Sunday, October 29, 2006


Twas the night before Witchmass
And all through the yard,
Not a creature was stirring,
Except some retard,
Who had too much paper
And knew not what to do
But to decorate trees
For a Weenier view.
These are the days,
Or should I say “nights”
When ghosties and goblins
Give wee-ones the frights,
But for the home-owner,
It’s not “treat” but “trick”
When you wake in the morning
And feel a bit sick
To see that marauders
Have paid you a call
Festooning your landscape
And having a ball
In the name of good fun
They’d say with a grin
But if you ask me
I’d just say it’s a sin
To waste such a resource
On birches and pines
When cross the world over
People stand in long lines
To take care of business
Alone and with care
Then find that their paper
Is floating in air.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Let me ask you about love.

When do you know it? How does it manifest itself? What things tell you, "this is the one?"

Why would I ask these things of you? After all, I know love. Love was in me and around me for more than twenty years. I know its shades and variations, its richness, and its pain. I know love. I know how love can see you through rage and anger and frustration and sorrow and loss and disappointment. I know how love can see through you, exposing your fears, your faults, your weakest inner self, and even then embrace you. I know how love feels when it is new, and when, like a fine cellar-aged wine, it grows rich with each passing year. I know this about love.

What I wonder now is how does it happen? What is it that tells you that this special person is different from all of the others? Is it smell? Pheromones? Looks? Brains? Talent? Touch? Sex? What is it? If someone had asked me these questions some time ago, I would have given an answer that might not be the same as what I would say now. For, you see, I may be in love again, but I have never seen her, touched her, felt her, held her, looked into her eyes and inhaled her.

I have read her, talked to her, and seen photographs of her. Is this enough? I have never experienced anything like this before, never begun to know someone from afar, vicariously through this medium that we all share. Is it real?

These questions now taunt me. What is different about "knowing" someone on line and "knowing" someone in the flesh (aside from the obvious tactile senses)? Can you know someone through the words they write and the sounds they make over a telephone? Is it the same as getting to know someone you meet in a crowded bar, or at the grocery store, or the theater?

When you go out on those exploratory dates, what do you learn about that other person and how do you learn it? Do the words that come out of their mouths carry more meaning than the words heard over the phone? Does body language and all of the bandwidth of human senses lend more legitimacy than words printed on a page or inflections heard from afar via a wireless connection?

What is love and how do you know?

Let me be clear about something even as I ask these questions. I know what I feel for this person. It is the beginning of love. It carries all of the joy and headiness and bliss and longing and smoldering feelings of new love. That is not what I am asking you about.

You see, I am surrounded by skeptics who view all of this with the disdain that is available only to those who have never felt the bite of love's sword as it cuts you off at the knees; toppling you helplessly into the gutter to gaze in wonder at the stars so heartbreakingly beautiful, and so out of reach.

"You are doing all of the things you warned us about," they say with proud truth. And it is the truth. I met someone on line. I surrendered a portion of my privacy (and along with it, my family’s) when I shared first an email address, and later, a phone number and a mailing address. If one of my children had done this, I would have read them the riot act. Instead, it is they who read it to me.

"You are vulnerable," say wise friends. "You have just lost your wife and partner of twenty-one years," they truthfully point out. "This was what - three months ago?" they pile on. True, true - it is all true, I say. I am the classic example of "rebound" I think in response. How can I defend myself against these earnest and honest parries? How can I reconcile the desires of my heart with my parental responsibilities? Am I truly doing the right thing? And what is it that I am really doing?

Am I opening myself up for a huge fall? You see, all of this is impossible to make sense of in a "real" way. If I fall in love with this person, how are we to proceed? We live a thousand miles away from each other. We are both parents with lives and responsibilities and ties that hold us to our places. How can we possibly make a go of this? Is it fair to our children to undertake this Herculean task of long-distance love?

And then there is the age difference. I know that a few years means little beyond the self importance of high school, but we are not talking a "few" years. She could be my daughter if we counted the span of time between my birth and hers. What will be the response of the mother when her daughter brings home a grizzled man, grey with the passing of years, and stamped with the deep grooves of life lived at the limit? What price is there to pay? What tax will our loved ones exact from us for this illicit and forbidden love?

These are the questions that tumble through my head from my first waking thought to my last bleary view of the bedside clock at the end of the day. But once more, let me make some things clear.

I am no longer a heartsick teenager waiting for the postman every day to see if there is a letter carrying a faint scent that filled my senses one magical summer's night on a bear skin rug before a roaring fire that burnt to pale embers as the dawn was breaking.

I am no longer a randy youth out on the town, empty headed and seeping testosterone, cruising hungrily for something to scratch an itch so primal and so strong that it pushes any semblance of reason or maturity down, down, down until only animal instinct animates my gangly flesh.

I am no longer a young father, panicked to near insensibility at the thought of raising a child so precious, so new, so magical that the sight and scent of her intoxicates my senses and sends me reeling into spirals of joy and fear and memories of all of the wounds inflicted in the parent/child wars of my youth.

I am a man in the second half of my life. I am a man who lives with a diminutive, but fatal, demon, inflicted by genetic mutation at some unknown time and place in my past. A man who knows mortality in an intimate sense. A man who wants to live, to love, to bathe in the wealth that those who wander aimlessly through this life know nothing of. A man who may not have much time.

I know this. And knowing it, wish not to waste a precious minute waiting for others to see the light that shines down around me whenever her presence makes itself known. I know the timing sucks, but so what? Love does not show itself on a schedule like the morning express train into the city. I already have known more love than many and to know it again is a pure blessing. I cannot, and will not, regret any of that.

Do I have the right however, to put my happiness above the needs and feelings of my children? I have stated, and believe, that my number one priority is that of providing for the health and welfare of my children. My needs come second. But where is that line?

Can I be a good parent if I cannot be true to myself? There is a conflict. When is it appropriate to see to myself in opposition to the wishes of my children? When do I become one of those who leaves their kid in a car while I spend the night in the bar or casino? Not the same, I know, but I am vulnerable to the charge, however it is laid at my feet.

None of this will be resolved tomorrow – or the next day. I do look forward to the day when I can run my fingers over the cheek bones of a face that I have known only in two dimensions. I look forward to breathing deep the scent of her hair and feeling the press of her body against mine. We both know the challenges we face. We both know the odds. For me, all I can say is that this is a gift, every day a gift that I carry thankfully. The future will be what ever it is.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Toe Jamb

Okay, it’s been a few days now and the shakes and the staggering jags have just about let up whenever I think of that maniacal monster in the white lab coat. I actually think he cackled.

For those of you who really read this thing, and are interested in the state of my large, left toe, it is better. It’s still stiffer than the right one, but most of the swelling is gone and it feels galaxies better. Rereading these two sentences, it strikes me that such qualities would be beneficial for other parts of the anatomy, just not toes. Still, it is not a treatment option I ever want to do again. Next time I will just have them cut off the whole toe. Probably would hurt less and remove one option for further gout infestations.

So, that’s enough about that. In other related health news, I go today for my third infusion of this fourth, and last, chemo round. This is the regimen where I go in daily for four or five days and then take three weeks off. This is my fourth cycle of that (four months) roughly. Because last week’s CT-scan pictures were good, I get to stop after tomorrow. Yea.

That’s about it. If I feel up to it, I might go to a Halloween party on Saturday night. What to be? What to be?


Friday, October 20, 2006

Da Gout (not Da Count)

You know, I sometimes read novels, or watch movies about the old days when people were drawn and quartered, stretched on the rack, broken on the wheel, and other good things that we used to do to each other when we were having a bad hair day.

The problem was that I never really knew what all of that meant. Until today.

I can’t remember (damn chemo) whether I have talked much about it, but I have been the lucky recipient of a flare-up of gout for the last week. Now gout (speaking of medieval tortures), was in my mind, something that affected fat bastard kings and others who probably richly deserved it. Died out in the middle ages, I thought (though if I dug far enough into my memories, I would probably have come up with the vision of my father walking along in a funny fashion with one of the toes cut off his stylish brown oxfords – sole was there, just no cap).

Then it hit me – on 9/11 no less. Didn’t know what it was, but when it came back again, the doctor told me – gout. Well, I’ll be….didn’t know I was a fat bastard king. Turns out that it is partially hereditary, and I have a history (rather be a king if it came right down to it).

Trying to explain this thing to someone doesn’t do it justice. Plus, it doesn’t look like much. Cut your leg off in an industrial accident and people sympathize. Show them your gouty toe and they go “Eh.”

See, it doesn’t look like much. A little swelling maybe. A little redness around the base of your big toe. What’s the big deal? When did you turn into such a whiner? Give me a break.

But the thing is, that little redness and swelling feels like someone drove a red-hot railroad spike down through the first knuckle of your big toe and all you can do is spin around in a circle while no one understands. It’s horrible. I know, you could give a rip.

Well, today, after living with this for five days (in hell, thank you very much), I called the doctor. Why wait for five days you might ask. I mean, if it hurts as much as you say it does, why not call sooner.

Well, let me tell you why. The last time I went into the clinic complaining of gout, my friendly internist wanted to stick a needle the size of the Holland Tunnel into my already inflamed joint to suck out some magical fluid that would tell him if I really did have gout. WHO CARES IF IT’S GOUT? GET AWAY FROM ME YOU QUACK!!! Just give me something to fix it. So, he gave me the Evil Green Pills. They are almost worse than gout, but not quite.

They make me temporarily insane, cause dizziness, sometimes nausea. Can’t function in any normal sense (yeah, I know, when was the last time that happened). They are evil, BUT they usually make the red-hot spike go away in a day or two. Not this time.

Don’t know why, might have been the CT-scan contrast. Don’t know. I did know that if I wanted to get some medical relief, I would have to go today – before the weekend. So I called (have a different doc now – not the fiendishly sadistic one before). And miracle of miracles, they said “Could you come right now?”

I should have known something was up. It never works this way. But I fell for their line, told two still sleeping teens that I was leaving (“whatever”) and hit the road. I got there, got right in, the doc came in before the nurse had finished my blood pressure (what movie was I in?).

He looked at my toe and said, “Oh, a little gout I see.” Brilliant.

I said, “Yeah, well I would have come in sooner, but the last guy said he wanted to stick a big needle in my joint and all that space was already taken up by a red-hot railroad spike, so I split. He said he needed to suck out some juice to see if it was really gout.”

The doc smiled benignly and said that he didn’t want to do that. He could see it was gout. He wanted to stick a needle in there to inject steroids.

Fortunately, the nurse was quick and tackled me as I made a break for the door. Gout is good for one thing and that is to keep you from going anywhere fast. I could have been headed off by a granny with a walker.

Now, you have to imagine just how desperate I must have been to give permission to someone to stick a needle in a place that already hurt beyond belief. I know, all you women out there will say that men don’t handle pain well at all, and it’s true. I will give you the “pain handling trophy”, just don’t ask me to experience any more. Uncle, uncle.

Next thing I knew, I was on the table and the nurse was holding me down. I have to say that the doc I have now really knows how to handle a patient as he cracked to his nurse, “You know, usually we say to the patient that this won’t hurt a bit, but in this case, it will hurt a lot.” Then he stuck me.

I think I yelled. At least that’s what they told me later. The doc said that this was just the “numbing” shot and that he used the smallest needle that they had. They need to switch vendors cause they are buying from an irrigation company right now. Then he hit me with the big needle.

All I can say is that I wish I had blacked out like they do in the movies. Just so you know, that’s all fake. You don’t black out from the pain, you just go into “slow motion appreciation” mode. I am sure it was over in a second or two, but I have used up at least two birthdays today. I’m not sure what kind of hydraulic rig he used to inject the steroids with, but I don’t see how my toe could have survived the process. He might as well have cut it off with dull, rusty tin snips.

All I can remember is the nurse leaning on the arm and leg closest to her. I think I cracked a joke earlier about patients swinging at doctors when stuck in their gouty toes, but I am not sure.

At any rate, they put a little bandage on it and said “Good day.” I walked out of there like someone cut down from the stake just before the kindling catches. Everything was new again and I was free. Plus, my toe was numb.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Good News

It is a cold and rainy day here in Minnesota. Not cold enough to snow, not yet, but you can feel it coming.

I just arrived home after a forty minute drive through congested freeways, thinking how much I enjoyed not having to make that commute on a daily basis. I was down at my medical clinic to meet with my oncologist. He had the results of the CT scan that I had done yesterday.

I am not quite normal on the inside, but damn close. For a guy in my situation, you don’t get better news than that. It was a good thing that they weren’t taking pictures of my head.

I will do one more round of the treatment next week, Monday through Thursday, then quit. This is good. I was trying to decide how I would get through turkey day while doing chemo. Not an issue now.

It is amazing what something like this does to one’s outlook. Even though the sky is grey and all is wet, I feel warm and dry. Even the big toe on my left foot feels better, which, given the flare-up of gout that has plagued me for the last three days, is saying something.

This is no guarantee of course. The disease will come back – sometime, but for now, we have scored a small tactical victory. I will gladly take that, for whatever time I have.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…..

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Trying Times

This has been a hard two weeks.

Some of the details are in my other blog here.

Sometime between Sunday night when I went to bed, and Monday morning, when I woke up, I was hit by a flareup of gout. If you have had it, you know what it is like. If you have not, the simplest description I can think of is that it is like having a red-hot spike driven down through one of the major joints of you big toe. Why there, I don't know, but that is where it happens. Any kind of pressure, as light as the touch of your sheets at night, causes a level of discomfort that precludes sleep.

It seemed to be getting better until today. Today, I had a CT scan.

I have to sign off on a check list every time I do this. In times past, one of the things they asked about was gout. It was not on today's check list. Don't know why, but I do know that whatever I was injected with did not do me any favors there.

I hurt and I am tired. CT scans always tire me out. Something about receiving enough radiation to light up a mid-sized city for a night I guess. Plus, there is the wonderful barium drink that is the pre-CT scan cocktail. In the old days, they didn't diguise it. It was just an icky, white, thick sludge that I would have to drink every hour, on the hour for four hours preceeding the scan. Now it comes in "berry" and "banana" flavor. It is better if it is refridgerated.

Tomorrow I find out what all that radiation recorded. I have been doing this for twelve years and you would think I would have it down by now. I still dread it.

I am on the short list. I know that. One year, two, five - I don't know. But it is finite. That I know. I don't worry for myself so much. I think of my kids and what they have been through. They will have to go through more I am afraid.

I don't know that I will post this. I am whining and I hate that. I will think about it.

If I do post, it is because of some of the comments that have been left here. First, thank you. I read a lot of posts, but seldom comment. It is easier to skip from one vicarious sup to the next without leaving a footprint. To comment, one has to share - time, if nothing else - but I have been blessed with touches from people who really seem to care. Again, thank you.

As I go up in spirits, and down again, I tend to write when up. I hate whiners and don't want to be seen as one. Sometimes though, I am down. Should I write then? I don't know. Sometimes, it helps to order my thoughts enough to set them down in type. Sometimes, I just spew, unable to contain what is inside me.

Tonight, I am mostly sad. I am sad that two of the people whom I love most, have shared the last twenty some odd years of my life with, have chosen to act as they did. I am sad about how I acted as well. Now I face some delicate times. If I mis-step, I could create one of those family rifts that lives on long past the causal event. And how stupid all of this is.

If I believed in such, I would imagine my wife totally disgusted with the lot of us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Change in the Weather

I have been away for a bit. I had originally planned on taking some time off to meet someone - to explore a new relationship. Those plans had to be changed at the last minute and I found myself with arrangements already made for childcare (a word that is not really appropriate for chaperoning two teenagers), so I decided to take advantage of that and go back to my hometown for a few days and visit my aging parents.

It was a good thing to do. My father is getting quite frail, spending more and more time in a place that he finds it hard to communicate from. My mother was the one we all worried about a year ago, thinking that she was showing signs of Alzheimer's and losing her memory. But now, with my father sliding quickly down into darkness, my mother has raised herself up and assumed the role of caretaker. It has been an amazing process to witness. She is now the physically active one, the organizer, the family memory. All of these things happen on a plane a level or two below optimal, but that they happen at all is what is important.

My mother and father still live at home and steadfastly refuse to leave. My brothers and sisters have tried to get them to consider a different arrangement - going so far as to secure an apartment for them in an assisted living facility. They seemed like they were going to go for a little while, but then, they said no. We all have mixed feelings about this. We want them to be happy and together for as long as possible. We also want them to live as "healthily" as they can, which means proper nutrition, good hygiene, prompt and regular attention to medications, etc. These things do not always happen when it is just the two of them.

Anyway, it was good to see them, spend time with them, hang out at their house and do a few small projects for them. I also had a chance to visit with old friends and some of my siblings. All in all a nice visit.

All of this is taking place in a larger setting that involves the changing of seasons. I caught the last few days of warm, colorful fall days and had the chance to spend one of them out in the northern woods with one of my brothers. Now, we have cold Canadian air moving south and snow is in the forecast for the first time this year.

Things are turning cold on other fronts as well, but to read more on that, you will have to go here.

I apologize for the long gaps between posts, but that is the way of things right now. There will be more later.