28 October 2016

TGIF -- Sometimes

For most people, Fridays are the start of happy times and a great weekend. When I was a kid, Friday night promised either a night of great happiness or great terror. It was a coin toss -- until the clock struck 6:00 p.m.

For a large chunk of his life, my father was an alcoholic. He didn’t drink all the time, but when he did it was bad. His favorite time for drinking was after work Friday. I don’t necessarily blame him. He had a job that was physically tough and he worked hard to provide us a life free of want (mostly). But there were times he needed to drink and get drunk.

On the good Fridays, when he came home right after work (before 6:00 p.m.), he might have picked up fried chicken for dinner, we might have dinner at home, or go to a local fast-food place (which was exotic to a young kid back then).
From my personal collection.

On the most special nights of all, we would go to a restaurant called Jack’s (see photograph) on the northwest corner of McDowell Road and the I-17 freeway near downtown Phoenix. Jack’s offered all-you-can-eat fish fry or chicken and dumplings. I almost always got the fish -- along with a build-it-yourself balsa-wood airplane from the waitress.

If the clock struck 6:00 p.m. and he wasn’t home yet, we knew it was going to be a bad night. I’ll spare you details of what happened on those nights. But there was one particular bad night I remember vividly -- even though it happened more than 45 years ago.

During summer, I would sometimes walk to a public swimming pool. I would walk home; or my mother or father would pick me up after work. On this particular Friday, it was my father’s turn. The pool closed (probably around 6:00 p.m.), so I left and waited outside. I don’t know what time it was that my father showed up (although it had already gotten dark -- and it gets dark very late here in summer), but I was so happy to see his white truck pull up. I got in (ignoring the liquor smell), shut the door and we started home. When we stopped at an intersection, I glanced over and saw my father’s right arm covered in fresh blood from a huge gash. Terrified, I started screaming and crying. Turns out my father got in a fight outside the bar with “some Mexican” and the other person slashed him.

13 October 2016

The Sodium Chronicles

My cancer affects the efficiency of my kidneys. If I eat too much sodium, my body retains water because my kidneys can’t filter out the sodium as quickly as they used to. So, too much sodium and I retain water; retaining water leads to edema, which leads to weight gain and additional strain on my kidneys making me a generally unhappy camper.

It’s taken me a while to figure out that a certain meal eaten at a restaurant one day leads to a weight gain the next. Research pinpointed sodium as the culprit. Further research indicates that I pretty much cannot eat any meals at any restaurants ever again (it would seem).

Keeping in mind that the daily recommended maximum of sodium is 2,000 mg, I’m trying to eat no more than 1,000 mg of sodium at lunch (and very little at breakfast and dinner). This means I can’t eat Pei Wei’s Pad Thai any more because it has (get ready) more than SIX THOUSAND mgs of sodium in a bowl. A wrap at Jersey Mike’s has more than 2,200 mgs (I can eat half today and half tomorrow, I suppose). A wrap at Chipotle has more than 2,300 mgs.

This is only a problem when I eat out. At home, eating low sodium is a breeze: cook from scratch, don’t add salt to foods, etc. Easy peasy. But, who doesn’t like to eat out once in a while? I know I do (or, I did).