Dawn Reader

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Things Fall Apart ...

Perhaps I've written before about Edgar Poe's little-known story "The Man That Was Used Up"?  If so, bear with me ...

(Link to the story--not a long one!)

First published in August 1839 (ten years before his death), the story actually has a longer subtitle: "A Tale of the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign."  It also displays something that many readers of Poe may not recognize: his sense of humor.  Poe kept it under wraps for the most part, but it was there, bubbling just below the surface like a geyser in a number of his stories, stories which in some cases are so grotesque that we almost have to laugh.

On one level, the story takes a shot at William Henry Harrison, the war hero and U. S. President who served only thirty-one days before he died (of an illness perhaps ignited or at least exacerbated by his long Inaugural appearance in the rain and cold).  Oh, and another thing: Critics thought Harrison was too old (Poe makes fun of this too), but he was a mere 68 (my age).

Poe's skeptical narrator pays an unannounced visit on the general but in his room finds only a large bundle ("odd looking," Poe calls it) on the floor.  And then the bundle begins to talk ...  It's the general.  His servant, Pompey, enters and helps re-assemble the man, now made of artificial parts, until he once again resembles the war hero.  The narrator leaves with a new understanding of appearance and reality.  (Hmmm ... wonder what was on Poe's mind?!)

Anyway, I've been feeling more and more like that general in recent years--not that I have any artificial parts, not yet, but a string of accidents and illnesses have left me wondering if it's nearing Bundle-on-the-Floor Time.  Knee injury (hiking in Alaska & the Yukon), Bell's palsy, skin cancer, prostate cancer, some signs of fading eyesight, diminishing short-term memory (this morning, I could not remember the name of the poet who wrote "The Cremation of Sam McGee," a poem I taught for a number a years, a poem I've memorized, for pity's sake!), and some other Old Man Issues that I will not, for the sake of public decency, catalogue.

As followers of these posts know, I'm facing--within the next week--the commencement of hormone therapy for my intractable prostate cancer that has defeated both surgery and radiation.  Yesterday, I met with my new oncologist (I've shifted my care to University Hospitals), whom I liked very much.  He spent an hour with Joyce and me, had his hands all over me (in a medical way: don't be filthy), evinced a genuine interest in our stories--and in our backgrounds.  (I would say that this is not characteristic of the experiences I've had previously.) There are UH branches in Hudson (where I will have my primary, family care) and in Twinsburg (a larger, more comprehensive facility), and the cancer center is only 25 minutes away up near the Chagrin Blvd. exit on I-271.  So ... things will be more convenient ...

I'm feeling comfortable with the situation--if not with what I'm facing.  And what Joyce is facing.  I don't know how I'll feel when the pills and injections kick in; I know I will not feel the same as I do today, and the side-effects range widely from full-bore awful to ... less so.  All we can do on that score is hope.

And enjoy this next week, which will take us to Lenox, Mass., to see my mom and other family--and to see, at Shakespeare and Company, Richard II, the final play of the Bard's that Joyce and I have not seen live onstage.  And will I weep when the lights go down the final time?  Will I ever ...


  1. Having doctors who care and take the time to know you, is incredibly important. I'm glad you were able to find someone who is sensitive your situation. I know from experience that driving to CC Main Campus is exhausting, but they do have better food than UH! As you know, too much time spent in hospitals means you start to compare these things. Have a wonderful trip visiting with your family and seeing the play--I can't wait to read about it!

  2. I've been following all your blog posts and glad to see here that you have a new Dr. that appreciates you as a whole person and not just a diagnosis. I hope the medical partnership helps you navigate the medical challenges ahead. Thinking of you and Joyce and wishing you a special road trip to Boston. I'll be back in NE Ohio in early September and hope to cross paths with you both.

  3. Hope you a have a lovely trip and a wonderful visit with family. I will be sending good vibes your way and thinking about you and yours always. Last month I spent time in Hudson and thought about you guys. I strolled the Famers Market, met up with my garlic friends, had pizza on the train bridge with boys and made our way down to Peninsula for a bike ride with hubby and kiddos. I drove my family around Western Reserve, it is such a lovely campus & a beautiful town. Well just wanted to say hello and send our love...Oh and by the way...We tentatively adopted a Hemingway cat today...Her name is Sara...How cool is that?? Best to you, AM