Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Struck It Rich ... Well ...

Yesterday, I got a very official-looking letter from Mike DeWine, Attorney General here in the Buckeye State. One opens such letters with ... mixed feelings--with fear being the principal ingredient in the mix. Did they catch me? Are armed agents going to be at my door this afternoon?


It was great news ... I'd won a lawsuit!

Well, I and tens of thousands of others had won it. It involved Classmates.com, a service I haven't used in quite a while. But it seems something ... unusual ... was going on with them; they got called on it; they apparently had to pay out--big time.

But not, I discovered, to me--not "big time," anyhow.

Enclosed with the letter from Mike DeWine was a check!

For $6.87.

I would have loved that amount back in, oh, 1952, when I was 8, when Cokes and candy bars were five cents each, when a Popsicle was 6 cents, when you could get into the Saturday-morning movies downtown in Enid, Oklahoma, for two RC bottle caps, when ... you get it.

But in 2018?

Well, I could buy a few Cokes at McD's with it. But that's about the only Partying On such a sum will subsidize.

Still ... I feel, you know, like a winner today. An unusual feeling, to tell you the truth.

I deposited the check via my iPhone, a device which cost many multiples of $6.87.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thank You, "Socialized Medicine"

I just got my bill from University Hospitals for the six immunotherapy treatments I "enjoyed" from January to March (three withdrawals, three infusions). The whole idea is this: My blood's T-cells needed to be targeted more directly on the cancer that will one day kill me (there is no cure). So ... in three separate procedures (conducted at the Akron Red Cross), all my blood was slowly withdrawn (and returned!), fed through a machine that whirled it around (isolating the T-cells); the extractions were then flown to Atlanta, where they were treated with Provenge, then flown back to University Hospitals (in University Circle in Cleveland), where they were infused back into me.


This week I received in the mail the notice of the amount I owe to University Hospitals now that my Aetna Medicare policy* has paid its share:

  • Total bill for the procedures: $100,696.40
  • My share: $1375.09
Now, I'm not thrilled about a medical bill of nearly $1400! But I am thrilled that my share was, oh, a bit over 1% of the total. (I'm a one-percenter!)

As I wrote some months ago here, without Medicare I could not have afforded the procedure--and if you add this current cost to all the others I've had with this cancer battle since early in 2005 (surgery, radiation, heavy-duty drugs, visits with specialists, etc.) I would, like Chris Farley in the old SNL skits, be "living in a van down by the river." Though I'm not so sure about the van. More like a cardboard box.

So ... thank you, "socialized medicine" (a term the enemies of universal health care love to employ). I am alive and typing these words because of Medicare, because I am lucky enough to have the health insurance that so many seem intent on denying to those who just don't, you know, deserve it.

I am memorizing a long poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I am writing a eulogy I will deliver for my mother at her service on April 7. I am exercising (most days!) at a health club. I am baking bread every week. I am adoring my son and his family (and their dazzling sons). I am enjoying every second with Joyce. I am writing stupid poems. Working on an endless memoir about chasing Mary Shelley. Keeping in touch with old friends and former students and new friends via Facebook. Enjoying Open Door Coffee Co. every day. Reading new books. Watching old TV shows, streaming new ones. Going to the movies. Seeing plays.



*a policy I pay for through the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System; Aetna, which is the supplemental part of it, also administers the Medicare part of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Did It!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

The day before Thanksgiving--November 22, 2017 (oddly, the anniversary of the JFK assassination)--I resolved that I was going to memorize Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Renascence," 1912 (oddly, the year before my father was born).

So ... why did I pick this poem? And why did it take me so Damn Long?
  • Why did I pick this poem?
    • I like Millay. Ever since I reviewed a couple of biographies of her (for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 2001), I've gained a new appreciation for her. She had pretty much fallen off the literary radar in my school days, but these books help restore her to public awareness, to the literary canon.
    • Because I got so interested in her, Joyce and I traveled around to some key sites in her life--especially in Rockland and Camden, Maine (she was born in the former in 1892, grew up in the latter) and Austerlitz, New York, her final home (now a museum), the place where she died in 1950 after a fall down the stairs. (Those of you who are not arithmetically challenged can see that she was only twenty at the time of "Renascence.")
    • But the main reason was this: Joyce told me that in girlhood she had memorized the poem and had recited it for various groups--including for those living in what we used to call "Old Folks' Homes."
    • So ... I decided to do it to honor Joyce ...
  • And why did it take me so Damn Long?
    • It's a Damn Long poem for one thing--214 lines, to be exact. (Link to the poem.)
      • I should note that Millay made the task a bit easier: regular poetic feet (iambic tetrameter, rhyming couplets).
    • I pasted the poem onto note cards (8-10 lines/card) and carried them around with me, reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. I learned lines while I was
      • lying in bed at night
      • undergoing immunotherapy
      • walking over to the coffee shop
      • sitting in the coffee shop
      • driving out to the health club
      • etc.
some of my notecards
In a few moments I'm going to go upstairs to Joyce's study. She will be sitting at her computer, writing. She always likes to read through my blog posts--and I love it (!?!) when she find typos and/or solecisms!*

And after she reads the blog (and I fix the boo-boos), I will recite "Renascence" to her, and I will stumble here and there, and, probably, I will weep.

*PS--later--she found 3 typos, which I have fixed!
birth house, Rockland, ME

Camden, ME--site of the poem


final home, Austerlitz, NY

Millay's grave in Austerlitz

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hamlet Knew Grief

The Bard's most famous play begins with the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet's newly deceased father, King Hamlet. (Later, of course, we learn it's been a murder committed by his own brother, Claudius.)

Young Hamlet doesn't take it well. Mopes around Wears black. His mother and her new husband (yes, Claudius--now the King of Denmark) get on his case early in the play, asking him why he just doesn't, you know, lighten up. Get over it.

At the bottom of this post, I've pasted a bit of their exchange in Act 1, Scene 2.

But I think the part I like the most is when his mother asks him why--if he knows death is common--that "it seems so particular with thee." Why, to Hamlet, does it seem so ... special.

And Hamlet fires back: Hey, this isn't seems. This is. I'm not playing, Mom. This is real. "I have that within which passes show"--that which is more than mere appearance.

There's a saying in our language, a saying that's very familiar to all of us: Get over it. We think or actually say this to people who are suffering in some way--a heartbreak, a loss, a disappointment, a death of a loved one.

But this is what I've learned in my three score and ten (plus three!): You don't ever "get over" the wounds to the heart.

And, you know, I don't want to "get over" the deaths of people I've loved. I want that tear in my eye every time I think of my father, my mother. I want to dissolve when I tell stories about them. I need to keep them close to me, so close that the mere thought of them will send a shiver through my heart, a shiver that only a dear memory of them can warm.

KING CLAUDIUS: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET: Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET: Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

During my mother's life (1919-2018) ...

our wedding, Dec. 20, 1969
L-R: Dad, Mom, Dan, Joyce, Annabelle and Thomas Coyne

  • the following people were President of the United States:
    • Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump
  • The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I
  • Charlie Chaplin and friends formed United Artists
  • Proust published the volumes of In Search of Lost Time
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby
  • Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • the 19th amendment granted the vote to women (stunning: when my mom was born, women in the U.S.A. could not vote!)
  • the Ku Klux Klan rose again
  • November 11 (my birthday!) designated as Armistice Day (for WW I)--later changed to Veterans Day
  • Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted
  • the Roaring Twenties
  • the Great Depression
  • the rise of fascism in Europe
  • the movies transitioned from silent to sound
  • the development of jet airliners
  • the movies transitioned from black-and-white to color
  • from records to tapes to CD's to iTunes
  • the invention of television
  • the invention of color television
  • the invention of cable television
  • the invention of the personal computer
  • the invention of the Internet
  • the invention of the smart phone
  • men landed and walked on the moon
  • Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
  • World War II
  • the Korean War
  • the Vietnam War
  • our Middle Eastern wars
  • Sinclair Lewis and Hemingway and Faulkner won Nobel Prizes
  • the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson
  • Civil Rights
  • women's rights
  • gender and sexual rights
  • Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Eminem, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, swing, rock-n-roll, rap, country, folk, hip hop
  • Jim Crow
  • end of school segregation (or so we thought)
  • the murders of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy
  • the Kent State shootings
  • the atomic bomb
  • a marriage to Charles Edward Dyer (October 12, 1939)
  • the births of three sons: Richard Morgan (December 29, 1941), Daniel Osborn (November 11, 1944), Edward Davis (September 17, 1948)
  • the marriages of Dan and Dave
    • the births of grandsons Steve and Ricky, granddaughter Bella
    • the births of great-grandsons Logan (2005) and Carson (2009)
  • the death of her husband (November 30, 1999)
  • a long reflection on an amazing life--public school teacher, graduate student (she earned her Ph.D.), scholar (she published books and articles), professor (Drake University); an amazing early retirement in Cannon Beach, Oregon, in a home she designed overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Haystack Rock, a move to Massachusetts as Dad's health declined, her slow, sad movement from independent living, to assisted living, to nursing
  • her enduring good humor and equanimity in the face of all
Oh, there is so much more, isn't there? Impossible to list a life, especially a life of wonder.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 179

I'm late this week--just as I (often) was with my homework in junior high--okay, and later, too.

1. AOTW: Those people I see exercising fairly vigorously at the health club, then later, outside, see moving toward their car, parked in a handicapped spot.

2. I finished three books this week ...

     - The first was another in the Longmire series by Craig Johnson (they inspired the eponymous TV series you can stream on Netflix). This one--Dry Bones (2015)--is based on the discovery of a spectacular T-rex skeleton on/near the Indian reservation. Hmmm ... who gets the bones? And who will profit thereby?

I enjoy these novels (which are quite different, by the way, from the TV scripts), but reading them in order (as I am), I'm getting a little weary of some of the recurring plot devices--one of which appears here: Sheriff Longmire is caught out in some fierce weather in a remote place, ill-prepared. You would think that, having read the earlier novels about himself, he might be more ... circumspect? Johnson, though, is a fine writer--and these books deserve the celebration they've received.

     - I also finished a sometimes dense book by a reading scientist/researcher, Mark Seidenberg: Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done about It (2017). He goes through all the solid research about how we learn to read--then wonders why it is that we don't use those principles in the teaching of reading. He believes one fundamental reason is this: We prefer appealing theories to hard facts--to established research findings. And so, he says, we drift from theory to theory, from fad to fashion, and fail, as a result, so many of our youngsters.

I wish he had spent a bit more time suggesting strategies teachers could use instead of condemning those they do use. It's not always evident how to apply in a busy classroom the findings he discusses. Maybe a sequel is in the offing?

By the way, he does not really attack teachers. He's sets his sights mostly on colleges  and departments of education: He believes they are the principal villains in this story.

(One annoying thing to a former English teacher: He uses the expressions "feel badly" and "felt badly" (61, 70).)

     - Finally, I finished Bernard Cornwell's Fools and Mortals (2018), a sort of a thriller narrated by Richard Shakespeare (1574-1613), younger brother of the Bard (by ten years), who, like his brother, is trying to make it in the theater world in London in the late 16th century.

Cornwell imagines that Richard is an actor with the Bard's company--the Lord Chamberlain's Men--and has been playing women's parts but is itching to Go Guy.

There's some sibling tension here, but the overall plot involves the mounting of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream--and the early days of working on Romeo & Juliet. A rival company tries to steal the Bard's scripts (there were no copyright laws: If you had the text, it was yours), and so there's some swordplay and whatnot as a result.

Cornwell inserts a lot about Elizabethan life, explaining all sorts of things to those of you who weren't paying attention in my 8th-grade classes Back in the Day. So ... you can read this without feeling ... deprived. He also inserts some sly allusions here and there to other Bard plays. For example, in a scene that deals a bit about an early Dream rehearsal, the narrator tells us that Puck "fled off through the right-hand door as if pursued by a bear" (253)--this, of course, a reference to what is probably the most famous stage direction in history, from the Bard's A Winter's Tale: "Exit, pursued by a bear." There are quite a few others.

I really enjoyed this novel--light and fun and literate.

3. We were set to go see Black Panther this weekend ... didn't make it ... maybe next?

4. Our neighborhood woodpecker is back for spring training. I have heard his cephalic jackhammering on nearby trees--and neighbors' houses. Soon, we know, he will move to ours, and we, again, will have to Take Action! (We have a fake owl we put on the roof; it ... dissuades him.)

5. Final Word: A word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day services:

     - from dictionary.com

ergophobia [ur-guh-FOH-bee-uh]
1. an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work.
He was examined by Dr. Wilson, who diagnosed the disease which had attacked him as ergophobia, (fear of work.)
-- , "Bad Case of Ergophobia," New York Times, October 13, 1907
Ergophobia, “abnormal fear of or aversion to work,” is formed from two Greek nouns commonly used to form words in English: érgon “work” and the combining form -phobía “fear.” Greek dialects preserve the original form wérgon, which comes directly from Proto-Indo-European wérgom, the source of Germanic werkam (English work). The combining form -phobía is a derivative of phóbos “flight, fear, panic fear,” from Proto-Indo-European bhógwos, a derivative of the root bhegw- “to run,” which appears in Slavic (Polish) biegać “to run.” Ergophobia entered English in the early 20th century.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mom: 1919-2018

Mom's high-school yearbook picture,
senior year, 1936,
Richmond, VA
And so begin my days without a mother. For seventy-three years and four months she was always there; she seemed immortal, burying her grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, brother (her only sibling), husband, and virtually all of her friends.

But, of course, she wasn't. Immortal. She died yesterday morning in a nursing home in Lenox, Mass., part of the stages-of-care place where she's been living for the past dozen years or so. She went through them all: independent living, assisted living, nursing. The caretakers loved her all the way along--and why not? She was a gentle, uncomplaining soul. Gave none of them grief. Always expressed gratitude for their help.

She had been, said the hospice nurse, "responsive" the night before. But in the morning she was not. Breathing slowly, then irregularly, then nothing. A sigh and that was all.

I'll probably be writing about her off and on for a while--just so much to say. But for today I just wanted to talk about how strange it is, not having parents. The folks who knew all your stories (and often told them at the damnedest times!).

Something that's doubly strange about today for me: I always wrote to Mom on Sunday morning. Well ... "always" is not exactly accurate. Earlier in my adult, away-from-home life I would call them. Then--Mom got into email (she was the first in the family with a computer--an old Apple), and I communicated with her (besides the phone calls) via AOL for years.

Then, gradually, she lost the ability to use that laptop, though she resolutely left it in prominent view in her place--just to let folks know it was hers. My nephew, Ricky (bless him), used to update it whenever he visited--which was fairly often since he and his family (my younger brother's family) live in the Boston area.

During the final phases of her ability to use it, she would sometimes, full of frustration, call me and try to get me to help--which is hard to do when you can't see the screen. One time when I was there I took some pictures of her computer and keyboard and made a little illustrated booklet for her. But soon she couldn't handle that, either. And the email days ended.

So ... late in 2010 I started writing her snail-mail--Wednesday and Sunday. Calling a few times a week.

And then, only months ago, the calling became pointless. She couldn't answer the phone--was completely uncertain, really, what a phone even is. Sometimes, when my brothers were there, they would put one of their phones up to her ear and mouth. But Mom just seemed puzzled, barely muttering.

But, you know, hearing those mutters and mumblings were the sounds of Mozart to me.

Because she could no longer read my letters, my brothers or her attendants would read them to her. I wrote my last one on the past Wednesday and have no idea if it arrived--or if she could have understood any of it.

On Sunday evenings, after supper, Joyce and I would drive off on an errand (a coffee, a Diet Coke, a whatever), mailing Mom's letter along the way somewhere ... so what about this evening? It will be surpassingly strange ...

Here's one more sad thing. Mom was a great reader. Always reading, every spare moment (not that there were a lot of those with three jerky sons to take care of). On through her career, on through her retirement, on into her years in stages-of-care: read, read, read, read.

My brothers and I would feed her books like snack food. And then ... that stopped, too. Was it her eyesight? Her ability to focus? To remember? Probably all of the above. But--as she did with her laptop--she kept her final book on the stand right beside her chair. Bookmarked. Ready.

I am in some ways relieved that she no longer has to live in the way age had forced her to: She could do none of the things she really loved--reading, watching the news, going for hikes, swimming, talking on the phone with friends and family, driving to the store to buy some chocolate frozen yogurt and fresh salmon (her favorites!) ... you know ...

My brothers and I would bring her chocolate, right to the end. One of her final pleasures.

Nothing really makes any of this easier.

Last night, our son and his family came up for the evening. Just to be with us. We looked at Mom's old 1936 high school yearbook; we looked at the baby book she put together for me in my infancy--including the little letter that she wrote to me in the book (at the bottom of this post). We told stories. Remembered things.

Then, just before they left, grandson Logan (13) and I mixed up the sourdough starter that I would use for today's baking. Logan's interested in the whole thing--had questions about how the whole thing works. I did my best to answer them.

My starter will turn 33 years old this summer. If I keep treating it well, it will live and live and live and live.

Mom almost 80, 1999, our house in Hudson;
in town for our son's wedding