Archive for December, 2013

Arnie Rides off to Montpelier

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

“He’s leaving,” Mrs. McD said.  For all the sadness in her voice she might as well have said, “Our cat of 15 years died” or “The IRS says we owe them ten thou.”

I went to the window.  Indeed he was about to leave.  The “he” was Arnie. We have called him Arnie all these years, but his full name is Joshua Bateman Arnold.  He was born just outside of Montpelier, Vermont, and after twenty-nine years in Orange County, California, he was going back home.

“To die?” I asked him when he first broke the news to us.

“No way!” he said. “To live!” Arnie is a widower whose wife passed away about five years ago.  On more than a few occasions he swore he would never marry again, most recently when we conned him into going to Age Well’s Seniors’ Prom with our golfing friend Winifred.   A wife, he claimed, would make him do ridiculous things like pick up his dirty clothes and not let three days go by without washing the dishes.

But then one day in November his phone rang, and the voice at the other end said, “Josh?”

“Yeah.  Who is this?” Nobody had called him Josh in decades, so he was a bit befuddled.

 “It’s me, Mary Jane.”

“Mary Jane who?” he said.

“Mary Jane Winslow, you old doofus. I sat right in front of you in Miss Eldridge’s eighth grade English class and you always teased the dickens out of me. You don’t remember me? “

After a moment he did remember, and what he remembered, he later told us, was the cutest, liveliest brunette on the face of the planet.

“I was in love with her.  But I didn’t have a chance.  She and Bobby Chase were inseparable.”  After high school she married Bobby and together they raised a small family right there in Montpelier.  Arnie eventually became a long-haul truck driver, and after one cross-country trip to southern California in the middle of January, he decided he’d had enough of snow.  He informed the trucking company that henceforth his home base was Orange County, CA, about 3,000 miles from Montpelier.

“I’m in Anaheim with a girlfriend,” Mary Jane told him on the phone.  “We’re at Disneyland.  I want you to come up and spend tomorrow with us. Will you do it?”

“Where’s Bobby?”

There was a long pause.  Finally Mary Jane said, “I guess you didn’t hear.  Bobby passed away last year.”

Now there was an even longer pause while Arnie tried to figure out what to do.  Then, without really making a decision, he opened his mouth and said, “Sure.  I’d love to go to Disneyland.”

From there things got complicated. Two days later, when it was time for Mary Jane to go home, she sent her girlfriend on without her and came down from Anaheim to visit Arnie for a couple of days.  He brought her over to meet us, and even in her sixties she was still a head turner.  He drove her up to L.A. for a day, they spent time in Laguna Beach, and they had dinner at several nice restaurants on the coast.  When she asked what he did with his time, he took her on his Meals on Wheels route, and showed her to the Florence Sylvester Center at congregate lunchtime.

Those two days turned into a week at the end of which Arnie announced they were engaged.  He put his home up for sale, and now today he was about to get behind the wheel of a rental truck loaded with many of his possessions, and he and Mary Jane would head back to Montpelier.

“I can’t imagine life without him,” Mrs McD said.

“I can’t imagine my blog without him,” I said.  “He was the inspiration for so many, including a whole bunch he wasn’t even in. I guess this is le dernier blog.

“The very last blog?”

“The very last.  Let’s go over and say goodbye to Arnie.”  And we did.


Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Captain’s Ball, March 1, 2014, 5:00 p.m. to Midnight at the beautiful Ritz Carlton, 1  Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point, CA. The Captain’s Ball Black Tie Gala recognizes companies or individuals who have gone above and beyond in their caring towards seniors. This event has been described as “the one Ball you don’t want to miss and best in Orange County” and has been featured in Orange Coast Magazine among other publications. Complimentary valet parking. Contact:  Beth Apodaca, (949) 498-3322.

Mrs. McD Discovers Hulawalu Syndrome

Thursday, December 12th, 2013


“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”  ~Erma Bombeck

By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

“This just doesn’t feel right,” Mrs. McD said.  She was rubbing her tummy lightly at the time.  It was a Friday evening, and she’d been having some noticeable discomfort for several days.

“Let’s go in,” I said, expecting her to say no, that’s okay.  Maybe in the morning.

But women are more sensible than your average macho male when it comes to symptoms of illness, and Mrs. McD surprised me.  “Yes,” she said.  “Let’s go in.”

So we did, and after hours of examination, by humans and machines, Mrs. McD found herself spending the night in a private room at the hospital.  In fact, she ended up spending nine nights there.

In the interest of protecting at least a bit of Mrs. McD’s privacy, I won’t describe her symptoms.  But they did cause her medical team to consider an operation, a move they ruled out after several days of intravenous feeding during which time ice chips became a gastronomical treat for her.

During her very first days there, a relative sent us an article from the Sunday Times Magazine about a lady patient in the University of Chicago Medical Center who had remarkably similar symptoms.  Her doctors were mystified at first, but eventually concluded the woman was having a reaction to a blood pressure medication.  Could this be Mrs. McD’s problem as well? the relative asked.

Now I would never consider approaching an auto mechanic or a plumber or an electrician with a suggestion about how that person should do his work. That’s because I know nothing about auto engines or plumbing or electrical wiring.  I also know next to nothing about medicine except what I have learned as a patient, but that didn’t prevent me from approaching one of Mrs. McD’s doctors with a copy of the article.

“Oh, boy,” he seemed to be thinking. “I spend over a decade in med school, but this guy thinks he can diagnose his wife’s illness by reading a Sunday supplement.”  He took the proffered article, but was polite yet firm that the team had already ruled out a drug reaction as the cause.

I am grateful to the relative who pointed out that article because at the time the doctors were still playing the roles of medical detectives, and the article made a lot of sense.  However I subsequently got advice from others that was, to put it most kindly, suspect.

“I know what’s wrong,” a well-meaning neighbor said.  “You two didn’t get your flu shots.”

“Actually we did,” I replied.

“Well see!  There’s your problem.  Her sickness was caused by the flu shot.”

Another friend asked if Mrs. McD had eaten out without me the previous week.  Yes, I acknowledged. She went to a ladies’ club luncheon on Tuesday.  “There’s the cause,” the friend said.  “Food poisoning.” The fact that none of the other hundred or so women at the luncheon came down with the illness didn’t faze my friend.

Another had a one-word diagnosis: “Gluten,” she said quite adamantly.  “Gluten.” Yet another said, “Chicken. Bad chicken has been in the news a lot lately.”

By now I was beginning to appreciate how the doctor must have felt when I gave him that article.

After several days the gastroenterologists zeroed in on the diagnosis — Ogilvie Syndrome.  Olgivie is an extremely rare disorder that is named after Sir William Heneage Ogilvie, the British surgeon who first reported it in 1948 — not that long ago as medical chronology goes. The doctors prescribed an appropriate course of treatment for Mrs. McD, which, much to our relief, involved no surgery.  She spent several more days in the hospital, improving each day, until the doctors judged her ready to return to the outside world and the care of her non-physician spouse.

Mrs McD has been home over a week now, and is recovering nicely with no recurrence of any of her symptoms.  She also learned a valuable lesson.  “If you’re ill, never tell your friends that the doctors don’t know what ails you,” she said.

“Next time, what will you tell them?” I asked.

She thought about that for a minute or so, then said, “I’ll tell them I’ve got Hulawalu syndrome. It’s a rare disorder found mainly among Pacific islanders.”


“Really. I probably acquired it during our cruise to the Hawaii three years ago.  It killed Kamehameha the Great, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that.  And neither do you.”

“But you’ll never rat on me, right?”

“Never in a million years,” I said.

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