Thursday, March 23, 2023


 What a treat greeting me from my patio this early morning;

As I looked up to scan the sky and it's stars, I saw a line of "lights" streak across the eastern sky from south to north. My first thoughts were, OMG, it's Santa and his reindeer! Quickly, my rational mind says, get real Bob. This series of a dozen shiny objects were visible for only a few seconds but impressive.
Next, I thought; meteor shower. After further investigation, I believe these were Starlink satellites.
Whatever, it was a delight to witness these "UFOs" in the night sky and prod my imagination. Perhaps a poem is in order, or a song!

Monday, March 20, 2023

Blood pressure medication has turned me into a sloth.

Around ten years ago or so, while at the doctor's for an annual physical it was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high. My doctor prescribed medication to lower my B/P. Mind you now, I was still working full time, doing strength training 3 days a week and walking 3 to 5 miles 6 days a week. I was 67 years old.

 Time, as you may have discovered, goes by quickly, even quicker as you accumulate years. So, my timeline here will be imprecise at best. Suffice it to say, this single medication was effective for a few years, but my B/P started climbing, again, to a level my doctor felt too high. He prescribed a 2nd medication to take in addition to continuing with the first drug. Over the course of time this scenario repeated itself 2 more times until a year ago when my medication to keep my pressure down totaled 4.

 I retired at age 75 and remained active, walking and playing pickleball 6 days a week. The last of the 4 medications was added 6 months ago (just before coming to Florida.). Since then, my blood pressure has been the lowest, consistently, then ever before that I can remember. I've become progressively more lethargic this year and for a while I put it off to age. I still have spurts of energy and can still play a pretty competitive pickleball session 3 days a week. But I've stopped my daily walks and find myself taking frequent naps during the day, (especially after a 2-hour pickleball session.) mimicking my cat. In spite of 2 to 3 1 hour+ naps during the day, I have no trouble sleeping through the night. I do get up at 0330 to 0400 everyday but that has been my routine for all of my adult life.

 This lethargy has been weighing heavily on my mind these last few months as I find myself being unable to assist my son and son in law with the extensive renovations of my Florida home following the extensive damage inflicted by hurricane Ian. This guilty feeling can no longer be excused by thinking; well Bub, you're getting on in age you know. And without saying it, I think my kids think the same thing.  I do help some but mostly with the cerebral stuff, permit applications primarily.  And I do clean the house and other household duties.  I'm not an invalid, just not my usual self when it comes to pulling my weight.

The thought to check out what effect, besides lowering blood pressure, these 4 medications have on people occurred to me recently and thusly I looked it up.  And, sure enough, each and every one of the types of medication I'm taking has as a side effect of causing fatigue.  So maybe I'm not getting old.  Well, yes you are my friend, but that is not the problem.

The dilemma to deal with now is, stop the medication and risk heart attack and/or stroke, or live out my final years as a sloth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A half bubble off level; physically.

Good morning. The weather still sucks and I'm feeling slightly unwell, as in a half bubble off level; though more physical than mental. My malaise is probably related to my sinuses but the symptoms are not clear cut. Last Saturday, the 15th, I awakened at 0345. When I glanced at the clock the digital read out was flickering up and down uncontrollably. This persisted for less than a minute. I felt "off" for most of the morning but back to normal for the rest of the day. I had dinner with Leigh and Karen Sunday evening and explained my "vague" symptoms to him and he suggested checking my B/P. Last night I had a repeat of the visual disturbance. This time I noted that it occurred when I turned over, i.e. changed my head position. This presentation is what points toward sinus but could be other things such as inner ear. Now that I'm upright, drinking coffee, writing coherently, my symptoms are best described as: mild sinus pressure, mild nausea, slightly off balance, and general unease. We'll see how It goes today.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Hard of hearing #Plein-air

 OK, story time.

Leaving my house this morning to walk to the post office, I see a lady on my neighbor's lawn looking at their house and she turns to me as I am walking toward the sidewalk with a look on her face that says, "I have a question." I approach her and ask, "what's up," and I heard her to say, "I'm looking for a place to pee."
Pondering, for a few seconds, where I might suggest that she relieve herself, besides recommending a group of bushes in the back yard, I realize my bathroom is the only viable solution. I invite her in and give her a tour of the downstairs on the way to the bathroom. She's very complimentary of the decor and expresses a love for the bathroom. Believing she, like most if not all women I know, prefer to attend to their business in private, I wait in the hallway for her to do her business. But when she exits the bathroom after only a couple of minutes, I become a little puzzled, like, really; that's the fastest take down your pants, pee and pull your pants up I've ever been privy too, even for a man. She continues to marvel at the decor as I escort her out and she comments, "Maybe I'll paint your place." At this point, obviously still in a brain fog, I wonder if she actually paints houses or maybe represents a house painting contractor, and I comment. "I admit, the house needs painting this year." I wait for her to make an offer that never comes.
Later, as I leave to drive to the 'burg I notice she has set up an easel on the sidewalk and is painting a picture of my house. When I return from my errands, I approach her and relay to her what I thought she had previously said to prompt me to invite her into my home; "I'm looking for a place to pee." She lets out a hearty laugh and says, "no, what I said was I'm looking for a place to paint."
It's a busy, busy weekend in Morristown and I'd forgotten that the Plein-air was taking place.

May be an image of 2 people, people sitting and outdoors

Monday, July 04, 2022

What's one of your favorite summertime meals?

 My mom, Millie LaRock, was a superb cook. She always put much thought and effort into putting tasty and appealing meals on our table. Growing up, the only food I remember disliking was spinach, cooked spinach. Other than that, I liked everything mom put on the table. I wasn’t a big fan of steak when I was younger, preferring my beef in the burger style. I tell you this as a segway into the following; when I would come home on leave from the military, mom would always ask me, “what can I fix you to eat? what’s your favorite thing?” And, every time, I’d reply, “anything mom, I like everything you fix.”

My favorite summertime meal is a simple, fresh from the garden, tomato sandwich on wholewheat toast with fresh lettuce and slathered with Hellman’s mayonnaise. Coming in a close second would add to that sandwich a couple slices of crisp bacon to create a BLT. Of course, I have to wait ‘til late summer, when the tomatoes are ripening, for that meal. To finish off this late summer meal, I’d look for a generous slice of vine ripened watermelon. Also, the addition of fresh boiled sweet corn on the cob smothered with real butter would add another layer of gustatory delight. Since we are starting this menu in late summer, desert would have to be blueberry pie. Everything washed down with fresh squeezed lemonade.

Summer starts in June however so what to eat while we wait for the garden harvest? How about a lunch of fresh strawberry shortcake and vanilla ice-cream and fresh iced sun tea? For supper we can throw some hamburgers and Glaziers hot dogs on the grill. Ice cold lager goes well with this meal. Recently, lobster has entered my summertime, meals to enjoy, preferably while viewing the Maine coastline.

Of course, the 4th of July brings us to the fireman’s field day and the choices are hot Italian sausage smothered with grilled peppers and onions. Or BBQ’d chicken well marinaded in Grandpa Aubrey’s State Fair Spiedie sauce. accompanied with macaroni salad and if available canned garlic green beans from last year’s garden.

Fall ushers in, Caprese salad with fresh basil. And homemade, fresh from the oven, yeast bread.

With a gin and tonic in hand on a blistering hot summer’s day, I wish you a bon appetite.

Bob LaRock, July 04, 2022

Saturday, May 07, 2022

A Solitary Wanderer # 1; the beginning


Our journey begins in a small hamlet, former village recently dissolved, on a bay along the edges of the mighty St. Lawrence River.  Currently, the year-round population of our little hamlet is just over 300 persons as of 2019.  Although I was not, my dad was born here in 1920, a more populated and prosperous river village of the time.  There was a Railroad depot and stockyard, a ferry to Canada, A milk processing plant, a graphite plant as well as being home to Dr. Morse's "Indian Root Pills."  A K-12 school sits atop the ridge which the village was built on.  A stone Windmill also sits up overlooking the River. There were, at one time, 5 gas stations and at least 3 grocery stores, one of which my grandfather was owner/proprietor, when my dad was born.  Our own U.S. Post office currently occupies the building where my grandfather's store was.  High atop the street leading from the river up and out of the village toward the State highway, on the  left was a hotel/dance hall called Rose Manor.

Today the village is a skeleton of it's former self, retaining only, of the aforementioned, the K-12 school, the stone windmill, the post office, a volunteer fire department, and a fuel and hardware supply store.  Still it retains the ambiance of a neighborly community with a landscape to delight the senses.  

To own or have access to a motorized vehicle of conveyance is a mandatory necessity here if only to enable one to travel the ten or more miles to avail oneself of certain amenities: gasoline, groceries, and healthcare.

I return from a six month hiatus in Florida to find a car with a dead battery, a home with few foodstuffs, and a doctor's appointment in 3 days requiring lab work prior.

Undaunted I proceed;  you know, the old adage concerning life, lemons, and lemonade.  Call a friend who is, BTW, a mechanic, and in a day and a half I have a reliable, drivable vehicle.  I research the local hospital's (12 miles away) website and glean that they have Saturday outpatient lab draws from 7 AM to noon.  Okeydokey, a plan forms; hit the lab at 7 then head to the grocery store and pick up items on my list.  And finally proceed to the nursery to purchase garden supplies.

In the car at 0645.  It starts.  Yay, it's gonna be a good day.  Walk into hospital receiving area;  Young woman asks, "what are you here for today?"

Me: showing her my lab request form, I say, "I'm here for lab work.

young woman: "The lab isn't open on Saturday."

Me: "You may want to mention to the higher ups that they need to update their web site."

Young woman: "Oh, they've been told many times."

Well now, isn't that a fine how-do-you-do?  Now that I've been handed a bowl full of lemons; what to do.  I head over to the grocery store and pick-up supplies.  I only forgot 2 items on my list of 15, which btw, I'd left on the counter a home.

Next, I stop at a local diner for a delicious omelet/wheat toast with tomato juice and coffee.  I skipped the garden center for today.  Now it's home to get ready to attend a local Bluegrass festival in a neighboring small village.

Tomorow we'll pick here, where we left off.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Have you ever been a hero to someone? Has anyone been a hero for you?

 Whether I've ever been a hero to someone is really a story to be told by others not me.  Some would say that being a hospital corpsman on the battlefields of Vietnam might qualify me as a hero.  Having administered in excess of 40,000 anesthetics over a 50-year career as a CRNA has possibly made me a hero in some of my patient's eyes.  Aside from just doing my job, I like to think that the quality that qualified me to be called a hero is my unwavering attempts to alleviate fear and despair in my patients.  I'm not talking about the drugs I administer to that end but the emotional support I provide while interacting with them.

How is that accomplished?  By listening to them and acknowledging their distress and answering their questions with utmost honesty.  While interacting with patients, or people in general for that matter, I like to hold their hand or touch them on the shoulder during our entire conversation; establish a tactile bond.  Maintaining eye contact is extremely important.  Let them know that their concerns and only their concerns are important to you.  You might think that that is what everybody in my situation does but you'd be mistaken on that point.  You may remember an anecdote I relayed in a previous essay where a fellow CRNA said to me, " I didn't go into anesthesia to talk to patients, I went into anesthesia so I wouldn't have to talk to them."

On the battlefield during Operation Starlite while attending to a fellow marine who'd been mortally wounded. I stayed close to him by positioning myself with my leg in constant contact with his right leg and alternately touching him on various parts of his body including a soft touch on his face. While he was screaming saying, "help me Doc, help me, I'm going to die!!! I looked him in the eyes and said, "I right here buddy and you're going to be OK.  You are going home buddy.  I'm going to give you a shot in the leg and your pain will be tolerable in just a few."   After giving him a 1/4 grain of morphine intramuscularly, I began bandaging his multiple wounds.  I noticed his face relax and a sense of comfort filled his face.  And then he died.  Did you say to yourself just now, you lied to him grandpa!?  Did I?  The look on his face showed me that his pain left him, and his fear had dissipated.  And yes, he went home.  Then I moved to the next wounded marine and gave him my full attention all the while a dozen other marines where calling Doc, Doc.  One at a time, full attention, touch them and talk them down.

Fort Campbell Kentucky Christmas Eve 1974, I'm on call for the OR. A call comes in after midnight, car accident, emergency surgery.  One of our nurses who worked the psychiatric ward was returning from a party in Hopkinsville, Kentucky gets in a car accident.  She is in the OR on the table when I arrive; I'm less than 5 minutes from the hospital.  Attaching the monitoring devices, EKG, B/P, pulse oximeter, and a large bore IV is the first order of business.  The patient says, "Bob, am I going to die?"  Placing both hand on either side of her face, I say, "Janet, nobody dies on Bob LaRock, we're going to fix you up right away and I'll be your guardian angel through it all, OK?"  Her vital signs are dangerous: extremely low B/P, and tachycardia.  The surgeon, by way of hand signals, indicates, Let's go, let's go.  After administering a small amount of intravenous anesthetic and providing 100% oxygen she slips off to neverland saying, "thanks bob, I'm glad your here."  The surgeon makes the abdominal incision and quarts of blood immediately flow out from her belly.  I start another 14 gauge IV in her other arm and start pumping blood in both IVs as fast as physics will allow.  So much blood in the belly that the surgeon can't find the source of bleeding.  Cardiac arrest.  Open cardiac massage, continue rapid infusion of blood.  Heartbeat returns, B/P 60/20.  This scenario repeats itself 3 more times.  Still the surgeon fails to find the bleeding.  On the 4th cardiac arrest, we fail to resuscitate her.  She's dead.  Of course, the bleeding stops. The surgeon finds that the Hepatic vein was ruptured and separated from the posterior liver.  There was never a chance that we would save her.  Did I lie to her?  Yes, I did, and I would again.  Infact the exact same scenario played out the following Christmas Eve, and yes, I was on call and yes, I lied to her too.

All surgery is frightening to the patient.  Attempting to allay those fears is my primary goal.  If that makes me a hero well then for many, I guess I'm a hero.

Depending on how you define it, I have many heroes.  I'll confine this essay to two.  In keeping with the foregoing examples, I'm fourteen, a freshman in high school and I get an attack of appendicitis.  I have a fever and an 8 out of 10 pain level.  I'm in the hallway just outside the operating room and scared shitless.  A woman in a white dress and a hat covering her hair meets me when I arrive.  "Hi, I'm Bernadette Sovie.  I'm going to put some medicine in your IV to help take away your pain, OK?"  She injects some drug, Demerol I think, and stays by my side chatting, asking me my name, how old am I, where do I live, where do I go to school etc. etc..  Soon I'm feeling better and say, "can I go home now?"  She chuckles, puts her hand on my shoulder and says, "in a few minutes I'm going to wheel you into the operating room, it'll be cold but I'll cover you with a warm blanket.  Then once you're comfortable I'll check your blood pressure and I'll put some more medicine in your IV like I did a couple of minutes ago and you'll fall asleep, OK?"  I nod.  "After you're asleep, Doctor Loughren will remove that nasty appendix from your belly.  I'll be with you the whole time and keep you safe, OK?"  "Okay" I respond.  She never leaves me alone, wheels me into the operating room where staff lift me off the gurney and lay me on the OR table.  She covers me with a warm blanket, all the while asking me more questions about my life.  After placing a wrap on my arm which gets excruciatingly tight for a few minutes, she asks, "do you have a paper route?"  I don't remember if I answered or not, because unbeknownst to me, she is injecting Sodium Pentothal into my IV.  I wake up puking in a bed, in the ward for patients after surgery, with dad by my side.

The next time I encountered Bernadette, I was a 24 year-old brand new nurse starting my career as an OR nurse in the very same OR where I had my appendectomy.  I observed her administering anesthesia there for the next year.  She treated every single patient that came under her care with the same care and demeanor she applied with me that scary time 10 years previous.  After 1 year, and with advice and encouragement from Bernadette, I enrolled in Albany Medical Center's school of nurse anesthesia.  I tied my darndest to become a nurse anesthetist she role modeled to me.  I like to think I succeeded, but that will be for the multitude of student nurse anesthetists I taught along the way to tell.  To me, Bernadette Sovie epitomizes the definition of Hero.

My, now deceased, brother, Jeffery Michael LaRock is my hero.  Jeff was the standard bearer of love.  In his too short life he gave more love than he received.  I will never be able to reach the level of selfless caring he offered to everyone he encountered.  From the day he was born he endeavored to please.  He was no saint by any measure.  Still, his heart was what grandpa Walton would refer to as "a giving heart."  Being 10 years older than Jeff, I didn't have much time to give to my annoying kid brother.  By the way, his hero, I can say without doubt, was Aunt Nellie.  He tried daily to be my best friend.  Sometimes I think that because of his ardor for his big brother was the reason mom tried to make me his "father."  She asked me many times to intercede to guide him and set him on the straight path just because he would do whatever i implored him to do.  I left his life when he was seven and when I returned he was off pursuing his grown-up life.  A long stretch of his life was spent in Nevada and we didn't get to enjoy time together.  He called me often from Las Vegas, I never called him.  We talked for hours and he would regale me with tales of his adventures and he delighted in making me laugh 'til my sides ached.  Our calls always left me uplifted, and that was his aim.    When he returned to live out his remaining years in Ogdensburg and environs we would meet, at least, monthly at a local diner for breakfast.  He was the only person in my life that I could be completely honest with.  I never felt the need to embellish, exaggerate or be less than honest with him, because he was a superb listener who withheld criticism, if he even had any, and was my chief consoler.  I have many regrets about my relationship with Jeff. in particular my lack of trying to emulate his giving nature.  He offered many lesson in that regard, but unfortunately, I was a poor student.  he lived his life always endeavoring to please.  he accepted his coming death with equanimity and I hope I can get an A+ from that lesson when my turn comes up..  He is my hero because he was a caring compassionate soul.

So how about you all:  who are your heroes?