In search of story


June 4.23: Coping, but barely

Warning: I am going to talk about my medical history. The reason: it’s HHT Awareness Month, and I’ve been negligent about it the last few years.

The alarms rang for me maybe fifteen years ago in California when I saw all the blood in my mouth.  My dentist said he saw no reason for it, but he should have: telangiectasias in the mouth are easily seen. He didn’t know, so dismissed it.

Fast forward to 2012 in Indiana. My doctor didn’t know either but did not dismiss it; she sent me to an otolaryngologist, who diagnosed HHT. I learned HHT was likely the reason I hemorrhaged after I had my tonsils out when I was little. Seriously?

Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia is a genetic blood vessel disorder. I got it from Dad. We never knew that all his nosebleeds — and mine — were a symptom of this thing.

HHT causes malformed blood vessels, small and large, which rupture. If nosebleeds are caused by HHT, they are not “just nosebleeds.” Internal bleeding, anemia, other complications, some life-threatening, are possible.

Many foods and medicines have blood-thinning effects, not great if you have HHT. For me, tuna, grapes, cranberries, walnuts, for instance, mean extra kleenex at the ready.  Melatonin? No way. NSAIDs? Never.

We knew Dad had ischemic bleeds in his brain, and apparently they are associated with vascular dementia. But I’ve come to wonder if his long history of blood thinners caused hemorrhagic bleeds in his brain also, ganging up on him and contributing to his dementia. Like father, like daughter?

Even doctors and dentists are not aware of HHT. Now, dear reader, you are. I’ve done my small part.




May 28.23: Coping, but barely

When War shatters bodies

and pain attends,

the cloth of life

forever rends.

Those who live

don’t want to know

how scythe of War

dealt final blow.

War Death comes also


fanged and poisonous,

cloaked, unseen.

Many there are,

alive in name,

dead by horrors,

never the same.

War breeds Death

of more than one kind:

not just the body,

but spirit,



Maybe the deadliest

weapon of choice:

words — bloodless shrapnel —

the conscience-less voice.

Or maybe the words

lying fallow, unsaid,

lead to as many

mangled and dead.

How are we humans

to be made again whole

when War amputates

our reason, our soul?


It’s Memorial Day weekend in America, dear reader, a time to remember those who have died in service to the ideals of this country, ideals a bit wobbly at the moment. In no way do I trivialize the deaths of men and women whose bodies litter our history and whose families forever bear the pain of death by war, but I can’t help thinking this Memorial Day of all those whose minds and souls died but whose bodies still breathed. POWs, MIAs, and those who returned with invisible gangrene. We are butchering each other still, and this Memorial Day seems sadly weighted with futility.

The dedication pictured above is from the book “Family Separation and Reunion: Families of Prisoners of War and Servicemen Missing in Action,” a compilation of essays by medical professionals involved in establishing care after Viet Nam. One of those was written by our intrepid photographer, S.W. Berg, CAPT, MC, USN (Ret).

It seems to me that this dedication is appropriate for all the families who ache because of war death.



May 21.23: Thursday Doors Writing Challenge #3

It was a lovely August day, and the house was open. Through the kitchen window, I could hear the voices outside where Dad was talking to a neighbor. Dad was 83, but he sounded 20, self-assured and energetic in his conversation. No fumbling for words or any other signs that he was making it up as he went along.

Then he came in and asked me where the bathroom was. He’d lived in that house for over 50 years.

The Black Thing filled the doorway on his way to the bathroom; Dad walked through it. It was always in a doorway, a wanton living sentient void, to remind me there was no way out.  There was no food that didn’t taste like the blackness, no sunshine that wasn’t tainted by it, no voice that wasn’t hollowed by it. Its very silence was discordant.

I made dinner earlier to get food in dad before the Black Thing took him. It curled Dad over his dinner plate, forced him to strip his bed and stuff the pillows in his desk, forced him to dig tablecloths out of the old buffet and arrange them, bedlike, on the dining room floor, forced him to walk and walk and walk and walk. Night after night after night.

It covered Dad’s eyes with nightmares so Dad wouldn’t know where he was, wouldn’t know me, wouldn’t know himself. Walking, walking, driven by the Black Thing. Dad’s face wore the dying. Walking, walking, frail, frightened, angry.

When the anguished nights gave way to exhausted day, the Black Thing resumed its vigil in doorways. Like a bat to a cave. Goading me. Dad knew nothing of the nights, of the faceless thing that made even the humanity of tears impossible.


Submitted to Dan Antion’s

Thursday Doors Writing Challenge

with thanks to him for hosting,

and with thanks to Teagan R. Geneviene for the photo.


May 18.23: Thursday Doors Writing Challenge #2

Curtains at the window,

a very homey touch;

a meadow on the roof,

homey not so much.

What kind of place is this,

snuggled ‘mongst the weeds,

apparently content

with no housekeeping needs?

Laundry starched by eons,

like herald on rampart,

keeps watch on ancient clothespins —

how rare this garden art!

The door seems not quite closed,

but I cannot rightly tell

if it says So glad to see you,

come in and set a spell.

Or does that faded sag,

arthritic hinge and eave

say that it’s too tired

and I should take my leave?

The crumbles of the sidewalk,

the filmy window panes,

all decrepitude and torpor,

yet somehow it remains

in company of garden,

neglected, ragged growth,

rallying around it

with bud and blossom both.

In reverence do I stand,

imagining its past,

when suddenly my reverence

turns to flabbergast:

this weatherbeaten elder

in my sudden clear-eyed vision

winkingly looks back

at my own mature condition.



Submitted to Dan Antion’s

Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge

with thanks to Dan for hosting

and with thanks to Susan Rushton for the intriguing door.




May 16.23: Thursday Doors Writing Challenge

Grandma was bony. Her light summer housedresses added no substance at all to her frame, and her summer hugs were especially skeletal. It wasn’t that she was skinny exactly; she just seemed to the child-me to have a lot of bones.

She sat at her kitchen table with the dented colander in her aproned lap, cleaning green beans from a pile heaped on a torn brown bag spread over the oilcloth. Her long fingers, never manicured or jeweled, moved automatically.

Such a small sound, that snap of the bean, blending arrhythmically with the summer breeze which carried its own small sounds through the screens, bits of birdsong, leafsong and the tickling jingle of the ice cream man. In summer’s slow time, the air mingled with the fragrance of the fresh beans, and everything was new.

Two windows flanked the table, their curtains puffed lightly by summer’s breath. Grandma sat between one window and the back screened door, locked with a little hook. What a joy to a kid to flip up the hook and careen out, over the small porch, past the pantry window that used to be their winter icebox, down the wooden stairs, into the little yard festooned with tomatoes and moss roses.

And what a smack was there! That screened door slammed shut with decibels to wake the dead. BLAM! It was a sound that shattered the snoozy summer every time. That door slapped her house so smartly that it was hard not to think that it was going after the flies that tried to get in. I’m sure it got a few.

There was something satisfying about that smack. There was a door with character, purpose, a voice. Everyone with ears knew of it. It announced our going-forths like cannon shot. After Dad and his sisters grew up, it might have been a happy time for the door to be again in the harum-scarum forces of little hands.

In the comings and goings of children, the slamming of screened door, the grandma, busy with the things of living, maybe thinking in her bones about the day the door would be quiet again.



Submitted to Dan Antion’s

Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge,

with thanks both to Dan for hosting,

and to Lois, whose door photo

reminded me of the long-ago door.


May 10.23: Coping, but barely

The sweet little girls were left briefly in my care. The baby would have none of it: she wanted her own mom and I wouldn’t do. Enter the entertainment committee, aka my sons. Suddenly both baby and her older sister (obscured by a flailing arm here) were enthralled.

The son on the left is the son who is visiting me this week. I inflict this all on you, dear reader, by way of saying that he is the reason I am not much blogging at the moment. I’m just trying to keep up.



May 5.23: Coping, but barely

I read to the bug.

When galaxies — galaxies! — collide,

a quasar is seared into being,

bright as a trillion suns!


The bug shrugged.


Quasar P172+18 sent its light to us

13 billion years ago! It arrived today!


The bug did not look up.


Our Milky Way galaxy will collide

with the Andromeda galaxy in

5 billion years!


The bug yawned.


Where is wisdom?

In the orbit of the wee bug,

immersed in so small a self,

or in the soul-freezing vastness

of what is

and has been

and will be?

I do not comprehend either.


With thanks to Ashley Strickland, space and science writer for CNN and her article “Solving the mystery of the most powerful objects in the universe.” I did get the feeling that the bug wondered why he wasn’t mentioned in her article.



May 2.23: Coping, but barely

“At the end of the day”

you hear people say;

it’s kind of a trend

to invoke the day’s end.

Clichés are so born,

and now I am torn:

how else can I write

of incoming night?

The end of the day

is about shadow play,

puffs pink and white

in slanted late light,

their tippy-toe stretch

to yawn and to catch

that pearly soft ray

at the end of the day.