Monday, July 30, 2012

Daddy: A Life Remembered

It was my father’s birthday yesterday, July 29th. He would have been 99 years old. He is Daddy. And he will remain Daddy to me for the rest of my life. He died when he was 81 years old. His life remains an inspiration to me, as it was to many others, especially his St. Pete High choral and orchestra students.

Daddy physically suffered so much in his life, beginning with the onset of migraines at eight years old. But he kept his ironic sense of humor and also, more importantly, practiced his art and his philosophy of life. Life was an adventure to him, and he had many adventures. He inspired me with his honesty, his integrity to his art, music, and his sense of excellence and of fun at whatever he did. He was always sweet and kind; I remember a couple of times when he tried to be “enraged” as a parent, but he could never pull it off. Once, he caught me climbing onto the top of the refrigerator to steal cookies, and warned me he would spank me if I didn’t get down. My response was simply, “No you won’t.” And we had a good laugh about it.

He came from a very unemotional family, yet I believe that Papa groused and raged a lot, and was very opinionated. Mama just purely loved David, her third of five sons, and he clearly was her favorite. He loved her in return immensely, completely. She took good care of him, and she brought him to the doctor at age eight when he began having frequent migraines. It was at that visit that the doctor had the intuitive sense to measure David’s legs and discovered one shorter than the other – Legg-Perthés disease where the top of the femur wears away. The treatment was horrible – a cast for two years from his chest to his knees. I don’t know how he managed, but he did and somehow managed to stay active. He walked with a very slight limp as an adult, and I never noticed it until a friend at St. Pete High pointed it out to me. Yet, he excelled as an athlete and was always very active, especially on very long bike rides into his fifties (like a trip across the Gandy Bridge from St. Petersburg to Tampa). In college he achieved the Third Best of the Southeastern Conference in field and track in the javelin throw.

He studied the flute as a teenager and found his true love, music; he wanted to go to college. He was discouraged by his father to do so (even though Papa held a Ph.D. in history from Wake Forest College). It was 1931-32, the Great Depression, and somehow Daddy saved up $300 and hitchhiked to Chapel Hill where he was accepted at the University of North Carolina. On his hitchhiking trip, one of his drivers stole his very valuable Haynes flute, but he was able to track it down and reclaim it. He was persistent and determined always, no matter the task or adventure before him, and he impressed those qualities on all his four children.

He brought his two younger brothers, Truett and Ed (who both went on to earn MDs), to Chapel Hill as soon as he was able to. Truett was only 15 years old at the time. The three brothers all played musical instruments, Truett the oboe and Ed the baritone tuba, and they formed a trio and played in the school cafeteria in the evenings (and cleaned the hall, too) to earn enough money to live on. Daddy became the drum major of the marching band (the guy with the gigantic hat and huge directing staff) and held that leadership position for at least two years.

There’s a lot more to tell, and I know all of you have stories of your father – good, bad, indifferent. My father was my hero. My father was possessed by his love of music and as far as I’m concerned, that’s what he pursued wholeheartedly his whole life. He taught me, by demonstrating it, to live my passion. Oh, he couldn’t fix the slightest thing in our home. He did, however, completely disassemble and rebuild a car’s engine one summer. He only had a few parts left over … but the car ran perfectly for years after that. After graduating from UNC with his master’s degree, he got a book and taught himself how to tune pianos, and he was the best, most musical (and in demand) piano tuner I’ve ever known.

Next year, 2013, he would have been 100 years old. But honestly he suffered so much physically and I wouldn’t have wanted him to live longer than he did. In October of 1993, he got very sick and came very close to dying. But he didn’t, and in his recovery he unearthed his two Haynes flutes and began playing again. He also had an electronic keyboard and began playing that, too. Daily. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone so inspired to live passionately and to create beauty as he.

On January 11, 1994, though, he passed quietly in the middle of the night. He had told my mother and the rest of us sometime between October and January that there was no one he was going to miss more than her, Doris. Their love for each other was improbable and unlikely, but I could never imagine a more lively match.

I hope, in your comments, dear readers, that you will share a story or two about your own father, the presence, the absence, the good, the bad, and the essence of your fathers.  I look forward to reading them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


a six-word, six-line piece

When I was making as much money as possible
as a Chinese doctor, I ate yellow cake
every day. When I was a writer, I ate chocolate
ice cream and danced in the moonlight. I wore purple
dresses and black socks and dreamed of luxury
as a Mercedes-Benz car to drive. When I lived in the convent, I was pure.

It is possible that the chocolate cake appeared on my front porch by accident. A mistaken identity. A drive-by caking. But the note, written in a careful Celtic calligraphy on a light shade of purple linen paper, spoke of the luxury of friendship and bore my name and that of my lover. He was ending the friendship with a beginning of pure love and a dark chocolate heart from Paris buried in the top of a cake from his hands and heart.


Just a break from the usual entries. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Writing and Life in August

"...there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet." G. Garcia-Marquez, from Love in the Time of Cholera.

I loved reading this book and I particularly liked this quote from it. The protagonist is a poet who is pursuing his true love. For fifty years! Nothing is small about García-Marquez’s books. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Broad canvas.

Our lives here are not small either. We may think they are. We may get confused and lost in the itty-bitty details. But lives, I believe, are meant to be painted with very big brushes and lots of vibrant colors. No matter what comes down the pike.

I have had some very tough stuff land in the middle of my seemingly all-worked-out-now path. Ha! The laugh is always on me. There are lessons to learn and the main one I’ve learned is this:  they don’t get easier. I’ve learned much from my other lessons. So now I get – ta-dah! – new lessons that really have nothing at all to do with the lessons that came before.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall, a good friend said, “God isn’t done with you yet.” I still had lessons to learn. I moved back to Denver from Florida. It’s been a good move and it’s been hard, too. I’m not even ready to tell those stories yet. I’m not secretive, but the stories are still being formed and I don’t know where to start. It gets too noisy and too busy in my life to write the stories. They’ll come. But I don’t know when.

In August I signed up for two writing activities. One is a repeat of a Free Write Fling. Participants are given a prompt and a photo each morning and asked to write just 15 minutes – from the prompt or something else on your mind. You don’t have to share the work, or even read it when you’re done. You’re just working your writing muscles. There’s a blog where you can write about your experience in the writing that day, reply to what others have said, or ask questions of the facilitator, Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse. Just 31 days. If you write every day, you are entered into a drawing where, if your name is selected then you get two free 30-minute coaching sessions with Cynthia. That’s what I want this year.

The other activity is called the August Postcard PoetryFest. I’ve participated in it three times now and it is a lot of fun. Only 31 people can sign up (I was one of the first this year) and a few days before the end of July, you begin by writing a poem on a postcard and sending it to the person on the list just below your name. Some participants are in England, Ireland, Germany, Canada, but most are scattered around the U.S. It must be a new poem each day, not one you’ve written in the past. It’s quite a challenge but it’s really fun. Because … you’re receiving postcard poems everyday from all over the country and the world! I haven’t started collecting blank postcards yet, so I’ll make a trip downtown where there are tourist shops and look around. I’m considering making some of my own from the standard post office postcards. A collage, oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils, stickers.

Both of these activities will keep my mind off more mundane issues like health, finances, the heat, what’s for lunch, trips to the grocery store and doctors’ offices. Yeah. :D

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Current Relationship with Liver Disease

I have a liver disease. When I tell people that, I get The Look. So right away I say, I didn’t get it from drinking too much alcohol. The Look remains. I have something called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. PSC. It’s rare, it’s subtle, sometimes not subtle at all, it’s cruel, it’s like being part of a cruel science experiment. There is no treatment. (I'm on the transplant list, and am looking for a live donor now - again.) But they do know it is these things:
1.     an autoimmune disorder
2.     of the bile ducts (which carry away toxins and by-products from your liver
3.     the bile ducts harden on the outside and get inflamed on the inside
4.     sometimes they get completely blocked and they have to go in and open them
5.     hopefully
6.     sometimes they put in stents to keep the ducts open for while, 3 months at the longest
7.     then the stents have to be removed or they cause infections
8.     you get infections anyway, called cholangitis
9.     which quickly turn to blood sepsis. Real fast.
10. You either stay in the hospital and get IV antibiotics or
11. You can stay home and take a couple powerful antibiotics which
12. Wipe your gut flora out
13. Then you have to take A LOT of probiotics, and now I’ve found out
14. Prebiotics (chicory root, raw asparagus – uck, and a few other things like that)
15. And they promote the growth of probiotics in your gut
16. And then you feel better

I read a lot about PSC. In spurts. Lately, since my last bout of cholangitis I have a new symptom. I can’t sleep. The doctor prescribed Ambien (worked for 3 weeks), Lunesta (worked 2 nights) and now Restoril (temazpam). The most sleep I was getting at night was 6 hours. This sounds okay to most people – "Oh, that’s all I ever get!" But I’m sick, I’m fatigued, I am one hurtin’ gator. I need a lot of sleep. About 10 hours a day. So, 6 hours is just a little over half of what I need.

Last night I took two Restoril at 9:15 pm and didn’t wake up till 6:15 am. Nine hours. I feel better, but what I’m looking forward to is a repeat performance. Many of them.

When I visited my hepatologist, Lisa Forman, an awesome, smart, caring physician, last Monday she talked and questioned and listened to me a lot. Then she said, I think you have the early stages of hepatic encephalopathy, the sleep disturbance part. She prescribed Xifaxan 550 mg for me, the preferred and the best treatment. HE is not something you get and then keep from that point on. But it can recur and Xifaxan helps suppress those recurrences. But it’s a very expensive drug. $1393/month retail. Oh, the pharma gives you a $100 coupon good for 6 months. Whoopee. Right now I’m waiting for authorization and pricing from my Medicare Advantage insurance, Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield. So far, they’ve been complete assholes with me on just about everything I try to talk to them about. I don’t have much hope of getting this drug.

So I read this article in the scientific journal Nature. I’m not a member so my cousin Vann, a med researcher at Duke, emailed it to me. Says that prebiotics and probiotics work well at treating HE. Better than Lactulose. This morning I’m going to a health food store that carries chicory root in bulk for $1.58/bag and add that to my smoothie in the morning.

When I can’t sleep for this long, I begin to worry about having a seizure. I do have a long-standing seizure disorder which is controlled by meds. But the last time I had one was when I had an internal bleed and basically lost all my meds. The medical staff was too busy saving my life to worry about a little ol’ seizure. I was in ICU when I had it, so that was good. I didn’t end up on the floor. That was about 4 years ago. The one before that was 10 years prior to the one in 2008. And they can be caused by a combo of lack of sleep (prolonged) and stress. BUT, I think I’m going to be okay now.

If you've never read it, go look up The Spoon Theory on the website of a woman with lupus. It’s really good. Oh, her URL is . The Spoon Theory is in her menu bar.

I get so many spoons per day. I think yesterday I had about 3 or 4 or 5. I like it when I have 20.Today I think I’ve got about 10. I will use them all up. You know why? Life is good. It’s the only game in town. I want it and I want a good one. I want more people to write to me – or

Or call me – 303-596-0316. Just say hi. I get way too many calls from bill collectors. I need some real laughs! And I need your love. I need it from anywhere I can get it. I am a Love Hog.

You’ll have to look up those terms I threw at you above. I get tired of explaining scientific shit. But if you don’t want to know about it, that’s okay, too. I completely understand.

I love reading your comments here. Not on FB, okay? And please, please, please subscribe. You'll get a blog post from me in your inbox. Easy peasy.

Just don’t give me The Look, okay? Deal.