Dawn Reader

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Losing Shakespeare Last Week ...

I lost the Bard last week. Well, not really. I knew where he was: at Mickey's Barber Shop. I had driven down there last week for my monthly cut; it was raining; I covered myself (slightly) with an old Shakespeare umbrella we keep in the car for such ... inconveniences.

I love that old (broken) umbrella. We bought it up in Stratford, Ont., one summer when we were up there for the Stratford Theatre Festival, a trip we'd taken each August (usually the first week) between 2001-2017. We'd see (usually) eleven plays in six days. Most of those years I was still teaching (and teaching Shakespeare, too), so I would buy things I could flash around at school. Like the umbrella you see pictured above. Love the version of Shakespeare's upper body that decorates it.

I had to wait a little last week (Mickey, the best barber in the world, takes no appointments: first come, first serve), and by the time he was finished with me, the rain had stopped, the sun was out, and I'd forgotten I'd even brought an umbrella with me.

A few days later ... I noticed it was missing. And I knew where it was, too.

That umbrella is one that lives in our car; that way we always have some protection when, guessing wrong, we find the rain is falling when we didn't think it would. It has rescued us countless times.

It is also broken. One of the ribs has cracked; the Velcro fastener has fallen off. But, you know, I see it as kind of an objective correlative for ... me. Broken, falling apart, still useful now and then.

The weather's been fine since last week, but today, out on another errand, I remembered it. I drove down to Mickey's, looked at the hook where I'd hung it ... not there.

I asked Mickey, "Did you find an old raggedy-ass umbrella here last week?"

He looked at me. Smiled. "Sure did. And I saved it for you." He went to his closet, retrieved it. My heart swelled.

So ... now it's back in the car, waiting again for a Lear- or Tempest-like tempest when it can spread itself, missing rib and all, and save us from the sort of thing Lear raged about ...

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! (3.2)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Back to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
University Hospitals
Beachwood, Ohio
9 a.m.

In a couple of hours, Joyce and I will (once again) head north, navigate the endless constructive wonders of I-271, and pull into the parking lot at Seidman. It's time for my bi-monthly visit with my oncologist.

Since I saw him last, I've undergone quite a bit: 10 sessions of radiation, zapping three Evil Vertebrae (T-8, T-9 (the most evil), and T-10), where some clusters of cancer cells had gone to hide--and multiply. Those sessions knocked the hell out of me. All I could do was sleep and feel sorry for myself. Even worse: the radiation passed through my chest and esophagus; the latter has spent the last two weeks (when the sessions ended) recovering. For most of the time, my old Food Tube burned so much so that it was "unpleasant" even to swallow saliva. My appetite, understandably, ceased, and I had to force myself to eat a little something. One day I managed only about a half-cup of yogurt--the entire day.

It's better now. Though my appetite has not completely returned, the thought of food no longer makes me gag.

So ... all of that was fun ...

I also had some CT scans + a full bone scan. They appear (to my untrained eye--and the radiologist's report) to indicate no evident spread of the cancer. But I'll wait to hear what my oncologist says before I get too excited about that.

I also had my monthly blood test--to measure my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). As I've written here before, I should really have NO measurable PSA (a Cleveland Clinic surgeon removed my cancerous prostate gland in June 2005).

But ... prostate cancer cells also produce PSA, and my score has been rising. Last month it was about 20; this time ... only about 12. So the radiation appears to be working ... for the nonce. It is temporary, you see ... a delay, not a cure.

Meanwhile, I'm whupped. In the past month or so I've had radiation treatments, bone and CT scans, cataract surgery, periodontal surgery (an implant is in process), some dermatological treatments (the doctor froze a grim site ... on my nose--got to be highly visible, you know?), and some sessions with my cardiologist, who's trying to find a blood-pressure med that (a) works and (b) doesn't make me sick. (We're on Drug #3 right now.)

So ... I'm hoping that my oncologist will be able to give me a bit of a break for the next few months. ("Hope is the thing with feathers," wrote a poet whom I love.) Joyce and I want to drive down to Staunton, VA, to the American Shakespeare Center to see a couple of plays ...

When we get back from Seidman later this afternoon, I'll do an update here ... unless I disappear immediately into a NAP ...

To be continued ...

1:20 p.m.

We'll, we're back, have ingested a light lunch, and there's really not a lot of news to share. My oncologist was pleased with my PSA, pleased with the scan results. I will have subsequent PSA tests, one per month, and will see him again in mid-November.

So ... we're grateful for a little relief from what had seemed to be endless rounds of testing and treatment. And we will enjoy this lovely fall weather and try not to think about the winter that roars right behind it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

And then the cuckoo flew away ...

the spot where the cuckoo clock lives
Hanging on our wall since 1978 has been a cuckoo clock that once belonged to my great-grandfather Warren A. Lanterman (1866-1963), who for 90 years lived on a farm on Four Mile Run Rd. in Austintown, Ohio (he's buried in a cemetery near there).

He passed the clock along to my grandmother Osborn (his daughter), who gave it to my mom back in the 1950s. It hung and cuckooed on our wall in Hiram, Ohio.

In 1966, my mom and dad moved out to Des Moines to teach at Drake University, and the clock hung on their wall at 3500 Wakonda Court until 1978 when my grandmother died and my parents had decided to retire out on the Oregon coast (Cannon Beach). Downsizing, they gave the clock to us then, and our son, Steve (he turned six that year), loved the clock.

His sons now love it, and when they're here visiting, and they hear the clock cuckooing in the other room, they sometimes sprint out there to watch it.

It has hung and cuckooed for us ever since 1978. Our homes in Kent, Lake Forest (IL), Hudson and Aurora (OH). We've had it repaired a couple of times, but, otherwise, it's been very reliable.

In the last couple of weeks, though, it has ... slowed ... then stopped ... (reminds me of myself) ...

So ... I called our repairman, and he was just here to pick it up. A quick look told him it didn't need much. Some cleaning, lubrication. We'll have it back next week, he thinks. $100 or so.

That's the best news.

As he was leaving the house with it, I told him that our grandsons would thank him.

As they will, I'm sure.

And I'll thank him right now. As I've written here before, the sound of that clock is the heartbeat of our house. And things around here will be very wrong until we hear it again ...

boxed and ready to go to  rehab

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Doggerel of a Surprise

Some of you know that I have another blog spot here on Blogspot: Daily Doggerel (link), where, daily (duh), I post silly verse about this and that--words, animals, words and animals, animals and words.

Anyway, I was surprised this morning to see that tomorrow's post on Daily Doggerel will be Number 1400.

How did that happen? Do I really have so much drivel in me that it just keeps ... leaking out? (Is there no variety of Depends for that?)

I do feel myself sort of winding down, though--like an antique cuckoo clock that is tired of cuckooing. Part of it is age; part is ill health; part is, I suppose, the shock of realizing that I've posted 1400 of these things! Have I no self-respect!?!?!

So ... when I finish the current series--all based on heteronyms (words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently--e.g., wind (it blows) and wind (a cuckoo clock)), I think I'll take a break. Go on hiatus, as they say.

Maybe I'll recover the urge to do some more; maybe I won't. I can't really say--and I don't even know how I feel about it. Relief? Resignation? Shame? Whatever?

Anyway, I will finish the last of the heteronyms this week--will collect them in a little volume to post on Amazon's Kindle Direct (as I have done with their predecessors)--will settle back and see what the wind blows my way--maybe wind the cuckoo clock ...?

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Damnedest Thoughts at 3:30 a.m. ...

Last night I awoke at 3:30 a.m., and Morpheus, seeing a flicker of a chance to escape, cast me from his arms and flew into the night. (Thanks, buddy.) And for the next 2+ hours (I usually get up around 5:45) my mind whirled around like a rotary lawnmower blade--and somehow--some way--ended up spending way too much time on a popular song from my youth, a song I've not thought about in decades and whose return in today's pre-dawn I cannot for the life of me explain.

The song was "Norman," sung by Sue Thompson (I had to check Wikipedia for her name, which I never could have recovered without ... cheating) and released in 1961. I can't (easily) find the precise date--but 1960-61 was my junior year in high school, 61-62 (you figure it out). (Oh, lyrics and music by John D. Loudermilk. See lyrics at the bottom of this post ...) It soared to #3 that year. A gold record.

Link to a recording/video of the song. Link to some info about Thompson, born in 1925.

It's a catchy if simple thing--a bouncy bubble of a song. (I picture a little kid blowing a bubble from one of those bottles of bubble-stuff--then chasing it around the room.)

And just adhesive enough, it seems, to find a remote little room in my brain, where the song has stuck around for more than a half-century, though rarely exiting that room.

Until last night.

For a reason I cannot comprehend. I've hardly been in a bouncy, "Norman"-y mood lately, but maybe Morpheus, plotting his escape, thought of something fluffy from my past that would distract me while he winged off. If so, I'm not sure whether to thank or condemn him. It was kind of nice to think about Days of Youth and foolishness early today, but now--and for who knows how long?--that weightless piece of fuzz is floating around in my brain ...

I hope it soon finds an exit ...

Norman , ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Norman, Norman, my love
Jimmy called me on the phone but I was gone, not at home
Cuz I was out parked all alone with darlin' Norman
Bill invited me to a show but I said no, cannot go
There's a dress that I've got to sew and wear for Norman
Norman holds me close to him, Norman kisses me and then
Norman knows my heart belongs to him and him and only him, oh
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ohh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ohh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, Norman, my love
Joey asked me for a date, he wanted to take me out to skate
But I told Joey he would have to make 'rangements with Norman
Norman is my only love, Norman's all I'm thinking of
Norman gives me all his lovin', kissin', huggin', lovey-dovin'
Norman, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Norman, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Norman, Norman, my love

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mortality Whispers

I've been lucky in this life. For decades I was healthy, physically able to do just about anything I wanted to do--except, sadly, be the Tribe's catcher ... Their loss.

Mortality was a flaw possessed only by others. I experienced the deaths of two great-grandparents, three grandparents. My father lived until November 1999. And my mother didn't pass away until this past March; she was 98. And as long as my mother was still alive, mortality, I foolishly, arrogantly believed, had nothing to do with me. Not directly. I mean, I may be ... older ... now, but my mom is still alive.

But Mortality has a way of casting his shadow on all of us. As I've said, I've been lucky. But others I've known--cousins, aunts and uncles, friends, former students, so many others--have felt that Dark Presence long before I've had to.

Even when I got my first cancer diagnosis in late 2004, I didn't really think Mortality was all that involved. Just a bit of bad luck. I'd win the battle.

And for nearly fourteen years I've kept Mortality away, ignored his knocks on the door, his shadow in the window, his breathy whispers in my ear.

But he is one insistent fellow, Mortality. Like a robo- or spam-caller. You block one number; he'll try another--and another--until you, sort of recognizing the Caller ID, pick up the phone and hear his voice--and know his voice. Such a familiar sound, though if you've been lucky (as I've been), you've never really heard it before. Rather--you didn't know what it was when you heard it. You thought the voice was talking to someone else ...

But now, Mortality is a regular visitor. I open the door. I pick up the phone. We chat ... a lot.

But--so far--after our friendly little encounters, he will leave. And I close the door, but I no longer bother locking it. Pointless.

I've realized (as I should have long ago) that I am just a part of a long, long, long procession. Some of you know that I've been long interested in the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99); my own great-grandfather went up there (found a little--bought a farm with it, a farm the family would later lose in the Great Depression).

And as I look at those famous pictures of the Chilkoot Pass--over the mountains separating Alaska from the Canadian Yukon Territory--I realize, of course, that every single person in that procession is now gone. Some found gold; some found heartache; some did not survive the journey itself. But now ... they are all one.

Their children are all gone. Their grandchildren are (probably) all gone. And their great-grandchildren are next. It's just ... the way it is ... It just takes some of us (like me) a long time to realize we are in that procession ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back in the Saddle ... Sort of ...

As a boy in Oklahoma--a devoted fan of Western TV shows (there were a lot in the early 1950s) and movies (ditto)--I was never all that crazy about Gene Autry. He was one of the "singing cowboys"--guys who, mysteriously, stopped ropin' and shootin' and savin' the town to, well, sing. I just could not understand it. Singing when you could be blastin' those Bad Buys in Black Hats?!?

But his song "Back in the Saddle Again" was a big hit for Autry--link to video of Autry singing in a decidedly unWestern environment.

I think I've posted this info before? Too bad. Write it off to my galloping dotage.

But the song's a little relevant to me today. For the first time since last Saturday I was "back in the saddle"--back at "my" table at the Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson. The last few days have been a tad ... difficult.

Last Thursday, I received the 10th of 10 radiation treatments to deal with an apparent cancer site* in my spine--vertebra #T-9. My old enemy, my prostate cancer (first diagnosed almost fourteen years ago), has metastasized, moving into my bones, and recent scans have shown what appears to be one of its hiding places--that aforementioned vertebra. Thus ... the radiation treatments.

As I've written here before, the zapping went through my chest (thus passing through my esophagus); then the machine rotated, zapping me from below as well. No pain, just ... terror?

My esophagus has not been ... pleased. Though it will repair itself (and is doing so), I have experienced some very unpleasant days when it has been painful to swallow anything--from food to water to saliva to my pride.

Radiation also makes you weary (the body devotes much energy to repair--though cancer cells cannot, which is why radiation can work).**

So ... I was weary ...  and raw in the esophagus ... but hanging in there.

And then ... the floor fell out from under me.

I'm not sure what happened? Was it the new blood pressure med I'd just begun? Was it the cumulative effect of the radiation? Was it some vengeful god, annoyed at a slight of some sort? Was it a revolt by my 70-something-year-old body?

Whatever ...

Beginning on Sunday, I couldn't do anything but sleep. I mean 20 hours a day or more. The whole idea of eating nauseated me. I was so dizzy I could barely walk across the room.

I called my cardiologist, and he immediately got me off the new med, substituted another, which I will start today.

Yesterday (Tues.) I felt moderately better--but still slept for hours and ate only a small supper. No breakfast, no lunch. Food had become a synonym for evil. Or poison. Or evil poison.

Through the night I could tell I was improving. And this morning, feeling a bit more frisky, I loaded my backpack and headed over to Open Door (slowly, slowly) to do my morning's reading--started a new book to review for Kirkus Reviews.

I climbed onto my stool ... looked out the window ... was back in the saddle again ...

And now I'm taking it easy, trying to make sure my horse called Hope does not buck me off ...

*I say "apparent" because the scans are a highly educated guess, not a biopsy.
**But not in my case. This is a delaying tactic only; there is no cure for me ... not yet.