Drive Time

Dear J-

Mom’s going in for a routine surgery today, at least as routine as these things go. Other adult children have been in this position before and I’m sure we’re not the last to do so; still, it puts me in mind of the things we used to do in Spokane. If someone goes into the hospital, you visit; that’s the way it works. We’d find out room numbers and visiting hours and then show up for an hour or two while kids fiddled with the bed controls and looked out the window overlooking a parking structure or some sterile cityscape far below. It’s routine and fairly non-invasive, they said: laparoscopic, so recovery should be swift and complications low. Routine.

Working in nuclear power and now conventional thermal (coal) power has given me an appreciation of factors of safety, trusting but verifying claims, of the application of law and regulation. There are human factors involved and there are those who believe that since nuclear power demands nothing less than perfection, to rely on imperfect humans means that despite best intentions and all the redundancy in the world there will always be some catastrophic outcome. I agree. But it hasn’t stopped people from getting in cars, or on trains, or in airplanes, or turning on gas appliances, or owning houses in flood zones, or … we judge our risks and if they’re acceptable we take them. I appreciate how loaded a word like routine can be.

Despite appearances I’m not too worried about today, although I am planning on stopping off in Palo Alto to visit. It’s my duty and privilege to do so and we’ll keep that in mind as we move forward towards the New Year closer to the end of the month. We picked up our keys last Friday so there’s a new house to welcome that in and I’ll keep thinking about ways to brighten the house. I keep thinking of having sun-drenched afternoons together, which will hopefully be nicer than our mushroom-like conditions now: no direct sun in the apartment, no light, no joy, no way out together. We should encourage our shared lives outdoors together and find a nicer way out.



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