Simple Ideas

On Being Pressed

Blogging | October 20, 2012

Pressed, as in "being pressed into service" the old British Navy term for someone who was serving on board a ship against their will. This is something that social human beings seem to do, or attempt to do to one one another with varying degrees of success. I'll argue that over time people should be pressed less and less.

There is an element to growing up in a modern version of society that demands a certain amount of pressing. To wit, a child doesn't know what it takes to survive and they are pressed into doing things that are some variation on "eat your peas". Or in my case Brussels Sprouts. Something I find unfathomably useless and something someone sees of value.

I do recall, quite clearly, being pressed into trying out for a football team in my youth. it was a long teary phone call where I the autistic scared of people pressee was getting jammed into playing football by my persistent maternal grandfather. And was in turn driven to the field by an aunt and presented to the coach as some sort of volunteer who wanted to play the game. Turned out I was very good at the game. In fact it turned out I was among the best as a kid. But eventually the game outgrew me, or more rightly the players outgrew me and I started collecting the kind of injuries you get when guys 50% heavier than you run over you. But along the way I probably learned a few things about competition and teamwork. Learned to operate on signals called by a quarterback. Learned to stay busy, the basic rule being that if you knocked someone down, find someone else and knock them down. If you get knocked down, get back up and get back in the game. There were lessons in addition to the injuries. But thinking back, the main things I remember are that I was pressed into service and got injured.

There is the appreciation aspect, I'll give it that. Flying across country I saw a college football game between two unranked teams. One was much better than other. It was Syracuse that was pounding UConn. But I was nonetheless impressed with both teams. Great play calling on the Syracuse side led to some huge plays. But Uconn never gave up. There were a couple of plays where they could have given up touchdowns and they ran down the offensive player inside the 5 yard line. Even late in the game, they were not about to quit. Not even a little. So I got that too, the appreciation for a game that I hadn't played in 40 years and couldn't play now on a bet.

I had recently seen my mom. That was a surprise to me on many level. Given her recent health issues, I had thought that two weeks prior she had less than a 10% of survival. Either I was wrong or less than 10% is still more than 0% and that we enough. When she went into the hospital and we thought the end was near, my brother suggested that my sister didn't want my Mom off the ventilator for fear of what she might say when she got her voice back. To some degree he was right. Here was the story.

My sister pressed my Mom into going the bathroom. Mom repeatedly refused, but went. She broke her ankle in the process and that led to the whole near death experience with respiratory failure, kidney failure and pneumonia. In retrospect, the argument for going to teh bathroom was not entirely specious. If she didn't go, she risked a bladder infection. Which, it turned out, she had by the time the docs got all her blood work done. But the point was that when a 77 year old nurse who weighs in at over 15 stones says she ain't going to the bathroom, well, perhaps that is not the time to press. I know I'm the west coast guy who wasn't there, but I'm just talking big picture about pressing people against their will. Wills are put into people for a reason. Pushing against that will may make you feel like to won something, but quite often the person that got pushed is somehow broken after the experience. In my Mom's case it was literal, that bad ankle break that they still haven't fully repaired. All because she was pressed.

Seeing her and my Brother George at the same time was a good deal. George was there for the critical decision to remove the ventilator. That was a tough day emotionally for everyone. Those in the room and those thousands of miles away. We all thought the same thing, unplugging the ventilator was a death sentence. But Mom clearly indicated, three different times in fact, that she wanted the ventilator out. So with her being a smart lady, a nurse, someone who knew the score, no one pressed her this time. It was her call.

Next day George came back in just hoping she would be alive. She was. She was breathing on her own. And she was now able to talk. She insisted that she be released that very minute because she had tickets to the Musical Chicago. In Chicago. Huh, George thought, but he and my brother Neil did a chorus line number in the room to cheer her up. She was still insisting she be let go. She picked up the TV remote and starting trying to place phone calls. Then she started talking into the remote.

At this point my brother was re-evaluating his position on not pressing mom. Specifically, "get the docs! Put that ventilator back in! She is clearly out of her mind and in no condition to be making life of death decisions!"

Well turns out she was. The complications involved with being on the ventilator over 14 days also could have killed her. She knew that. And she knew how she was feeling and felt strong enough to breath on her own. Which she is now doing. She also lost about 40 pounds over the 4 weeks, which will also help when she gets ambulatory again. Part of the problem had to be the shear weight that was being placed on her ankle joints.

My brother told me the "day after the ventilator removal" story while we we walking to his car. Now that every thing seemed to be working out, it was a laugh out loud moment. It could have gone the other way, but it didn't. In fact this whole trip to visit Mom did go well. My brother picked my up at a local train station, gave me a ride over, knew what time we had to leave to make the return train and I made that fine. All in all, it was a seamless experience.

I often wonder if my brother realizes how unfucked up he has become over the years. Back in the days when he was the other way, things routinely went sideways. We would do a 90 minute round trip drive to a golf course only to find the course not only didn't have a tee time, it was no longer a golf course. I'd suggested but not pressed that he call ahead. He never did. So virtually every interaction had one event that went this way. Now things more often than not work out. And if not it is because I miss a detail like exactly what slot to park in so my car won't get towed.

I'm back home now. Spent a good portion of the day thinking about this issue of pressing. And thinking back to those years of playing football a sport I never really wanted to play and one that I thought only left me with memories of injuries. And how I could make sense of how that applied to the situation with my family over the years. I didn't have it all figured, but I had things to do, so I went out for my daily bike ride. Roads were a little wet after an early rain. but not some much that they were a problem. I was nearing the end of the ride when I ran into a traffic jam. One of those oversized hogs of a pick up truck was halfway into an intersection and blocking my bike lane. I slowed and waited for him to move, but he was snoozing and blocked the lane. I put out my hand to balance on the truck and then he shot forward leaving me to hammer into the asphalt pretty hard. I get up and start peddling to the next light when a car approaches from behind "Hey mister, something fell out of your pocket when you crashed" I though oops, there went the iPhone. "something yellow". Hrmm I'm puzzled then I see a guy running up the sidewalk with my tire irons in his hands as I thank him he says

"I tried to get them back to you, but you got up so fast..."

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