Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Sky

November 13, 2011

Sirens wake me this morning. 

I roll over, press my stomach into  the concave of Steve’s back, put my arm around his chest.  Sadie jumps up on the bed, looking for a spot between the two of us.  Not finding one, she settles herself in the cradle made by my bent knees.

A chorus of sirens. 

The neighbor’s dog barks. 

I try to settle in.  Go back to the amniotic dream world I was warm in --no sirens--no barking dogs.

          “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.”

I feel it first, before the thought fully forms.

Where did that come from? 

Yesterday morning, the sky was brilliant shades of red to sherbert. 

There were no sirens.  The neighbor’s dog was quiet.

Between then and this morning lies the passage of 24 hours.

I cannot fall back to sleep.   I wonder what color the sky is this morning.

Quietly I disengage myself from Steve, from Sadie.  I do not want to wake him. 

I close the bedroom door, descend into the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen.  It is raining.  The sky is gray.  There is a flock of dark eyed juncos in my garden eating Echinachea seeds, scratching the ground beneath lettuce dying, gone to seed.  I stand and watch them eating breakfast.  Ponder the precise placement of colorings--black hood, pinkish sides, white /buff belly, white outer tail feathers.  Each one looks like a painted ornament—except they move.   Stella is crouched next to me, huntress, still except the tail hypnotically swishing back and forth.

I empty yesterday’s grounds from the gold toned coffee filter, fill it with  fresh coffee.  I put cold, fresh water in the carafe to the eight cup mark and poured it into the reservoir.  A flip of the switch.  I let the smell of fresh brewing fill my nostrils.

The dishwasher is full of dinner plates, serving dishes, silverware.  Remnants of dinner last night.  I flip the latch, push the button for pots and pans, hear the sound of water running.

While I wait for coffee, I sit at my computer, type in the words, “red sky in morning” wanting to know the origin of the phrase. 
A reddish sunrise, caused by particles suspended in the air, often foreshadows an approaching storm, which will be arriving from the west, within the day. Conversely, a reddish sunset often indicates that a storm system is on the east side (opposite the sunset), travelling away from the viewer. A similar movement is noted all around the world, in both the northern and southern hemisphere.
There are occasions where a storm system might rain itself out before reaching the observer (who had seen the morning red sky). However, for ships at sea, the wind and rough seas, from an approaching storm system, could still be a problem, even without rainfall.
For ships at sea, an approaching system could still be a problem, even without rainfall.
Sirens in the distance.  Dogs barking. 
A small file folder with your name on it in a box beside my desk marked “Andrea Record”.  I pull it out.  Open it.
FORM 2808,
AGE 21


Civilian Job Misc.  Deck Hand

OCTOBER 29, 2003

10 Nov 2003  MSC sent medical reviewed.  Cleared.  Fit for military.
Fit for Military.  Fit to be an able bodied sea woman on a ship.  Fit .  Healthy. 

There is a file with your handwriting.  Medical Baseline.  When you were fit.  Healthy. 

Before the sirens.  Before the dog barking.

Before the red sun rising on the eastern horizon.

Red sky in morning.  There are few things more beautiful.

Date of Registration:              01/08/2005
Requested Examination:      MRI-HEAD, 1.5
Patient Name:           ORTIZ-PETERSON ANDREA
Age/Sex:        23 / Female
On the T-2 weighted images, there are foci of hyperintensity seen in the periventricular region and the deep white matter bilaterally.  The distribution is asymmetrical.  In the right cerebral hemisphere, the largest is located just adjacent to the posterior aspect of the body of the right lateral ventricle.  Within the left cerebral hemisphere, the largest is located in the region of the left sensori-motor cortex…
Foci of hyperintensity are demonstrated in the deep white matter bilaterally.  These are rather nonspecific, but would be keeping with the appearances of Lyme disease.
Note the presence of focus enhancement in the region of the left sensori-motor cortex and this enhancement is circled on the image of page 6.
12:32:13 PM.
I do not know what any of this means.  Periventricular region.  Left sensori-motor cortex.  Keeping with the appearances of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease. 
I Google it again.  As I have many times since January 2005.
I click on that. 
The Human Side of Lyme – An Inhumane Disease of the Brain       Page 1 of 10.
“…physicians are often surprised to learn that persistent Lyme disease is outstandingly a disease of the brain as well as involving one or all components and subsystems of the entire nervous system.”
It is Sunday morning.  Steve and I stayed up til 4 a.m.  playing Scrabble.  Trying to make words from bits of tile.  Trying to read the subtitles on an Italian movie.

The sirens pass.  The dogs quiet.

I continue to read your Military Sealift Command medical file.

SENTARA Progress Notes 

Chief Complaint – Facial Numbness
History of Present Illness – 23 y/o WF with recent diagnosis of Lyme disease but no other significant prior medial history presents with new facial numbness. On January 27th patient cut her right thumb and went to the ER due to numbness in right thumb.  They sent her with referral to a hand surgeon.  When she went to the hand surgeon she was experiencing right hand numbness in the distribution of median nerve and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel and sent to neurology.  An EMG was performed for her carpal tunnel and came back normal.

Red storm in morning.

The carpal tunnel came back normal.  Healthy. 

An approaching system still could be a problem. 

Read on.  It is quiet here.  Steve stirs upstairs. There is no sign of Sadie.  She is curled up next to him.

Stella is stealing shells from the basket on the table behind me.  I do not stop here.  It is a game she and I play.  She hides them from me.  I put them back in the basket.  She takes them out and hides them again. 

At that time blood was obtained and patient was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The patient was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The patient, Ortiz-Peterson, Andrea, 12/31/81, age 23, female.

My daughter.

Was diagnosed.

With Lyme disease.

The Scrabble game is still out on the coffee table.  All the tiles forming words that are connected, but have no connections.


I taught Steve how to play Yahtzee  last night.  How you think the point of the game is to score a Yahtzee—5 dice, each with the same number of little black dots.  But you have to strategize.  There are other boxes that need to be filled in, Full House, Small Straight, Large Straight. 
Calculations of probabilities on a cellular level. 

“Sixes.  Sixes. Feel those sixes.”  I shook the blue cup.  The dice rattled noisily inside.

Steve laughed.  “I see.”  He said.  “You think you can control the dice with mental telepathy.”

I smiled.  “Exactly.”  I said as I rolled out the 5th six and yelled out Yahtzee.

“You are a funny girl.”  He says, as he takes the cup.  Rolls two fours.

“Put everything back in the cup except the fours.”  I told him.

“But why the fours?”  he asked.

“Because I feel the fours.” I answered as I picked up the  one, three and six dice and dropped them in the blue cup he held.

“But wait…”  Steve protested.

“Trust me on this,” I told him.  “Feel the fours.”

The dice rattled in the cup.  He threw them out on the table.  Even before they were full rested on the table , I could see.

“Two more fours.”  I was triumphant.  “Feel those fours.  Take the three, put it in the cup.  Roll again.  You never know.”

It was a two this time.

“Now what?”  you asked. 

“You have options.  You can take 16 points on your fours.  Or you can take 18 points on your four of a kind.”

And the patient was started on Doxycycline on January 26th.
The patient.  Andrea Ortiz Peterson.  Age 23.  My daughter.

On February 5th patient experienced right face numbness.  No history of camping, no tick bites, no rash.  Extensive travel in Middle East with Navy.
Returned on November 15, 2004. 

November 15, 2004.  Three days from now, seven years ago, I was supposed to meet your ship.  You got in early.  Surprised me at the airport. 

“There’s my mom.”  You told your boyfriend, your first boyfriend, the boyfriend I was to meet for the first time--after you spotted me at the end of the concourse. 

“Where?”  Scott asked, searching the crowd of all the recently disembarked passengers.  “I cannot make out the face of anyone in this crowd.”

“Look.”  You told him.  “Look for the brightest thing in the crowd.  That is my mother.”

Yahtzee.  I felt the fours. 

My daughter could pick me out of a crowd anywhere.

You flew home to Washington with me for the holidays.  You and I went to Waikiki for a week.  Went diving, snorkeling, shopping.  Walked the beaches.

Searching for shells.

December 2004. 

A red sky is beautiful if you have no idea its meaning.  When the forecast of the storm has not been made by weathermen yet.

February 7, 2004.  Doctor’s Impression.  Recent Lyme Diagnosis.

I hear the tags on Sadie’s collar jingle as she jumps off my bed.

I hear the toilet flush upstairs. A cough.

I am feeling the storm approaching from the west.  The  red sky.  The emergency behind the sirens.  The barking dogs.  ad

There is nothing I can do to stop it.

There was nothing I could do to stop it.

Even feeling the fours, I had no idea, really what the final outcome would be.

It is time for another game of Scrabble.  I am going to go jumble up the tiles. 

I am going to form new words today.


The subconscious.  Enhanced areas of hyperintensity. 


November 2007.  You were healthy.  I met you at the Norfolk airport.  I met your boyfriend.  You could pick me out of a crowd anywhere.

Seven years later it is Veteran’s Day weekend. 

Seven years later all that remains of you is the name I gave you Andrea , referred to as patient in  these medical records I try to piece together like a puzzle.



Supine.  Adjective.  Lying on the back with the face upward. Synonym.  Inactive.  Passive.  Idle.

It is Sunday.  Steve is up now. 

Another game of Scrabble.

I feel the words forming.

I feel you.