Thursday, September 02, 2010

On twenty years with Crohn's disease

In 1990, I was about to get married, and I knew there was something wrong with me, but didn't know what. I went to see old Dr. Shaffer, who referred me to a gastroenterologist, who figured out that I have Crohn's disease, and who has been my good friend and doctor for twenty years. The Crohn's diagnosis was more than confirmed in November 1996 or thereabouts when a Bristol surgeon removed eighteen inches of bad guts, that were tormenting me.

Over the years, I've taken some medicines that were gentle and did nothing, steroids that made me gain a pound day, other medicines that say on the label they can kill me, I've endured iron shots with the big needle, given myself B-12 shots with the little needles, munched on chewable children's vitamins, shared yogurt with my dogs almost every day. So far I've taken a pass on Remicade and Humira; maybe I get too many advertisements for plaintiff's products liability seminars.

Probably the last 150 pizzas have given me cause for regret, but I'll eat one every now and then. Green peppers, raw onions, orange juice, chocolate, bearnaise and hollandaise are all taboo, but I break bad and have some sometimes. My weight has fluctuated between 145 and 205, and so there are both fat boy and skinny man suits in my closet. I eat too fast, and often have dessert. On the upside, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are no problem at all.

I've met some lawyers and witnesses with the same problem, and they are always relieved to find out what we have common. "Oh, I don't have to tell you about it," they say - about for example the perils of sitting around in a deposition for hours. Say, I flew to Europe and back a couple of times, imagine that. They could. One of my cousins has it. She and her lawyer husband Steve just flew to China and back to meet their new baby. When I heard this news, I thought about that plane ride.

I've been to a few meetings where the stomach rumblings were so loud I was surprised they were not made a part of the official minutes. ("... and Mr. Minor said grklbklmrkmogl.") One such occasion was at a VBA board meeting, when I was seated by Cheshire Eveleigh, who merely turned and gave me her broadest, crinkliest smile, leaving me no choice but to smile back. In this (and all matters, by the way), I recommend following her example.

A lot of my lawyer buddies or courthouse friends or even clients whom I see just every once in a while keep me up to date on how I'm doing, or at least whether I look better or worse than the last time they saw me. My assistant generally schedules my hearings and depositions for the afternoons, since the mornings are the iffiest part of the day (and I was a night owl even before). When I heard that a friend of mine's son was diagnosed with Crohn's, I said tell him it hasn't been fun but it hasn't held me back from doing what I wanted and going places. There are still some days though when the bad guts flat out betray me, like last November, and today, which gave me the notion to write this post.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last night of Bluefield Orioles baseball, after 53 years

As reported here, tonight is the last home game of the Bluefield Orioles, ever.

The Bluefield Orioles figured prominently in a famous opinion by Judge Williams of the W.D. Va.

Justice Kinser to be the next Chief Justice

The Virginia Supreme Court has announced the selection of Justice Kinser as the next Chief Justice.

Justice Kinser clerked for Judge Williams, along with George Allen, who appointed her to the Supreme Court, after she had served for some years as magistrate judge for the W.D. Va. She was sworn in as a member of the Virginia Supreme Court in a memorable ceremony at the Lee High School in 1997, and many of the readers of this blog were there, as I was.

The funniest story I ever heard her tell was about the time she sat on a writ panel and some idiot lawyer (my words, not hers) kept addressing her as "Justice Lacy." She said nothing, but the lawyer persisted. Finally, unable to take it any longer, Chief Justice Carrico told the lawyer that in fact his colleague was Justice Kinser, not Lacy, whereupon the lawyer squinted up at the bench and said, "oh, you've changed your hair."

Justice Kinser is a soft-spoken, congenial person, who has been a free thinker on the Court, writing a fair share of separate opinions, including for example her dissent in Almy v. Grisham, with which I agree completely, no matter what the other six justices thought.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two other college football favorites

A few of my other college football favorites:

1. Sharon Randall's account of taking her brother to a Clemson game, that starts off like this:

"Blind all his life, he has never seen a thing -- not a sunset or a baby's smile or even the nose on my face. Yet he often seems to "see" things the rest of us tend to miss -- things that light him up and make him smile in his own private delight.

You can always tell when he is especially happy because he flicks his hand back and forth really fast as if he's fanning off a big swarm of flies.

Joe's a huge fan of Clemson football. He wouldn't miss a game on the radio for anything -- not even, I suspect, to throw water on his sister if she burst, God forbid, into flames. But he had never been to a game.

So my husband, who is still new to the family and has a lot to learn, suggested that we fly to South Carolina, pick Joe up in Spartanburg, and take him to Death Valley to watch Clemson beat the fur off Furman, so to speak.

"What do you think of that?" I said, when I called my brother to tell him my husband's idea.

"Sister," he said, "I think you married a good man."

In the background, I heard his hand flicking up a storm.

Then I wrote a column about planning to take him to a game and I started hearing from all sorts of Clemson fans, who offered to give us their seats, if need be, and agreed that I had indeed married a good man."

2. Since I took a new member of the Highty-Tighties to Blacksburg a couple of weeks ago, I wonder whether he or his mother or his sister have any idea what the football team's entrance is like.

3. This post and this post and this post include some details about my own football-watching adventures, including hearing the prayer in Death Valley for "those who play, those who watch, and those who do push-ups in the end zone."

College football, for Jill and Joy Lee

This still tickles me, especially "we had some might good dogs." "Condredge Holloway hopping out of an ambulance to return to the UCLA game" in 1974 is about as far back as I go.
SRM, 8/30/2010.

Here's my alltime favorite piece of writing about college football in Tennessee. Probably I posted it last year and will again next year, until the IP police tell not to do it any more:

It's Football Time in Tennessee
by Jake Vest -- Orlando Sentinel -- Jake Vest is the creator of the comic strip That's Jake.

Re-printed in Knoxville News-Sentinel January 14, 1996

I grew up just down the river from Knoxville's Neyland Stadium in the poor direction -- out toward the rock quarries, dairy farms and tobacco patches.

On a crisp mid-October Saturday you could climb a hill, and if the wind was just right, you could hear the rich people booing Bear Bryant and the Tide.

I spent a lot of time climbing those hills and listening.

Football was the second favorite sport out in the greater Forks of the River metropolitan area, right behind squirrel hunting -- which you didn't need a ticket to do.

Sometimes the squirrel hunters would carry transistor radios so they could listen in on John Ward, the Voice of the Vols, calling the shots for that other sport. If Tennessee was driving for a score, there would be a general, temporary cease-fire.

Now that is devotion. Anything that gets a Tennesseean's mind off hunting is something special.

If it was a particularly big game, even the dogs would stop barking. They knew Ward's voice, and they could tell when he was getting serious, a fact that may seem like a stretch to some but you've got to remember we had some mighty good dogs.

Out in my part of the woods, an affection for the Big Orange was something you took up early in life and held onto.

One of my first memories is of sitting on the front porch in a swing with my grandfather, that's Pappaw in East Tennessean, listening on the radio to Tennessee play Ole Miss. That was back in the days when the forward pass was considered an alternative lifestyle, something you did if you weren't man enough to play real football, and both teams rushed about 300 times for a total of about 150 yards.

Every time Ole Miss would gain a step, Pappaw would cuss and spit tobacco juice. By halftime, the side yard looked like an oil spill.

What's most remarkable about this is that I don t think Pappaw had any notion of what a football game was. It wasn't mentioned in the Bible, so he had no reason to have ever read about it; and he sure had never attended a game. He had no idea what those Mississippians were doing. But he knew they were doing it to us. And he was against it. He never set foot in the University of Tennessee campus in his life, but he was a Vol and a mighty good one if I say so myself.

If you can understand my Pappaw, you can probably understand the relationship between Tennessee football and Tennessee football fans. If you can't, there's not much reason to try to explain it.

It's an us vs. them proposition. If you're one of us, you know how we feel; if you're not, I'm not sure you want to know.

Some people make the mistake of separating the game from all the stuff that surrounds the game and therefore can't see what's the big deal. College football in general, Southern college football in the particular and Tennessee Volunteer Go Big Orange college football, to be precise, is much much more than that.

It's crisp autumn afternoons with chicken barbecuing, bands playing and trees trying to out-pretty each other. It's riding down the river as part of the Vol Navy and singing Rocky Top 400 or 500 times in an afternoon. It's a cold beer and a turkey sandwich at Sam & Andy's down on Cumberland Avenue before the game. It's tailgating around Kent Boy Rose's orange and white motor home -- one of the hundreds of that color that line Neyland Drive on game day, right outside Neyland Stadium where General Neyland used to coach. It's memories of Tennessee Walking Horses strutting the sidelines and of cannons in the end zone. It's Old Smokey howling for a touchdown. It's John Ward hollering GIVE HIM SIX when the good guys score and hollering STOPPED BY A HOST OF VOLUNTEERS when the bad guys get stuffed. It's Bobby Denton calling the play by play and telling a fired-up crowd "It's fooootball time in TENN-E-SSEEEEE!" It's old women and little babies decked out in orange. It's African-Americans and redneck farmers high-fiving, hugging and saying "How bout them Vols?" after a touchdown.

It's touchdowns.

It's road trips to Birmingham, radio talk shows, shakers, and flags flapping in the wind. It's dancing to the Tennessee Waltz after the game and sipping illicit Tennessee whiskey during it.

It's memories: The time we beat the unbeatable Auburn and the unstoppable Bo Jackson couldn't go anywhere but backward; the undertalented Daryl Dickey shutting the overactive mouths of a Miami team in the Sugar Bowl we were supposed to lose by 22 but won by 28; holding Larry Csonka and Floyd Little out of the end zone to preserve a bowl victory over Syracuse; reminding Ken Stabler that left-handers can lose football games too; Condredge Holloway hopping out of an ambulance to return to the UCLA game and rally the troops to a tying touchdown; Jack Reynolds cutting his car in half after a loss and earning the nickname Hacksaw.

It's Doug Atkins, the Majors boys, Bob Johnson, Charlie Rosenfelder, Karl Kremser, Richmond Flowers, Herman "Thunderfoot" Weaver, Dewey "Swamp Rat" Warren, Tony Robinson, Curt Watson, Steve Kiner, Willie Gault, Carl Pickens and Reggie White and all our other heroes running through that big T while the Pride of the Southland band plays and over 100,000 of us holler and carry on like free-will Baptists having a spell. It's also memories of my daddy sitting on the front porch during the last autumn Saturdays of his life listening to the game on the radio and cussing and spitting tobacco juice every time an opponent gained a step on us. He would understand what I'm talking about.

So would Pappaw.

I could go on, but you probably get the picture. If you don't, you won't ever so there's no reason to go further.

I guess it's the kind of feeling that just runs in the family.