Local Lore and Comments

An Unexpected Thank-You Card–Thank You!

Thank you card

On January 23 of this year, at Saint Joseph Hospital in Dickinson, I had the cataract in my right eye removed, as recommended by Dr. Biesiot. Even though prior to the operation, friends calmly told me that the operation was simple, I still had a great deal of fear, for when my mother had hers done, sometime in the mid 1980s in Omaha, Nebraska, something amiss occurred: her eye was not deadened when her doctor began to cut.  The pain sent her into shock; as a result, hives erupted all over her body.

At the preliminary appointment, I told Dr. Leidenix, the eye doctor from Bismarck, what had happened to my mother, and he assured me that the operation was perfectly safe.   He even shared some of the history of cataract removals–the week-long stay in the hospital, the pain, the head in a vice, even at the same time informing me of possible complications. He said the operation today only takes 10-15 minutes.

I checked in at 8:45 am.  After a little waiting and approximately an hour of eye drops every five minutes or so, I was wheeled in the operating room.  A covering was placed around my eye, just so the cataract can be seen.  I didn’t even have to be in a hospital gown: one gauzy outfit over my clothes covered me from top to bottom, except for my shoes.

The drops to deaden the eye had begun earlier, but in the operation room, the drops were applied again.  I didn’t feel anything, just a little pressure as I was told. Although I often find myself facing obstacles without asking for help, I was surely glad for the nurse who held my hand during the procedure.  The dome of golden prisms that I saw during one part of the operation, like the ceiling of a cathedral or a museum I have yet to visit.  And yes, after 10-15 minutes, the operation was over, and a little while after that, around 11:30 am, a friend took me home.

The operation was uneventful, simple, painless; and as a result of everyone’s focus on the patient, I did not panic. But more surprising was the card I received in the mail a few days later from the doctor, the anesthesiologist,  the nurses, and the staff who attended me and others undergoing the same procedure that day.

I wasn’t born yesterday, as my friends know; in fact, my life experiences have given me a wide variety of crazy, wonderful, sad, frightening experiences, but this card was the first I have ever received from a doctor and those who aided in an operation.

When I first saw the envelope, I thought it was a bill, but when I opened the envelope, it took me a while to realize what it was. So kind and considerate, what care they showed!

(If you click on the picture, it should enlarge so that you can read the names up close.)

My mother’s recovery from her operation took an extremely long time–hives weeks to fade; emotionally much longer–but it’s been one week since mine.  The sensitive treatment that Dr. Leidenix, the anesthesiologist, the nurses, and the staff showed has made my recovery a snap.  I can see white now, can distinguish blue from black.  My vision in my right eye has improved a great deal.  And I can’t wait for the second cataract to be removed.

Thanks to all of you!!

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Local Lore and Comments

Something there is

Something there is that sometimes loves a blizzard, that delights in frozen whiteouts, that longs for freezing rain. On a farm in the 50s, a blizzard often meant adventure, a rope from the front porch to the outhouse, another to the barn, and from there to the granary. Before meteorologists, a prognosticator of blizzards would note a shift in the air, witness cattle gathering towards shelters, dogs burrowing under the front porch; chickens ending their clucking and snoozing under folded wings. “You kids, get out there and fill the wood box,” a farmer would order like a harried prophet with God roaring at his heels.  A blizzard during spring-calving season meant that warrior-farmer would trudge into the kitchen with a calf draped across his shoulders like the hide of a wolf. He would place the calf gently on blankets near the cookstove so that kids and their mother could break the ice from the calf’s nostrils and rub its legs and body to urge it to live.

A blizzard before corn-picking time often predicated economic stress to a farm family, especially if the corn-picker broke down in the howling wind. If it did, for me, the oldest, the lull before a blizzard meant that the last of the corn had to be hand-picked, my hands stiff in work gloves, snapping corn off stocks and throwing the ears one at a time into the wagon box until both my father and I turned into ice.

In Dickinson, two years ago, I woke up sweating from a dream in which my house was buried under a mountain of snow: doors blockaded, windows mirroring sheets of whiteness; the eaves bent, the roof groaned, nerves frayed. That winter my daughter’s and my backs ached from wielding grain shovels immense with heavy snow. This past year, nothing but a couple of dustings. This year, the winter’s breath, cold and icy with blankets of snow.

Blizzards meant that once the cows were milked, by hand then, eggs gathered, sows and boar down for a winter’s nap, the family huddled around the kitchen table, father and mother played pinochle–we children taking turns being partners with one or the other of our parents. I read Jack London and composed tales of my own. Blizzards with loved ones encased safely meant hope and renewal, a reaffirmation of values, that is if the family was built on solid ground. God forbid if an argument fractured the air, or as today, teenagers with cars and notions of invincibility venture forth on highways in search of girlfriends or parties.

Most of the time, even though my father was within walking distance, across a frozen field or a rutted cattle yard, I still ached to accompany him. I liked the way his stride moved thrice to mine, the way he shouldered stolid milk cows into stanchions, hitched up draft horses, loaded wood onto wagons.

When I was in kindergarten, a blizzard came on suddenly, one the country school teacher had no time to ring parents before they themselves were stomping their feet in the coat room. My father was one of the fathers who came to the country school in the swirl of a roaring blizzard. The wind blew like Odin warring on the prairie. At five I could not walk against that wind. Before leaving the warmth of the country school, my father tucked me underneath his jacket, his arms wrapping me tightly to his chest, and braved the winds, walking in front of the horse the miles back on the gravel road to my mother and safety radiating from the wood cook stove.

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Local Lore and Comments

Traffic in Dickinson

Before I moved to Dickinson, ND, I lived in Omaha on Northwest Radial Hwy., a thoroughfare that screeches in a curvy diagonal from 72nd St. to 46th St. where it splits–one leg Military Ave, the other straight south until Radial becomes North Saddle Creek Road. From there, Dodge and head east to downtown Omaha and Old Market.  The triple-paned windows and the steel door of my condo insulated the interior enough that traffic on that Hwy. outside didn’t bother me much.  Not even a hum.  In fact much quieter than the ringing in my ears that I endure constantly–I’m waiting until I go deaf.

I’ve heard accidents.  I even had one on Radial when I was stupid enough to park in front of my condo, even though parking was allowed.  Around midnight, one drunk woman rammed into the back of my Diamante and smashed its rear end.  Not totaled, but it should have been.  Someone witnessed the accident, wrote down her license number, and she was arrested within a half hour at her home by the Omaha police.  Yes, she paid my deductible.

One of the benefits of living in a big city is that most people who drive know the rules, or else.  You merge by matching your speed to the cars in the adjacent lane of the highway, you signal, you come to a stop at stop signs when you’re suppose to, mainly because not doing so often does lead to accidents.

This morning I took my daughter to work in downtown Dickinson, a mere mile and a half of driving.  On the way there, two women, each in an SUV, broke traffic rules.  I’ve read somewhere that a driver breaks a traffic rule on the average every 20 minutes.  It took me five minutes at the most to drive that mile and a half and five minutes back.  Not 20.  The first woman in the blue SUV was a half block away heading north on 3rd Ave. from 1st St. when the light at 2nd St. and 3rd Ave. turned yellow.  All other traffic had crossed the intersection.  Normally when that occurs the driver in the passing lane miraculously gets to turn left.  (There’s no left turn signal at that intersection and there should be.) But I didn’t turn left for the woman in blue did not slow down.  In fact she speeded up in an attempt to cross the intersection in the yellow, but she did not, forcing me to turn left when the light was red.  I know that she was thinking she’s late for work for maybe she was employed at one of the companies north of Wal-Mart. Who knows what her reason was, but she had one, or else it was complete arrogance and a howdareyoustopme on her part.

Now, I can handle one incident like that every 20 minutes, and not get riled, for shit happens and people make mistakes, but two?

The one in between the first and the second I’m not going to count because it’s a North Dakota law I think for all small towns, at least for this one, for I’ve seen the yellow signs in the middle of intersections to remind drivers that pedestrians have the right of way, no matter if there is a stop sign or not, no matter if they are jaywalking or not. Two young women jabbering did not even look at the traffic to the right or to the left before they crossed the street going south down from the library.  I saw them and stopped, which I was supposed to do.  But considering that Dickinson now has a critical mass of drivers not from around here and a highly critical increase in traffic, that law needs to be rethought.  Of course after the second boom, there will be plenty of space to cross any street.

Then at the intersection one block east of Gate City Bank, a woman in a red SUV south of the intersection but heading north turned left right in front of me, causing my daughter to brace herself.  I screeched to a stop.  I swore.  The man driving the delivery truck in the line after her moved up and I crossed the intersection for I had the right of way.

Ok, I get it, defensive driving is a must here in Dickinson, especially on 2nd Street going east off 3rd.  Last summer a woman in a grey SUV zoomed across the 2nd Ave and 2nd St. intersection going south, and I screeched to a stop going west–I had the right of way again.  There have been many, many other incidents that I alone have witnessed.

You can’t tell me that those three drivers were not from Dickinson.  The odds are not in your favor–I’ve almost done reading The Hunger Games.  One at the most from out of town, considering statistical odds.  So what to do?

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