Ack! We've had a bit more excitement than we might wish over the last couple of days. I'm writing this in the hospital while Henry sleeps off last night's emergency appendectomy.
He had a stomach ache and spent all day in bed on Sunday (conveniently, the very day after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived. Coincidence? Or not?). He felt much better on Monday, but I "encouraged" him to visit the doctor, citing the trauma that would be visited upon poor little Joe if Henry had to be whisked to the hospital in the middle of the night. And indeed, the doctor sent him directly to get a CT scan (which is apparently much like being drawn through a giant metal doughnut). And immediately when the scan results came through, they sent him directly to the ER. That was about 2:30 yesterday afternoon, and we sat in the ER waiting area while people with screwdrivers lodged in their skulls and dripping blood from various limbs and other traumas came and went. A short three hours later, they took Henry into a room, dressed him in one of those stylish but practical hospital gowns, and then let him relax for six or seven hours.
The surgery started at about midnight. After they doped Henry up and wheeled him away, I dashed home, let Bruce out, slipped into something more comfortable, and dashed back to the hospital. There's a special waiting area for families to sit while their loved one is in surgery; it's pretty nice, actually, very large, with comfortable seating and internet access, several televisions, lots of magazines (including, weirdly, Vogue, Opera News, and Nonprofit Quarterly). They even had special phones you could use to call back to the surgery desk to find out how things were going.I had the place entirely to myself, except for one woman who was tucked in on a little sofa, snoring.
The waiting was the worst part. Even knowing that appendectomies are a dime a dozen (health care cost issues aside), and that Henry's as healthy a patient as he could be, and that the chances of anything going wrong wae vanishingly small, it's still so disturbing to see a person you love unconscious. You don't have access to the cues you usually rely on to tell you that your darling's true self still inhabits their body. You have to take a lot more on faith than you are used to, and trust that things will be fine while you have no power at all to make them become so.
Finally, at about 2:30 am, the surgeon came out to tell me that it had all gone well (although apparently Henry's appendix was very comfortable where it was and they had to pry it out with a surgical crowbar).
I must say, every single person, and there were a lot of them, whom we encountered in this hospital adventure was helpful, informative, cheerful (but not overly so) and, well, patient. And I feel so lucky that it was something so routine, easily diagnosed and easily fixed. And covered by insurance.
Here's my big excitement this week: I have 8 cubic yards of shredded hardwood mulch in my driveway! Mulch, of course, is the very best thing you can do for your plants. It helps the soil retain moisture, it breaks down into organic matter and improves the quality of your soil, it insulates so the roots of your plants don't bake in hot weather and freeze in cold weather, it discourages the weeds, and it looks nice. What looks nice, though, is a nice fine-grained mulch like cocoa or buckwheat hulls or shredded bark or shredded leaves or even straw—but unless you have a shredder (which I don't), all these cost money. In the past, I've used wood chips as mulch, which is free if you are lucky enough to have persuaded a kindly arborist working in your neighborhood who is willing to give you their excess chips. Wood chips, however, are chunky and pointy, and don't make such a nice cushy bed for your plants. So, setting aside the argument about protecting your plant investment, it's always a struggle between being cheap and being a responsible gardener.
And then, in May, I went to a wedding celebration party at my friends Emily and David's house. David is an enthusiastic and skilled gardener, and he had surpassed himself in getting the yard ready for the party—including spreading lots and lots of shredded hardwood mulch in all the beds. David's gardening style (like most people's) is considerably more precise and less haphazard than mine, but I was swept away by the cozy beauty of those heavily mulched beds. The brown mulch set off the green plants so brilliantly! The plants looked so happy and healthy! The garden looked so tidy and fresh! I resolved right then to mulch my yard in just the same way.
As happens, though, the days and then weeks started slipping away. I promised myself that I would most certainly mulch before we left for Argentina, so the garden would be protected in my absence. That didn't happen either, and so when I returned I found a garden chock full of happy, healthy weeds growing in rock-hard dirt.
I've learned my lesson: after weeks of weeding and watering, I'm now going to be spending the rest of the summer spreading mulch, mulch, mulch, and swearing, as God is my witness, I'll never be mulchless again.
My friends, I have neglected you long enough. If it's any consolation, I've been thinking about you. But between trips to South America and the hospital (everything's fine), and the excitement of being home and back at work, and then being sent home from work with respiratory yuck—it's been a giddy whirl.
The trip to Argentina was incredible. Our synagogue choir, in which Henry sings, has taken to travelling to exotic locales and singing for and with the Jewish communities there. Three years ago we went to Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece; that trip was such a roaring success that they immediately began to plan this one. This trip was different in that the Jewish population of Argentina is large and thriving, and, like here, the people are the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Eastern Europe. Many people we met had cousins in the U.S. or Canada because of choices made 100 years ago; one brother opting to go to New York, while the other chose Buenos Aires. For the first time, my great-great-grandparents' decision to leave Russia for Scotland didn't seem quite so odd.
Argentina itself was really interesting, but it was the people we met that made the trip. Everywhere we went, in every single synagogue and school and community center we visited, at least one person said to us—literally—"This is your home. We are your brothers and sisters." They welcomed us with open arms and songs and dancing and empanadas and hot sweet tea, and we truly felt like we had a new family. What's more, instead of getting sick to death of each other, the 57 people in our group got closer and fonder of each other as each day went by. (We all did get literally sick, though; after breathing in each other's air for two weeks on the bus, almost everyone was struck down by what came to be known as the "alto crud"—luckily after the last performance.)
People ask, "How was your trip?" and I find I can't think of anything much to tell them. The intensity and uniqueness of this experience defy any of the usual traveller descriptions of beautiful scenery, interesting monuments, nice weather... so I usually end up responding with "Oh, it was great!!" accompanied with a cheery bright smile and a wracking cough. But truly I think the bext way to sum up this trip is to look at the changes I see in myself, and in how I picture myself fitting into the world, both near and far.
There are wonderful pictures of the trip, because Cyndi Cook, one of the altos, is thoughtful enough to be married to a professional photographer, Gregory Fox. We also had a group blog with some wonderful descriptions of our adventures (but as you know, I was on blogging vacation.).