Thursday, November 29, 2007

An unhappy Thanksgiving, and other thoughts

I'm back.

Needless to say the last few weeks have been extremely eventful, and in many ways difficult, for myself and my family. Most notably, as I reported in the previous post, my Uncle Glen is no longer with us.

The original reason for his admission to the Temple VA Hospital, on October 31st, was because he was suffering from edema associated with congestive heart failure. His condition was apparently exacerbated by an adverse reaction he had to a heart stimulant he was given, and he went into renal failure. He was moved to the ICU early the following week. His condition improved to the point that he was moved out of the ICU on Wednesday the 14th, but the improvement didn't last long; on Thursday the 15th the family was informed that Glen's kidneys weren't getting any better, that he had developed pulmonary edema, and that his condition was terminal. He died on Tuesday the 20th. In the end his heart was so weak, his overall health so poor, that his body was filling up with fluids so quickly and that there was nothing that could have been done for him.

The whole experience has been an exhausting roller-coaster of emotion from my family, from initial despair about his condition, to hopeful optimism when it appeared he would recover, to shock and horror when it was realized that he would not survive, to a sad sense of relief when his suffering finally ended. My mother spent the last several weeks in Temple at Glen's bedside along with many other family members and told me that she never wanted to go through such an ordeal again.

On the morning of Thursday, November 22nd, Lori, Kirby and I drove up to Temple for a rather somber Thanksgiving meal. Quite a few people were there, of course, and it was good to see some folks, such as my cousins Laura and Ellie, that I hadn't seen in a long time. We enjoyed ourselves the best we could; Glen, after all, was the type of person who would have told us not to let the fact that he's dead ruin our holiday.

Glen would not have wanted a formal funeral held for him, but on Friday the 23rd we did hold a small and informal memorial service at the Temple VA chapel where we shared memories and tried to console each other as best we could. A larger memorial service and wake will probably be held for him at a later date. As a US Navy veteran, his ashes will receive a formal burial at sea.

So now a difficult period of adjustment begins, especially for his daughters but in reality for all of us. Glen was the closest person in age to my mother; my father had been looking forward to more fishing trips with him. My aunt Dorothy, his eldest sister, will now be completely by herself in Temple; given her advanced age, and the fact that Glen is no longer around to check up on her on a regular basis, her days of living independently are probably numbered.


One bright spot of the past couple of weeks was my successful completion of the AICP exam. I was worried going into the test that I wouldn't do well - the test covered a broad expanse of topics, many of which I had not reviewed since graduate school - and I simply didn't spend as much time studying as I would have liked. Thankfully, the test itself, taken at a testing center on the west side of town, did not turn out to be quite as difficult as I had feared. This is not to say that the test was easy - it was not - but it seemed to be well-designed, focusing on generally-relevant topics and avoiding most of the arcane jargon prevalent in some sectors of the planning profession.

After completing the test I was "unofficially" informed that I had passed by a comfortable margin; it will be a couple of months before I am officially informed of my accomplishment and become a certified planner. Nevertheless, it feels good to finally accomplish this. Becoming certified had been a professional goal of mine for many years, something I really should have completed several years ago but never did because I was either too busy or too lazy or whatever. But now I've done it, and I feel good.


Another piece of bad news arrived in the mail over the weekend in the form of Kirby's official evaluation from the University of Houston's Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic. Kirby's preschool teacher had expressed concerns about Kirby's language development, and that, along with concerns that both Lori and I were beginning to have about Kirby's ability to communicate, prompted Lori to take him to the Clinic earlier in the month for testing. The results of the test, according to the Clinic, are that Kirby had a "moderate to severe receptive and expressive language delay." The report we received declared that Kirby's auditory comprehensive skills score (i.e. his ability to listen) was "greater than three standard deviations below the mean" for three-year-old children. In other words, the Clinic believes that thirty-nine-month-old Kirby has the listening comprehension skills of a twenty-month old. His expressive communication skills were, likewise, below what would be expected of a child his age, although the lag wasn't as great.

A delay in Kirby's communication skills really is no surprise to us; he didn't start speaking until well after most children are expected to do so and, while he is talkative, he doesn't seem to entirely grasp the concept of back-and-forth conversation, and he can't do things that children his age normally do, for example, indicate his age by holding up three fingers.

The Clinic did not attempt to classify Kirby's language deficiency as part of a larger disorder, such as autism, but they did suggest that there might be a behavioral aspect to his communication lag (for example, his inattentiveness). They did suggest a "treatment plan" which included three hours of therapy (two hours with a group and one hour with an individual) every week. How we'd pay for them, of course, is a different matter, since such therapy is not covered by either my nor Lori's insurance.

As I stated; the fact that Kirby has been diagnosed with a communication delay is not surprising to us. The degree of the delay, however, comes as a bit of a shock. I think our next step is to have his overall behavior evaluated to see how much of a role that plays in his condition. After that is done, we will evaluate our options for him.


Indeed, it's been an exhausting couple of weeks (and after all that, I'm supposed to get myself into the holiday spirit?!). Hopefully now that things have settled down a bit I'll be able to provide entries and updates on a slightly more regular basis. It looks like the trip to Dubai won't happen until after the new year, if at all, which right now is a good thing.

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