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Friday, December 30, 2022

When my mom's blood oxygen level dropped precipitously Thursday, I packed up my two laptops and hopped into my geriatric car.

"Make it so I can get this thing to Chippewa Falls," I told my mechanic.

And just as I started to drive, I started to cry.

I thought about mom dying and how I would have to announce it to Kid, and friends, family, colleagues, you, my dear readers.

Wait, I thought, don't kill her before she's dead. I calmed and listened to crappy car radio. I do not like Hall and Oates in good times let alone in stress.

Mom has had COVID since the beginning of the week and received some anti-virals but before they could kick in, the oxygen level plunged. Two years ago, few civilians knew nothing about the importance of oxygen levels in the blood. Now we cite them like speed limits in the city. I'm at 95. The other guy says he's 100.

My mom was 82.

I stopped crying and stopped some place -- I couldn't tell you -- to get a bottle of Chippewa Springs water to hydrate.

I passed so many of the old familiar sites driving into Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, Tilden, turning off on County Highway S where the sign directed me toward the hospital. I didn't recall S being near the hospital but I trusted the sign. And then got lost. Thanks to some Google app, I pulled into the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in my old hometown.

My dad died in the St. Joe's ER 38 years ago. I expected a pasting of PTSD but the new ER is built as an addition to the hospital so I didn't have triggering moments.

Immediately, the receptionist said my brother was in the ER room and only one was allowed.

I understood.

I texted my brother to alert him I was there. He was waiting to talk to a doctor or nurse before he could update me on mom's condition.

Sadly, I thought about how much work I missed during the day because it's pretty overwhelming right now. I could see the emails rolling up on me like a ticker tape stock machine, tic tic tic tic tic tic tic.

Everything stabilized by mid-day so my brother and I bugged out for some beer and hot beef sandwiches. Bonding. It's been some time.

On return, a doctor talked with my brother, appeasing both of us to allow us home returns. 

A tiring day called for a couple Manhattans before going home, where I ate leftover ham from my friend's Christmas party. Liquor and smoked meats served as my communion for the day.

I hate writing this but I promised long ago to be painfully truthful.

Mom returns to her dementia care facility Saturday.

I return to work.

Kid arrives this coming Thursday.

Such is life.

Peace unto Ukraine. Peace and life unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, December 23, 2022

 I'm sorry I've been gone.

These have been some strange times for a few weeks.

I wrote about how one of our dearest colleagues was in a terrible crash and since then I've largely worked most available hours.

That's affected the holidays. Kid and I talked about the blizzard, which hasn't hit our area as much as others. But it's still cold. I woke up to minus-15 degrees this morning. My car grudgingly groaned to a start. Not unlike me.

Kid switched her trip to later. In part because she would have spent significant time in my office during her trip. Sadly, she spent many days like that during her youth as work called and I had to respond.

In the meantime, I work as my colleague was like the horse in "Animal Farm," willing to work regardless of circumstances.

I'm invited to a bar party Saturday night where I'll see so many friends. And I've been invited to my friend Kellee's family Christmas Sunday where I bring my own liquor -- in a big box. Kellee has adopted me as her odd uncle and I appreciate her friendship.

I'll have a wonderful Christmas and I hope all of you do as well.

And I promise to write more regardless of distractions.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace unto and season's greetings unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, December 16, 2022

My friends, wear your seatbelts.

Last Saturday, one of our colleagues was in a horrible car accident where someone in the other car died. Our colleague wore a seatbelt and it saved his life.

He suffered some broken ribs and a cracked sternum. But he's alive.

His absence has been a massive challenge in an office where we count folks on one hand. More so, our colleague has worked in Hayward for 40 years as of 2023. He carries with him the history of the area and most families.

Then the region was hit by 18 inches of snow over a two-day period. Power at our newspaper office was knocked out for at least a day. Tree branches, heavy with snow, bent and broke on to power lines affecting tens of thousands of customers.

I went out chasing photos but wifi connection as well. Many public places with free wifi were closed. At one point, my colleague and I holed up in a closed bar so we could post stories about the weather, power outages and warming shelters. We finalized coverage from the wifi at the county courthouse.

We did good work -- one person down.

 I often think about the important work journalists do but that's immediately exacerbated by being down staff in a huge story.

But the most important lesson of this last week? Wear a goddamn seatbelt.

Peace unto the Ukraine and peace and seatbelts unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

 I can't figure out how friends happen -- but they inevitably do.

Last Sunday, two friends invited me to church because there were concerned eternal hell fires will render out my fat ass. (I've read multiple stories about fires started at crematoria where the fat of an obese person undergoing cremation have burned places down. That's why I'm eating more salads. I don't want to be that story in my own newspaper.)

During the church service, I had a true revelation: Wow, there are many hot chicks in church.

I'm not sure the singular service will solve my problem but that two people cared enough about me to invite me to the service is heartwarming. One of my ideals is to be gracious to offers to me, even if it is from people who wish to change my character and person.

Even though I remain new to the community, they were taking care of me as a friend, a new friend.

On Tuesday evening, I sat at a bar that is a mere 300 feet from my home when the bartender took a phone call and then screamed -- her house was on fire.

I couldn't fathom my friend driving to the scene so I immediately offered to drive. As we cleaned the snow and ice from her vehicle, she insisted on driving but asked me to ride along.

I tried to calm and coach her as she drove on roads with 5 inches of newly accumulated snow. I told her when to slow down and managed some phone calls during the drive to her rural home. "It's better to get there than not," I repeated. "You're doing a great job," I repeated.

She's my friend.

Initial information suggested it was a chimney fire but when we turned into the driveway, we could see flames 30 feet into the air. Her family home was fully engulfed, rare for home fires.

I stayed for a couple hours, hugging family members and trying to serve as an interpreter between firefighter language and family language. I've been to more than enough fires I care to think about.

After a couple hours, I texted a friend to come pick me up. I hadn't brought a coat or gloves or appropriate shoes. In choosing to offer assistance, I jumped into the breech. That's decades of response on breaking news stories.

It's also about immediately responding to friends' needs. My friend needed someone with her, just as my friends in church are trying to save me.

I need friends, too.

I texted a friend asking for a ride home from the fire, which had continued for almost two hours.

She and her boyfriend arrived and found a way to hoist my fat ass into one of those trucks where the access is three feet off the ground.

I didn't talk much during their rescue and decided I didn't want to sit in the bar where the drama first occurred. Instead, I drove to a nearby watering hole where I could order a decent -- and stiff -- Jack Daniels Manhattan. But on the drive over, I thought I had a flat tire -- it was a cold night in the Northwoods. The car was shaking uncontrollably. On arrival, all the tires were full.

When I walked into the bar, I realized the shaking was me. I had hypothermia. With little knowledge of medical nomenclature, I believe that meant my "thermia" was "hypo."

The story of my week is that friends give. Friends don't hesitate to give.

And I remain the luckiest bastard in the history of the world.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and friendship unto all of you my brothers and sisters.