Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Two Towers

On Thursday, I was sleeping at my friend’s house (that is another story, one in which I will avoid discussing at the moment), when I received the Bat signal.


I programmed Sophia’s ringtone as the 1960’s Batman song, because lately her calls mean someone is in trouble.

“Vartan is back in the hospital,” she said.

I wouldn’t say that I was surprised.  Even though we hired an aide, caring for my father-in-law has been difficult, especially as his decline continues.   My mother-in-law, looking ragged from the stress, still refused to place her beloved husband into a nursing home, despite the advice of doctors.

By Saturday, my mother in law was so exhausted, she was unable to visit her husband in the hospital.  I volunteered to watch over my father-in-law during the day.

It was freezing in the room.  They keep these rooms cool to prevent infection.  I wrapped an extra blanket around my shoulders.  My father-in-law was completely out of it, drugged up many times over.

I sat there, bored with listening to the whoosh of oxygen in tubes.   I went on Twitter, chatting with whoever showed up at the time.

That’s when I received the bat signal.   I answered the phone.   It was Sophia.   An ambulance was whisking her mother to the hospital.   She was having trouble breathing.

Husband and wife, both at the same hospital.   This is not that uncommon; I later learned this from one of the nurses.  For the next two hours on Saturday, I ran back and forth between the emergency room and my father-in-law’s room.

I think my mother-in-law will be OK after a few days in the hospital.   In fact, the first thing she said to Sophia when she arrived was to point at me and say something in Russian.   I assumed that she was touting me as a wonderful caretaker.

“What did she say?” I asked Sophia.

“She says you need to comb your hair.  You look like a homeless person!”

That night, I went to sleep at 7PM.

Today is Monday.  I’m currently in the Cedars Sinai Hospital cafeteria eating lunch.  My father in law is on the fifth floor of the North Tower.   My mother-in-law is on the fifth floor of the South Tower.   My father-in-law does not know his wife is so close.    It is probably better that way.


  1. Best wishes and strong legs to you, Neil.

  2. wishing health and comfort for your in-laws and lots of deep breaths for you. This has to be very trying. Take care of yourself, too.

  3. at least hospital foods are better than they used to be, at least around here. get some snoozes in while at the hospital if you can.

  4. Thinking of you. This is beyond words, really.

  5. argh. here’s hoping for the best, whatever that might be.

  6. Oy, sorry to hear about Sophia’s mom. I spent five months in that damn cafeteria, I can picture every inch. Will you be there all week? Let me come and visit you. Breathe, breathe, and spend some time in the glitzy Swifty Lazar lobby listening to elderly volunteers play the grand piano.

  7. Holy Hospital, Batman. POW! BAM! ZONK! Hope you will be back at Wayne Manor very soon.

  8. tough stuff, my friend. best wishes and i like what an earlier commenter said wishing health and comfort to your inlaws.

  9. Keep that sense of humour, Neil, and you can get through anything.

  10. There’s nothing I can think to say but I’m sure you will get through it–which is oh so not helpful!
    Aging’s hell and helping the aging no matter how loved, sometimes seems a special hell.

  11. I’m sorry Neil, worrying about one relative is hard enough, but both of them being hospitalized must be so much more difficult.

  12. Damn that’s sad. 🙁

  13. I have been in both of those towers more than I care to remember. Wishing the family a speedy recovery.

  14. So – do they allow conjugal visits? Did you cut your hair?

  15. Well, dammit. That’s just too much, Neil. I’m so sorry to hear it. I hope it’s just exhaustion, and that she rests up and gets home. Maybe then she may be willing to reconsider getting more help, or a new environment… I know it’s tough, though. Big decisions, and loaded ones. Love to you, and to your family. xo

  16. It probably is common. My husband’s grandmother broke her hip and was in the hospital. His grandfather (who was deep into Alzheimer’s dementia) was agitated that his wife was not there. In the hour he was left alone he managed to find the car keys, back the car down the narrow driveway and get part of the way to the hospital. (We think this is where he was going, he was headed in that direction at least.) He did not make it, as he ran his car into a barrier and died. It seemed a measure of his love for his wife that he was able to do so many things he had lost the ability to do, all in order to find her.

  17. Your family is in my thoughts.

  18. I’m so sorry for you and Sophia’s family. I’m thinking of you guys.

  19. you are in the middle of it. take care of yourself.

  20. If you end up in the hospital next, I’m coming over there and dragging you out of California. xo

  21. undercovermama

    March 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear. I hope everything gets better, and if you need anything give me a holler. As it happens I work there and know a few people on the 5th floor

  22. Oh man… that’s stress … and you still find humor or at least it sounds like you wrote this with some humor considering you mentioned your need to comb your hair as put by your mother-in-law.

  23. Very sorry to hear about your MIL, Neil. Sounds like she’ll do fine, though.

  24. Stay Strong, Will be praying for your MIL Neil

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