Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sandbox Tactics

Three year old bullies in the sandbox don’t share their toys, throw fistfuls of grit at the other kids and take up more than their fair share of space. What we’ve got here in the banking industry are three year olds disguised as grown men and women who hog all the money, ignore pleas for fairness and refuse to provide credit. And what does Congress do? Sit in the corner and suck their thumbs, unable to pass legislation that would force banks to share what they’ve been ‘given’ with all the other kids in the playground, not just the toughies they hang around with. Something needs to be done about this bully behavior. And the wimps who refuse to stand up for themselves.

As Erik Erikson so adroitly put it, during the first year of development, trust vs. mistrust is the overriding issue facing infants. What that means is that mothers and fathers need to provide enough trust so that the baby believes his needs will be met, that someone will feed her, change his wet diaper and soothe her distress. At the same time, some amount of mistrust is healthy. After all, infants need to be able to self-soothe which is their first step towards independence and self reliance. Having to wait a little while for a parent to show up helps the baby find her thumb and tickle his own toes. More trust, some reasonable amount of mistrust and you’ll end up with a fairly healthy child who grows into an adult with a sense of fairness and cooperative spirit. Assuming the rest of the development goes along swimmingly. But whatever occurs, most agree this first year issue of trust vs. mistrust is huge.

What we’ve got here are a group of people who are on overload with mistrust. Maybe they didn’t get enough care and feeding as infants, maybe they weren’t encouraged to share, or maybe they are just a bunch of miserable bullies. Excuse me, but who actually needs millions of dollars a year when the bank or company he’s supposed to be running is about to become extinguished? Dividends for people who have plenty of money while retirement benefits plummet? Outrageous. Retention bonuses? A bonus by any other name is still a bonus. Where are these supposedly brilliant minds going to get another job when unemployment has reached new heights in every field?

I can hear that spoiled child in the sandbox yelling, “MINE!” All those who have received billions from Treasury Secretary Paulson and Bush – because they clearly are the ones doling out the candy and toys –continue to refuse to open up credit. Fireballs are being thrown all over the place and they pour on the gasoline. My guess is that if I asked the mothers of these bullies if they shared their toys in the sandbox, she’d answer with a definitive ‘NO’.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Poem

"On NPR's All things Considered last night, they did a story about black folks living in very red Missourri and what this election means to them. Many of those interviewed had never voted because they either a) didn't care, b) didn't think that their vote mattered, or c) didn't know how to vote.

Some of their stories and views were very interesting, and for those interested I'm sure the story can be found on the NPR website..

the piece ended with one of the guys reading a text message that he got from a friend and was also passing around......

Rosa sat so Martin could walk

Martin walked so Obama could run

Obama is running so our children can fly...

I love things that are concise yet say so much with so few words...

pass it on..."

From Rebeccah Rush

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Ugly Reality of Racism

Is there anything else to think or write about other than the upcoming election? The miserable, failing economy? The never ending war in Iraq? The lack of intelligent leadership in this country? The proliferation of greed that permeates our lives? I wish I'd written the message I received yesterday, but since I didn't, I'm doing the next best thing - spreading the truth in hopes you'll forward it to everyone you know, to rekindle the American spirit of true equality, appreciation for differences and striving for excellence.

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said 'I do'to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama were a member of the Keating-5?
What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Let’s say you are The Boss... which team would you hire?

With America facing historic debt, 2 wars, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc.

Educational Background of the Candidates:

Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

vs.

McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899 [the bottom 1%]

Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire ?

PS: What if Barack Obama had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Traveling On


I’m in Charlevoix for the week with seven other good women. Water, stones, sand dunes, trees, grass. The empty beach reminds me of summers in Union Pier when I was a child. If I close my eyes, I can smell the pungent odor of clay, taste melted cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, feel the texture of peeled green grapes against my tongue, relish the flesh as it bursts warm and watery in my cheeks.


The northern tip of Michigan has its own flavor. Multicolored, striated Petoskey rocks form a crust along the water’s edge. Across the bay on Washington Island, pure white stones bake in the sun. Streams along the edges of boulders produce silky strands of orange and mustard colored moss. I stare at the waves, mesmerized by the vast space. The season has shifted from summer heat to crisp autumn.


The women move easily among each other. We take walks down the beach, watch sunsets, collect and paint rocks, cook meals together, share family stories. One has a child in college for the first time, another is planning a wedding, a third is a grandchild’s birth. No matter what tale I begin to tell, Ben shows up, his antics woven deeply into the fabric of my life.

.

In September 1992, Ben returned from Paris. He threw everything he owned into the back of his new red pick-up truck and drove to California to work for a film company, an impulsive venture, the first of many. Nine months later, he transported art from Phoenix to Toronto to earn a few hundred dollars. After depositing the shipment, he surprised us, arriving in Chicago at dinnertime.


“I just started packing my stuff and couldn’t stop. Los Angeles is not for me.”


Ben traveled light, moved impulsively and left furnishings with abandon. When his moment came on July 3, he took his chance to discard the joy that had become a burden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day by Day

Each morning I say today is the day I will post on Burnt Chocolate for all the good people who have asked about how I am feeling, how our family is managing but the days and weeks passed in silence. Until now. What I want to say is that we are all doing well, returning to some semblance of normalcy. That's what I wish was true. And in some ways, it is true. We've gone to a movie, eaten a few meals out, spent some time with friends. We had a restful week in Connecticut with our son Matthew and his family. We spent a day in Chicago with Josh and his daughters. Zoe makes us laugh with her antics.

But the deeper truth is that there's a huge space in my heart that will never be filled. I know that's true. At first I thought it was possible to find another piece of work or love to fill the hole, that eventually, it would somehow close up or shrink. But I've come to realize that learning to live with the emptiness is the task at hand.

When a friend suggested I write about the grief to help me work through the agony, I laughed. Is there anything else for me to write about now, any stories to tell that don't end up belonging in some way to Ben? It's hard to get through the day without feeling bombarded by unfulfilled wishes or how much Ben would have enjoyed the concert last evening on the square or how we would have picked apart the new Woody film. Take each day and do the best you can. And so it goes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Josh's Tribute to Ben

Matt, Josh and Ben 1991

Dear Ben,
Today is a very sad day for me, for you are my brother, and now I must learn to live without your wonderful smile. I didn't quite know what to tell your friends and family about you so I decided to write you a letter instead. In your final days, while the spoken word escaped you, you were still writing things down, with your toes and your beautiful eyes, guiding the curser of your life. They tell me you worked until the very end but I will let others tell of your successes and your incredible work ethic, for these are things of less import to me today. You
were such a wonderful brother to me Ben, and truly, you were my best friend in this world you have left me to dwell alone, to navigate without you, my information post, my source of information, my personal news bulletin of my life. You knew me better than anyone. Even when I was screwing up, really screwing up, really bad, you didn't care, and you listened to me, and more important, you always understood how I was feeling. Do you have any idea how I am feeling today? I will tell you. There is an emptiness in my heart that I fear will never be filled, now that you are gone. Can I tell you what a wonderful man you really are? Do you want to know? I know you don't like flattery so I will keep this short, a page or less they told me, but mind you, whatever I have to say, doesn't offer the words you deserve at a time like this. I feel that if I was a runaway train going down the tracks, running wild and free, you were my conductor hitting the breaks, slowing me down, getting a handle on things, and you did, many times, more than you can possibly remember. And if I was a tunnel, empty and hollow, you were my light, filling me with joy and happiness, as my day became complete. I looked to you for so many things in this world, but most of all, I looked to you for answers. You were always smarter than me and you always knew the answers to my questions, before I ever asked them. Answers to the questions I never wanted to ask. Answers to the puzzles of my life when things were going wrong and so in return, I so wanted to help you with your disease, in any way I could, to get over these chains, your body, that eventually got the better of you. I wanted to help you fight it but I didn't know how, and so I suffered with you my friend, every step of the way. The only thing I know is one more instant of your time, out of your busy day, to be with you, and to hold your hand through what must have been a terrible ordeal, is something I will never have. The past few days, I have simply wanted to know how to say goodbye to a man I loved more than anyone I have ever known. Can you tell me that? I don't think so. I don't think anyone can truly say goodbye to someone as beautiful as you, but I try my friend, every day, to say goodbye, but I have failed. I simply cannot say goodbye to someone as kind and incredible as you. And so, instead, from this day to my last, instead of attempting to offer you my condolences for your passing, my respect for your humanity, my humility for your dignity, my suffering for your pain, my friendship for your loneliness, my health for your sickness, and all of my time in this world, however much you would like to have, from this day until my last, I will simply have to live with saying to you, dear Brother, Hello. I will greet you, welcome your smiling face, your wonderful demeanor, your kind words, your watchful eyes, each and every time I watch a little league game in the park, and see a small boy at bat, trying his best to hit the next great homer, or when I see a sailboat passing the tides and the time with a friend, drifting aimlessly on the water, strong as steel in a sea of loneliness, or when I hear a child laugh, and giggle, as I methodically punish the little man, or when I hear a song on the radio, a French tune I know you would love, or when I go for a walk and see people I've never met, happy about something, but nothing in particular, and I think, maybe they knew Ben. I miss you dear brother, now, and forever, and while I know it is my duty to say it, and while I try to muster the word goodbye, it escapes me, and so, until we meet again, I will simply settle for Hello. I love you Brother, as no man has ever loved a brother, now, always, and forever, see you at the ballpark.

Your loving brother,

Josh

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eulogy for Ben


Many of you first met Ben after his illness struck. Some of you knew him before. I had the great pleasure of birthing this magnificent man into the world. And he gave me the rare gift of being able to hold his hand and kiss his cheek as he took his last breath.

From the time Ben was three, we teased that if we took him deep into the forest and cleared his pockets of breadcrumbs and stones, he’d still find his way home. The middle child of five is no easy place to land in a family, but Ben served as our family heart. His feisty spirit challenged each of us and bound us together from the very beginning.

Several months after his diagnosis he said, ‘Mom, I’m going to make a movie about ALS.” Without a clear focus or story line, he began to film and, more importantly, make a life for himself to fill whatever days remained with purpose and love. This past week, we arrived in Cleveland with the great hope of extending Ben’s life in the ways he most wanted to live. He filmed those three final days for posterity. We left Cleveland with Ben at peace, finally.

I miss his humor and wit and grieve for the days we’ll never have. But inside I feel him growing yet again as the ephemeral spirit he was, infusing me with energy and purpose to make my life meaningful. Nothing can ever replace his glow, but in the days ahead, we’ll feel his love as we continue the journey he began, and with his spirit of adventure.

When the film was rejected from Sundance last year, I was devastated and ranted in my usual fashion. Ben said, “Don’t worry. We’ll find our way.” Just as Indestructible found its way into over a dozen film festivals and awards, so Ben has found his way. With his spirit and light to guide us, so shall we all.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote Ben an email, as I often did when telephone conversations became too difficult. It read. . .

Dear Ben,

In case I haven't said it lately, I'm so proud of you, of all you've achieved, how you maintain focus and use everything you've got to make this world a better place than you found it, in spite of the challenges you face every minute, let alone every day. Sometimes I just sit and bask in the wonder of you.

Love Mom

When the days ahead become difficult, I will remember Ben’s fortitude and strength and relish the gift having known him every day of his brief, relevant life.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Candles and Cakes


Zoe, our five year old granddaughter, had an overnight with us several weeks ago. It was just the two of us that night. I fixed bulls eye eggs for dinner and had already lifted my fork when she said, “Grandma, it’s Friday night. Don’t you think we should light the candles and say the blessings?”

Right. The child had brought with her a small challah. Together, we put the candles in their holders, found the matches, poured the wine. I was about to strike the match when she said, “First we have to take a deep breath and welcome Shabbat.”

Right again. After dinner, we went upstairs to read a few stories together until it was time for her bath.

“Grandma, I’d like to relax for a while.” She leaned back in a bubble filled tub and sucked her thumb.

“Sure, Zoe, take a soak.” I twirled her hair into a wet bun at the top of her head.

“Let’s have a conversation.” Zoe pushed the whirlpool button on, then off.

“What would you like to talk about?”

“Do I get to pick because I’m the guest?”

“Sure.”

“How do you know when someone dies?”

Her question took me completely by surprise although I knew death had been on her mind for some time. She misses our dog Emma and often asks questions about a grandmother she never knew. She knows her uncle is seriously ill. I wanted to give her just enough of an answer but not too much. After all, she’s five years old and you never know the genesis of a five year old’s questions even if you think you do. Remember the Art Linkletter story about the little boy who, after asking his mom where he came from, learned the basics of sex and babies when all he really wanted to know was where he was born, Chicago or Detroit.

Not wanting to give her more information than she needed, I said, “A person stops breathing when they die. That’s how you know.” Satisfied with that answer, she asked if we could bake a cake together in the morning.

What I find so astounding and wonderful about this child is her capacity to consider the harsher realities of life and, in a breath, swing fully and with complete abandon to the joys.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Wyoming Crone

When friends and I meet for morning coffee once or twice a week, we talk about the usual stuff of politics, movies, travel plans. A few days ago it was wrinkles, face cream and the ravages of advanced middle age. That conversation made me think of an incident on a trip our family took years ago.

We rode into the Yellowstone wilderness on horseback with our three sons, then all under the age of ten. The wranglers pitched our tents and prepared our meals. Looking for a family pioneer experience, we'd given no thought to the isolation, lack of medical facilities or danger. We rode forth in blistering heat, rain, then sleet and finally freezing cold. On day five, we reached the pinnacle of the mountain range. From our vantage point, we saw the rivers flow in opposite directions from the Great Divide. Along with the mules and wranglers, our group had stopped our horses in a long row to rest and enjoy the magnificent view.

Hail, the size of golf balls, then pummeled us. I remember thinking we could have been lying on the beach in the French Riviera for the same money. I sagged in my saddle. My back ached and bottom hurt, the hail stung and more than anything, I wanted a cup of hot coffee and my own bed.

I heard the horse and saw the dust clouds even before the woman rode past. She sat tall in the saddle on a magnificent stallion, her back rigid. White hair hung past her shoulders from beneath a wide brimmed, worn leather hat trimmed in feathers and beads. Her long thin face was creviced and tanned. She stared straight ahead, as if we were invisible. And then she was gone. After five more excruciating days, we arrived back at the ranch and flew home. But the vision of that woman remained a powerful memory, although it’s only recently that I’ve come to understand why.

She projected a quiet strength and confidence, comfortable in her own skin and place in the world. Unconcerned, like the rest of us, about weight, wrinkles and face cream, I suspect she was too busy living with stalwart clarity to ponder the meaning of her life.

Friday, March 21, 2008

OUR EMMA


Emma’s gone. She died at the end of January after a brief illness of severe arthritis combined with spinal stenosis that incapacitated all four of her legs. Twelve and a half is old for a dog like Emma whose mixed heritage of Sharpei, Pit Bull and Black Lab frightened more than a few passersby. But for most who met her, the wrinkles congregated around her face and her sleek black coat combined into a regal beauty and loving demeanor.

As a pup, she challenged us every day, as she ate batteries, table legs, one fur jacket, wood trim, plaster walls, and dismantled a steel cage. A constant moving target, she skittered up and down front stoops, sniffed bushes, and reversed direction halfway across a street.

Emma moved from puppy hood to old age overnight. One day she leaped onto our bed, balanced on her hind legs to open the laundry room door for a drink and raced down the street to chase a squirrel. And then she didn't.

In November, Emma refused to walk more than five feet past the front door of our building. She stopped walking up stairs to her bedroom mat. Food lost its charm. I carried her outside, fed her herbal supplements and scheduled acupuncture treatments.

The last weekend in January, our entire family assembled for the Waisman screening for Indestructible. She seemed to rally. Late one night, when Ben needed help, Emma licked Elizabeth, his caregiver, until she woke up. But after everyone left, she collapsed for the last time.

Every day, I miss Emma’s crazy tail whipping against my leg, her smushy face and sweet eyes. I still hear her coming up the stairs to visit me at my desk. She enjoyed a full life, was well loved and is missed by many, pretty much what we all hope for.

Emma’s Legacy:
1. Love with abandon
2. Find joy in the small moments
3. Stand firm when it matters
4. Show respect for the alphas in your life

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

INDESTRUCTIBLE WINS AGAIN!

Indestructible won the jury prize for Best Documentary at the Lake County Film Festival and Best Documentary at Byron Bay Film Festival in Australia!
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Breaking News! We have had a generous donor commit to matching your contributions for the 50 to 1 Campaign. Tom Shadyac, the Hollywood Director and Producer of Bruce Almighty fame, will match up to $50,000 of your donations....and you get a signed DVD. Help spread the word. You can make the difference.
--------------------------------------------
50 to 1 CAMPAIGN
379 Contributions, 1621 to go....
Own one of the original 2000 signed copies of Indestructible AND change the world!
We like long shots. That's why we are working to change the face of ALS. That's why we made a movie directed by and starring a guy with a fatal neuro-degenerative disease. Now a critically acclaimed, award winning documentary that has sold out film festivals and received the enthusiastic endorsement of one of the leading neurological research centers in the world, the Indestructible long shot is starting to pay off. Believe in this dream and make your own mark on the face of ALS. We need your help to continue the important work being done.
We are betting that 2000 people have 50 bucks to spare....and help wipe ALS off the face of our planet. When we reach our 2000 donor goal, each 50 dollar contributor will be sent an Indestructible DVD signed by Ben Byer -yeah it's corny but that's what we have, signed with his foot by the way- two Indestructible buttons, and a letter of gratitude. In addition, for every 50 dollar contribution, one DVD will be sent to an ALS patient free of charge who would otherwise be unable to see the film. The $100,000 raised by 50 to 1 will help pay for a limited theatrical release, subsequent DVD releases and marketing to bring Indestructible to a global audience.
It's fifty bucks. That's a week of lattes, a carton of cigarettes, a night at the movies, a few drinks at the bar, a fill up on the suv, some sushi, you get the picture. If just 200 of you recruit 10 friends we will reach our goal. So please help us get this film to the people who want to see it most... you!
Progress will be posted on our website and DVDs will be sent when 2000 contributions of 50 dollars are received.
This is a limited edition DVD pre-release. Only 2000 copies will be available for 50 to 1 contributors and 2000 will be donated to ALS patients. Indestructible will be available for purchase at a later date for those not participating in 50 to 1.
(Reprinted from www.indestructiblefilm.com)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Random Places

Perhaps you’ve wondered how Steve and I ended up in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, of all places. The short answer is that around our thirty-fifth anniversary, we thought a place in the country might be fun. A family retreat for our children and grandchildren appealed to our sense of adventure. But, like a lot of things, it’s more complicated.

In 1974, we moved to an expansive home next to Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois. Some years later, we renovated the nearby University Club, converting it to a celebrated public museum only to have it destroyed by an electrical fire before its third birthday. Once the details of that disaster settled, and the last of our children left for college, I felt the urge, the necessity, to move away. It didn’t matter where. Just someplace new and different. Long Grove was both of those things and it was there we experienced both anonymity and life as incorrigible misfits. After two years, we returned to downtown Chicago, a place we’d enjoyed living as a young couple. Our four story townhouse suited us perfectly and we’d probably have stayed, except that our landlord, Lee Miglin, was murdered by Andrew Cunanen in a garage that bordered our back yard.

Then we saw “Random Hearts”, a forgettable film except for one relevant scene where Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas rendezvoused at an ancient log cabin. When the river appeared in the background, rushing behind an autumn blaze of trees, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Out of the city and into the woods. A few months later, we toured Wisconsin as far west as the Mississippi, north to Sauk County, south to the Illinois border and came up with a hundred acres of trees, meadows, valleys and ridges, a solid house, a stream, herds of turkey, deer, a few foxes and tons of wildflowers. Dodgeville was six miles away. Madison the closest city.

We added a studio, a barn, bought an air-conditioned tractor with a CD player designed for city folk and left Chicago congestion behind. I found a job as Director of the Family Resource Center and for a time, life was comfortable. We drove to Madison once a week for a film and dinner, took a few classes, made some new friends, and traveled to Chicago and St. Louis to visit our children. Then Ben was diagnosed with ALS.

We live in Madison now. Our condominium incorporates everything I’ve loved about our past homes– lake views, new construction, high style, family nearby, great friends, wonderful restaurants, theaters and entertainment.

Dodgeville is for sale.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Building the Dream

Forty years ago, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King inspired visions of hope, respect and a world view of peace. Then, within a few short years, all three were torn from our lives. We’ve been wallowing in the squalor, grief and disappointment, the mediocrity of a government steeped in scandal for forty long years. Finally, we’ve a chance to come out of the desert and build the dream into reality with a leader who embraces integrity, intelligence and compassion.

Barack Obama mesmerized over 20,000 attendees Tuesday evening at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His vibrancy and charisma offered the belief that together we can recover meaning and purpose for ourselves and our country, restore respect and rebuild community. Obama’s plans to provide college tuition brought cheers and roaring approval when he said the money would have to be repaid in the form of community service, that hard work lay ahead, that sacrifices might have to be made. He uses the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ and speaks of our future together, recovering the light we thought extinguished.

Later that same evening, I read once again, Ben Byer’s extraordinary essay, The Reality of Hope, published on his blog this past Monday. His brilliant tour de force weaves together the political travesty of our times with his physical disintegration, reminding me, once again, how the political climate affects each of our lives. How embryonic stem cell research efforts to find a cure for Parkinson’s, ALS and many other horrific diseases has been polluted and hijacked by the few who consider Monty Python’s “every sperm is sacred” joke a truism.

Locked inside his failing body, Ben’s intelligence and sense of hope for himself and so many others, shines through. Together with Barack’s vision, my own wish for a brighter day might have a chance. We can each become a part of this amazing moment in our history. We don’t have to wander another 40 years in the wilderness.
VOTE OBAMA!!!
.



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Storms

We’re buried inside on this snowy day. Winds blow thick tufts against my balcony door. Driving is a needless risk, walking past the mailbox a foolish notion. Super Tuesday primaries have settled enough to turn off the television and enjoy Leonard Cohen’s music, read a book, write a few words.

Years ago, when Rebeccah was a toddler, a similar snowstorm piled mountains of the stuff on our front lawn, covering sidewalks in five foot drifts and blockading streets. A Chicago mayor lost her job, disgraced by irate citizens for her delayed response to the blizzard. But for me, those few days remain a cherished memory. Time stopped. We had plenty of food, wine, books, each other. Quiet moments, safely inside. Respite.

I’ve recently emerged from a different kind of respite, one filled with fear and sadness. But being at this end reminds me that I can still surface, that I still have enough spirit left to carry me the distance.

Just a few days after I last posted, Steve slipped on ice from a similar storm, while walking our adored, twelve year old Shar Pei-Staffordshire Terrier, Emma. To avoid crushing her, he landed against the curb and ruptured his kidney. After 12 pints of blood and 10 days in intensive care, he came home to a slow recovery. While he improved, Emma deteriorated, first from arthritis and then from a neurological insult to her spine. Time slowed as I barricaded myself inside, carried Steve his dinner, helped Emma walk. No distractions existed apart from what was needed in the moment.

Three weeks later, Emma died. The next day, Steve returned to the hospital for yet another week with a pulmonary embolism. I found Pema Chodron’s book on my shelf, When Things Fall Apart, and managed to read a page a day. Once again, my days and evenings were spent at the hospital. Steve improved. I joined a friend for a coffee, squeezed in an hour at the health club. Two days earlier than expected, I brought Steve home.

Today, for the first time in two months, I’m writing a few words. I can talk about Emma without crying. Steve looks trim, having lost more than 50 pounds, and feels confident his health is improving. Freezing rain coats the road below my window. And so it goes.