Thanksgiving Breakfast

Stevie the Wonder POA (Power of Attorney) called at 8:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning to say he was at the grocery store and what would I like? After a moment of talking, I seized on A SANDWICH. Who’d’a thunk it? Ask your friends and family who are experiencing or have experienced hospitalization how they felt about the hospital’s provision of sandwiches. Ask them if they would appreciate a serious real-world sandwich.

So Stevie, being an all-American male who has a fine understanding of the basic concept of “sandwich,” said he would be along shortly with a sandwich—and cheese. I used to revel in cheese, having at least three kinds in the refrigerator at any given moment. Hospitals do not provide cheese boards, so Stevie said he could do that.

Then Stevie called back awhile later to tell me his son would be joining in the visit. This was his discreet way of telling me to put my pants on since the son in question is a lanky teenager about twenty minutes short of being a man. Some things a young man shouldn’t see, including my nearly-naked butt hanging off a hospital bed.

And they arrived, Steve in his jeans and baseball cap, and his son looking lean and lanky. The boy looks seriously underfed, despite him and both his parents having a primal commitment to shoveling a steady stream of calories down his gullet. I remember this son when he was a little guy tied down in the backseat of the car, watching Disney movies while we drove to Philadelphia. Now he is using big words that I don’t understand and visiting colleges.

So Steve swipes my computer, et al, off the tray table and transforms it into a sandwich station. He knows the grocery store staff and told them my story, so they loaded him up with everything: six kinds of cheese, four kinds of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and a bagful of mayonnaise, catsup and mustard. And four rolls, of which I chose the onion one.

The Son, who is—like all good American boys—working part-time in a fast-food restaurant, used quick hands to demonstrate proper sandwich building technique, then we all settled up with our sandwiches. When Son was asked if he was okay with sandwiches for Thanksgiving breakfast, he answered a prompt, “I can eat anything anytime.”

Then I said that I was thankful that they were both part of my life. Steve said he was thankful that no matter how hard things got, he always could see the silver lining. Son has just gotten his first car but did not name that as what he was most grateful for, instead reserving his answer for time to think.

Then we ate and discussed life, the universe, and everything. And I told Steve that today was—

The Day I Took My Last Drug

At 6:45 a.m. the nurse woke me with 5 mg. of oxycodone. Fifteen minutes later I had acute stabbing pains in my abdomen and severe nausea and chills, which are all symptoms of a body rejecting oxycodone.

Four days ago, when I was taking 10 mg. of oxycodone five times a day, I had a reaction that had included acute confusion, bleeding from the mouth, and chills, so the doctor reduced the drug by half.

Ever since I started taking oxycodone four and a half months ago, I have had steadily worsening constipation, depression, loss of appetite and nausea. Now, today, this Thanksgiving morning, we have reached the point of no return: I never can take oxycodone again. My immune system has sent me warnings that it doesn’t like it. It has made my life progressively more miserable. It has developed a marker and tagged every iota of oxycodone that enters my body. . .

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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