March: If not now, when?


We had just gotten used to the idea here in northeast Ohio, that February was, in fact, the beginning of spring. Yellow aconite and white snowdrop blossoms had flourished and disappeared in the early warm temperatures. Daffodil leaves were spiking higher and higher. The Birdtwitterfeed had put out the word to head north already. Goldfinches began to molt, and returning robins were a bit confused as the semi frozen ground produced no worms. I even thought I heard a mourning dove last week when it became March. Or was it actually April? Just how far did I spring my clock forward? The robins are not the only confused ones. I woke up to a few inches of cold wet snow almost covering daffodil buds. My bird feeder is mobbed with finches and sparrows along with robins hopping underneath now and then to eat the fallen seeds.

If this is a lion ushering in March, then we’re not in a very fierce neck of the woods like… California? My lowland friends there are working every day to prevent serious flooding. Their home and outbuildings were built while living in a drought. Digging out trenches to channel and pump the water into the street drain is proving to be tough work. My friend said that the water table is so high, when you push the shovel into the dirt, there is an immediate lake to contend with. And then further south in the California mountains there is snow measuring in yards.

I know there are so many discouraging things happening in our country and world to be concerned about. But to finally be confronted with the powerful results of global warming on a daily basis can’t help but be unnerving as a fundamental fear. It is our planet. The earth beneath our feet. The home to billions of creatures with whom we are interwoven. All of our financial concerns, immigration concerns, health concerns, food concerns, education concerns, political concerns- all of them will be further impacted as each country will have to deal with the massive changes that must be made if we are to survive and thrive despite these ongoing disasters. There is hope we will find how to urgently make these changes. Sadly, it will be after dealing with these unforeseen consequences from what has long been set into motion.

We face each day, we give our best, and we help others if we can. Post PANndemic (and I know many people who just got COVID for the first or second time though it is now labeled ENdemic…) we are more aware of our mortality than ever before. If they can manage it, folks are taking that trip they always wanted, purchasing that car no matter how much inflation has raised the price, or finishing a languishing project- before it’s too late. We take a deep breath before the tsunami of problems overwhelms us and we think, “If not now, when?”

Of course, every eldering person already has had this same thought as our bodies begin to lose energy, mobility, and stamina. For that very reason, I decided to create two community contributions for this spring (no matter the weather outside). One is a short comic skit to contribute to Kendal’s annual performance called Spring Fling. I wrote a medieval sounding song called Ye Olde Springe Flinge and have concocted a mock ancient ritual where one friend is playing his lute and singing this song with me, and two others are suggestively flinging off their winter gloves, hats, scarves, and coats one by one to reveal their summer clothing. Yes, seniors know how to have fun.

My second project is more serious, and I think it will be unique and lovely. My friend Rebecca is an amazing wildlife photographer. We have placed some of my poems on slides paired with her photos. I will read the poems out loud as they appear on a large screen in the auditorium which will also be shown on our in-house TV channel. The last two poems will be spoken by my husband. Some years before Richard died, he had recorded them on an album I created (with my friend Cathie and others) as my thesis for my ordination as an All Faith or Interfaith minister. My Kendal community here has come to know me but, of course, not the man I lived with for almost fifty years. When those last slides are shown, I can now listen to his warm resonant voice without crying, and even if I do cry, no one will mind at all. I am grateful that I have this means of introducing him to my new friends in Ohio.

My body has not taken kindly to organizing and sitting through rehearsals for these two efforts. I knew it was beyond my comfort zone to attempt things that would have been simply fun and nourishing in the past. After these events are completed, I go to see a new neurologist to find out if he can discern why I am rapidly losing the neurological muscle information needed to sit up or walk. If I sit up for an hour or so one day, the next day I am flattened by weakness and pain and need the whole day to recover. Maybe in March 2024 there will be more open daffodils and maybe I will have seen some physical improvement or maybe not. I have joined those who say, “if not now, when?” as I look to accomplish unfinished writing projects orphaned on my computer.

As to solutions to our planetary problems, I hope that more of the world population could effectively rise up and say to those in power. “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?”

February: Grief and Gratitude

February: Grief and Gratitude

It is the second month of the new year. What signifies that it is a new year besides the celebrations declaring it to be so? I look to seasonal weather patterns that highlight the fact that our planet has completed another circle around our star. The nature of time seems to keep changing as I age. The past reference point that a new school year had begun when I was a student, a teacher and then a mother, no longer applies. A year unmarked by schooling (though I do take an ongoing zoom class) or by the lack of a regular job does not leave me bored or untethered. To the contrary, it seems that my life is fuller and more creatively engaged than ever before.

As a retired woman living on a fixed income in a wonderful CCRC (continuing care retirement community), I no longer need to decide where I will live next or how I will earn enough to support myself. This is it. This is my ‘Last Resort’ as a former neighbor used to jokingly call her ideal future living place. I do not feel sad that this is my final home: rather it is a relief to be in such a wonderfully supportive environment. Given my ongoing physical decline from a variety of neurological issues, I know I will be cared for all along the way. I also have made good new friends here and have encouragement and appreciation for expressing my creativity in writing, singing, and more, in various venues within this remarkably dynamic community.

Of course, as a grandmother, I am thrilled by both of my grandsons’ brand-new year. They are three and one-years old, and are still changing every month, let alone every year. It is a joy to delight in their growth. My older daughter is a professor, so she does have the academic context of the new year and a new semester. Their family enfolds me into another new year as I share with them the busy life they lead. My younger daughter has entered the new year by moving into a wonderful apartment and I am happy to track her life as it unfolds in a new environment.

The other yearly anchor point for me, is that this is the month that Richard, my husband, died. It was on Valentine’s Day in 2018. My daughters and I have our own quiet ritual to honor that day in his memory. For five years I have let myself recall whatever arises. The earlier years of acute mourning have softened until now there are more recollections of the best of our almost fifty years together. Other widow friends of mine assured me that eventually not all memories would end in feeling grief. Of course, there are still pangs of loneliness or sorrow, feeling the loss of his loving warmth, intelligence, strength, and his many passions in life. Watching other couples here who have been together for almost seventy years, I sometimes feel sad that we didn’t get to navigate this ending chapter of old age together.

At the same time, I can laugh at a remembered in-joke of ours from when we were teenagers or know how utterly in love he would be with our grandsons. I am also beyond grateful to him for leaving behind his support for me to be able to live here in Kendal at Oberlin. He and I worked hard for many years and this is the result of our labors. He would be thrilled to see me safe and loved and cared for in my new home. I am lucky and grateful every day. I am grateful for another year and even grateful to work on embracing all the unknowns that our challenged world holds in store. This year, I offer the following poem that I wrote for Richard and what my journey after his death has revealed to me. Before he died, I did not know that Grief and Gratitude are in fact, one evolving experience, one whole.

Grief and Gratitude                by Judi Bachrach

Grief swept me out with the tide

farther than ever before

you weren’t there to lift me up

guide me home never

there again

fifty years out of practice

sink or swim crawl to dry land

Miles of mudflats abandoned

toy shovels sand buckets

dry seaweed crackled underfoot

seabirds overhead shrieked

broken seashells held to my ear

scattered empty houses

echoed with memories

Waves of grief holding

engagement with life

with cells run amuck

the irrevocable gift of death

release reality reflection

gradually reveals

endless tides that turn

waters raising me higher and higher

greeting the mysterious undertow

floating my body supported from below

fully embracing sorrow

sun flooding my face my soul

my heart infilling with gratitude

cleansing all wounds

Gratitude a state of being

embeds the ocean floor

salty tears of love awash

in grief

and gratitude



Post New Year visitations, I was one of millions to have a nasty flu over the last couple of weeks. Because I had a flu shot, live in an assisted living facility where I am tested twice a week for Covid, I only deduced from my symptoms that it was more likely a flu than just a bad cold. I had no fever or additional muscle aches than the usual chronic pain I already live with. But the utter languishing fatigue was not due to a rhino virus. For a few days there was no thought of getting up off my bed because there was no chance that I could move at all except under great duress. Then followed the usual misery of packed sinuses and endless draining and sneezing- we have all been there at one time or another.

These days we make plans for gatherings but between illnesses, extreme weather events, and airline woes, we all understand the likelihood of possible cancellations. Staying connected requires more flexibility and persistence than ever. It is difficult to envision a loss of cyber space. We who are enabled to use it, are gratefully dependent on it and must rely on it for our wellbeing, our jobs, education, shopping, entertainment, being an informed world citizen- cyber space is a platform for living. For the many millions who have no means of access to the digital world, they have a different perspective on living, on day-to-day values. They are our world brothers and sisters and children. It is sobering to realize how much wider the gaps of haves and have nots are becoming every day.

The new year is based on our cosmic circular dance around the sun. Observed by our ancestors for many thousands of years, we still use it as a reliable marker for the passage of time, of seasons, and the renewal of our continuing passage from light into dark and back again. At the midline of equatorial life, weather patterns there also emerge from the same planetary cycles. Humans have managed to disrupt the order of those patterns. Life on earth has always moved through cycles of fire and ice, drought and flooding, creation and destruction. Discovering our tiny place in the universe does not seem to have enhanced our humility. We still function under the illusion that we can and will control the long-term outcomes of our chaos inducing short-term lifestyles.

On a daily basis I endeavor to stay grounded in my daily life, my immediate family, friends, and communities. At the same time, I work to open to the larger reality of the spaciousness of love, and my core essence that funds every breath I take and every perception I have, with or without the internet. May this new year bring us surprises and unexpected joys large and small every day.

Song of the Day

Waking up evokes a new love song

to the world every day.

Songs of yearning and loss

discovery and betrayal,

tragic ballads, joyful pop tunes,

blossoming new love, enduring classics,

the music of love beyond love

nurtured over lifetimes.

Love is complicated, messy, tender, ecstatic

rendering hearts vulnerable ripped

by the deepest kind of human grief

when the end comes, as it must-

however, whenever, it comes.

My musical archive is filled with

passionate high and low notes.

My body and brain sing a new song

the moment my eyes open from

beneath the silent lid of consciousness

dreaming in the night.

It all comes down to Love,

awakening to Its’ infinite faces.

Today, I embrace the world

offering my song into

the choir of life.


The holiday season is now in full swing. It brings with it the smells and sounds and sights that are designed to engage our nostalgia and be good consumers, floating the economy despite inflation. I always think of Tom Leher’s satirical song that goes,” Angels we have heard on high, telling us… go out and Buy!”, and we do just that.

Fortunately, my grown daughters do not look on spending as a sign of love and my grandson who is three today, and his brother who turns one next week, do not get lavished with too many gifts between these celebrations and Christmas. The three-year-old has been to two parties in his life and he knew exactly how he wanted to host his party down to the balloons, the dragon theme, and what kind of cupcakes (chocolate, in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, both Mama and Tat tested themselves today for COVID and sure enough, it was not a cold after all.

So, my grandson learned a new word- postpone. His party is postponed. And that is life these days. I made it to a family gathering for Thanksgiving and we were all glad that the worst thing that happened was discovering the baby is allergic to cashews as they were part of the delicious vegan meatloaf he so enjoyed. My nephew is a doctor and has done plenty of pediatric work. His neighbor is a pharmacist and knew the only drugstore in town that would be open at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving night. Baby Benadryl syrup did the trick, and he was fine the next morning with no more hives or swollen cheeks and lips. What better time and place to have discovered his allergy with medical assessment and assurance at hand.

But all gatherings are subject to postponement as the various viruses (don’t forget the old fashioned common cold) show up from one day or one participant to the next. We make plans knowing how likely it is that it may not pan out. It has always been so, but the sickness factor is so much more frequent and more likely to occur than it used to be. We are learning to live and be wary, enjoy what we can when we can because tomorrow who knows if we can meet safely again. Testing and masking and distancing for those of who do not consider it a political act has become the norm. My niece said she and her family got lots of glares for being masked as they flew in from Colorado.

Still, it is holiday time, a gathering time of family and friends, and an appropriate time to invest in hope for peace in our troubled world. Finding peace within myself is a daily priority.

Willow’s Way                                    10/21/22                                        Judi Bachrach

Prevailing breezes from the east collide

with billowing gusts from the west

conflicting fronts halting

the slow glide of fallen leaves

across the pond

amassing by the bank

Crisp new recruits

arriving every moment

form a ragged line

amidst countermanding currents

caught in the middle

quivering detachments on alert

On shore a thousand

willow thin branches

still dressed in dry green leaves

lift up hallelujahs

bow down in reverence whirlwind

tendrils alive in sympathy

with those that fall

Trunk unmoved

anchored in the ground of being

our roots seek truth

renewed deep within

stark branches against the sky



Like much of the northeast, here in Ohio, November has waltzed in on unusually warm weather. I am not complaining, mind you. I enjoy the still warm caress of the sun even as most of the trees are bare, inspiring two haikus.

Starlings          11/1/22

Starlings alighted

Like black leaves on bare branches

Murmuring migrants


Thick clouds break apart

Blue sky and sun always there

I am looking up

And of course, as we move towards election day in the U.S., things are not necessarily looking up. During an online prayer gathering that I sat in on this morning, I felt keenly how much of a group phenomenon our intense political divide has become. We humans have such an animal need to be part of a herd. The group that most reflects fear, the need to blame, and resulting hatred and rigidity draws in millions. The group who wishes to preserve a democratic vision, an educated adherence to reality, to benign cause and effect supporting our diverse population, draws in millions. I am not exempt. Freedom to choose which herd to cling to comes with the possibility of not getting what I deem is best, even if I think we might be headed over a cliff.

Fall is always poignant as the flora and fauna respond to the waning sunlight hours in our part of the world. The cycles of physical change and the inevitable losses are apparent all around us. Loss is tangible and inescapable. On that note, I highly recommend this CD just released by Kim Rosen and Jamie Sieber. Titled, Feast of Losses, Kim embodies famous poems addressing grief and gratitude exquisitely interwoven with music created by Jamie and friends. It is an hour of deep heart opening nourishment. *

This poem came to me as I sat by one of Kendal’s many ponds.

Willow’s Way                              10/21/22                                    Judi Bachrach

Prevailing breezes from the east

collide with billowing gusts from the west

conflicting fronts halt

the slow glide of fallen leaves

across the pond

amassing by the bank

Crisp new recruits

arriving every moment

form a ragged line amid

countermanding currents

caught in the middle

quivering detachments on alert

On shore a thousand

willow thin branches

still dressed in dry green leaves

lift up hallelujah

bow down reverent whirlwind

resilient tendrils alive in sympathy

with those that fall

Trunk unmoved

anchored in the ground of being

our roots seek truth

renewed deep within

stark bare branches against the sky

* To purchase a Feast of Losses as a CD or Download, go to



Yesterday was probably one of the last warm and sunny days of fall. I stopped by a pond that once more held about 20 geese. They had found other waters over the summer after most of them had likely been born and raised here. Occasionally four of the largest peeled off two by two while the rest of the grown goslings stayed together. They all floated quietly, and I closed my eyes to float along with them. One stood up and flapped its wings setting off a round of honking, but they soon settled down again.

What a gentle time. Perhaps they are resting up for a long migration or perhaps they will overwinter right here. That is often the case, in these climate-changing days. They have no mate to locate and bond with, no nests to build, no territories to defend or goslings to tend. They just paddle and eat and float as the leaves around them are busy turning colors. I have seen squadrons of their species overhead night and day, one flock in V formation tucked in behind another. Ornithologists think they follow a combination of topography, magnetic fields, the sun and the stars to make their journeys. How amazing as they call down to us from the sky.

The nights have not yet been cold enough to bring on dramatic arboreal colors, though the burning bushes (euonymus alatus) are striking in appearance already. Dried yellow leaves from a few trees crackle beneath the wheels of my electric scooter. Otherwise, I am entranced by the subtle gold-hazed tapestries woven every day, soon to be cut and fall off from the plant looms that hold leaves and fading flowers. I found a black walnut tree on the Kendal property I hadn’t known about before. I couldn’t resist seeing a BOO! face in this one.

On Halloween in the assisted living area where I live, we will receive our booster COVID shots. I am thinking of a simple costume where I can still roll up my sleeve. I used to have so many bits of this and that to design one, but I shed all of them when I moved to Ohio. I will surely think of something for the occasion. Perhaps a fabricated corona crown would be in bad taste?

I am storing memories from my outdoor rides because the paved walkways where snow is shoveled regularly, can’t be cleared clean enough for my scooter wheels. My little electric engine isn’t up to any challenges against slippery conditions. I avoid crossing the grass or pebbled areas for that reason. Fortunately, the machine is light enough that other people moved me out of two such sticky situations in the past. Available to me is an enclosed garden courtyard that is kept well clear for accessing fresh air, and we are all aware the turtles in the small ornamental pond no longer greedily come up onto the rocks to be hand fed. They are getting ready to hibernate in the mud. I will also be turning inwards for the season.

September Joy

September Joy

I love the fall season. As a September baby, I remember planning birthday parties for both warm and sunny outdoor or chilly and rainy indoor activities. Around the fall equinox, it could go either way.

The cricket outside my window, trilling short police whistle blasts on a branch of the dawn redwood tree, summons no response on colder nights. Then last night, warm again, it received many return calls and the katydids in the woods beyond had no pause in their “Katy did, Katy didn’t “conversations.

This morning I wrote another haiku.

Arising thunder

Lightning flashes, rain falling

Close my small window

Rejoicing in berries, I have spied, white, red, purple, green and golden orange ones hanging on bushes and vines. Pine trees drop scaly cones, the cattails have turned into soft fluff, and the fallen mallow flowers have burst open their dark brown star pods. Plants leave us in so many diverse ways with their future regeneration assured. How and what will I leave when I go?

A hallway neighbor just turned one hundred and two today. Chronologically, I am the baby in this assisted living area though my neighbor is more physically mobile than I am. We all carry on with what we have as best we can.

Large swathes of the world mourn particular people, the state of politics, and the ongoing decimation of our planet. Within, I look for the root of all joy and delight in blueberries on my oatmeal, the first sip of hot Earl Grey tea, the song of Happy Birthday resonating from the dining area, the smell of petrichor in the newly wet soil, and the ability to share thoughts and words with you. If joy was not alive in the core of my being, how would I recognize joy in my quotidian life, given how much dire news is delivered to us every day?

Cultivating joy is not driven by my self-will. Curiosity, and an intention to focus on any small happiness that appears, helps to shift chronic pain to the background. These little reflections of pleasure emanate from a greater bliss within. I am learning to live through storms and birthdays with greater equanimity. I keep an LED tea light switched on all day, every day, on my bureau to remind myself that the light of joy is always burning.


buttonbush in bloom

End of Summer Insects

By day cicadas

By night crickets and katydids

Where did summer go?


Thicket of cattails

A breeze rustles them to song

Green, brown, gone to seed…

I have been adding to my pages of haikus whenever they strike me. At last, the nights are just chilly enough to hint at the coming fall. Early morning bird songs are already greatly diminished, and insects fill in the chorus. Flowers are luxuriating and lawnmowers growl whenever rain clouds disappear.

Where did my summer go? Well, it isn’t gone yet, and I am getting outside on my scooter to enjoy what is left of it. July was me in my room, recovering from a fractured sacrum, so the ability to sit up long enough for 30 minutes on my scooter is a real joy. Fresh air and my daily vitamin D are inhaled with the smell of ponds and woods that I pass by on the paved paths around Kendal. Having grown up in, and then Richard and I building our house in the forests of the Catskills, I am nostalgic for the smell of northeast trees. It smells different here in Ohio, and I miss lying on the ground feeling tree roots entwining beneath me and walking on my own two feet next to a mountain stream.

There is a covered walkway here, a wooden bridge that connects the perimeter road around Kendal to a pathway that leads into the main building. It cuts through a patch of woods before it crosses a swampy vernal pond surrounded by buttonbushes. (see photo above) I often pause my scooter and sit on the bridge within the shaded leafy woodsy area that lies beyond the side rail fencing. I turn off my electric motor and breathe. Sometimes there is surprise- the forest floor hops away as a tiny bunny, a fawn lies in its mottled nest, a woodpecker drills above my head. Or I hear the call of “Birdie, birdie, birdie.”

Convocation of Cardinals   8/1/22

Three male cardinals

Pecking on the forest floor

Know the pope is ill?

I move on towards another larger pond and the stress of our world softens in the wide expanse of sky and water. Allowing my peripheral vision to encompass the big picture reminds me that healing is possible, probable, when given the chance.

This is also the month of my 52nd wedding anniversary. Hard to remember being 18 years old and entering into marriage. What it meant then, what it means now- I am still learning from all the years of materializing partnership, parenting, and beyond into the growth as the widow I now am. Gratitude for it all.

Room 37

In reviewing some of my past posts, I have mentioned the context of our personal dramas playing out against the backdrop of the national and international stages. I will include my personal drama that began two weeks ago and is now very slowly abating. I should be a lot better in another 6 weeks or so. I’lll keep you posted….Judi Bachrach 6/22/22                          Room 37

I fell inside of my room using my rollator to cross an area rug, an act that I had accomplished safely many, many times before. I fell backwards as is my wont, always on my left haunch from years of neurological compromise on that whole side. At first, I got back up and even took the time to clean my-handmade-by-Tibetans-in-Dharmsala rug as my container of yogurt and fruit salad had spilled off my rollator and onto its’ red corner. Aghast at the mess, I successfully cleaned it up, and made a new batch of food to bring to my lunch meeting. I sat through that only feeling a little sore as is usual after a fall. Then I sat through a lovely memorial for an hour. And then the pain kicked in. Sharp acute nerve zingers that were not at all usual.

By dinnertime, I suspected I may have a fracture in my lumbar or sacral area. I knew unless I got it checked out, I would fret. Not that anything special is done about it- but I have a need to understand what is happening in my always changing body issues. I asked an IL friend if she would drive me to the local Mercy Alan hospital so I wouldn’t have to pay for an ambulance. We were shown to a private (too hot) ER room to wait. We saw a kind male nurse who took my information and said he would set up a CAT scan for me to verify any damage.

In about two hours I got the scan. It was painful maneuvering into a wheelchair and on and off the exam table and onto the CAT platform. But I did it and the scan is quick and easy and then more waiting until the radiologist read it. Finally, we heard that there was no sign of fracture and the hardware for my fused L4-5 vertebrae was alright as well. Both answers were a relief and four hours after we had arrived, we got back into the car after breathing the soft moist air of the evening. It was only a little cooler than inside the room, but the air was fresher for not being inside of the ER. A brave boy with a broken arm had cried and went home with a cast shortly before we left. Profuse thanks to my friend for hanging with me for such a long wait. And then…

The next day my body was in more pain. The pain medication they gave me at the hospital is only slightly above Ibuprofen levels and I had refused the steroids they also offered me because of a past negative experience. Usually, steroids make you feel that you are up to any challenge and can conquer the world as it benignly reduces inflammation. But I had had three days of IV steroids for an MS exacerbation years ago. I had a historic abreaction- my MS weakness had scooped me out like an empty paper bag. The steroids made me typically talkative, hungry, and red-faced, but also FURIOUS. I was an angry empty paper bag. I wouldn’t let my husband help me over a curb when we went to the high school graduation of a friend’s daughter. I turned and irrationally yelled out, “Don’t you dare touch me,” which was more than slightly embarrassing as we were both known as psychotherapists in this crowd. Oh well. So, I was reluctant to take the steroids again. Even though we produce our own natural steroids, taking it in a concentrated dosage directly reduces inflammation and can be used in conjunction with antibiotics and other drugs very effectively.

The reputation of the local hospital is that it is not that of a tightly run ship. In the morning, as I

was in more pain than the day before, my nurses suggested I get to the hospital in Elyria for an MRI. I have had many MRI’s in my life to see if my MS had produced any new lesions. It hasn’t for many years, but my latest neurologist of course, had me lie in the loud knocking, honking chamber for a whole series from head to pelvis not long ago. This one would be specific to just my lumbar region and wouldn’t take very long at all. An ambulance took me there as I didn’t think I could handle sitting up in a car and anyway I would not want to have anyone wait with me again for another unknown length of time.

Good decision. What a busy place the Elyria ER is. I was shown into a curtained room pretty quickly and nurses, registrars, and attendants came and went for about 2 hours before a doctor appeared. She asked good questions and realized I wasn’t an easy read due to past neurological issues and operations for stenosis both in my neck and lower back. She suggested an MRI to which I said yes, and this is was why I had come. I was then rolled out of the room on the hospital cot and placed in the hallway. For six more hours.

A sea of busy people surrounded me. From doctors to nurses, attendants to janitors, everyone had a job to do rushing back and forth, socializing on the run- planning a party, describing the last patient, and then over the loudspeaker- FULL TRAUMA IN ER, repeated three times right over my head where I had been parked. Faster chatter of “Car vs. motorcycle,” and another said, “Actually it was a motorcycle that ran into a car.” Soon a man was wheeled by me and he was saying,” I was just driving along when this 15-year-old girl on a motorcycle run into me…” He was bleeding around his arms but was clearly coherent. A short calm of activity before the next storm included a question asked of one another by some attendants. “What bottom feeder in the ocean would you be?” “A shrimp, well, not a lobster…,”and more answers of obscure creatures from those that knew their oceanic bottom feeders.

Another trauma announcement. “57-year-old man, some drinking, fell on the kitchen floor and is totally unresponsive.” Ambulance drivers arrive, unload and scoot out of the way. Soon loud garbled angry ranting was heard, so I presumed the man was now very responsive. A nurse running by commenting to her friend, “The wife smelled of alcohol, too.” A son was heard to say- “They wasn’t drinking much, ‘cause I only saw two cans…”

In another curtained area a diabetic elderly father was lovingly visited by his adult children all day. “Well, dad,” the son said, “the truck was only $500.00 a month for four years but he ain’t telling it like it is. Gotta be at least 8 years. Ya know he ain’t good with numbers.” His father agreed and there were many truck comparisons discussed for quite a while until the son had to go back to work. A kiss followed by,” Love you, dad. “Love you, too, son.” An ebullient daughter arrived next. She worked elsewhere in the hospital and described in detail her father’s morning to his doctor, until the time that her dad had called her after she had left for work and said he didn’t have the energy to pick up the remote to the TV. As a loving caretaker she made sure the nurses and docs had the full picture of what he had and hadn’t done to bring on this sudden weak spell.

Later in the afternoon, (I considered him a kind of an invisible friend of mine as the hours ticked

by) I heard a doctor scold him for his sips of soda and two doughnuts that he ate yesterday. Protests and some muttering about his daughter, but my friend was good natured about it all. It was a tight knit family that supported him. I was glad for him.

My legs were so weak that I could not make it to a restroom and use it by myself. I snagged a passing nurse and asked to use a bedpan. Maybe 45 minutes later a really lovely nurse that was appropriately named Summer (it was the first day of summer) came to my rescue. Since I was right out in the hallway, where could she safely roll my wide cot without bumping into all of the other wide carts, laundry bins, ambulance cots, and wheelchairs to give me some privacy?  Aha! A plastic sheeted hallway that was under renovation.

We could hear workmen inside the translucent covering, but urgency overrode modesty. Summer was professional, discreet and a really good driver of hospital carts. I made it safely back to my wall space which further demonstrated her parallel parking skills. I was now famished having only had a small salad before I was whooshed away from Kendal at around 2:00. I mentioned to several people rushing by that I needed something, anything, as I had a hunger headache and was feeling faint which is a trick since I had been lying down the whole time. “I’ll get your nurse, I am not your nurse, not just now…”

A nurse did come by to prick my finger to see if I was diabetic. I said, no, I am just very hungry. “Just checking and see, your number is good,” she threw over her shoulder as I held the ball of cotton over my bleeding fingertip. And then another trauma patient was admitted with “brain activity” later spoken of as a stroke. I saw the woman in question wheeled by and she couldn’t answer any questions and could not squeeze a loved one’s hand. OK, a hunger headache will not be the death of me.

All of a sudden a transport woman appeared by my cot announcing, “Hi, I’m Fran. I am to take you to the MRI now.”

“Great”, I said, pushing away a fantasy of eating, well… anything by then. It was around 6:00. Fran told me that my wall space was called room 37. Good to know but it had taken her a while to find it. She actually got me into a wheelchair despite my screeches of pain and told me the MRI guys were great and if I wasn’t wearing any metal I probably wouldn’t have to put on a gown. Good again, as transferring had been painful and undressing and dressing seemed an impossible task.

Down to the bottom of the hospital where all the mysterious radiology arts are performed, Fran deposited me in the bare waiting room. One cheerful chatty man came out after he and his partner had been discussing the merits of the rock music that their current patient had chosen to listen to. They didn’t like it as much as the Hungarian folk music an earlier client had asked for. Ah, the bounty of the internet through earphones. He asked me what music I wanted and from previous MRI experiences I said I’ll just take earplugs. He earnestly suggested, “How about ocean sounds?” I said, “OK, yes, ocean sounds were fine.” He was glad I agreed.

 I used the wait for my turn to move my upper body after lying around all day. The guy’s partner

peeked around the corner and said, “Wheelchair Tai Chi. Cool.” I did not disabuse him of my coolness as drained and in pain as I was. They were both indeed nice guys.

Finally, I somehow crawled up onto the MRI bed, got a bolster under my knees, and lovely thick padded headphones. I was handed my call button and slid into an apparently brand new “Siemans Healthineer” MRI machine. It was as spacious as a tube could be and the glide in was ultra smooth. The ocean roared and gurgled in my ears and the powerful magnetic noises were as minimal as this machine could ever be. 25 minutes later I was rolled out, a star patient who did not move, and the pictures were fine. Next up the was the wait for a radiologist to read them. No idea when that would be as I have always been told after this kind of photo shoot.

A different transporter came for me and to return me to room 37.  By this time, I was determined to eat something. I had looked longingly at the snack machines as we whizzed by them when we headed up in the elevator. We arrived upstairs in the middle of the shift change. Smells of dinners were just cruel, and someone had baked a cake for the surgical residents for some occasion. “And what do you guys do when you are not on call?” Some flirting, some cake, and then the sea of talking people dispersed and it was quiet again. My time for demanding food had come. Wait, was that my very own nurse still on duty? It was!

I said loudly, “Sorry to bother you, but I have been here for a very long time and I am starving.” The nurse took pity on me. Usually a healthy vegetarian, I immediately devoured the sliced turkey on plain white bread but skipped the can of Sprite and pretzels she had brought me. That sandwich was enough to quell my pounding head. Uh Oh. I needed to use a bedpan again. I saw my nurse rushing away and I said, “Sorry, but now I have to use a bedpan.” She said, “You keep saying sorry, but I’m not feeling it.” She said it with a very slight smirk which was Ok as long as she provided me with the means to relieve myself. She found a privacy screen to surround my cot and that was enough for me, and at this point, who cared? Not me and surely not all of these official body mechanics swarming around room 37.

At about 9:00 a new doc arrived and the privacy screen was long gone. He said, “Good news, the radiologist saw no fractures and your fusion hardware is fine. We will put you on steroids and the previous script of Toradol should help with the pain. I will work on your discharge papers.” I now accepted the steroids gratefully however they may change my personality. I had to have some relief from the inflammatory pain. I had a shot of my painkiller (stronger than taking it orally) and swallowed the steroids.

½ hour later, the papers were deposited at the end of my cot. When my nurse flitted by she saw them and said. “Good, you can go home now.”

“But how? I came by ambulance.”

“Well, we will call you an Uber.”

“I said, look at me. I can’t sit up in a car.”

“Isn’t there someone you can call ‘cause waiting for an ambulance takes a long time.”

“I have a daughter who lives in Lakewood but she is exhausted from her non-sleeping baby. And I can’t get into and sit up in a car.”

Another sigh from the nurse. She came back a minute later saying, “I always feel bad for people

who have to use an ambulance. They said they might be here any time from 11:00pm until midnight.”

I blanched, but what choice did I have? In another quiet moment I looked over at the woman in the nursing station who had been manning the phones all day on her very long shift. I told her that I thought she was a whiz and a wonder to be so organized with fielding doctors, administrators and anxious relatives all day. She thanked me and another man came in and asked for some papers. She indicated they were on the table over there. He said something about that being sloppy. The woman shook her head and pointed at me. “Uh unh. According to her, I am very organized,” and gave me a wink.

Thankfully, the ambulance arrived to load me up on their gurney at 10:30. Goodbye ER room 37. I was so grateful to be on my way home. The SCC (Stephen’s Care Center) night staff welcomed me home and due to steroids, I was able to actually shuffle with my rollator to painfully but successfully to use the bathroom on my own with intense care. Wow! In the morning, still feeling the help of steroids (no anger in sight) I participated in the Olympic event of a shower and got dressed and fixed breakfast verrrrry carefully. (I only scored a 2, but hey, it was the Olympics.) Satisfied with accomplishing a few normal human activities, I went to bed. After 3 hours of lying around I got up to use the john, and…my legs collapsed and down I went, directly on the same haunch. Bad immediate pain. My call button didn’t work! I crawled onto the toilet, relieved myself somehow and pulled the call button cord on the wall above my head.

The sense of strength I had enjoyed was gone again. I now had to have two people lift me on and off a commode. I am not able to get out of my bed on my own. I have to ask for every little thing I need and am so grateful I am attended to by someone who calls me by name and isn’t rushing anywhere. After a day of misery adjusting to the sudden loss of all independence and unabated pain as the steroids wore off, I woke up this morning with a steroid afterglow.  This time I called on my nurses to do my morning ablutions as I will not misread the temporary relief of strength to attempt standing on my own until my legs can obey a standing order again.

Last night the head nurse came in and said a new MRI report indicated a possible small fracture in my sacrum was found. I can tell you that from my own Goddess-like senses, that yes, I knew I have a fracture or otherwise I would not have lost the capacity of bearing weight in my legs. And the acute sharp pain? That is a new pain for me, and a fracture is the only thing that makes sense. There is no other treatment except for time to heal it and as sitting and standing depends on a sacrum, I won’t be doing more than short supervised experiments of those actions as bone and muscles heal of their own accord. Isn’t that amazing? The body wants to heal and it shall.

And to end with a small miracle, my older daughter came for a visit outside the ambulance entrance here today with my 6-month-old grandson. He can’t come inside as he cannot wear a facemask. I transferred to a wheelchair with only slight pain in my left knee which had gotten torqued from my second fall. I sat for a full 15 minutes of non-stop talking with my daughter and singing baby songs to his smiling face with two brand new teeth to show me in return.

Slowly but surely my recovery is in sight. And my 2-and-1/2-year-old grandson who was napping at home thought I needed a piece of cheesecake that he told me on the phone that he had liked “very much, very much”. My daughter also brought me a scarf my older grandson had picked out from Spain where they had visited last month. The final healing food was two chocolate chip cookies that I had seen him make last night on FaceTime with his mother. Watching him contain himself from eating chips out of the dough was a hoot. I now will check to see if my cookies still contain any chips. Little rascal.

I am glad to be back in the SCC in room 602.


The beauty of fireworks exploding outward in streaks of color, the anticipation of each boom and whiz, the technical ability to create multicolored images that are suspended in the air before they are diffused into the night sky, all make for a display that is impressive. But to think of my country’s anthem, “the bombs bursting in air” makes me very uncomfortable with the creative use of explosives. I understand that wars are fought to establish boundaries and political power gains that may not be crossed. But I cannot reconcile war with my desire for an end to such a violent means of being human within a society of other humans. Surely after thousands and thousands of years of warfare and slaughter, we might have found another way to respect the needs and betterment of all people in all lands.

Apparently not, for here we are unable to reconcile raging divisions in America “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” let alone stop the vicious determination of a Russian autocrat to crush and swallow his sovereign neighbor, Ukraine. Because we have become so technically advanced in the art of weaponry in the form of nuclear weapons, we do not dare push the insane man dedicated to that conflict- in case he decides to obliterate the world faster than climate change will.

As a species, I am hoping we have given ourselves enough time to continue to evolve beyond our more primitive instincts. I have hope that we will. I am not necessarily thinking it will happen in my lifetime. We have a long way to go. May my baby grandsons become part of that growth. May new leaders emerge from this split from reality, from cause and effect, from shirking responsibility for global cooperation to guide us away from short sighted destruction to a long-term sustainable creation of a new society of equals.

Yes, that sure sounds like a fairytale. There will always be inequalities of one kind or another. There is need for balance between opposing views and we seem to be reaching a tipping point that negates exploring that possibility. Us and Them, Right and Wrong, Progressive and Conservative, are mortal enemies, and are no longer seen as potential partners for solutions to the very real needs of our world. When will the pendulum swing away from this madness?

This 4th, I am unsure if our town will be holding fireworks. There were some shaky legal issues. Fireworks are expensive and the insurance must be astronomical. Not all people in our town have enough food to eat or can be given the healthcare they deserve. There are people in my town who are hungry and hurting and barely getting by. Giving them fireworks to celebrate our country’s freedom from England’s rule might not be the best use of resources. They might be better served by strengthening the systems that are supposed to support them. It is hard to cheer for the path America has taken. Freedom is best served with a strong dose of responsibility to the whole of our community. If our individual freedoms come at the cost of taking away someone else’s it cannot be truly free.

Here at Kendal, we have our own rituals of a very homemade parade, of recumbent trikes and pets and a whole brigade of lawn chair enthusiasts who open and fold them and clack them on the ground with amusing precision as they march around the circle before our main building. That is always followed by the thoughtful remarks of a long-term resident, entitled, ‘Towards a More Perfect Union’. I am always touched by his wisdom and his deep faith in reaching for that goal.