Category Archives: medicine

The Horror of Armie Hammer.

My parathyroids were having a fit.

A cascade of alarming symptoms had followed me since September beginning with the second of two kidney stones, roiling its way south to exit, followed by uncontrollable OCD, crushing anxiety and, per the secondary results of the CT scan nearly culminating in that most reviled of all diagnostics, the colonoscopy. BUT!

The second of two 24 hour urine captures told that tale. Calcium levels were the kicker. Not to be outdone by actual medical professionals, I pored over the interwebs until, honing in, I’d settled on the glands in my throat. Seems at least one of them was throwing out hormone like gangbusters; and, who knew? My endocrinologist, a Peruvian with a penchant for the latest peer reviewed papers, called me from two hours outside Lima to discuss the whole thing.

At such a juncture, one needs diversion.

The Bachelor season wouldn’t commence for another, unendurable week, and the guy who’d played boyfriend on the flat screen of my fantasy was AWOL again; so, if succour was the craving of the hour the most available (and, delectable) appeared to be an Oscar nom’d film, Call Me By Your Name. Unaware of its actual theme, I was drawn in by what had always turned my head: ineffably. pretty. boys.

And, this was a twofer: the most heavily promoted ingenue, Tim-O-Tay Chalamet – and, one Armand Douglas Hammer.

The story played out as a heady, Indy-European hybrid, flavoured with English subtitles whenever our Elio preferred les Francais and steeped in languid, sun swathed Italian countryside. We followed the young musician and his scholarly Oliver, as they stepped out their bee dance toward coupling, predictably enough; yet, what carried this old girl was the sight, sound, even perceptible scent of perfectly lovely men.

But, reverberating in the back of my refractive lens was the distant undertow of what used to be termed the society page story – on Hammer. As I watched his godlike, Aryan body travel across the frame, I noted a distinctive impetus that seemed almost borne of compulsion. Unlike his convincingly thoughtful counterpart, Chalamet, he didn’t muse to move; Hammer, as Oliver, almost vaulted forward, suddenly, as a cat might pounce.

Could the nature of the man have informed the character he portrayed? Even when the two were in rapt embrace, I was never warmed toward Oliver by any notion of authentic sentiment. He seemed rather to be calculating, to the end, loosely referencing discretion as some sort of caveat for deliberate restraint. At times, he toyed with lovesick Elio, even taunting, then cold. While performing therapeutic foot massage, he appeared to be inflicting authentic pain. In their final scene, departing by train toward a life of alleged responsibility he was ever in his head, as if always having known the end from its beginning.

Is this not the mark of the predator?

I decided that both, as actors, were effortless, immersed in their story. But, what of Hammer, in his?

Born into a family dynasty marked by both industrial megafortune and some alarming, dark demons, “Armie” appeared to have it all – beauty; physique; intellect; and, sexual magnetism. But, too much evidence had mounted, far more often than he would in occasional infidelity, and of a kind which made even a rebel startle; multiple women were testifying to relentless, physical brutality.

In my recent, protracted attempt at relationship I’d become accustomed to giving latitude where likely undeserved, forgiveness where none could otherwise be found. But, my brain stretched, on this one; what, or who, had poisoned the mind of this young man toward an established pattern of relational violence? Was it genetic weakness, true affliction? Or, had he grown to expect absolute dominance over all, both those haplessly appearing in his path as well as selected prey?

I’d sought mindless entertainment, of the evening. I tried valiantly to submit to escape. But, reality encroached – and, won. This wasn’t just a movie about two gay guys falling in love; this was a study in the strength of suspension of disbelief. And, regarding any ability to relax into a story played by actors, even viewing it twice I’d failed. All I could see, or feel, were the raw edges of biting teeth and the tearing flesh of penetrating assault.

Current reports indicate Hammer is financially destitute, in debt, foundering in a menial job as timeshare concierge. The shadows cast by his persistent past still follow him, a true diagnosis for the disease haunting him elusive.

In a matter of days, I will likely reach the point of definitive diagnosis, for my own: Hyperparathyroidism. Four tiny glands, set in the hyoid bone hammock of the human throat, and capable – with the advent of just one, benign lesion – of wreaking havoc over the entire physiological constitution, at its most pathological achieving psychosis.

Maybe Armie Hammer could use a pursuant blood test, of his own. Whence the darkest deeds of man, anyway? The heart may be deceitful, desperately wicked; but, perhaps the source of all bad human behavior can at last be found, couched in the tantrum of one, small handful of rogue cells.

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  • Please find “HOUSE OF HAMMER” on Amazon Prime or Discovery+

Copyright 1/24/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who has consumed four double chocolate chip cookies in cocoa flour and whose story it is. No copying, pasting, editing, transcribing, or translating permitted; sharing by blog link, exclusively, and that not via RSS. Thank you for visiting, and remembering, and subscribing.

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He Said, She Said.

He said God didn’t interact in the lives of humans.

She was sure that God did, though she wasn’t clear on exactly how, or when, or what God was doing.

He was a Democrat, but didn’t vote. She was a registered Independent, voting whenever she could choose a viable candidate.

He believed in abortion as part of a woman’s right to choose, and had encouraged women he knew to have them in the past.

She was fervently pro-life, and considered the right to choose a foil for the right to abort.

He had chosen vasectomy as his means of birth control. She’d used the sympto-thermal method, which had included periodic abstinence.

She loved to walk outdoors, but her profession kept her inside 90% of the time. When he wasn’t cooking, he was outside.

He loved dogs, cats, and birds. Her cat allergy was prohibitive and, though she’d always wanted a dog, both her neighborhood and property were not amenable.

He was built of short, bulk muscle, and preferred large motor activities like weight lifting, sailing, and heavy land maintenance. Hers was a small motor gift, expressed on musical instruments and utilizing the tools of visual art.

He was open ended, preferring to go with the flow. She needed closure, almost obsessively so, not resting until achieved.

He enjoyed hip hop and other contemporary music styles. She would choose country over hip hop, every time, but preferred everything from the classical masterworks to ballads to blues.

He was a medical professional. She was a creative and educator.

Her love expressions were gifting, problem solving, and verbal encouragement. While his love language included gifting his was almost exclusively physical release, and she could count on one hand after six years the number of times he complimented her even if strangers lavished praise.

He liked the house cool to cold, often complaining of feeling hot. She had a bit of Reynaud’s, and required a warm indoor environment to keep her fingers fully functioning.

He was a recreational alcohol and drug user, and self medicated regularly. She took prescriptions to treat migraines, one of them with a history of altering mood.

He was an introvert. She was an ambivert.

He regarded talking as a one sided means to vent. She preferred productive conversation and active dialogue.

He enjoyed reading about history and the care of animals. She preferred reading about the current states of society, health, and the cosmos.

He addressed multiple tasks as they came to mind. She made lists, and crossed off tasks as they were completed.

He preferred keeping his personal life details private. Her imagination led her to question the veracity of his disclosures.

He was fiercely in need of making all decisions on his own, including those which she believed were her exclusive domain. She was the most independent woman she knew.

He preferred to live within a small sphere of his own influence, rarely seeking answers. She was constantly curious, attracted to the speculative universe of unexplored possibility.

He resisted all forms of perceived control. She perceived his resistance as a stubborn need for absolute power.

His behavioral standards were focused on self comfort and sustenance. Hers were built around self protection and preservation.

His, from early childhood; hers, from every aspect of her social realm, theirs was a trauma bond.

He said. She said.

In spite of everything and against overwhelming odds, they had found themselves unable to break free of that which had kept them intersecting in each other’s lives.

To call this a relationship was to stretch the limits of human definition. Only God could name it.

He said God wouldn’t. She was still waiting.

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Copyright 1/21/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo . All rights those of the author, whose personal story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole, or part, or by translation. Sharing by blog link exclusively, and not via RSS feed. Thank you for valuing the rights of original material.

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Kathy O’Keefe Linger.

The name Kathy used to be the cool girl’s name.

This meant that, if you were named Kathy, you’d be born among your contemporaries into a sort of automatic class, like Jen or Ashley, who were just a few years ahead of the Carries, Caras, Carlies. You get it.

Only those of us named strangely felt this. The Frannies. The Ruth Anns.

Kathy.

Each of the Sweet girls, four sisters, daughters of Mae and Henry produced their brood post-WWII; and, the third born, Frances, absconding from the Plymouth Brethren to put down roots in radical Parma, Ohio, would be blessed late in life with Kathleen, the last of the grands, circa 1962.

And, our Kathy embodied cool like nobody.

Oh, not because she was a social follower. Kathy O’Keefe was anything but.

The Sweet genes, formidable enough, bestowed their lion’s share upon the daughters of their daughters. And, Kathy, the only “carrot top” in the bunch, was not to be overlorded or overshadowed by any of them.

From her earliest days, sending her signal through the whole extended family like a current, we would learn that Kathy had been born with a life threatening abnormality. Before anyone could comprehend “transplant”, some cutting edge surgeon from the trending Cleveland Clinic installed a replacement porcine aortic valve into her heart muscle.

Kathy wouldn’t just live. She would thrive, with a pig valve, for many years. Naturally energetic, loving the outdoors and as much physical activity as her teeming mind would allow she threw herself, headlong and whole heartedly, into everything – camping; hiking; and, especially, water skiing on Lake Chautauqua. She could water ski before the rest of us had learned to swim.

Heading toward college, equally determined to use her frontal lobe to its fullest, Kathy became a math teacher. And, not just a math teacher, she was a mathematics and economics whiz, rising to the top of those respected among her ilk. Inheriting the shrewd, critical thinking intellect of her mother, a strong work ethic its corollary, she made highly organized productivity into a lifestyle.

We among the family would get to see her at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, when the O’Keefe clan would make the extra effort to tool east to meet the rest of us at Mammy and Pappy’s on East 29th. Her intensity was always palpable ( and, audible – talking is what the Sweets did ) – from the moment she burst into the room until the final, equally driven departure. Kathy was purposeful; there was always a motive to act, because there was a reason for everything. When it was time to go, it was time to leave. On to the next thing, the next reason to keep on living.

Her second heart valve surgery came around age 21*. The pork valve may have had its own shelf life, but she did not. However, this replacement was man made, mechanical, and bore with it a lifelong ticking clock which could be both heard and, mostly, felt. Kathy would now live by that clock, the ever present reminder that, to her, each moment was the gift.

Childbirth is toil for any woman but, for Kathy, the reality would prove confrontational; right as she approached the date of her own daughter Kristen’s arrival (yes; she was married) that valve would signal its own, looming demise. The CC team of surgeons gathered, obstetrics and cardiology; Kathy would give birth, naturally, even as her second aortic valve was about to die, and receive the third and final prosthetic in the months following.

For me, when the cousins married they slowly retreated from my view; I was the last to tie that knot, and the first to let it slip loose. But, when Kathy’d met Rob, they were bound forever. Theirs was the deep, abiding friendship built on common outlook, interests, and activities that makes marriage true. Part of a family whose society was determined by close proximity and faith-centered commitment to each other, they lived out their own place therein in the finest of form.

But, the baby of any family has a special spot to occupy. Kathy’s relationship with her Dad, a Baptist minister, was both admirable and endearing. She regarded him with absolute, Godly respect, and he toward her with complete encouragement and acceptance. As he aged, enduring heart health challenges of his own only to survive them against unheard of odds (massive coronary, age 80? subsequent infection, triple bypass surgery, and still living to age 98?), Kathy would come to expect that indomitability was both inherited and learned.

Maybe this indomitability both informed and drove the decisions she would be forced to make when, just a couple years ago, her symptoms finally led to the sobering diagnosis of a cancer which carried with it erratic statistics; multiple myeloma was “manageable”, treatable, potentially less than life curtailing. Kathy of all people could most definitely fight and win against this level of foe. All she had to do was, well, be Kathy O’Keefe.

Enter the silent enemy, the ever-wielding unknown. Powers, those that both were and those that aspired to be, dictating the courses of treatment. Everything distilling down to the perceived sources of trust and trustworthiness, and those who embodied each. Like her mother before her Kathy would make clear to everyone and all; decision making was her domain. Her devoted husband, perhaps he only, fully understood this. At every point, juncture, even apparent impasse, Kathy would ready herself to choose.

The latest news had rendered a sort of last gasp euphoria, in recent weeks. Inexplicably, after struggling to sustain the stem cell replacement therapy which had been effective for so many, she’d survived the only remaining chemo protocol, including an infected gall bladder; now, the latest, most “promising” treatment regimen, just FDA approved, was finally in her hands. The Cleveland Clinic had the whole thing ready, and her body seemed equally prepared.

We’d all watched, through the lens of social media, as she took her first, second, third dose, only to marvel at the ever present grin and thumbs up outcome of each tentative step. Suddenly, it was Christmastime and, discharged from the Seidman Center, Kathy and Rob and Kristen were allowed to go home. This news, alone, was an extra special reason to celebrate the joy of the season.

Silence was less familiar, to the Sweets. To us, when you didn’t talk, something wasn’t right. And, this time, something wasn’t. Kathy had been full of life, playing (and, winning) board games, running at her familiar nearly frantic pace; but, just beyond the fully decorated Christmas tree, a quiet cloaked the scene.

The promise of a final protocol which was heralded as life sustaining had failed. Kathy’s body curled up, giving its spirit over to the God who had governed the O’Keefe clan from go and its soul into the arms of her father, Pastor George, who welcomed her with transcending relief. The woman who had run so hot, her body cooled by death, was ever the embodiment of a life lived on terms that would challenge even the most arrogant women and men. Kathy had withstood; she had persisted; she had run a course most would merely observe, and that with awe.

Kathy O’Keefe Linger. Not just another Kathy. Loved by so many. Admired by more. In a class, by herself.

*precise chronology on these surgeries still in edit/awaiting clarification.

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Copyright 1/4/23. Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story is hers, and whose name appears above this line. Please respect the family. Thank you.

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