The Tunnel: Virtually Babysitting

“Dammom, we need a tunnel.” “We need a tunnel, Dammom.” One morning, while sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by toys, I studied the toddler’s serious expression over a FaceTime connection, and realized he was right. We needed a tunnel. I held my phone in front of me and we searched. Without a tunnel, how will the Little Guys travel through the moat from the Troll Castle to the Yellow House?

We built our respective Troll Castles together. “I have some blue bricks, Honey. Do you want me to use the blue bricks?” “Dammom, I have blue bricks, too. I’m building with MY blue bricks, Dammom.” He calls me “Dammom” because he can’t say, ‘Grandmom.” After using my handful of blue bricks, I ask, “Which color should we use next – red or green?” Without hesitation, he says, “I am building with MY red bricks, Dammom. “Okay. Red it is.” Red is his go-to color. I do not own too many bricks; I bought them last summer at a resale shop before my grandson’s visit. But I have enough to make a castle.

“How do you like the castle?” The colorful hollow rectangular shape has a tower. “Now put the Little Troll in it, Dammom.” These Trolls are decades old. The wild-white-haired, red-smocked miniature just fits inside my hollow Troll Castle. “What does the Troll want to do?” “He wants you to read a book.”

And so Grandmom reads to Little Troll and Grandson. It’s sweet. I cannot see my grandson on the screen, but I know he is nearby, carrying one of his Little Guys to his own colorful castle. I don’t worry if I can’t see him; every time I turn a page, he runs back to the phone to check out the illustration. I finish the story. My grandson wastes no time. “The Little Guys need to go through the tunnel, Dammom.”

These “Little Guys” are the original plastic people and doggie that came with the Yellow House that my kids played with years ago. They also include the Trolls and “Pola” Bears juggling toys, Minions, and any other little animal or people toys we happen to have in the house, old or new.

We put the Little Guys in our new-found “tunnel,” a Diet Coke 12-pack box, straight from the refrigerator. I have no idea what possessed me to open the fridge door during our search, but I’m glad I did. With the cardboard ends opened, I start driving the old Matchbox cars into it. The Trolls follow. My grandson reminds me that the original Little Guys have to go home to the Yellow House through the tunnel, too. Everybody is returning to the Yellow House except for Little Troll, who is napping in his castle. I ceremoniously place all the Little Guys into the tunnel box. Then, checking that the phone is properly centered, we count down from ten. “…3. 2. 1. GO!” Picking up the side of the box closest to me, all the contents slide down. Success. Everybody makes it back to the Yellow House through the tunnel, placed under the make-believe moat “watee.” “Dammom! We saved the day!” That’s his new expression.

“Do it again, Dammom.” We play “tunnel” over and over again, stuffing the box with cars and Little Guys, counting down and then cheering when everything falls to the floor. My grandson even dances as the items drop in a heap. I remind myself to find a “Plan B” tunnel; this box is nearing collapse.

Later that day, I tried perching the box open, but it was too flimsy. For Plan B, I cut the bottoms off a couple of plastic take-out soup containers and taped the containers together. Unfortunately, the have a “lip” that prohibits the cars from driving through this tunnel. For Plan C, the Matchbox cars did great driving through the wrapping paper tube, but the Little Guys did not fit, and my Grandson lost interest. A nearby store specializes in plastics. Their Home Page said to send an email, so I wasted no time. Responding immediately, the manager said they are open for essential business only. I think this is one of the companies supplying those clear safety shields at stores and restaurants. Important work.

I emailed back. “Please! Spending hours on FaceTime every day with my toddler grandson so my daughter and son-in-law can work from home is essential.” I unashamedly laid it on pretty thick. “Please, we need a tunnel. The Diet Coke box collapsed. The gift wrap roll was less than ideal. The cut and taped soup containers failed. Without a real tunnel, the cars won’t be able to drive under the moat “watee” to the Yellow House, and the Little Guys will be stuck at the Troll Castle forever.” This was fun. I wanted to add, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” I cannot believe I considered that “over the top.” My requests were specific: One or two pieces, shorter and longer, and two inches diameter. I signed my letter, “Frantic Grandmom.”

The manager took pity on me. He emailed, “We’ll cut some tubing for you.” I arrived, masked, and waved through the window. An employee unlocked the door. “I’m here for the tunnel,” I said. He gave me the thumbs-up sign.

The manager opened the front door a crack. He took out his phone and showed me a picture of his kid; he knew exactly how essential this was. He laughed when he saw my dilapidated box and sadly taped containers. I handed him a credit card, and then I tossed my failed attempts into the sidewalk trash bin. The manager returned, handing me two different lengths of clear two-inch diameter tubing. They had cut a six-foot piece into two lengths. My grandson and I could drive the cars and get most of the Little Guys through these. The tunnels were perfect, sturdy and beautiful.

I was ecstatic. I thanked “Obi-Wan.” He laughed. “It was the letter,” he said. While I was waiting on the sidewalk, two other people had knocked on the door. The masked employee explained through a partially opened door that customers needed to email their “essential” requests. I was humbled.

I know it only took them a short minute to cut the tubing. But I also know that they did not have to take this job, and probably should not have taken it. They gave me some sandpaper for smoothing out the cut edges. I thanked them profusely. While they were doing critical, essential work, my guess is they needed a quick break from the pandemic. I will be baking them some grandmotherly goodies as a thank you.

My grandson daily asks to play with the Yellow House and tunnel. The cars and Little Guys travel through the two-foot section between the Yellow House and the Troll Castle. We figured out that the larger Trolls and Minions enjoy walking on top of the tunnel, right through all the perilous moat “watee.” Sometimes, I take one end of the long four-foot section and position it in the doggie bed (sans doggie), and I perch the other end on a raised support I build with the plastic castle bricks. Counting backward from ten, I send cars and bouncy balls through the long tunnel, adjusting the phone so my grandson can watch the whole thing. My grandson cheers excitedly as the cars and balls careen out the lower end, landing in a heap on the dog’s pillow. The dog barks with excitement, my grandson dances and sings, I cheer, and we have ourselves a jubilant pandemonium.

I promised my grandson that the next time he visits, whenever that may be, we will go to the “Tunnel Store.” My grandson said, “Dammom, they saved the day.” They really did.

Kathy Galgano

July 3, 2020

A Rant for the Ages

Wow. No line! Cool.

“Oh, you wiped down ALL the carts? Thanks!”

Hmm. Where IS everybody? It’s so quiet in here! Blueberries on sale? YES! Pie! They’re playing some good tunes today. Uh oh. Don’t panic. Just face the pasta. He’s wearing a mask. Okay, breathe. Phew. Oh No. Was anybody else around? That sigh puffed out my mask the teeniest bit. Calm. I’m wearin’ my Ultimate Ashtma-Preventer-Forest-Fire-N-95. I checked the fit. Nobody’s getting nothing from me, and I’m getting nothin’ from them. It’s okay. Humming. Good song. 

Uh-oh. Shopper approaching. Do they want tuna, too? Nope. Not coming down here. Hmm. They’re in rice. Do I need rice? Nah. Have enough rice. HEY! No more Floor Arrows! Hated those things. Had to keep backing down the aisle every time I got it wrong. Chuckling. That time all the waters and Diet Cokes in the bottom of the cart made the cart swerve? Had to go fast ‘cuz so many people weren’t wearing masks. Ha. They thought I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew what I was doing. Chuckling. And they were jumping out of the way. Cart swervin’ all over the place. Didn’t hit a thing. And who looks at the floor? Hot dog relish is not on the floor. Oh, Shoot! OhMyGod I’m ruined. Store video. Chuckling louder. Let’s see what’s on this aisle. Oh WOW! They have EVERYTHING! The dreaded toilet paper shortage is over. Yes! Nope. Not sanitizer wipes – but everything else. Almost done. I love this song. 

Hey! Dang. I was singing to that. 

“Good morning, Shoppers…”

 Oh, Wow! They have cheese! Look at all this cheese! They finally have Swiss! Thin and thick slices. And blocks of it! I’m getting Swiss! This is great! What’s that?

 “difficult… unprecedented times… challenging, …not been easy… Even though it’s been so hard for everyone… here for you.” 

Did a balloon just pop? 

“GODDAMNIT!!!”

Breath. Thoughts are racing. I have something to say and it can’t wait. Who can I talk to? I’ll talk to her. I always talk to shoppers, especially kids. Well, usually I say hi and wave. Dad talked to shoppers. Well, Somebody’s got to hear this. They can’t just ruin my day and not know about it! And where’s the Manager? Thank God that shopper’s on this aisle.

“You know, I was having a pretty good day! WHY do they have to RUIN MY DAY?  I was feeling PRETTY GOOD.”

Doesn’t she know I’m talking to her? 

This is the first time in MONTHS that I’ve started to relax at the store! DAMN! HOW COULD THEY DO THIS? NOW I’M DEPRESSED AGAIN! I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO ENJOY GROCERY SHOPPING IN MONTHS!”

I hope she knows I’m talking to her. Look at all that yogurt! No wonder she’s just standing there. So many choices! It would take me an entire half-hour to go through all those labels. 

“Just bear with me, please. I have to vent.”

Good. She heard me. Finally. Well, even with my mask, I am speaking up. She’s facing me now. She must be done yogurt shopping. 

“I was having a pretty good day, ya’ know? Look at this place. There’s stock on the shelves. Nobody’s yelling at us to “JUST TAKE ONE!” People are wearing their masks! Nobody’s coughing! Nobody’s sneezing! And it’s ALLERGY SEASON! They removed the ARROWS! It’s empty in here for the first time in MONTHS.”

“So WHY does EVERYBODY keep telling us how BAD these times are? DON’T THEY THINK we KNOW? HOW CAN WE NOT KNOW? WE’RE LIVING IN A PANDEMIC! What are we, IDIOTS? Do they think WE’RE CRAZY?”

She didn’t respond. She must not be used to other shoppers chatting with her. Hey, here comes a couple. Turn to the cheese. Turn to the cheese. Take a breath. Nope. False alarm. They must have forgotten something, changed their minds, and now they’re heading back for it. Smart. They don’t want to have to make a second trip later. 

“HOW the HECK could we NOT KNOW things aren’t GOOD? WE HAVE TO WEAR MASKS just to buy a LOUSY HOTDOG! We have to SANITIZE the HECK out of EVERYTHING! PARENTS HAVE TO RISK THEIR LIVES JUST TO BUY THEIR KIDS CHEERIOS!” WE’RE IN THEIR STORE! WHY DO THEY KEEP TELLING US EVERYTHING IS BAD!? WHAT’S WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? HOW COULD WE NOT KNOW? I WAS HAVING A GOOD DAY. I USED TO LOVE GROCERY SHOPPING!

“AND it’s NOT UNPRECEDENTED! They keep saying ‘It’s Unprecedented.’ It’s NOT. There have been pandemics before. They really should PICK UP a BOOK!”

Thank Goodness she’s still there. I’d hate to have to say all this with nobody to talk to. Deep breath. Okay. It’s Okay to take a deep breath. Turn head and lower it to exhale. Oh heck, Right. I’m wearing my fitted N-95. Why is my heart pounding? It’s not asthma. 

“I’m sorry. Bear with me here. I’m old and I just gotta vent.”

Silence. She was still standing there, looking at me. Was I yelling? How come I’m out of breath? Sure it’s not asthma? Nope. No wheeze. Good. 

“Why can’t they just GET ON WITH IT like Everybody Else? WE’RE ALL getting on with it. My parents lived through the Great Depression. My dad fought in World War II. My uncles fought in the Korean War. They taught us to Get ON WITH IT. YES! It’s a HORRIBLE PANDEMIC! It’s SCARY! But WE’RE LIVING OUR LIVES! CAREFULLY! I’m shopping in their store, and finally beginning to relax a little bit. And look at what they’ve done! I’m depressed again.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“YEAH!” I agreed. 

“Yeah! They do need to get on with it.”

Hey! She agrees with me! Huh! Still nobody in dairy. And butter’s on sale. Oh? So she needs bread, too? Oh, Wow. Hope she doesn’t think I’m stalking her to the next aisle. We are keeping our distance. Oh, good. They have whole wheat English muffins. Did I just really rant about a PSA? I do feel better. Phew. Head down to breathe out. Still no manager. And no shoppers in THIS aisle, either. Huh! This bread looks fresh. 

“Ya, know, You can bill me for this.”

“I just might.”

Did her cheeks turn up a little? 

That was a fast check-out. So few people today. These blueberries really look nice. 

Yes, I’ll pay for the bags.”

Hey, That’s my friend checking out.

 “Goodbye!” GOODBYE!”

Why is everybody staring? I’m just saying and waving goodbye to a friend a few aisles over. Hope she hears me before she’s out the door. She’s so nice. She made my day. I’m smiling again thanks to her. Can she see me waving? Can she hear me? Everybody else seems to have heard me. Yeah! She’s turning. 

“Goodbye!” 

Ahhh, that was nice of her to say goodbye. And she waved, too. I think she was smiling. 

Oh Crap! The video cameras. 

Kathy Galgano

July 1, 2020

 

Virtually Babysitting

Yes, my early morning routine has changed. Instead of grabbing my laptop to scan the news over a fresh cup of French pressed coffee while waiting for my favorite TV meteorologist to describe the Bay Area’s 30 degree spread, I now brew two cups of coffee, in separate cups. I give my dog his medications in pill pockets, break up a few large Milk-Bone biscuits, and then text my daughter on the East coast. The weather can wait.

“Morning.” Or I might text, “Buongiornio!” Or a not-so-clever, “What’s today’s schedule?”

What I type is not important. On my daughter’s end, the text means Grandmom is ready.

Her response text might read, “Hi! 5 minutes?” or, “Morning! How about 10 my time?”

She waits for an affirmation. My response is “Sure,” or “Okie dokie, Artichokie.”

In five minutes, I can run around and grab the toys piled against the wall of my breakfast nook and place them in the middle of the kitchen floor. If I have an hour or more, I can make a quick breakfast, feed the dog, and maybe even walk the dog, or shower, put away the evening’s dishes, lots of things.

Then the call comes. I may see my daughter for a moment, or I may see my grandson. Either way, it is fabulous.

Whether I’ve donned a decent outfit and put on lipstick, or whether my hair is still sticking straight up from a night dreaming outlandish dreams I understand are normal these days, it doesn’t matter. My little guy smiles at me. “Yellow House, Grandmom.”

Really, it sounds more like “Dammom” because the “GR” consonant blend isn’t there yet. This two and three-quarters year-old toddler loves “Yellow House.” I give him ten kisses over the phone and then switch the camera to view the room so he can see the play area.

And it starts. For the next hour, or two hours, or two and a half hours, Grandmom and Grandson play together on FaceTime. Mommy “goes to work” to a desk in that same room. Daddy is working upstairs.

“How is Daddy, honey?” I ask my grandson.

“Daddy is working.”

“Yes. And we need to do our play work,” I say.

Yellow House is a Fisher-Price toy our kids played with all those years ago. We have the little people that live in it, including the three-wheeled car. Usually, the Fisher-Price doggie drives the car. There is a front door, and my grandson and I push the little “doorbell” on the house. Well, he pretends to push the doorbell; I can see his little fingers extending out toward the phone’s screen. I open the door. My grandson yells, “It’s the Mommy!” Then we “go upstairs” and open the yellow roof and the other members of the family are there. Sometimes the doggie is in the bed. My grandson, seeing the sleeping doggie, yells, “Arise!” In all honesty, I am not quite sure what he is saying. Sometimes it sounds like “Surprise!” Either way, it is adorable.

As I hold my phone camera on the house, the family plays and “jumps down the chimney slide,” landing on the floor. Sometimes they get stuck in the chimney; it works best if I slide the little people down headfirst. I have remembered this from when my kids played with this toy. My grandson is giggling. I drop Super Balls down the chimney and try to angle the camera so he can see them bouncing across the floor. My dog barks and chases the balls and then starts barking some more. I ask my dog to “sit” and my grandson and I hand him a piece of that Milk-Bone cookie. Again, I see my little grandson’s fingers outstretched as if he is offering the dog a treat.

At some point, the Fisher-Price doggie slides down the chimney to go to the garage located at the rear. The doggie hops in the car. We are off to the market to buy pizza and vegetables and fruit and sometimes donuts. The Yellow House family needs lunch.

I have owned this play food since, well, forever. Some of these toys belonged to my mother on the East Coast. When visiting there, my kids and their cousins played with them making restaurants and serving us the same pizza, hamburgers, donuts, and soup. Since we moved into this house decades ago, I have stored this coveted play food in “the cooking drawer,” a large, deep drawer in my kitchen beneath my spice drawer of the same size. It holds the little pots and pans (a few of which my mother used to cook real food) and the ancient family wooden spoon and all the play food and the trolls, and the polar bears that are really soft juggling toys. The trolls and polar bears always attend the tea parties. Every visiting child has played with these treasures. Over the years, I have wiped down the toys to ready them for the next kid. I will be sure to do that when my grandson visits again someday.

“Do we need some apples and grapes?

“Yes, Dammom. And donuts.”

I hold the camera over the play food and my grandson determines which items we will buy for lunch. I might say, “What’s this?” He responds, “That’s a apple.” “That’s a bread.” “That’s a eggplant.” The kid knows eggplant, cauliflower, and bagels. I didn’t know “cauliflower” until I was in kindergarten when our teacher held up a picture of one and I became nervous that she was going to call on me; I had no idea what it was. Debbie in our class held up her hand and said, “cauliflower.” Phew. I was off the hook. And I cannot believe I just pulled that out of my long-term memory. I suppose I will have a strange dream about kindergarten and cauliflower tonight.

But I digress. After shopping for lunch items from the cooking drawer, we “check-out” the food at the cash register my kids found at a yard sale years ago. It still works. I changed the batteries recently. I place each food item on the little conveyer belt, press the button that makes a “beep” sound, and roll my thumb over the little wheel that turns the conveyer belt. Then I punch in numbers on the cash register.

“How much does this food cost?” I ask.

“Ten money.”

We do this for every item, and then I ask my grandson for the total. It is always the same.

“Ten money.”

My grandson pretends to hand me the ten money over the FaceTime connection. I bring my hand close to the phone and pretend to take the ten money from him. I press the cash register numeric buttons for 10.00. Then I press the button that opens the cash drawer. The toy makes the appropriate sound of a cash register opening, and the drawer pops open. Removing some of the real change I keep in the drawer, I hand it to my grandson, bringing my hand close to the phone. “Here’s your change.” He pretends to take the change by putting his little hand next to his phone. I press another button and we hear a female voice say, “Have a nice day.”

Placing our groceries in my dog’s frisbee, I hold the phone with one hand and, with the other hand, I help the Fisher-Price doggie drive back to the house. I have hooked my pinky finger into the frisbee and tote the frisbee behind the car. Lunch is coming!

Back at Yellow House, we celebrate the purple-haired troll’s birthday after lunch. My grandson and I sing a “Happy Birthday” duet while I move the little piece of play food chocolate layer cake to the phone. My grandson moves close to the phone and pretends to take a bite. “Num. Num.” Everybody in Yellow House eats cake.

Occasionally, a troll or a polar bear gets stuck playing on top of the roof. Oh, No! We call the fire department. While I pretend to call, my grandson picks up his play phone. Then, my neighbor’s firetruck comes to the rescue. Last summer, when my grandson visited, my neighbor bought him a nice firetruck with two firefighters in it. It plays great songs about helping people and rescuing cats from trees. My grandson and I played with the truck on my neighbor’s front steps with her.

The firefighters race to Yellow House. I twist the buttons and the firetruck makes great sounds. We hear water pouring out of the hose, the siren and the horn, and we sing and dance to the songs. Meanwhile, Ashton is holding his firetruck book with wheels. He drives it to his block castle and his firefighters “save” the critter on the roof. Or he may hold out his firetruck book to his phone; his firefighter saves his friend on Yellow House.

I ask, “Are the firefighters hungry after all that work?”

“Yes!”

“What do they want to eat?”

“Pizza!”

“How much pizza should we give them?

“Four pizza!”

We offer four slices of play food pizza to the firefighters and the doggie and friends. Ten slices would be optimal, but as we have four, he seems fine with that.

In our time together, I have made up songs and taught my grandson. I have reinforced the alphabet, sometimes by singing it all wrong, and by adding in numbers, the way my father used to sing it to my kids, and he says, “NO, Dammom.” And then he sings it the right way. We have talked about phonics, though he doesn’t know it. We count all the friends and the groceries, and sometimes I count in Italian and in Spanish. We play a game called “U” “P” “UP” and “D” “O” “W” “N” “DOWN.” My grandson now jokes with me and says, “U” “P” “DOWN” and then giggles. However, I am in no hurry to explain how to create plural nouns with my grandson. Frankly, I love hearing “four pizza” and “ten money” too much. He will learn this soon enough, just as he will learn that “a apple” should be “an apple.” I am treasuring these moments.

While building a castle for the trolls together, his phone camera is now pointing at the ceiling fan. However, I can hear the clicks of his little plastic interlocking blocks, so I know he is engaged and is still “with me.”

Then, the pitter patter of little feet tells me that my grandson is on the move. I call out to him but may not get a response. Sometimes I hear, “Mommy, I need the tunnel.” My daughter gets up, grabs the phone, and places a little blanket over a chair and my grandson, who is sitting on the floor. She hands him the phone. Now he and I are in the dark tunnel together. A little face pops into view on my screen. “Dammom, I’m in the tunnel!” “I’m in the tunnel, Dammom!” Look at that smile.

Other times, when he is on the move, I wait a few moments. “Honey, where a-r–r-e you?”

Nothing.

“Where a-r-r-e you?” This can go on for a while. I put my empty mug on the counter and grab the second cup of coffee. It is still warm.

Finally, I hear from the little guy. “I’m in the tunnel, Dammom.”

“Honey, can you come out and bring the phone camera to the tunnel so I can see you?”

“No, Dammom.”

Mommy stops working. “Can you please bring the phone and Grandmom to the tunnel?”

“No, Mommy.”

A new tack. “Honey, the Minions are building a new castle. They want to see if it matches your castle. You always build such good castles. Can you show the Minions your castle? “

“Okay, Dammom.”

Once again, I hear his little bare feet. I see him pick up the camera and we are back in business, and back in the tunnel.

And on it goes.

Mommy is on a webinar. Daddy is on a Zoom meeting upstairs.

The webinar ends. Mommy walks over to the tunnel and lifts the blanket and smiles at her son and her mother. She says to my grandson, “Let’s have some lunch, and then it’s your naptime.”

“Why, Mommy?”

Because you need to eat to stay strong.

“I’m talking to Dammom!”

My heart melts.

I ask, “Can you show me your big kid muscles?” He always calls himself a “big kid.”

My grandson takes the phone from his mother and holds out his arm for me to see. I can only see his hair.

“Hmm. This arm muscle is really strong,” I say, pretending to check muscles I cannot see.

“I’m a big kid!”

“Yes, you are! Can I see your other arm?”

I assume that my grandson is holding out his other arm. I note that their ceiling fan is turned off.

“This arm is pretty strong, but it could use a little lunch to make it even stronger.”

My mother used to say that to her grandkids and great-nieces and great-nephews to get them to take an extra bite or two after they had forgotten about eating because one of her toys distracted them. I learned from the best.

“Okay, Dammom.”

“I Love you, Honey!”

I disconnect the call.

My daughter calls me right back. “Oops,” I say. “The little guy has to disconnect.” She laughs. “Yup!”

My grandson’s sweet face is on my screen. “Thank you for playing with me, Dammom.”

My heart melts some more.

He presses the red button on his phone.

Until next time.

Kathy Galgano

May 23, 2020

My Mother’s Advice

I have to get this off my chest. I have a strong memory from when I was a kid, probably the 2nd or 3rd grade, standing around in our big kitchen talking with my mother. Somehow, we were discussing jobs. I have no idea why this topic had come up, but I do remember talking about one of my favorite places in town, the Post Office. My Uncle Al worked there. He had been a police officer but then switched careers to work for the Post Office. Everything about the Post Office was great — I loved the building and the large WPA murals, especially the one of John Brown who had lived in my town. I loved looking at the “wanted posters,” and the high counters, and how much like a bank it felt. I loved banks, too.
 
When talking about my Uncle, my mother used the phrase, “Civil Servant,” and I didn’t know what she meant. It’s funny that I remember her saying that phrase. She then told me that if, when I grew up, I took a test and got a job with “The Government,” it would be a “good job.” From what I knew then, a “good job” was one that paid you well and gave you “security.” I thought that meant you didn’t get fired.
A “good job” was nice, but “I remember wondering if I could get a “big job.” Important people had “big jobs.” My Aunt Bea always talked about people with “big jobs.” But the part of the conversation that impressed me most was when my mother said, “If you get a job with “The Government,” “The Government” will take care of you.”
“The Government” will take care of me? I figured it must be a big deal to become one of these Civil Servants, because you have to take and pass a test. I knew Uncle Al was a smart man. The test part scared me. But my mother assured me I would get a “good paycheck and have insurance.” I remember feeling happy that my mother thought that I could pass this test. I had no idea where one took the test, but I figured she would tell me when I was older.  
I remember, too, wondering about the insurance part. The only insurance I knew about was the [life] insurance payments my parents made to the man from “The Insurance Company” every month. He drove to our house in a nice car wearing a suit and a smile. My parents had a little payment book and he would fill in a page every time they paid him. They would sit around the kitchen table. I liked him. He gave me and my brother a shiny new penny every time he came. When my mother talked about insurance with “The Government” job, I didn’t know if she was referring to another Insurance Man, but I figured it must be important. I also especially remember thinking it would be nice to work for the Post Office in that fabulous building, just like my Uncle Al.
 
As I reflect on this, I find myself thinking something sad. There have been a few moments during some very difficult times over the years that I have thought, “I’m glad my father/ mother isn’t here now to see this.” I especially thought this after 9/11; my dad, a World War II veteran, died in 1996. I remember feeling strongly that the horrors of that awful day and the ramifications of what happened would have been so overwhelming, so upsetting for him, that I would have had to shield him from them somehow.
My mother died several years ago. And today I find myself thinking, with profound sadness, “I am glad my mother isn’t here right now to witness this shutdown.” Many people, including a close family member, work for “The Government.” Someone I know not only has a “good job,” he has a “big job.”  But he can neither work nor be paid.  My mother’s trust, her faith, her knowledge that “The Government” will take care of you, has been proven false. This shutdown would have rocked my mother to the core.
 
I know it’s rocking me to my core.
Kathy Galgano
January 15, 2019

Hospice 101.1: The first meeting. A quick look at what can be expected when a patient goes on hospice

(Hospice care supports patients and families of any age. As my experience is predominantly with senior citizens, I will be discussing hospice for patients in that demographic. The information is generally applicable to all ages, however.)

Hospice is individualized care for patients (and support for their loved ones) who no longer receive treatment for their illness, there is no cure, and they are not going to survive the illness. Usually, a hospice team cares for patients in the final 6 months of life.

On hospice, patients choose to live the rest of their lives in the way that makes them most comfortable, with the focus being on what each patient’s goals are for this time. For example, while many patients will want to remain at home, some patients will choose to go to a hospital or skilled nursing facility for end-of-life care. These are individual choices that the hospice team will discuss with each patient.

Usually, a patient’s doctor or nurse practitioner recommends and notifies a hospice organization. If the patient is living in a retirement community, the community’s nursing staff, or a health care advocate, and/or a trusted friend and family member can help with a recommendation. Perhaps the patient knows of a local hospice that other friends or families have called for their loved ones, and they have spoken highly of that organization. Online searches are great, and representatives from hospices will come and talk to patients and loved ones in an informational setting. Hospice organizations are both non-profit and for-profit entities.

The doctor, patient or a loved one calls to make an appointment, and the hospice representative who is oftentimes a nurse, visits the patient at his or her home or hospital room. The representative will describe the organization’s services. At the meeting, the representative will ask the patient about his or her medical history. The hospice organization must have the medical diagnosis that makes the patient eligible for these services so they can approve the patient for hospice. The representative may have already received the diagnosis from the doctor, or will ask the patient for a copy of the diagnosis in the form of a doctor or hospital report. The nursing staff at a skilled nursing facility or assisted living community may have this report.

During the initial meeting, the patient, or an agent of the patient if the patient is unable to represent him or herself, will sign a contract for hospice care. The hospice representative will determine which professionals will be on the patient’s care team. Typically, there will be a hospice care manager, registered nurse or nurse practitioner, licensed vocational nurses, and personal aide. The patient will learn the name of the supervising physician. Hospice teams generally involve direct patient care through their nursing staff, however the nurses keep in touch with the hospice physicians. The entire care team meets regularly at the hospice office to discuss each patient, their status and care plans. A patient can request the doctor to visit, too. Hospice will work with Medicare or the insurer directly; the patient doesn’t have to do this.

At the first meeting, expect the hospice representative to discuss medical equipment the patient may need now, or may need as the disease progresses. Certain items can help to make the patient’s life easier and may also help keep the patient safe, especially from falls. Not everything has to be ordered now. Some items might include a hospital bed and bedside tray table; an oxygen concentrator, nasal cannula, mask and oxygen tanks (for when the patient leaves the bedroom); a nebulizer for breathing treatments; a commode toilet – a bedside unit or perhaps an extension for the patient’s own toilet with a higher seat and grab rails; a walker or a four-point cane; or a wheelchair.

The hospice representative will also discuss prescriptions; the nurse will review the medications the patient currently takes. Do not be surprised if hospice discontinues some of the patient’s regularly taken medicines and supplements. As hospice is for end-of-life care, medicines that are prescribed for long-term health no longer may be appropriate. Also, hospice can prescribe new medications for the patient.

In addition to changing the patient’s daily medication schedule, the representative will discuss a “care pack” of hospice-provided medications that will be delivered to the patient or to the nursing team at the patient’s residence. The care pack must be kept in a safe place, perhaps in the refrigerator or other location of the patient’s home, or at the nursing station of an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility. The patient may not need any of these care pack medications right away. They typically include: pain relief and anti-anxiety medications, drugs that prevent vomiting and nausea, anti-inflammatories, laxatives, anti-psychotics and medications that help reduce respiratory secretions at end of life. Hospice will direct the patient as to how and when the medications will be administered.

Also at the first meeting or soon thereafter, the patient will receive a schedule for hospice nurse visits. For example, hospice may determine that the nurse practitioner or registered nurse may visit once or twice a week. If desired, a care aide will be scheduled regularly to help the patient shower.

While a patient is on hospice care, do not expect hospice to provide nursing or care coverage 24/7. However, when a patient’s needs change, for example if the patient is experiencing more pain, or is having difficulty breathing, the patient, loved ones, or assisted living or skilled nursing staff will call hospice. At the initial meeting and most likely in subsequent meetings, the representative will explain that hospice is the patient’s first call, not 9-1-1. At that point, when called, a hospice nurse will come and assess the patient, determining if the care regimen needs to be changed. The nurse may decide the patient should have a licensed vocational nurse stay with the patient for a shift of 8-12 hours to provide nursing services at this time and to re-evaluate the patient. Near the end of that first shift, hospice will determine if another shift is needed. At some point, a patient may be stable and no longer need the shift care and evaluations.

If a patient does not warrant hospice around-the-clock care but still needs assistance, such as when a patient is a fall-risk, or is having difficulty doing daily tasks for him or herself, loved ones can step in to assist. Also, the patient or family members can work with a care agency, and hire caregivers for a partial day, full day, or for 24/7 assistance. The caregivers can help the patient with daily tasks such as: transferring from sitting to standing, eating and drinking, and going to the bathroom. The hospice organization, the patient’s own medical team, and/ or the nursing staff of the retirement community or skilled nursing facility can help determine which agency to contact.

Hospice does provide an intensive, round-the-clock care service for patients nearing death, ensuring the patient’s comfort. The oxygen, and the medicines from the care pack that the patient needs are dispensed per the hospice doctor’s orders. The hospice nurse advocates for the patient and calls the doctor to make adjustments to the patient’s regimen as needed.

Hospice offers all kinds of services for the patient and for loved ones, including counseling and chaplain services. Patients may choose to participate in massage therapy, and might enjoy music therapy. Animal lovers can choose pet therapy, where volunteers will bring their pets for the patient and loved ones to hold. All these services are printed in the hospice informational packet given to the patient at the first meeting. As a loved one nears death, this can be a difficult time for everyone involved, and these professionals and services can help with this transition.

In subsequent posts, I will discuss the differences between palliative, hospice and allopathic care. I will talk in more detail about different aspects of hospice care, things I’ve learned, and areas where it might be important to advocate for loved ones. Thanks for reading.

Kathy Galgano

March 4, 2018

Blogger’s Statement: I am a care manager for elderly clients; I am not a nurse or health professional. I will not give medical advice; please go to the doctor for that. That said, in my job and in my personal life, I have worked with medical professionals and hospice organizations for a number of people. It is important to remember that while the vast majority of health professionals provide care for our loved ones with the very best of intentions, people are fallible. We want the best care for those we love, and especially during the final stages of life. While I deeply believe that hospice and medical caregivers are well-trained, hard-working, generous and caring people, sometimes, despite best efforts, things may fall through the cracks. Such is life; nobody’s perfect. A loved one or care manager who knows the patient well can advocate successfully at times when the system is moving a bit too slowly. There are little things that are good to know if you or someone you love is entering hospice. I will discuss these in my blog posts.

 

Welcome Return-Guest Blogger Richard Galgano “Fantasy Football”

My son started a fantasy football league this year. I was in a fantasy baseball league about 15 years ago. My co-workers needed an extra team and nominated me for the role. I was clueless about the process and looked at my record more than halfway through the season. As expected, I was in last place and discovered that the manager needs to alter the lineup daily to make sure the players are actually playing that day. I managed to improve a bit but remained in the cellar.

Trying to learn from past experience, I decided to do a little research (very little, about 5 minutes.) Each team drafts players and selects a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, a defense and a kicker. There are a few reserve spots as well. When selecting players, especially the reserves, one must account for bye weeks when the actual player’s team is off. We had a draft, scheduled for 9 pm last Thursday. I had slept about four hours the night before and was running on fumes when the draft started.

Players are ranked based on their prior statistics. Highly ranked players are sought after because their statistics (yards gained, passes caught, touchdowns scored, field goals kicked, etc.) are what generate points for your team. About a half hour before the draft, I started reviewing leaders from the 2016 NFL season. I learned that there is a staggering amount of information available and that sophisticated programs mining “big” data create realms of analyses and forecasts. How was I, an analog guy who used a slide rule in high school physics for a semester, going to compete with the high-tech, computer savvy, data mining experts who eat, drink and sleep fantasy football?

I thought for a few minutes and then it came to me in a series of waves, like body surfing at the shore. I considered words of advice from great coaches like Vince Lombardi, Hank Stram and Don Shula, and remembered Joe Namath’s 1968 New York Jets thoughts about facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Lastly, I recalled sage wisdom from “Moneyball” and decided there might be a way for fantasy football underdogs to compete.

  • Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling. Vince Lombardi
  • Football is a game of recognition. Each team must determine what the other team is doing before it knows how to respond. Hank Stram
  • What do you do against a team which is bigger, faster, stronger and more aggressive? You use it against them, you trick them. Don Shula
  • (Referring to the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III) Why would they change anything? For the Jets? They’re not gonna change anything? Joe Namath (More on Broadway Joe in a future post.)
  • People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. … I believe there is a championship team … because everyone overlooks them like an island of misfit toys. Moneyball

Knowing professional and fantasy football are big business, I decided to treat this as a business, and developed a set of guiding principles for my team.

  • Focus on fundamentals
  • Do your own research and draw your own conclusions
  • Disguise your strengths
  • Evaluate players’ stats in context
  • Trust your intuition

After getting the “okay” to manage a team, it was time to get to work. Searching for a name, I thought about menacing names like “Genghis Kahn” or “Hammerhead Sharks,” but thought this would not help us keep a low profile. I opted for something a bit personal and disarming, possibly humorous and deceptive. “Rich’s Relics” immediately came to mind. Think about the advertising possibilities. Finally! A team which could attract interests from funeral homes. Our team slogan: “You don’t scare us. We survived decomposition.”

I needed a head coach. With an upstart team, there could be only one person who could fill the role — the late, great Sid Gilman. Gilman was an innovative coach for the Chargers as well as other teams and wore a bow-tie on the sidelines.

Next I wanted a veteran presence on my team, someone who epitomized toughness and coolness under pressure. The ultimate competitor and veteran. A man who could play two positions, quarterback and kicker. After doing a little checking, I signed Hall-of-Fame player George Blanda to a one year minimum contact. Well, he’s actually dead so I signed his remains. Actually, he hasn’t signed it yet but I’m hoping no one will notice and will try to make an “X” with his skeleton holding the pen. He was 48 when he retired so I don’t think anyone will be expecting him to look all that spry in uniform. (Full disclosure: I loved watching George Blanda. He won the MVP trophy in his 40s by winning a bunch of games in the last minute for the Oakland Raiders.)

I thought about our offensive strategy and decided we couldn’t run the modern NFL offense. Nowadays everyone uses the quarterback in the “shotgun” formation (not directly behind the center) for most plays. We could try the “I” formation or even the “Wishbone” — these formations may be vaguely familiar to some of my co-owners. I decided to bring back the “Single Wing” formation introduced by Pop Warner. Although there are a few devotees who still use the system, it went out of style after WWII. As we only play our opponents once per season, they won’t know what hit them.

The first round was ready to start and I had the 5th draft choice. Quickly going over the numerous athletes, one name caught my eye. He wasn’t top ranked but something about his name rang true. Fozzy. Fozzy Whittaker. Who could resist? Fozzy played college ball at Texas and was with Cleveland during his rookie year. He’s been with the Carolina Panthers for the last 3 years. Last year he ran the ball for 265 yards and caught 25 passes for 226 yards. Among all players, Fozzy was 68th in the NFL in total rushing and 186th in receiving yards. However, if you look at his trends, you will see that his productivity has increased in the last two years in Carolina.
Year        Rushes        Yards Rushing      Receptions       Yards Receiving
2015             35                      108                         12                        64
2016             57                      265                         25                      226

If he continues to improve at this rate, he should rush for 650 yards and receive 800 yards in 2017. That would put him among the league leaders!

Back to the draft. I looked at some players who had middle-of-the-pack ratings. Rob Gronkowski was among them. Although he’s been injured a few times, when healthy, Gronk is almost unstoppable. Perhaps, just maybe, the computer rankings don’t reflect a player’s true value. Could this be used to identify undervalued players?

In my youth I was a true football fan and was up-to-date on the standings and stats. Now-a-days, I’m a casual fan. I live near Boston and am most familiar with the Patriots. Julian Edelman was lost to the season because of a knee injury and I guessed that Chris Hogan would be getting a lot more action. Hogan was a lacrosse player in college and has become a good wide receiver. He averaged almost 18 yards per catch last year so I thought he would be another sleeper.

After a couple more rounds of surprises, my eyes were almost shut. The computer “selected” the rest of my team and I went to bed.

The next day I received an email of my draft. They gave me a “D” and the experts predict I’ll go 2 and 12. However they did remark: “Not a great draft. Or was it? Maybe you know something no one else does. A true underdog. If so, maybe you’re Toyota Hall of Fame material. Nominate yourself now.

I deferred nominating myself for the “Hall” but am keeping the option open for later in the season. Now, just a bit more work to do. Find a backup defense and kicker and start begging the Carolina Panthers to give Fozzy the ball!

Football Fan & Guest Blogger Richard Galgano

September 10, 2017

I was in the Senate Gallery during the Big Vote

I had the great honor of being on The Hill multiple days recently, including Tuesday, July 25, 2017 for the Senate vote to advance health care legislation to the Senate floor. I waited about two hours to enter the Senate Gallery with a pass I secured from my Senator’s office staff the day before. I never waited that kind of time before to get into the Gallery. And security was tight. As I waited just to enter the Capitol Building Visitor center outside, I stared at two police buses parked in front of the Capitol. I learned there were police waiting inside, in full gear, just in case, and that there were many undercover officers on duty in the city. 
I witnessed a planned, non-violent demonstration en route to the Capitol in support of people with disabilities. All that week, the Senate office buildings were full of visitors with physical disabilities. I saw people with prosthetic limbs, and a mom and dad rolling their baby stroller into the Hart Office Bldg. When I was leaving that building, I saw the same couple talking to someone in the lobby. What I hadn’t noticed before was the baby’s oxygen tank and medical tubing attached to the stroller. People actively participated in the health bill conversation.
 
Folks chatted with me that week – a taxi driver, a woman working at Macy’s, a gentleman crossing the street – they were residents of D.C. having emigrated from other countries. Everyone was knowledgeable of the votes, and were able to speak in-depth about the health care issues being addressed on The Hill.
 
Waiting to get into the Senate Gallery, I was reminded that visitors are forbidden to have any electronics, including phones, car keys and fitbits. Nor can they eat, drink, talk, read (unless it is about the Senate), take notes, and especially, react to anything. If a senator says something funny, Gallery visitors cannot laugh. With one eye on my watch, hoping to enter in time to see the full proceedings with the oncoming scheduled vote, and with another on the long line of people ahead of me, I finally advanced enough to surrender my cell phone and charger, which is what I have done in the past. I also handed over my tiny container of Altoids, hand lotions, an empty water bottle, and even a little tube of antibiotic ointment before proceeding. I explained to the police officer checking my purse that two containers in my purse remained, and these held my allergy medications and ibuprofen. She did not ask me to surrender these. She thoroughly checked every compartment of my purse and every zippered pocket of my wallet. That was new.
 
One woman, upon entering the Gallery, exclaimed to security that she wanted to “sit in the best seat and did not want cameras in front of her” and that she was here to watch the vote. These guards put up with a lot. I don’t know how many times I heard them say, “The only seats you cannot take are the two in the back row nearest the Gallery section door, which are reserved for the Capitol police, and the first row. They repeated this over and over, multiple times to the same individuals. And person after person either chose the “police seats” or the front row. I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. Before entering the Gallery, security tells you to read the back of the ticket which explains all the rules. Signs provide the same information. Security personnel tell you they are going to enforce all these rules. Everybody says they understand. And yet, the guards had to ask a guy to stop reading a novel, and told somebody to get their foot off the seat, and woke up a visitor who fell fast asleep, and repeated, time after time after time, not to sit “there” because it’s either for the police or it’s in the front row. The guards remained courteous the whole time.
 
These security officers, dressed in suits, welcomed visitors to the Gallery until the Senate resumed. Before proceedings started, I sat next to a gentleman from England, who knew everything about U.S. politics, but had to leave early, and then a woman from China. Visitors can stay as long as they want. There were staffers, families, individuals, groups — a Future Farmers of America contingent was there. At one point, a mom asked the security officer if she could take her child to the bathroom. The officer said she could, but they would have to get back in line, now a 3 1/2 hour wait. The mom, dad and child left. Security did not allow any visitor into the Gallery once the session began; this surprised me. I have entered the Gallery in mid-proceedings in the past.
When the Senate formally introduced the health care business at hand, the people in the section to my right stood and began yelling, “Kill the bill. Don’t kill us,” and “Shame. Shame. Shame.” I saw one clergy member in the group dressed in her collar. The vocal demonstration disrupted the proceedings, and the senators looked up to the Gallery. The press, in a Gallery section to my left, were leaning over the railing, watching, and writing furiously.
 
The security officers accompanied one demonstrator out, and then came back for the next. No uniformed officers came into the Gallery. It took a few minutes to clear the area, with demonstrators slowly and peacefully exiting, though continually chanting. There were no scuffles. I could hear the group as they walked along the long hallway outside of, and around the Gallery. The senators, who had stopped their work to watch, continued with their business while the demonstrators were being escorted out of the Gallery. I couldn’t hear what was being said on the Senate floor, though. The two children sitting next to me looked a bit frightened, (their mom was behind them) and earlier I had explained to them that politics was not boring, as they had told me it was, but a passionate thing. While they looked at me during the demonstration, I held my hand over my heart and whispered, “Passion,” to the kids, and they nodded. Nobody in our area of the Gallery moved while the protest was taking place.
 
After the demonstrators were ushered out and things were quiet, I whispered a question to the security guard standing near me, wondering if they would allow more visitors to take the newly vacated seats. He told me they probably would not. There were other vacant seats in other sections of the Gallery and I don’t know if these areas were off-limits to the general public. Many staffers sat in the area directly across from me. With so many people waiting in line to see this vote, I was surprised at the number of Gallery vacancies.
 
With voting underway, the Democratic senators did not vote when their names were first called. From my perch, I could not see California’s newest Senator, Ms. Harris, but I could see Senator Feinstein, and so many famous faces. Other visitors were pointing out their own Senators and whispering their names, and others whose faces are well-known.
 
There were a few “No” votes from the Republicans, and the folks in the Gallery were really paying attention. Many people were sitting forward. There wasn’t much whispering now.
 
After the roll had been called, I heard a few staffers whispering about why the vote was taking longer than usual. The kids next to me asked me what was taking so long, and I told them the voting time had been extended and that we were waiting for more senators to arrive. When the tally was read, I had counted the votes and knew we were waiting for three more votes. The press was hanging over the Gallery railing, again, listening to conversations on the floor, and watching the Senate floor entrances. When Senator McCain walked into the chamber, the floor erupted in applause. The Gallery stayed fairly quiet, with the help of the guards quietly shushing everyone, though I did hear a few people near me exclaim their surprise. Colleagues gave Senator McCain a beautiful tribute. I thought it was classy to see Senator Feinstein walk over and give her friend from across the aisle a big hug. She was the first of many Democrats to do this.
 
I have been to the Gallery at least a half a dozen times over the years, probably more, and have never seen all senators gathered there at once. It was a rare event and I am thrilled to have witnessed this. I saw the Democrats vote as a block. There was a tie, and I saw the President of the Senate, Vice President Pence, break the tie. The woman from China asked me if that was the President, which he is, but of the Senate. Her English was good, and after a bit she said she understood the difference. She referred to a page in the Senate handbook that explains who sits where on the floor — that book is okay to read.
 
No, the vote did not go the way I had longed. But to be there in person was a remarkable and most interesting experience, one I will not forget. I saw and heard Senator McCain’s speech afterwards. I watched former Presidential candidates talk to their colleagues. I listened to other visitors whisper with excitement about seeing their senators, and approving or disapproving of the votes they had cast.
 
I thanked our Security Guard and left the Gallery after the vote. A large contingent of police officers stood in the hallway to my right as I exited the Gallery. I assumed that they had escorted the protesters from the Gallery. I picked up all my personal items at security, and noted the very long line of folks holding Senate Gallery tickets waiting for their turn to go through security and sit in the beautiful room high above the Senate floor. Most likely, they would not see a vote where all 50 states’ Senators would be in the room, but they would witness the business of health care and of the nation.
Outside, I saw and heard more demonstrators campaigning for health care. I saw the press interviewing people on the Capitol steps and near the Capitol Building. Walking to my Senators’ office building, I grabbed a snack from the hot dog cart and ate while sitting on a low wall with a family who had just toured the Capitol. It was nice to enjoy the sunshine. The Hart office building was busy;  people walked purposefully through the building. The whole atmosphere felt charged. I registered my thoughts for the votes remaining that day with my Senators’ staffs, and they thanked me.
I was exhausted. Exhausted, but impassioned. No, politics is anything but boring.
Kathy Galgano
August 5, 2017

Silencing Senator Warren?

(Letter to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren after the Senate yesterday silenced her as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Senator Jeff Sessions and his confirmation for Attorney General.)

Dear Senator Warren:

I am so moved by your experience on the Senate floor yesterday while reading Mrs. Scott King’s words.

Frankly, each morning I wake up more disgusted than the day before at the way our government proceeds with business, bullying citizens of all ranks, shuttering programs that have benefitted so many citizens, flagrantly chastising individuals, corporations, religious and ethnic groups, the press, and anyone courageous enough to disagree and voice concern. That you were silenced on the Senate floor yesterday should not surprise me, but it does, because I choose to wake up each day not accepting this prevailing attitude, behavior and political climate as status quo.

I have taught my children that one voice matters, and that it is their responsibility to work for what is right, and to do so honorably. I am only one voice. But like you, I will not be silenced.

Senator Warren, you are an inspiration.

Thank you.

Kathy Galgano

February 8, 2017

 

In Case Anybody Cares, This Is Why I Can’t Sleep

The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.

At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.

I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.

And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.

Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.

I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.

Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”

When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.

My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.

Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.

I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.

And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.

As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?

So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.

And that’s why I’m not sleeping.

Kathy Galgano

November 16, 2016