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A card had arrived in the mail announcing that Dad's "Continuing Care Meeting" would take place on August 8th. The wording was such that it was more like an announcement rather than an invitation. "Should you be interested in attending, please call Lisa at..." WELL WHO IN GOD'S GREEN EARTH WOULDN'T BE INTERESTED IN ATTENDING A MEETING THAT INTENDS TO PLAN FOR A LOVED ONE'S HEALTH AND WELL-BEING?

Their board room is lovely. Having been in various conference rooms throughout my lifetime all too often, I thought I'd be comfortable. Upon wheeling dad in, a peculiar feeling of uneasiness overtook me. Childhood issues took over and suddenly I felt as if I were surrounded by teachers, deciding what to do with misbehavior. There were two nurses, an MSW, a physical therapist, a certified dietician, and, delightfully, the nurse's aide who cares for dad daily, seated around a large table, with a pile of charts in the middle. Each woman had a foolscap pad and various papers before her.

I find it interesting how these places, and healthcare organizations in general, distill a human being's condition into what they call a "chart." One large three-ringed binder containing each and every thing they know about a person. It's impersonal yet quite efficient at the same time.

The young nurse leading the meeting had an officious air about her. She's young enough to be my daughter (and therefore dad's granddaughter). She began (in a tone that reeked of "let's get this over quickly because we have guests here and can't just talk by ourselves") the meeting with an explanation of why we were here. I stifled laughter thinking about the phrase "I guess you're wondering why I called you all here today...". Then Dad, in his now tiny voice chirped up "I guess you're wondering why I called you all here today." The ice was broken, and we chuckled and admired his ability to add levity to even such a serious occasion.

Each person took a turn discussing what they'd done for dad and where they planned to go. I had difficulty remaining quiet because I knew all this stuff already.

My turn now. "Why isn't the doctor here?"

"Oh, they're invited but they almost never show up."

"So how does he get filled in on our questions and concerns?"

"Oh, we put them in the chart, but you can call him if you like."


The contingent plan of care that dad's oncologist gave me the day before was reviewed by all, as I went through the bullet-points emphasizing topics of greatest import. The meeting leader interrupts: "Stage IV cancer is a terminal condition and I wonder if your father has something to say about all of the tests to be performed (she obviously dreaded having to deal with the phlebotomists visits) and the possibility that side effects of chemotherapy will be quite unpleasant to the patient.

I was saying, "This is Sloan-Kettering we're dealing with, the best in the world..." when dad cut me off.

"Stage IV cancer may be terminal, but my doctor at Sloan-Kettering says it's treatable. That's why I'm here. To be treated."

In one sublime sentence he'd conveyed what it took me three paragraphs to say, beginning with, "your mission is to provide supportive care, nutrition and monitoring..." My dad's an amazing guy.

The leader and the head nurse seemed ostensibly dismayed that this was not going to be another easy case in which the patient just gives up, withers away and dies, to be replaced by another one. Their faces so obviously conveyed this that for my sake and the sake of the others I looked at both of them and announced "we all have a tough row to hoe here."

I was enlightened by the MSW, who chimed in support for anti-depressant drugs. The meeting leader dismissed their use with a wave of her hand, telling me that the side-effects were horrible and could worsen dad's condition. I told her to read about the new generation of innocuous anti-depressants (which I'd done already). That issue was left up to the doctor, with whom I'll meet as soon as I can get ahold of him.

All in all, dad and I were delighted with the rest of the staff's genuine concern about him. The meeting ran way over-time, yet we were not encouraged to leave at all.

Dad's in a good place right now. I visit every day. That's all for now.

Today's news was all full of stories from our friends in Great Britain, who caught 21 suspects who had hoped to combine innocuous chemicals aboard a plane, and blow it up in mid air. Preferably over some urban area.

This was a good day. We caught them, just like the two guys who got picked up in Ohio with airline security information, passenger lists and enough cell phones to stock a Beverly Hills HIgh School.

So, having busted a bunch of terrorists in Britain what did we do? Did we have a congratulatory drink? Nope. The Department of Homeland Security raised the level of homeland security raised the terror threat level to orange overall and to red for all flights to and from Britain. They maxed out. The Brits are now on high alert too.

Forgive me for asking this but why is the terrorist threat so much higher now that these guys are wearing stripes? Were we so much safer yesterday when these guys are running free? Seems to me you raise the terror threat before people get caught, not afterwards.

Give me a break. We had a good day. We reduced the terrorist threat, not raised it.

I know there are some out there who fear that the terrorists will seek 'revenge' for their own incompetence. Let me offer an alternative explanation. These guys talk a lot about taking revenge, and if there were a bomb for every time some al Quaeda good stood up and threatened revenge we'd all be out in the streets sweeping rubble.

These guys don't take revenge for Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, abu Ghraib, and all the other 'insults' they have suffered. They would like to take revenge for our existence. And they take it as often as they can. Before September 11 al Queada averaged about two years between major operations. Only one of those ops was in the U.S., a failed attempt to blow up the World Trade Center and most of the perpetrators were caught and jailed. The rest took place in Africa, and except for an attack on a Navy ship, they killed a lot more Africans and Muslims than Americans.

Setbacks don't piss them off and make them more likely to attack. That sort of thing assumes they have a whole pool of terrorists sitting around like Hamlet struggling to decide whether or not to take up the suicide belts of outrageous stupidity. These guys are committed and they run an operation as often as they can. Which really isn't that often in Western Europe or America. When we catch a bunch of them, the logical thing to do is to cut the threat level rather than raise it.

But people often react the other way, thinking this means 'Oh my God, they're after us."

Of course they are. And they will be for a long time. The sensible thing to do is deal with it. But short-term fear is very useful for the political right, who would like Americans to be too scared to think, because if they think they might figure out what utter morons we have running the show. If we raise the terrorist threat then they get to waive the flag, yell 'cut and run' and in general do everything they can to distract people from reality. Because as Stephen Colbert observed, "Reality has a well known liberal bias."

I think we should have a beer tonight in celebration. Or a pint of bitter, as a good Brit might do. We should drink to celebrate this like we would a touchdown or a two-run homer for the home team. It was a good day, enjoy it. But it didn't win the game.

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