Alone in the Rain

February 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

A hawk perched atop the dead tree outside my office window this morning. I think of it as the Hawk Tree now, because she and her fellow hawks prefer it more than the other dead trees in the stand.

In one of the living trees stood a crow, fat and black and clinging to a thin branch. He’d caw at the hawk three times, and the hawk would reply with her keening cry a few times. I saw them as I crossed the parking lot, light drizzle falling, and slowed my pace to watch.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Half a Century Onward

February 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

By all rights, I should be dead now.

At 14, I found out I had Crohn’s Disease. Through most of high school, I ate nearly nothing and weighed next to nothing; 98 pounds, skinny, constantly being asked if I was anorexic (which we were just becoming aware of in the 80s), or if I had AIDS (the big new boogeyman disease of the 80s).

No one knew what Crohn’s Disease was. I mention it today, and everyone knows someone who has it. In the 80s, not so much.

My first gastroenterologist was, to be kind, an asshole. He had a Tom Selleck mustache and drove a red Ferrari, just like Magnum P.I. He fell asleep while my mom and I were talking to him during appointments. When I didn’t respond to his treatment regimen of sulfa drugs and steroids, he would simply increase the dosages of both.

For six years. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Light on the Bright Trees

February 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

A stand of pale trees greets me as I leave the house this morning, their bare branches a radiant white, a bright sun rising before them and a threatening sky lurking behind.

Glowing ghosts of trees, trapped between the light and the dark.

It is a day of ghosts and shadows and grim skies. Of those lost, long ago and far too recently. Of grief held too close, and mistakes made, and lessons (hopefully) learned. Of advancing years, and a half-century gone in a blink.

A dark day, a threatening sky. And yet, light.

It’s millions of miles distant, across a cold black void. Still, the sun finds the faces of the trees, and they glow in defiance of the dark sky, and they are more beautiful because of it.

I step out of the shadow and turn, and the sun finds my face.


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Unbecoming

February 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

I moved to a new cubicle at work recently, overlooking the side lawn of the building and a stand of trees in which hawks and small birds like to sit. Several of the trees stand like massive lodge poles; bare of branches for the most part, and dead.

The hawks prefer the tops of the dead trees. They sit in the sun there, sometimes two or three atop the same tall spire of gray wood. Then swoop out in a great spread of wings to soar, or circle, or seize some small creature in their deadly talons. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ice Worms

February 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day is “ice worms.” (Which is two words, so technically “term of the day” would be more appropriate, but who am I to argue with the august institution that is the OED?)

« Read the rest of this entry »

Sailor, Storyteller, Vintner, Veteran

January 14, 2017 § 1 Comment

 

NOTE: This is the eulogy I delivered for my father’s funeral, hence the references to slideshows and sanctuaries and such. I’m posting this for those of you who knew Dad and couldn’t make it to the memorial, and also just to plant this in the Internet’s eternal memory.

To capture my dad’s 90 years of life in a few hundred words is to cram Everest into a walnut shell. It’s an exercise in futility to try to tell you everything Dad was and everything he meant to us.

So I’ll give you a sampling, with the hope that you know he was so much more than this thin tribute can contain. « Read the rest of this entry »

Tsunami

January 5, 2017 § 1 Comment

I woke to falling snow, an immediate indicator of how the day would shape out; in Asia, white is the color of mourning.

The plague I have is on its way out the door, but I’m still coughing, sneezing, congested at times. Still worried about getting my dad, my mom, my family sick. So I went to work, distracted myself with little tasks I needed to catch up on, office gossip, the friends I work with.

Greg updated me around 10:00 that Dad was unresponsive—sleeping, not waking for anyone. My heart fell through the floor.

The snow tapered, but never stopped. At one point, fat white flakes fell, seeming to mark off the moments. I watched them, wondering as each one hit the ground if that was the moment my father died.

At 3:00, I left for the day and met Tracy at home. She drove us over worsening, whitening roads to the hospice. I stopped inside the door to blow my nose hard, cough out what I could into tissues, and mask up. I couldn’t get the mask on with everything in my hands, so I threw it all at a chair in the waiting room—used tissues, clean tissues, earmuffs. Frustrated. Scared.

As we approached Dad’s room, Greg stepped out. Visibly shaken. Steve followed, eyes red and brimming.

My dad had just passed away, minutes before we got to his side.

I went into the room, placed my hand on his shoulder. Mom sat across from me, sobbing. I moved around the bed and hugged her. Began crying myself, then couldn’t stop. My eyes burned with acidic tears. Later, I’d find milky spatter on the lenses of my glasses.

I stopped crying. Started again. Stopped. A nurse came, listened to his chest, then called the charge nurse. She came a few minutes later, also listened, and pronounced it. The official time of death was 4:12; in reality, it was several minutes prior.

The world didn’t halt; it carried on, stepping over the pieces of our hearts on the floor. Indifferent. We drew together, an island of familial grief, then broke apart to drift our separate ways.

Outside, the snow continued to cast its funeral shroud across the landscape.

 


My dad, Christmas 2016. 

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