Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Friend of Bill's

No, not that one. The President Bill. . . .

When President Clinton first took office, healthcare was on his agenda. Oh, those were the days. I practiced my writing skill by writing a letter to Hillary - she had just taken care of her father as he was dying. I wrote about caring for Mom and how, in Romney, West Virginia, there was little home care to help me. Evidently my writing struck a cord with someone in one of the lower level offices and I was invited to speak to the President, Vice President, Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Gore at the Rose Garden. I know it was a photo-op for the new administration - I have the photo to prove it. But, gee whiz, the White House had called. I, of course, went. That is another story entirely. This story is about my Pop.

Pop still lived in Romney after Mom died. Pop went to the VA hospital in Martinsburg, West VA, 50 miles from his home. Pop needed a graph of an aortic aneurysm, but also needed a cardiac cath to see if he could live through the surgery. The VA sent Pop to the VA Hospital in Washington, D.C. for that. It happened to be the Friday after I had met with the President. I was back in Washington and in Senator Wofford's office watching Bill Clinton address a joint session of Congress. I had hit the big time! Uh-huh.

The next day, a Saturday, before driving back to Pennsylvania, I stopped at the hospital to check on Pop who had gone through the cardiac cath without a problem. They told me he was scheduled to go home on Monday on the VA Bus to Martinsburg, where a friend was ready to meet him to take him the last 50 miles to Romney. I went home thinking that everything had been taken care of. WRONG! When I got to Easton, I called the hospital in DC only to find out that Pop was on the bus to Martinsburg with no way to get to Romney.

I raised Holy Hell. I called the VA Hospital in DC administrator. I followed up with a letter which was copied to Senator Wofford, the Head of the VA, and Clinton's health care administrator.

Several weeks later Pop was going through the aneurysm surgery in Martinsburg and I was there - waiting for him to get out of the recovery room. I decided to go to the nurses' station to check on his whereabouts and before I could say anything, I heard this exchange:

"Is Tornese out of recovery yet?"
"No, not yet. And he better come down in one piece. His daughter is a friend of the President's."

I never corrected her.

Pop lived for several more years with his aorta of mesh.

That's why it's called "fiction. . ."

. . . because it's not real; it's pretend; it's a story.

It seems that my short story on the Empire State Building jumper triggered an unusual response in one of the few people who read this blog. Someone who didn't know me thought that maybe. . .just maybe . . .I would do something . . .like what? Like take an overdose of my Hyzaar and pee myself to death. I'm sorry to be such a smart alec about this but that gentleman jumped to a huge conclusion. I am a writer. I write nonfiction and fiction. To write fiction I like to get "inside" the character, try to feel what that character is feeling - it makes the story more real. The fact that I wondered what a person getting ready to jump off the Empire State building would be thinking - that very fact should lead one to know that I have no clue about what would lead someone to suicide. It was the writer's "what if . . ." that lead me to the story - the jumper's story. And as I said earlier, I wanted to memorialize him in some way.

The first time I saw Rich in his casket, I had the weird idea that I should be in it with him - he was so cold, I should hold him to keep him warm. That feeling lasted for thirty seconds and years later became my homage to Poe, "Forever" - a Victorian gothic.

It's fiction - I write to explore emotions and arenas that I may never experience.
It's fiction. Honest!

But (blowing my own horn here) it must have been damn good for him to think that I needed help!

<> The only help I need is convincing a publisher that I'm really that good.


Pain and Perspective

It was a rushed morning, getting packed for an overnight business trip, making sure the cats had enough food in their feeder. And of course, the litter boxes - I almost forgot them. I bent over them, "policing the cats' toilet" as James Qwilleran says, and had terrible back pain when I was finally able to straighten up. I guessed my Aleve hadn't kicked in yet. I then hobbled out to the dumpster with an armload of garbage and hobbled back to the apartment to carry overnight bag and small tote to car.

I hadn't time for breakfast, so I stopped at the Giant for a Bakers' Breakfast Cookie (expensive but great nutrition and it holds me until lunchtime - so well worth it). I hobbled to the store, hobbled less around the store and by the time I was back in my car, I had walked out the pain. That happens, but not for long - the pain returns if I walk too long. It's a fine line I "walk" - pardon the pun - between activity and pain.

However, in the words of Sophia Petrillo, "I digress" (don't you just love pop culture quotes?). I was sitting in my car in the Giant parking lot, getting ready to leave, when I noticed a gentleman getting out of his car. He was parked several rows ahead of me. I noticed him because he was older - not elderly, but maybe a few years older than me - and he was getting out of his car like I have to at times - slowly, methodically, mindful of the joints and muscles that ache. But his slow, methodical movements didn't stop; I watched as he walked across the parking lot towards the store in a hesitant, shuffling gait. "He needs a walker," the nurse in me said.

This man, with his halting gait, did not have a walker or a cane. He had not parked in a handicap spot or even a closer parking spot. He had eased himself out of his car and walked, not well, but independently across the macadam to the store.

My back pain was almost gone by the time I pulled out of the Giant parking lot. I knew that it would come back this afternoon after the trip to Bloomsburg. However, I was handling it - I was making do. I was hobbling when I had to, shuffling if need be, and resting. The next time I start to feel sorry for myself because the pain may be limiting me, I'll think about the gentleman in the Giant parking lot. And I'll just "walk" it off.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Short Story

Earlier I had mentioned an idea for a short story - about the man who jumped off the Empire State Building last week. Here is the rough draft. The story is told backwards - each paragragh is a section of time, beginning with his death. It's also in first person POV. I guess I needed a challenge.

“I read the news today. Oh, boy.”

I can see the concrete coming clos. . . .

Falling is freeing. Wind rushing by me. Windows rushing by me. Pressure of the air. Hard to breathe.
I had always thought it would take just an instant but it’s longer than that. Ground coming closer.
Sitting on the edge of the fence, both feet dangling over the side, the edge cuts into me. But it won’t be long until it’s all over anyway. Windy. I hadn’t thought about the wind. The wind could take me before . . .before what? I’ve already made up my mind. Funny that no one is paying any attention to me. I’m sitting here about to leap off into space, but no one seems to care. Am I surprised at that? No one shouts. No one asks what I’m doing, sitting on the edge of a security fence. No one reaches to drag me down. No one even calls a security guard. No one. No one cares that soon I will be sailing out over the sidewalk.
I walk out of the elevator and onto the observation deck. I look around at the other people. A couple, older, in their fifties walking around looking at the tops of the buildings. A younger couple and their children – young children, little children – rush past me. Too bad. They will not have a pleasant memory of today. But that’s not my problem. It’s theirs. All the problems are theirs. I’ve abdicated all concerns, all problems. I leave them all to you in my will, I think. I walk around the narrow area and decide upon just the right spot – the easiest spot for me to crawl up on the fence – as far away as possible from the others. See? I can still be considerate. Even now at the last few moments, I’m still thinking of others. Maybe that’s what has brought me here to this finality.
Someone, the younger woman, is wearing a cheap perfume. I can feel the astringency of it. My nose is very sensitive to smells, like a dog’s. I can smell their bodies, huddled up against me in the elevator. The two couples and the younger couples’ kids – little kids, the kind that whine in restaurants and fuss. I hope that they don’t fuss today. Don’t fuss, sweeties, and I promise up something spectacular will happen – a free show. Watch the flying man sail off the Empire State Building. I almost giggle at it. I really do hate kids but still would not want them see me throw myself off into air. Nightmares – I will be the cause of their nightmares for the rest of their lives. So be it. One is now whining about when are we going to get to the top. It’s a long ride, stupid, I want to say. Many, many floors to go up. Many, many floors to fall down.
The lobby is busy – full of people moving back and forth. Busy. Very busy people. No one looks at me – I’m just another face. No One Important. No One at all. That’s been my entire life. Faces looking past me. No one. No one at all. I walk through the lobby of the building, taking my time. Time means nothing to me any longer – nothing. I admire the workmanship – the fine art of the 1930’s that went into its construction. This building that represents the biggest and the best of mankind. Now the tallest building in the city. Funny, that. I smile, thinking just how funny it is. This building, standing for more than seventy years is once again the tallest in the city; the others brought down by terrorists, by madman. But aren’t I a madman? Maybe more mad than the men who flew the planes into the towers. More mad because I’m not dying for a cause. Why am I dying? I’ve almost forgotten. I’m dying because there are no more choices. I’ve no place left to go. No place but up and then . . . I smile again at the thought. The first real decision, the first real step, the first real accomplishment in many months. The beginning of the end. I walk over to the bank of elevators and wait.
I wander down the street, people pass me and I want to shout out. I’m a dying man. You’re walking by a dying man. I have just a few more minutes to live. Do you care? I walk slowly down the sidewalk and wonder, How does one walk to his death? I’ve seen movies of the prisoner on death row walking between a guard and a priest (always a priest – I find that funny –as if Hollywood thought we were all Catholics). The prisoner is crying, dragging his feet, guards have to help him up, help him walk the last mile to the chair, the chamber or, now, the stretcher. How does a deadman walk? Like I’m walking. I finally get to the revolving door that’s the entrance into the building.
I’m paying the cab driver, trying to decide on a tip. But why worry? I no longer have the need for money. I push the wad of cash into his hand – I think it must be at least 200 – and he stares at me – but for only a second until he shoves the money into his pants pocket and grins at me. His “thank you” is thickly accented. Pakistani? Iraqi? One of those. I don’t know and don’t care. I’m not even aware of the cab driving off. I look down the street and find the building.
I sit in the cab and watch the passing buildings as the driver maneuvers through the city. He is a reckless driver, but I don’t care. Dying in a car accident would not be my decision. But it would solve the problem. I have made my choice. I will follow it through.
I stand on the corner, Jameson and Third, in Queens and hail a cab. I must go into the city. Today is the day, is the day, is the day, is the day. The thought of the day fills me with more satisfaction than anything else ever has – satisfaction. . .I can’t get no . . . I’m humming when the cab pulls up. The driver is dark with very white teeth – not African dark, Arab dark. Somehow that gives me peace. I smile and get in. I give him the address and he says, ”You work there.” No, I tell him. I want to say, “I die there.” But I don’t. I leave Queens behind.
I walk down the stairs of my apartment building. Standing in the foyer in front of a row of mailboxes, I slip an envelope into the super’s. Inside is a note telling him to sell or junk everything in the apartment. I’m leaving town. I laugh. I’m flying away. Free, finally free. Making this decision has been the most freeing thing of my life. Life. Death. A little word association as I step to the corner and look for an oncoming cab. And then I think, “Why not a bus?” No. Not a bus. I want to fly. I want to fly before I die. I will fly from the tallest building. Fly now, die now. I giggle.
Standing in the shower, letting the warm water beat on my back, I think it somehow odd. Here I am, taking a shower, my best suit laid out on the bed. My best shoes shined to a gleaming black. It’s as if I’m going to a job interview. Maybe I am. I scrub my back with a brush. Job interview? Hmmm? The last one.
The coffee is bitter but hot. My last cup of coffee. No breakfast. No smoke – gave it up – bad for my health. As if flying off a building is good for my health. Well, maybe good for the health of others. I rinse the cup out in the sink, empty the coffee grounds and rinse the coffee pot. Everything will be left neatly. I walk out of my kitchen for the last time. I need to shower and shave before I leave.
It’s midnight. I sit at the open window – November night air blows in. I finally have a plan. I know what I will do. I feel better now that the decision is made. I crawl into bed and pull the covers over me. Finally darkness.

It's not that I don't like my job . . .

. . . maybe it's that I'm bored. Hence the blogging in the middle of the morning when I should be rereading the information on side rails (shouldn't be using them even though families demand - yes, demand them; "I'll sue you if Mom/Pop falls out of bed" - when you know damn well that they'll sue you, too, if Mom/Pop gets their head/leg/arm caught inbetween the side rail and the mattress) and pressure ulcers (it seems that a resident in a nursing home should not get a reddened area, let alone an open area - let's not forget that some of these people are aged,refuse to eat, refuse to be turned and/or fight/kick/pinch,claw, dig in fingernails when aides and nurses attempt to give care - and we never have, don't now and never will pay anyone enough to do the job).

I'm bored because the scenery never changes - agency nurses who could care less, not enough money to pay for better help, not enough nurses out there even if we had enough money.

The scenery never varies - no matter what we do there is someone, some aide, some nurse, some activities person, who will give a good building a bad deficiency just because of one instance. There's no amount of Quality Improvement that can make up for the results of hiring one bad person.

The scenery is always the same - no creativity, can't do it, no way, don't try. No money to try some new human resource idea that might get staff in the buildings.

The scenery around me is always the same - except I have removed my personal pictures from my office - no one here has noticed. It's called disengaging. In my heart I disengaged a long time ago - just changing the scenery now.

Morning Magic

I have a habit - this one is a good habit. Every morning when I go out to collect the paper, I walk to the side of my apartment building, look to the east and thank Goddess for another beautiful day - even if the weather is not so beautiful.

This morning it was beautiful. From my front porch I could see the moon, less than full and beginning to wane, hanging in a bright blue sky, a thin scattering of clouds surrounding Her. I walked around the sidewalk, cold in my stocking feet, and saw the remnants of the night's stars still visible because the sun had not yet risen. A beautiful morning.

Later, as I was dragging the rolling suitcase that serves as my computer bag out to my car, I heard a commotion of crows coming from a nearby tree. Two crows were sitting near a larger bird and the crows were not happy. The larger bird maintain his position, with just a slight turn of his head towards the unhappy couple. He seemed to look at them ("You talking to me?") and then look away. From where I stood watching, I couldn't tell if the bird was a hawk or an owl. But I was betting on hawk since the sun by then was well above the horizon. The harsh calling from the crows continued for several minutes while I watched, standing by the steps to the parking lot.

Suddenly one crow left his perch and flew to another tree, leaving one to carry on the fight for the neighborhood. The hawk just turned his head and stood his ground. Several seconds later, the second crow rose up from the branch, cawing loudly, and flew around the hawk, swooping and circling. The hawk stood his ground, or branch, as it was. The second crow finally gave up and in a huff of exasperated cawing, flew away.

Wondering if the large bird was indeed a hawk, I left my computer case by the car and walked down the alley towards the tree. I could see the bird's head turn as if watching my progress. As I neared the tree, he suddenly levitated off the branch that he had held for so long through so much intimidation and flew away. I was a bigger threat than my crow-fellows. I watched him soar away - a hawk, big and majestic.

"Thank you, Goddess," I whispered. Thank you for a magical moment this morning. I am so glad that I was able to enjoy it.

You only need to open your awareness of the world around you to enjoy magical moments.

To Tree or Not to Tree?

That is the question. . .

I understand why someone living alone, not entertaining for the holidays, feels like . . .well. . .why go through all the trouble of putting up a tree, decorating, etc.

So I didn't - not yet anyway.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

"I read the news today. Oh, boy . . ."

"Ten thousands holes in Blackburn, Lancashire . . . .and 'though the holes are rather small, they had to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall . . ."

Such is the news - or much of it - as it is reported, verbally or written. Minutiae that we don't need to know - filler to surround the world news of genocide for ethnic cleansing or oil.

I read the news today about a man who "didn't blow his mind out in car"; he jumped from the observation deck of Empire State Building. What drives someone to do that - to climb over the security fence, to teeter on the edge of oblivion and then suddenly decide (because there must be a moment of indecision) - suddenly decide to make that final step into space? Is that a leap of faith - faith that you will go to a better place; faith that you are leaving behind people who will grieve for you, or the faith that there is no one who will grieve - so you can go with a clear conscious? Tumbling into space, head over feet until . . . It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop.

Such a small news item when you consider all the things that are happening in the world - one life gone. But one life gone in such a dramatic way. Was that the comment he wanted to make? There was no note. So the act itself had to be the message. "Hey, all of you people who ignored me all my life! Hey! Look at me! Try to ignore THIS!" And then the leap. Death - not death alone, but dramatic death from a dizzying height and from a world-reknown building. Totally dramatic and irrevocable.

Who let this man down - who ignored him - who are the people who will grieve for him? Who will write his epitath; who will carve it on a stone; who will read it? What was his story? Who will write it?

Maybe I will - write it backwards - from the stop on the Empire State Building's sixth floor overhang - backwards - up through the air, upward past the many stories, the many windows, all the way to the moment when he's teetering on the edge of nowhere - further back to the minute that he stepped on the elevator with his intention in his mind. His life will be a story, maybe not his story, my story, but his step into oblivion will be my muse - so his life will have meant something. Too bad he will never know.

"I read the news today. Oh, boy. . ."

Friday, November 26, 2004

Black Friday

Is it called "Black" Friday because retailers hope to get "in the black" with a lot of sales? Or is it "black" because it's such a hectic, crowded day?

My Black Friday? PetCo for bags of cat food. Northampton County SPCA's website says they need cat food more than dog food. I'll drop off the food at noon when they open and then off to the movies with Lorraine to see Johnny Depp in "Neverland."

This evening I'll go to downtown Easton to watch the Candle-lighting - the world's largest peace candle covers a war monument in Center Square for a few months. I've always enjoyed the ceremony - it gets me into the spirit of the season. I haven't gone for several years because Mark didn't seem to like it. Now I can go again. I will be alone, but at least I'll be doing something that I enjoy. I've lived in Easton for almost 40 years. The Easton Candle is one of my favorite things about my adopted hometown.

When Heather was little, it was fun to see how excited she would get on the first night after the lighting when we would drive down Northampton Street and see the "flame" appear over the top of one of Easton's hills. We would then take her to Pomeroy's for a visit with Santa and her grandmother who worked in one of store's departments.

After the divorce I used to fantasize about being huddled together with a wonderful man as we watched Easton's Candle light up.

I took Mark on our first Thanksgiving weekend together. After the lighting, he said "Is that all?" He never wanted to go again. Mark and I are no longer together. Heather is living in Seattle now and long ago was too old to relive the old traditions.

But I will be at Easton's Candle-lighting ceremony. I will try to hear the speeches, sing along with the carols, and ooo and ahhh when the huge candle lights up. I'll go alone, but I'm sure I will see people I know. I'll go alone, bundled up against the cold. I'll go alone but in a crowd of people enjoying the season, I won't feel alone.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Gratitude Attitude

The problem with today is we should be thankful everyday - not just in words but also in deeds. Everyday we should remember that there are still many people in this country who go to bed hungry and wake up hungry and stay hungry. Everyday we should remember that moral values should include caring for those people who do without food, shelter, health care and love. Everyday - not just one day or even one season. Every Day.

I sponsor a woman in Africa - my thirty dollar a month donation is a small amount to help someone who is not as fortuante as I am. Tomorrow I will go to the Northampton SPCA with a large bag of dog food and a large bag of cat food. And I will go shopping for nonperishables for the local food bank. I hope to make this a monthly habit.

A gratitude attitude is shown through deeds - not just words.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Meeting Mark . . .

. . .for dinner Tuesday night was an unusual experience. It was a bit like meeting the guy you had a crush on in middle school 40 years ago. A tiny spark was there (I can only speak for myself) but not enough to mean anything; in other words, why continue to even waste any more energy on something that has no future? And the future is very important to someone pushing 60. Time is short.

So I will go from "Meeting Mark" to "Meeting John" - with a clear conscious - nothing left of the old so I can at least look to something fresh, new - the unknown.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Today's news. . . .

. . .includes the following stories:

JFK Assassination has been turned into a "docugame" - a game that is supposed to disprove conspiracy theories.

In the wake of Nipple-gate at last year's Super Bowl Halftime Show, Paul McCartney has been signed up to perform for Super Bowl 2005.

Am I the only one to see the incongruity in the above? I guess you would have had to live through the times - November 22, 1963 and early 1964. The President had been assassinated and the country was in mourning. Several months later a musical aberration called the Beatles landed in the US, causing parents to wonder what "this generation was coming to. . ."

Evidently they "were coming to" an age 40 years later when an assassination of a President can be a game and an aberration could be mainstream.

"I read the news today. Oh, boy. . . ."


A fight erupts between spectators and fans at an NBA game, an American soldier shoots and kills an unarmed and wounded Iraqi, a hunter shoots other hunters over a deer blind, wounding three and killing five.

We are the country that was settled violently, gained our independence violently. We watch it on the news, in the movies, on TV. It's all a game.

Is it any wonder why the Texas school decided to go with camouflage outfits instead of the traditional cross-dressing day? So all the big guys in kilts tossing cabers are gay? Right? Afraid that wearing a skirt may make a boy homosexual, they have no qualms about the same boy wearing "camo."

Wadda country.

A Letter to Santa

Just in case he's reading blogs these days:

Dear Santa,

I've been a very good girl this year. I worked real hard at my job and spent my salary wisely. I took care of my daughter and even adopted her two cats. I've fed the birds and the squirrels. I've been nice to people who were not nice to me. So, Santa, here is my Christmas wish list for 2004.

I would really like to be independently wealthy - so I could write everyday and not worry about it getting published. Oh, can't do that one? Okay. How about this one:

I just want someone who accepts and loves me for me - flabby arms, stretch marks and all. What? Another hard one? Let me think, let me think. Give me a minute.

Okay. okay. What about THIS one? I want to get up in the morning with no aches or pains.
No, to that one, too? What do you mean I've earned those aches and pains? You told me I earned all those gray hairs, but I can get rid of those.

What the hell is wrong with you, Santa? I thought you could do anything. Well, at least until I was around 10 or so. But now that I'm quickly approaching my dotage, can't I revert back to my childhood in other ways - like believing in the magic of one night in the year when all of my dreams could come true. I guess it depends on the magic and the dreams.

So, Santa since I can't have wealth, love or youth, just give me the entire Beatles collection on CDs.


Your friend,
Age 57

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What's Up with This?

I am up early this morning - making pumpkin soup for our writers' group Thanksgiving Feast and trying to figure out how to fix the broken lid on my crockpot and tape it down to prevent it from spilling all over my car the way it did two years ago. A rambling sentence but that's the way I'm feeling so early this morning.

A weird, really, really weird dream. It was a jumble of different vignettes that seemed to tie together with one thing - me. Evidently I was living in a small apartment with my mother - my real mom, long since gone - and the apartment was disjointed with the rooms. It was first floor with a large hillside outside the backdoor and we had friends and family (who I didn't recognize) planting the hillside so the dirt wouldn't come down into the patio. On top of that there was some guy in my dream - may be a relative, I'm not too clear on that - who turned into a monster with huge black claws (all I saw of the monster) and killed people. I tried to warn his sister - Kay Mc Neil from my nursing school days - but no one believed me. Then somehow I found myself in the streets of Boston, which looked like Wilson Boro, tracking down this monster, but I was in the middle of a street fair with people dressed in colonial costume. I got stuck with this woman who was trying to find historical sites so she could get badges for a ribbon she was wearing. There was a huge hill with a large mound of dirt, hollowed out inside, (called The Castle) and actors portraying something like Cinderella. John Kerry was walking the streets, playing his guitar and singing - a young John Kerry. I woke up as this weird woman and I were walking to a historic cemetery so she could get a badge for her ribbon - she was dressed in colonial clothes and I was in regular clothes.

I awoke with the alarm chiming and a painful cramp in my leg - maybe from walking the streets of Boston - which I did about six/seven years ago when I visited Jim - Mark's predecessor.

Soooooo, what's up with this?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

What is wrong with these pictures. . .

A fictional scene where a beautiful white woman, naked except for a towel, throws herself at a handsome, black football player: outrage from the moral public.

Actual news footage shows an American soldier shooting and killing an already wounded and unarmed Iraqi soldier: not even a murmur.

This is our moral country?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Writing Everyday. . .

. . .is a lot of work. First you have to have something in the head that is worth putting onto the monitor screen. Then you have to actually sit in front of the monitor, turn on the computer and type the damn stuff. Sometimes it just seems like too much work.

But I've been doing it - writing everyday. Well, writing almost everyday. Since November 1 I think I've missed two days. Even with two days of slacking I still have more than 16000 words completed on a brand new book: The Change.

I enjoy writing everyday - I enjoy seeing the scenes that have been appearing in my mind take shape in words. It's so easy in my head - so difficult to write it down sometimes.

I'm finding that the characters of this book are with me during the day - even when I'm not writing them. Every so often I find myself thinking about Harri, Ruby and Jill and wondering what they're doing. Geesh! They're DOING what-the-hell-ever I WANT them to do. I am their creator, aren't I? Or am I?

One day I found Harri doing something that I had originally thought was very un-Harri-like: she dented her ex-husband's new caddy with a grotesque chrome and glass sculpture - and she did it without even touching either car or monstrosity. I just believed that Harri wouldn't be using her powers for destruction. Wrong! Harri was a woman scorned, scorned badly and in the worse way - her husband had left her for a much younger woman. Harri had to get back at him - she had to do it for closure. The caddy was just the start. . .

So each day as I write, I'm learning more and more about these three very different but strong women - and I'm learning a little each day about myself.

Would I dent the hood of an ex's brand new car? Maybe.
Would I think about doing it? Definitely.

That's the thing: Harri, Ruby and Jill are me and I'm them. In telling their stories, I'm rewriting mine. I'm making a change - everyday - by writing - everyday.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sea Change

A "marked transformation, as in something richer or finer."
I think there will be a sea change in my life - not brought on my someone else but brought on by myself.

A sea change - I love the sound of the phrase. It conjures up scenes from the Tempest or the Perfect Storm - where the change comes from nature and not from within oneself.

A sea change - an attitude adjustment. An adjustment of my attitude.

A rising tide raises all boats. Life is an ebb and flow.

A sea change . . .let's hope I don't drown.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veteran's Day

ABC will be showing “Saving Private Ryan” tonight – Veteran’s Day. ABC has a voice-over advisory on the commercial for the World War II epic – viewer discretion is “strongly” advised. You hardly every hear the word “strongly”. It was needed in this case. The first twenty minutes of this movie shows the landing of the 29th Division on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Pop was in that division and in that landing.

I’ve only seen the movie once – in a theater on a wide-screen. I saw it with the man in my life – well, the one who was in my life at that time. He was retired navy and a World War II reenactor – he was “into” the movie because of his interests. I was “into” the movie because of Pop.

Those first twenty minutes – the reason for ABC’s strong advisory – show war as it really is – not hundreds of bright lights moving across the dark Iraqi sky backed by CNN commentary. Those first twenty minutes of “Private Ryan” show limbs being blown off and water turning red as the American army – many enlistees – ran out of the amphibian troop carriers, into the water and towards almost certain death from the German barrage. The Germans had the high ground on the cliffs over the beach – they had the strategic advantage but the 29th had the advantage of numbers. By the end of the “longest day” the Americans had the beach – but at terrible price.

And that’s the important thing to remember and why everyone over the age of 10 should see “Saving Private Ryan.” Those first twenty-minutes that show war’s true spirit – not one of patriotism but one of price – the price of the youngest and the bravest.

Watching that movie for the first time I realized why Pop never took our family to Ocean City, Maryland – a short drive from our home. After living through that, how could anyone ever want to see a beach again? After seeing the cost of war, would anyone ever want to repeat it?

“Saving Private Ryan” is on ABC tonight. Will the President be watching?

And just because I probably never said it when you were alive: “Thanks, Pop. For all of your faults you were one hell of a brave guy.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Mom's Secret

My column that appeared in the Express-Times, 11/8/04:

As I watched a repeat of a newscast showing Senator John Kerry conceding the election, I thought of my mother.
Now my mother couldn’t vote in this election; in fact she didn’t vote in the last. Mom’s been gone since 1992, so she didn’t even get to vote for Bill Clinton, who I’m sure she would have liked. He was so much like the good old boys that mom grew up with in the hills of West Virginia.
My Mom, Ollie Anna Carter, was born in 1923. She married a World War II veteran, Frank Tornese, in 1946. She then gave birth to a baby girl, me, in 1947 and another baby girl, Pattie, in 1951. Ollie Tornese was the real fifties housewife. She didn’t work and she did everything her husband said. Or so her daughters thought.
The first real election I can remember was Kennedy vs. Nixon – 1960. I was just thirteen and knew everything. I knew that I wanted Nixon to win. I was real happy to know that my Dad wanted Nixon to win, too. I knew that if Dad wanted Nixon to win, that Mom wanted Nixon to win.
That’s the way it was, Dad said. The wife had to vote the same as her husband. If she didn’t they would cancel out each other’s votes. Sounded okay to me – at thirteen.
Dad absolutely hated Kennedy. He was afraid of the liberal Senator from Massachusetts. Dad was afraid of the “Negroes getting more rights than they needed.” Only Dad didn’t call them “Negroes.” At thirteen I didn’t have much of an opinion about that one way or the other. I just knew that something seemed a little wrong about it. But wasn’t Dad always right?
So in Laurel Junior High School we held our mock elections and I voted for Nixon. I watched the returns breathlessly on election night and was very disappointed when Kennedy won.
But at thirteen I started to develop my own sense of right and wrong. My ideals and my politically ties were being formed. And I found, by the time I was 16, that I was more a Kennedy liberal than I had ever been a Nixon conservative.
And then Kennedy was assassinated and the world, and I, moved on.
In 1991 my mother became terminally ill with a cancer she had been battling for more than a year. I stayed with my parents in their small senior citizen apartment in
Romney, West Virginia – helping my dad care for her.

One day, when Mom was getting weaker, she called me over to her bed. “Lean down. I have something to tell you.” She could barely talk, she was so weak. “Lean down. I don’t want your father to hear.”
I did as I was told, hoping to hear a deathbed confession. My loyal mother had had an affair. Or maybe there was some money stashed away somewhere.
“Promise me you will never tell your father. Promise.”
I gave her my word.
She touched my cheek and whispered, “I voted for Kennedy.”
That was Mom’s deathbed secret. She had defied her husband and had voted her heart.
So I was my mother’s daughter. I had no husband to defy. I just voted my heart and voted for another liberal Massachusetts Senator.
Thanks, Mom. And I did keep your secret.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Change in Season

I drove across I80 in PA today - not as "pretty" as my drive in October. But there is something very honest about the woods when most of the trees are bare as the season changes from fall into winter.

There is something very honest about a woman in that same transition. She may color her hair, may try to minimize the lines in her face, but she knows that the leaves are falling and soon she will be her true self - her honest self. She no longer has to be the sweet maiden; she no longer needs to needs to mother the world.

As she loses the leaves of her youth and she keeps her wise blood to herself, she becomes like the forest of silver tree branches and spots of ever-green - honest and ready to reveal her true self to those who care for Her.

A Change in Season

I drove across I80 in PA today - not as "pretty" as my drive in October. But there is something very honest about the woods when most of the trees are bare as the season changes from fall into winter.

There is something very honest about a woman in that same transition. She may color her hair, may try to minimize the lines in her face, but she knows that the leaves are falling and soon she will be her true self - her honest self. She no longer has to be the sweet maiden; she no longer needs to needs to mother the world.

As she loses the leaves of her youth and she keeps her wise blood to herself, she becomes like the forest of silver tree branches and spots of ever-green - honest and ready to reveal her true self to those who care for Her.

Missing Mark

I have to admit that I miss him. I didn't want to, but I do. Sometimes things happen that we don't want and we just have to deal with them. So I'm dealing. It doesn't get easier when you're older - I'd like to tell that to all the teenagers who are going through the agnst of break-ups. It ain't easy at 17 and it ain't easy at 57.

In fact at 57 it may be worse - you have less time.

Neil Sedaka was right - it sure is hard to do.

A Little Corner of a Dream

I'm a nurse. But I really wanted to be a journalist. As a teenager I wanted to work at the Washington Post - hell, I could have been Woodward or Bernstein. But instead of college, I went to nursing school. Long story - part of which can be found in my archives under "Nursey."

So I'm a nurse instead of a journalist. But every so often I get to live in a little corner of that old dream. Today I have a column in the Express-Times. It's just a personal essay about my mother - not anything close to investigating all the President's men. But it's my words; it's a true story; it's relevant; and it's in print. I was even at E-T last night to get my new "head-shot" - which sounds a lot messier than it really is. It's just a new picture that will be about one half inch by one half inch. The picture they were going to use was from 1997, when I was getting published frequently in the paper's now-defunct "Her View" column.

My sister was Assistant Features Editor for several years and my daughter was News Production Editor for a few years longer. They both left - for different reasons. I still seem to want to keep my metaphorical foot in the door.

I guess I want to live in my dream - even if it's just a little corner of it.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Woman with No Face

She had a small sore on the side of her nose.
I was a student nurse, working on 3-East of Easton Hospital when I was assigned to the patient, a young woman who had been admitted to have surgery on her nose. This was almost 40 years ago, when you were admitted the night before even relatively minor surgery.
I don’t remember if I prepped her for the surgery. I just remember having her for a patient.
There was nothing remarkable about her, her nose or the sore – not at that time. The reason why I remember after 40 years is that I saw her again, years after our first encounter. And this time she had very little left of her face.
It seems that the sore had been diagnosed as cancer. I’m not sure what type. I was a student nurse and maybe wouldn’t have known anything about the type. I just remember that she had refused the surgery that could have removed all of the cancer. She may have needed a partial nose prosthesis. But she didn’t want that. She decided to go home and die.
Only she didn’t – not for many years. By the time I saw her again, I was a visiting nurse with a five year old daughter and my own possible diagnosis of cancer.
I had found a lump on my thyroid – did my own palpitation and discovered an unusual area. I had a history of radiation treatment as a child. In the early 50’s radiation was used as a treatment for enlarged tonsils and adenoids prior to surgery. At the age of six I had three of those treatments. At the age of 31 I could be diagnosed with thyroid cancer – the probable long term effect of those treatments.
A week before the scheduled thyroid surgery, I was asked by a social worker at the hospital to make a home visit. She had received a call from a man about his wife. He was having difficulty caring for her at home. He wanted her admitted to the local county nursing home, but she need a medical exam first. She hadn’t seen a doctor in more than 10 years. The social worker wanted me to visit her at home, get a medical history and try to convince her to go into the hospital for a complete work-up. I agreed to do it.
The house was a small Cape Cod in modest development. I parked my car and walked to the small stoop. Before I could ring the doorbell, I smelled it. The sweet-cloying smell of dying tissue, cancer, rot – almost the odor of decomposition – but not quite. Not yet anyway.
The husband answered the door and introduced me to his teenage son. He then led me into his wife’s bedroom. The smell was overpowering. The woman, now in her late forties, was sitting in a chair by her bed. She had a swollen belly, indicative of long-term alcohol abuse. She had a earplug in her ear; it was connected to an old radio. The husband and son had made a make-shift hearing aide for her. She needed one; the cancer had virtually eaten away at the inside of her ears.
And her face. Most of her face was covered by a flannel bandana, leaving only her eyes staring at me about the soft material. The flannel swayed in and out with each of her breaths and with each breath came another wave of the nauseating smell.
I smiled, took her hand, thin, bony with almost transparent yellowish skin and introduced myself. She could talk but she nodded her head. I took her blood pressure, pulse and listened to her lung sounds, all the while the soft sway of the flannel and the stink of death.
Then I asked her the important question – important to both of us. Would she let me see under the flannel? She nodded slowly, reaching up to lift the cloth.
From the base of what had once been her nose was only a gapping, dark red opening, her tongue partly gone, her soft palate eaten away. I took a penlight and examined the area – not wanting to offend her by immediately looking away and yet not wanting to se more. I clicked the light off, thanked her and slowly took the cloth from her hand and lowered it myself.
“You know it’s difficult for your family to care for you.” She nodded. “You know that you need a medical work-up before you can be admitted to a nursing home.” She nodded. “The best way to do that is for you to be admitted to the hospital.” This time she hesitated, but after a few seconds she nodded again.
I left my patient and went out to the living room to talk to the husband and son. I learned more about the woman in the room. She usually drank a half gallon of wine a day – for the pain. It was getting more and more difficult for her to even take blended foods. She slept sitting up in the chair. It was more than I needed to know but less than I wanted to know.
How did she let herself get to this? I wanted to ask. But I could see that the family was in more pain than my patient so I didn’t.
I called a physician who owed me a favor and made arrangements for the squad to pick her up and take her to emergency ward. I was adamant that she be admitted directly through the emergency ward and that she not be seen by every med student and intern in the hospital. That was her only wish – not to be put on display.
She was admitted that afternoon. She was placed in reverse isolation to prevent her from getting infected - because the huge opening in what was once her face could allow bacteria to invade easily. She was given pain meds, intravenous nourishment, antibiotics. Her family visited regularly and the nursing home application was started.
As the visiting nurses’ hospital liaison, I saw her daily – just to smile and wave through the isolation glass window – to let her know I hadn’t abandoned her.
The next week I was admitted for my thyroid surgery. The lump was cancer, the lobe was removed and I went home after a few days.
My patient with no face died in the hospital. All the precautions meant nothing. She developed an infection – possibly from the hospital environment itself – and she wasn’t strong enough to fight it.
She finally got her wish from that first hospitalization ten years before.