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You may not need a passport or other photo ID to pass TSA security

Photo on 3-30-17 at 1.35 PM

May 23, 2017

Today I am five weeks out from my knee surgery.  I learned a couple things recently.

Got in from Minneapolis about midnight night before last.  Gunther, of course, was exemplary.  I, on the other hand, was wrung out and exhausted the next day at work.  So much so that two of my fellow workers got tired of looking at me and sent me home to suffer there.  I slept from four to six p.m.

Here’s what I learned.  At MSP, P. inadvertently locked her wallet in her suitcase before we checked her luggage.  Therefore, when we tried to go through security she had no photo ID with her boarding pass.  We freaked out, found a bathroom, relieved ourselves, calmed ourselves.  At that point we didn’t know where her wallet was, so we phoned our kids with whom we had just been.  They searched frantically for the missing wallet.

Then, calmer minds prevailing, we correctly figured that her wallet was in her suitcase.  We asked an airline clerk if we could get the suitcase back.  That’s when we learned that TSA doesn’t necessarily have to see a photo ID for domestic flights.  That’s right!  NO ID REQUIRED!  A TSA supervisor asked P. a few questions and she showed him some prescription bottles with her name, and a copy of the New Yorker with her name and address label.

I hope you never get into a bind like that, but if you do, calm yourself.  Find a bathroom.  Relieve yourself.

The morning after we arrived I went down to Gunther’s kennel at 6 a.m. for morning chores.  He was so tired he didn’t budge, just looked at me.  I thought I saw a tear welling up.  Nor did he wander far when I walked him without a leash.

I learned that the two dead cherry trees next door have been removed, thus benefitting the neighborhood.  Therefore, Montana is considerably tidier, drier and warmer than Minnesota these days.

Blah blah blah

Clara Struckman and Claire Seastone 1984

If I could write for half-an-hour what would I write?  I’ve gotta tell you!  Thus!  Thus!  Thus!  Same thing the tulip leaf says, thrusting from the duff of the flower bed.  Thus!

Spring is exciting at our house.  Wait.  I said exciting, but Gunther suddenly flopped over on his side and appears to be sleeping.  I had tried to sleep, but Gunther barked and barked in the back yard.  I believe he wants to annoy the neighbors, all sides alike.  I got up, dressed, folded up the blanket I’d been sleeping under, made it out to the back room where a big rocker is available for me to stabilize my body while I put on my shoes.  All the while “bark  bark bark bark.”

Once I got outdoors Gunther quit barking briefly, then, after I let him out of the backyard, ran over to this small tree with red leaves.  I don’t know what kind it is, but it has thousands of little white flowers.  Gunther evidently found the tree to be an affront to his existence so he ran up to it the way another dog might approach a mailman, barking frantically.  Was the dog thirsty?  I was grasping at possible reasons for his behavior.

After a couple of requests for G. to come indoors, he did come in and, yes, he drank copiously of his water dish.  Maybe I should check his water dish out in the garage.  Looks like it has water, but it might be unpalatable for some reason or another.

Anyway.  That is the saga of Gunther and the barking at the tree.

Since the last time I wrote I have used that stretchy rubber band thing I described to exercise the muscles in my operative leg.  I did the requisite two sets of each exercise, once.  I’ll repeat tomorrow.  I’ve also figured out how to do identical exercises without using the rubber.  I simply lie on my side, front, and back and let gravity supply the resistance.

Now I have a plan.  I’m going to the garage where Gunther’s water dish is, bring the dish in, wash it, then fill it with clean water.  This might work better for little doggy.

I’ve written for just 10 minutes, now.  I can rattle on and on.  For some reason the garage smells like cheap perfume, and I think the source of that is the cheap perfumed candles I’ve been melting to make fire starters for the winter.  These fire starters make starting a fire on a cold day a cinch, even if I don’t have a lot of little sticks or kindling.  In order to make them, I plug in a portable kitchen hotplate, put on a tin can filled most of the way with fragments and stubs of candles.  I’m pretty lucky, in that my sister-in-law’s husband is a preacher and they use lots of candles in their church services.

Anyhow, once the hotplate is hot enough to melt the candles in the tin can, I open up paper egg cartons and pour wax into the little cup-shaped compartments.  Most often I just pour about all a dozen or 18 of them will hold, which is a tin can full.  Other times I take drier lint and poke into the little cups first.  The wax goes further that way and I get a lot more fire starters per canful of wax.

This making of fire starters is a sort of ongoing project in the garage, but hot wax does pollute the air with waxy smoke that I’m sure is not good to breathe.  Therefore, I make sure to put a fan in one window to blow air in, and open a second window to let the smoky air out.  Gunther has freedom to enter and leave the garage summer and winter, through a doggy door.  The garage is heated with electric baseboard heat, and well-insulated too.  I spent several thousand dollars to refurbish and straighten out the garage, adding a new concrete floor, reinforcing the roof and walls, then hiring an insulating company to fill the wall cavities and the attic with as much insulation as they could hold.  I bought insulated windows and a damned nice insulated overhead door. and an insulated regular door.  And an insulated doggy door.  There.  That is about all there is to say.  I bought electric baseboard heaters and hired an electrician to install them with thermostats.  What more is there to say?  The garage is bright, warm, well-lit, but stinky from the damn cheap perfumed candles.

Almost been writing for a half-an-hour.  At this point my bladder and bowels are telling me that when I reach my goal my next goal will be to put the computer down and trot right into the bathroom.  Ah the golden years of retirement!  One cannot stay more than a few minutes away from a serviceable bathroom.

My breath stinks

Photo on 4-28-17 at 11.22 AM

Thursday, May 11, 2017

This morning before I got up, Penny complained about my bad breath and would it be a good idea to visit a dentist.  I agreed.  After all, I can’t smell my own breath.  I don’t feel differently from usual.  Possibly I have some dental trouble.  My mind rushes ahead.  How will I tell my dentist’s wife what my emergency trouble is?  Hello, I’m Dan Struckman and my breath stinks.  Can the doctor do something about my stinky breath?  Yes, I’ve brushed and flossed a couple times a day for the past several days.

Thus fortified with food for thought, I got up and descended the long stairs to the basement foot-over-foot.  It’s been three weeks and several days, now, since my knee replacement and I can do most things naturally with pain, usually, but not a crippling amount.  I’m getting proud of my ability with stairs.

Gunther was happy to see me, as usual.  He puts his paws up on my waist and I frisk him and speak endearments.  I told him I love him this morning.  Made me wonder how P. would feel if she could hear me say that to our dog.  At the top of the steps, sure enough, she was in the kitchen making coffee.

Our 7a.m. walks are off leash because G. is mellow first thing.

Bright, blue sky, warm yellow sunlight, bright green weedy lawn next door.  The dandelions are a foot tall and gone to seed.  G. and I make it to the end of the block and I hear some high school girls making over G.  “Ooooh look!”

Birds are good, possibly I hear a squirrel chattering.  Certainly are a lot of squirrels locally to chatter.

G. and I made it clear around the block without him pooping.  I recall that he had two scant, watery, movements last night.

Everyone had forgotten to put a coffee filter in the pot so the coffee was ruined.  P. spent a good amount of time throwing out the old and making some new.

When she brought me a cup of coffee, finally, she leaned close to smell my breath.  “Hmmm.  Maybe it’s not so bad,” she said.


Home with fake knee

Photo on 5-2-17 at 3.40 PM

Monday, May 1, 2017

Now it’s been two weeks since my total knee replacement surgery.  Man!  For some reason the thought makes me sweat.  Even sweatier since watching a graphic Youtube video of a group of doctors and nurses working in blue space suits with yellow rubber gloves.

Youtube.  Hell, you can see almost anything you want.  About six years ago, these people from Idaho were stranded in our town with a broken down Ford Explorer fan pulley.  I just googled the make, model, trouble, and — lo — I was soon looking over the shoulder of an experienced car repairman narrator.  Well, it was July, fairly early in the day, and my nephew and I fixed the car good enough for them to make it almost back to Idaho before the part failed a second time the next day.  I found their unwanted criticism of my mechanical skills laughable.  I mean, I did all the work for nothing!  I even bought the replacement part with my nephew’s credit card.  Youtube makes difficult procedures like fixing a car–or arthritic knee–look easy.

Anyway, you can see from the paragraph above how much trouble I have staying focused mentally.  After returning home with my new knee I needed to pop pain pills a couple at a time every 3-4 hours, day and night.  What a nightmare!  I felt like someone had whacked me really hard on the leg with a stick.

I say this advisedly, because I am a retired pharmacist who has worked in home health care, in hospitals, in supermarkets, for the government, in uniform, with white coat, with no white coat.  I know the language of health care.  Doctors, nurses, oxygen.  I speak the strange language and understand how orders are written and carried out.  The surgeon is apt to say to her assistant, “make him to feel as if he had been beaten by a stick.”

A week ago last Friday my lovely wife of nearly 50 years pulled the car . . . . Know what?  I can’t remember if she drove the car up to the hospital doorway or if someone else did.   You know, a valet?  Could have been either way.  I was kind of zonked then.  I do remember having trouble getting from the wheelchair into the car.  Maybe a nurse pushed the wheelchair?  Couldn’t have been.  I think P. pushed me in the wheelchair and I steered a sort of cart with my belongings ahead.  It was just us, because we got on an elevator that was damned full.  I guess a nurse could have been along with us.  Yes.  In fact, I can almost remember her name.  Almost.  It was Carmen.  No it wasn’t, it was Rhonda.

My brain was foggy from the oxycodone tablets I had been taking.  P. had had the prescription filled at St. Vincent.  I noted the RPh’ initials:  J.S.  Then a little later, P. said a pharmacist sent his good wishes:  Jay Stott.  Jay and I used to work nights at Deaconess Hospital in the mid-1980s.  Thirty years ago.  He ended up working a career as a sales representative for the Eli Lilly Company.  When I worked my career in Public Health out on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Jay used to bring his “dog and pony show” to our clinic to interest our doctors.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.  P. took me the six blocks to our home and I hobbled up the stairs the way I was taught by occupational therapy at St. Vincent:  Up with the good, down with the bad.  In other words, you step upward with the leg with the normal knee, bringing the operative knee in second.  Going downstairs is the opposite.  You step down with the injured leg first.  I discovered the next day that if you carelessly step down with the good leg first, the bad leg just about pitches you forward down the steps (and, I suppose, onto your head, or more frighteningly, onto your surgical knee wound).

I had borrowed a walker from the old man two doors down, so P. had it all ready for me.  I grabbed its hand-brake equipped handles and shuffled myself into our room, to my side of the bed.  Before long (an hour, perhaps) I was lying on my back with oxygen flowing into the nasal prongs and with my left knee wrapped up in the bubble wrapped network of ice water pumped by a motor in the lid of six-pack-size cooler.  It was good to be home out of the clutches of the officious nurses.

Not only couldn’t I remember the nurse’s names, I didn’t even remember my own, although they asked me what it was every time they gave me a medication, also my birthday.  They asked me my birthday to make certain they gave the correct patient the medication.  I was so desperate to get a medication for pain I gave the nurses no gas, no jokes.  My recollections about life in general improved once I got out of there.

Life at home seemed like one trip to the bathroom after another.  The desire to urinate woke me every hour, it seems.  Then I flopped back the covers, swung my legs around so that I was in the seated position. Wow the pain was intense, but I had to pee really bad.

I had to uncouple the water supply to the cold pack on my knee, and I was good to go.  I could leave the oxygen cannula in place because the hose was, like, 50 feet long.  At first I collected the handlebars of the walker, using it to stand.

After a couple of days the walker’s owner came to the back door to the house and made me give it up, so I learned to stand without it.  After a couple of trials, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I walked quietly and slowly to the bathroom, turning mid-flight to land on my butt on the toilet seat, kicking my operated leg out at the last minute to avoid the pain of bending it.  This must have looked beautiful in the darkness of our room, this pirouette.

I had some internal bleeding at my surgery site that manifested when I gave myself the second of two heparin injections.  This made for some florid bruised areas on my butt, all down the back of my leg, and on my foot.

After using the toilet I’d hobble back to bed, possibly pausing to take an oxycodone tablet, sipping some water from my official St. Vincent Hospital water mug.  I started out taking home 90 oxycodones, but I took them 2 at a time every 3-4 hours throughout the day.  Hard to do the math in my head, but in moments of lucidity, I figured I was allowed to take up to 2 tabs every 4 hours, or 6 times daily.  Comes to 12 tablets a day times X days equals 90 tabs to start with.  An odd amount, but I figured I was given about a week’s supply.  Specifically 84 6/90 / 12 tabs = 7 1/15 days.  I checked my pill bottle.  A whole scad of tablets remained, so I felt less fearful about running out.

Many people had advised me to diligently practice the physical therapy exercises.  The more important kind of these extend the knee joint range of motion.  Sounds harmless enough, but their utility is great.  You try to make your knee hyperextend by resting your heel on the edge of a table or chair and allowing gravity to push down the center of the leg. Another stretches the ham strings.  Did you know we have three ham string tendons?  One pushes down until the pain is nearly unbearable, holds it for several seconds, then relaxes.  And repeats.  No wonder that I have pain.

How Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan may have felt

Photo on 4-28-17 at 11.22 AM

Friday, April 28, 2017

Exactly 10 days ago this morning my wife drove me to Surgery Plus at Saint Vincent’s for knee replacement surgery.  I remember feeling apprehension as we sat in the waiting area.  I had wiped myself down the previous evening with some sort of antibacterial cloths, one for each extremity, one for the front of my person, one for the back.  I was not allowed to bathe after that.

Then we were ushered to three-sided room with a curtain in front.  The nurse (Kathy? Emma?) asked me to remove my clothes and lie down on the gurney.  Oh, put on this backless nightshirt.  I thanked her for the clothing (Kathy? Jenny?)  I lay my head back on the pillow to stare at the ceiling.  Just one of those suspended ceilings like you see in many office buildings.  I overheard the people across the hallway.  Someone asked if they could turn on the television.  A nurse responded that the only rule was they were not allowed to take away the remote.

A voice said, “is this where the exorcism is to happen?” It was my pastor from the church of the fervently religious.  I greeted him enthusiastically and asked him to say a prayer for the idling, lazy, careless surgeon who would be sawing at my femur and patella to replace parts with high-tech high-strength alloy.  My pastor probably thought I was kidding, but I meant it.  He said a prayer for me as well, then departed.

A long time later a second nurse (Julie? Kenna?) came by to start an intravenous line with an antibiotic.  It was cefazolin, she said.  I am familiar with intravenous antibiotics  because I am a pharmacist.  This med is often used prophylactically before surgery.

After another long time the anesthesiologist introduced himself and asked me if a spinal anesthetic was to my liking.  “Sure,” I said.  Then I signed an iPad and tapped “accept.”  He vanished.  I stared at the ceiling.  Someone put up the side rail on my gurney and, after bumping into the wall, got me rolling along to the surgical suite.  I remember feeling surprised that the bumpy ride was so short.  Suddenly there I was, the only one without his face covered.  A nurse who looked pretty, despite the spacesuit and clear plastic helmet, introduced herself.  A voice asked me to sit up and bend over as much as possible to get the spinal anesthetic.  I felt a needle violate the sheath of important wires that connected my back with my legs.

I think a great deal happened, but I don’t remember any of it.  I looked at my toes and tried in vain to wiggle them.  I had no sensation from my waist down.  Another bumpy ride to a recovery room, then to the room where I’d be living the next few days.

Soon as I woke from a nap I tried wiggling my toes with success.  Someone helped me out of bed and I found to my amazement I could walk with the help of a walker and a helpful nurse who kept a hold of me by a belt around my chest.

My walk was brief; basically out the door, over to a nurse’s station, back to my room.  The important feature was a whiteboard that told what time my last pain med (oxycodone 5mg 2 tablets) had been given, then the time four hours later when the dose could be repeated.  When my pain was most intense I remember waiting as the clock crawled the last two hours.  This was most odious during the small hours of the night.

I suffered many humiliations and embarrassments.  Once I tried getting to the toilet without help—I mean, I could bear weight on my bad leg even if I had trouble bending my knee without agony.  I didn’t make it without wetting myself and the floor near the toilet.  I had to pull the call string.  The nurse (Kevin, Joe?) was kind, but he was obviously not thrilled to clean my piss off the floor.  He helped me take a shower and put on dry shorts and shirt.  I told him how grateful I was, but he kind of shrugged it off as if it were nothing at all.

I was in so much pain I didn’t even mind exposing myself nakedly when it came time to shower or use the urinal or visit the toilet.

The second post-op night I had given myself Lovenox heparin shots, but the pain med didn’t seem to work well.  A nurse who shouted at me when she spoke told me I needed a stronger pain pill:  Dilaudid.  So she made me wait an hour and a half after my next dose of pain med was due before getting me an order for one from my doctor.  The next morning my surgeon came in, lightly pinched my operated leg, and told me he was stopping the Lovenox.  What I didn’t know until later, was the heparin caused enough bleeding to swell my leg until it was painfully turgid.

They told me my red cell oxygen saturation percentage was low, so I had to be on supplemental O2.  I was on a continuous monitor and once, when I was struggling through physical therapy exercises, a woman stuck her head into the classroom and shouted, “Daniel, breathe!”

A nurse told me if my pain and O2 saturation percentage couldn’t be adequately treated I’d not be discharged from the hospital.  I’m 68, previously pretty healthy, I thought.  I mean, I ran a 5K last summer.  Yes, took me 34 minutes, but I ran the whole way.

My sister got me out of jail in Tennessee


My big sister

I found out later that my older sister Carol had had me sprung from the Navy brig where I had been confined for about five months after I punched Major Waddell. She had once babysat for a Navy JAG lawyer who pulled strings to have me released.

On the day I got out, one of the chasers spoke on the intercom, located in the center of the second floor of the creaky WWII era wooden barracks. “Struckman, report to the quarterdeck with your sea bag.” The quarterdeck was a sort of anteroom at the entrance of the brig. Everyone had to enter and depart through the quarterdeck.

In the main part of the brig, upstairs, each of us marines and sailors had a small, unlocked, wall locker along the sidewall of the great room that was our collective home. The room was about forty feet by 150 feet long, with many windows covered with steel mesh. Half of the room had our bunks. During the summer, when our prisoner count was low, the bunks were simply lined up side by side with no spaces between. You got in bed by climbing over the foot or the head of the bed. They were standard steel gray Navy beds with sheets but no blankets. Millington, Tennessee, was damned hot in the summer. They had a fan, but it was in the cage with the chaser. Guards were called chasers.

The cage. Near the end of the room along one wall was the cage with a locked door. The cage surrounded the one stairway.

The cage also was near the showers and toilets. No privacy in the big room. Toilets were in a row in the center of the room near some picnic tables. The showers were on the wall and had no enclosures. Just a large concrete area on the floor caught the shower water and allowed it to drain.

The stairway in the cage was the one exit, leading to the brig offices for the warden and had the dining room. The minimum security prisoners, about a dozen in all, lived and worked the laundry in one end of the building downstairs. The chow for our meals came in carts three times a day and the dirty trays and empty food containers were taken out on the same carts. The dining area had a television up near the ceiling in one corner. Each evening those of us with recreation privileges got to play cards in the dining area after supper.

I nearly forgot to mention four maximum security “hard cells” were also on the first floor.

When I was called to the quarter deck I emptied my locker. All I had was a pack of cigarettes, shaving stuff, soap, a couple pairs of pants and shirts, socks and underwear. No matches. When we were allowed to smoke, one of the chasers flipped open his lighter for one prisoner. Then the prisoners lit each others’ smokes. Our names and prisoner numbers were listed on a big whiteboard with markers. My number was 54. Prisoner #1 was the warden, a Navy tradition.

The Navy supplied us with towels and took away our dirty laundry every day. We marked our own clothes with permanent markers and when they came back from the laundry on the first floor everything was jumbled together in one big cloth basket. We picked our own things out. For a while there were some disputes and the chasers handed out the laundry the way they handed out the mail, one piece at a time when they called our names.

Our mail was censored. I used the word “fuck” in a letter to one of my friends and I got it back unsent. I was allowed to write to my mother and one girlfriend only. I actually wrote to more than one girlfriend, but the jailers didn’t seem to notice. We got notepaper and pencils for writing letters and we were allowed to write a letter each day. They opened and inspected our incoming mail before we got it.

My introduction to the brig some five months earlier had been being escorted to the “hard cell.” That was the place where prisoners torment each other by taunting and hollering. Prisoners who are discipline problems in the hard cell can be put on diminished rations: no dairy, no meat. Just water, starches, and vegetables. Oh yes, I almost forgot. No smoking if you are on diminished rations.

I was on diminished rations for mother’s day and the chaser brought me a giant serving of turkey dressing. Best meal I ever ate.

The medium security area was the great room upstairs with about 50 prisoners, plus or minus 20 or so, depending upon the season. Turns out the population swells during the winter months, presumably because of colder weather.

At first I didn’t know what to do with myself in medium security. Seemed like the prisoners had already formed themselves into groups with no room for me. I solved that problem and got to know the other prisoners by meeting and greeting the new ones, the vulnerable newbies. I was always welcome to speak with them, and I learned how to help them get adjusted to the brig. Often they were scared. I made it a point to find out about them without asking them why they were in the brig in the first place. I didn’t tell them that I was in for assaulting my commanding officer. Most of the inmates were prisoners because they had left the service to avoid going to Vietnam. In fact, almost all of them were in for that reason. After several months I had learned just about everyone’s names and their stories.

Getting to know the black inmates was more difficult, but again, some were open to a white guy like me getting to know them. I didn’t press too hard on anyone. I liked to sort of skip around from person to another. After awhile we were singing songs and playing games. By the time my sister had me sprung from the Brig I was actually enjoying myself. I had lots of pretty good friends.

I was so successful at being in medium security that I was promoted to minimum, but I didn’t stay long because I didn’t like being away from my friends upstairs. Also the guys in minimum worked at the base commissary in the butcher shop. All that meat made me feel a bit ill, and I liked being around my friends.

When my sister sprung me from jail I was surprised that a Marine captain escorted me to squadron headquarters, the same place where I had struck my commanding officer just five months earlier. I was even more surprised that the commanding officer had been replaced and the men who worked at the administration office gave me a round of applause when they saw me.



Daisy Jacobs and the boy who threw rocks


When Mrs. Daisy Jacobs taught our second grade class she spent time after school with the neighborhood tough kid, Sonny Johnson. He threw rocks at our feet. This kept him from getting in trouble because the bruises didn’t show.

Sonny chopped his brother’s index finger off with a hatchet. His brother Raymond was the nice kid in their family, but Mrs. Jacobs didn’t have him in her class.

I don’t know how often we filed home past Mrs. Jacobs and Sonny, who were whispered to be having a heart-to-heart about his behavior.

Mrs. Jacobs bought Sonny gym shoes because his parents couldn’t afford them.

My mother taught second grade also, after Daddy died, but not in the same school. I’m not sure how Mother regarded her, but I thought Mrs. Jacobs was a great teacher because she liked me. She correctly predicted that I’d be a pharmacist some day. Well, she said that my interest in chemistry could help me.

Moreover, she lived just a few blocks away, so I often walked past her house where she and her husband had their store, the “Food Center.” They had no children. She looked in my ears when she caught me walking past. Said she could plant potatoes in my dirty ears.

Mrs. Jacobs was mid-career in the early 1950s when I had her for second grade. I learned that during the 30s and 40s, teachers were exposed to the progressive ideas of a pioneering educator, John Dewey. He taught the concepts of respect for student diversity and student-centered learning, ideas congruent with the methods of Mrs. Jacobs. I learned about Dewey when I Googled “teacher training in the 1920s.”

I also learned teachers then were beginning to form unions. In Montana it was the Montana Education Association and the National Education Association. Mrs. Jacobs expressed pride in her profession and her loyalty to the union.