Do the Right Thing?

June 23rd, 2014

Do the right thing?


I just don’t know. I guess I was raised differently. I try to do right by others. I live, or try to at least, to strive to treat others the way I wish to be treated. It always seems like I am the one being asked to extend myself. Maybe someday there will be restitution, possibly in the next life.


This incident in question started rather innocently. It  was Friday May 9th, late afternoon. Cheryl and I had just come back from San Diego. We had been grocery shopping and were headed home when I slammed on the brakes about 20 yards short of our house. Cheryl gave me that what’s up look. I asked her to get out of the car and get that tortoise out of the middle of the street so I or no one else runs it over. Little did I know the wheels this action would set into motion.


Cheryl picked up the tortoise, two handed as it is decent sized, the shell maybe 16” long and 10” wide. I suggest she bring it back to the car but she wants to carry it home. We have a side pen in our back yard, usually reserved for the dogs when we don’t want them in the main back yard, which is temporary turtle housing. The tortoise takes food immediately, voraciously consuming anything green. A little bit of research identifies it as an African Sulcata tortoise, third largest after the Galapagos ones, growing up to 200 pounds and living 80 years or so. Cheryl determined this one was a female.


The next day we got ahold of our block watch captain and he sent out a mass e-mail looking for the tortoise’s family: We found a tortoise walking down Hearn. We didn’t want it to get run over so it is in our backyard if someone has lost it…we don’t mind keeping it if nobody claims it, read the note from Cheryl passed on to all. We began to socialize her with our dogs, giving her roaming privileges, a little at first and more so as the days passed. Days turned into weeks, still no word. The only notice posted on street posts in the neighborhood was for a missing male chihuahua during this time.


When the third week hit I called a family meeting. Turtle girl, Tortoise were passe, she needed a name. After much discussion our choice was Hazel Roo, it fit her. We hired a work crew to put a water spigot and sprinkler line in the tortoise pen. A plan to install grass and plants to make her pen a permanent home were put into place. Hazel had warmed her way into our hearts and became part of our family.


The downturn was so subtle, we hardly knew what hit us. Did anyone ever claim the tortoise? The e-mail was sent to Cheryl late last Sunday evening. Early Monday morning she responded Nobody ever said a word. We still have her. Cheryl texted me she found this odd that the block watch captain was following up. He did indeed and sent out Anyone missing a tortoise? on Thursday evening which brought an immediate response Oh my goodness he’s ours!!! We’ve been so sad!! When can I come and get him?? Thank you so much!! Yes, she really used all those exclamations and question marks.


Friday morning Cheryl contacted me to tell me someone was trying to claim Hazel. We were both in shock first, denial second. I suggested she ignore the first e-mail and hope the person just went away. It did not happen and she sent another inquiry. We pondered this situation separately during the workday and met over dinner to decide a course of action. We did not want to let her go but wanted to do the right thing, stupid guilty conscience. We felt that if we had lost our pet, it would not take us five weeks to react, irresponsible pet owner, grrr. But we thought it right to give her the benefit of the doubt, What possible excuse could she have, family member in a coma, out of the country on business, computer and phone baked in her microwave?


About 5 weeks ago my husband and I found a tortoise in the middle of the road. We brought her home and waited for someone to claim her. When no response came and no missing tortoise posters were put up we figured she would fit right in with us. We were a little disappointed when your e-mail came today. We can plan to meet with you tomorrow, I will have to e-mail you when I have a break in my day, late morning will probably work best. I will let you know. The response came early Saturday morning, all bubbly and full of excuses. Guilt did not bring out the best in her.


She showed up with a little red wagon and three young boys in tow. Both Cheryl and I went out as we wanted to be sure. The BS meter was at full alert immediately as excuses for stupidity were flying from the start. Something I learned a long time ago, young kids do not lie, they learn that as they grow up. Listen to the kids, not the blabbing mother. Cheryl brought Hazel out and watched as the lady struggled to figure out how to pick up the tortoise. Boys weren’t sure it was the same one. Husband had sent her over to do the dirty work. With three young kids along they should be able to pull it off. They called him Buckaroo. When they questioned how we knew the sex, I suggested she go home and read about it on the computer, just as we had. When I mentioned the lost chihuahua poster but none for tortoise one of the boys said he saw that also, out of the mouth of babes. She was pathetic, her husband worse for sending her to do this. I have no doubt Hazel did belong to them.


It did sting, we did feel the loss. I was more sad than angry. We did finish cleaning the house then we were to eat lunch out and get a little shopping in. I thought I was getting over it until… We got in the car, drove down our block and I was slamming on the brakes again. There it was, on the light post. I threw the car into reverse, backed up until I could see it. I read it then drove on, had Cheryl put on her reading glasses and go read it. On the third post I removed the freshly put down tape and brought the sign into the car. It read LOST Tortoise (picture of tortoise) Please call if you have seen our “Buckaroo” :)   602-xxx-xxxx

Doctor Doctor

June 4th, 2012

If it had been my regular doctor, I would have gotten away with it. Doc Wilson is a very slight man, maybe pushing 120 pounds, wears cowboy boots to work and I imagine is two days away from retirement. I had undergone all the preliminary tests for my physical exam, chest x-ray, blood donation, etc. and it was time to hear the results.


The nurse escorts me into the exam room, takes my blood pressure one more time and tells me the doctor will be in momentarily. Within a few minutes the door opens and in walks a young blond woman in a white lab coat. She introduces herself as Doctor Kaiser and informs me she does most of Dr. Wilson’s legwork these days. I have no problem with this, which is a bit unusual for me.


She pulls out a stack of papers to review with me. The results are positive with very few areas of concern. Then she looks at me and frowns. “Why is the left side of your jaw swollen?” As I answer unknowingly she caresses the left side, then the right and informs me she would like to run some tests.


It is then she begins to put on rubber gloves and asks me to drop my pants down to my knees and put my hands on the chair so she can check my prostrate. I think about this for a second and then unzip my Levis. I guess I appreciate her rather than old Doc Wilson sticking their finger in my butt. Afterwards she leaves the room and before long the nurse is back with copies of the tests results for me and a order for the test to be run on my jaw.


Luckily the lab is right next door and I head over there immediately. The lady that signs me in informs me an x-ray will not provide the needed data and the technician says I need an ultrasound, which requires an appointment. If I feel like hanging around for 4 hours they can squeeze me in. I set an appointment for the following Monday with a no restrictions before instructions.


I did not know what to expect, an ultrasound, isn’t that for pregnancies? I had a very tough December. For almost the entire month, especially in the evenings, my left side jaw would begin to throb, sometimes unbearably. I lost much sleep, nothing seemed to help. I chalked it up to a sinus reaction. The pain passed when the month ended. I never want to repeat this discomfort so I was anxious for this test.


The test was very simple. The tech ran this palm size imaging device across my jaw, over and over, snapping pictures every so often. First the right side so they would have something to compare to then the problematic left side. I was in no pain and of course gel was all over. After about ten minutes she was done and handed me a towel to dry the gel off and left the room saying she would return soon. The sign was very bold, tacked right to the wall directly in front of me. Do not ask the technician about results of your lab work. Consult with your doctor. Okay, I had been warned, no quizzing the tech.


After about ten minutes she came back into the room. As she turned down the lights she mentions she wants to do it all again, and since I’m not allowed to ask questions, I nod my head. This time I notice she spends most of her time on the non-swollen right side. I steal a couple of looks at the pictures on the monitor but I cannot decipher what I see. Easy painless test and I am off for the 80 mile drive back home.


My plan was to call my doctors office on Thursday or Friday for results. They beat me to the punch, or at least the lab did. On Wednesday, late morning, my cell phone rang while I was busy at work. I listened to the message carefully twice, noting the reference number I was assigned and returned their call. The diagnostic lab had been instructed by my doctor to set up an MRI on my thyroid. This scared me, more out of ignorance than anything else. What the hell was wrong with me? Panic began to set in. I set the appointment for Monday at lunchtime.


It was probably better I went to work instead of taking the day off, arriving at the lab the required 1/2 hour early. I did no research ahead of time, preferring the unknown to something distasteful. They had warned me ahead to not wear anything metal, so I left my wedding band at home. I did take a locker for my car keys, wallet and belt. Credit cards and key fobs do not do well with this procedure. I was told to lay down on this gurney like table with a neck brace. They put a pillow under my legs, trying to make me comfortable. My hands were folded on my lap. A device resembling a football helmet face guard was put over my face, with the added touch of earplugs stuck in my ears. I was told to breathe regular and move as little as possible. Then they stuck me inside this very tight tube and ran out of the room.

July 13th, 2009

                                     The Remorseful Burglar   

It’s been almost a week now and I still don’t want to deal with people. I’m looking at all that pass by the house with an inquisitive eye. I don’t feel like talking, am struggling too sleep and eat. Lost in thought is probably a good assessment. I was out front this morning mowing both my yard and the next door neighbors, paused to empty the grass catcher and overheard another one of my neighbors relating my tale to a part timer on our block. All are keeping a wide berth.


            We had just come back home from celebrating the 4th of July in northern Arizona, cooler country, pine trees and wide open spaces. We got home early enough to plan out our work week, have a nice dinner and get to sleep at a decent time. My alarm clock rang at 4:30. I went into the kitchen to get a quick drink of water and noticed the back door was ajar. The knob was still locked, and I made a mental note to ask Diana if she had had one of her restless nights when I awoke her at 6.


            I went through my morning routine and was close to leaving for work when I woke Diana. I asked her about the door and she pleaded ignorance. She entered our spare bedroom and quickly asked me why I had dumped her purse out on the bed. My eyes immediately shot over to the dresser top where I kept my wallet. Panic began to set in. A quick inventory showed our initial loses at both his and hers wallets complete with cash, credit cards and I.D’s, a couple prescription drugs and her wedding set. Diana phoned the police and quickly got dressed as I continued to look from room to room.


            I walked outside hoping to glimpse our wallets tossed aside just as Officer Brothers drove up. He was awesome, taking down our realizations and helping to set us on a path towards reclaiming our existence. Checking on the internet to see if money was missing, canceling and re-ordering cards and the order to follow for the physical trips we would have to make, prioritizing our day to maximize our time. He took photos of anything pertinent, including the fresh pry marks in the door jamb. He made preventative suggestions so we would not have to relive this victim’s lesson.


            We scrapped together the few dollars we had that were not in our wallets and proceeded towards the DMV office. Normally they open at 8, just not today as a remodel was in progress. They would not open until tomorrow and we made the decision to not drive the 30 miles to the next town. Breakfast at Judi’s helped pass the time until the Social Security office opened up. Somehow Diana convinced them to order us new cards based on insurance cards with our names on them that she had in her car. A trip to Wal-Mart pharmacy was next to reorder the now missing prescriptions.


            With the physical things we could do at an end, Diana went to work to take her mind off our dilemma and I went home, struggling to concentrate enough to be effective at anything. To think someone was actually walking around our house while we were sleeping floors me. What if one or both of us had awoke? Indeed we both had gotten up once each during the evening, Diana sometime around 2 and me at 3. Was it a noise that woke either of us? What if we had surprised them in the act?


            I took some long walks. Up and down our street, both sides, looking at the ground, in trash cans, just hoping for a good sight. I walked along the train tracks, in the now dry river bed, under bridges (spoke to the bums living under there) and climbed the hills behind our house. I don’t really think I expected to find anything, just needed to walk it off. I stopped off at many of the neighbor’s houses to make sure they were aware and security conscience. My mind was racing and I was attempting to fight off that victim feeling.


            Meanwhile, a chain lock which we had never used was put into play on the back door. A few thumbscrew locks were purchased at the local hardware store to secure the back windows. Surprisingly, I had very little trouble falling to sleep Monday evening, and I don’t believe Diana did either.


            When the alarm clock went off at 4:30, I struggled with it. Not because of the time, but the thought what would I find this morning. My mind immediately went back to the burglary. I walked the length of the house, hoping for and finding nothing. I had made a plan to work around the town until 8 when the DMV opened, meet Diana there, get a new drivers license, then leave town. As I was backing out of the driveway I had a strange feeling. I stopped the car and got out and looked in the mailbox. Nothing.


            I went to the closest convenience store and began to speak with the manager when my phone rang. Diana was calling and excitedly informed my wallet was back. It had carefully been placed in a flower pot right next to the back door, facing it so it would be seen. Now I was in the yard and watched Diana water that pot at 7 the evening before and no wallet was there. Someone had walked up my driveway and set off the motion light to put that wallet in that pot. The person that had pilfered it, or maybe some good citizen who didn’t want to catch blame? An awful chance since all the neighborhood was on heightened alert.


            I raced home to reclaim my wallet. All that was missing was the cash. All my cards and photos were still in their homes. I was in shock, two days in a row. I made my way to the police station and Officer Brothers came in to meet with me. In all his years he had never experienced a visit two nights in a row, one to take the wallet and one to bring it back. The items taken out of Diana’s purse have not come back home, or been located, as of yet.


            As the week has gone along, things have begun to add up. I realize now this was not their first time into my house. In fact, they broke in while we were gone for the fourth. When we got home we noticed something in the kitchen had fallen. I actually suspected rodents, but did not want to mention this to Diana. One of our freezer doors was askew, one we do not use. They had looked through the house for cash, and were unable to find any. Realizing any cash would be in our wallets, they broke in while we were asleep, a desperate and brazen move.


            Anger has replaced scared for me concerning this situation. I guess it is a blessing we did not wake while this perpetrator (s) were in our house. I realize someone would be in a hospital bed or grave if a confrontation had occurred. Me if they were carrying a gun and willing to use it or them for threatening my family. The money is replaceable and my mental state will relax. My life will never be the same. Someone has violated that for a few dollars. Something got the better of them as witnessed by the return of my wallet. The neighbors across the street are having an alarm system put in this coming Tuesday. I asked them to secure an extra business card for me, which they did.


            We were an easy victim in this case. All our neighbors have dogs. We do not as we are not home often enough to own a pet. On our left is an empty lot as the house burned down during a rewire in the 1980s. On the right is a neighbor who weekends here from Phoenix, making the place occupied about 25% of the time. On the backside is a mountain, making us an island. There is no one to see anyone approach our back door. We were not the only victims that Sunday night as the church down the road was broken into also. I do not expect another midnight visit, but will definitely sleep more soundly after securing the services of Multitech.  





Untitled 2

June 21st, 2008

                                                                                             Wednesday June 18th 9:30 P.M.

             I hope I am alright. I went into the kitchen to get a knife to stir the food I was heating up in the microwave. I stepped on the red mat in front of the sink and felt a sharp pain in my right foot. Damn scorpion. I grabbed a shoe and crushed him. I purposely did not clean it up. I soaked my foot in the tub. Pain is running up and down from my foot to my thigh. I am keeping an eye on it. I plan to force myself to stay awake until I feel I am okay. I miss Diana; she would know what to do. Lots of tingling. Too late to phone anyone.  

            So read the hand written note I left next to my computer, just in case. Not that I expected to die. You never know how your body will react to a poison infusion. I had been stung by bees and wasps many times as a kid and knew I possessed no allergic response. But this was different. Lots of horror stories about scorpion stings exist, and I admit I am intimidated by these mysterious arachnids.

  No swelling as of yet, still shooting pain. I will clean it up when this pain is gone. 

My wife is staying with our niece right now. I figured I would e-mail her about my situation. She would read it in the morning when she awoke; I know she checks her account often. I was surprised when my phone rang. She was still up and alerted to my condition. We discussed options and I assured her I would not hesitate to phone the paramedics or drive myself to the emergency room if I deemed my health was at issue.


                                                                               Thursday June 19th 12:30 A.M.

 It’s now almost 3 hours later. I don’t know if it is the ice I applied to my foot or the sting but my whole foot is numb. I sandwich bagged the scorpion carcass and took it outside. 

After another hour or so, I was convinced it was okay for me to fall asleep. I set the alarm for 4 A.M. to access my situation and decide if I could go to work. That numbing feeling, not really painful but like the affected area was asleep, was still present, but restricted from the shin area down. At this point I thought if I could get my sock and shoe on my right foot I would go to work.


I started about my routine, then quickly realized this was not going to happen. It was the hot shower that got me. As the cold ice the evening before was soothing, the hot water was unbearable. I couldn’t get out of the shower fast enough. The throbbing that set in was the clincher, and I phoned in sick. I set up a chair under my work desk to elevate my foot. I wore slippers around the house, shaking them out first. I took a 2 hour nap. I was not feeling any better, but not worse either.


Around 4 P.M., my youngest daughter phoned to catch up. I was wandering the house while talking, when I glimpsed another scorpion, about the same size as the other one, lying on the wood floor in front of our red hutch. As I brushed by it didn’t move and I assumed it was dead. With the phone occupying one hand and most of my attention, I grabbed a piece of cardboard to scoop up the critter to dispose of it. As I began to slide the cardboard towards it, the scorpion quickly ran under the hutch. It had been playing possum. I grabbed a can of Raid and blasted away at the base of the hutch. Diana came home that evening to find me tired but in good spirits. I was looking forward to a good nights sleep.


 On Friday morning at 4 A.M. the routine starts again. This time the hot shower has no effect. I can get my socks and shoes on with just a little difficulty. I leave for work with that tingly feeling in my foot and ankle, but no pain. Sometime in mid-morning that prickly feeling disappeared as work occupied my mind. I arrived home ready to start my weekend with no repercussions. 


The way I figure from start to finish this process, this poison took me 36 hours to cycle through. Not an experience I would wish on anyone. Just another first on this side of 50 to cross off my list.


Hillary and Me

March 1st, 2008



        The Clintons hadn’t been out of the oval office too long when I got the opportunity to meet her. Me and five hundred other people that is. I am not a Clintonite, but my eldest, Christy, is a member of the strong female coalition, and I convinced myself I was doing this for her. I was curious and anxious to go to my favorite book store and attend this celebratory event.


            Hillary was in Arizona for a fund raising dinner and to autograph her new book. A tight schedule dictated how many tickets would be sold. I phoned up and reserved three slots, deciding not to tell my daughter, just box up the book and send it to her.


            My wife and I arrived plenty early, but so did many others. We claimed one of the last parking spaces in the large lot. The back area behind the store was blocked off by many security guards. The front lot was spattered with marching protesters, a necessity at any political function. We checked in and were assigned a number, somewhere in the early second half. The plan was to permit 5o people at a time in a single file line inside the store.


            It was controlled chaos, but I enjoyed myself. Not one for crowds, this was an unusual reaction for me. The pageantry involved, I expected even tighter security for one of the most powerful people in our world. We lined up as our number was called. We slowly paraded into the store, past shelf after shelf of books towards the back sitting area. I didn’t know what to expect, but marveled at the simplicity of the event.


            There was a long table with Hillary seated right there, with 6 or so security agents in close proximity. One agent was opening the books one at a time to a certain page and placing it in front of Mrs. Clinton, who would sign and just as quick another agent on the other side would close the book and hand it to you. Hillary was radiant, autographing, smiling and chatting away, it was a very impressive scenario. With this assembly line procedure, she would be able to sign her 500 copies and make it to her Biltmore Estates dinner function in a timely fashion.


            I was a little nervous as I approached the table. We had decided I would go first. Now in defense of myself, I was raised a gentleman. It was finally my turn. When I approached, the security lady who was responsible for stacking the already autographed copies knocked some off the table onto the floor. I walked over and bent down to retrieve them just as Hillary turned to speak to me, leaving my ass for her to talk to. How embarrassing, the former first lady, current New York senator, and possible future most powerful person in the world and I am facing the wrong way. I sheepishly scoop up my two books and move along, pausing slightly to let my wife catch up with her copy. It’s all in the timing, and mine was not in sync for this unique opportunity.

Gus and Elvis

February 4th, 2008

“There is a giant hawk in our backyard”, Diana excitedly related to me over the phone. “What, are you sure?” I stammered as I attempted to digest this information. “I heard a rustling noise in the bushes and went out to investigate, and out flew this magnificent hawk. He landed on that tree stump and watched me as I went about my chores.” Having spent the bulk of my life in a big concrete city where wildlife was left to the humans, I was a little skeptical. My wife had spent more of her existence in the country and was more accustomed to what Mother Nature had to offer. “Did you snap a picture?” I queried as if visual proof would satisfy my curiosity.

The hawk reappeared two days later and spent quite a bit of time sitting on the bowl of our birdbath before deciding to indulge. Diana was able to focus in for a very comfy and close up photo to memorialize this event. After a thorough soaking the majestic bird flew up to its tree stump perch to preen itself and dry off in the sun. I marveled at the spectacular picture and became envious that my wife was able to see this spectacular creature in action.

I took Friday off to get a few things done around the home, and was pleasantly surprised when the hawk flew in for bathing privileges. The photo did not do the bird justice. I was awestruck to observe this bird in all its power and beauty. As long as we stayed inside the hawk seemed comfortable with our boundaries. I went looking in our bird books to identify the species, and to the best of my ability, decided he was a Goshawk. My house and my naming privileges, so Gus was the moniker of our new guest. His picture circulated the internet among our family and friends.

My in-laws came to visit for a couple days. My father-in-law Jack and I were outside enjoying the nice weather when I commented I heard a young cat’s cry. He heard nothing and we went inside. A little while later Diana asked me if I heard a cat. By now it was dark outside and she went out back to investigate. Sure enough, in the shadows of our swing was a cat meowing. You could call to the kitty, which would make it answer back louder, but come no closer. Diana poured a saucer of milk and placed it on the porch to attract the cat and entice it to come closer.

I have seen Jack in action with cats. He is a dog lover, but has a soft spot for cats, and they respond to him. The kitty stayed in the shadows, not willing to come closer. You could tell it was hungry, but not trusting. Jack brought out a strip of bacon and went to work, breaking off tiny pieces and tossing them near the starving animal, gaining its confidence. Diana brought out another bowl with a little food and laid down a towel near the door for a bed. The cat responded, and although would not get close to any of us, would drink the milk, eat the food and sleep on the towel bed.

In the morning the cat let me know the milk was empty and backed off a comfortable distance while I refilled it, then as long as I went back inside would come over to its place of refuge we had helped create. When the others got up for the day, Jack observed the cat disappear into a sink hole in our side yard. With my In-laws moving on, Diana informed me over the phone of the location of the cat. I stopped at the store on the way home and purchased three more bags of dirt with the intention of filling in the hole once the cat was out next time.

When I got home the cat was in the huge bushes in our side yard and meowed its disapproval as I worked to fill in its underground sanctuary. All I could really observe was two large green eyes and a pink mouth as it protested. In the evening it came over to our back porch and started the ritual over again. The cat would remain quiet until we disturbed it, then let out loud protesting moans well past our backing off. I was watching and old game show and the contestant was named Elvis, which quickly became the cat’s name, with me retaining those home naming rites. I even used the front door to leave for work in the morning to avoid the confrontation with Elvis.

Later that morning, after Elvis had disappeared, Diana observed Gus come calling. Many more photos ensued, some truly incredible shots as Gus put on a tremendous show posing on the birdbath, patio umbrella and favorite tree stump. Diana heard Elvis’ cry in the bushes and quickly chased off Gus fearing an ugly episode. Gus was a trained hunter credited with running off the rabbits which had invaded our gardens. A young inexperienced Elvis would be no match.

Reality began to set in. We were leaving town for a few days and could not control this situation from afar. Diana chose to call the local animal control to capture Elvis. He was a long black haired cat and was shedding quite a bit of hair making Diana concerned about his health. The officer set a humane bait trap up that would snap the cage door closed as the critter chowed down. She mentioned a house across the street had been abandoned the week before and many cats had been left behind. A mother cat resembled the description of Elvis Diana had provided.

When I arrived home later that afternoon I saw the still empty cage near our well pump house. I poked my head into the structure and spoke to the cat softly. Elvis answered back, and slowly followed me out. As he passed the trap, a whiff of the food caught his attention. I became very sad and felt like telling Elvis to run the other direction, but had agreed with Diana this was the best course. I watched as he entered the cage, waiting for the door to spring shut. I poked my head into the house and asked Diana for reassurance, then went over to the cage and kicked the trap door closed on the cat. Elvis protested a little, but not very much.

Animal control had gone home for the day so the police came over to apprehend this dangerous critter and take him to the county facility. As I picked up the cage to give it to Officer Valenzuela, Elvis began to moan, cry louder than any cat I have ever heard. What a voice! We all agreed that cat was the loudest we had ever heard, all that noise coming from this little tiny creature. I felt sad, was surprised at how attached I had become in such a short time. Maybe when we get back in town I should check in with animal control…

The Greatest Gift

January 24th, 2008

My first thought was why burden me with this? As I sifted through my feelings, I realized it was a gift, the greatest gift my mother could ever have given to me. I felt honored she would select me.We all knew Mom was terminal. The cancer had comeback, and remission was no longer a viable option. The chemotherapy treatments that had taken so much of her the first go-around were an afterthought. The last step was to roll a hospital bed into her family room and permit her to die with dignity. This way she would be surrounded by her family and cherished friends. A hospice nursing team was employed to monitor and help keep Mom as comfortable as possible.

Dad had recently retired and was home with Mom all the time. My three brothers, I, and our significant others including her grandchildren would all gather at their home as our work shifts ended or after school and remain into the night. We would slowly retreat back to our own houses and repeat the routine the next day. Mom was in and out of it, sometimes lucid enough to hold a serious conversation, but the administered intra-venous pain medication kept her sleeping or resting a good portion of the time.

She remained steady, no better no worse for the better part of a week. The hospice nurse pleaded with us to talk to her, to soothe her, to convince Mom we would be alright and she could let go. One of the promises she requested of me at this time was to help my Dad adjust, keep him active and busy, assist him in moving on.

Mom had gone the better part of the next day without awakening. The whole family was present, socializing in another room, along with the nurse. Dad was sitting in a chair beyond the head of the bed, watching television. I was sitting bedside with my Mom’s hand in mine, stroking, tenderly rubbing up her arm with my free hand. I observed her facial expression change ever so slightly, then the most amazing experience I have ever witness occurred.

I saw, I felt her essence, her spirit leave her body. Time slowed. Her skin turned an ashen grey, then quickly returned back to normal color. I informed my Dad, “She’s gone, Mom just died.” He asked me not to say anything to the others just yet. He approached the bed, broke down very briefly and said his final goodbye. I then went to the other room to inform everyone else. The nurse tried to take over; she would check and verify that Mom had indeed passed on. I answered “Don’t bother, I already know.”

While everyone else flooded into the makeshift hospital room, Dad suggested he and I take a walk. I got the impression, as we walked and talked, of relief. Relief of any and all suffering was now over, and lives since put on hold, could now move forward. He even asked my opinion on how long to grieve, as my Mom had suggested a date partner for him. Even in death, Mom still controlled our universe.

No one ever questioned me how I knew, asked me without benefit of any educational expertise, how I could possibly have pinpointed the exact moment of Mom passing on. I guess it really didn’t matter, except to me, the recipient of this miraculous moment. There is a movie made in 1993 called My Life, where Michael Keaton passes on in a very eerie scene. I get the chills every time I watch it. This gift, this memory will be with me my entire life, etched in my mind. Thank you Mom for this, the greatest gift.


January 1st, 2008

            The 747 landed on time and Paul deplaned, watching as family members hugged and kissed, many tearful reunions. He resented them some, not having anyone to greet him. Heck, he wasn’t even sure where he was going, for sure. He left this town, his mother and sister with a vengeance eight years ago, never looking back. He wasn’t even sure if they were still here, or alive for that matter. But he had nowhere else to go.


            He took his time, stopping at Starbucks for a strong black coffee before making his way to the luggage carousel for his duffel. He stepped out front, hailing a taxi. “50th street and Cambridge” he snapped as he stepped into the back seat of the cab. His mind took him back to his childhood at this residence as the cabbie drove in silence.


            They never quite fit in. Their house always looked shabbier than the others, forever in need of a paint job. The grass was dead. There driveway was full of multiple cars in various stages of disrepair. The swimming pool leaked and they couldn’t afford to repair it, so it sat empty for years. When Paul was four, his father left for greener pastures and was never heard from again. His mom was overworked and underappreciated, as she bore the responsibilities of breadwinner for the three of them, with no financial help from her slacker ex.


            Paul grew up with no expectations. He went to school when he felt like it, which wasn’t very often. With no one home to follow up, the administration stopped calling. He filled his time with hate. It wasn’t a gene pool issue. His sister was friendly, smart and kind of pretty, while Paul was none of these. What he was, was mean. Being a few years older than the other kids gave him the size to dominate. His features were dark as a starless night. He had cold, hateful, vacant eyes with a half-moon shaped scar under the left one from a num-chuck accident.


            He learned early on he could intimidate others. He would curse, demean, and taunt the other kids as they passed by. Out back in the alley where others couldn’t observe he was known to toss eggs, rocks and one time a tail pipe at passerby’s. During the summers he would charge people to cross the bridge over the canal from the neighborhood to the mall, a safe haven. He would laugh and throw rocks at the kids who tried to jump the canal, often causing a disastrous result.


 Pets were not immune to his escapades. He liked to burn the whiskers off the dogs and tie two cats together by their tails and toss them over the clothesline. Firecrackers were one of his calling cards. Many things like pets, bikes and other toys ended up in the empty backyard pool. With no one to reel him in, he stayed out of control and terrorized anyone younger than him.


            Although he had this reputation and lashed out at everyone and everything, what he really would have preferred is to belong. His anger took him a long way- to Viet Nam. He served his country well for eight years, coming home a hero, but there was no one to share, to acknowledge him. He was coming back to the only home he had ever known. They weren’t good memories, but they’re all he had.