Dawn Reader

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Needs Health Insurance?

I do.

I didn't, though--not always. When our Aurora (Ohio) Schools faculty first got health insurance (early in my career ... late 1960s), I hardly used it at all--not for years, even decades. An infection now and then. Strep. That was about it. No bad injuries. No grievous illnesses. I was lucky--and didn't even know it. I was bloated with the youthful belief that I would certainly never get seriously ill; I would never ... you know ...?

But my family needed it now and then. Our son was born in July 1972, had to be rushed to Children's Hospital, his life in danger--and our insurance covered practically all of it. Joyce began having chronic problems early in our marriage, and our insurance has covered practically all of it.

Of course, later, there were worries. Changing jobs? Very unwise. Insurance plans did not cover "pre-existing conditions." A worry. You could also reach the limit of your plan. If you collected too much, they cut you off.  When our son turned 21, we had to come up with some sort of stop-gap plan until he got a job. It was expensive. That's all different now--at least for the nonce.

Now, both Joyce and I have Medicare (a wonderful plan, by the way); each of us has, as well, a supplementary plan to pay (most of) what Medicare doesn't.

And this is a good thing. Because from about the time I turned sixty, Stuff started happening: skin cancer (requiring surgery), Bell's palsy (ditto), metastatic prostate cancer (ditto--and I'm now on very expensive meds). And more. Joyce's conditions have altered too--and not for the better.

So the simple fact is this: Without our health insurance plans we--long ago--would have been bankrupt and would now be living in a box under the freeway. If we were still alive, of course.

All of this is what I find so alarming about the alacrity that Congress is now displaying as they move to cut off health care for countless Americans. Congress: A body of folks who all have gold-plated medical plans (government-provided), a body of folks who have decided that many of the rest of us (a) don't need it, (b) don't (somehow) deserve it.*

(An amusing or not-so-amusing sidebar here: I often hear a group of older men in the coffee shop complaining about government handouts, etc. All of them are on Medicare and Social Security.)

Yes, we all pay in to Medicare and Social Security, but most of us take out far, far more than we put in. We spend our early lives paying for our elders; then when we become elderly ourselves, others pay for us. That's how insurance works. That's the deal we've made with one another. Abrogating it is a horror beyond horrors. Why does it seem that so many who disdain Darwinism embrace Social Darwinism with a passion?

I've written here before about our need for humility, for imagination. We need to be able to imagine what it would be like to grow up in poverty, to live in a dangerous neighborhood, to attend some of the worst public schools in the country, to live in an area where there are few jobs--and those are low-paying, how it would feel to have to make a choice between seeking medical care and feeding your family. And on and on.

We who have been fortunate--in birth, in circumstance, in health, in educational and employment opportunities--need to help those who have had to struggle. I have no problem paying taxes and insurance premiums to help others. None. After all, there's that whole thing about how a government should "promote the general welfare"--right there in the Preamble to the Constitution. And Lincoln's Gettysburg line about government "for the people." And so much more. For many, many Americans, government is not the enemy; it is Hope.

So ... the sight of our representatives in Washington hurrying to nullify the Affordable Care Act--hurrying as they have rarely hurried before about anything--horrifies me. Powerful people attacking the powerless. It makes me ashamed. And angry.

So ... who needs health insurance? I do.

So do you.

*Yes, there has been talk about a replacement ... but what? And when? And how? Few details are available. And remember, the Affordable Care Act took a couple of years to get up and running.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 275

During her pre-Lodore period, Mary also did some traveling (with her eleven-year-old son to Southend for about a month in the summer of 1830. Now officially Southend-on-Sea, about forty miles due east of London, at the mouth of the Thames in the North Sea (Google tells me a train makes the journey in fifty-three minutes), the town was, for a while, a fashionable resort (thanks to the train that arrived in the nineteenth century). Mary had always loved the seaside, even though, now, it surely caused her to tremble to be reminded—every day, in sound and sight—that this was the sort of lovely water that had killed her husband.
Mary was also visiting friends, writing reviews and stories, and, as a favor, reading through the manuscript of Edward J. Trelawny’s memoir Adventures of a Younger Son, which would appear in 1831. In late December 1830, Mary wrote to Trelawny, who was eager (impatient, even) for news of her reaction. I am delighted with your work, she began; it is full of passion, energy & novelty—it concerns the sea & that is a subject of the greatest interest to me—I should imagine that it should command success—
But she was also fearful about some of what she read. She cautioned Trelawny about what she perceived to be excessive frankness about women. And his overall diction. Certain words & phrases, she wrote, pardoned in the days of Fielding are now justly interdicted—& any gross piece of ill taste will make your bookseller draw back. … Besides that I, your partial [here, meaning special, biased in your favor] friend, strongly object to coarseness ….[1]
Their correspondence about the manuscript would continue—and Mary would work hard with London publishers to place his book (she succeeded), but Trelawny, never a grateful man, grew somewhat bitter about Mary, doubting whether she was really exerting her utmost for him. But in her letters, she seems to suggest that she and Trelawny might marry! What ensues is interesting, to say the least.

[1] Letters, vol. 2, 120.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 126

1. AOTW--Human Error. This week--as I've written here and on Facebook--I got a very worrisome result on a blood test--then, a couple of days later, inquiring more from my oncologist, I learned from his reply--with his deep regret--that he'd entered the wrong value, and the actual one was much, much better. So ... I do not condemn him, not at all (I recall that stuff about being the first to cast a stone), but I do confer AOTW status on the whole idea of hurtful error. We've all done it--all of us--but our regrets and our apologies often don't repair--or reinstate. So ... all we can do is do our best, realizing that we will screw up now and then--and that we can thank the AOTW for it!

2. I finished two books this week.

     - Just last night, home from La La Land (see below), I read the last dozen pages of Wilkie Collins' A Rogue's Life, a novella he published in 1879, but, as he says in his "Introductory Words," he had set the finished manuscript aside for more than twenty years before he lightly revised and finally published it.

It's in the first person--and the first sentence ... ? "I am going to try if I can't write something about myself." Such a modest sentence, eh? It's the story of Frank Softly, a young man who grows up to be a bit of a ... rogue (see title!). I love this early passage about his school experiences--and what he learned (for "public school" read "private school"--the Brits are different):

… I was sent to one of the most fashionable and famous of the great public schools. I will not mention it by name, because I don’t think the masters would be proud of my connection with it. I ran away three times, and was flogged three times. I made four aristocratic connections, and had four pitched battles with them: three thrashed me, and one I thrashed. I learned to play at cricket, to hate rich people, to cure warts, to write Latin verses, to swim, to recite speeches, to cook kidneys on toast, to draw caricatures of the masters, to construe Greek plays, to black boots, and to receive kicks and serious advice resignedly. Who will say that the fashionable public school was of no use to me after that? (2-3)

Afterwards, he gets involved in a number of illegal activities--including faking paintings by masters and counterfeiting. In the latter occupation, he falls for the head counterfeiter's daughter, pursues her (while fleeing the Bow Street Runners--cops), and ... read it! It's a lot of fun.

As I've written before, I'm reading my way through all of Collins' novels, pretty much in the order he wrote them. Next ... The Dead Secret, 1857!

     - I also finished another novel by Richard Ford (whose complete works I'm also reading), the third in his series about Frank Bascombe, The Lay of the Land (2006). In the first of the books, The Sportswriter, we learn that FB was a talented young writer of fiction who just couldn't seem to do anything beyond book #1 (which was well received) and so segued into sportswriting for a major magazine (think Sports Illustrated). In novel 2, Independence Day, Frank has given up sportswriting and is now selling real estate--a profession he has stuck with as we find out early in the pages of The Lay of the Land.

Frank, now in his fifties, has some issues in this one (as he had in the previous ones). His recent wife, Sally, has run off with her ex- (whom she thought was dead; he ain't); he's opened his own real estate office near the NJ shore--he has a partner--he has some odd clients (as he did in Independence); he now lives on the shore, and he's got some particularly obnoxious neighbors; he is still dealing with his daughter and son (the latter, Paul, is a handful); his first wife, Ann, is back in the picture. He's also getting older ... he's starting to wonder about it all

As usual, I was dazzled by Ford's technique--moving around in time as if he were in a skating rink--backwards, forwards, sideways, in the air, on his butt.  Astonishing.

3. Joyce and I have been Netflixing our way through the films of the Coen Brothers, first to most recent, and this past week it was time for Fargo, 1996, which I remember seeing with her when it came out--and loving it. (Link to trailer for the film.) We very much enjoyed it again (cringing at the moments when every person ought to--think: wood-chipper with something other than wood in it) and admiring Frances McDormand's performance. The Coens make gentle fun of the accent in our north central plains--not sure how that would go over today in our more PC culture. The Coens are so adept at giving you new ways to look at things (yes, look at them), so good at "going against the grain"--a pregnant cop vs. some vicious killers! Out in the wilderness! Fun to see again.

4. Last night--off to Kent Cinema to see La La Land with Joyce. On the way over, we talked about how it could not possibly be as good as we expected it to be--as we hoped it would be. And in the first part of it (especially the song-and-dance with her roommates, early), I thought, Uh oh. But as it went on, it ... got to me.Sure, Gosling and Stone are not Astaire and Rogers, but they did all right. But what really "got me" was the whole thing about our dreams, our lives. Sometimes (usually?!) we don't achieve our dreams, and if we do, some others dissipate. This is what we see in the lives of these two characters. "Success" and "Failure" are siblings--non-identical twins. (Oddly, I thought Emma Stone was better in those auditions shown in the film (she was a wannabe actress, continually attending auditions) than she was in her role! Though she was fine--not condemning her.) (Link to film trailer.)

5. Final Words--some interesting ones from my various online word-of-the-day providers.

     - from dictionary.com

laterigrade \LAT-er-i-greyd\ adjective
1. having a sideways manner of moving, as a crab.
Not with the blunt and clumsy directness here set forth, but with concealed approach, with laterigrade advance and retrogression, and with antennal deftness as of an emmet feeling its way in the midst of supposed enemies.
-- Henry Christopher McCook, The Latimers: A Tale of the Western Insurrection of 1794, 1897
Origin of laterigrade
Laterigrade derives from later-, the inflectional stem of the Latin noun latus “side,” and the Latin noun and combining form gradus “a step, pace,” a derivative of the verb gradī “to walk, step.” The word is rare, used to describe the locomotion of spiders and crabs. It entered English in the 18th century.

     - from wordsmith.org

fard (fahrd)  noun

verb tr.: 1. To apply makeup.      
              2. To embellish or gloss over.
From Old French fard (makeup), from farden (to apply makeup), of Germanic origin. Earliest documented use: 1450.
“This morning, during breakfast, the tourist’s overnight companion -- a young Arab woman with kohl-farded eyes -- taught him the four recognized stages in the ripening of a date.”
Len Gasparini; A Demon in My View; Guernica; 2003.
“Tell why it is not safe to be farding in a car while you drive.”

Charles A. Collat: A History of Mayer and Our Vision to be First Choice; Seacoast Pub.; 2005.

BTW: "a demon in my view" (look up a few lines) is the final phrase in Poe's great poem "Alone"; here's the whole thing ... and--yes!--it's one of the ones I've memorized ...


From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Overwhelmed is a redundancy, I know. If you look up whelm in Merriam-Webster's, you'll find among the definitions that whelm and overwhelm are synonyms. (See bottom of this post for a cut-and-paste from the dictionary). So just think of all the over's you can now save the rest of your life--all the breath!

Still, I'm feeling more than whelmed as I think now about all the amazing responses to my post yesterday about my recent cancer news. Just a few bullet-points:

  • I heard from family members.
  • I heard from friends--all the way back to childhood.
  • I heard from former students I had my very first year of teaching (1966-67).
  • I heard from former students I had my very last year of teaching (2010-11).
  • I heard from former students I had in many of the intervening years.
  • I heard from former teaching colleagues, first year to last.
  • I heard from Facebook friends whom I've never even met.
  • I got numerous offers of help.
  • I got medical advice.
  • I got promises of prayers--many, many of these.
  • Someone named "Kelly" left a gift card for me at the coffee shop today. (I've got a half-dozen Facebook friends named Kelly--so I'm not sure who left this--but I am grateful.)
  • I got promises of visits.
  • I got Facebook posts, Facebook messages, email, even a text or two.
  • I got, well, overwhelmed. I can't tell you how many tears dropped from my old eyes, but ... too many to count. Enough to whelm a rain forest.
I can't answer them all--though I definitely tried to "like" them all--though "like" is a pathetically weak word for what I feel. I will try in the next few days to reply to as many as I can.

I've written here before that I do not write cancer-posts on my blog out of any desire to elicit sympathy (or coffee shop cards!) but because I have found writing to be among my most effective therapies. It's almost as if each word is a wee rail car that carries away from me a portion of my worry--and, at times, of despair. In plain, I feel better when I write. And so I write and write and write. The responses to it are often, well, overwhelming, but responses are not why I do it.  I would feel better even if no one read the posts--though I am full of gratitude for you who do--who take the time to write something of your own. It's humbling, enormously so.

And I am also aware that I am not alone in this Room of Illness. Many of you out there have dealt/are dealing with medical issues, as well--your own, those of loved ones. Some, I know, are deadly.

And--as I've also written here before--during my visits to the Cleveland Clinic (where all of this began) and to University Hospitals (where I now am)--I have been deeply affected by the people sitting in the waiting rooms with me--at the Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute and UH's Seidman Cancer Center. So many people, of all ages, are suffering far worse than I right now. One of the damnedest things about this illness is that until later on, when it's fully metastatic, the disease is principally psychological. You know it's there--you know it's doing its foul business inside you, that you can only delay, not stop, it--but, for many of us with early metastatic prostate cancer, the illness has not become, well, an illness. We feel well enough to do many of the things we've always done. Though our minds remain full of hope-eating parasites.

Eventually, of course, the medications and other therapies will cease to work, and then, we know, the illusion of "wellness" dissipates, and the finish line becomes starkly visible.

But until then--as I wrote yesterday--I'm going to, as some of you put it, "keep on keeping on," and I'm going to remain grateful--for as long as gratitude is possible--for the lives and hearts of all of you.


a :  to cover or engulf completely usually so as to wreck or destroy :  bury, submerge
<sand all around them, about to creep up on them and whelm them — Mary H. Vorse>
<the avalanche whelms the mountain village in tons of snow>
b :  to engulf or overcome in the manner of a storm or flood with usually disastrous effect
<winter darkness whelms the woods>
<long afterwards whelmed in some European convulsion — G. M. Trevelyan>
<booming money … so fast that the problem was how to get rid of it before it whelmed you into suffocation — William Faulkner>
c :  to overcome in thought or feeling :  overwhelm
<had been so whelmed in astonishment that they had not lifted a finger to aid their chief — C. E. Craddock>
<drawn into overmastering passion, whelmed with a rush of joy and triumph — G. A. Wagner> 
<gathering around to whelm him with arguments>

Friday, January 13, 2017

Recent Result

Those who visit this page from time to time know that I've been dealing with prostate cancer since my original diagnosis in December 2004. Since then I've had surgery (it failed), radiation (it failed), and now hormone therapy (Lupron), which, though not a cure, has kept the disease at bay since I began my quarterly injections in July 2012.

But my oncologist at University Hospitals keeps close tabs on me: I have frequent PSA tests (blood draws looking for Prostate Specific Antigen--a test that should show virtually no PSA because surgeons removed my prostate gland in June 2005): If my PSA becomes measurable, it means some cancer cells have figured out a "work-around" and have begun reproducing. Reproducing and moving. The bones are a favorite spot, and that is where my cancer has been moving.

As I said, Lupron put it on "Pause," and from mid-October 2013 until September 2015 my PSA was "undetectable." This does not mean I had no PSA; it means it was below the threshold. But on September 23, 2015, I got a reading--a very, very low .01. I knew this was going to happen (as I said, Lupron is not a cure), but I was nonetheless depressed about it: It meant the cancer was active again--and that the number would slowly rise until my oncologist judged it was time to move on to the next drug in their arsenal, Casodex/bicalutamide (link to info about it), a drug that my oncologist has told me on my last couple of visits (I see him every three months) that I would soon commence.

I will remain on Lupron--for the rest of my life. Casodex mirrors Lupron's effects (a delay--temporary--of the growth) and side-effects (impotence, moodiness (especially depression; some days I just can not even get out of bed), weariness (I have nothing like the energy I used to have), periodic infusions of heat/sweating heavily, and well, overall crappiness, to be blunt).

My oncologist has also frequently ordered other tests--bone scans (which show the location of the cancer cells; mine, for now, are in my ribs, my breastbone) and PET scans. I'm due for another of the latter in February.

Anyway, as I said, I've had frequent PSA tests--sometimes monthly, sometimes every six weeks or so. And since that initial "return" score of .01, my PSA has risen steadily, if not dramatically. The chart below shows the "progress."

And, of course, you see the score in red--the result of my most recent test, just a couple of days ago. A sudden, dramatic spike--from 8.6 in early December to 19.5 just this week.

To say the least, I was/am alarmed. My oncologist sent me the score when I emailed him (as is my custom), but he didn't really say anything about it. I'm due for another test in a month--then a visit with him. So, perhaps, he's waiting.

But what I know is this: My cancer has come roaring back. And I'm steeling myself for yet another therapy, which, we hope, will delay things again. But, of course, it's the "things" that worry me. No, terrify me.

Joyce, of course, is in my corner, and no one could hope for a greater ally--a greater heart. And it is she--and the bright eyes of my grandsons--that (on most days anyway) get me out of bed, that get me working at something--anything--to keep my mind occupied. And so I read, I write, I exercise, I fuss around on Facebook, I bake bread, I love Joyce fiercely. I hope.

11 November 2015
16 December 2015
1 February 2016
9 March 2016
5 April 2016
5 May 2016
8 June 2016
14 July 2016
6 September 2016
24 October 2016
2 December 2016
11 January 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rain ... Pain ...

It's been raining hard here in northeastern Ohio--since yesterday. (The day before that there was so much snow and ice, the guys came to plow our driveway; today, when I awoke, it was about 55 and raining hard. Oh, northeastern Ohio!)

So, yes, it's been raining--or, as my dad would have said, "It's lingle-lingle-lingle outside."

I didn't like rain when I was a kid. It meant I had to stay inside--could not go out, ride my bike, play baseball, get in trouble with my friends. And if I was in school--which I never really much liked--rain made it even worse because I had to sit there, look at it, and realize that even when all the dreariness inside was over, there was more to deal with outside. (Mom always told me that the weather was not a personal insult; I was not so sure then--not so sure now.)

Anyway, Dad, who died in November 1999, had a number of sayings and expressions, some of which I dare not repeat on a Family Site. But he also had the touching habit of converting into Family Sayings some of the things his three boys had said in their tongue-tangled toddlerhood--and "lingle-lingle-lingle" was one of them. One of us had said that when he was trying to to say that it's raining outside (where else would it rain?! ah, toddlerhood!).

There were others: "door-shut cookie"--I'm not sure what this even meant, even now. Perhaps one of my brothers will see this and explain it.

"Wee-wee" was ice-cream.

"Ut-meal" was oatmeal. (Though I think this was something Dad had overheard someone else say in a diner once upon a time. He liked it, kept it, conferred upon it something like Eternal Life.)

"Bopcakes" were pancakes.

"Bootrear" was root beer.

Later on, Dad would continue saying these things, right to his final days when he couldn't really think of what to say as Death, reeking, stepped ever closer to his bedside.

And, of course, I employed them with our own son, Steve, when he was born on July 16, 1972. And I added to the Family Lexicon some of Steve's tongue-tangles.

He had the damnedest time with "Pinocchio"; his version was "PIK-o-IK-o." I tried to help him ...

Dad: Say "Pin"

Steve: Pin.

Dad: Say "Oak."

Steve: Oak.

Dad: Say "Pinoak."

Steve: Pinoak.

Dad: Say "eee-o."

Steve: Eee-o.

Dad: Say "Pinocchio."

Steve: Pikoiko.

This went on for quite a while. But--oh!--the excitement (from him, from me) when he finally could say it! And now, of course, I still say "Pikoiko" when I mention that story to Steve--and to his sons.

At the stoplight, waiting for a left-turn light, tiny Steve would say, "Get us an arrow! Get us an arrow!" And not stop until we got the arrow--which never came fast enough for me!

And one of the things-I-didn't-expect when I got married was hearing Joyce's family names for things, sayings I soon learned to integrate into our Family Lexicon. One of the expressions was "make batchee," and I am not going to tell you what it means. (I'm probably already in trouble.)

Anyway ... when I heard the rain on the roof late last night--pounding hard--the first thing I thought was "lingle-lingle-lingle," and I thought about my dad, and, once again, I missed him. Horribly.

PS--Both our young grandsons called Joyce "Gommy" and me "Silly Papa." Now--as one nears 8, the other 12--mine has shortened to "S.P.," and, soon I know, we will be simply "Grandma and Grandpa," and I will be sad because an epoch has come to an end.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 274

And what was going on in Mary’s life as she worked on Lodore? She began thinking about the book early in 1831, and throughout those early months (and the months before) she attended concerts and helped usher into print the latest novel by her father, William Godwin, now in his mid-seventies—and, as always, hurting for money.
That novel, Cloudesley, appeared in March 1830, and Godwin biographers are generally not too impressed with it. As a plot, writes Peter H. Marshall, it is perhaps the least successful of Godwin’s novels. There are no central characters, and the action meanders all over Europe.[1] But—surprise, surprise—it sold out its first printing very quickly, perhaps helped by a very positive review by his friend William Hazlitt—and another, unsigned, by … Mary herself. This, of course, seems unthinkable in our day—a daughter reviewing her father’s book! But it was far more common in earlier days—some writers even reviewed their own work, anonymously.
We do have a hint of this sort of thing now. On such sites as Amazon.com “reviewers” can chime in about any book listed on the site, and it would be naïve to think that writers do not solicit and/or encourage “reviews” from their friends and acquaintances. And is it impossible to imagine a writer reviewing his/her own book, under a pseudonym? Surely not in America!
So what did Mary say about her father’s novel Cloudesley? Well, her review consumes eight pages in volume 2 of The Novels and Works of Mary Shelley.[2] Originally published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (May 1830), the review is in many ways characteristic of its era, featuring very long quotations from the text under review and some heavy-duty summary.
But here are just a few of the observations Mary made about her father’s work:
1. … he sets it down in its vivid reality: no part is dim, no part is tame.
2. Of all modern writers, Mr Godwin has arrived most sedulously, and most successfully, at the highest species of perfection his department of art affords
3. Mr Godwin’s style is at once simpler and energetic; it is full, without being inflated. 
4. … every page displays freshness and vigour ….[3]
You get the idea? Sounds like the kind of book you’d like to run out and buy, eh? Well, lots of people did, apparently. 

[1] William Godwin (New Haven: Yale UP, 1984), 363.
[2] Edited by Pamela Clemit (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1996), 201–09.
[3] Ibid., 202–03, 206, 209.