Bringing Dead Tech Back to Life

This is an array of some of the old garage sale/thrift store/Ebay handheld scanners I have around the house. About half of them work, but getting the other ones to work is an intriguing rainy-day project idea.
This is an array of some of the old garage sale/thrift store/Ebay handheld scanners I have around the house. About half of them work, but getting the other ones to work is an intriguing rainy-day project idea.

In a household clean-out that seems never-ending, today I reached down under a 14-hole cubby cabinet in the sewing room to find a plastic cube bin that appeared to contain something technological. After carefully vacuuming the spiders and other sketchy-looking stuff from it, I started pulling things out. Included were…

  1. A Sony FM/casette Walkman
  2. A Coby MP3 player
  3. Three unused wired earbuds
  4. Two well-used wired earbuds with earhooks
This is the Sony cassette Walkman at pretty much the pinnacle of development. I think it's a very neat-looking piece of hardware.
This is the Sony cassette Walkman at pretty much the pinnacle of development. I think it’s a very neat-looking piece of hardware.

I don’t know anything about the cassette player, except that it’s nice-looking, like a stylish piece of tech from the 1990s near the peak of its evolution. But I do recall the Coby MP3 player, which Abby used for years at work, mostly to listen to audio books while she worked. Before that, she used various CD MP3 players, and after that, until she retired, she used her smartphones.

I turned on the Coby, and it seems to be working fine. It plugs directly into USB, so I put it in my laptop and saw it contained one of the books Abby was hearing right around the time she retired.

When you turn off the Coby MP3 player, it’s display says, “Bye Bye!!

This Coby MP3 player of maybe 2005 vintage still works just fine, and will hold 1GB of music. I also found its teensie plug-in boombox, which only needed a new AA battery.
This Coby MP3 player of maybe 2005 vintage still works just fine, and will hold 1GB of music. I also found its teensie plug-in boombox, which only needed a new AA battery.

Collecting and playing with aging technology is one of my interests, though I don’t exactly know why. It’s very fun for me, but to what end? Part of me thinks it has to do with the galling idea that capitalism/mercantilism is selling us the same thing over and over, with the entirely hollow and somewhat immoral idea of taking our money.

You own a VHS video cassette of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the DVD of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the Blu-Ray of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the rights to stream Gone with the Wind. You have basically bought the same product four times.

Another area of old tech I think is fun to collect is old police scanners, shortwave receivers, and amateur radio transceivers. Some of them work, and some of them don’t, and some of them are becoming less useful as communications becomes more integrated with digital communications and  the internet. But there are still some neat radios out there to collect, try to make work, and even use while I still can. And one of the best things about that is that they cost nothing: you can sometimes get this stuff for $5 at a yard sale.

In their heyday, these two scanners, the Radio Shack Pro-2004 (bottom) and the Radio Shack Pro-2006 (top) were the best you could buy, costing nearly $1000 new. I was able to fix the 2006, but the internet informs me that the 2004 is a hopeless case due to bad soldering during its production run. Too bad I wasted $15 on it on Ebay.
In their heyday, these two scanners, the Radio Shack Pro-2004 (bottom) and the Radio Shack Pro-2006 (top) were the best you could buy, costing nearly $1000 new. I was able to fix the 2006, but the internet informs me that the 2004 is a hopeless case due to bad soldering during its production run. Too bad I wasted $15 on it on Ebay.

We Just Loved It

I wore this shirt today.

We picked The Flying Tortilla because it was next door to a hotel where we were staying in Santa Fe, but we ended up loving the place.
We picked The Flying Tortilla because it was next door to a hotel where we were staying in Santa Fe, but we ended up loving the place.

Abby and I bought it, and matching coffee mugs, at a lunch place in Santa Fe in 2019. One day, Abby ordered grits and runny eggs – no, I am not kidding – she loved that. It was so perfect that she tipped the cook $5.

Looking in the mirror tonight, I thought, “We loved it there.”

But the truth is, we just loved it – the road, getting lunch, staying in motels, walking the dogs by the side of the road – we just loved it… together.

The Chaos of Personal Bureaucracy

With a nice three-day Memorial Day weekend ahead of me, I was feeling very ambitious about working on the house this morning, continuing my project of cleaning and organizing.

These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.
These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.

I wanted to make beans, but the kitchen was filthy. As I cleaned the kitchen, I knocked down once of the lights under the cabinets, which I then had to re-hang.

I wanted to put my new lamps in the bedroom, but discovered a mess of wiring under the bed, which I then needed to vacuum because so much dust has accumulated.

Sidebar: an ex-friend of my wife’s sometimes talked Abby into buying things that weren’t really Abby’s style. One such item was a bedroom set that included a huge, poofy comforter with matching pillow cases, and nightstand lamps with long, tacky, hanging chains. Together, they made the bedroom look like an 80’s prom dress.

Then I found the fan I used next to the bed was dusty inside, so I needed to use the air compressor blow it out. Then I realized all the fans in the house needed to be blown out. Then as I unplugged one of the fans, I discovered I needed to move a file cabinet to get the the plug, and discovered an epicenter of dust and spiders. After gathering them and taking them outside, I found the hose to the compressor was hopelessly tangled in the lawn mower.

I wanted to vacuum the whole house, but found I needed to take a couple of pieces of furniture out to the garage, but then found I didn’t really have a place to put them out there.

This all comes down to me, of course. I own that every frustrating little obstacle is of my own making.

For the record, the beans are delicious.

I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.
I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.

“Dear Abby”

Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.
Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.

I had lunch in Ardmore yesterday with Abby’s daughter Chele and her husband Tom, who were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to look for a house, as they are moving there from Baltimore in July. It was great seeing them, and we all hope their move puts them on the north side of the metro area so meeting for lunch regularly like this will be this easy.

Later, one of my longest-time friends Jamie and her husband Ian came by to get my six-burner propane grill, an item Abby was super-proud to have brought home to me, and one with which we made some great meals. But I don’t use it any more, and Jamie and Ian will, since they entertain all the time.

The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.
The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.

While they were here, we poked around in the garage for a while, where Jamie decided it was just too chaotic.

This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.
This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.

Jamie plopped down on the garage floor and started organizing.

It doesn't really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.
It doesn’t really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.

In the mean time, Ian got interested in a console radio/phonograph that Abby had purchased years ago as a piece of furniture, and was able to get it to come on and receive one very close radio station.

Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.
Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.

Last week in my cleaning efforts, I found a 1/4-size Moleskine notebook with journal entries by Abby from March 2004 until the day we got married in October 2004. The notebook itself was mostly empty, so I decided to use it to make notes about what our marriage was like in the form of letters to her … “Dear Abby.”

I was also aware that she’d written more journal entries than these. After Jamie and Ian left, I did some more cleaning, and found a ½-size hardback journal with entries in it starting on January 31, 2003…

“I’ve started dating Richard Barron. It is so great it’s scary.”

Yes, it was, Abby. Yes, it was.

As I was contemplating all this, the song My Tears Are Becoming a Sea, by M83, shuffled past, and it fit so well.

“I’m slowly drifting to you
The stars and the planets
Are calling me
A billion years away from you
I’m on my way.”

I miss her today.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. "One year with Richard," she wrote. "I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me... great romantic evening."
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. “One year with Richard,” she wrote. “I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me… great romantic evening.”

Some Songs and Lyrics On My Mind

Treasure by The Cure

 

She whispers “Please remember me When I am gone from here”
She whispers “Please remember me but not with tears”
Remember I was always true,
Remember that I always tried,
Remember I loved only you,
Remember me and smile
For it’s better to forget
Than to remember me
And cry
Remember I was always true
Remember that I always tried
Remember I loved only you
Remember me and smile
For it’s better to forget
Than to remember me
And cry

 

Still Here by ATB

 

I never knew life could be this way
Life without you
I never knew life could be this strange
Like a sky that isn’t blue
I know you’re still here
I know you still care
I know you follow me to places
Only you and I would share
You know you’re my love
Know that I always cared
I may have been away without you
But my heart was always here
Never forget
I never left
Always there in the shadow
Hard to believe
Because you couldn’t see
Always there when it mattered
I’m still here
I never meant to fall this way
So much to sacrifice
I never thought life would pass away
And at such a high price
Feel we’re still one
That love hasn’t gone
I sense everything about you
Around me when I’m alone
Know that you’ll always be
Deep in the heart of me
No matter where I am today
You’ll always be a part of me
Never forget
I never left
Always there in the shadow
Hard to believe
Because you couldn’t see
Always there when it mattered
I’m still here
I’m still here
I’m still here
I’m still here

Waiting (Strings and Vocals Mix) by Dash Berlin

 

The fading of the day
As night takes over
And I can almost feel
You here
Your memory remains
I breathe it closer
I swear that I still feel you near
The cold wind is taking over
It’s taking over
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
‘Til that day
I take you home
Know that I’m waiting
Haunted by your grace
The beauty of falling, falling
It echoes through my days
I still I hear you calling

You’re calling me
Haunted by your grace
You know I’m falling
So cold without you
Always in my mind
I hear you calling (I hear you calling)
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
‘Til that day
I take you home
Know that I’m waiting
Know that I’m waiting
Haunted by your grace
Beauty of falling, falling
It echoes through my days
I still hear you calling
You calling me
The cool wind is taking over
It’s taking over
Still you’re
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
‘Til that day
I take you home
Know that I’m waiting
Haunted by your grace
You know I’m falling
So cold without you
Always in my mind
I hear you calling (I hear you calling)
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
So far away
You’re gone so long
Oh and I’m waiting
‘Til that day
I take you home
Know that I’m waiting

Two Chances of a Lifetime

Now is the time for Team Blackout to start planning for two solar eclipse events.

An annular eclipse will pass across the United States October 14, 2023, and a total eclipse will pass across the United State on April 8, 2024 just two years from today.

This map shows the path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse.
This map shows the path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse.
This map shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.
This map shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.

I plan to be in the path of both of these events to photograph and enjoy them. Abby and I met with my sister Nicole and her husband for the Great American Eclipse of 2017 (link), and it was an amazing experience.

Now is your chance to plan a road trip! Who’s in?

The most unusual item Abby and I photographed in 2017 was the Great America Eclipse, which we saw with my sister and her husband in our mother's hometown of Park Hills, Missouri.
The most unusual item Abby and I photographed in 2017 was the Great America Eclipse, which we saw with my sister and her husband in our mother’s hometown of Park Hills, Missouri.

Paying through the Nose

Abby’s daughter Chele left yesterday morning after spending much of the week helping me with the “great clean-out.” Abby was a collector, and collected a lot of stuff. Chele and I made a big dent in it, but there remains much to do.

Today, for example, I bagged up and carted down to the next door neighbor a huge number of skeins of yarn from Abby’s sewing room. I toted bag after bag down there, where the Nipps, dad Mike, mom Joyce, and daughter Jen combed through the hundreds – possibly thousands – of skeins.

Drawers and more drawers of yarn filled Abby's sewing room.
Drawers and more drawers of yarn filled Abby’s sewing room.

One consequence of this activity is itching and sneezing. You can’t really dust or clean yarn, and much of it had been sitting for years in open cubbies, baskets, and tote bags, sometimes attached to the very beginning of some afghan or baby blanket Abby had started but didn’t like and set aside.

With every skein of yarn I picked up, I dislodged airborne poofs of house dust, dust mites, mouse droppings, spider eggs, and who knows what else, some small fraction of which I inhaled.

This is only a fraction - maybe 10% - of the yarn I found and carted away today. Jen, to whom I gave the yarn to share with her knitting and crochet group, said all knitters and crocheter collected yarn this way.
This is only a fraction – maybe 10% – of the yarn I found and carted away today. Jen, to whom I gave the yarn to share with her knitting and crochet group, said all knitters and crocheter collected yarn this way.

So in addition to that excellent feeling of being super-tired from three hours of carrying bag after bag of yarn 100 years in the spring sunshine, my nose and throat are itchy and clogged.

Also, here is my column from yesterday…

Picture this: the big clean-out

My stepdaughter Dawna is with me this week (she goes by her childhood nickname Chele when she is in Oklahoma.) She is helping me clean and organize the house after the death of my wife Abby, Chele’s mom.

The week has been incredibly productive.

After someone leaves a household, for whatever reason, their possessions, style, and sense of organization leaves with them, but there are things about them and their stuff that merit preservation.

Many people, for example, are “collectors.” They organize their memories and thoughts about their lives and loved-ones by holding on to objects. Maybe those are movie tickets from a first date, or a commemorative t-shirt from a visit to the zoo. Maybe it is a bronzed baby shoe or a souvenir spoon from Mount Rushmore.

Abby was such a person. Sometimes she would be going through a desk drawer, looking for a pen, and come across an old coin that was in her dad’s shoebox, and almost cry because she felt like she was holding a piece of someone she loved and lost.

I am not so much that person. As you might guess from my career as a photographer and writer, I am a recorder rather than a collector. For me, the most important way to preserve our lives and loves is in the way we record and share it. Photographs are the biggest part of that, but a journal can be the story of your life, which is why I recommend starting one if you don’t have one already.

Chele has been a huge – no, ginormous – help in separating the the wheat from the chaff. In addition to doing much of the labor of hauling off scrap paper and dusty old furniture, in a way, she is giving me permission to clean out all the stuff that was practical but not emotionally significant. Over the past seven months, I’ve been in a holding pattern, not because I thought Abby was going to get well and come home (though that would have been wonderful), but simply out of respect for her and her life.

I’ve really enjoyed another aspect of these clean-out efforts: giving away old furniture, broken power tools, unused sets of dishes, whatever, “country style,” meaning we leave it by the side of the road, and pretty much always within the hour it would be gone. If it’s not, we will dispose of it in another way, but I really like the idea of someone seeing an old chair at the curb, and taking it home, maybe to fixing it up and painting it in fancy colors and putting it in their flower garden. In fact, I love that idea: unused things becoming useful again.

Abby's daughter Chele spent much of the week helping me organize and reduce my house. She was a tremendous help.
Abby’s daughter Chele spent much of the week helping me organize and reduce my house. She was a tremendous help.

The Gunsmith’s Daughter

The Gunsmith’s Daughter, a poem in memory of Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron by Robert Stinson.

The gunsmith’s daughter is gone. How and what we know of him by her love remains witness.

By her we see the skilled days. By her we know a fixed bolt, a straight fence, a neighbor done right.

We see endless repair, genius innovation, a heart set right.

What can we do to save this metal, but to carry the stock and save from the day’s rust?

Our sights are well set. Because of their training, because of Her training in love, we can now also shoot straight.

Abby takes aim with her Winchester .22 magnum rifle; the scope is a 3x-9x zoom; note the Walther P22 on her side.
Abby takes aim with her Winchester .22 magnum rifle; the scope is a 3x-9x zoom; note the Walther P22 on her side.

Why I Don’t Want to Be “That Guy”

A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.
A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.

Today would have been my wife Abby’s 72nd birthday. Since she died just ten days ago, I’ve had a ton of stuff to do, and another ton of stuff on my mind.

I shared my thoughts about her birthday on Facebook, saying, “I promise I won’t be that guy who gets all nostalgic with every holiday and anniversary, but this one snuck up on me…”

Almost everyone told me it was okay to “be that guy,” or be anyone I want, as if I was telling them I wouldn’t be boring them with endless moroseness or tedious old news, but the truth is I was saying it to myself.

I don’t want to be the guy who was crushed by grief over my wife’s death. I want to be the guy who gets up in the morning and sees the sun shining a little brighter because she was here with me for nearly two decades. I want to be the guy who smiles more and says hello more and does a better job because of the love Abby and I shared.

I am also hearing (and seeing via technology) a lot of people asking me if I am okay. Yes, I am okay. I am not numb or dead inside, and I have no sense of regret or unfinished business. It is true that my body is responding to this process, and I am feeling an uptick in the little things, like tendonitis in a few of my joints due to my job and my age, and I recognize that big emotional changes are indivorceable from physical changes. “The body knows.” I am responding as I always have, with heat, stretching and exercise, and Tylenol when my jaw clinching gives me a headache.

So, I am taking care of myself. I am busy and optimistic. I am eating and sleeping. I am talking when I need to talk. An aside to this is that tonight I decided to use Abby’s prescription injectable vitamin B12. (I got really good with needles in the 1990s when I was giving myself allergy shots.) I don’t think I am vitamin deficient in any way, and I believe that diet is always the best way to address potential nutrient deficiencies, but the B12 is already in the medicine cabinet, and it won’t hurt me to use it.

So let me leave you with this heartwarming story of love to the end: when Abby was in nursing care, I visited her every day. When she was well enough, I’d pile her into a wheelchair and we’d go for a stroll, sometimes with Summer the Chihuahua in her lap. Sometimes she would ask me for a Coke, a drink she associated with growing up. On one occasion, the vending machine was out of Coke, so I went to the corner store to get one, where I found a bottle of Starbucks’ frappuccino, which I often brought home to her, and bought it, too. When I rounded the corner coming into her room, her smile was irrepressible, and as she drank it, she looked so happy. “This is so good,” she told me. That was about a week before she died.

Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.
Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.

From the Beginning: Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron

Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron died March 13, 2022. She was 71.

Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.
Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.

“You see, it’s all clear
You were meant to be here
From the beginning…”
~From the Beginning, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

From the day I met Abby Milligan, I liked her, and from the first date we had together, on January 17, 2003, I was comfortable with her and attracted to her, thought of her as rational, intelligent, and affectionate, and very soon felt very much in love with her.

Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield.
Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield.

Abby and I met in April 2002 when she asked me to photograph one of her clients, Fun Time Pools, when she was working as an advertising sales representative at my newspaper. We got along fine, but I spent my time and energies on other women during that era.

Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.
Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.

Abby asked me out in January 2003, since I hadn’t yet asked her. We had our first date January 17. We had dinner at Papa Gjorgjo downtown, followed by taking her to see the house on 17th Street I was thinking of buying from Ann Kelley.

Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.
Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.

Because I’d washed my car earlier in the day, the passenger side door mechanism was frozen, so she had to climb over the center console to get in my car.

For years afterwards, Abby would proudly tell the story. “I broke his car on our first date.”

Journal, January 18, 2003: Abby and I met last night and had dinner, then went to [Ann’s] house and talked about fixing it up. We held hands and held each other by the fireplace for a while. Back at my apartment, we curled up on my futon, held each other close and talked. She purred. I held her hands and touched her hair, and she nestled closer and closer. We traded back rubs. It turned into kissing, so much gentle kissing. We were so close, so warm, so happy to be together.

The next day on the phone, she said, “I think I woke up smiling.”

Later she told our coworkers that our date was “even better than she wanted it to be.”

Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.

Our relationship grew by leaps and bounds in the spring of 2003.

Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she's wearing for her birthday in 2003.
Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she’s wearing for her birthday in 2003.

In our first weeks together, she helped paint my apartment and add shelves above the living room. On nights we did this, we got a carafe of wine, and while tipsy one night, Abby called it a “giraffe.” After that, we referred to drinking wine together as “getting giraffed.”

Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was "in" was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was “in” was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada's Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada’s Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.

Several times in the spring of 2003, Abby and I drove to Shawnee, where I was renting airplanes at the time, and went flying a Cessna 152. We both had a terrific time, and I even let her fly the airplane a few times, which came very naturally to her.

Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.

In June, Abby and I flew to Florida to meet my parents and sister, and we all had a great time. My father seemed the happiest about this, both because Abby knew tools and how to use them, and because he had a bit of a crush on her.

Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.
Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.

From the start, our sex life was amazing. Abby was gentle, playful, kind, caring, creative and patient. She always smelled great. We always held each other close afterwards. Always.

Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.
Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.

In July 2003, Abby and I took our first road trip together, The High Road. It was an amazing time, hiking in the desert, which she had never visited, all day, followed by raucous motel sex in the evenings. It was a bellwether week for both of us, alone together intensely like a married couple, under stress and having fun at the same time, exploring our sexuality and the high desert. I had initially thought of the trip as being a northern New Mexico jaunt, but together we got more and more ambitious as the week went by, and made it as far as the Grand Canyon, which she’d never seen.

Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.
Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.

Prior to our wedding, I asked my parents to pay for us to have Abby’s teeth fixed, which they did, which was very generous.

Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.

The feel of her hands in mine, the light in her eyes, her smile, her laugh, the way she looked at me, the smell of her hair, and everything else about her said “home” to me in every way.

Abby made me into an animal lover and owner. Before we got married, Abby got two goats, Coal and Buxton, who were mostly my pets since I worked in the garden and the back yard. They have since died.

Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.

We talked about marriage, and decided we were engaged, on the anniversary of our first date. I’ve always thought it was smart plan to be with someone for at least a year before getting married so you can experience each other through all the seasons, holidays, and anniversaries, good and bad.

Abby and I married on October 12, 2004, and were happy, faithful, and in love until the day she died.

On that sunny wedding day in the adventure playground of southern Utah, neither of us felt “nervous” like you sometimes hear brides and grooms say… we were both 100% invested, confident and committed.

Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby is always there for us.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby was always there for us.

Abby was among the most empathetic people I have ever known. In September 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, including my sister’s home in the Lower Ninth. For weeks afterwards, Abby couldn’t pick up a spoon or a bar of soap without thinking, “Nicole doesn’t even have this.” She ended up going to Walmart, buying a suitcase on wheels, then buying enough clothing and housewares to fill it, which we then sent to my sister who was staying with Mom in Florida.

Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.

Right after we got married, we got our first dog together, Sierra Kayenta Avenue, a long coat Chihuahua, as a puppy. Sierra died in early 2018. In 2006, we got Maximum Speed Boulevard, a smooth coat Chihuahua, who died in May 2019. In 2017, we got an Irish Wolfhound, Hawken Rifle Trail, who I walk every day. After Sierra died, we adopted Summer Time Lane, a young female Chihuahua.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.

“Days go by, I catch myself smile
More than you’d ever expect
It’s been a long while
Since it’s been okay to feel this way…”

~Duncan Sheik, Days Go By

I had never been married before. Abby was married to Paul Milligan for 23 years until his death in 1992 from metastatic lung cancer. They have a daughter, Dawna Michele Milligan Reeves, who I adore. Dawna, who grew up known as Chele (which we call her) married Tom Reeves in 2009. They had a baby, our grandson, Paul Thomas, in 2011. They live in the Baltimore, Maryland suburb of Parkville, and we saw them two or three times a year, but they hope to move to Dallas soon.

Abby and her daughter Dawna "Chele" Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Abby and her daughter Dawna “Chele” Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.

The thing we talked about the least was Abby’s nephew Mitchell, who we often referred to as “our son,” and of whom we were both guardians. He was a very troubled child. His mother, Abby’s sister Gwyn, died in his presence, unattended on her bathroom floor, in 2000 of meningitis when Mitchell was 8. She was 33.

Mitchell’s father was an abusive alcoholic and drug user, but was out of the picture by the time Gwyn died.

Mitchell was prone to fits of violence, crying, acting-out, and depression, and was completely selfish. He was so addicted to video games, despite our efforts to control it, that he was in danger on a number of occasions of flunking out of school. He would hurt any feelings or disobey anything we told him to play video games. In 2010, it came to a head, and we threw him out. We never regretted that, or any other actions we took with Mitchell. We offered him a home and a life, and he declined.

Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell's potential, he was something of a lost cause.
Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell’s potential, he was something of a lost cause.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33. Inez died in August 2021.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33. Inez died in August 2021.

The rest of our families and we got along fine. Abby loved my family and I hers. My parents were delighted when we decided to get married: at Christmas 2003 in Florida, I asked Mom, Dad, and Nicole “what they thought” about me marrying Abby. They paused and looked at each other, then nodded in approval. When I got up to use the restroom, they all high-fived each other.

A huge difference between Abby and me was that I am something of a minimalist, while she was decidedly a collector. Though fundamentally at odds, it is something we simply accepted about each other.

Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole's house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this "I love you" label, which I still have.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this “I love you” label, which I still have.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.

As nice as our daily lives were, Abby and I had the best times when we were on the road. We have been all over the country, from the woods in Maryland where The Blair Witch Project was made to the home of London Bridge, and dozens of locations in between. And it wasn’t just our destinations that we love, but the travel itself. We loved opening the tailgate of her pickup and sitting on it to have lunch at a truck stop. We loved the great big cups of black coffee in the center console. We loved the wind in eastern New Mexico and the sunset in southern Utah and the giant twine ball in Kansas.

Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010. Not only does she look sexy with a camera, taking pictures together is one of our favorite activities.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010. Not only does she look sexy with a camera, taking pictures together is one of our favorite activities.
Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.

Abby retired from Legal Shield when she turned 65.

Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.
Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.

Growing older was not easy for Abby. Rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren syndrome  took their toll. It was the one thing I would have changed about her if I could: her health. The failure of modern drugs like Rituximab and Humira mean that Abby and I managed her pain with opioid and conventional medications, and patience.

I lost count of the number of her hospitalizations, ICU stays, and near-deaths. Some details…

  • In 2005, she was hospitalized for several days with her third bout of shingles.
  • In 2006, she was prescribed methotrexate, which eased the arthritis, but caused her hair to thin and fall out.
  • In 2007, her rheumatologist tried adalimumab (Humira), which also reduced her arthritis, but “felt like hot lava” when injecting, and gave her a serious rash that didn’t itch, but eventually covered her whole body, and took three months to resolve.
  • In spring 2008, our rheumatologist turned to rituximab, a very powerful chemotherapy drug, infused in doses so high that the nurses felt the need to call the pharmacy to recheck the dose. The drug worked, and she and her former mother-in-law flew to Baltimore and had a great time, with Abby’s arthritis in remission. However, the consequence of this powerful treatment was an extensive destruction of her immune system, and in May she developed pneumonia. On Saturday May 10, 2008, she was so weak that EMS had to transport her to the emergency room. She was admitted to ICU. Monday morning, we had to intubate her. The entire hospital stay lasted nearly six weeks. You can read a complete synopsis of the event here (link.)
  • In early December 2011, Abby had a heart attack, and flew to Oklahoma City to have a stent inserted.
  • On four occasions in 2012, Abby was hospitalized with serious infections, including a MRSA infection, and three kidney infections, which were the result of a very large kidney stone, which she had removed by lithotripsy in 2013.
  • In May 2015, Abby was hospitalized for eight days with a kidney infection so serious that at one point a nurse handed me a list of nursing homes.
  • In February 2021 Abby was hospitalized for several days for dehydration and high calcium levels, and because of the coronavirus epidemic, I was unable to be with her to advocate for her care, which was very difficult.
  • In August 2021, Abby was very sick with a urinary tract in infection that resulted in her falling on her left shoulder, breaking the head of her humerus, and leading to a long hospital stay.
  • On October 15, 2021, Abby was again admitted with weakness and confusion. At first it looked like another UTI, but a chest x-ray supported a diagnosis of pneumonia. By October 22, she was admitted to Coal County Memorial Hospital for continued care. On November 10, 2021, Abby was admitted to Ballard Nursing Center in Ada, Oklahoma.
  • I visited Abby every day I was able during her stay at Ballard.
  • On March 10, 2022, medical personnel and I concluded that it was time for Abby to be in hospice care. Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron died at 7:50 a.m. Sunday, March 13, 2022. She was 71.
Abby looks remarkably beautiful and healthy just days before the serious health crisis that eventually put her into long-term nursing care.
Abby looks remarkably beautiful and healthy just days before the serious health crisis that eventually put her into long-term nursing care.

Abby fit with a lot of my ideas of an ideal woman: she was sweet, she was bright, she was smart, she was a little bit of a tomboy. She had a country-girl saltiness I found attractive but hard to describe.

Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.
Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.
This is Abby's senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.
This is Abby’s senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.

Some other things about Abby…

  • She loved Christmas more than anyone I know.
  • She loved her parents with all her heart; I know this sounds like a lot of people, but Abby took it to the next level. She cried when she talked about them. Her mother died at age 60 in 1986, and her father died just before his 87th birthday in 2010.
  • Many things made my wife cry, but none more than the death of a pet. On the several occasions when I was present when her dogs died, and Abby cried louder and more intensely than I have ever witnessed anyone cry.
  • Abby loved John Wayne and his movies. Part of this was that her father resembled Wayne in many ways, including his rugged attitude. Abby collected John Wayne memorabilia.
  • Abby collected playing cards.
  • Abby cheered out loud for good guys in movies. She laughed with all her might when things were funny.
  • Although she always went through the motions of study like watching political debate, she and I almost always land on the same side of the issue. Abby’s politics were always about compassion.
  • Abby was moved by the U.S. Flag and what it represented, but understood why it was sometimes necessary to protest symbols and institutions. She was an NRA member, but often questions their core policies.
  • Abby thought tactical was cool.
  • Abby and I called each other the usual spousal nicknames like Honey or Sweetheart, but our unique nicknames for each other stem from our first vacation together, The High Road, when we drove up Cedar Mesa on a narrow, winding gravel road called the Mokee Dugway. Through our entire marriage, we both answered to Mokee, and sometimes our conversations only consist of that word.

Our songs were Our Little World by Susan Ashton, Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, and Crystal Baller by Third Eye Blind…

“Can we try and take the high road
Though we don’t know where it ends
I want to be your Crystal Baller
I want to show you how it ends…”
~Crystal Baller, Third Eye Blind

“Come and hold me, hold me tight
I wanna love you with all of my might
‘Cause all is good and all is right
In our little world…”
~Our Little World, Susan Ashton

“I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…”
~Wichita Lineman, Glen Campbell

Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.

Despite the fair amount of pain she dealt with every day, she seldom took it out on me, and when she did, I knew it meant I needed to address her pain, not get angry at her.

She loved me every day, as I her, and we never went a day without “I love you.”

Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2014.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2014.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mackenzee E. Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.
A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mackenzee E. Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019

 

The Next Step: Hospice Care

I’m sorry to report that my wife Abby is being transferred from nursing care to hospice care. For those not familiar with hospice care, it is a level of medical care intended to make the dying comfortable.

As I tell friends and relatives this news, many seem shocked or surprised, but since I have witnessed it continuously over the last year, and especially since she has been in nursing care, to me it is less of an event and more of a continual slide toward the inevitable.

Abby’s health has always been difficult due to several important underlying problems like rheumatoid arthritis, and in 2021 she battled a number of illnesses that resulted in several long hospital stays, and eventually to admission in nursing care.

In the last few days, Abby has gotten less responsive, and yesterday was almost non-verbal. Watching this, I wasn’t surprised when a nurse called me aside when I arrived at the nursing center to visit Abby yesterday. In fact, I could see it in the nurse’s eyes, and knew exactly what she was going to say.

“It’s obvious that you are a loving and caring husband,” the hospice administrator told me today as she had me sign the forms, and explained the procedures.

So it’s only a matter of days, probably, before she leaves us, and I want to remain devoted to my ongoing message, that I am grateful beyonds words to have spent so many wonderful years together.

Abby smiles for me at Russell's Travel Plaza in eastern New Mexico in June. Nothing made us happier than traveling together.
Abby smiles for me at Russell’s Travel Plaza in eastern New Mexico in June. Nothing made us happier than traveling together.

Living Alone

Abby and I hold hands in this early 2020 image by Mackenzee E. Crosby.
Abby and I hold hands in this early 2020 image by Mackenzee E. Crosby.

“So you’re having to learn to live alone all over again.” ~Friend and Byng firefighter Kenny Vogt, December 2021.

Yes, I am. After 17 glowing years of happy marriage, Abby and I find ourselves separated by her health, which restricts her to life in a nursing home.

I thought about this recently as I watched a vlogger my sister recommended named Michele Janse talk about living alone for the first time in years after going through a divorce. Janse has a few good tips, and a decent perspective on what it means to shift from one living paradigm to another.

I see Abby every day (unless circumstance prevents it), and we share the same I love yous and I miss yous that we always have. Sometimes I can bring our Chihuahua to visit her. At the end of the day, though, we are separate, and I live at home alone.

But I’m not really alone. Her DNA and style remains in this house. Her love for me stays right in my heart with my love for her. And finally, our dogs are always ours, and being with them and enjoying being with them belongs to both of us, as something we built together.

Janse is young enough that she hasn’t really had any persistent, definitive experience of living alone. I lived alone from 1985 to 2004, so I had a lot of practice to find out how I wanted to live.

It is a completely different experience living in our house without Abby. For reasons that remain unclear, the house seems smaller now. I’ve moved this chair and that stack of magazines, but overall, I haven’t changed anything significantly enough that I couldn’t have it back the way it was before evening. That’s out of respect for her, not hope that she will come home, which I believe she will not.

In recent days, Abby has been asking me to bring more of her things to her, especially things for her to do, like magazines, sewing, and crochet. I take that as a sign that she is hopeful and happier with her circumstance.

As far as what is keeping her in need of long-term care, it is her physical strength, core muscles and leg muscles, that is keeping her from caring for herself. And honestly, I could probably take care of her if I were retired, but I work for a living, sometimes out of town, so long-term care is the road we are taking.

I don't remember what was so funny, but I love that Abby and I are laughing together in autumn sunshine.
I don’t remember what was so funny, but I love that Abby and I are laughing together in autumn sunshine.

Easy Little Things

Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.
Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.

I had my first successful nap in 10 days.

Despite being tired and needing to rest, when I had the Rona, lying down often resulted in a shift in my head and chest mucus, prompting yet another coughing fit, so napping was impossible, and sleeping at night was tough.

Today, though, I balled up in the living room couch quite cozily, and dove into a hard, welcome nap.

The first thing I dreamed was that Abby was there with me, as simple as that. I could feel her breathe.

Then the dreamscape shifted. At first, I was convinced that I had to accomplish something like answering a riddle, and if I got it even partially wrong, all the consciousness of the universe would vanish with no hope of being restored.

Next, I was trying to escape some kind of a plot to end the world. Mackenzee Crosby  and I were forced into a maze of trickery and exploration as we probed through streets that were sometimes made of asphalt, and sometimes made of cotton candy. We eventually realized that the plot was to flood the world.

Rounding a corner into a child’s room, we see millions of white and blue balloons floating around us. The white ones are hydrogen, and the blue ones are oxygen, and at the given time, they would collide and combine into water, along with, I am told by an explanatory video, hundreds of light sabre duals fought with blue and white fluorescent  light bulbs.

At an opera we are led into the basement through a trap door, where we enter a room made entirely of shiny brown leather. We see a fat man in a leather bed, where I sit and give him counseling for his depression. At the session ends, I pull a straight razor from a cubby in the side of the bed and say, “So I guess you won’t be needing this, now.”

I look up to realize the watering has begun. Balloons are colliding and water is rising. We escape through a street-level window, Mackenzee pulling me through at the last possible second. We are in an alley at a biker bar. I see children who have obviously gone insane. The water continues to rise.

How much of our perception depends on our perspective?
How much of our perception depends on our perspective?

A COVID-19 Journal

This is my rapid COVID-19 test from the evening of Jan. 16, 2022, indicating I am positive for the virus.
This is my rapid COVID-19 test from the evening of Jan. 16, 2022, indicating I am positive for the virus.

Day 10, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, final report: This is my last entry about this illness. Although I am still experiencing residual symptoms, especially nasal and chest congestion, I believe I am through it. It’s been days since I had any fever.

I had a worse case than many of those around me, and there is no telling why that might be the case. On the other hand, I never felt that my life was in danger, nor did I ever feel compelled to go to the emergency room.

My case is an excellent argument for the use of masks in public, since I was probably contagious for several days before I was aware I was ill, but I masked the entire time.

How does the vaccine fit into all this? I was vaccinated before the omicron variant appeared, and was probably protected from the previous variants.

Day 9, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022: I managed to sleep until 10:30 this morning, all on the living room couch, which, for unknown reasons, seemed to accommodate me better than the bed right now.

No fever today, and I am eating, but I still have that nagging cough, and I still can barely speak.

For the first time all week it was nice out, so I walked the dogs, and that went fine. While I was out I saw Mike next door. I kept my distance. He told me he was about to take his daughter Jen to the emergency room in Shawnee because of “some kind of crud.”

When I am legitimately better, I am going to clean, clean, clean. The reason I can’t do it now is 1. Cleaning send  clouds of filth into the air and into my nose and lungs, and 2. The head-down posture required for things like scrubbing a sink causes a mucus shift in my chest and sinuses, which often triggers a coughing fit.

Day 8, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022: I slept the whole night, only interrupted by a couple of coughing fits, after which I was able to go right back to sleep. I was also able to eat a real meal today. I weighed 150 pounds this morning, compared to 139 pounds two years ago when I had the flu. Directly comparing them isn’t very useful, but at least in terms of “how I felt,” I was legitimately sicker when I had the flu.

My cough is mostly productive, and my voice has returned about 5%.

I think today was a step in the right direction.

Day 7, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022: As the day turned to night yesterday, it seemed like my cough was getting more productive and, despite the 100-yard walk to the mailbox that made me a little woozy, I hoped to get to sleep earlier and try to make up for a very sleepless period.

By about 1:30 this morning, I started having very intense dreams about being congested. To my surprise, with no warning or even nausea, I found myself running to the bathroom to throw up, which I did three times, and I was such a mess. I also had to clean up the mess in the hall where I hadn’t been quite fast enough to make it to the bathroom. It’s not like me at all to have gastrointestinal symptoms. I guess this is another thing we are finding with this pandemic; it is a very complex and dangerous disease.

Day 6, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022: It was very hard to sleep last night, despite taking a bunch of Benadryl, which makes me drowsy. The trouble both nights was that if a lied down and actually went sleep, not long after that a hugely uncomfortable coughing fit hit me hard, over and over. I ended up kind of propping myself in the corner of the couch and dozing off. If I wasn’t in a hard sleep, I could feel the coughing attack coming on and could either chase it out of my chest with a big glass of water, or by coughing it up before it got too terrible. Either way, I was up and down in a half-sleep doing that about every 20 to 30 minutes all night.

Day 5 supplemental: At around 4 p.m. while trying to talk to the dogs, I discovered that I have lost my voice. I also discovered that my throat was getting sore, and the mucus was looser. I don’t know if that’s a stage of the disease, random chance, or me doubling-down on the expectorants, but it is nice that I have a more-productive cough, which hopefully keeps me out away from any kind of pneumonia.

Day 5, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022: My recovery seems to be on hold. I don’t have any fever today, and I have yet to experience body aches many of my friends have described. But it seems to have settled in my chest. I am breathing fine, but I have a nagging, frustrating cough, such that despite medicating myself with tons of OTC meds, woke me up repeatedly last night. By about 4 a.m., I gave up and turned on some Netflix. I got a grand total of maybe three hours of actual sleep.

Once last night and once this morning, I coughed so hard I actually did blarf, but it wasn’t from nausea or GI, but that the muscles of my diaphragm slammed so hard it actually forced a little bit of food up.

Exactly zero appetite.

Day 4, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022: My symptoms are hanging on tight as a tick. Several people who had the omicron variant recently said they had a nearly identical set of symptoms, and they all said it was “like the worst head cold you ever had.”

I can still taste and smell. I woke up in coughing fits a couple of times last night and nearly blarfed from coughing so hard. My ribs hurt from coughing.

Since I have no appetite, I made a deal with myself that I’ve made with Abby a bunch over the years: even though it doesn’t sound good, what if I put some scrambled eggs in front of me? Turns out, they were great.

I had a very rough cold that was just like this in 2005, the week my dad died, and I felt so apologetic that I couldn’t stop coughing on the plane when Abby and I flew to Florida for his funeral.

It’s still early in my isolation, but except that I can’t visit Abby right now, I am enjoying it. The dogs are great company, and I use whatever energy I have to take on little projects around the house. I am also immersed in entertainment.

Day 3, later in the morning Monday, Jan. 17, 2022: Jamie called to ask me if I needed anything. For some reason, her genuine concern sort of shook off a layer of denial for me. After thanking her and hanging up, I worked myself into a legitimate panic attack which, in my current state, I mistook for shortness of breath. I laid down and put a fan on myself and tried to sleep, with Summer the Chihuahua on my lap. A minute or two later I thought I should call Abby and tell her I love her incase I died right then. I talked to her and she sounded good, so I was able to calm myself. As of 1:15 this afternoon, I am not dead.

Day 3, early morning, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022: I seemed to sleep all night long, but woke up feeling weirdly weak and dizzy. I am still coughing. No fever. If there is a bright spot, it’s that tooth paste and coffee smell and taste like toothpaste and coffee.

It might not last, but on Day 3, I could still taste and smell coffee.
It might not last, but on Day 3, I could still taste and smell coffee.

Day 2, evening, Sunday Jan. 16. 2022: A friend on social media saw that I couldn’t find a test kit and dropped one in our mailbox for me this evening. I took the test and it was positive. I have COVID-19.

Day 2, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022: I was able to sleep in, and slept well. First temp was 98.5ºF. Cough sounds and feels ugly, but not very different from a cough that might have with a cold.

Day 1, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022: I felt fine for much of the day, but by afternoon, I started thinking my chest congestion was becoming more significant. By around 5 p.m., I was running a fever hovering around 99.2º F, but no additional symptoms. My nose was less runny, but my chest remained congested in just about the same way it does once or twice a year when I catch the crud. It is a nagging nuisance, but I don’t feel any difficulty breathing, and I don’t feel any rattling like I did two years ago when I had the flu. Update late Saturday night: I still have my sense of taste and smell.

Prior to day 1, I felt fine except for a runny, itchy nose completely consistent with hay fever for about three days. It was very windy some of those days, and I covered several grass fires for my newspaper and got into the smoke. I masked the entire time.

At a photo/interview op Friday, the Ada Police Chief Carl Allen told me, “Don’t have a stroke, don’t have a heart attack, don’t get in a car crash, don’t fall out of a tree. There is no room for you in any hospital.”

I am not currently in possession of a COVID-19 home test kit, so I may go to town for one tomorrow.

COVID-19 numbers nationwide have been soaring, with a seven-day new case average of nearly 800,000, but fewer people than ever seem concerned or wear masks. The current dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the Omicron, which is reportedly much more contagious than previous versions, but also notably less severe.

I got the Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations on Feb. 24 and March 26, and a booster vaccination on Aug. 23.

I have been in a hospital setting most of the time for the last six months, since my wife Abby was critically ill, then in long-term care. I have always masked in those settings, but I am certain that my risk was elevated by this.

My overall health situation is that I am 58, physically active at home and on the job, am not diabetic or obese, and tend to eat very healthy foods. My blood pressure is well-controlled, and I don’t have any important underlying medical conditions.

Sadly, I will not be able to visit my wife until I am fully well.

My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm March 26, 2021.
My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm March 26, 2021.

A Tuna Steak Experiment

Last year my wife Abby, at the urging of a friend, asked me to pick up some tuna steaks. I did, and placed them in the freezer, where they have been since then. Two nights ago I spotted them, and thawed a couple, then read about how to prepare them.

Between the web and my sister Nicole Barron Hammill and her husband Tracey Hammill, I tried my first-ever tuna steak tonight. I pan-seared it in toasted sesame oil with garlic, fresh ground pepper, and salt, and it was pretty good, though next time I think I’ll use more salt.

I served this tuna steak on a bed of mixed rice with some Brussels sprouts, and it was pretty good.
I served this tuna steak on a bed of mixed rice with some Brussels sprouts, and it was pretty good.

Testing, One, Two…

Ballard Nursing Center called me this afternoon to say that Abby was having trouble breathing and, between her and the nursing staff, decided to go to the emergency room.

I caught up with her there, where we saw a doctor, who ordered the usual tests.

Abby seemed to be breathing easier, and was feisty and defiant. Her vitals were normal, including her blood oxygen saturation hovering around 99-100%.

Then a nurse came in and told me her PCR COVID-19 test was positive, and apologetically told me I would need to leave.

Abby is vaccinated, and tested positive for COVID once before, for two weeks in November.

At this point, I don’t know if she will return to Ballard to the isolation wing, or will be admitted to the COVID wing at Mercy Hospital.

Late update: Mercy called to say they are sending her back to Ballard, where she will not need return to COVID isolation like she was in November, since re-testing positive is common for weeks or months after an initial positive.

This is one of my favorite photos of Abby, from a trip to the Oklahoma City Zoo a few years ago.
This is one of my favorite photos of Abby, from a trip to the Oklahoma City Zoo a few years ago.

Really Missing Her

This ceramic moon ornament hangs on a pillar on the front porch this evening. Like so much of this home, it is something Abby and I bought together, in Santa Fe about 10 years ago. It, and all the things like it around me, reminds me of her.
This ceramic moon ornament hangs on a pillar on the front porch this evening. Like so much of this home, it is something Abby and I bought together, in Santa Fe about 10 years ago. It, and all the things like it around me, reminds me of her.

Everyone around town asks about Abby every day. I give them part of the story: she’s about the same. Closer to the truth is she isn’t thriving. She is quiet and comfortable, but has no energy, and is able to do little more than watch television.

She was is COVID isolation for two weeks at Ballard Nursing Center, but tested negative yesterday, and moved back into a regular room, so I no longer have to dress like the abdominal snowman in order to see her.

I bring her egg nog. I tell her about my day. She falls asleep.

There is no shortage of “I love you” from either of us, but sometimes it’s all we have left.

I miss her.

Now that Hawken the Irish wolfhound is an indoor dog, he follows me in and out of the house. He and his sister, Summer the Chihuahua, seem to know that Abby is missing. Abby asks about the dogs every day.
Now that Hawken the Irish wolfhound is an indoor dog, he follows me in and out of the house. He and his sister, Summer the Chihuahua, seem to know that Abby is missing. Abby asks about the dogs every day.

The Comfort of Family

My readers recall that my wife Abby is not well, and remains in skilled nursing care.

I visit her every day, and try to bring her something  – photos, pillows, magazines, clothes – that hopefully will help her feel comfortable and restful.

One thing I recently brought her is a quilt her aunt Judy made.

After Abby’s father Hershel Shoffner died in April 2010, Abby got ahold of his blue jeans. At first she had no idea what to do with them, but then Judy offered to make them into a quilt. It turned out to be really beautiful.

Abby's aunt Judy Taff made this quilt for her out of Abby's father's blue jeans.
Abby’s aunt Judy Taff made this quilt for her out of Abby’s father’s blue jeans.

I brought it to Abby early in her stay. It is heavy and very warm, and reminds her of her father, who she thinks about and misses every day.

Including the flaws in Hershel's blue jeans in this quilt was a brilliant idea. It really is a beautiful piece.
Including the flaws in Hershel’s blue jeans in this quilt was a brilliant idea. It really is a beautiful piece.

National Pickle Day

Robert wears a pickle suit and holds "The Pickle" in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.
Robert wears a pickle suit and holds “The Pickle” in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.

Our long-time photographer friend Robert visited today, both to see Abby, and because today is National Pickle Day, and he brought The Pickle.

Wait, “The Pickle”?

Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.
Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.

Well, it’s a long story, and I haven’t talked about it much because really, it’s not my story. The Pickle has been on television and in newspapers, and, as pickles go, it is famous.

The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first "pickled" in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.
The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first “pickled” in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.

Abby enjoyed her visit, for which Robert dressed in a pickle costume. He brought her flowers, and said she looked good.

Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.
Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.

As always, Robert and I did photography together.

Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.
Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.

Abby and I were glad to see him.

Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.
Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.

A New Home

A month ago, Abby and I attended her family reunion, and Abby, seen on the right side of the image, seemed fine, and had a great time.
A month ago, Abby and I attended her family reunion, and Abby, seen on the right side of the image, seemed fine, and had a great time.

I wish I had better to news to share with my readers, but my wife Abby has moved from Coal County Memorial Hospital in Coalgate, Oklahoma, to Ballard Nursing Center in Ada, near where we live.

She has shown inconsistent recovery, and a gradual regression in her physical health.

2021 was a very hard year for her, though, oddly, not at all connected to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

In February, she collapsed during a difficult period of dehydration, followed by a slow recovery.

We were both happy to travel to New Mexico in June, but she struggled with travel and all that involved.

On August 7, Abby fell and broke the head of her left humerus, requiring an emergency room visit. On August 8, she was too weak to stand on her on own due to a urinary tract infection, requiring an ER visit, which resulted in a week’s stay at Mercy Hospital Ada, and about two weeks recovering at CCMH.

Abby came home the Friday before Labor Day, still weak but getting better. Home health care came to see her regularly.

As all this was happening to her physically,  her brother-in-law Larry died of COVID-19 in January, her former brother-in-law Tim died in July, and her former mother-in-law Dorothy and her sister Inez died in August.

Abby was excited about attending her family’s annual reunion October 9 and 10, and had a good time there.

She and I hoped to go out to eat for our anniversary October 12, but she was too weak. She got steadily worse as the week wore on, and was admitted to Mercy Hospital again on October 15 with a diagnosis of pneumonia. She was at CCGH from October 21 until today, November 10.

Realistically, I have no concrete expectations about the outcome of this.

Finally, a word about the professional health care providers who treated and cared for Abby. You are in a great and noble profession, despite the often difficult circumstances you face both in treated so many patients with COVID-19 infection, to the completely unforgivable abuse you might have faced by those ignorant of how medicine, and especially vaccines, work. You are heroes and hard workers, and deserve thanks.

I took Summer the Chihuahua, right, to visit Abby today at her new room at Ballard Nursing Center. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, we had to visit through this window, but Abby was happy to see her dog. You can see she is wearing her "Yeti," a super-warm pullover her daughter gave her for Christmas a couple of years ago.
I took Summer the Chihuahua, right, to visit Abby today at her new room at Ballard Nursing Center. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, we had to visit through this window, but Abby was happy to see her dog. You can see she is wearing her “Yeti,” a super-warm pullover her daughter gave her for Christmas a couple of years ago.

Another Non-Report on Abby

Abby has been hospitalized for 19 days, presently in a recovery-level of care in Coalgate, Oklahoma. It is the third time this year she’s been in hospital care.

I wish I could say she is doing cartwheels in the halls and coming home tomorrow, but she’s still just too weak to come home yet.

She is eating well, and is lucid, and wants to come home. She is receiving occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Abby and I certainly miss each other, and she wants to be in the comfort of her own home, but I doubt she misses anything more than the company of her Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane.
Abby and I certainly miss each other, and she wants to be in the comfort of her own home, but I doubt she misses anything more than the company of her Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane.

An Updated Update on Abby

Everyone around town has been asking about my wife Abby, who remains in a recovery bed at Mary Hurley Hospital in Coalgate.

She’s slowly recovering. She was really sagging hard last weekend, but has been making progress every day; good appetite, cooperating with physical therapists, moving more.

I don’t know when I can take her home. The standard for this would be if I can take care of her, and leave her alone for periods when I need to work.

This is one of the most recent images I have of Abby.
This is one of the most recent images I have of Abby.

Another Report on Abby

Readers recall that my wife Abby is having a rough health year. After a three-day hospital stay in February, August was pretty much taken up by a urinary tract infection and recovery.

She experienced what seemed to be a full recovery, and we were able to attend her family reunion October 9 and 10, and celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary October 12.

But later in that week, she got sicker and weaker, and Friday, October 16, EMS transported her to the Mercy Ada emergency room. After a week at Mercy being treated with intravenous antibiotics for pneumonia, we moved her to “swing bed” care (rehab) at the Coal County Memorial Hospital where we got such good care in August.

She is resting and receiving intravenous fluids and potassium, but at the moment isn’t showing much improvement.

Sorry this post isn’t optimistic. Many people ask about her every day, and I wrote this update so they will know.

The dogs and I miss her, and I know she wants to come home. We are on hold.

Abby watches as her sister Gail tries to play Abby's three-string cigar box guitar at the Shoffner Family Reunion October 9. Abby was doing well that weekend, but has been sagging since.
Abby watches as her sister Gail tries to play Abby’s three-string cigar box guitar at the Shoffner Family Reunion October 9. Abby was doing well that weekend, but has been sagging since.

Take Care of Yourself

Abby's therapy included the intravenous antibiotic ceftriaxone, a powerful, broad-spectrum drug she has received many times over the years.
Abby’s therapy included the intravenous antibiotic ceftriaxone, a powerful, broad-spectrum drug she has received many times over the years.

My wife Abby is back in the hospital, this time for a bout of lower lobe pneumonia. The acute phase is over, but her recovery, like her difficult illness in August, is achingly slow.

It is stretching me thin.

One thing everybody tells me is “take care of yourself.” On paper, I know what that means, but I also know my duty to my wife, and that being true to that means I might not be able to always take care of myself.

Abby was well enough ten days ago to attend the annual Shoffner Family Reunion.
Abby was well enough ten days ago to attend the annual Shoffner Family Reunion.

So I’m eating and sleeping, but those activities are tainted by worry and frustration.

A bright spot in this otherwise cheerless entry is that longtime friend Ann Dicus baked us a pecan pie and sent it along with a kind, empathetic card today. Thank you, Ann.

Ann's pecan pie was a very kind, meaningful, caring gesture.
Ann’s pecan pie was a very kind, meaningful, caring gesture.

A Work in Progress

Readers know that my wife Abby has been struggling with a period of poor health that began in early August. Her recovery has been achingly slow, but today I am cautiously optimistic to report that she is legitimately better.

Abby and Summer
Abby and Summer

You can see that she’s still a little rough, but her optimism and success with PT and movement in general is a weight off of me. I am hopeful she will get better.

The August That Lost Us

“Everything wrong
Gonna be alright
Come September…” ~Natalie Imbruglia

My wife Abby and I were lulled into a sense of optimism, both external and internal. SARS-CoV-2 pandemic numbers were in freefall. We were both excited to finally be able to travel out west to some of our favorite places. Work was going well. In June, we felt confident enough in the situation to go on vacation to Taos, New Mexico.

First week in August: there was a huge spike in COVID-19 cases.  August 7: Abby broke her shoulder. August 11: we learned that Abby’s former brother-in-law Tim died in July. August 13: Dorothy, Tim’s 95 year-old mother, Abby’s former mother-in-law, died. August 14: Abby was admitted to the hospital with a urinary tract infection.  August 23: a relative of mine had unexpected diverticulitis. August 24: Abby’s sister Inez died. August 29: Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans, including my sister, her husband, and his mother.

August 2021.

I usually feel like a fortunate, and optimistic, person, but this August has left me in doubt.
I usually feel like a fortunate, and optimistic, person, but this August has left me in doubt.

Another Reason to Vaccinate

A friend confessed to me just today that he was “afraid of shots,” but was seriously considering getting his COVID-19 vaccination. He said he’d seen that I got vaccinated Monday Aug. 23. What he didn’t realize is that I got my third, or “booster”, dose of the Moderna-made vaccine.

Update, August 25: a day after I talked to my friend and posted this entry, I got a text message from my office showing his CDC vaccination card with his first vaccination, with the text message below it, which said, “Tell Richard that’s for him.”

For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.
For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.

My sister thinks the entire “vaccine hesitancy” issue is exactly that: fear of needles and injections. I think that is probably an issue with many, but I’m willing to say that it is more dynamic than that; that people are afraid of their bodies, afraid to put things in their bodies that they don’t understand, afraid of trusting others.

For me: there has never been a more important time to be as immune as possible. I am in a hospital setting every day right now as I visit my wife Abby, who is recovering from a very serious non-COVID-related illness, and bringing COVID to her would be a serious setback.

I was born in 1963. I have been vaccinated against polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B,  yearly influenza and, now, SARS-CoV-2, and have never, even once, had any significant complications from any of them.

I hope my friend gets his vaccines, and I hope many other follow my example and do the same.

Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.
Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.

Report on Abby

Final update for this situation: Abby has been home since Friday, Sept. 3. She continues to get stronger and more alert, she expresses a healthy appetite, and she is eager to do the exercises the physical therapist showed me. There is always a potential for a setback, but I will care for her and nurture her recovery from this difficult, complicated medical situation.

Updated to include that Abby is home.

Updated September 1 to include that Abby is eating more, and is doing her physical therapy. Her friendly physical therapist, Melvin, was very pleased with her progress.

Update September 1: Abby’s pain is much better controlled, her level of consciousness is improved, and the nurses said she had a “good morning.”

Of all the things Abby misses when she is not home, Summer the Chihuahua (in her arms in this image) is the one she talks about the most.
Of all the things Abby misses when she is not home, Summer the Chihuahua (in her arms in this image) is the one she talks about the most.

Update, August 30: Abby didn’t have physical therapy over the weekend, but will have it starting this morning. No progress to report.

Updated August 26 to say that Abby is feeling, and sounding, much more like herself, and is physically stronger.

Updated August 25 to include that Abby’s older sister Inez died yesterday. Link to obituary here.

Updated Tuesday August 24 to include that Abby seems more responsive and more determined to go home. She is not well enough to come home, since I can’t care for her in this state, but she sat in her chair for a while, had some physical therapy, and had a nurse-assisted shower.

My wife Abby is currently hospitalized.

Her current health situation began Saturday night, August 7 when Abby fell on her shoulder while coming to bed. Sunday the pain became acute enough to take her to Mercy Hospital Ada’s Emergency Room, where she was x-rayed and CT scanned, determining she had two contained, non-operable breaks in the head of her humerus. They gave her a sling and told us to contact our primary doctor about increasing the dosage of her pain medicine.

Sunday August 8 she became weak and disoriented, so EMS had to transport her, again to Mercy ER. They gave her intravenous fluids and the antibiotic Rocephin for a urinary tract infection, and she felt well enough to come home.

As the week went by, she seemed to be better able to stand and move, and required less effort from me when I lifted her. It seemed like she was recovering. We worked out a system for me to help her stand and walk that kept away from her very painful left shoulder. I administered the oral antibiotic cephalexin and her pain medication every six hours on the dot.

Saturday, August 14, things took a very steep turn for the worse. She awoke weaker and more disoriented. She complained of stomach pain and was sick all day. She rapidly degenerated into dehydration-fueled confusion, and became increasingly combative.

She didn’t want to go to the hospital, and I was leaning that way, but honestly thought of it as a last resort. I bought some Pedialyte and had her drink an entire container of it, but she didn’t improve.

EMS transported her to a very crowded ER, where she sat unattended in a hall for a while. There she was diagnosed with a worsening UTI, but continuing to resist my reassurances. I was relieved when they gave her half a grain of morphine for her shoulder pain.

She was admitted through some herculean efforts of ER staff, since there is currently a shortage of beds due to the coronavirus pandemic. I went home.

For a while during the week of August 16, she seemed to get very slowly better while I worked from the room using my laptop. I couldn’t stay the night (nor did I want to, since there was nowhere to sleep, and I needed to take care of the dogs), so I would time things so I could do at least some work on the way to or from the hospital.

On Tuesday August 17, she was given an e-neurological exam, and passed perfectly. Analysis of her CT and MRI scans were unremarkable.

On Thursday, August 19, a hospitalist named Weidong Zhao told me she was  medically well, and a social worker recommended transferring her to the “swing bed” care level in a smaller area facility. Sulphur rejected her because they were short a staff member, and I rejected Seminole because they aren’t allowing visitors. We settled on Coal County Memorial Hospital, which required a negative COVID-19 test, which she passed.

On Friday, August 19, we loaded Abby into our truck and drove her to Coalgate, where she is, as I write this, hopefully resting comfortably and recovering.

Tuesday, August 24: Abby seems more responsive and more determined to go home. She is not well enough to come home, since I can’t care for her in this state, but she sat in her chair for a while, had some physical therapy, and had a nurse-assisted shower. She correctly remembered my t-shirt today, which she gave me eight years ago, and was also able to accurately relay to the nurse the story behind her father’s wristwatch that is covered with pock marks from when he welded.

Wednesday, August 25: Abby’s sister Gail called to say their older sister Inez died in nursing care in Arkansas.

Updated August 26 to say that Abby is feeling, and sounding, much more like herself, and is physically stronger. She might come home tomorrow. She talked to her sister Gail about the death of Inez.

Update, August 25, to include that Abby’s older sister Inez died yesterday. Link to obituary here.

Sisters Gail, Inez, and Abby are pictured in 2003. Inez died August 25, 2021. The youngest Shoffner sister, Gwyn, died in 2000.
Sisters Gail, Inez, and Abby are pictured in 2003. Inez died August 25, 2021. The youngest Shoffner sister, Gwyn, died in 2000.

Update, August 26, to say that Abby is feeling, and sounding, much more like herself, and is physically stronger.

Update, August 30: Abby didn’t have physical therapy over the weekend, but will have it starting this morning. No progress to report.

Update September 1: Abby’s pain is much better controlled, her level of consciousness is improved, and the nurses said she had a “good morning.”

Updated September 1 to include that Abby is eating more, and is doing her physical therapy. Her friendly physical therapist, Melvin, was very pleased with her progress.

Updated to include that Abby is home.

Final update for this situation: Abby has been home since Friday, Sept. 3. She continues to get stronger and more alert, she expresses a healthy appetite, and she is eager to do the exercises the physical therapist showed me. There is always a potential for a setback, but I will care for her and nurture her recovery from this difficult, complicated medical situation.

Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron
Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron