On the death of a corporal

Carol Off
The following link is to a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) interview that was on yesterdays radio program As it Happens. The subject of the interview was a bystander’s response to Wednesday’s terrorist killing of 24-year-old Corporal Nathan Carillo, who was on honorary guard duty at the Canadian National War Memorial. The interviewer is Carol Off and the interviewee Barbara Winter. I envy Carol’s ability to carry on so admirably through an interview that left me wrecked, and I especially envy Barbara Winter’s ability to be emotionally present, both with the dying corporal and on an internationally broadcast radio program. How I wish I could remain so in touch with the best that is within me.

Barbara Winter

Check-in time

A rare good picture of both of us. I like being married
to a woman who still looks hot at age 63.
I think a lot, and I can’t help but notice that what I think is more interesting than what other people think. I’m aware, of course, that other people might disagree, but that just shows you how wrong they can be. 

Three weeks ago, Father Brent wrote that we should get together again, and he proposed last week as a good time. A lot was going on in his life, so I heard nothing more from him, which was fine, but I wrote to him that when we do talk again, I would like for him to read my last blogpost first because it represents my best effort to say why I’m coming to his church. After trying to find it on Google, he admitted that he didn’t have my blog address anymore. Because of how extremely interesting my blog is, I was disappointed in him about this, but I expect so little of people anyway that it didn’t really matter. I still think he’s a good man in terms of caring about people, and that’s what’s important. It’s also why I couldn’t be a priest. Of course my atheism would be deal-killer right off the bat, but even without that obstacle, my poorly disguised antipathy for humanity would keep me out of the priesthood.

I really don’t know what to think about how cold I am. Like with that Ebola epidemic in Africa. I can’t help but think that the vanishing wildlife of Africa would be greatly helped if several million people died, so this makes me think that it would be for the best if they did die, what with the non-human animal population dropping by half in just the last thirty years. You might ask how I would feel if the epidemic were in America. Well, I would just shit, but that doesn’t negate my point.

I went to the back doctor this week for what I thought might be my last visit. My back hurts all the time from my upper shoulder blades down to either side of my crackie, and I had hoped he might be able to do something about it, but I’ve had enough experience with doctors to doubt that he could, and I was right. He always orders an x-ray, and this one showed that my broken vertebra is continuing to collapse. It was at 21% three months ago and at 24% now. He says that if it reaches 30, I’ll need a surgery called pedicle subtraction osteotomy with thoracolumbar fusion. This means that he re-breaks my back, rebuilds the vertebra, and fuses four of the surrounding vertebra. I naturally wanted to know more, but he said it’s still too early to talk about it, and that doing so would only upset me. I took this to mean that he had’t even told me the worst of it, so I came home and googled the surgery, and found that he really hadn’t told me the worst. I won’t say anything more because it’s still too early to talk about it, and I woudn’t want to upset you. Ha.

I’ve been taking a lot of narcotics lately, not to mention Ambien, Neurontin, and Cymbalta. I take the last three drugs at night and the narcotics during the day. 30 mgs of oxycodone (three to six times the starting dose) doesn’t slow me down, but it does it make it easier to keep going, both in terms of pain control and mood. I drive, run power tools, ride my bike, prune trees from ladders (no, I wasn’t on oxycodone when I fell last year), clean roof gutters while leaning forward on a sloping surface, and so on without feeling unsafe. The drug probably makes some difference in my performance, but other than problems with memory, Im unaware of any.

I’ve thought a lot about narcotics over the years because I take so many of them, and because they’re supposed to be such a horrible thing. Given how well I function, I think it likely that the worst problems addicts face are simply getting their drug and having to worry about being caught. Certainly, marijuana and alcohol both have a more detrimental affect on my abilities than do narcotics, so I would assume that the same is probably true for addicts. Obviously, narcotics are a health risk, but to repeat myself, so is overeating, and a lot of other things. I can but say that so far, knock on wood, my energy level is fairly good considering that I’m kept awake by pain for a significant portion of every single night, and if I’m developing organ problems, I’m unaware of it.

I’ll tell you, though, I’m low right now. I did so good on my fencing project that I was encouraged to think I might do okay with emptying out our large living room, dining room, and hallway, removing the old carpet, painting the walls, and then having new carpet installed. The first thing I did was to move about fifty shelf-feet of books into the garage, and I was in more shoulder pain that night than I’ve been in a long time, maybe years. I was planning to move the furniture the next day, and had asked our friends, Lee and Robin, to give Peggy and me a hand with the big pieces, but I was in so much pain that I didn’t even try to move the little pieces. It’s an awful thing to watch other people do my work, but I have to stay in good enough shape to tear out the carpet and wash and paint the walls, and I knew that if I moved furniture, I might be in too much pain to do the rest. So, while they worked, I babysat with their little girl, Sidney, aka my granddaughter. That needs some explaining.

Lee and Robin were Jehovah’s Witnesses before they became atheists, and when they left the JW, their families, being filled with the love of Christ and all, naturally shunned them. When Sidney was born, they shunned her too, the damned little sinner. Even before she was born, Lee and Robin named Peggy and me Sidney’s grandparents, and Lee told me that in the unlikely event that his parents should come back into his life, I would still be Sidney’s grandpa. I probably love Sidney as well as I would if she were the offspring of the son or daughter that I never had (how can anyone not fully love a little child?), but as much as I care about her, Peggy is invested several times over. I find it poignant and worrisome to see how much she needs that kid in her life. 

Peggy is off for a long weekend with two friends for their 20th annual “Girls’ Weekend Away.” When she’s home, Brewsky has to sleep in the laundry room because he keeps her awake. When she’s gone, he sleeps wherever he pleases, and this weekend has been the first time that he spent most of each night in bed with me. I’m awake so much that he gets a lot of petting during the wee hours, and sometimes, he’ll even wake me up just to be petted. That’s what Peggy objects to, but I don’t mind it, at least for a few nights. After having him for four years, I’ve finally become enough attached to him that I actually think I might miss him if he died as much as I would miss a dog.

Well, that’s enough of a check-in. I’ve got to clean house and finish getting ready to paint because the carpet is coming next week.

I get ripped-off

The law requires that my monthly shipment of narcotics has to be delivered directly to my door and signed for. If I’m away, it can’t be left with a neighbor, even at my request, nor can I pick it up at a UPS facility. This means that every month, I have to stay home all day waiting for its arrival because although it doesn’t usually come before 6:30, it could come at any time. Last Thursday, it didn’t come at all, but when I checked my email, I found notification that it had. The following is my email to the UPS fraud division, which I contacted when no one else at UPS seemed to give a rip. As it turned out, the fraud division didn’t either.

  “My name is _____. I supposedly received a package containing 60, 10 mg oxycodone tablets yesterday (October 9) at 5:46 p.m. here at my home. Someone named Kahl supposedly signed for this package. Neither my wife nor I have ever known anyone named Kahl. She and I were both home at the time the shipment was supposedly made. We heard no UPS truck, and we heard no knock at our door.

“I have spoken with several of your phone representatives today, three of whom live in India and didn’t understand what the word narcotic meant even after I tried to explain it. They went over the same information and asked the same questions repeatedly because they didn’t understand enough English to do something productive. They all said that it would take 8-10 business days to investigate my complaint, which is the same amount of time it would take to investigate a claim for a lost knick-knack, yet I am in chronic pain, and the theft of Class II narcotics* is a federal crime. I was told that the outcome of the investigation won’t be shared with me, although I will be reimbursed for my $5 copay. Since the UPS is unwilling to keep me in the loop, I have no confidence that it will contact the police either.”

Fortunately, I’m tenacious and vindictive, and it has often stood me in good stead. When I received no help from the UPS, I called the local cops. Detective Marlowe (his actual name) gave me a case number but said he wouldn’t be doing anything to help. He suggested that I complain to the US Postal Service, which was just silly since the UPS is a private company and has zero affiliation with the USPS, which is run by the government. I asked him if I should call the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration is a federal agency), but he said they wouldn’t be interested in tracking down sixty pills. I called them anyway with the thought that it couldn’t hurt. Then again, it struck me that maybe it could hurt because enlisting the help of the DEA felt like asking Satan to lend me a hand, this because of my impression that it’s an agency that has ruined the lives of countless people for nothing nobler than justifying its existence. So, I was surprised to find that I was interviewed thoroughly and respectfully by the person who took my call, and by the “diversion officer” who was assigned to my case and contacted me within the hour. When I asked what a diversion officer does, she said she investigates the loss of legal narcotics that were diverted from their intended recipient. Maybe it was a silly question. 

I also called the pharmacy that shipped the drug, and was told, as expected, that they couldn’t replace it without a new order from the doctor. I don’t want to get one because it might give investigators reason to think that I filed a false report in order to get double the amount of pills. Both the local cop and the DEA agent assured me that I didn’t need to worry about this since I have no criminal record (the local cop, at least, had investigated me before interviewing me), but I still hesitate because I’m dedicated to doing everything I can to see someone busted, and I don’t want to take any chance of clouding the waters by making it look like I had a motive for lying. I’m just that way when I've been ripped off. Fighting for my rights can take up a lot of time and get me nowhere, but it’s easier than knuckling under, which is how I interpret letting something go of something before I’ve exhausted the possibilities for correcting it. 

*Both Class II drugs and Class I drugs are considered to have a high potential for severe addiction, but, unlike Class I drugs, Class II drugs have an accepted medical use. They include Fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone, as well as meth and barbiturates. Class III, IV, and V drugs also have an accepted medical use but a decreasing risk of addiction.