Two hospital visits on the same day

transthoracic echocardiogram

hospitalHow I had two hospital visits on the same day. Well, of a sort.

Monday, October 10: Leslie and I return to Albany, stopping to pick up a lot of Italian food. My wife also wanted us to pick up her prescription pain medication, but it wasn’t there. Her doctor’s office had failed to send the info either that day or the following morning. She increasingly needed pain relief, particularly from the inflammation of her left foot. Finally, it was filled, and I retrieved it.

Moreover, in addition to the infection of her ankle, a blister developed on her left shin. When I think of a blister, I think of a tiny, though irritated, area. This was considerably larger. As my wife later suggested, it was also appropriate for the holiday season because it like as though it was from a zombie.

Leslie and I saw my daughter before she left the next morning with about a third of the food, which was fine.

Tuesday, October 11: We were going to go to a timeshare in the Berkshires, but my wife couldn’t stand the pain of being in the car for an hour. Plan B:  After we put the one cat in the basement, Leslie came over and washed the dishes while I attempted to straighten up the house and tend to my wife.

Wednesday, October 12: Leslie and I went to the rental car place to return the vehicle. She Ubered to the airport, and I took the bus home. I certainly didn’t mind taking care of my wife, but it ate into most of my time for food prep and just helping her to get from one point to another.

The day without end

Thursday, October 13: My wife and I had separate medical visits. I went to the cardio section of St. Peter’s Hospital to get a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). What is THAT? It is “a test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to create images of your heart. TTE can determine how well your heart is functioning and identify causes of cardiac-related symptoms.”

I’m getting this test because of this. I used to get one annually, but then my cardiologist retired, and no one in the office followed up. So I had to get my primary care physician (PCP) to contact another practice in Schenectady, who I had seen a couple of weeks earlier. BTW, the Ellis Hospital main phone line sucks. I was in phone hell for ten minutes before abandoning it, Googling the directish number I needed, and calling that.

Part 2

So after the test, I went home, ate lunch, and watched a recorded episode of JEOPARDY. But before I could finish it, my wife called and said that HER PCP was displeased with the progress of her leg. The antibiotics should have done more. She should go to the emergency room and be admitted. I was to meet there, at St. Peter’s, where I had just come from.

We both arrived around 2:30 p.m.; she’d gotten a ride from the church friend who had taken her to the doctor. After two hours, she was called to the triage office, which involved her using her crutches to hobble there. Yes, the nurse there said my wife should be admitted. She finally got a wheelchair.

Around 6, I went home to take the trash to the curb, feed the cats, and, most importantly, make my wife a sandwich. The selection of graham crackers, saltine crackers, and Lorna Doones has dissipated over time. The bottled water is gone, with just some ginger ale cans.

Finally, my wife gets to go to a bed attached to the ER. I go in about a half hour later as it becomes obvious that she won’t see anyone for a while. At about 11 pm, I go home.

Admitted

Friday, October 14: She tells me that several medical folks saw her overnight, some of which involved doctors waking her in the middle of the night. Around noon, she’s on the fifth floor. But she doesn’t have a room yet. And she hasn’t eaten or even drunk water since 8 pm the night before because the vascular surgeon was supposed to see her.

I arrive on the 5th floor at about 1:45 pm and find my wife, who doesn’t yet have a room. She’s on the floor, with some partitions providing a modicum of privacy. Then I got a call maybe 10 minutes after I arrived. It was my MIL wanting to know how her daughter was doing; I hadn’t spoken to her since we were still in the ER.

Finally, at about 2 pm, my wife gets a room. More importantly, since it was established that the vascular guy WOULDN’T see her that day, she got some food!

I was very distressed by all of this. It was my impression that her PCP could call the hospital and bypass the hours of waiting. I figured it would be like my last ER visit in August. Of course, that was a perceived heart thing in a less busy hospital. One of the medical professionals we spoke with subsequently said that’s just how health care is, especially in the last three years.

Grandma Gertrude Williams

August 10, 1897-January 24, 1982

Gertrude WilliamsIt occurred to me that I’ve written a few times about my paternal grandma Agatha Green. For instance, here and here and especially here. I am reminded that she was born 120 years ago on July 26.

I’ve written far less about my maternal grandma Gertrude Williams, born August 10, 125 years ago. I think it’s because my relationship with her was more… complicated. She was born Gertrude Elizabeth Yates, daughter of Edward Yates and Lilian Bell Archer. For the longest time, even my mother believed she was born in 1898. I always remembered it because it was the year of the Spanish-American War.

Then one day in the mid-1960s, she went to register to vote. Unwilling to lie to a government official, she confessed her true age.

I thought Gert grew up in the house my mother always lived in until mom got married. But in the 1905 New York State Census in Binghamton, NY, she lived at 53 Sherman Place, a street razed c. 1960 to build a park near 45 Carroll Street. By 1910, she lived at 13 Maple Street with her parents and her younger siblings, Edward, Ernest, and Adina, or Deana as everyone called her. Gert had an older sister who had died before she was born.

In March 1912, her father died. Yet, in July of that same year, her mother Lillian married a guy named Maurice Holland, a guy from either Texas or Mexico, depending on which subsequent Census you believe.

In the 1920 Census, the household was Harriet Archer (Lillian’s widowed mother), Lillian, Maurice, and Lillian’s four children. Gert, now 22, was working as a maid.

My mom enters the picture

Gertrude married a guy named Clarence Williams around 1927, and they had a child named Gertrude. (She will hereafter be referred to as Trudy to avoid confusion.) And they had a second child, who did not live long and died in early 1929.

In the 1930 Census, the household consisted of Lillian and Maurice; Gertrude, Edward, and Deana, Ernie having moved out; a nephew of Lillian named Edward Archer, 17; and my mother Trudy, 2. Here is a picture of Gert with her mother, sister, and daughter.

But where’s Clarence? Fuzzy gossip suggested that Lillian and maybe even Harriet (d. 1928) drove him away. I never got the real story. Gert is 32 and working as a servant.

By the 1940 Census, the residents were Maurice (Lillian d. 1938), Gert, Edward, Deana, and Trudy. Gert only had a 6th-grade education, and she was working as a housekeeper.

My sister has many undated pictures of people visiting 13 Maple Street, eating in the not-very-large backyard. So it was some sort of cultural mecca. What was THAT all about?

I’ve just seen the 1950 Census

It shows Edward, 47, as head of household, naturally(!), because he was the eldest male; he was a truck driver. Adenia, 42, was a stitcher. Gert, 52, was now listed as separated from Clarence (d. 1958) and not working outside the home. Trudy, 22, is a shipping clerk. She married Les Green, 23, on March 12, 1950; he was a cleaner doing remodeling work.

Eventually, in 1950, my parents-to-be moved into 5 Gaines Street, about six blocks away. It was owned by Gert and presumably her siblings.

I enter the picture

I was born in 1953. In 1958, when I was going to kindergarten, I was supposed to attend Oak Street School. Since my mother worked outside the home, at McLean’s department store, it was determined that 13 Maple Street would be my school address so that I could go there at lunch and after school, tended to by Gert and Deana. Ed had moved out by then.

Deana was cool. We’d play 500 rummy and Scrabble. I taught her canasta, which Grandma Green had shown me.

Gert was a pain. She would tell stories, but it was difficult following them or believing how much, if any, was true. She would indicate that we should not go near this person, who turned out to be a relative. Worse, she forbid her adult daughter and us to see her brother Ed because he was living with a woman, Edna, who was not his wife. After Ed died in 1970, my strongest memory was of Gert and Edna crying on each other’s shoulders at the funeral.

Fear

There were “bad men” lurking in the Oak Street underpass, we were told. The boogie man existed.  When I washed the dishes, which I did at home regularly, she told me I shouldn’t because it wasn’t manly. This was one of the several times that Deana said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!” When Deana died in 1966, I was devastated.

My mother was in a tug-of-war between her mother and her husband, which I alluded to here. Dad clearly did not like Gert. One time, we were having dinner, and someone asked Gert if she wanted some peas. She said, “I’ll have a couple.” My father put two peas on her plate. It was shocking and bite-your-lip funny and may explain why I can be such a literalist.

Mom’s first cousin Frances Beal, Ernie’s daughter, tells a Gert story here, in the fifth paragraph from the end.

Kidnapped

When my parents and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC, it became clear to everyone except Gert that Gert needed to move down with her daughter and son-in-law. She had a coal stove, which required going to the basement to shovel the coal into pails and carry it up rickety steps. I did this a lot as a kid, which I oddly enjoyed.

It was the task of sister Leslie and me to take Gert to Charlotte. She railed against it. Where would she get stockings? “They sell stockings in North Carolina.”

She lived in Charlotte until she died on Super Bowl Sunday in 1982. She was cremated in Charlotte but buried at Spring Forest Cemetery in Binghamton, less than 100 meters from 13 Maple Street.

I did love Gert, I believe. But I didn’t always like her.

The Lydster at Carnegie Hall

As I noted, my sister was in a mass choir singing the Mozart requiem at Carnegie Hall on Monday, June 13, at 8 pm. To be honest, I was willing to let my daughter blow off school, go down to NYC with me on Sunday, then we’d come back on early Tuesday morning.

But then the school calendar changed. A sheet sent home to us and then subsequently mailed had stated that there was a mandatory senior meeting on Thursday, June 9. Caps, gowns, and honor cords were to be distributed. I was unaware of honor cords for the high school level. They are tokens “consisting of twisted cords with tassels on either end awarded to members of honor societies or for various academic and non-academic achievements, awards, or honors.” My daughter had ones for Honor Society and Art Honor Society.

An audible

But this meeting got moved to – you guessed it – Monday, June 13. So instead, my daughter came down to NYC after school that day, leaving at 3:30 pm to catch an Amtrak train scheduled to leave at 4:10. But the train was delayed and not expected to depart until 5:30, which would provide us zero time to get from Penn Station to Carnegie Hall.

Fortunately, my wife could switch our daughter to a 4:30 pm train, which arrived at 7. We took a taxi to the venue and got there by 7:30. Coincidentally, my sister Leslie was standing right where we got dropped off. My daughter and went to our VERY good seats, J1 and J3 just left of the center section.

The program

The concert had five ‘acts.” The first was the National Youth Festival Chorus, a mass choir comprised of seven choirs from seven states. The groups had been rehearsing individually but not together until two days earlier. They sang six songs, only one of which I knew, Children Will Listen by Sondheim. The c. 270 kids, roughly from 10 to 18, were very good, except for one kid near the end of a row who rocked back and forth with his thumbs in his pockets and distracted my daughter and me.

The Masterwork Festival Chorus included eight ensembles from six states, plus some stragglers, including my sister and five of her compatriots. The soloists were very good, especially the tenor (Anthony Webb) and the mezzo-soprano (Kathryn Leemhuis)/ They were accompanied by the New York City Chamber Orchestra. They too only sang together since Saturday. Following the Sunday rehearsal, they were given COVID tests. If they got called, they were positive and, therefore, out. At least seven folks couldn’t perform. My daughter recognized a couple of movements, notably Lacrymosa, probably from its use in TV and movies.

Wait, there’s more!

After the intermission, the Columbus International Children’s Choir performed. Their director, Tatiana Kats, must have perfect pitch, for she gave the notes without a pitch pipe or other instrument. They did four songs, including Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, which I’ve sung since high school. It was the William Dawson arrangement but slightly altered. Why We Sing by Greg Gilpin had hand gestures that were quite touching.

The Trinity University Chamber Singers did three pieces, including If Ye Love Me by Tallis. A very good group. Both the Columbus and Trinity groups were part of the Mozart Requiem.

The final act was the Tara Winds Clarinet Choir, the first clarinet ensemble to play at this festival since 1935. I liked Two Songs without Words by Holst. I LOVED the Marcel Dupré: Variations sur un Noel.

Then my sister told us to go to the gift shop, so my daughter could pick out a souvenir, but the building closed at 11 pm. From there, across the street to Trattoria Dell’Arte, which was fabulous. Lots of hours oeuvres, enough to fill one up, and wonderful service.

We took a cab back to the apartment, where my sister gave my daughter some presents. They all went to sleep at some point, but I didn’t because my daughter and I needed to take a 7:15 train back to ALB, and I got anxious. We took an Uber to Penn Station, got food, and took the train home. I’m told I fell asleep for a time.

My wife picked us up and took my daughter to school for her last day, then took me home, where I slept for four hours.

Leslie: always drawn to performing

don’t know where, don’t know when

roger.leslieOne of the attributes my family always knew about my sister Leslie was that she was always drawn to performing.

She had the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall as part of the Manhattan Concerts Productions’ Song of Renewal on Monday, June 13. She and about 240 other people were to sing the Mozart Requiem. (I love the Mozart Requiem. In fact, I could have joined them, but I declined because of my chronic rhinitis and other factors.) And there would be other choirs as well.

Leslie ended up staying at a Club Wyndham on East 45th Street, starting on Friday so she could be at the rehearsals over the weekend. I came down on Sunday night via Amtrak and the subway. The best thing about the resort is the great view from the 33rd-floor deck. One could see the Chrysler Building and the United Nations building only a few blocks away.

We had a nice conversation with a couple from Vancouver, BC, Canada. They have a daughter graduating from high school and two younger sons. They had only recently recovered from COVID, but they had mild cases.

Wet cushions

The next morning, we were back on the 33rd floor. It had rained overnight, and I had quickly ascertained that the cushions outdoors were too wet to sit on. But my sister needed to check this out herself; ah, the cushions were tied down. (By 11 a.m.. they had dried out.)

While sitting in the lounge inside, I mentioned to the two women sitting across from me that my sister on the deck would be singing at Carnegie Hall that night.

I had recommended a video that Kelly had linked to, a clip from the Amadeus movie that was wonderfully enhanced. I showed it to Leslie later, and she loved it.

This led to a conversation about the white cliffs of Dover, which Leslie had recently seen in person on a Dave Koz cruise that Rebecca Jade, her daughter, had performed on. This led to conversations about Vera Lynn (who had sung the song) to Johnny Cash (who had sung the Vera Lynn standard We’ll Meet Again.)

Somehow, we talked about the Green Family Singers and especially the song Hole In The Bucket. By this point, the husband of one of the women had joined us, and he recorded us performing a snippet of it. (We hadn’t had a chance to warm up the vocal cords. Just sayin’.) One of the women was so enamored by my sister that she gave her a big hug.

This is how I spent part of my time seeing my sister Leslie for the first time since the aftermath of her bicycle accident in the summer of 2018. This was a much more pleasant occasion.

BTW, this is Leslie’s XXth birthday. More on this narrative in three days.

1972: the Easter break

Kentucky State College Concert Choir

Robert Yates.Aaron Yates.Audrey
Robert, Aaron, Audrey Yates on Easter Sunday (April 2), 1972 at 29 Ackley Avenue, Johnson City, NY, home of Les and Trudy Green

In the 1972 annals, I had totally forgotten that the Okie came home with me for Easter break, beginning March 28. She drove us from New Paltz to Johnson City, near Binghamton. She met our family friends the Pomeroys.

The next day, we went to my old high school, Binghamton Central, and talked with my friend Carla [we’re still in touch] who yelled to me from a third-story window until a teacher closed it. Also, Amy H. [recently reconnected] and others [who I’ve lost track of]. Saw one of my favorite teachers, John Kellogg [RIP].

March 31 – My good friend Carol and her then-beau drove the Okie and me up old Route 11 from Binghamton to Syracuse to see the new movie The Godfather. [Was it not yet playing locally? Possibly.] Other films I had seen in March 1972: The Importance of Being Earnest; Gimme Shelter; Billy Jack; 2001: A Space Odyssey; and Performance, which I described as “weird”.

April 1 – My cousin Robert Yates, his wife Audrey, and their two-year-old son Aaron came to visit. Robert was my mother’s first cousin. But she was born in 1927, and he in 1946, so he was actually closer to my age. Robert, Audrey, my sister Leslie, and I went bowling at two different venues, in JC and the Vestal Plaza, a total of six games.

Easter Sunday

April 2- A bunch of returning college students, including me, were acknowledged at church. Inspired sermon by Rev. A.C. Bell. After dinner, lots of card games (whist, hearts) with Robert and Audrey, who returned to NYC that day, my parents, the Pomeroys, and me. The Okie also left for her parents’ house.

[Young Aaron was murdered – shot or stabbed, I understand – when he was 18 or 19. This devasted his parents, of course, but Robert became a great father figure, not just to his nieces and nephews, but to kids in the neighborhood. He died in 2016.]

April 3 – I was “supposed to meet some people @ Bing. Pub. Library… but no one showed. Someone mistaking me for an employee I assisted w/ card catalog.” [I did work there as a page two or three years earlier.] Saw familiar faces, including Vito [RIP, 1991], Michael Butler, Don Wheeler, and others.

Later, I interviewed my father for my economics paper.

April 4 – participated in a memorial for MLK, with participation by my church’s choir. Later, my mom’s bowling team won the championship. The US recognized Bangladesh.

KSCCC

April 5 – Adam Clayton Powell died yesterday, and baseball DIDN’T start today.

A concert by the Kentucky State College Concert Choir (KSCCC) was held at First Presbyterian Church. Rev. Roberts, the father of my HS friend Catherine Carson, gave the invocation. The Broome County Urban League officers, which probably included my father, were introduced.

“Guys in black tuxes with white shirts. Gals with pink blouses and light purplish long skirts. They sang four very beautiful classical numbers; I liked to listen to them with my eyes closed. Then a Slavic song and a chant-like song they had done last year. Males sing semi-spirituals and a female soloist sang an operatic song and another piece…

“Mom and I noticed that dad didn’t applaud at all for Motherless Child. Perhaps it means too much for him.” Someone announced that my sister Leslie “has won a scholarship to KSC.” [No, she did not end up going there.]

“Four spirituals with African drums… After the standing ovation, they sang Ain’t A That Good News (like it’s supposed to be sung) and The Battle Hymn of the Republic with a piano intro full of discords, which dad dug.”

Afterward, some co-ed seemed to be flirting with me, which was both awkward and nice. “Leslie auditioned sans choir as the audience like I had last year. [I have no recollection of that happening in 1971.] She sang a capella I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free rather well. She went with the KSCCC to a party at the Treadway Inn.”

Note that KSC, an HBCU, became Kentucky State University in 1972.

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