My grandma used to talk about the Spanish Flu. I have a piece of mourning jewelry in remembrance of her fiancée. Grandma eventually married his brother. She had a worn photo…the family’s last remembrance of a child in a coffin. Occasionally my mom and I would sort through boxes of photos, sorting out the ones we needed to study and label, if we figured out who they were…and I’d find the photo. I had no reference, no understanding, for what I held in my hands. Mom explained about vaccines, and what they mean. That this, losing a child to a common illness, is a rare occurrence now. It wasn’t always so rare.

Once I came upon the photo of a child, maybe three years old. He had died of pneumonia, Mom said. She hadn’t been much older, in 1925. He was their neighbor, and one of Mom’s playmates. She recalled going to visit, he in a coffin on the living room couch, family seated nearby. He was strangely still and silent. Mom didn’t understand at the time. I don’t think anyone understands.

About the same time, a thousand miles away, my dad’s family said goodbye to Lillie, who was also three. She had died from pneumonia, too. There was no treatment then. Diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus ravaged families. Polio killed and crippled, and kept children home, inside, during epidemics and warm months.

If you ever wondered why the Velveteen Rabbit was in a pile of clothing and bedding to be burned after an illness, this is why. There was no treatment, no avoidance of disease.

I grew up knowing kids who had polio, and walked with braces and crutches. A neighbor had an iron lung stored in their garage. We’d see it when the garage door was open now and then. I never knew who had used it. We had a neighbor who used a wheelchair after recovering from polio. Neighborhood kids would pile into her car, because she could ride through the car wash, a thrill at the time. I remember getting the polio vaccine at the bank one day. Drops of miracle on a sugar cube.

I wonder what my parents and grandparents would say today?


people often describe angels…the ones too good for earthly life, that God wanted back

with wings, and harps, and halos they flutter above the pearly gates, welcoming new arrivals

or those who perch precariously on car bumpers and motorcycle handlebars, guarding teens from certain maiming…

or who spend long nights hovering over babes in cradles, lest a cat smother them…

but I have seen real angels…they are in hospital cafeterias offering to buy coffee or a meal

they cheerfully mop around the feet of exhausted parents, and offer pleasantries as if this is…normal

they smile, and speak to complete strangers, open doors, and hold elevators for weary families

they hover at the bedside of patients for long, thankless hours…i’m sure they hear the unspoken gratitude on silent lips

they entertain children of those waiting for devastating news…hearing of heartbreak or shock, offering a hug, or a tissue, or a listening ear

many angels wear loose clothing, some with colorful patterns… their hair is pulled back above a collection of totems and assorted amulets they wear around their necks

though they differ in appearance and function, they share one thing…they love, unconditionally, unendingly, and without expectation of return



slowly, as if islands emerging from the fog, the words come

some are welcome…received with anticipation…others are painful, difficult, unpleasant

words of beauty, joy, and promise…words of pain, loss, and tears, all fall onto the page

the spaces between are moments of struggle, fight, and rage…moments of peace, comfort, and acceptance

somehow, i assemble them into a pleasing form…one day a single word appears, the next they tumble from my fingers

read from the page they speak survival, growth, and love

spoken, they pierce hearts, and uplift souls

slowly, the words come



i know your body better than i
know my own…at least these last few years

it seems so wrong…mothers study their newborns, marveling at the wonder of a new life, and the magic in each tiny finger and toe…

yet i find myself taking stock of each now familiar feature, your landscape, with every touch..some thirty years past your birth

your brown eyes close with pleasure as i stroke your boyish mop of dark, curling hair…every scar, every ridge of mended bone, bearing witness to your struggle

i massage and stretch once strong, firm limbs…now relieving cramps and contractures

how much i’d rather hear complaints of sore muscles…of bosses, and schedules, and bills

this is your life, i am a participant…no longer an observer watching as you rise




every day, i’d kick off my shoes next to my chair in the dining room, and every day, she’d ‘steal’ one, and wait for me to notice

she would tease me, laughing as only a loved dog does…and with glee in her eyes, she romped through the house, with my shoe just out of reach

this morning, for the first time in…years…my shoes remain where i left them

her stuffed pig and donkey lie silent, dormant, in her empty bed…waiting for a game that will never begin again…and my heart breaks

she was, a good girl



i feel as though i could sleep forever

as though my life has stopped, suspended, frozen in time

i catch a glimpse in the mirror over the small sink, and wonder who that is, looking back at me…she looks so old

we’ve been in this room, 4680 in the intensive care wing, for a month now…or is it two?

i was anxious to get here at first, then impatient with our progress…now achingly accepting of our plight

your plight…i am free to wander, but these off white walls and rhythmic machines hold you within

i sigh…not in resignation or exhaustion, i sigh as one with you, my lingering son

we sigh as one, as this day ends and another dawns…as your eyes close and our dreaming begins