The Paisleys

“There’s a way to recognize these people,” he leaned his head forward and spoke quietly. “On the fifth day of the month, wear a  gray glove with no fingertips on your left hand and a squashed top hat all day. Be seen in public places, like a mall. Someone will approach you.”

“Maybe I’ll try that,” I said.

He leaned forward, his voice nearly a hoarse whisper. “They have a target. A couple. They call them The Paisleys.”

Solo, Solo

 

“Solo. Solo,” the women called in subdued, but urgent tones.

“Well, okay,” the old man said, rounding a time-softened gray fedora in his thin, elegant fingers. “I don’t know how it got to be five years from now.”  He sat on a low ottoman in the parlor room of the small community library, surrounded by four calm-faced women of indeterminate ages. A single ray of sunlight cut through the morning shadows and fell onto his scarred arm.

It was a dream. I stumbled out of bed shortly after six to my study, found a mechanical pencil stuck in an antique heavy glass “flower frog” and began to scrawl on a legal pad. Didn’t even turn on a lamp. You know how it is with dreams. Even the most vivid ones. If you can write down a scrap of it, or in a pinch say it out loud, you stand a chance of capturing an exotic bug in a bottle.

Tom came in, found me in the darkened study, standing up, scribbling furiously.  I wondered what he was doing there. This is not a man who has ever voluntarily gotten out of bed before the chickens. He moved on toward the kitchen and returned balancing half a slice of bread on a short glass of skim milk. He eyed me curiously. I mumbled something, held up my left hand in an inarticulate “wait” signal, but continued to write.

“I’m going back to bed,” he said, and was gone. Nausea, I thought. It’s still hanging on from last week’s chemo, and he’s trying to smooth it down with milk and bread and put together enough sleep from the fragmented night. Between my restless dreams and his discomfort, a solid six or seven hours of sleep is rare as precious myrrh.

 

Conga Drum, Octopus Hunting and a Walk to the Gate

One dream was of a large oak Brazilian timba conga drum. Two almond-shaped eyes were painted on it. It spoke to me in soulful bass tones. “Por favor traga-me uma xícara de café quente.”  I swear, the beautiful eyes did a slow blink.

In another dream, three pick-up trucks drove very fast into the clearing outside my study window. Rough men in camouflage spilled out, popped the tailgate and tugged on something large, a gray-lavender huge squirmy octopus. It had cartoon-round eyes and went galumphing off into the woods. I was on my feet in a flash, ran out the door. “Hey! What the hell is going on here?”  I got right up in their porcine faces.

They looked at me as though I was the strange duck. “Huntin’ ma’am. Don’t you know it’s octopus season?”

What do you think? Am I drinking too much coffee or not enough? Reading too much? Writing when I should be sleeping and sleeping when I should be talking to the Dragon or packing for Maine? Listening to weird music, like “Big in Japan” by Tom Waits? Turn that one up real loud when you’re into the head of a depressive with an attitude in his manic phase. (Hey, I’m talking about my bad guy character I love to hate, Rory Mathis. He must be a Scorpio.)

But in the midst of it all, there are still the sane-making woods walks. We changed weather channels a few days ago, and went from this:

to cooler, much dryer air and clear skies. Our monsoon season has ended. Three nights ago if we had tried to eat supper outside on the patio, we would have been ingesting disgusting black “love bugs” along with the meal. Tonight? Different story. Luscious cool breeze, slow melt sunset in peach sherbet colors, and love bugs gone, baby gone.

Here, then, a few photos from summer’s end at Longleaf.

Surely these wildflowers, so common in the woods, have a name. The naming of things is important. I’ve searched Walter Kingsley Taylor’s book, Florida Wildflowers, from Pine Flatwoods to Ruderal Sites, and cannot find its name.

The shocking purple American Beautyberry (also known as French Mulberry) is a sure harbinger of Fall. This bush is probably spindly because it’s standing in wet ground near the spring.

With abundant acorns, berries, a natural spring, and few people crashing about, the wildlife population thrives. Thousands of green acorns were blown down by Tropical Storm Isaac’s gusts. They make crackle crunchy sounds underfoot.

We’ve had so much rain this summer, I grew afraid of standing still for fear something would begin growing on me.

Looks like this fellow has his morning’s work all planned out.

Some mushrooms are pretty, in a homely sort of way.

And the underside of some are so strange I begin to hum “Also Sprach Zarathustra” while kneeling on the damp ground to get an up-close look. It looks ancient. Petrified.

Lay me down forever in a bed of ferns, my love.

I just remembered I got married once on a September 10 long ago in a land far, far away to a person like “The Stranger” in that Billy Joel song, who became a person “that I did not recognize.” The year I divorced him,  I sang Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” for months before I finally  filed the motion for dissolution.

The Way Life Unfolds

“It’s so different when we are children; when we can’t imagine any of this will happen, the way life will unfold.”

A thin young woman slumps in a wooden porch swing in the darkness of very early morning. She wears a long, midnight navy sheath dress. Two not-young, not-old men sit nearby in chairs pulled close to the swing.  They look up at the sound of my voice. I carry a full-to-the-brim martini. Two giant stuffed olives in it roll around, props on the wrong set. I put it down and move toward the young woman. A headlight strobes the porch. She lifts her head. The glitter of tears stops me.

Later, a van delivers an ornate crystal basket full of impossibly fresh yellow daisies.

Some dreams stay with you long past sunrise.

Happiness

Vivid dreaming took me to a rooftop Japanese restaurant called Happiness last night. A petite, radiant woman of indeterminate age wearing a brocade kimono emerged from white and gold doors to greet us. A carved, painted hair pin held her black tresses in a wavy twist.

“I am so sorry, but there will a short wait before I may seat you.” she said. Her voice was  low-pitched, calm.

I noticed several tables off to the side, overlooking a jewel-like cityscape.

“May we sit there while we wait?”

She smiled. “Of course.”

Buck and I, and the two young children with us, settled ourselves into comfortable chairs. We couldn’t hear a sound from the full restaurant nearby. It felt like we were the only four people in the universe, the sparkling city below and bright sky above an endless buffet set before us. Even now, I feel the soft breeze.

Soon — I suppose soon, although I had no sense of time passing at Happiness — silent servers with secret smiles brought an array of small plates with delicious food. I never knew what I was eating, only that it seemed to me like miniature works of edible art.

Other guests arrived. They, too, sat outside. I never saw any guest go into or emerge from the tall white and gold doors.

Conversations intermingled, and sometimes new people would join our table to talk for a while. The talk was a rounded murmur, easy on the ears.

Two servers glided by like dancers with a shiny #8 washtub filled with a simulated ocean scene and three whole poached salmon arranged en gelée as though they were undulating through water.  I couldn’t help myself, but instead laughed out loud and clapped my hands like a child.

That’s all I remember. I woke up serene, refreshed, and with that sharp-brained feeling that I had been given yet another clue.

Just when I typed the word happiness to begin this post, I remembered a post I had written on my intermittent microblog, False Dawn, about a dream I had in November of 2010 called No Talking on Happiness. Wow. This is my brain. This is my brain on happiness.

No Talking on “Happiness”

A Japanese man came to me in a dream last night. He said, “Come. I want to show you a place where dreams of the mind come true.”

In this dream, I walked through tall walls made of finely made vertical strips of silky gold cloth. I walked through walls and laughed.

An entire floor, nicknamed “Happiness,” was a silent retreat. “Remember,” a passerby said to me, finger on lips, “no talking on Happiness.”

Swamp Leopard

Have you ever awakened so deep into a dream that it feels like you are smothering in a nest of long strips of gauze? It happened to me this morning and I am still a hostage of this dream.

There was a huge strange-looking leopard. He looked like he was made out of light and shadow all mottled together. He was in the prow of a long, handmade canoe that floated up to the shore. Remarkable image; one I won’t soon forget.

The August Dream

I just awoke from a longer than usual night of sleep.

I dreamed so hard I woke up with my left ear folded over and painful.

I lay on a sofa on the second floor of the New York Public Library wrapped in fur skins, turning the pages of a large book until all the lights were turned out around me. Ancient women gently pushed me out the door and I was suddenly in the dark, violent streets.

I drove through the unknowable avenues like a tiny ball in a huge pinball machine, swerving through noise and neon.

I lost the car somewhere and wandered through fog-filled halls with other lost children. They clung to my ankles, mistakenly thinking I knew the way home.

Then there was the ocean. I saw marble statues, half drowned in the green surf, unblinking eyes wide, terrifying, irresistible.

The old man spoke, then. He broke from the network of vines criss-crossing his chest to walk with me. He stumbled. Sometimes he crawled. But his message for me rumbled, creaked and roared out of that voice that had become strange through disuse.

I looked at my right arm this morning to see if it bore a mark from his grip.

Upon awaking, I passed an old mirror on my way to the computer keyboard. There! The old man again. In one of my eyes.

 

I'm compelled by dreams to take a sabatical from blogging for a few weeks, and won't be writing or reading in this space. I will be available via e-mail, however, and would love to hear from you.

See you in September!

 

Lois’s Dreams and Visions

During the five months before Lois died on June 15, 1995, her dreams and visions became extraordinary. A January journal entry notes that she seemed less confused, but stranger. Things she said: “I sure have a lot of miracles around me.” “It’s time for me to go on. Sometimes you just have to let go.” She talked about her late husband Earl and how he was just “growing and growing” and she was “shrinking” all the time. At this, I said, “It sounds like you feel like you have a lot of catching up to do,” and she responded, “Yes! I sure do.” There were times during this period when she was confused, virtually delirious, with visual hallucinations, no logical thinking or ability to focus. She would become agitated in one moment and giggly the next, using strange pointing gestures. Her balance was very poor, and the nurses tried to get her to use her walker. Kidney damage was taking its toll. Dr. Keith Shearlock (nephrologist) was concerned about her creatinine clearance and tried to keep her meds fine-tuned to improve mental clarity. He said decline in kidney function was the culprit. Dr. Shearlock reduced the Bumex and Aldactone, took her off sinequan and replaced it with haloperidol in an effort to change her habit of wakeful nights and sleepy days. He also gave instructions that no meds be given before 7 a.m. Previously, the staff were waking her up between 5 and 6 a.m., further screwing up her chances of a decent night’s sleep. Shearlock continued to press Buck and me to consider dialysis. Whether it was due to the doc’s change of meds or a gift from God, Lois came back to us in March and had a few weeks in the sunshine. Her mental confusion was gone for awhile, she was getting dressed more often, and had gotten interested in her clothes catalogs again. she even looked for an Easter dress. I remember a beautiful coral-colored pants outfit that she wore. We sat on her patio in the sun together and enjoyed the lovely spring weather. But April, oh, April was a tough month for Lois. Buck and I were in Tallahassee quite a bit because of his work with the legislative session, and so we didn’t see her every day. She had brief, intermittent episodes of shortness of breath and racing pulse. She had on-again, off-again pain in her shoulder which she thought was bursitis. She also had several episodes of agitation so severe that the staff doctor for Azalea Trace, Coy Irvin, prescribed Tranxene (which Lois called “my little blue pill.”) We began to find her in a deep sleep each time we came by, no matter what the time of day. One day, when I found her asleep, looking as though she was about to fall out of the bed, I got concerned about the tranxene and whether it was the cause. Shearlock modified the dosage so she would get one in the evening. Before, it was as often as every four hours, prn, and she was requesting it at most shifts. The change helped. She seemed content and was awake, or at least easily wake-able, when we came by. Around this time Lois went on a clothes-buying binge via catalog. she didn’t have strength to try very many of them on. On Easter Sunday, Buck and I had planned to take Lois to her former church, the Presbyterian one in Warrington, then to lunch, and our house to spend the night. But she called about 8 a.m. that Sunday morning, said she had thrown up. Later in the day, it appeared she might have had another trans-ischemic attack. When I called on April 19, she was very confused. “I’m just about to head out,” she said. When I asked where she was heading, she said she was going downtown to buy Darryl some clothes; that she had finally gotten all the family settled into a motel. The family members she referenced included Ann, Marguerite, Ben, Karen and “the two Carsons,” Earl, her mother and father, and Darryl. She had some awareness that it might be, or must be, a dream, but was still not quite sure. The toughest blow to Lois came when Marguerite was hospitalized in April for several weeks and then passed away on the 27th, making Lois the only surviving sibling. It ate away at Lois that she was too frail to attend services for Marguerite. That Friday when I visited with Lois, she talked about funeral practices, about what kind of flowers she would like, and how she might go ahead and order them and make arrangements for her own funeral. She said she would like lilacs with little white flowers. Saturday, the nurses were concerned because they had such a hard time waking her up. Sunday, her hands were very cold.

May, 1995

It was the final week of the legislative session. I spoke to Lois on May 1 from our hotel room.  I was worried about her. I felt her drifting away. She told me she was sick, was nauseous and had not eaten anything at all. She said her pacemaker was not acting right; that sometimes it was racing. I asked if there was anything I could have someone get for her.

“Yes,” she said. “About half a dozen of those little blue pills.”

I had read that in the later stages of uremia there are periods of agitation alternating with periods of stupor, ultimately leading to coma. Lois was roughly following that sort of pattern.

Marguerite’s death was an awful blow.

That night, May 1, Buck and I called her when we got back to the hotel from dinner. It was an alarming conversation. Lois said Dr. Irvin and another doctor had been in and “had to cut her.” I asked where. She said “my vagina.” She said there had been terrible pain, but she was okay now.

When Buck talked with her, they talked about her conversation with Marianne, when Lois broke in and told him she was expecting a call from her doctors at any time, that they were probably trying to get through at that very moment, so he said, “Okay, bye,” and she hung up.

We called the nurse’s station and spoke with Trig, the head nurse. She said Lois had called the front desk to tell them she was having extreme pain in her shoulder, so Trig had called Dr. Irvin and gotten permission to administer Darvocette, which Lois told Trig had helped. Trig went on to say that she thought Lois was “really going down fast” and that the only thing that could be done short of dialysis (which Lois had rejected) was to keep her comfortable.

On May 2nd a nurse named Amy told me that Lois said she had gotten the best night’s sleep she had experienced in a while and felt better, however she did make an odd remark to Amy. She said, “Well when are we moving over there?” and sort of giggled about it, but didn’t mention it again.

When I spoke with Lois later that same morning, she told me “they moved Azalea Trace” last night. She said she guessed they did it while she was gone last night, and that almost everything is identical, “but prettier.” She said they “were having a time moving everything; just working their heads off.”

. . . something left out here in old copy . . . .

Marguerite. (In fact, the note said, “in loving memory.”) Maybe Marianne recounted some of Buck’s words of comfort to her in their telephone conversation, and Lois translated that to a note on a card. She said that when she complimented Buck on his words, he had said he tried to do it to the best of his ability. She talked about how the bouquet from her had lilacs in it and some tiny white flowers. This is the exact description of a photograph of a basket of lilacs which she has admired in  one of the catalogs.

She was still “certain” that she was visited by Dr. Irvin and another the night before (she wasn’t) and that they performed some type of procedure on her. She said she wasn’t sure “what got touched, but something did,” and said, “I feel greasy all over, but I’m not bleeding.”

When I told Lois I was going out for awhile to get some lunch, she had forgotten that Buck and I were in Tallahassee and didn’t know where we were. I told her we would be home in a couple of days.

Lois said, “Oh. You won’t be back for two days? Two days is a long time to live.”

Me: “But you can do it, can’t you?”

Lois: “Oh, well, I’ll have to, won’t I?”

Me: “Yes, because I’d be very upset if you didn’t. You have to wait for us to get there.”

Lois: “Okay, we, thanks so much for calling.”

Late that afternoon I tried calling Lois three times, letting the phone ring for a long time. When there was no answer, I called the switchboard and had someone go to her room to check on her. She found Lois in a very deep sleep, lying on her right side, and noted to me that other nurses and staff had reported that Lois was experiencing confusion last night and that day.

When I spoke to Lois on the 4th, she said she had done a lot of dreaming the night before. She dreamed that “Daddy and Ben were here” and that she got a note from Ben. The note said: “Be careful. Don’t be surprised if there is a little black dog on your porch.” She said she was “scared to death” the rest of the night, but that there wasn’t a black dog on her porch this morning. However, later she talked about how the little black dog was in her room all night, that he kept almost hitting her foot, but at the last minute veered away and didn’t hit it.

We couldn’t get back home for another day, and so I called her pastor, Rev. Bob Hornick, described some of our concerns, and asked him to visit her.

Later he told me they had a good visit, that she was “very perky” despite a few odd comments. She said something about “pancakes downstate” (apropos of nothing) and talked about some black dog on the TV screen, also that when she was walking down the hall, she saw herself on TV. But these oddities aside, he said her color was good.

Buck and I talked about it all and agreed that in these final times it’s positive that Lois is able, with minimal pain or discomfort, to dream and communicate in her mind with her family members such as her Daddy, her Mama, her brother Ben, and the rest, and to feel lonely to be with them, to prepare herself for that transition. Buck observed that she appeared to be enjoying this dreamlike state, and upon reflection, I find I agree.

, , , more missing words (maybe a page, hard to tell). . .

Marguerite

Note – write a paragraph or two about Marguerite’s visit with Lois at Azalea Trace in October of 1994.

April 4, 1995

. . .  (missing phrase) . . .  legislature is in session).  I spoke with Marguerite’s daughter, Marianne, at her home. Marguerite is being given morphine for comfort. Of course, it also decreases respiration. They expected her to go last night. Marianne says her mom is “mad that she’s still here,” that she said goodbye to her family. Marianne said Marguerite is “trying hard to die,” but her body won’t cooperate. Marguerite has requested that a small service be held at Marianne and John’s house.

April 5, 1995

(11:30 a.m. The Sheraton, Tallahassee) I spoke with Lois and explained that Marguerite is very ill, in the hospital, on morphine to keep her comfortable. I didn’t tell her that Marguerite is extremely unlikely to make it out of the hospital. Lois said she wanted to talk to Marguerite and to Marianne.

I passed this along to Marianne.

Lois got another Tranxene about 2 a.m.; siad she couldn’t sleep after that; referenced some difficulty in catching her breath. I tried again to reassure her that she has shortness of breath sometimes, but does not have emphysema, and that her situation can be remedied by oxygen or an adjustment in medication, so it’s important not to ignore it.

My thought at the time was to find out who had prescribed the Tranxene, and whether the help is greater than the harm.

Inguinal Hernias and Pulmonary Edema (older entries here)

12-31-91

I got home at five from errands and visiting Lois. Joe Cotti, Dr. Shearlock’s P.A., confirmed that Lois has two inguinal hernias. He theorized they may have occurred because of the strain of coughing. Surgical repair is not advisable because of her abdominal surgery history, age, and cardiovascular condition and would only be undertaken in an emergency, i.e. if her intestines herniated and became “incarcerated” or “strangulated,” a condition in which gangrene can develop rather rapidly.

Joe told us several ways to massage the small intestines back through the muscle wall while Lois lay in a prone position. He said sometimes a warm cloth helps, but that the main thing to watch for is sharp pain in the area. He advised if the intestines couldn’t be massaged back into their proper place within 2-3 hours, to get her to Baptist’s emergency room.

1-17-92

A lot has happened since my last entry. Lois’s abdominal problem continued to worsen until on December 21 she was admitted with acute diverticulitis and a peritoneal infection. She spent a rugged nine days at Baptist Hospital. She had to endure a frightening blood transfusion on Christmas Eve late at night, intravenous antibiotics and no food for several days, then a liquid diet, CAT scans, many x-rays and a barium enema. On December 30, she was released back to Azalea Trace with a month’s supply of the fierce antibiotic Flagyl.

She was exuberant to leave and hospital and return to the Trace. She seemed so happy to see the employees, her room, and especially the birds at the feeder. But in the following days, she continued to stay in her gown all day and barely leave the bed.

She was weak and complained of her tongue being sore and swollen. Then on Thursday of the same week, she developed a peculiar complaint. Her left arm was swollen, particularly between the elbow and hand. It felt very warm. Actually, she felt warm all over. Her blood pressure began to creep up and she seemed intermittently confused.

On Saturday morning, January 4, Buck was deer hunting just over the Alabama border about 25 miles away. I called Lois shortly after nine. She was very distressed. “I can’t pee,” she said. “My arm is huge. Nothing is working.” I called the front office to get a nurse in there. When they checked her blood pressure it was 200/84 and she was running a fever. The staff called an ambulance, I left a note for buck, and took off for the emergency room.

The diagnosis was volume overload or pulmonary edema (water on the lungs), basically an impending congestive heart failure crisis. The doctors drained a lot of fluid from her lungs using massive doses of diuretics. Fortunately, Lois didn’t develop pneumonia. The worst part of her stay was the daily painful needle sticks to check her arterial blood gas level.

Lois was released from the hospital on January 8. As of the 30th, she had not gotten dressed in street clothes a single day. She grew progressively weaker and anorexic. For several days she didn’t even eat any breakfast, always her favorite meal of the day. I made double beef consomme, took it in a thermos, and tried to feed Lois teaspoons at a time with only a little success.

Lois’s weight upon entering the hospital was 146, higher than normal because of retained fluid. Upon discharge, it was 130, but dropped to 127 within three days. Dr. Robert Harris (Shearlock’s partner) ordered the diuretics suspended and further blood testing.

By the weekend she looked and sounded much better. One of the nurses even commented that Lois had some pink back in her cheeks. By May, she was much better. I even noted in my journal that “we’ve had some miracles” with Lois.

Background

Buck and I closed the sale of Aladdin Communications on July 6, 1990. We flew to Maine the very next day, staying for a fantastic two weeks, ten on a blueberry farm near Machias and three in a condo at Southwest Harbor.

Returning home, we enjoyed being alone in our home for the very first time: no more employees arriving at 8 a.m. Our other business, a dry cleaning shop, was in trouble as usual, and Buck and I got involved on a daily basis. He was still working as Director of Public Affairs for champion International, so I was at the dry cleaner during the work week, and we were there together on the weekends. He came as often as he could, too, during the day and at closing time. At home, we counted the money, check the receipts and figured out how to grow the business and sell it.

And then a bombshell exploded. Buck was in Stamford, CT on Thursday, November 8. I was packing to get ready for our trip to our vacation timeshare in the mountains of north Georgia scheduled for November 10. Lois enjoyed watching ESPN on television. Her TV wasn’t working properly, so that Thursday I planned to take her one of the extra old videocassette recorders form the business we had just sold so she could connect it to her old set and use its tuner and remote to access ESPN.

When I called Lois that morning about 10:30 to confirm I would be over with the VCR around 3, she said she hadn’t slept well and didn’t feel well. She said her right leg was cold all night and she just couldn’t seem to keep it warm. I suggested we could make my visit another day, but she wanted me to come along and said she would fix a Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie for us.

When I arrived, Lois was sort of leaning against the wall, just in the space between her bathroom and closet. She looked sheepish somehow, as though she had been caught at something. I noticed she was holding her foot at an odd angle and asked her what was wrong.

. . . missing sentences . . . and gone to lie down in bed, still not feeling well. When the oven timer buzzed and she started to get out of bed, she said her right leg had “gone to sleep” and she went down to the floor, spraining her ankle.

Lois was certain we should apply heat to the ankle. She was chilled all over, really. I found some electric warming slippers for her feet. She sat in her usual chair and we shared some pumpkin pie and a glass of water. She seemed her usual self, just with a bruised ankle. I left about 6:30, after Lois assured me that she would be very careful, and didn’t plan to do anything but eat a piece of cold chicken and go to bed.

The next morning, I went to work at the dry cleaner. There was a break in the action mid-morning and I called Lois to check on her. The phone rang and rang and rang. I tried again five minutes later. Still no answer. with a stone in my belly I called Buck’s assistant, Jo Ann, to ask if she had a key to Lois’s home. Jo Ann heard the fear in my voice, said she would pick me up in a few minutes, and we would go over there.

We pounded on Lois’s door and then stood on the picnic table bench to try to see into the bedroom through its high windows. Just as we were about to find a way to break in, a pale, wretched-looking Lois staggered to the door. Jo Ann and I virtually carried Lois back to her bed. She tried speaking to us, but in a voice so thick and slurred that Jo Ann whispered a question to me, wondering if Lois might be drunk. I said no, and really began to worry.

Lois was able to tell us that she woke up ill some time during the night or early morning, vomiting, with diarrhea and a bad headache. She was very dehydrated, but was afraid to drink anything for fear of getting sick all over again. She seemed to be partially delirious, and at times appeared to lapse into near unconsciousness.

I called her regular doctor and spoke with his nurse who suggested we bring Lois to the Navy Hospital emergency room to be checked out. I didn’t know anything about the symptoms of stroke and was thinking it was something like a severe stomach virus. I remember wondering whether the chicken she had planned to eat for her supper the night before was spoiled. One thing was clear: she was extremely ill and getting worse by the minute.

The night before, when Buck had called me from New York, I told him about Lois’s accident with her foot. We agreed then that I would pick him up from the airport Friday afternoon and we would go straight to Lois’s house and check on her. Given the situation with Lois, I sent Jo Ann to meet Buck at the airport. We held off taking her to the hospital until Buck could get there and evaluate the situation.

Shortly after he arrived, we took Lois to the Navy Hospital emergency room. By then, her heart rate was unstable, her mental alertness was varying from moment to moment, she was experiencing chest pain, and she looked dreadful.

Lois was checked in,  with suspected bacterial meningitis. The doctors were wrong, and valuable time was lost.

 

Thunder Dreams

Last night the thunder rumbled so continuously I dreamed of a bowling alley from my childhood. That time my finger got stuck in the hole. To say I was a graceless bowler is a gratuitously kind exaggeration.

It was from a place of deep sleep way down in some well of consciousness that I heard a sound that cracked me awake, out of bed, stumbling around, at first missing the direction of the door and almost tripping over free weights lying near the glass doors. Getting my bearings, I heard the sound again. Someone was pounding on the front door!

Stepping more carefully through the slightly open bedroom door, through the short hallway, around the corner and into my study, I finally stopped. “What if someone is in the house? Is the alarm on? What time is it?  Why on earth is someone pounding on the door?”

I raised my left arm slowly and focused on the small glowing disk of my wristwatch: two a.m. In the southeast corner of the study there is a six-inch wide, six feet tall wood-framed glass panel. It provides a perfect view of the front porch. I peered out. No one there.

“The kids!” What if something happened and they tried to call and couldn’t get us and came over to try and wake us up! Last night I had left several cordless phones littered about the house, none in their cradles. I found one in the kitchen. No messages.

I stood there for a few minutes, drinking a glass of cool water, thinking. I thought about putting on some coffee and just staying up, then put my glass down and headed back to bed. Even with his impaired hearing, it’s usually Buck who starts awake and reaches for his Beretta when an out-of-context sound occurs in the night. But he was breathing in that husky way of deep sleep.

Maggie was still right there on her sheepskin mat beside my bed, alert but quiet. Her tongue darted out for a quick lick of my palm, and I stroked her once from head to tail. TAIL. That wide labrador retriever tail was stretched out, the last several inches resting on an open space on the bottom shelf of my bedside bookcase.

Ah, I had found the source of the sound of pounding on a door which awakened me from sleep. Maggie was having a thunder dream, too.