeezing of his hands before leaving, in those putting a blanket on him when his hands got cold, in those feeding him with the afternoon snacks… somewhere, somehow, one made the journey a wee bit easier…

27 July 2018

From the bartender’s corner – The Hot Mezz

As the weekend started rolling in, I figured it might be a good idea to go ahead and try a mezcal drink. Upon some research, came across a bar in Chicago called Barrio (actually it is a bar in the restaurant called Barrio) where mixologist Calderon has concocted The Hot Mezz. It is watermelon, jalapeno with some sage syrup, lime juice and of course, mezcal.

My taste in mezcal is still growing. The part I like most is that earthy tones. Which lingers for quite some time in the finish as you exhale. Like most cocktails with these many ingredients and ice, there is no strong nose – although the earthiness and the citrus still comes thru. To the palate, it is a little biting spicy. Towards the end the water melon comes in a small wave.

22 July 2018

As the Bengali poet Sukumar Roy would have said…

“Ekush dofa dourey maarey” (from “Ekushe Aain”)

As many as 21 runners showed up for the Chalupa group run. Remarkably, three of the youngsters – Uma, Raya and Nikita – forsook sleeping in on a summer vacation Sunday morning and came out. We had four out of town visitors – Aniruddha and Indrani from Dallas, Texas and Shilpa and Scott from Birmingham, Alabama. Funnily enough, Scott introduced himself as Scott-esh 🙂 🙂

The usual culprits – Mrinal-da, Seemita-di, Indrani, Rituparna, Tania, Sharmila, Malobika, Ashok, Samaresh, Haimanti, Sreerupa, Bhaskar and Rakhi were all there. We missed Mrs. Banerjee who is visiting India.

In the excitement of taking pictures of such a large group, three other non-Chalupa runners who we run into every Sunday morning joined us in the melee too!

By the way, our run almost did not happen. As we approached the trail, we realized that a tree had fallen and effectively cut off the entrance of the trail (see the picture). Many of us were secretly thanking our luck figuring that we would go straight to Starbucks for coffee and chit-chat. Except that the three youngsters who were leading the pack, jumped off the trail (it was about two feet deep or so), found a way to hunch down and tunnel thru the tree and once they cleared the tree, jumped back up onto the trail.

We had no option but to follow them.

That was a good run!! Has to be one of the largest turnout for the Chalupa group!

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