Poems, Personals, and Commentary

Archive for the ‘Personal story’ Category

The Curious Case of Grandma’s Ashes

When my grandmother died in 1986, she was cremated and the ashes brought to my parents home. For some unknown reason, my parents did not have her ashes buried, and they sat in a box, sometimes not even in the house but in their garage, for nearly 26 years. This is how she was finally laid to rest:

In 2008, my sister Mary’s younger son, Brian, through his college, had a semester abroad in Hungary, specifically the city of Budapest. Hungary happens to be our place of ancestry, as our parents, and my grandmother, were born there. My parents came to the U.S., along with my older brother, in about 1949 and Grandma Anna came in about 1951. So Mary and her husband decided to visit Brian that April, and to combine that trip with a visit to our relatives there.

Mary had never been to Hungary and it was a thrill for her to meet many family members and to visit places of family history. One relative she met was my Aunt Rozsi (the “zs” is pronounced like the “s” in the English word closure), later to play a part in this story.

On their return, my husband Tom and I were infected with Mary’s excitement about her visit to Hungary. We decided that we would also go, along with our children. It sounded like a good time to introduce the children (not to mention Tom) to my background, while they were both still at home. So we made our plans to visit that very same year.

Meanwhile, Mary had the brilliant idea that we should take Grandma’s ashes to Hungary and perhaps we’d be able to have her buried in the land of her birth. I researched the laws online regarding carrying human ashes on an airplane, but the question of legality was a bit unclear. It did not seem, however, that any serious trouble would occur. We did have the official paper stating that the box contained human remains. Still, I was unsure and decided to keep the ashes in my checked-in luggage so that during carry-on inspection, it would not become an issue.

Well, we did get through without any incident, and arrived in Hungary with the ashes still in my suitcase. We had let the relatives in Budapest know ahead of time that we might bring Grandma’s ashes. When we got to Budapest and met my Aunt Rozsi, we told her about the ashes. She enthusiastically agreed to see what she could do about arranging a burial.

My Aunt Rozsi is an incredible woman. In her late sixties or early seventies, she was still full of energy and did not hesitate to be out at night in the city of Budapest, moving about easily on public transportation. She is a short little woman who takes copious pictures of people, sometimes to their annoyance, but she is totally lovable.

So, while we were out touring the city one day, Aunt Rozsi spent the entire day arranging for a pre-ceremony, for the burial, and for a church service to follow. This involved a lot of bureaucracy, because my Grandma’s ex-husband, next to whom she would be buried, had a special cemetery plot, apparently protected by the writer’s union to which he had belonged. Not only that, but to coordinate the many people involved, official and unofficial, was a momentous task.

Well, she pulled it off! If I recall correctly, it was the next day or two days later that the funeral was scheduled! At least 10 or 15 relatives came, one from perhaps 50 miles away. It was a beautiful time, followed by a luncheon attended by everyone in Hungary who could participate.

We owe a great debt to Aunt Rozsi. Grandma was finally laid to rest, after 26 years. Rest in peace, Grandma.

Hot Dogs for Dinner

     (All temperatures are Fahrenheit.) Our heater was repaired last week, after about five days of non-operation. I was so happy that I cried from gratitude. It’s not that we’re experiencing frigid weather — I was able to warm the house up to a high of 66 degrees each day, by opening any curtains where the sun could stream in. Perhaps I’m a “climate wimp”. But, I had thought of how things might have been different — it could have been 32 degrees outside, it could have been a longer period of time, and so on.  I thought of homeless people, people who can’t pay their heating bills, and about refugees and migrants who suffer through miserable weather. And I was so grateful for the friendly repairman who promptly came, once the needed part for our 30-year-old heater had been obtained.  Not to mention, grateful that we could pay the bill.

This brought to mind another story, which happened around 1947, told to me by my mother. My parents and older brother had immigrated to the U.S., after being World War II refugees (displaced persons) in Europe for several years. They had been sponsored by my mother’s cousin, who had immigrated to the U.S. before World War II, perhaps being admitted on the strength of being a scientist. My mother’s cousin helped my parents to get a house. When they sat down to their first dinner there, they started to cry.  Why? The dinner consisted of hot dogs and perhaps some other items. They had never had anything as good as hot dogs in the refugee camp, and they realized that others like them were still suffering deprivation.

After 70 years, somehow I’m still reliving my parents’ story. So whenever I eat hot dogs, or my heater is working, I’m grateful.

The Gift of a Sunrise

Maybe God wanted to do something nice for me after I had to have a blood
test (does anyone like them?), or He just wanted to delight me somehow,
but when I came out of the medical clinic about 7:30 a.m., this is the sunrise
that He showed me:

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The California Primary Election

Just voted in the California primary.
 
Okay, the candidate choices aren’t great, but there are issues to vote on as well.
 
The first few times I voted I cried with gratitude, and many times thereafter, even if it was an election for water district or some other obscure thing.
 
My parents left Hungary near the end of WWII, partly because the Russian communists were invading. For the next 40 years or so, Hungarians (including the relatives I had who did not leave) had to endure communism, not the least problem of which is there is only one political party!
 
When I first visited there in 1980, before the Berlin wall came down and countries became freer, people were still afraid of the occupying Russians. People of faith could not get good jobs, and many people worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. My relatives even told me that to talk politics or religion, you would not, for example, do that while rowing a boat on the water, because sound carries over the water. They were that paranoid.
 
Many people have fought for the right to vote. I try never to miss an election, even if it’s for the water district.

Tale of the Rat

One day last week I lifted the lid of our compost bin (a cheap plastic one with a lid, about 3′ by 3′ by 3′), and saw a fat tail disappearing into the pile. I thought, “It’s either a lizard, a snake, or a rat (ughh for the rat, at least). Friday or Saturday I called my brother-in-law about it; he owns a pest control company. After talking to him, he said it’s most likely a rat, and that is probably the usual thing, since I do put vegetable scraps and eggshells in the bin, along with leaves and coffee grounds.

So, we put 2 big traps in there (not one outside; I didn’t want to trap a skunk or something). So Sunday there was no activity; no trap sprung nor tail seen. Today I went out about noon to look in. Staring up at me was a lizard about 8 inches long, whose tail could have been the one I saw earlier. So for now, I have sprung the traps and put them away. A lizard is okay, I guess.

First Anniversary

Today is the 1st anniversary of what I call my “Kidney Stone Miracle”. Because of going to emergency for kidney stone pain, the doctors also discovered a cancerous tumor in the other (left) kidney. A month later, they removed it and I’m doing well today. Thank you, God, for another year of life!

The surgeon later told me that “You shouldn’t have had that much trouble passing that stone; it wasn’t that big.” But because of the pain, they found the cancer, so thank God.

Often our suffering can have a good result. We don’t always see the result, but in trusting God it can bear good fruit.

You can read the original story here:
https://clarakatalin.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/the-kidney-stone-miracle/

Surgery Successful (Updated)

3/17/14 got up in an almost joyful mood. This is the day they get that dang tumor out! Praise God!

Arrived at the hospital about 10 a.m. Checked in, went to pre-op. There was a nurse there that I know. What a blessing! They got me prepared and then it was wait, wait, wait — the previous surgery had delayed mine. No problem. Whenever I got scared I would recite the 23rd Psalm, sometimes out loud. There was a wonderful thing on TV — “Continuous Ambient Relaxation Environment” — C.A.R.E. for short. It showed relaxing pictures from nature with soft music. So Tom and I watched a lot of that.

The anestheologist came by and asked questions. My blood pressure was sky high, probably from nerves. Finally the O.R. (Operating Room) nurse came with the release form, and I knew the surgery was imminent. As they rolled me out to the O.R. (two hours late), I gave Tom a thumbs up. There were several nurses and doctors in the O.R. already. They helped me scooch onto the operating table. There were the big round operating room lights above me, not turned on yet. It would be about a 3-hour laproscopic (robotic) surgery.

Pretty soon they came with an oxygen mask. The anestheologist said a few things, and then, “Okay, here comes the sleepy stuff in your I.V.” I said, “Okay.”

I groggily awoke in the recovery room. I talked to a very pleasant male nurse, but could only open my eyes once. He asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your pain?” I said, “About 3 or 4.” I do remember telling him, “You’re a good nurse; God bless you,” and he replied, “Awww.” His name was Todd. I don’t remember being taken to my regular hospital room, but eventually I woke up there. They explained the little button I could push to give myself pain medication if needed.

The “highlights” of the night were: eating a liquid dinner (consommé, gelatin, hot tea), having Tom and Rebecca visit, going for a walk twice while holding onto the “I.V. tree” (got nauseated; second time not as much), and of course, every hour or more often someone coming in to check something. But it wasn’t too bad. Also had a private room!

In the morning (3/18/14) they brought a breakfast similar to my last night’s dinner. This time I could take in a little more. Perhaps about 7:30 a.m. my surgeon came in to check on me. He seemed pleased at how I was doing. He was pretty confident he’d got all the tumor.

In a little bit, a second breakfast came! The “waiter” said, “You’ve been upgraded.” There was some solid food on the tray. Can’t remember much, but there were a lot of carbohydrates and I didn’t eat much of those (I’m Type II diabetic). I mentioned that to the nurse and it was corrected for lunch.

So, the rest is a bit of blur, but soon they took out my catheter, had me go to the bathroom and were pleased with the results. By about noon, Rebecca came to visit (Tom had come about 9:15 a.m.), with flowers for me. Two friends also called on our cell phones, and my sister on the hospital phone. Everyone was surprised that I might go home that day. Laproscopic (robotic) surgery is much less invasive than traditional surgery; thus a shorter recovery time.

A nurse came in with some medicine for indigestion and I said, “I don’t need that,” and she threw I out. Lunch came and I was able to eat quite a bit of it. I did get up at one point and was walking around the room, with Tom nearby to make sure I did not fall. At some point, the nurse learned that I’d walked on my own, and pretty soon she came in and said something like, “You can eat, you’re not nauseous, you can walk, and you can go to the bathroom — time to go home!” First she had to remove the drain, which is a device with a thin tube from the inner surgical area to the outside of your body, that drains excess blood into a grenade-shaped receptacle. She said, “This is going to feel weird, like a snake slithering through your body.” I said, “Okay,” “trying” to relax. “Ready,” I said. She said, “It’s already out!” I didn’t feel a thing!

Pretty soon I was in a wheelchair headed for home. Recovery has been good. It took me until 2 a.m. the first night to find a good position to sleep in (sitting up against a bunch of pillows on a corner bed). The main tasks were: get your bowels working again, get the gas they insert during surgery to dissipate, keep walking to get your body back to normal. I was pretty sore but nothing unbearable (took Tylenol) and was able to sleep well. As of today (3/29/14), still sleeping sitting up.

With a follow-up appointment on 3/24, the surgeon told me there’s a slight chance that they didn’t get all the tumor cells, but he was pretty confident that they did. The tumor was malignant and had been growing faster than previously thought, BUT it had NOT spread to other parts of the body. I’ll be seeing an oncologist in April and they’ll keep an eye on me for a while.

When sharing about my surgery with others, I’ve heard of so many people who’ve had cancer in their life. I did not know it was so common! On one website, if I recall correctly, one in four Americans, at some time in their life, will have some form of cancer. By 2030, it is projected to be the major cause of death in the U.S. Let’s pray and work for prevention and cures!

The Kidney Stone Miracle

So, on President’s Day, 2/17/2014, I was thinking of going to a class at my church. On the way to the car, I thought, “I don’t feel that great, I’d better stay home.” Soon my husband got home from work, and we ate dinner. I gradually felt worse. We went to bed and I kept hoping the bad feeling would go away, but it didn’t. Pretty soon my lower right back started to hurt and it got worse. The pain became so bad that I vomited. I told Tom, “We need to go to urgent care or emergency.” We soon figured out that urgent care had just closed (it was 9:05 p.m.), so off we went to emergency. It began to be the same level of pain as being in labor before birth, but I never vomited in labor.

We checked in and had to wait for triage. Meanwhile I was hunched over, breathing hard. Eventually it was our turn and I explained to the nurse my pain, unfortunately vomiting once or twice again, into a bag given me for that purpose. I have to admire the medical folks, who emotionally might want to fix your pain right away, but don’t because they need to know what’s wrong first. It must be hard to watch.

Soon I was put in a private room in the emergency ward. I can’t remember the sequence of things, but eventually I did get some pain medication. I think it was given soon after they did a CT scan; I don’t recall. In any case, I finally got relief. Perhaps a half hour later, although again all the times are fuzzy, a doctor from radiology came in to say, yes, I had a kidney stone on my right side , and it was stuck for the time being.

Then he went on to say that they’d also found “something concerning”, a tumor near the left kidney. Needless to say, Tom and I were in shock and it took time for it to sink in. The doctor gave me a list of specialists to choose from to make an appointment as soon as possible.

In the end, we met with the specialist and first agreed that he would clean out my right kidney with lithotripsy and get the stuck kidney stone as well. So 2/20, I had the lithotripsy, but the stuck kidney stone had already passed, though I didn’t know it! (Too many pain meds, maybe?) At least my right kidney shouldn’t give me trouble for a while! It took me about two weeks to feel somewhat normal again. Meanwhile, I got another CT scan, with contrast, which I take it is more accurate, so the doctor could get a better look at the tumor.

So, to get to the miracle: If I hadn’t had the emergency, I never would have had the CT scan, which revealed the tumor. The tumor hasn’t spread. Though I don’t like the situation, it’s early enough to remove the tumor altogether, and I should be fine. If you already feel symptoms from the tumor (which I had not), it may be too late to cure. Thank you, Lord!

Surgery is now scheduled for 3/17 (previously 3/31). I would appreciate your prayers. Thanks in advance!

Cruisin’ the Interstate

Lemons, tomatoes
Brimming over in trucks.
Big 16-wheelers
Between which we’re stuck.

Windmill propellers
Sixty feet long.
Convoy of army trucks;
Young men looking strong.

Low-riding race cars
Police were escorting.
Garlic aromas
And cattle all lowing.

Tall tandem bicycles
Built for a scream.
Cruisin’ on the highway
Was it a dream?

(2011)

My mother’s last days

10/27/12 Saturday
Mom went to intensive care tonight, on a BPAP machine (helps her to breathe). She was having spasms due to lack of oxygen to the brain, I think. I’m hoping to drive to Kaiser Hospital in Roseville tomorrow to see her. Her health has not been well and it may be that all of us kids will be with her tomorrow. My husband Tom is on a trip, so please pray that everyone is safe in their travels, that God’s will be done regarding my mother, and that we will be a comfort to her.

10/28/12 Sunday
On Sunday, she had an about an hour of wakefulness at one point. She repeated three times, “Heaven is the only goal”. Then she blessed each one of us kids individually, with a special word for each one. I’m so grateful we had that time.

10/30/12 Tuesday (don’t know where Monday went)
Tuesday was a very good day for mom, emotionally and spiritually speaking. A person from the local church prayed with her, as they do every day. Also, a priest friend of hers called from Africa! I held the phone to her ear and she smiled. She seemed much more peaceful throughout the day. she would smile at us with love when awake, but could only speak one word now and then. Her smile lights up the room! More smiles than I’ve seen on the previous days.

10/31/12
Her best friend from El Cerrito visited her. Tom decided the previous day to cancel his trip and arrived a bit earlier. A harpist [part of the Kaiser Roseville chaplaincy department] came and played for about 1/2 an hour! Lots of prayer and thanks for yours.

11/1/12
Mom was still with us in the morning. She developed a fever and a problem with one of her IVs, but they got all that under control.

She passed away peacefully at about 3:30 p.m. A hospital chaplain had happened (?) to come in and realized that she was passing. I was out in the hallway and they yelled for me. All of her children (four of us), two spouses and two girlfriends were there. Amazing that we all got to be there.

Thank you so much for your prayers for her and our family. I am joyful in the sense that she’s now free of any suffering and with Jesus in heaven, but sad about her leaving us.

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