All posts by stacy

Father’s Day – July 10, 2021

Daddy and I went to the 2020 Phoenix Open before COVID.
He spent the week with us and it was wonderful.

I am my father’s daughter. The eyes, the smile, the way we take pleasure in a good laugh, a good friend and a good turn of phrase. We are problem-solvers, he and I, but we are faced with a problem for which there is no solution, only grief.

In May, we moved him into Brookdale Senior Living Shreveport – Memory Care. We celebrated his first Father’s Day there in June. My mother helped him shower and dress.

“Make a touchdown,” I said, repeating his gentle coaching from more than 40 years ago when I was a child and he helped me get dressed for church or school. Daddy complied, thrusting both arms in the air, and Mom pulled the long-sleeved shirt over his head. 

Today is his 75th birthday, and the man that finished among the Top 5 in his age group at the 2012 New Orleans Half-Marathon is slipping away from us.

“I’m healthy here, but not there,” he says, pointing to his heart and then to his head. He says he “smashed his brain and it doesn’t work.” It’s how my father, the mechanical engineer, explains how his current world.

Vascular dementia is not Alzheimer’s dementia. While both involve physical damage to the brain, the cause of Alzheimer’s is still debated — amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles and something about tau proteins — but vascular dementia is clearly understood: progressive damage caused by brain bleeds that seep into the different regions controlling thought, balance, memory, learning. Sometimes the cause is stroke. Sometimes, aneurysm. Tiny blood vessels in Daddy’s brain began leaking — Why? No one knows — but his iron-rich blood left microscopic metallic deposits in its wake, starting in the area where language forms. The alien invaders first stole his words, as he stumbled around “the white thing for my nose” to find “handkerchief.” As the damage progressed, it drew a shroud across the route back to the house and then the way to the bathroom and now, sometimes, my name. 

Four years ago, we received a diagnostic description of the strange patterns on the MRI and the cause of his lost words: Superficial siderosis. A rare, progressive and fatal condition. Two years ago, his Barrow neurologist, one of the world’s leading authorities on dementia, diagnosed a mild cognitive impairment — not Alzheimer’s, to his great relief. She gently warned us that it would progress, but that we could try to slow the inevitable end if he ate right, exercised, attended speech therapy and stayed socially active. A year-and-a-half ago, he had, in the words of his Mayo-trained neurosurgeon, “the million-dollar workup.” She cried when she delivered the verdict: That there was no hope at the end of her scalpel. 

Then COVID. Then seizures. Now memory care.

Two months ago, he had to leave home. Despite her best efforts, my mother could not continue to care for him there: He kept waking up in the middle of the night, turning on all the lights and wandering about the house. She could not leave him alone.

Now she tucks him in at night in his twin bed in the little apartment with a view of the courtyard and the birds that gather there. His new home is only 1.6 miles from his old one. He feels safe there, and we are grateful for that.

He is different now — a little unsteady on his feet, more than a little uncertain in his thought — but my Daddy is still there. My nephew introduced “Pops” to his girlfriend and said, “I finally got a girl to talk to me!” 

Daddy laughed out loud at that one. 

His sense of humor is still intact, and sometimes he cards on his fellow residents: “They’re so old!” he says. Even though his face is creased with worry that he doesn’t understand his current state, that the past is vanishing from his mind and that the future is too scary to imagine, he still laughs, and smiles that warm and friendly smile. My smile. 

We don’t ask him if he remembers something from long ago: It frustrates and upsets him and reminds him of what he has lost. Instead, we talk about the past with him as a full participant — which he was — and we meet him where he is. Sometimes confused. Sometimes afraid. Always gentle, always kind, always happy to have a laugh. 

Always my Daddy. 

For Father’s Day, we made him a shadow box for his apartment with pictures of the whole family and a short biography. He likes it much better than the old nameplate.

Frequently Asked Questions of a Rock Star’s Aunt upon the Announcement of Tour Dates

Can you get me free tickets?


Can Pat get me free tickets?


But he works for the band, right?

Yes, but he’s not going to buy tickets for you. Tickets are not free. They are paid passes that grant the bearer access to a concert, which in turn, helps the band and venue pay their bills. Ain’t nothing in life that’s free, and that includes concert tickets. Ask me how I know this.

How do you know this?

Because I buy my own tickets.

Well, doesn’t your nephew have some sort of secret stash of comp tickets? Can I have one of those?

Are you friends with my nephew? Do you have his phone number? If you called or texted him right now, would he respond to you immediately? The opening act is allotted a limited amount of complimentary tickets by the headliner — so limited that you could count them on two hands. Spoiler Alert: His girlfriend, his mom, his record label and publishing house, his agents and management team are more important than you, and there are more of them than can be counted on two hands.

Can I buy tickets just to see Mammoth WVH?

No, but if it makes you feel better: When you buy Guns N’ Roses tickets, you get see Mammoth WVH for free!

Fine. I’ll buy the tickets. Can you get me backstage?

No. On the tour announcement, you’ll notice that the nephew’s band is listed as a “special guest” which means he is not the headliner. He is performing at the pleasure of the headliner, which means there won’t be strangers hanging out backstage, courtesy of the aunt-by-marriage of the opening act.

Can I get a laminate?


What’s a laminate?

Laminates are all-access passes assigned to band and crew members that allow them to move about the venue freely and securely in order to DO THEIR JOBS. Would you like to give me an all-access pass to your cubicle at work while you’re trying to do your job? I could rummage around in your candy dish looking for brown M&Ms while you’re in your 1-on-1 with your boss. Maybe I could take selfies of myself sitting in your desk chair when you get up to go to the bathroom, or better yet, I could follow you to the bathroom! Then I could snap some picks of us peeing together. I could also capture some candids while you’re on the phone trying to make sales calls, that is, when I’m not trying to steal used paper clips from your desk drawer or DNA from your coffee mug. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Can I hang out with Pat before the show starts?

No. He’s working. He’s not there to host you, to ferry autographs for you, to have snacks with you, or to take your T-shirt orders. His job is to make sure the opening act has everything it needs to put on a great show for the paying customers.

What about you? Can I hang out with you at the show?

No. I can’t afford to attend every show, but I will try to make it to a handful of geographically attainable performances in order to have conjugal visits with my husband in a hotel room I’m paying for because the opening act sleeps on the bus with ten (10) men.

That bus sounds cool! Can I see it?


According to the tour schedule, your nephew will be in [ HOMETOWN ] on [ DATE ]. Can he play my [ RELATIVE OR ACQUAINTANCE ]’s bat / bar mitzvah / birthday / retirement / anniversary / charitable event / grand opening / backyard barbecue?

Unlikely. Unless you have $20,000 for a booking fee and access to a professional grade A/V system and a big enough electrical outlet to plug into as well as an accommodating homeowners’ association and favorable noise ordinances, in which case I can put you in touch with his agent.

OK, could he just do a drive-by then? Maybe a little meet-and-greet?


Have you always been such an asshole?


Seriously, the show is going to be great. Get vaccinated. Buy your tickets. Support live and local music whenever possible and rock on through the end of the pandemic!

AZD-1222 Part 2: The Answer

Sitting inside the Arizona Coyotes hockey arena freezing my vaccinated ass off after receiving my second dose of Pfizer/BioNTech goodness.

I got a shoulder full of sugar.

As a fully informed volunteer for the AZD-1222 clinical trial, I had a 66 percent chance of receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine when I reported for duty on November 24, 2020 at a doctor’s office in Central Phoenix. As previously reported, within the first 48 hours, I suffered mightily most of the side effects associated with this vaccine:

  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

Come to find out, those are also widely reported symptoms of middle age.

After my second shot on December 22, 2020, I experienced mild fatigue compounded by intermittent smugness: Though I brandished my gilded caveat of “well, we don’t really know for sure if I got the shot,” I was certain – certain – that I had been inoculated against the great scourge of the 21st century. I had put my body on the line again for SCIENCE and HUMANITY!

Yes, I continued to preach and practice the gospel of mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing, and I was certain I was doing my part to win the fight at both societal and cellular levels.

I certainly have an active imagination.

The placebo effect occurs when the brain persuades the body that a fake treatment is actually curative, triggering a physiological response. Here’s a fascinating study from Harvard Health about it. Though smarter people than I have confirmed this phenomenon, it doesn’t blunt the snickering coming from Pat Bertinelli.

“I’ve always said you have a really powerful brain,” he chuckled, as he departed to get his second dose of authenticated Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on March 31.

At my third blood draw in January to test for my imaginary antibodies, I was re-consented into the clinical trial. Because mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna had begun distribution and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen jab coming online, the AstraZeneca trial could not in good conscience keep volunteers like me from accessing potentially life-saving treatments. At the same time, they needed to maintain participation in the trial to ensure the safety and efficacy of their vaccine. They had settled on an elegant and ethical compromise: As new each new demographic became eligible for inoculation, we would secure a vaccination appointment and then call the trial administrator to be individually unblinded from the trial. That way, if we were in the test group, we could cancel our appointment and free up a vaccine for another person, or if we were in the placebo group, we could go ahead and get our shots.

But this was all a moot point because AstraZeneca would soon apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and we would all be unblinded, likely as soon as early March.

It’s May.

We all know how that worked out: AstraZeneca vaccine tied to rare cases of rare blood clots. AstraZeneca reports dosing error in trial, delaying approval of vaccine. AstraZeneca misreports vaccine efficacy data in trials.

AstraZeneca’s crack team of communications “professionals” bungled basic communication practices and undermined faith in vaccines in general and their product in particular. Their jaw-dropping miscommunication has also thrown shade on the very good doctors, nurses and bench scientists doing the hard work on the ground to conduct the trial, and it’s annoyed volunteers like me who now get to field a ton of well-intentioned questions about a vaccine that I truly believe in because it SHOULD be easy to distribute to rural areas without a cold-chain infrastructure (if they can just get the damned shot approved).

I dedicated six years of my life to communicating complex scientific principles to everyday people. It’s not that hard to tell the truth in small words and big type so everyone can understand.

On March 24, Arizona opened COVID-19 vaccinations up to all adults, and I dutifully signed up and logged on, refreshing my screen about 200 times over two days and finally took the first available slot – 4:18 AM on Friday, April 2 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Sure, it was at an ungodly hour at a six-hour drive from my temporary residence, but I didn’t care. I was certain – certain – I’d received the AstraZeneca vaccine back in November.

So on March 26, I called the AZD-1222 hotline to get unblinded so I could cancel my Arizona appointment and do the big reveal.

“Stacy Bertinelli? And can I have your birth date again? And your participant ID, please?” the trial administrator said, as I doodled on my calendar, ready to scratch out April 2.

“You’re in the placebo group.”

“Wait, what? Placebo? Can you check the spelling. That’s B-E-R-T…”

“All the data is correct. You’re in the placebo group, Mrs. Bertinelli. Please do not cancel your regular vaccine appointment.”

“But I had all the side effects – chills, muscle aches, worst headache of my life?”

“Well, Mrs. Bertinelli, the mind is a powerful thing – but we appreciate your continued participation in the trial. Please bring your vaccine card to your next appointment.”

Suffice it to say, I rescheduled my Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to a more godly hour, following our return from California. I got to do the drive-thru at State Farm Stadium on April 11 and then got to return for a walk-thru at the Gila River Hockey Arena on May 2.

And for the side-effects? I was tired, took a nap and went to be early after each one, and my shoulder hurt with both shots, but fatigue, aches and pains accompany me through middle age.

If this has taught me anything: Science is still wonderful and vaccines give us hope. Go get your shot so we can all get back to living.

AZD-1222: Pandemic Pioneering

I am participating in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial.
Behold, the evidence of injection. I don’t know if it was THE injection or an injection, and won’t for another two years, but I have my suspicions…

My head hurts.

Is it allergies? Is it stress from the white-knuckle madness of Los Angeles traffic? Is it the two glasses of red wine I drank last night?

Is it a cellular response to a self-inflicted invader? The harbinger of Immunity.

I won’t know for certain for two years.

Yesterday, I enrolled in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Phase III Clinical Trials (AZD-1222), volunteering my blood and guts to fight the greatest threat to humanity since the Cold War: SARS-CoV-2, which has infected 60 million people worldwide since December 2019, killing 1.4 million of them.

As opposed to the sexier mRNA-based vaccines developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, the AstraZeneca vaccine is vector-based: It uses a common cold-type virus as a Trojan horse to introduce an altered gene for the coronavirus protein into my cells in hopes of training my immune system to recognize and destroy COVID-19.

Or not.

It’s a double-blind trial, so I will not know if I got THE shot or merely a shot for two years. Until then, I will wallow in hypochondria – or at least for the next 48 hours. The clinical trial nurses advised me to watch out for certain side effects during the first two days:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Diarrhea or nausea
Test kit
I gave blood and urine samples, learned I wasn’t pregnant (duh), and had the back of my skull scratched with a swab. Yay me!

I will spare you the gurgling details, but my stomach is upset.

Is it a side effect of THE shot? Or merely a symptom of yesterday’s truck stop feast of Lays Limon-flavored chips, Oberto peppered beef jerky, orange-flavored Gatorade Zero, and Australian Licorice (assorted fruit flavors)? Don’t judge.

Enrolling in the trial was a breeze: Sign up online and wait for a call.

AstraZeneca is still recruiting volunteers and especially needs African-American, Latinx, and Native American participants. It’s important because people of color are historically underrepresented in clinical trials – in part because these populations have been victimized by unethical practices, see Henrietta Lacks, Tuskegee Health Benefit Program, et al, and also because lazy researchers didn’t actively recruit and study populations that reflect the diversity of our nation. Most critically, African-Americans, Latinx and Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 – and are more likely to die from it – so volunteering for the vaccine trial can help scientists identify differences that may not be apparent if a bunch of white people like me show up.

Apparently if they don’t spark tears, they aren’t doing the COVID test right. Ouch!

My left shoulder hurts. My knees bend audibly. Intermittent pain steals through my joints: Are these the aches they warned me about? The physiological echo of an existential battle inside my cells?

Or is it just a by-product of being a 48-year-old woman who has crashed her mountain bike on more than one occasion?

My day started at the appointed 8 AM in a nondescript doctor’s office in Phoenix. They reviewed the 26-page consent form, which I had read prior to my visit and which detailed my rights as a volunteer: I can withdraw at any time, no questions asked. If I contract COVID, they will funnel me into a different study and manage my care. I will have two shots spaced 29 days apart of either the real deal or a placebo, and 66 percent of volunteers receive the real deal. I will have seven visits to this doctor’s office over the next two years and several phone calls as they monitor my progress.

Sign here and here and here. Initial there and there and there.

Then the delightful Matt did a blood draw, from which they’ll extract my genetic material for study.

Nice stick, Matt. I told you I was a bleeder.

Then I got a physical exam from the doctor and walked down the hall to meet my destiny.

Somehow, it seems like Nurse Ratched should be manning this room, but actually, the nurses were AWESOME. An easy stick… but was it the real stick?

The nurses walked me through the consents again and reminded me of the aforementioned symptoms to monitor for the next 48 hours. I went to bed at 8:30 last night and slept soundly until the splitting headache awakened me at 4:27. I got winded climbing the stairs then fell asleep in the hammock this afternoon. Are these the telltale signs of vaccine-induced fatigue? Or just symptoms of middle age?

I won’t know for another two years, but even if I learn that I got a shoulder-full of saline solution, at least I’ll know I did my part.


Tormund, the Hero We Deserve

And now, our watch is ending.

And yes, we’re all in a tizzy about it. Many words of anguish have been spilled over this final season of Game of Thrones, most of which boil down to three well-worn threads of rage:

  1. This isn’t how George R.R.R.R.R.R.R.R. Martin wants his books to end (Though he may end before the books do, ergo, this might be the end we get. Seriously, dude, eat a salad. Take some statins. Write a little faster).
  2. Dany’s not crazy. Yes she is. No she isn’t. Yes she is. No she’s not.
  3. Jon Snow Targaryen is about the dumbest leader and worst military tactician ever. (Not going to debate you on that one, but his hair sure is luscious).

Most of this anguish stems from the sunk-cost fallacy: The more you invest in something, like say, an epic television show, the harder it is to abandon it even after it has jumped the fire-breathing shark.

We’ve spent eight years with these characters (and yeah, we get it, some of you read the books starting back in 1996 – AND THEY’RE STILL NOT FINISHED, but, as a non-reader, that ain’t my problem) and just when we think we’re going to be paid off with an Avengers: Endgame-like spectacle, we get Jar-Jar Binks, or as I like to call him, Euron Greyjoy.

Before we go any further, I will offer the obligatory defense of the fact that I haven’t read the books: It doesn’t matter. We’re not debating the books. We’re debating the TV show, and I know from good television. After all, I am a veteran of seven special guest-star turns on a Daytime Emmy Award-winning cooking show. Don’t believe me? Check out my IMDb page.

As I was saying: There’s a point at which we should have abandoned the show, and followed its true protagonist to the exit, stage left: When Tormund walked away with Ghost and said a hearty eff-you to Jon Snow and his Aunty-Queen, we should have walked right along with him.

You see, Tormund is the true hero of Game of Thrones.

I know, I know: When you first started watching this show (not reading the books), you probably thought that the protagonist was Ned Stark – good guy fighting against a rigged system… then he died. Then if you’re anything like me, you thought, well, maybe it’s Robb Stark’s story – avenging his Dad’s death, earning the respect of his countrymen, being voted “King in the North” by his senior class… then he died. You might have given a passing nod to the idea that Bran was actually the true hero of this story… then Hodor died, and we wished that Bran and his three-eyed batshit-crazy bullshit would’ve died along with him.

And then you thought, well, maybe it’s Dany’s story… or maybe it’s Jon’s story.. or maybe it’s Jon and Aunty Dany’s… or maybe it’s Tyrion’s story… or maybe Sansa’s… or Arya’s (until she ended up in the slog that was the House of Black and White).

By this point it’s Season Whatever, and you’re too entwined with the story to give up, because HBO gives you just enough character development and gratuitous bloodshed to carry you over for another production year… because you are so face-down in sunk-cost fallacy and so knee-deep in FOMO that you can’t resist because you have to see how it ends (and then talk about it with your friends).

Truth is, Game of Thrones was over two episodes ago. Really, it was over after the Battle of (Darkness Fell at) Winterfell, but we just needed our hero Tormund to tell us it was over, right after Brienne tossed him over because the producers thought they needed to throw an anti-feminist bone to the Brienne-Jaime ‘shippers… because, why not? Who cares if it’s out of character, we only have three episodes left!

Heading into the finale, Tormund is really the only character who has had a complete arc: He starts out living free beyond the wall when this whiny little bitch Jon Snow and his Night’s Watch Crows come along and try to enlist Tormund and freefolk in their little war. Tormund resists: He wants to be free; he ain’t bending no knee to no one. Then Tormund fights an epic battle against the undead and realizes the whole “Live Alone, Die Together” moral of the story and joins up with Team Crow to battle the Night King whose only motivation seemed to be to stand ENTIRELY TOO LONG IN FRONT OF BRAN TO GIVE ARYA TIME TO GET FROM THE GREAT HALL TO THE FREAKY TREE TO KILL HIM.

Then, in the smoldering aftermath of a battle that seemed spectacularly short and incredibly lame for THE EXISTENTIAL BATTLE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH THAT CLAIMED TO BE, Jon tries to get Tormund to enlist in one final fight and Big T says, “Peace out, Crow. This ain’t my battle. You go bend that knee, bruh. Imma take your fine direwolf and ease on back north of the wall and be a free man… and maybe that sweet Brienne will see the light and come with.”

If I had turned Game of Thrones off when Tormund left the building, I could have abandoned the sunk-cost fallacy and fled the (dragon) Fyre Festival that was the penultimate episode (I also would have avoided watching the producers turn Ser Brienne the Brave into a mewling wench which was more of a dagger in the heart than anything Arya ever delivered).

Instead I will watch tonight, not so I can revel in the glory of Walter White’s demise, or laugh hysterically at Bob Newhart’s pillow talk, or weep with Alan Alda on the helicopter, but so I can bitch and moan with the rest of us as we decry our drowning moments in the sunk-cost fallacy, while my homie Tormund laughs and laughs and gives Ghost a belly rub.