The Dreaded Boxes

When my mother died, she left drawers filled with photograph albums, letters, audio and video tapes, and other items of personal minutiae that my brother and sister and I arbitrarily divided and had shipped from our mother’s Midwestern town to our homes on the west coast. The dubiously optimistic idea was that we would scan […]

A Journey to the Unknown

I traveled last week to the east coast for my grandson’s wedding. The weather for the occasion was bittersweet, a blue sky full of optimism for the future, the bride and groom radiant with hope undarkened by clouds drifting overhead, but some of the smiling guests in rows of chairs under an arbor bearing the […]

Music to Somebody’s Ears

In a previous life, beginning in adolescence and proceeding until the creaky announcement of impending middle age, I listened to music whenever I could. Draped over a kitchen chair, entranced by the tinny monaural emissions from the Bakelite radio atop the refrigerator—Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, the others arriving with a minimum […]

When the Bear Came Over the Mountain

My grandmother spent the last twelve years of her life in a nursing home. The place was a twenty-minute drive from my parents’ house, so my mother visited regularly, even after my grandmother’s dementia reached the point that memories of her daughter had vanished into the tangled circuits of her brain. This greatly disturbed my […]

The Bully’s Last Breath

I spent much of my childhood flailing against what I perceived as bondage, trying to separate myself from my parents, grasping for ways to declare that I was different from them in such profound measure that we could have belonged to different species with our own languages and customs and beliefs. But now in my […]

the Mystery of Health

Of the many foolish beliefs I held when I was much younger, one in particular stands out now as I step across the threshold of my ninth decade. It was the belief that when (and if) I reached an advanced age, I could set aside concerns with health and fitness and live the remaining years […]

Obituaries and Life With a Dog

The other day I was out with the dog on her morning walk when the low gray sky began to spill its burden of rain. She had chosen that moment to do her business, and by the time I bagged the results we were in the midst of a deluge. We turned around and ran […]

JFK and the Meatpacking Plant

When I was a twenty-year old college dropout, I had no idea what I wanted to do beyond earning enough money to buy a sports car that would help attract young women interested in having fun. My older brother was in his last year of college, diligently pursuing a degree that promised a good-paying job […]

Broken Appliances

Analogies between human beings and mechanical objects are imperfect at best, but I can’t help thinking that a rash of appliance breakdowns in our household, along with the accompanying frustrations, may be a kind of harbinger of troubles ahead as I plunge into my ninth decade. The first malfunctions were minor, relatively speaking. A burner […]

Mad Magazine and Life on the farm

The other day, having run out of other topics of cogitation, I began to wonder how much of what has happened in my eight decades of life can be attributed to my own doing, or to sheer luck, either good, bad or somewhere in between. The fact I survived this long can be easily attributed […]