Burning Love

FeaturedBurning Love

One fall afternoon in 1955, all the kids on the block raked their piles of fallen leaves off the lawns and sidewalks and into the street. Heaps of crinkled oak and maple mounded the curbside. The confluence of those sweet smelling deadfalls and autumn breath propelled us to kick up our feet and whoosh our sneakers through the piles. We’d shape more piles with armfuls of fly-aways, throwing half  in the air and half on the mounds.

In the evening, the whole block came out. Designated parents set fire to the five foot stacks of leaves, one by one. The kids wiggled hot dogs and marshmallows onto twigs and held them over the flames. We ran back inside to our kitchen, stuffed our charred dogs into buns, plopped mustard on them and ran back to stand around the fire and eat with our neighbors.

I went to sleep late that night comforted by communal joy. Early the next morning I woke up with a hacking cough and sneezing fits. By the afternoon I could hardly breathe. My eyes were so watery I lost focus.

My mother, who had two other children and was pregnant, wasn’t a reliable nurse. Two aspirin and bedrest was her usual answer to any ailment. We rarely saw a doctor.

Once, while sitting on the back steps, she witnessed me fall off my bike and scrape my knee in the driveway. She gulped down a bottle of Budweiser and said, “Don’t expect me to feel sorry for you!”

The morning I woke up hacking and sneezing, she moved my limp nine-year-old body into a second-floor room of my own at the front of the house, closed the curtains and set up a humidifier. No one was allowed in, except her. And the doctor. The verdict? I had an allergic reaction to burning leaves that kicked off a bout of bronchitis.

During the next three weeks my mother brought me Campbell’s soup and apple juice on a tray. She took my temperature twice a day and rubbed Vicks Vapo Rub on my chest and back. She never complained about my unrelenting loud cough. I cried myself to sleep in her arms and called for her in the night. She always came. 

My parents had too much to hide to ever become friends with any of our neighbors, wherever we lived. But one day, from my sick room, I heard her ask a neighbor not to burn any more leaves because I was sick.

I’m still allergic to burning leaves. In fact, I’m allergic to leafing out in the spring and falling leaves in autumn. The sheltered memories of kicking up leaves and smelling them burn evokes both sadness and delight of a community that smelt and felt the rush of the season at the same time in the same way.

But my mother ministering to my sickness is more than a memory. That one brief period taught me all I needed to know about healing love.

Boiled in anger

FeaturedBoiled in anger

Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Catholic parish in Winnetka, Illinois, is named for three virgins martyred in second century Rome during the reign of Hadrian. The girls, ages twelve, ten and nine were boiled in tar and beheaded for their refusal to denounce Jesus.

My two sisters and I attended Saints Faith, Hope & Charity school in the late fifties at about the same ages as the boiled virgins. I entered the fifth grade after the school year started, having attended the Cathedral School in downtown Chicago for a few weeks while my parents finagled a new home in the northern suburbs. We’d just been run out of St. Louis for failure to pay our bills.

Outwardly I was accustomed to masking the shame and embarrassment of our alcoholic family life. I donned my most congenial personality for the girls at “Faith Hope”. I needn’t have. The girls greeted me like a new puppy. Everyone wanted to call me their friend and invite me to their homes after school. At Kathy White’s house, we all gathered in the basement and played very competitive dodgeball. But the girls themselves weren’t competitive. These girls all seemed like best friends.

The Faith Hope Dominican Sisters, were the kindest of any nuns I’d encountered at the ten or twelve Catholic schools I’d previously attended. Whenever one of the Faith Hope sisters discovered I’d forgotten my lunch, I was treated to a sandwich in the convent dining room. I overheard rumblings at home that the mother superior may have called my parents about the missing lunches but I never heard about it at school.

Faith Hope’s lively playground burst into jump rope, hopscotch, steal-the-bacon and ball games. In the winter girls and boys alike played king of the hill on huge snow piles. 

One day on the playground, Helen Smith gathered some girls to sneak off to the church. She wanted to show us a secret booklet her older brother told her about. We edged into the vestibule as she reached up to a high shelf and pulled down, “Secrets of Marriage”. Helen read aloud descriptions of a man’s penis planting a seed into a woman’s vagina to form a baby.

“Ewww!” we screeched.

“That’s disgusting.”

Some of us ran out, hid in the folds of a giant spruce and giggled ourselves into oblivion. Others stayed inside and learned more details.

Faith Hope’s pastor, Monsignor Thomas Burke, a charming powerhouse of a priest, didn’t evoke fear or condemnation like other priests I’d known. He connected. We weren’t related, but Monsignor Burke, who told me Regan means “queen” in Gaelic,  joked that all the Burkes in the Midwest were cousins.

During my seventh grade year, our evicted family moved away. I felt like one of those martyred sisters from the first century, boiled in anger. I was certain I’d never find as happy a time as I’d had at Faith Hope.

A Faith Hope friend I hadn’t seen in sixty years sent me a note after she’d read my book, In That Number. It simply said, “You belonged to us.”

And the saints came marching in.

Race Restrictions: The Chicago Covenants Project

FeaturedRace Restrictions: The Chicago Covenants Project

Restrictive covenants, redlining and contract buying were some of the discriminatory housing practices used to segregate Chicago in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Restrictive covenants prevented Black Americans, and sometimes Jewish Americans from buying, renting, or living in houses in white neighborhoods. 

The Chicago Covenants Project, begun in Spring 2021, uncovers deed restrictions officially recorded in Cook County. A team of their researchers and volunteers gather in the Tracts Division in the basement of city hall a few times a month to search land records for racial covenants. 

Finding the Tracts Division of the County Clerk’s Office is the first test of a volunteer’s sleuthing skills. The entrance to the first floor staircase is often obscured by a large easel with a sign listing the prices of birth certificates and marriage licenses—no arrow pointing to “Tracts”. I once worked in the Clerk’s office but I still feel subversive slipping past the sign and the security guard to head downstairs.

The Tracts Division is a football-field sized room organized by rows of old shelves filled with real estate index books. Each book is 2 feet by 4 feet. A Project researcher assigns the books by number. My first assignment was book number 420. I lifted it onto the top of the elbow-high bookshelf and leafed through page by page. Thank God I thought to swallow an allergy pill before I left home.

Every deed recorded in Cook County until 1980 is hand written in an index book. After 1980, the records are digitized. Each page could have deeds recorded from 1910 to 1980. I looked only at deeds recorded up to 1950 since restrictions waned after a 1948 Supreme Court decision declaring racial covenants unconstitutional.

The volunteers in Tracts spread out around the room with their assigned books. Looking for covenants line by line is tedious. There’s a small explosion of joy, “I found one!” when one of us spots a handwritten “rac-restr” notation.

Property ownership has long been the avenue to accumulating family wealth. Restrictive covenants helped deny this possibility to Black Chicago for decades, while walling off the city’s segregated communities and perpetuating generations of racial inequity.

The Chicago Covenants Project has uncovered deed restrictions all over Chicago and the suburbs. Organized neighborhood groups supported by realtor associations once signed up homeowners block by block. Between 1933 and 1937, a mailer was distributed door to door to stoke fears about Blacks moving to Chicago’s North Side, where I’ve always lived. It minced no words: “The Near North Side Property Owners Association proposes to ask every property owner in the district to agree to sell and rent to white people only.” 

Even the renowned Newberry Library has a racial covenant. 

You may be asking, “what’s your point?” 

Well. These buried files prove that racial inequity in Chicago was intentionally created by white people—house by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood. 

A fact that cannot be erased.

How I love Jimmy Carter!

FeaturedHow I love Jimmy Carter!

As an eighth grader I entered segregated St. Mary’s of the Assumption school for two months at the end of the school year. My family had come apart in the Chicago suburbs and one of my sisters and I were sent to live with relatives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. I’d never been in a school separated by race. The only time whites and Blacks mingled at St.Mary’s happened on the playground where we defiantly integrated ourselves into two mixed-gender baseball teams.  

For as long as I can remember my sisters and I followed our parents into the very last pew of church for Sunday Mass. They timed it so we arrived about twenty minutes late, in time for the Consecration of the Eucharist, the attendance marker at the mandatory once a week Mass.

As we approached our first Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Upper Marlboro, my sister and I naturally headed for the pews in the back of the church. A white man ushered us out of our seats into a pew toward the front. Only Blacks sat in the back.The Sunday my mother visited us she pushed the white usher aside and insisted on sitting in the back. Her hangovers were far too severe to suffer through the entire hour of a full Mass. She needed a quick exit after the obligatory Communion. 

One day St. Mary’s eighth grade class was bussed twenty minutes down the road to Andrews Air Force Base to greet President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Blacks in the back of the bus. Whites in the front. We’d been given little American flags to wave at the president as he deplaned Air Force One. It was 1959 and my first experience at an event for a President of the United States.

Sixteen years after my St. Mary’s grade school graduation, I read about Jimmy Carter’s campaign for president in Time Magazine. Carter, as governor, in a surprise to fellow Georgians had denounced racism and segregation. I wrote to him in Plains, Georgia, applauding his positions and volunteered for his presidential campaign. He sent me a hand written thank you note with a postscript to contact the local Democrats in my small New Jersey town. 

Around that time, my son’s hockey coach was mounting his own campaign for mayor. Eventually the coach endorsed Carter and opened a local campaign office. To the great consternation of my then-husband, I spent all my spare time campaigning for Jimmy Carter. That husband expressed his silent scorn by laying on the couch drinking cases of beer. I, in turn, after a year of abstinence in Alcoholics Anonymous, slipped into the basement with quarts of vodka to escape what looked like a doomed existence.

We both stayed sober for our last family excursion—waving little American flags outside the U.S. Capitol for Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration in January, 1977.  

A month later I finished my last drink and got a divorce. In years since, I’ve organized events for many Democrats and eventually worked for President Bill Clinton. I’ve never failed to distribute small American flags to the diverse crowds. 

Shake it up Baby

FeaturedShake it up Baby

I wiggled around so much to the tune of The Twist as a teenager that I’m sure that’s why I developed a waist.

A new state, new school, new friends, and new music greeted me in 1960 as a high school freshman. Uprooted from recreational softball and winter bowling leagues in suburban Chicago to the raucous cigarette-smoking, boy-loving, rock ’n’ roll Jersey Shore, I surfaced as a backbeat cool cat in my new life.

My family had one black and white television tucked into the corner of the living room. After school, if my mother had vacated her usual spot curled up on the couch, my two sisters and I turned up the volume to the teenage dance show American Bandstand. We twisted and shouted and mimicked all the latest moves until my mother returned from the corner tavern with her New York Times.

The Twist and its offspring—Let’s Twist Again, Peppermint Twist, Twisting the Night Away, kicked up in my head constantly. When I got bored in class, I’d conjure the music and imagine myself dancing. My insides jumped and jived as my feet moved my body effortlessly through the school from class to class. Every once in a while friends would break out singing The Twist, and dance in the corner of the cafeteria, like a Hollywood movie.

Five blocks from our house in Sea Girt, New Jersey, the Episcopal Church, St. Uriel the Archangel, opened our own American Bandstand in the parish hall. Every Friday night, a disc jockey played the latest rock ’n’ roll records. We all showed off the dance moves we’d learned from watching the TV show. When The Twist came over the loudspeakers, kids swarmed the dance floor singing “c’mon baby, let’s do the twist…”  Learning together to syncopate our wiggly feet and swiveling hips, we gained confidence for life at St. Uriel’s.  Everyone starred in their own movie.

Twisting the night away. St. Uriel’s canteen, Sea Girt, NJ

Dancing the twist killed the era of partner dances like the foxtrot, cha cha and the jitterbug. How we were able to get away with dancing like Chubby Checker to African-American music in a suburban church hall is a mystery to me. Did the white church elders realize the sexual innuendos and racial taboos in the simple lyrics…round ‘n around ‘n up ‘n down we go again? Did they see our awakening sexuality heat up in the carnal exhibitions of our new moves?

For sixty years The Twist was the most successful single on Billboard’s list of “Greatest Hit 100 Songs of All Time” . The song is on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for long-term preservation.

With the ever-reckoning racial sensitivity afoot in the land today, I fear white teenagers might be cautious in taking a song like The Twist captive.  Cultural police might shame us into the false confession of “…no fair appropriating black soundtracks as our own”. Maybe in the next cultural shift the bottomless glee of working-it-on-out will bust through racial borders.

Meanwhile, I thank Jesus for the green light to twist the night away in the 1960s.

My friend Kam Buckner

FeaturedMy friend Kam Buckner

In early 2019 Skyline Village Chicago invited newly minted state representative Kam Buckner to meet his north side constituents at their monthly luncheon. Buckner blew in twenty minutes late, having raced from the state capitol in downstate Springfield. He flashed an enormous smile, introduced himself, then launched into a captivating and detailed description of budget negotiations with legislative leaders. We felt like we were insiders. 

He’d been in office for two months.

A political impasse had left Illinois with no state budget for most of the three years leading up to 2019. Many services had been cut, and the stalemate adversely affected Illinois’ economy and credit rating. Reports of the multi-faceted budget process sounded politically intricate. A person next to me at the luncheon whispered, “Isn’t he too new to be negotiating the budget?”

That’s my friend, Kam Buckner.

“I’ve wanted to be Mayor of Chicago since I was 12 years old. I’m a son of Chicago, I love this city, and I want to make it the best version of itself.”

He’s the thirty-seven year old lawyer, former big ten footballer running for mayor. He worked for Senator Durbin in Washington and Mayor Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans. 

The Buckner family tree grew its branches out of Mississippi mud and grafted itself onto Chicago’s big shoulders during the Second Great Migration. The blues, born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago came up from the south with them. Chicago’s Staple Singers and Jennifer Hudson are Buckner cousins. At Kam’s inaugural party in Springfield, he hit the stage to belt out a full-throated “Two Dollar Blues” with the band.

The day I met Kam was also the day the Chicago Bears announced they might move the team to Arlington Park. I asked Buckner if the Bears were fishing for state money to stay in Chicago. “Of course,” he answered. “I’ve already spoken to the governor about legislation to prevent that.”

This is a guy who hits the ground running.

In 2019 I’d been part of a group at my church that studied education equity, which is so complicated we disbanded. The next thing I knew Kam Buckner passed a bill to ensure schools receive funding based on the need of the students, rather than evidence of achievement. That’s equity. He’s been in the trenches on criminal justice reform, known as the SAFTE-T Act and negotiated the celebrated energy bill which legislates zero carbon emission by 2045, a boon for climate change.

At the dedication of adult playground equipment in my neighborhood park, a friend mentioned to Kam that cities in China have similar equipment. “I lived in China for six months and saw it everywhere,” he said. “What? You lived in China?’ 

Activists for safe streets and public transportation are Buckner’s biggest supporters. He rides the trains. Takes notes. Talks to  passengers. Has a plan.

At a Sunday afternoon mayoral forum the candidates were peppered with the usual questions on crime, education, housing. Afterwards, a long line waited for selfies and handshakes with Kam Buckner while the other candidates packed up to leave. 

“He’d make a great mayor,” a stranger said, “but I’m not votin’ for him. I’m afraid he’s gonna lose.”

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.” —H.L. Mencken

Collective Salvation

Collective Salvation

My friends and I laugh when we can’t remember the names of a TV series or old movie stars. We keep the conversation going anyway, knowing sooner or later someone will blurt out,”Paul Newman!” who starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with um, what’s her name? Oh yeah, Elizabeth Taylor.

Memory isn’t the only part of the brain clogged up. It takes longer for us to get the punchline of a joke. And we worry about the one who stops getting the punchline altogether. Processing information requires sifting through a lifetime of brain clutter. It simply takes more time these days. 

When I first became aware of the rummage sale in my head, I consulted Dr. Google for tips on decluttering. Dr. Google assured me that indiscriminate shopping, getting lost, difficulty with numbers, language, dates, names and places are all part of the normal aging process called cognitive decline. Researchers say eat right, exercise, socialize and learn something new.

And consult a neurologist.

I called the Mesulum Center for Cognitive Neurology at Northwestern University. “Someone will call you back,” the receptionist said.

“Can’t I just make an appointment?”

“No. Someone needs to talk to you first.”

“I’ll wait.”

“No. Someone will call you.”

I missed the callback. Called again. Missed again. And again.

Processing TV news had become difficult. I couldn’t connect information from one sentence to the next. To understand morning radio, I had to stop getting dressed, sit down with a cup of coffee and listen. Reading was clunky. Some words on the page faded. Some didn’t. I went to the eye doctor three times within six months. She insisted my vision was fine.

A friend told me about a new choir for people with early-stage memory loss. The organizers sought volunteers to help people with the music and to round out the choir. No audition or experience required. I’d never read sheet music or sung in a choir but I love to sing. So I signed up.

The first day I hesitated to accept my songbook. Would I remember to bring it to rehearsals? Would I even remember the day and time of rehearsals? People asked me what “part” I sang. I had no idea.

“I have to sing the melody,” I said.

After a few warm-up exercises we started learning an Oklahoma medley. Alice, sitting next to me, noticed I was having trouble. The music was running ahead of me—I couldn’t catch the words. She pointed to the soprano lines and pulled out a yellow marker to highlight them.

“Sing the notes with the stems pointing up,” She whispered.

That was 2018. I mark my own music now, never forget a rehearsal and can find my place on the sheet. Months of practice pulls the music closer, though I never feel concert-ready.

In December 2022 our repertoire included songs in five languages. Each deja-vu rehearsal seemed like a new beginning. I rarely got my voice to attach the foreign words to the notes. But on concert day, my brain latched onto another dimension. I sang perfectly.

I’d say I really cleaned up.

MLK: Dead is Not Nothing

MLK: Dead is Not Nothing

On a recent podcast about grief, artist Laurie Anderson revealed to Anderson Cooper that she felt sad without being sad when her husband, rocker Lou Reed died in 2013. She came to this awareness at a class on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The teacher, Bob Thurman, said there is no dead. Dead doesn’t exist. He was referring, in part, to post mortem existence.

Different concepts of the afterlife exist in most religions and philosophies. For atheists who believe nothing happens after death,Thurman, a Tibetan Buddhist, teaches there is no nothing. Dead is not nothing.

I’m about as sure of what happens when the body breathes its last as I am of tomorrow’s weather. Oh, I tacitly agree with those who suggest I’ll see my dead dog again, the same way I concur it’s going to snow tomorrow. Maybe. Maybe not. Surely, dead is not nothing?

On November 22,1963, my mother called from New Jersey to the Catholic boarding school I attended in southern Virginia. I picked up the black handle dangling from its cord in the one allowable phone booth in the hall.

“Kennedy’s been shot.” She said.

I replied, “No. He’s dead. It’s on the radio.” 

I was seventeen and already tuned in. Politics had grabbed me as a pre-teenager watching the Vietnam war on TV.  By the time Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I, a twenty-two year old hippie, had been to two marches on Washington and written hundreds of letters to Congress and President Johnson. I was in support of the Civil Rights bill, the Voting Rights bill, banning the bomb and against the Vietnam war. Anytime the morning news stirred an injustice I had to fix, I reached for my stash of pre-stamped postcards to fire off letters-to-the-editor. I harangued my friends—at work, in bars, on the beach, at parties—to think the way I did. 

MLK’s admonition, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” initially whipped me into a frenzy of activism—more letters, more phone calls, more marches, more recruiting. Then in his “Drum Major Instinct,” speech in 1968 he preached to act as a servant, not a savior. It is noble to help just one person, change one person’s viewpoint, get one person to vote.

DNA has proven dead is not dead. DNA, our physical manifestation of life itself, apparently lives forever. Anyone who has had a DNA test questions the trace variants of first peoples, like Neanderthal, listed in their results. Some religions teach physical immortality in that our dead bodies will rise or have risen to live in Paradise. Wherever our raised bodies take up residence, will they have our same DNA? 

The essence of Martin Luther King’s DNA lives in the generative marrow of his words. I always feel sad without being sad on his birthday. His death transitioned into the endorphins between my dreams and awareness. He lives in that zero-gravity mirage of my inner life that says, “get out there, be brave, do it, say it.” 

Yep. Dead is not nothing.

Listen: All There Is With Anderson Cooper and Laurie Anderson Podcast

Where You From?

Where You From?

Whenever I’m asked where I’m from, I hesitate. It takes a moment to wrangle shame to the ground long enough to scare up the truest truth to tell. The aftereffect of my parents’ inability to halt their rodeo boozing long enough to pay the rent accounts for a long trail of midnight moves.

Annapolis, Maryland; three different homes in Washington DC, two in Terre Haute Indiana, a hotel in Indianapolis, two homes in St.Louis, a hotel in Chicago, homes in Kenilworth, Wilmette, and Lake Forest, Illinois, two cottages in Sea Girt, New Jersey, two New York apartments, a Williamsburg, Virginia boarding school and back to Sea Girt.

At that point, after fourteen or fifteen schools, with a lick and a promise, I barely graduated from Manasquan high school. I spent the last year drinking and smoking in the school parking lot with a posse of flirty no-goods. I dropped out of Monmouth College, married, had a baby, moved to Vermont, divorced, got addicted to loco weed, moved to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, married again, joined a cult, divorced again. When I was twenty-nine years old I moved with my son back to Chicago, where I’ve mostly lived for forty-seven years as a tenderfoot, sober alcoholic. 

What do I say? I like to say I’m from the Midwest, like Bob Dylan, with God on my side. 

            Oh my name it ain’t nothin’

            My age it means less

            The country I come from

            Is called the Midwest

My three sisters say they are from New Jersey as if it has all the romance of Bruce Springsteen’s Jersey Girl.

              So don’t bother me cause I ain’t got no time

            I’m on my way to see that girl of mine

            Nothing else matters in this whole wide world

            When you’re in love with a Jersey girl

There are a lot of cool people at the Jersey Shore. I had a stable of romantic encounters like Springsteen’s Jersey Girl—on the beach, in the backseat of Mustang convertibles, in public bathrooms of raucous bars. Jersey boys drink beer. Morning. Noon. And Night. Not me. I drank gin. They have mononucleosis and venereal diseases. They drive drunk and kill you with sarcasm. And still they seek the girl from the right neighborhood, the right school, and the right family. I’m lucky I made it out of there alive.

In the Midwest of my girlhood, I knocked on neighbors’ doors for a ride to  school when I couldn’t wake up my mother or our car was out of gas. They helped me look for my missing dog, Lefty, in a snowstorm. When that rodeo was dusting up inside my home and danger was afoot, they taught me to hide in trees.

Midwestern fun: Beatles Sing Along

When I arrived back in Chicago to a corral of footloose midwestern strangers in the 1970s, I expected bound-for-glory hellos and found them. A friend from fifth grade I hadn’t seen in sixty-five years read my book recently and sent me a note: “you always belonged to us.”

That’s the Midwest. Where I’m from.

Inching Toward Dying

Inching Toward Dying

A friend announced that she’s ridding her home of once treasured belongings, little by little.

“Oh yeah, you’re in the process of dying.” I said.


She’s past middle age, but not yet old enough to be drawn to articles about purging in AARP magazine under headlines like, “Common Old People Habits.”

“I’m just clearing out so my children aren’t left with all my junk.” She said.

“I rest my case.” I said.

I started purging suits and dresses when I was around sixty. I no longer wore them at work and when I retired, well, I no longer wore them period. During the pandemic I bundled up five plastic bags full of old garments that I loved, and sent them off to a resale shop. I then fell for the ubiquitous internet ads luring me into purchasing “casual clothes”. The empty space in my closet gradually filled in with comfortable pants, also known as pajamas, and colorful tops, also known as sweatshirts. These are the inching-toward-dying clothes.

Purging includes all the old letters, not because I’ll be embarrassed if the uninvited read them, but because the invited won’t. I’m counteracting this indifference by writing memoirs. There are other signs of moving toward dying. My friends, like me, have less tolerance for personal dramas. Oh, we may express understanding to our offspring’s tears and fears about bad bosses or broken relationships. But really, we know just when to slip out of the room or off the phone to avoid the theatrics. We’ve been there. We survived. We moved on.

Obsession with the weather is a keystone of my old age. When I acquired a three-wheel electric scooter, I downloaded all the weather apps on my iPhone-five of them. Instant updates, including pollen forecasts, determine if I scoot or take the bus. Happily there’s no shortage of old people chewing over the weather.

Except for doctor appointments, I have no responsibilities to manage in the early morning. And yet, the older I’ve gotten, the earlier I wake up. I listen to the radio, drink coffee, read the news. Audio books and podcasts are a great comfort to sleepy eyes at 5:00 am. A young friend once asked why old people get up so early.

“Because we’re all afraid we’re gonna die.” I said

Henry the dog social distancing

I used to walk Henry, the best dog on the planet, in the early morning. His process of dying was short-lived. He turned his tail under, dug in the closet, slept standing up, clung to me. At the last, he cried to be put out of his misery. One might say he purged himself from my life. But he was supposed to last longer—maybe longer than me.  The actuarial tables on my life expectancy indicate it would be imprudent for me to have another pet. 

Submitting to the idea of growing too old to have another dog is a new item in the burgeoning process-of-dying tote bag. 

I suspect the resulting sorrow will follow me to the grave.