Dan and Hannah Finally Get to See Their Grandson Owen

You may remember that on the night prior to our grandson Owen’s birth, Hannah fractured her tibia while water skiing.   She wiped out on a Sunday evening and before dawn on that following Monday morning, Owen came squealing into the world.  You see by Thursday we were supposed to be driving from our home in Maine to Virginia 500+ miles away to see him and tend to his parents.  Alas, that very Thursday Hannah had successful surgery for a fractured left tibia.  On crutches ever since, Hannah’s rehab progressed to the point that two and a half weeks later, she felt fit to travel.

Typically Hannah and I share the driving.  I love riding shotgun so I can nod off, write in my journal, read, and basically just not have to pay attention as I do when I drive.  With Hannah’s fractured tibia, this drive south will have me soloing for ten hours through the Northeast corridor to Virginia.  Leaving early on a Monday morning, it’s truly a labor of love with Molly, Tip, and Owen as our destination.

After an overnight in southern Jersey with old friends Rich and Mary, we arrive by noon on Tuesday in Arlington, VA.  It’s a cliché that grandchildren melt their grandparents, but like many clichés, this one is so true for us.  We soon learn that Owen is all the things that every newborn baby is: beautiful, cute, lovable, and huggable.  The best thing Owen has going for him start with an M and a T.  Molly and Tip.

Hannah and Dan with Owen

Being first time grandparents, Hannah and I need grandparent names.  Hannah chooses Omi (pronounced Oh-me), which is a combination of Momey (pronounced Moe-me) who was Hannah’s grandmother and Oma which is what our kids called her Mom.   I consider Opi to have the symmetry with Omi, but very quickly ditch it because it sounds too much like five year old Opie Taylor of the old Andy Griffith Show.  Then it is off to the internet.  I find scores of traditional and trendy names for a grandfather.  I decide not to go with G-Daddy or Grandoody or Ace but Papa.  Papa just feels right.  Fact is, after much searching for an Appalachian Trail name, I am choosing Papa.

Coming to help Molly and Tip means coming to help Molly and Tip; not giving them any well-intentioned advice.  Parenting, and especially first time parenting, is challenging enough without new parents having to have their decisions scrutinized by well meaning, but clueless grandparents.  Fact is, any advice will lie on the cutting room floor if the intended audience is not ready for it.

Need the dishes washed each morning?  I am your man.

Need some curtains for the Owen’s room?  Hannah’s your woman.  Despite hobbling on crutches, she brings her sewing machine south to work her drapery magic.

Need to have us shop at the local Giant grocery store for the evening meal or treat them to paninis for dinner?  We two couldn’t be happier to do that.

Need someone to push the stroller with Owen who is alternating between crying and napping while Hannah and Molly shop at Jo Ann’s Fabric and Crafts for curtain material?  I am ready, willing, and mostly able.

Need a dog walker for Chessie, their Rhodesian ridgeback?  Summer in humid Virginia is no match for my willingness to help where help is needed.

Hannah and I only have this four day window with these three to carry us for the next six weeks.

Need a nap?   Molly, take a few hours in your bedroom and we’ll deal with any of Owen’s fussing.  Rarely do expecting parents fully gather the meaning of the words “baby tired.”   It seems the only way to replicate the experience of living with a newborn is to set an alarm for every two hours throughout the night, stay awake for 45 minutes of those two hours, as well as pipe in baby crying noises now and again.  And do this for the next month.

Tip feeding Owen

Our plan is to spend each day from nine in the morning til eight at night helping Molly with Owen while Tip brings home some of the bacon at his job for the State Department in Washington, DC.  In October Molly returns to her position as an elementary math coach in Annandale, VA.  After our day on baby patrol, we head each night to the house of another old friend Amelia, who welcomes us for a night of slumber.  Breakfast with her each morning sets us up for an Owen day.

Crying!  Let’s get real about the reality of babies and crying.  Do they ever cry!  It’s how they communicate and often crying fills Molly and Tip’s apartment.  Despite all the smiling pictures, Owen knows when to establish that he wants to be fed or changed or just assert his primacy in the Rawding household.

Our recollection of our firstborn’s (Molly) crying is that she never slept through the night for the first four years of her life.  There was the epic non-stop seven hours of crying from 3P to 10P on her 12th day on earth.  Only a 10P call to the pediatrician got us to put her in her crib, let her cry for up to 15 minutes, and then have her fall asleep (in exhaustion) soundly almost immediately.   Then there was all night red eye cry.  Flying back to Phoenix from New York City from my brother Richard’s wedding to Barbara when Molly was 11 months, we had a crying Molly for the entire darkened plane ride.   We were not voted passengers of the year for that episode.   Like all (most?) parents, we survived.

Molly has an intriguing book by Harvey Karp, MD, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Your Newborn Baby.   From my very brief review, I learned that Dr. Karp likes to think of the first three months after birth as the fourth trimester.  If one buys into that notion, one might also consider his five Ss to reduce a baby’s crying.  (1) Swaddling – tight wrapping, (2) Side/Stomach – laying your baby on his side or stomach, (3) Shushing – loud white noise, (4) Swinging – rhythmic jiggling motion, and (5) Sucking – nipple, finger, or pacifier.   If any of this sounds intriguing, check out the two links above (author and title).

I have to say rocking Owen Daniel in my arms is as good as it gets.  He shares his middle name with my Dad and me.  I am humbled and grateful that Molly and Tip bestowed that additional connection for me with Owen.

Hannah and I look to be around when he walks across the stage in Tempe, Arizona as a graduate of the Harvard of the West, Arizona State University.

Dan Learns what Hannah Lives

At 91 my mother, bless her heart, reads the New York Times every Sunday.  She gives one friend the sports page, another the Sunday Review.  Before she can pass on the Sunday Review this July 8, 2012, I notice the lead article is “Don’t Indulge.  Be Happy.”  It sounds just like something I’d like to read to Hannah.  Fact is, it sounds like Hannah.

Our family joke is that the best present to give Hannah is money.  Then she can buy things for other people.  Hannah is constantly on the lookout at thrift stores, any stores, and end of the season sales at York Beach for possible presents for birthdays, anniversaries, and “no reason at all.”  In addition to writing cards and letters to friends each morning, more often than not Hannah is a wrapping present or two as well.  Her favorite holidays are birthdays.  It’s a person’s special day all to herself.  (N. B., Hannah’s birthday is February 6th)

The article’s lead sentence is “How much money do you need to be happy?   Think about it.  What’s your number?”   At one time, I thought that it would $50K more than what I have now.  The fact is, their answer is $75K per year.  It seems the beneficial effects of money taper off entirely (that’s their adverb) after $75K.

The article goes on to say that “What we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much we make.”  The research claims that “typical spending tendencies – buying more, and buying for ourselves – are ineffective at turning money into happiness.”  That seems so Un-American!  Their conclusion is that you are better served to be happy by buying less and buying for others.

The authors’, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, research validates that happiness increases when not using the money on yourself.   They describe a situation where a volunteer hands you an envelope.  When you open the envelope you find a $20 bill and a slip of paper that tells you to spend the money on yourself by the end of the day.  What if the slip of paper said spend the money on someone else?  It turns out from their research that the second option makes people far happier.

So I write letters to our kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, plus Molly’s husband Tip, explaining that I am sending them $20 to spend on someone else in the coming week.  (Deadlines are the mothers of productivity.)  I hear from them all.

Molly Rawding (nee Rothermel)

Molly  –  Yesterday when we went out for bagels, I clipped a note to $10 and gave it the cashier. The note said, “A fun surprise! This is for the order of the next pregnant woman.” After the cashier read, it, he smiled. (Molly was very pregnant at the time.)

$5 was clipped to another note in my wallet that I plan to put on a stranger’s car in a parking lot. The note says, “Enjoy!  Do something fun for yourself!”

 The remaining $5 I will spend on some treats/candy for the delivery room and post-partum nurses at the hospital where we will be having our baby.  (Their baby, Owen Daniel Rawding came into the world on July 23, 2012.)

Tip –

For starters it was hard to decide whom to shower this gift upon.  Should it be someone random and let faith guide its way into someone that will appreciate it and/or someone that needs it?   Should I pick someone that I appreciate and think deserves to get this small token of appreciation?  Well I decided to go with the second. I thought about the number of people throughout my week that help make my day better with their actions and attitude.  

Two people come to mind.  The first is one of the concierges at our apartment complex who always greets us with a wonderful smile, has a great attitude, and knows her stuff.  The second is one of the shuttle bus drivers who shuttles people to and from our complex to the nearest metro stop.  Whether it’s 6am or late in the afternoon, he always greets you with a big hello and how are you?   And he seems to be really genuine.  He does this with everyone that hops on or off the shuttle.  

Thinking of who I should give this to¸ I decided to email the property manager.  I thought the she could help me with ideas of what kind of gift card I could give each of them; and also let her know what outstanding employees she had working for her.  We corresponded for a few days and she seemed very happy to hear about the great job they were doing.  I hope she told them. She also gave the idea of a gift card to Starbucks for the concierge and one to Amazon for the shuttle bus driver. 

I wanted to give it to them anonymously.  For the concierge I could just leave a thank you letter with one of the other concierges.  I had to give it to the shuttle bus driver when I saw him.   It is so nice to be recognized.  I hope that they enjoyed it as much as I did giving it to them.


Robyn (center) with friends Regina (left) and Amelia (right)

Robyn –  Last Thursday when I was at my farmer’s market, there were three Girl Scouts walking up and down the farmer’s market trying to sell lemonade, but no one was buying.  They were trying to raise money for a local military family that had just lost five of seven family members in a car crash.  So what I did with the $20 is gave it to them and told them to give every one of the vendors a cup of lemonade.  After that was done, when the girls were going around again, people were donating even more. 

Will giving a toast at Molly and Tip’s wedding 7.3.11

Will – It really made me think since I wanted to put the $20 toward something more than just a donation/charitable cause but rather catching someone doing something good that they didn’t seek recognition for or just a good deed in general toward another person.

On a hot, humid summer Wednesday, I was in a bit of a rush to get to reffing four consecutive games at Beverly High School (Massachusetts).  I usually stop at a Cumberland Farms gas station in Middleton for fuel (two big Gatorades & protein bar) to get me through the evening stretch of games.  About 15 minutes down the road from Merrimack I realized I left my wallet in my office.  Too late to turn around if I was to make it on time for Game #1, my only thought was to recite my Visa CC number to manually pay for my usual pre-game(s) nourishment.  

The 2nd shift attendant (a 40-something woman) was unable to do this but did not hesitate to offer to pay for the $4.88 combo meal (two Gatorades and a Power Bar) herself out of her pocket after I explained that I was heading somewhere I would be unable to eat until 9:30-10 that night.  I reminded her that I stopped in every Wednesday on my way to ref basketball and would be back the following week to pay her back, but she was not interested in being reimbursed.  She insisted, and even asked, if that was all I needed.  I humbly thanked her very much and was on my way to Beverly for a 5:45 summer league game tip.  I nearly finished Gatorade #1 and half of the Power Bar before hopping on my motorcycle towards Beverly High School.

Not until a few days later did it dawn on me that this was a perfect opportunity to pay forward the $20.  I knew I wanted to try and make someone’s day with it (the $20) and didn’t know quite what that would be yet.

On Sunday afternoon while sitting on the beach in Hampton with Bria and her family, I knew just what to do with the money.  I knew I would be passing Cumberland Farms in Middleton on Tuesday (for a meeting in Danvers) and hoped that I’d catch the cashier from last week.  Sure enough this afternoon around 4:15 I stopped in for some gas at Cumberland Farms and ran into my savior, the cashier.  She was on her way out the door, but I introduced myself as the previously thirsty/hungry wallet-less motorcyclist from last week that she so generously sponsored.  

She seemed to recognize me, smiled and said, “What now, do you need more money?!” I chuckled and said, “I’d like to pay you back for helping me out last week when I had forgotten my wallet.”  I handed her a $5.  Then I said, “I’d also like to give you this (handing her the $20) because you really didn’t think twice about helping me out and I just thought it was cool.  Someone actually gave this to me so and I thought you should have it for being so generous.”  

She smiled even bigger now and said, “awww, that’s so cool!”  She went on to tell me (in a thick Boston accent) that she actually had forgotten her wallet that day and was “starving for some food.”  She showed her excitement in jumping up and down and looked as if she wanted to hug me.  She didn’t, but I could definitely tell that it (at least partially) made her day and ironically may have fed her for the evening shift.  

I walked back to my car and was on my way to Danvers.  It was most definitely a cool feeling to be able to find someone who would not only value the $20 but someone who did a good deed to help someone else out and not expect any recognition/reimbursement or any other re- word.  I am glad I used the majority of the week to ponder what to do with the $20 and think it found a good home.  I know for sure that Cumberland Farms of Middleton has a life-long customer in me because of their 2nd shift cashier.

Thanks for this dad.

If this experience speaks to you, try it out yourself and/or give some money to a family member/friend to give away; then email me what happened and what the experience meant for you.  It will be published anonymously or with your name (my preference) in a future blog.

Dan and Hannah Hike Fairy Head in Maine near the Canadian Border

On the last morning of our 40th Anniversary Trip north to Prince Edward Island, Canada in June, we leave before our friends Bill and Karen of  Fredericton, NB awake.  We call it Rothermel-early; it’s just after 4A Eastern Time.  Today we will hike the Fairy Head trail between Calais and Machias, Maine (as far north on the coast of Maine and still in the USA that you can be).  We read about the trail in Yankee Magazine (A Trail for Bold Walkers: Maine’s Bold Coast Trail is off the beaten path.  When you find it, you won’t soon forget it. May/June 2012).  Promised a hike of solitude and spectacular seaside cliffs, we never knew of the Bold Coast despite living in Maine for 30 years.

After nearly three hours of driving over mostly back country roads with no traffic to speak of on this mid-June Saturday morning, we soon are on frost heave bumpy Route 191 approaching the parking lot for the Fairy Head trail.

Hiking to Fairy Head on the Cutler Coast Public Lands (www.parksandlands.com) is a serious 10 mile challenge for those over and under 60.  (The land used to be logged by the Hearst Corporation but was given to the State of Maine in 1989.)  Depending on the terrain, that’s four to five hours of continuous hiking for us.

At the entrance to woodland hike, there are warnings discouraging hikers who are not experienced since these trails are rugged and rocky.  Fortunately, this coastal trail offers three different lengths of hikes.  There’s the three mile baby bear hike to and from the coastal headlands; a 5.8 mile mama bear hike that takes hikers along the coast for a few miles and then cuts across this figure eight trail out at the Black Point Cut Off; and finally the papa bear 9.8 miles that takes hikers 3.5 miles along the coast and then back through the inland forest.  Today, my mama bear and I tackle the big one.

Trekking to the Maine Coast

With backpacks filled with water bottles, egg salad Subway subs, rice cakes and gorp, we take to the lonesome trail under cloudy morning skies.  Heading for the coast 1.5 miles away on rocky and rooted trails among scraggily pines, we find our foot plants are usually on the uneven, well-marked path; that will take its toll on our knees and spirits near the end of the five hours of hiking we will do.

Puncheons through the sogginess

Though the trail is not wet, there are swampy areas and the state park service has laid puncheons wherever the terrain be soggy.  Due to the trail’s remoteness, some puncheons are dropped in by helicopter.  These 10-12 cedar foot planks keep our feet dry and actually make the trail passable at all.  In general the hike to the coast is level, but I am thankful for my trekking sticks which brace my knees for the downhills.  We cross various blow downs (trees that have fallen across the trail), but the hike to the coast takes just over 30 minutes.  We bears are in cruising mode.

Arriving on the Bold Coast

Blown away by the early morning beauty of the cliffs, we take the trail along the rocky cliffs of Down East Maine.  Typically Hannah leads, as she did when we danced as college students at the College of Wooster in Ohio in the late 1960s.  Her pace is steady and stronger than mine and keeps me moving forward in a purposeful way.  We skirt the cliffs but never need to get close enough to feel in danger; there are no protective fences.

The blue blazes (2”x8” vertical blue marks on trees and rocks) mark the trail really well.  Occasionally we go off the trail, but we fear not; one, we know the trail closely parallels the coast and, two, when necessary we double back until we see the last blue blaze.

Grassland trail near the coastline

At times we walk through leafy brush where there isn’t even a place for me to plant my trekking sticks.  Navigating through blue berry patches, which are 4-6 weeks from being ripe, we do not see a soul.

Peeking at the coast

We hit the Black Point cutoff in 90 minutes, having hiked three miles.  Two miles per hour is a reasonable pace with these coastal ups and downs over these still rocky and rooted trails.  Removing our sweatshirts and tying them around our waists, we welcome the morning sun as it breaks through the clouds.

Hiking on in the lead, Hannah comments that blue is her favorite color.   That is, blue for the blue blazes that guide us along the trail.

Two hours into our hike and not having seen a single person, I ask what’s her over/under for seeing one person.  She says over (i.e., more than one).  I’m not so sure.

Early lunchtime

Two and half hours later and nearly at Fairy Head, we spot the wooden stairway to one of the three trail campsites.  It’s only 1030A, but it’s lunch time since we did the Rothermel-early thing.  Taking off our hiking boots and double socks, we feast on our egg salad subs while soaking in the ocean view.

Mama Bear getting it done

And then Larry from Oklahoma appears.  He’s smiling (must be a Canadian Oklahoman) and mentions he’s off to Lubec, Maine for what is reported to have the finest scallops at the Inn at the Wharf.  If all Oklahomans are these welcoming and engaging, I am guessing Oklahoma is a province of Canada.

Papa Bear on the Coast

Weary, we arrive at Fairy Head 3+ hours after beginning.  Catching a quick glimpse of the light house across the bay, I do the calculations in my head that we’ve some serious hiking back to the trailhead.

Cutler Harbor Lighthouse across the bay

Taking the Inland trail through a forest and swampy bog lands, we traverse what seems like 500 puncheons, maybe a million.  Spotting a work crew of twenty-somethings building puncheons on a lunch break, we thank them for working on Saturday and joke that they must be getting overtime.   The leader nods and smiles, ”No.”

Puncheons through the woods

Though there are occasional mileage markers I use my watch to estimate where we are on the trail.   Hiking a mile in thirty minutes, we change places and I take the lead so I can more easily hear Hannah’s quiet voice.  Our talking helps the miles pass more quickly.  Not much of a solitary hiker, I am fed by conversation with Hannah.

At the Black Point Cutoff we take one last break of peanut butter on rice cakes (Do these kids know how to live?).  Four plus hours since we started, the inside of my knees are barking.  With five hours of hiking assured, we are banging up against the limits of our endurance.  With nothing else to do but keep moving on, we keep moving on.  There’s no bus coming for us.  Lucky it’s been mid-60s today when summer 80s could have had us sweating bullets and being a banquet for mosquitoes; only when we stop do the mosquitos claim another two victims.

Arriving at the parking area 5+ hours later, ten cars fill the lot; we are trail weary and spent after five hours hiking.  This out-of-the-way hike, maybe 4.5 hours of driving from our home in York, Maine, is a state of Maine jewel.     As always when hiking, be ye olde or be ye younge, know thyself, thy limits, and the conditions.  Be prepared.

Hannah’s Post Op Update

Early mornings and just before bedtime are the toughest times for Hannah.  When the day begins, there is a day to fill when so much has been taken away: simple movements, physical activity, much spontaneity, daily tasks such as making meals, taking out the garbage, going upstairs to make curtains for Owen’s bedroom.  The evenings bring a wonder of how the night will go.  We head to Hannah’s first post-op appointment hopeful that the restrictions and the pain are receding.

Hannah waiting to see the doctor

Eleven days after Hannah’s surgery to repair her fractured tibia, Hannah and I meet with Dr. Sutherland’s PA (physician’s assistant) on a Monday afternoon.   First, he shows us the x-rays of her left leg that were taken just minutes before.  Showing us the plate and maybe five screws with their distinctive spiral twist, he says, “It looks good.”  He reinforces that if she were to put weight on her left leg, the screws could start to loosen and the operation could eventually be for naught.  He repeats that caution at least three times during our fifteen minutes together.

The nurse removes the bandages

The nurse removes Hannah’s bandages and she feels free at last.  No longer will she have to wrap her leg in a black plastic garbage bag and secure it with duct tape to shower.  What’s crucial is that she start working on the left leg’s range of motion.  She has full extension, but can barely bend her left leg backward at all.  He would like her to be able to bend it back 120 degrees in the coming weeks.  I asked, “How often can she exercise?”  He responds, “Constant exercise.”  Without these exercises, her muscles will atrophy.

Dr. Sutherland’s handiwork

When her range of motion increases, she can go to the gym and spin (pedal without resistance) on the recumbent bicycle, since she’ll be putting no weight on her left tibia.   Alas, she’s definitely not ready for that.

For the past week Hannah has had nagging pain in her left palm that just wasn’t going away.   We don’t know if it’s from the water skiing accident or overuse of the crutches.  In any event, the PA gives her a black flexible splint that allows the pressure from using the left crutch to be spread across her entire palm.  It works almost immediately.

The new splint

Taking two Vicodin roughly every eight hours, Hannah is ready to start weaning from the narcotic.   Her pain is less than it was at the time of operation eleven days ago.  Ergo, she can take one Vicodin or even see if Tylenol will take care of the pain.  Five to seven days after surgery the concept of staying ahead of the painer paHe no longer applies.  It’s now time to reduce the use of the narcotic.

They used stitches under the skin that will dissolve in six weeks.   The plates and screws will likely stay in, unless they are causing her pain.  In any event, the plate will stay for at least six months.  He ends with “I like what I see.”

Lastly, we wonder if we can travel to Virginia.  He says travel is doable.   The days say yes, the early mornings and bedtimes just don’t know.   Sometime soon Owen Daniel Rawding will meet his Omi and Papa.

Hannah’s Afternoon of Water Skiing (part 3 of 3)

Thursday Surgery at York Hospital, York, Maine

Hannah spends her morning on the couch, answering email, shifting to get more comfortable, texting, and anticipating her afternoon surgery.  To make her day more than just sitting on our couch, she negotiates the wooden crutches to go to the bathroom, shower, and walk around the first floor of the house to keep the blood flowing.  She’s just marking time for this afternoon’s main event.

We get a call to come early, and early is what we are all about when it comes to Hannah’s surgery.  Taking her to York Hospital at 1P, we settle into the waiting room.  Soon she is taken to the pre-op room, put in a hospital gown, and nestled in a hospital bed; there she is briefed by the anesthesiologist, the operating room nurse, the PA (physician’s assistant), and Dr. Sutherland.

The anesthesiologist gives Hannah the choice of a general anesthesia or a spinal tap.  The general requires a tube down her throat, which causes Hannah some concern because of her voice condition (spasmodic dysphonia).  Hannah chooses the spinal and she’s told she can go to Cancun while she’s out.  With no interest in world travel, Hannah, I’m guessing, will choose Virginia.

They each speak gently and reassuringly to her and tell her what to expect.  They are pros.  The spinal tap will numb her from the waist down; she won’t be aware that operation is going on at all.  They all continue to be impressed with her pain tolerance.  In the last four days, she’s had only Extra-strength Tylenol since the fracture of the tibia Sunday night attempting to water ski.  The anesthesiologist says how important it is to keep ahead of the pain.  Hannah will be in a twilight sleep from the anesthesia during the operation.  She may get a bone graft.  Bone grafts are often synthetic, but they can come from her hip.  If she needs one this afternoon, it will be synthetic.

Hannah and Dan mugging for the camera

Dr. Sutherland writes yes on her left leg prior to surgery. At 230P, he tells me that I should be able to see her in three and a half hours.  There’s an hour to set up for surgery, 90 minutes for the surgery, and then an hour in recovery.  Eventually she’ll have a thigh to ankle neoprene and Velcro brace for eight weeks to immobilize her leg.  I wonder if plaster casts are a thing of the past.

Hannah being wheeled to the operating room

We ask about traveling.  The PA says that if she is up for it, she should be able to travel; all too quickly we jump to the conclusion we are going to Virginia in two weeks or three.  We have no idea what we are talking about, but going south to see our grandson, Owen Daniel, gives us something to hold on to during these uncertain times.

Owen Daniel nestled in his car seat

While she is in the operating room, I wait in the waiting room of the Surgery Center that is as comfortably decorated as if it were a country estate.  To pass the time, I play my role as the town crier and bang out an email on our laptop of the latest news for our kids and others.  Donna comes to help pass the time and comfort Hannah when she is done with surgery.  The time flows; Corky comes by to check in and lift my spirits.  I’m distracted nicely and have never really thought that the surgery won’t go anything but terrifically.

Just after 5P, Dr. Sutherland comes in with a smile on his face.  He says everything went well.  Everything.  In fact, he thinks it is a better result than what he thought it might have been considering what he saw on the CT scan Tuesday.   During the surgery, the salesman who provides the plates and screws for such an operation, said that’s the BEST result that he’s ever seen.  Fortunately, Donna is there to hear the details; all I hear is that my Hannah Banana has done well, very well.  Dr. Sutherland says that her fitness and good health will make her recovery go more smoothly.  She will be on Coumadin for the very slight chance of blood clotting and Vicodin for the pain.  It’s very clear Extra strength Tylenol will no longer be enough.  He beams how pleased he is with Hannah and the operation.  We are so pleased with him.

Connecting the dots, I think it’s weeks not months before we see Owen Daniel Rawding.  As you can see, I have a tough time staying focused.

Ushered to the recovery room, I see Hannah, who as usual, looks amazing and says she has no memory of anything that happened.  She’s coherent and engaging and so darn sweet.

Hannah’s Neoprene and Velcro brace

She spends 90 minutes in the recovery room as the nurse waits for the numbing effect of the spinal tap to recede from her waist down to her toes.

A post-op universal symbol – I love you

When Hannah can wiggle her toes, she can go up to her hospital room on the second floor of York Hospital.  She’ll spend the night in the hospital so her pain can be managed and so going to the bathroom is not an issue, considering all the IV fluids that have been pumped into her.

Following the nurses who are pushing the hospital bed with Hannah on board down the corridors to the elevator and then to her second floor semi-private room in Biewend 216 of York Hospital at 7P, I have a sense of peace.  I haven’t been worried about the operation.  That said, I can be quite naïve.  Hooked to all the monitors, her fitness impresses all who meet her.  Pulse is 44.  That’s like Bjorn Borg in his prime winning Wimbledon.  Her blood pressure is 116 over 67.  Amazing.  She is instructed in the use of an incentive spirometer that she must blow into each hour.  After any surgery, there is a danger of pneumonia.  The IS will help minimize that.

In Hannah’s hospital room

She has eight weeks of crutches for it is very important that her left leg bear no weight.  She’ll not be cutting hair for the next two to three months.

I leave her to the nurses and know Hannah will have quite a tale to tell her first grandson Owen about the night he was born.

Hannah’s Afternoon of Water Skiing (part 1 of 3)

It started all so innocently.  With the tow rope between her skis, Hannah sits ready to skim along 80 degree Kennebunk Pond in Lyman, Maine in late July.

Kennebunk Pond

An accomplished water skier as a teenager, she could ski on one ski, ski backward, jump ramps, and probably could have done loop de loops.  On the other hand, though modestly athletic, Dan shakes, rattles, and wobbles when he last skied.  No skiing for this boy today.  Today he sits in the boat with Hannah as the center of attention.

The tow rope slips out of Hannah’s hands and she feels a whack against the side of her knee as if the tow bar hit it.

Raring to go

She’s game for another shot, but says, I’ll let go if it doesn’t feel right.  Immediately, it doesn’t feel right.  Unable to put any weight on her left leg, Hannah has us carry her from the boat to the cottage deck; there we all diagnose the injury as a torn ligament, despite our lack of any medical training.

Hannah is in good spirits and assures us all that this could have happened anytime and anywhere.  She does the “Hannah thing” making us feel better despite her predicament and, no doubt, pain.   We remember RICE for an accident: rest, ice, compression, and elevation and make her as comfortable as possible

Earlier that afternoon, 500 miles south in Arlington, Virginia, our daughter Molly, who is expecting her first child any day now, has called Hannah saying she is feeling “crampy and more uncomfortable.”  Hannah knows the time is close and we are thrilled to soon be Omi and Papa.  By midevening, Molly’s contractions are five minutes apart and she’s shuttled off to the Alexandria (Virginia) Hospital by dear friend Amelia and her son Justin.

At about the same time, Hannah has to be carried to the car and tenderly placed in the front seat.  Calls to friends get her a pair of wooden crutches and ace bandages; thoughts of going to the York Hospital emergency room are not even considered, as the pain isn’t that bad and the Walk-In Clinic is open at 730A tomorrow.   She wants to wait and not miss the likely birth of our first grandchild.

Throughout the night, we get updates from Molly’s husband Tip and it’s clear a grandchild is on the way.  Molly and Tip are doing it old school; they don’t know the gender of their child.  Waiting to hear the good news of a birth of a grandchild, Hannah doesn’t focus on the dull pain in her knee.  Her sleep and mine is hit and miss.

At 430A, just before dawn’s early light, Tip calls that they have a son.   Owen Daniel Rawding has come into the world at 7# 10 oz., 20 inches long at 356A.

Owen’s Birth Day

It’s the Best of Times and the Worst of Times; both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  There’s the high of a son for a Molly and Tip, a first grandchild for Hannah and me; the low of a left knee that can’t bear any weight with an unknown diagnosis.

Unable to sleep further, we rise focused on being the first ones at the “walk-in” clinic.  There, we are blind-sided with sobering news: x-rays reveal that her tibia is fractured and possibly the femur.  The CT scan that is scheduled for later in the day will confirm exactly what is broken.  We sit silently, stunned.  We never considered a break at all.  We never thought a benign afternoon of water skiing could end with hospital surgery.  Placed in a foam brace, Hannah says she’d like a second opinion and we leave the clinic sobered, saddened, and with a green malaise of Dr. Seuss goo infusing every part of our bodies and souls.

You see, we were heading to Virginia to see Owen, Molly, and Tip as soon as they came home from the hospital.  We now know that we are not going south any time soon.   We learned while googling the night before that recovery from a torn ligament would have been 8-12 weeks, but this could be much worse.  We are heart-broken and tears come easily throughout this Monday.  Not seeing Owen, Molly, and Tip is crushing news, mixed with concerns for Hannah’s long term health and the effect the injury will have on her future physical activity.

Owen Daniel Rawding with Tip and Molly

Once home this Monday, she gets an email suggesting that perhaps now she’ll finally slow down.  Emphatically she emails back, I have no plans to slow down.  I have too much life left to live.  That’s my girl.  As her husband, I can’t protect her from life’s uncertainties.  I trust her and encourage her to live fully.   She’s been a master at encouraging and trusting me during our forty years of marriage.  I trust her intuition and inner sense of knowing.

We sleep poorly Monday night.

Hannah’s Afternoon of Water Skiing (part 2 of 3)

Tuesday afternoon at Atlantic Orthopaedic

Hannah filling out paper work at Atlantic Orthopaedic

The next day as we await Dr. Sutherland’s second opinion, the nurses ask Hannah what she is taking for the pain.  Extra-strength Tylenol.   They perk up, saying admiringly, You are a tough cookie.   Dr. Sutherland checks the CT scan and X-rays and confirms that Hannah has a compression of the tibia.  She’ll need screws and plates to secure the bone, and possibly a bone graft.  He is hopeful and encouraging and our spirits are lifted by his reassuring demeanor and positive attitude.

Hannah in the examination room

At the end of our time together, he asks, Are you related to any Rothermels in the area that teach math?  Bingo, he’s speaking of Molly.  It turns out Molly had been his kids’ eighth grade math teacher at Rye Junior High School in nearby Rye, NH before she moved to Virginia five years ago.  Dr. Sutherland beams when he thinks of her and her positive influence on his kids.

Not knowing when to expect an appointment, we wait for the scheduling secretary to meet with Dr. Sutherland.  Fifteen minutes later she approaches; Dr. Sutherland would like to set up surgery for Thursday.  With wide eyes, You mean this Thursday!  It is way more than we had hoped for!  She asks, Does that work for you?  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. We are beside ourselves with the second best news since we’ve had since her accident.  The first?   Dr. Sutherland being her doctor!

The 230P time for surgery Thursday seems unusual since we think of surgery happening earlier in the day.  Pleased as punch, we see the clouds part, the sun shine, the funk dissipates, and the green malaise oozes from our pores down the drain.  We are whole again, well not literally for Hannah, but Dr. S has lifted our spirits and restored our hope.  We believe deep in our hearts that he made a special arrangement for Hannah to have the operation so quickly, and we thank  the Molly connection, Hannah’s sweet and life affirming disposition, and living in small town New England.   We’ve been given Hope.

At the same time, Owen Daniel and Mom and Dad are preparing to head home from the Alexandria (Virginia) hospital.

Transition to home day for Owen

I have the opportunity to do what I committed to do forty years ago at our wedding on her Dad’s Christmas tree farm in Penfield, NY (i.e., in sickness and in health): care for Hannah.  I slowly and tenderly raise her left leg to the waiting pillows on our living room sectional couch.  Taking walks around the first floor of our house keeps the blood flowing, Hannah keeps herself occupied; she is adjusting to a new, restricted movement reality.  Tapping on our lap top and texting with friends and family, she passes the time.  A shower takes 25 minutes, but she’s not going anywhere.  Hannah has little interest in TV and never really has.  She sleeps on the couch with her left leg propped on pillows.  It’s more Extra strength Tylenol for the pain.  It’s her best night of sleep in three days.  Thank you Dr. Sutherland.

Hannah on the couch at home

Wednesday we wait, buoyed by the appointment tomorrow afternoon and the doctor who will perform the surgery who gives her confidence.  We Skype with Molly and Tip, but it’s Owen who has our full attention.   We talk/dream of going to Virginia in a few weeks, not months.  The mission of our visit has been altered for Hannah; it will not be to cook and housekeep, but to hold her grandson as they rock as one.

Owen photographed on Skype

The FOH (Friends of Hannah) set up a schedule to bring us meals for the next two weeks.  Once midnight comes prior to surgery, Hannah can have neither food nor liquids, including no water. She is still pumped with a double dose of hope, her doctor and Thursday surgery.

And one last thing regarding this “tough cookie:” she’s resilient, but she’s no rock.   When she gets cut (literally and figuratively), she bleeds; when she’s hurt or disappointed, she cries. (N.B., She cries when she’s happy, too.)  Some people have put Hannah on a pedestal.  She’s no Saint Hannah.  She’s a damn good person.   To put her on pedestal is to distance her from the adorer; it’s an easy next step to believe that since Hannah is so competent and able that she doesn’t need the care, attention, and nourishing we all need.  She does.  She’s a lottery pick no doubt, but she gets lonely, sad, and weary.  She’s fed by her family and friends who tend to her, listen to her, and let her help them.  Keep the cards, letters, emails, and visits acoming.

Though not sleeping quite as well this Wednesday night, we are ready for her surgery and to start Hannah’s likely twelve week recovery.