Category Archives: Essays

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Thunder crashes, warning that her homecoming will not be ideal. These people know all her dirty little secrets and as is symptomatic of siblings, even those supposed to be mature, they are sure to reveal some of her past sins. She once wrote an award-winning satire based on her family,  but of course the irony was wasted on them. She came from a literal and humorless family. She had actually considered skipping this reunion, but then reconsidered. Once she has sold her newest story to the New Yorker, the trip will be tax-deductible, and where is she likely to find better material?

Prompts today are dirty, symptomatic, waste, satire, thunder and homecoming. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

Looking Out, Looking In

Looking Out, Looking In

I feel that Stuart’s decision to spend the afternoon with us is symbolic of his final acceptance of me after all these years. He’s been married to my friend Sarah for twenty-five years, helped raise her sons after their father’s death, but has always been suspicious of me. We have, however, spent the afternoon trading quips and now he is trying to show us the stars.

Sarah’s messing with the connection between the Smart TV and Stuart’s computer may serve to disunite their long union. He is frantically trying to undo whatever she has done so he can show us his video of the Grand Design Spiral Galaxy as well as a number of globular clusters .

Once he succeeds in showing it to us, our reactions to this amazing display are varied. He explains that the globular cluster comprised of hundreds of thousands of stars that is attached to our universe is perhaps the core of an old galaxy.

The present day galaxies he shows us are designated by a capital M followed by a number. Our reactions to this amazing display are varied. One of the galaxies looks like fireworks to my friend’s oldest son. I think M3 looks like the venation on a leaf and the other son sees M5 as a flower with the stem cut off. In the middle of M51 there is probably a black hole, Stuart tells us.

“Where does something go when it vanishes into a black hole?” I ask. “Matter can’t be created or destroyed, right?” That’s not especially true, says Stuart, who as a scientist is not accustomed to our level of ignorance about the workings of the Universe.

Nonetheless, he is patient in his attempts to show us the wider world, and this visit, I have begged him for a second nighttime viewing. The first time he showed me the world of our universe in his high powered telescope, I was amazed, feeling as thought I had perhaps had a new religious experience. As it is without, so it is within, I thought. Is there a black hole at our center? Is it going to swallow us? We are like two opposite ends of the spectrum, Stuart looking out and me looking within, each of us with a spot to fill that is suddenly a speck in a complex world.

Words of the day: venation, symbolic, frantic, disunite and reaction.

I Want to Go On

I Want to Go On

Lately, I have spent much time thinking about how far into my life I am.  I can’t believe that it is most probably 3/4 completed–if I am lucky!  I’m not ready for it all to be over that soon, but I am caught between enjoying fully what I am doing right now and finding yet another experience to round out my life.  What is important––the moment or the whole?  As much as I love writing all morning, reading blogs, taking photos, nudging my house into line and the serendipity of venturing out a few kilometers to see what life will present—what friends I’ll run into, what new friends I’ll make––I sometimes wonder if there are entirely new adventures farther afield that I should be investigating.  Is there another perfect place to live—people and friends who will bring me closer to a part of myself I’ve never investigated before?  Eight long years after Bob died—when I was ready for one more love in my life—I said that I would not look for someone like him but just be open to the amazing possibilities.  Perhaps some new love would open up an unexplored side of me as he had mined my artistic side. 

I tried to maintain an open mind as I was invited into the personal lives of men who urged me to explore sides of myself that I came to realize that, although titillating, I had no desire to explore.  I had no interest in becoming a second wife in a love triangle or in donning a leather mask or in being humiliated sexually.  I had no interest in being the “all” for any man.  I flirted with the idea of accepting an invitation to take off in a boat or a road trip down to the tip of South America, but in the end, was not desperate enough to take the chance of being stranded mid-ocean in a typhoon with a inadequate captain or riding as a captive sidekick to someone who proved to be more boring than his much-labored-over profile on OKCupid.

In the end, I made a very loving cyber-friend, and repeating a pattern, it seems that this friendship is a substitute that I have convinced myself is enough.  It fills in lonely hours and keeps me from yearning for that actual private touch.  My bed partner is my computer—two of them if the truth be told. One downloads episodes of favorite shows to binge-watch, the other provides a place to to read and comment on blogs I follow, to post new blogs and to read comments from those who have read my blogs.

They reassure me, these readers of my private life published daily on the page.  They applaud my gains in photographic prowess, ask about the adventures of Morrie, the little Scottish terrier left in the wake of a house sitter who first adopted and then abandoned him.  They give advice and seek advice—friends spread out around the world who are always there.  Almost all are supportive, non-combative, interesting, smart, liberal, funny and interesting writers themselves.  Some are outstanding.  They fill in the hours when friends go back to their husbands, dogs go into their beds to snooze—when the activity of the outer world ceases.  Those hours meant to be slept through but into which I cannot surrender myself, hating to give up anymore time to sleep than is absolutely necessary.

Perhaps some part of me is always aware of the very long sleep that awaits me. It is my fear of it that pulls me out of near-sleep into a panic where I cannot breathe—like a foreknowledge of my last gasping breath.  I bolt from my bed to struggle with the key to the barred grid outside my sliding glass door and screen—go outside for the air that escapes me, caught as it is within the room. That panic—that terror of no longer being––what should it drive me towards?  Acceptance? The quest for a new faith? New loves?  New adventures? What am I missing out on that drives me to want more life than I’ve already had? Is there some purpose, some journey, some task that would make me stop fearing the end of everything?  Is there any philosophy that I could convince myself to believe in that would calm my fears of ceasing to be?

Why is it that I have convinced myself that I, of all in the universe, should continue to “be” forever?  For this is what I desire.  I want a long life—longer than that of my mother who died at 91 or my grandmother who died at 96.  I want to go on having adventures, exciting friends of all ages, stimulating thoughts that I will continue to be able to convey to others.  I do not want my life to be three-quarters over. I want to go on.

New Intruder

This is a piece i wrote 19 years ago that I found when I was sorting through old files. A few months after Lulu’s arrival, Annie decided to join us as well, and although both of the kittens   have now joined Bear in that great scratching post in the sky, I enjoyed reading this story after so many years, so perhaps you will, too.

Click on photos to enlarge and read captions.

New Intruder

My closet rattles. One door is slightly ajar. Something is being batted about on the floor inside. A paw is visible now and then when it comes close to the bottom edge of the door. Once a nose with white whiskers peeks out, then shoots back in like a jack-in-the-box.

My tiny new kitten was a street waif. She arrived complete with sticky streaks on her underside and chin. She arrived with fleas and one sore eye–– the green one. The other eye is blue. There is a perfect fish outlined in white on a charcoal colored patch on her back. Her very long ears are a pale peach color and her head is big on an extremely thin body. Already after 4 days, she is starting to acquire a small pot belly from regular meals. The vet says she is four weeks old, but her body is so tiny and weightless that she seems more like a large mouse than a cat. I fear stepping on her and in fact have, but when I did, she made not a peep and her bones seemed to spring back like a sponge.

Her long eye whiskers were singed back almost to hair level in an unfortunate encounter with the gas burners on my stove. She is so fast that she leaped up on the counter before I could stop her. In similar fashion, she had walked across the bubble wrap jacuzzi cover that floated on the top of the water, so light that she made it from one side to the other without sinking. Another time, she leaped from the back of a chair to the top of the high metal display case, where her claws made little ingress into the metal and where for a few seconds she clung from the edge like a mountain climber before falling to the tile floor five feet below. Five minutes later, her head peeked up from the opening at the top of the lampshade of the lamp on the telephone table. This house is her new world, and she is the Magellan of cats.

Two weeks before, I had found Bear, my cat of 15 years, floating lifeless in my pool. It was horrible. I had seen the cat born and his burial seemed a reversal of the birth process. We buried him in the garden wrapped in his favorite silk sari from the end of my bed, and with the mouse-shaped doorstop he loved to bat around the house. I buried with him my intention not to have any more pets for a while. None could replace him.

Then, two weeks later, a mouse had streaked across the street in front of me and entered the store I was about to enter. Upon closer examination, the streak had been a tiny kitten that had leaped into a huge display basket of scarves, and it hadn’t taken too much encouragement by the shop owner to get me to promise to stop back by before we left that night to see if the kitten had been claimed by an owner or adopted by someone more determined to have a cat than I was.

Every animal I’d ever had in my life had come to me by accident or by its own volition, so when this placeless cat appeared, I had by habit accepted the karma and now she sleeps each night on my chest or on the pillow by my right ear. I am slightly allergic to her, and although she doesn’t flinch when I cough and sneeze, when I get up for a drink of water, she miaows. This word perfectly describes the sound she makes. She is loud. The sound of her echoes through my high-ceilinged brick and stucco house. “ Miaow, miaow, miaow, miaow,” but somehow it seems to belong here––to fill out the silence that might otherwise only be filled by the sounds of the television or the computer or the stereo––sounds that do not breathe or jump up to the arm of my chair or respond to a reassuring pat or the sound of the can opener. With the appearance of this newest little intruder, once again, my house has become a home.

My Day So Far, Sept 12, 2020

I awoke this morning on my own, some time before 8, having had 8 full hours of sleep–a rarity for me. I awoke without assistance from the cat or the dogs or both–another rarity. Stepped on the scales and then went into the bathroom to try on “the” pants–the ones hung up a month or so ago as a reminder that I needed to get serious about losing some of the weight I’ve gained during this isolation period–not to mention the weight I’d gained before. I’d hung them up as a goal. When I could actually zip them up, I would have passed the first milestone.  And guess what? They zipped up, albeit with some heavy inhaling to execute the zipper and button. 

A few days ago, my sister mentioned going on a fast diet. Very simple. You could eat anything you wanted to, but only within a 5 hour period each 24 hours. She had chosen 3 to 8 PM. She encouraged me to try it (even not having seen those khakis hanging like a flag of shame on my bathroom towel rack.) I remembered that my friend Blue had lost 34 pounds in the past six months on such a diet and later my friend Brad reminded me he’d lost 20 lbs. on it. Or was it 40?

And so, four days ago, I started on it myself, choosing the dining hours of 4-9 PM initially, then after doing more research that said that any shorter eating period than 6 hours didn’t really improve rate of loss, I gave myself a one-hour cushion. If I am hungry at 3, I can start then, or if I’ve started at 4, occasionally extend beyond the 9 PM mark. My problem is that I decided I would eat one meal at 4 (or 3) and then have my usual morning smoothie that night before my curfew. But, I get busy and two nights in a row noticed that it was 8:45–or 8:57–and I still hadn’t had it. Fast action the first night meant I got the smoothie made and drunk before the 9 PM cutoff. The other time I was 3 minutes over. 

At any rate, adhering strictly to these rules and having no others makes it a perfect diet for me after a lifetime of counting calories, carbohydrates or points. Somehow, it helps not to have to worry about food. I can eat half of that small pizza in the freezer–but now I choose yellow peppers and green olives to top it  rather than pepperoni. I can have yogurt and fruit, but skip the ice cream. Bread is not a no-no. I just limit the hours of its consumption. At yesterday’s weigh-in, I’d lost 3 pounds. Today it is down to 2. Not gonna worry about it. My friend visited yesterday with a Caesar salad and forced me to drink two gin and tonics. Life is to be lived. At least I drank them within my 6 hour period. 

7.2 pounds down (I’d lost a bit before beginning the fast) and I’m not telling how far to go. Gotta go now and find a new pair of pants as a goal.

What are the Rest of the Rules?


What are the Rest of the Rules?

I just made a comment to Bag Lady that I’ve decided I want to ask a wider audience. If you have the answers, please let me know. This is an expanded version of my comment to her. If you want to see her post, click on the link above. Here is my comment:

Aside from the dangers that at any given moment, someone may shoot you because you do or don’t have a mask on, because you’ve asked how tall they are, or spray acid in your face while parked at a stoplight just because you are black, another reason I have less incentive to leave my house is because of how uncomfortable the masks are.  My glasses fog up and by the time I’m out for a half hour or so I feel wringing wet all over, with droplets hanging off the tips of my hair, as though I’m holding in all the heat usually released in my breath. I’m not using this as an excuse not to wear one. I always do, even though the tops of my ears aren’t high enough to keep the ones held in place with ear bands in place. The mask is constantly ejecting itself, and the ones that go all the way over your hair make me look even worse that I do with hair I’ve cut for myself for 4 months, no makeup and no earrings because the mask keeps catching on them. 

In spite of this, I would never go out without a mask or even have contact with someone in my house without wearing one, but I do have my questions regarding mask protocol. In a restaurant, six feet away from your companion, waiters all masked, the next table twelve feet away, what are the rules for eating and drinking. Do you replace your mask after every sip? Fanangle a straw between you and the mask? Do you lift the mask for each forkful? No one tells us these things.

And the hand washing. Does that twenty seconds include rinsing or is that just the soaping part? What are the precise rules?


The Taste of Love in a Time of Cyber Romance

photo snapped on Mar. 12, 2020 by okcforgottenman, in direct response to Judy’s post.

The Taste of Love in a Time of Cyber Romance

We met on OK Cupid. I was in Mexico, he in Missouri, 1600 miles away. What we feasted on in those first stages when nine hours was too short a conversation was words.  Thanks to Skype, these words could be either written or spoken and could be accompanied by sight of each other.  The rigors of wearing makeup 24 hours a day were nothing compared to the agony of not talking for from 4 to 9 hours a day. He later admitted he couldn’t tell the difference between me in makeup and me without, but I had to admit this made little difference, for it is a peculiarity of Skype that the other person can’t see you unless you are seeing yourself, and to see myself in the pure unadulterated natural cramped my style. How could I be a vixen when I didn’t look like one? He granted the point. Why shouldn’t he, if he couldn’t tell the difference, anyway?

This point taken care of, we passed on to the next stage of computer dating: our first dinner date. He watched on his desktop computer as I prepared a salad. This was a long and lengthy process followed as closely as was possible using the camera from my laptop. He had not yet purchased a laptop, so when he repaired to the kitchen to prepare his meal, I heard sound effects but little else. When he returned to his desk in the living room, he laid his meal in front of his computer. I had yet to see it as I, in turn, placed my salad in front of me and proceeded to take my first bite, watching closely my technique according to my Skype image. I chewed politely and then smiled, revealing the lack of lettuce shards on my front teeth. I looked up. He was watching me as lovingly as usual. Now, it was his turn. 

“What are you eating?” I asked. “Ham,” he said. This said, he lifted a huge hunk of ham on his fork, taking a dainty bite and chewing happily. 

“What else?” I asked.

“Just ham,” he answered. And so he demolished the entire pound of thick ham steak, now and then washing it down with a healthy swig of rum and coke.

Rum and coke. It had been one of our bonding experiences to find that the drink of choice of each was not only Rum and Coke, but Bacardi Rum with Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. How could this not be a romance made in heaven? 

But as for our culinary compatibility? From 1,600 miles away it seemed to be less of a problem than it was three months later, when we first made physical contact.

Well, there was a resolution. He started munching on carrots. We both found a like mania for potato chips, but true romance bloomed when I found the full bar of Hershey’s Chocolate atop his refrigerator. Who says we need to concentrate on our differences? Hershey’s Chocolate? Yes. Our first true taste of love.


For fandangos-provocative-question-60: How did you meet your mate or current love interest?



There are moments caught between heart-beats that fall into crevasses where they nourish our dreams. Streaming rivulets that escape our conscious daylight world swell these moments until they become full-grown nightly adventures––what we have hoped blended with what else might be possible, tempered by fears and regrets. What part of us orchestrates these dreams has never been discovered––some grand arranger of self that does not allow itself to be controlled by any conscious part of us, perhaps. It is a cinema we construct for ourselves—a relief from or a censor of or a collector of those parts of ourselves we would otherwise not deal with. Those parts of ourselves we struggle to forget and throw away? There is no detritus in our lives. Some great hoarder within us reaches out a hand to capture and arrange them, then calls them dreams.


The dVerse Poets Pub prompt today was to write a 144-word flash fiction piece making use of the first sentence in my essay above.

A Hamburger for Breakfast (by Forgottenman) Reblog

I couldn’t find a reblog button on Forgottenman’s post, but he gave me permission to quote a bit and give a link. This is a fun essay. Check it out!

A Hamburger for Breakfast

–by Forgottenman               

Dad and I were apparently very close when I was a baby, based on the photos my mom took. But the disengagement came later, when I was about three, when Mom took control. Control.

I grew up right here where I type this, in this very house. Playing outside here as a kid there were always summer crickets to be found, to be chased and caught, and to be kindly released. Occasionally, one would make his way inside the house, but his song made it easy for us to track him down, to catch him, and to release him outside. It’s different today.

In the summer of 1960 I was eight years old. I was a smart kid but (therefore?) floundering in what to make of life, of family. One day Dad mentioned he and his buddy Carmack were going fishing Saturday at Duck Creek (not really a creek, but rather a man-made cypress swamp created by the Missouri Conservation Department). Somehow, he gauged me and decided to ask if I’d like to join them on the excursion. I nervously accepted. I had never been fishing before.

I had already disappointed him, and he had disappointed me. When I was four I was thrilled when he promised he’d take me the next day to pick up our new 1955 Chevy Bel Air at the car dealer, but he “let” me sleep in instead. (I still can’t forgive him, though he is ten years gone. I was devastated.) A few years later he would take me to little league baseball sign-up night, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to go inside. A few years after that he stormed out at me when I relayed a message from Mom that made him mad – and she made him apologize to me when he returned. I knew early I wasn’t the son he had hoped for. I know now that I never would be, exactly, although we would eventually, um – accommodate. But Dad invited me to go fishing with him that day in 1960, and that moment was perfect.

….read the rest of the story HERE.

Facing the Inevitable. Alone.

IMG_8364 (1)

Facing the Inevitable. Alone.

Tilting at windmills or slaying dragons is too retro for my taste. I’d rather just have a man who tickles my funny bone, or at the very least one who tickles my fancy. At my age, I am between vulnerable stages. I don’t need anyone to save me financially or ego-wise. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to house and feed myself for the twenty or so years I have left and unless I have a serious decline in mental and physical power, I will always have blogging to salve my ego–a few loyal followers who still want to hear what I have to say.

Whatever I have made of my life, it is a pickle of my own choosing. I have not been jinxed or done ill to—at least recently. What I have I deserve. What I don’t have, I deserve. I don’t look forward to that day when fate will serve me a bitter dish, but that part of me that has to binge-watch *”After Life” or listen to an Audible book to get to sleep at night knows it one day will. In spite of my niggling lifelong conviction that I’ve been left on this planet by some foreign species and that I’ll be picked up soon and whisked off to a life unending, that part of me that needs constant distraction knows that I am human and therefore vulnerable.

Those with partners may think my title here sad, but there is another way of looking at it. Those of us unmatched and “unespoused” have only one inevitable death to face. We need fear no phone call when parted or unwelcome discovery when together. The only death we need fear is our own.  We have half of the dread that the happily paired must face as they approach a certain age.

With increasing regularity, when with friends my own age, after we have hurriedly (I hope) gone over the ills of today—knee replacements and hip replacements and intestinal disorders and the ilk—we eventually get around to discussing various methods of insuring the end we desire over Alzheimer’s or stroke. I have a high bridge picked out. Various friends have pill stashes. Everyone knows which friends, in spite of their obituaries, have already made this choice.

What we fear most is waiting too long and forfeiting the choice and spending the rest of our days in some repository for the walking dead—those antiseptic storehouses where they partition off residents unlucky enough to have not experienced a swift death—those cursed either with an active mind trapped in a body turned to stone or the reverse. What living hell is this, that so many of the aged are now preserved in part who in an earlier age would have been afforded a dignified death?

There is something about writing to multiple prompts that takes us into a part of our brain where otherwise we might have not gone. So it is with this seemingly pessimistic rambling into the dark side of my brain. Although nothing I say is fiction, still, perhaps the balance is wrong. Here is no discussion of the birds outside my early-morning sunlit curtains or the components of my morning smoothie that await my hand in compiling them. It does not mention friends that still stimulate and amuse, relatives that still fill my heart.

It overlooks those twenty potential years that I hope will lead up to whatever end I face. These are just words that I shed during a side trip through consciousness. Do not call me or consult with mutual friends, worrying about my state of mind. I am in no way suicidal. I am not morose. I am simply wandering through a few alleys where I think we must all wander from time to time, and as we grow older, where we wander more frequently. For in spite of my title, I don’t really think I wander here alone.

* “After Life” is a new show on Netflix, written and played by Ricky Gervais. A bit dark, but worth binge-watching if you’re in the right frame of mind. Along with the four prompt words, it is perhaps what put me in the mood to write this piece. I have a feeling it is more Ricky Gervais’s attitude than my own.  Well, maybe a wedding of the two.


Prompt words today are pickle, retro, dragon and jinx. Here are the links: