Good old fashioned hate, with an extra dose of love

“I hate and love. And why, perhaps you’ll ask.
I don’t know: but I feel, and I’m tormented.”

― Catullus

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(detail of an embroidered bee on a pair of pants / Julie Cook / 2015)

Looking in the closet, deciding what to wear, I opt for the yellow pants with the embroidered bees.
In honor of Dad.
You should know Georgia Tech’s mascot is a yellow jacket.
Yellow Jacket. . .Bee. . .
Comme ci, Comme ça

Every state has its own hyped up in-state college rivalry.
You know, those colleges within each state which vie for bragging rights from one another–with such being anything from the highest recruited freshman class to the nicest campus, the best football team, the best basketball team, the best gymnastics team, the best debate team, the top research facility. . .yada, yada, yada. . .as the list goes on and on.

Here in the South we simply call it “good old fashioned hate”
Someone wrote a book about such using that very title so I’m assuming that’s what we call it.
Here in Georgia that love / hate relationship exists between The University of Georgia and The Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech, or simply Tech.

I come from a long line of Georgia Tech graduates. . .
My brother, my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, my cousins, even my son took a few course at Tech.
I on the other hand earned my degree from The University of Georgia, otherwise known as Georgia or simply UGA.

People often ask about my family’s rivalry but it’s never a problem. . . not until each fateful fall Saturday in late November when The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet The University of Georgia Bulldogs on the gridiron—-then there’s a problem. My Uncle would get so upset, he couldn’t bear to watch the game or even listen to it on the radio—simply too stressful.

Ask anyone from Ohio how they feel about Michigan.
Ask anyone form Michigan how they feel about Ohio.
Ask anyone from Auburn how they feel about Alabama.
Ask anyone form Alabama how they feel about Auburn.
You learn quite quickly that you’ve simply created fertile ground for a fight, plain and simple,
like I say, good old fashioned hate. . .

My deep sense of rivalry satisfaction however, comes in knowing that a man who graduated from both Emory University and Georgia Tech, who claims allegiance to a yellow jacket nation, actually had to endure paying for his daughter to attend college at his much hated arch nemesis.
Enough said.

As I sat in the waiting room, the nurse stepped out to change the channel of music.
U2 was currently singing yet she told me that they needed to change the tempo as Bono was just a little too lively for my dad. I know Dad didn’t complain, probably wasn’t even paying attention, but I let her change it nonetheless.
Eva Cassidy began singing a somber and melodic Fields of Gold.
“This is to make me feel better?!” I mused to myself.
The nurse immediately noted my “bee” pants saying how cute they were.
I explained I wear them for dad.
We then chat about that whole Georgia / Georgia Tech thing. . .

Looking over at Dad, I notice that he just looks so, well. . .old.
Small and tiny, shrinking.
His clothes seem to swallow him these days.
His hair, what hair remains, sits most days a bit disheveled on his mostly bald head.
His glasses, too big for his now tiny face, are always dusty, clouding his rummy eyes.
He’s pale and frail.
Usually listing to the right as he walks. . .make that, shuffles.
We made small talk. . .or actually I attempted to make small talk as Dad rarely initiates conversation.
I asked a few short questions in order to fill the quiet of the waiting room, albeit for Bono’s singing.
“I don’t know” was Dad’s reply, “you know my short term memory isn’t good.”
“I just looked at him, feeling sad, as he began staring forward with his chin dropped in his hand as his arm was propped up on his knee.
As they call him back to see the doctor, telling me they’ll come for me when he’s finished, I lose myself in my thoughts as the song Mad World begins to play. . .
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places,
worn out faces. . .

Not making me feel better at all. . .

The nurse finally calls me back.
I walk in as Dad is sitting in a chair looking rather small.
I take a seat by him on the doctor’s stool.
“Oh you’re wearing bee pants. . .”
“Yes Dad, just for you” I proudly smile.
He beams a smile of satisfaction.
He becomes fretful about a new prescription the doctor had told him about but I reassure him that we’ll find out more when the doctor comes back in to go over the lab results.

Dad’s hemoglobin is low. It’s been low.
Meaning he’s anemic.
There are symptoms and signs. . .
Dad is most likely bleeding internally, most likely intestinal.
Last visit they shot him full of Vitamin B-12.
Added lots of D and changed up some of the prescriptions.
He seems much better than last visit.
Not as pale, not as wobbly, not as poorly.
At 87 with one so frail, a colonoscopy is asking a lot.
As the doctor had explained to me on our last visit. . .”say he has a colonoscopy and say they find cancer—what do you do?” The odds wouldn’t be in Dad’s favor with surgery. And what of treatment? What of chemo or something even more aggressive. . .would he, could he survive?
We all agreed, with Dad leading the charge, we will wait and see. . .monitor.
Sounds good. . .

So today his levels are still low, but stable. . .so all is good. . . for now

It’s a quick ride home as he is only a Point A to Point B sort of individual. .
no diversions whatsoever!!
He tells me multiple times that he’s worried about Gloria as she’s constantly hurting and frustrated that her hands aren’t as apt to do what she wants them to do. I tell him that I hope the doctor can prescribe something for the arthritis.
He smacks his lips.
In fact the entire time we’ve been in the car, he’s licking his lips or rather moving his tongue over the top of his mouth. . . you know, the way you do when your mouth is dry and you’re trying to work up enough saliva to make it unsticky. . .but the sound is one that is enough to drive a person crazy.
I realize that his mouth is most likely dry from all of his prescription and I make a mental note to say something to the doctor on our next trip back in a couple of weeks.

There was a time I’d have gone nuts over the endless smacking sound and of the constant litany of the same worried question after worried question. My patience with Dad has not always been great.
He tends to be very obsessive compulsive. Especially in regard to my brother. I won’t go into that whole story—suffice it knowing that he committed suicide years ago and dad has a very unhealthy conscious decision in choosing not to heal.
He is a dog with a bone, refusing to let go. . .
For years he refused counseling, always preferring to wallow.
I had a hard time with Dad and all of that.

Yet thankfully time and age have a funny way of sorting things out.
Dad, unbeknownst to himself, is continually teaching me about the important things in life . . .with the kicker being that I’m finally open and appreciative to such.
Funny how that works.
And the most amazing thing of it all. . .
is that a diehard yellow jacket hating Bulldog can proudly wear a pair of yellow bee pants. . .
just for Dad. . .
Good old fashioned hate steeped in love. . .

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10

Rights and Responsibility–somewhere in there, should be compassion

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

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(emerging fall color / Julie Cook / 2014)

The news as of late, has been rife with the stories of the growing cases of Ebola emerging outside of the so called West African “hot zones”—With most cases occurring in individuals who have traveled to and from theses specific hot zone— such as doctors, healthcare providers, aid workers, with a few emerging cases from average citizens who simply wanted to “get away.”

After reading the headlines and watching the latest breaking news concerning this growing global worry, I have become a bit troubled by one story in particular, which has been capturing a great deal of attention. It is the story of nurse Kaci Hickox from Maine, who after returning from Seirra Leone, has refused to be quarantined against, what she claims, to be her will. She was initially detained in Newark, NJ as soon as she disembarked from the plane. Eventually leaving the hospital in New Jersey, heading home to Maine, where the state of Maine has asked that she at least “self quarantine” at home, avoiding contact with anyone and to not leave her home for the requested (note requested) 21 days.

A defiant Hickox has refused, claiming that she is healthy, perfectly fine, and refuses to be a “prisoner” or allow her “rights” to be jeopardized. She claims that not being able to have contact with loved ones, after returning from a stressful situation, is simply too much to ask.

Really?

I certainly do not adhere to the “Henny Penny the sky is falling” school of panic, but I do believe in common sense and responsibility. With any new, scary, unknown factor there is indeed going to be a certain level of concern and even panic on the part of the general population. The thought of a modern day “plague” is very frightening. The unknown itself is simply very frightening to people.
Somehow I don’t think the taking of a defiant stance helps to calm heightened concern.

Modern day science and medicine is indeed a marvel. We have made so many wonderful advancements in the treatments of deadly diseases and viruses, even taking on the so called super bugs as we wage a war of eradication.

Unlike the days of the Middle Ages when those, having contracted leprosy, were required to wear bells around their necks so as to warn those passing near to be cautious and move away as a leper was in the vicinity, we have learned that we cannot contract certain viruses and diseases by mere touch or being in the presence of the “sick.” Yet many individuals are still concerned, cautious and afraid.

It was reported that the local hospital in Ms Hickox’s town has had up to 10 individuals cancel elective surgeries out of concern that Ms Hickox could become symptomatic requiring her to have to go the hospital for treatment. It was reported that she was craving a pizza from the local pizzeria. The restaurant was inundated with calls concerned about her showing up as other patrons did not want to be there when and if she arrived.

Some may consider such behavior in her community as bordering on hysteria, some may see it as merely precautionary. I do believe however that Ms Hickox, especially as a healthcare provider, does indeed have a responsibility to her community—in which she should want to work to ensure calm, reassurance and the bridging of gaps and not create or add to the hype, the rising sense of panic or fear that a belligerent, spiteful and defiant attitude breeds.

I’m not saying that we should give in to hysteria and panic but I am saying that we should be brave enough and smart enough to execute judicious precautionary action. 21 days is said to be the time for the incubation of the virus, should someone having been exposed, contract Ebola. I don’t think 21 days of quarantine is much to ask of anyone coming back from the so called hot zones. We’ve already seen how several healthcare providers, who felt perfectly fine upon leaving the country or having worked with sick patients, eventually came down with the virus.

I find Ms Hickox’s lackadaisical and caviler attitude bordering not on the knowledgeable and scientific and constitutional as she claims, but rather of the selfish. She is hellbent, having already “lawyered up” as it were, on maintaining her “rights” to come and go as she pleases—despite the fact that she has caused contention, consternation and division within her small rural hometown of Maine.

Is it fair to the town, the state, the Nation, or to the Global family at large, to throw caution to the wind and go merrily about one’s individual world while those around are questioning, fretting, arguing, debating, panicking—which gives way to the fact that our lives are not so single and individual as we think but are actually linked inextricably to and with that of our fellow human-beings.

Maybe this all boils down to an inconsistent policy dealing with this new “threat” to humanity as it seems we, our Governments and Medical Communities, are learning on the proverbial fly. Each day and each new case brings with it, its own unique set of circumstances. We’ve seen the quarantining of the pets of victims. Spain opted not to quarantine a beloved dog of a nurse who had come home bearing the virus, but opted rather to put the dog down. Global leaders are grabbling with how best to quell the growing worry of an ever growing weary world. Not everyone is making the most wise of decisions as we continue living in the midst of the learning curve.

Ms Hickox’s responsibility to her fellow human beings, in my opinion, outweighs her so called constitutional rights. To claim one’s individual rights when it is affecting the wellbeing of countless other lives, businesses, decisions. . .particularly when one is supposedly about the business of selflessly caring for others, rings of selfish, self centered egotism.

I’m all for defending our rights and freedoms, but I think we must ask ourselves is it fair to put countless others at risk without a bit of cautious reflection? In this case a time of evaluation and observation of 21 days is the “cost” of being cautious. The responsibility taken to travel to a highly volatile region brings with it obvious risks—those risks don’t simply disappear when one hops in a plane and flies away, leaving it all hopefully behind. There are consequences for all actions, good and bad—if we are willing to jump into a risk filled situation then we must be prepared for the followthrough—in Ms Hickox’s case, that followthrough is a 21 day time period of quarantine. It’s that cut and dry.

Groups such as the ACLU and various civil liberty groups seem to throw common sense out the window just to argue a point. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve allowed “the law” to overshadow reason, compassion and the doing of the right things for and by people. Oh I know what many will say to such, that the law is the law is the law and it is our duty to defend it. . .especially when a body of one, a minority, is concerned. I fear we’ve seen far too often how we now bend over ourselves for the few, often forgetting the whole. . .
As a nurse, Ms Hickox should know that sometimes there are some hard consequences as part of a profession and if a 21 day quarantine is requested, not necessarily required, but merely requested, should not precaution trump the selfish clamoring of violated rights? Could not her self imposed quarantine perhaps not be the best teaching example to help educate and quell fears?

Ms Hickox was selfless in her desire to work with the organization Doctors without Borders–demonstrating a concern and compassion for those afflicted, sick and dying–yet in her having come home, that same sense of concern and compassion no longer seems applicable to her very neighbors as she choses to cause division in her very own community. I’m thankful that she is “free of Ebola” and has returned home, as she continues to claim, very much well and healthy, but the issue here is one of caution, of which she has been asked to observe and of which she is vehemently refusing.

May we be willing to take and bear the responsibilities for our actions. May we work to put the wellbeing of others above our own wants and desires for in so doing we create a more compassionate and kinder global community. May we learn to yield our self governing egos to that of compassion, giving, caring, not demonstrated to but a few, but to all we encounter. . .if I should see that my hellbent desires are causing so much ire, so much pain, so much contention and consternation around me, may I learn to back off, taking on the spirit of gentleness with my responsibilities verses the combativeness of self.