Wednesday, August 31, 2011


      I know what you must be thinking, dear readers.  FIVE days and NOTHING.  Not even a quick, "Did OK with Irene.  Hope you did as well."  Or the potentially dastardly extreme, "I guess we still have our health but I DO so miss my mind, clothes, furniture, computer.  But the Shelter is LOVELY.  They did an admirable job in so LITTLE time. Dry-ish, steamy (good for the lungs), done in mid Depression Drab but filled with SUCH ebullience, hope and gratitude one feels one has checked in to the Plaza."  No.  All I've been able to muster is sullen silence and can only HOPE I've not dashed any semblance of a kindly relationship we may have been developing pre-Irene.  Please know, too, that you were in my thoughts - wishing only for good fortune while we all toiled in the aftermath of the reign - and floods - of her Majesty.  Rather harsh, I'd say, as royalty goes. 
      And so went the humble little serfs in our little community of family and friends.  When will she arrive?  How fierce will be her mood?  Will our temporizing, meager preparations suffice?  How many pounds of flesh, joules of energy, rays of parsimonious happiness will she exact?  Truly, we were at her mercy.  She knew the powerful fear of the unknown that we harbor quietly whilst scurrying around, good little worker bees, hard-working, hill-building little ants.  All the while, stifling an amused chuckle.  "Chop, chop! Well done, lady (bug) L," she most likely mocked.  "Good work, all of that defrosting, baking, sealing," as I toiled in the kitchen preparing days of meals.  "Cooking up a storm. now, aren't you?  Well, so am I!"  One she knew would tear us apart with the ease of dismantling the wings of our Monarch Butterflies.
      (I may have mentioned - it's been so long - but our home sits on a point of land, a finger reaching for the Lynkhorn Bay.  The house is small, allowing for all manner of flora - conifers and tropicals sharing the same green beds.  And EVER so inviting to the tiniest of crawling and flying fauna - a bug haven, all moist, warm, dotted with yummy human snacks who venture out to plod through and collect, clear, crush the felled post-storm flora.  Clever, too.  "Raining.  Best get inside!" I know you've heard the roach is the oldest of creatures.  Celebrated even.  The brilliant Franz Kafka had one of his heroes meta morph into one while abed.  Obviously smart or they'd be extinct.  Not just another pretty face, the roach.
      And the fleas.  What with their bushes all akimbo, their mossy huts swamped over, they, too were tired, hungry, MORE than willing to 'settle' for a hairless treat out gathering detritus, disturbing their own temporary, hastily erected shelters.  And they REALLY got under my skin - some setting up camp.  Of course we were not only wet but in the dark.  It was SUCH a temptation to grope my way out to the porch at night, to feel SOME relief from the stifling heat, perhaps - secretly - welcome a 'breeze' - which in fact was a stinging gust of wind but I LOVE make-believe, and iced tea in the summer and reading with light.  But there's not time to play "a few of my favorite things" because we're still reeling in Virginia, entrenched and scratching in post Highness Irene labors.)
      She was at her MOST playful - twirling, sliding, jumping - Friday evening and throughout the night.  Two of our children and their children live in the same general vicinity - but a healthy trek away from us - and we stayed in touch with cell phones, taking and giving advice, encouragement, hope, prayers.  To be sure we were all altering the facts some but keeping ole 'fear' at bay was primo.
Normally, that white little dock cannot be seen from here and, in fact one steps directly onto it from solid, dry ground.  Similarly, there is NO water from the dock to the far right of this picture,  The two points are contiguous, neighborly, 'y'all come over for BBQ, heeya?'  And Her Wetness was just getting started when I shutter bugged around the house, still able to see my hand in front of my face.  And it was a darned good thing I COULD see if I do say so my DARNED self because that made it SO much easier to find all of those bright, cheery, STORED-FOR-THE-SUMMER quilts and gracelessly schlep them out to be tucked against shoe moldings and thresholds - which seemed to be multiplying.
      This feat was accomplished JUST in time because we soon heard - and not ones to be fooled, knew the floors moved and windows quickened their rattle - the felling of what surely had to be an extremely old, tall specimen of flora.  Sure enough.  The phone rang - LAST time the land line rang in days - to permit a harbinger-of-doom type of fellow the excited privilege of announcing the crashing of the largest tree on his corner manse property directly on to the power lines - what-would-Helen-Keller-do-time - and then gaily dancing about in the street like a band of lighted serpents.
If  you look VERY closely, on the left - JUST above the yellow metal crane man's equipment -a very tall tree - the house to it's right has two and a half levels - goes STRAIGHT UP. But - if you're a good inspector - notice the ANGLED trying-to-pose-as-a-limb wood, leafy appendage that begins its lean above house-level and to the right, coming to rest on used-to-be-neighboring-tree, standing tall, upright and working very hard to support what is really a massive splinter - hyperbolize that freely - which Irene tickled off during her performance, teasingly balancing it on bro tree before her masterpiece - this being a mere apprentice piece - jete to the corner manse where right en pointe, she twirled the BIG boy into the power line.  Hence our final phone call, the successful debugging of our land line; BLACKOUT.
     ( I so wanted to share the many acts of kindness and caring that folks displayed while we serfed around, collecting huge , sticky pine branches, acorns, pine cones, flotsom and jetsom that had washed ashore from homes - and houses-of-fun from the looks of some of those 'jester-toys' - but what with scrounging around in the evening for Calamine lotion, tweezers, antiseptic solutions, dressings and potables, the seemed to be first a growing fatigue then increased aching and finally a generous dollop of ennui at night.  Just COULDN'T write.  But, the good news is that searching feudal attempt at finding my quill, I forgot to scratch my bug bites.)  
      I trust He held you in the palm of His hand and all is well and so to bed.  Later, Lorane. . . .   

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight, Irene. NOT

NOT "finer" in Carolina

It's Friday.The last time we chatted, I took you down to our beach cottage via Memory Lane.  It's on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Specifically, Corolla.  The memory, however, was all about Charlie-the-hurricane and how we weathered it.  Of course, hats off to the storm-savvy-harpist friend who was visiting - along with ten children, a grandfather and a Brittany spaniel.  So, as to Charlie, we had the 'right stuff' and a happy ending even.  In fact, without realizing/planning it, a la Mr. Frost, I bid you sweet dreams with a famous poem.  It referred to a famous double play - Tinker to Evers to Chance - called "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" by Franklin Pierce Adams.
      Did I mention today is Friday?  Right.  And it's been a most erratic/uncharacteristic day for your devoted teller of tales.  You see, rather than writing in the comfort of my cozy imagination, I've been alternately #1 mesmerized by input from the TV or, #2 cooking.  The driving force for #1 is ongoing reportage of an approaching devastation in the form of Hurricane Irene and the reason for #2 is an anticipation of the imminent loss of electricity and its attendant amenities like the ability to see, to have at hand edible sustenance as well as drinkable potables ALL perks that accompany #1.
      (Ironically, there was an excellent chance of my not being abreast of this potential crisis because just yesterday, my husband announced - in that 'glum-chum', defeatist tone that men acquire along with their wedding rings - "The TV isn't working.  No reception.  Wants a 'valid something-or-other card'."  Call me silly, but I'm from the school of 'if-it-breaks-fix-it'.  But in the wife department, after forty-three years and NOT, thank goodness, inherited the "dumb ass" gene in this arena, I knew better than to suggest calling a repair man.  That would cost money - scarce enough already these days.  No invoices, thank you.  No voices period, actually.  Silence is good at times like this.  That way the bearer of the negative news doesn't know what you're thinking. 
      Now my thoughts were actually quite mundane, desultory.  Nothing clever - like a solution was popping up.  BUT.  Although it's not my fave appliance, I'm not averse to talking on the phone in a situation like this.  I called the cable provider service department, in THIS case actually grateful to be interacting with a speaking robot.  Robot inquired as to the purpose of my call - even providing choices - and, once we were on the same blank, e-reader page, provided two alternatives.  I could push the red, lighted button adjacent to the 'valid something-or-other card'-holder - if my control box has one - OR turn the power completely off, count to thirty, turn the power back on and check for signs of life in the TV.  I elected the latter option and, as instructed by robot who announced she was still there and holding, duly noted that the search was on for the satellite accompanied by a horizontal progress bar which paraded across the screen, left to right, indicating progress in rising percentages.  Robot cheerfully reminded me to tell her when the process was complete.  I finally said yes and hung up.  Sounds abrupt, I know but does etiquette require an expression of gratitude to a telephone robot? The salient point of this exercise, the thing that elevates it to a class of things lovely is the TV was functioning flawlessly.  Repair person indeed.)
      So it was, then, that I had the ability to monitor the uninvited Irene's progress with visuals all day today. Unless I was cooking, and I would increase the volume during these interruptions.  It is five thirty, PM and I just heard a broadcaster say, "Nature always bats last" via, "You know what they say."  Well I don't.  Do you?  I mean who is this "they" to whom he blithely alludes?  And what of this cryptic "bats"? Is that some new age 'code' for something sinister to which I, for one, am not privy? Hmmmm?  At least MY baseball analogy was upbeat, artful, had "IT" even.
      The entire East Coast is currently a bit on edge, pal, as to the safety, fortunes, even well being of the population - young, old, loved, infirm ALL stripes.  I BETCHA they'd prefer you keep your little seriously unsettling old saws to yourself.  Hubby and I, while escorting Bridie on her constitutional through the neighborhood, couldn't help but notice the damage-mitigating precautions folks have effected - securing garden fixtures, removing deck furniture, storing cars in their garages.  The same ole same ole waving/smiling rituals were maintained, we picked up after our perambulating pets, but there was an eerie broken silence during such activity.  Our home - today - sits on a point of land jutting into the Lynkhorn Bay, contiguous with the Chesapeake whose shores may very well be re-sculpted by Sunday morn.  And still, we stare at the developing events and strain to hear the now reporting-in-the-rain talking, gelled and wind-blown heads.
      (Of course, looking at the bright side, as a family, an avid sports-fan-family, we would have been denied hours of good news and exciting 'plays' were it not for the TV.  And we owe
it all to the man my son - pictured left with his son - is fond of referring to as "TV Guy".  TV Guy was part of a wonderful Christmas present from the children, which, once installed, would allow us to see both cable and local Steelers' games.  Now you have to be special to know TV Guy and he had been here once with my son under some ruse and during much company and confusion.  I just recall asking him to help our daughter Julie - or ANYbody - to rotate and straighten the Christmas tree - glares all around - except for TV Guy. 
      I will also always recall the day he was to come to the house and install the present.  Son Philip called to say TV guy was running late.  Eileen was having trouble reaching the only nurse - surprised? - who knew the date and time of her next appointment.  I realized I'd fed the dog twice.  Perhaps as a reward, Bridie soon loudly announced the arrival of TV Guy, a dear friend/helper of Philip's in-laws.  He made a rather 'man-on-a-mission' entrance, armed with several boxes and four hours of chit-chat.  He installed, set, tested 'tv' things and instructed me about 'things TV' such that we got reception of local channels and cable beautifully.
      The side-dish to this main course, unfortunately, was that I then knew more about TV Guy's personal, psychological, social and professional life than anyone in the world.  Added to this bank of data was the same HIIPA-forbidden information about his former wife, "multi-personalitied" daughter and her seven year-old son.  TV Guy had raised this guitar-progeny lad since he was a fretfully young four months.  I guess it could have been worse.  I mean, the entire cast of dysfunctional characters could have been waiting for him in his van and, for any number of reasons, come in!)
      Rather, it was not, he finally went out and we can endure the tension and concern and "bat" baggage that are unique to folks who live quietly, in a lazily lovely community in a small home overlooking usually calming, brackish water and among similarly-uncomplicated people.  Of course, in the interest of levity, Phil and I talked as we walked about a few people who - as our offspring are wont to say - don't "roll the way" we do.  I guess my favorite of our musings was that a certain twosome, having the true misfortune of a wife recently afflicted with escalating Alzheimer's married to a husband who tended toward physical abuse even when she was not only sanguine but exceptionally gifted in the visual Arts, would not fare well.  Perhaps he would enthusiastically, even coyly, suggest to her impressionable/accommodating mind, that it would be fun - and good luck - if they went out to their secluded, manicured ornate atrium behind their home so that he could bind her with silk scarves to the seated statue of Buddha.  She'd be thrilled, poor dear.
      Mind's a tricky space, oft crowded with mischief-minded imps.  For now, I want to assure you that: Kathy D is safe - she was considering "riding it out" in Rockaway with a few cans of Spam and some wine; to our knowledge, the fam AND the community are following instructions and, for now, are dry and, to all of you who may chance upon these words, we ARE our brother's keeper and, til we meet again, I wish you "Bacon and tears in the morning, champagne and laughter at night."  Later, Lorane. . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011


      The last time we met, it was all about birthdays, more specifically tributes to August birthday people and tributes in general.  I know you'll want to hear of Kathy's reaction to HER B-Day tribute.  Hubby Willie had returned home from their summer cottage while Kathy stayed behind to enjoy a visit with Ryan, the child whom she's been teaching since pre-K.  Ryan's parents brought him to Kathy's beach cottage for a most special visit.  He addresses her as "Miss Kathleen" - and that this formerly severely autistic child 'addresses' at all is a tribute to Kathy-the-teacher-lover-of-children.  He's a lucky little shaver who, like all those unfortunate among us who have a 'condition' or illness must seek help and depend on qualified caregivers.  Shortly after her guests departed, the MOST welcome guy, clad in brown shorts and shirt, arrived with a gift I'd sent her.  A token, really - funny book about grandmothers and a copy of her B-Day "tribute".  After 'shedding a few', she wrote a note of gratitude and inquired about our well being in regard to yesterday's quake.  Virginia Beach is but 90 miles from Richmond; Kathy's cottage, at the far end of Rockaway Beach in NY, had somewhat seized, appliances dancing, furniture following suit so she wondered how WE had fared.  In fact, we were on an errand and I barely noticed as Phil was driving.  More impressive was that there was an earthquake in Virginia at at all.  But we don't have time to ponder this because we're all revved up today about our - apparently - weekend guest, Hurricane Irene.  Could get sticky/tricky.  Been there.
      (Thinking of Ryan in the same discussion birthed an analogy I'd not considered before, ie, illness, its accompanying distress/stress, is also a 'storm'.  We 'weather' it; the outcome is often uncertain; we are at the mercy of qualified - or not - care/assistance-givers.  I was reminded of our experience with Phil's sister, Eileen's, protracted 'illness' and the 'weathering' of it.  The necessary reliance on/being at the mercy of others loomed large as I recalled dealing with the "money lady."
On this "special" day, Eileen (pictured left) was pacing & edgy prior to our meeting with the financial aid person. Naturally we were late. She had given us specific instructions - as was her wont - to be in the lobby of specific bldg X at specifically 10 AM whence we would dial a 10 digit number, followed by the cagey & specific "1 2 3 #" which would precipitate her appearance with specificity and punctuality and gracious leading of the way to our specific trysting place.
      Wellll, it was raining, we left our house @ roughly 9:45 AM and amused ourselves during the trek into downtown Norfolk fumbling through a manila envelope stuffed with sheaves of information in the form of documents, bills, various lists of things Eileen did not own - so very short lists - and official proffers of identification, ie, Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Automobile Titles which she also did not have thereby lightening the manila load considerably.
      We were maneuvering this treasure less trove alternately with the large telephone book because we thought we were to use the magic number ONLY when we were once inside the lobby of Specific X so we were trying to find the general public's access to Ms. Susan M which was complicated by the fact that "the Stone Wall", as Eileen was fond of saying, is employed by "ChamberlinE", Eligibility Specialists.  And I do think they should have kept the 'a' in Chamberlin if they wanted to play with the big girls, don't you? It's of no moment as neither Ms. M nor her august employer were listed. We were getting frazzled - but almost there - it's so hard to scan tumbling pieces of paper AND "manage" a phone book search when you're driving a rented vehicle. (My poor little "back-end er" was still in ICU) with wipers going on when I thought I'd used a directional & vice versa).
      Unfortunately for our family,  we were no strangers to hurricanes either. Many years ago, I - along with a dear friend who played the harp in the Norfolk Symphony and, more importantly, was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas - were at our cottage with 10 children, including one French foreign exchange student, my 68 year-old father and our Brittany spaniel when TV programming was interrupted to bring us a special report on the 'comin -your-way' Charlie-beast-of-a-hurricane.  It was apparently supposed to touch land in Wilmington but had - ready? - changed course and was heading, in the broadcaster's last-heard words, "I wouldn't want to be anywhere near Duck, on the Outer Banks today."  Then. Blank screen.  "WHY, ED," my mind screamed, "what about Duck, Ed?  Ed?"  I'd been wondering why my friend had moved the grill in from the back porch early that morning so right after she said, "I'd best be on my way.  We have a matinee today," I swiftly, quietly, deftly snatched her car keys from the table and rooted them in a hanging plant.
      (Wellll, 3 blocks from the Medical Center Campus, the cell phone rang - somewhere between us - and I found it to be the M WOMAN HERSELF so we went right into gear using those terribly relieved, happy, embarrassed, nauseating tones of voice saved for such occasions as I relayed to Eileen how fortunate we were because you'll never believe. . ."oh, no, really? Please let ME explain to her. . .". And so it was that minutes later, I dropped Eileen off at the Main Hospital adjacent to the Childrens' Hospital, sporting its Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory "look"and went off to the parking garage, visible in the far, bleak distance, telling her I'd meet them wherever. But no, after schlepping back, about to inquire as to Eileen's location, she called my name from behind, simply saying, "Lorane. There she is. She insisted on waiting for you."
      And after settling comfortably into 3 office desk chairs lined against the wall in a hallway, the 'Meeting' began. Forms, forms, forms. . .questions, questions, questions - state and federal - re: who are you, how did you get here, whom are those living at this address and this address? And cryptic comments, her favorite being, "I can only write down what you tell me.". We would take turns with what seemed to be feeble attempts at clarification - "Yes, she's not able to work because she is disabled. (one of her blank-tape glares) "Ah, I see." "She is disabled because the cancer causes a great deal of pain. . . because the cancer prevents her from using her right arm presently. . .because she doesn't have the stamina to point to an unruly student. . .". Finally, she scoured her notes with the order and dexterity of the astigmatic and said, "What was the first thing you said, 'the cancer completely interferes with her ability to function'"? that will have to do.
      After an overly extended discussion of "Of which state is Eileen a resident?" - a matter which will be decided by codified law & the state which harbors her person at this time, Eileen signed 20 or so forms which would be processed, ruled upon and either accepted or appealed.  Our "advocate" scurried off mumbling, to the Great Eligibility Shaman, her Supervisor, where they would chant, choose and chain the matter UP - perhaps to Chamberlin him/herself. . .)
      What with the winds picking up, the little children bellowing excitedly about the water in the commodes sloshing to and fro, the exchange student pestering with "Q'uest que c'est 'CHARLIE" to which I informed her "It's a storm.  We name them over here.  Like gerbals.", my son asking what he should be wearing and my friend's daughter announcing she'd lost contact with her Dad, the Texan took the helm.  First she ordered the 4 oldest to make a run to the nearby rip-off convenience store & buy ANYTHING labeled "to be used during a power outage/emergency"; then all tubs were filled with water; every piece of linen in the house was collected and stuffed along the doors and windows at floor level and the middle school group was ordered to go out and quickly gather any/all pieces of wood slats, etc.  The EMS van  driver arrived to tell us if we saw him return, we were to file into the van to be taken to the Corolla Lighthouse - which has 152 or so steps - as an evacuation destination.  And, chores completed by our excited crew, my friend ordered me to follow her and we went down the stairs - all cottages are on pilings - gripped each other's bodies for SOME stability as we barely made our way to our neighbor's cottage where we had moved her car, thus clearing the way for Charlie to gush under/away from ours should he drop up, retrieved a huge, thick, long rope from her car, then dragged back to our haven through the painfully stinging downpour.  Why/what up with the rope?  She used it to secure her harp.  BUT. if the need arises, we shall don life jackets - actually HAD them - and "tie ourselves one to another to the rope, and "Tally Ho" or some such.  MIND: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
      (It started slowly, this day. Lots of ennui. We sat. And sat. Started to get irritable listlessness, frenzy re: unfinished calender for Dr. Cross. But. Suddenly it was time to leave for the 2 PM progress appt. Calender still not done (to our satisfaction) so notes made re: info he might need; symptoms occurring during this "first round of chemo". We were on time; Eileen signed in @ 2:05 PM. Then we sat. And sat. And went uptstairs shopping for snacks. One hour. and 45 minutes later, she approached the crackerjack receptionist, reminded her that she signed in for a scheduled appointment with Dr. Cross @ 2: 05 PM and what the Hell!!
OOOPs. Lots of scurrying; what's her name? Doctor who?
Did she sign in? etc.
      Then a frenzied worker bee escorted us to Dr. Cross' examining area, muttering the while about checking the shedder, calling ahead to Dr. Cross, etc. . .
And Eileen announced as a 'tada!' to the waiting room, "I don't think I heard an apology, Lorane, did you?" We were ushered right in to the examining room ("You've been sitting too long!") Soon Dr. Cross came in, apologized for Eileen's incarceration in "Reception" and got down to the business of how she was doing.
      He's not a cartwheel kind of guy, but in his measured, dolcet tones he allowed as how, she hadn't had any bad, untoward effects from the chemo, her blood work was fine (what one expects) she seemed less lethargic (she was) and his plan was to start round 2 next week. The mass on he left scapula was smaller so the disease was not progressing and she had no new symptoms. The only pain was in her right arm (would wake her up from sleep) which was from the radiation of the large mass which also destroyed the brachial plexus in that arm.
      He answered questions (she'll have her blood work the afternoon before chemo AT VIRGINIA BEACH GENERAL - WALKABLE - AND HER THERAPY THERE AS WELL WHICH IS GREAT BECAUSE IF THE STRONGER, 2 DRUG TREATMENT HITS HARD, SHE'S CLOSE TO HOME) "Please call me ANY time for ANY thing. I'll see you next week. . .")
      Once back inside, everyone accounted for - Frenchie doing needle work, others playing cards, mostly poker - I had two burning questions:  Why the pieces of wood?  "Well, when the windows go, we'll have SOME protection from the boarding the kids did."  BRAIN: WINDOWS GO WHERE???  And, uh, why do we need the rope again?  Just had to hear THAT ONE REPEATED.  In sum, it was an extremely long 10 + hours.  Water poured through the window/door frames, sopping ALL precautionary absorbancy linens; the wind screamed; I prayed countless rosaries; my friend, by contrast, was a lounging Librium, gazing around at her accomplishments, occasionally seeming to scout around in search of her car keys but too respectable an agnostic to interrupt the silent pleas of the frantic Roman Catholic, pitifully-trying-to-seem-to-have-grace-under-pressure whilst clutching her wooden, papal-blessed beads; AND THEN. SILENCE.  Exhaustion, confusion, quizzical looks, but blessed silence.  She calmly explained, gazing out at the blinding sun and the emerging 'tourons', urging their toddlers to hunt for special shells in the surf, that THIS was the "Eye of the storm" into which one never ventures.
      All the while, my Dad had been calm, silent; Shamus, the Brittany, exceptionally alert. He was quite bright and I've always wondered if he KNEW there would NOT have been a life jacket for ALL human plus Shamus.  Was he planning to take Frenchie out?  We'll never know, dear readers.  But  I can only conclude that HAD Charlie NOT spared our little admixture of a sub-community of humanity, then the "saddest of possible words," would NEVER have been, "Tinker to Evers to Chance".  Later, Lorane

Friday, August 19, 2011


     I know.  You must be thinking - and justly-so - "Didn't she say she was going to continue this birthday commemoration 'on-the-morrow'."  Indeed.  And it's four days of morrows that have come and gone.  As did I.  Have to "go", that is.  Things come up, must be addressed.  So my husband and I were forced by circumstances to take a brief road trip.  And I detest long drives.  In truth, Phil was doing the driving, but aside from having the time to think and read, the experience was uncomfortable, cramped, intrusive and LONG. Yup.  But we finally got to My Wits' End and actually, though I hate to admit it, we got a lot done once there.  It was necessary 'housekeeping' stuff;  got it over with and I'm back - pointing out the obvious.  And continuing my birthday tribute, this time to my 'bestest', oldest, high school friend - Kathy D.
     (You know that having-opportunity-to-think-on-road-trip thing I dropped?  Devil's ALWAYS busy, as Mom used to say and right now he's nudging me to share my thoughts re: this phenomenon occurring during the macadam-burning travel.  But I'll stay the course.  Besides, you already KNOW that Robert Frost - old and beautiful "road less traveled" - was Dr. Howard Jones' English teacher.  During the endless drive, though, I read a friend's blog in which he went on about HIS jolly good fortune of hearing and - get this - having late afternoon coffee clutches with none other than William Faulkner whilst buddy Monty Joynes was a student at UVA in the early sixties.  Well, just you wait.  I've shared my exposure to Tony Ardizzoni but the 'morrow' is coming when you'll get to know Professor/historical scholar/published and honored author Alf Mapp, Jr. who was MY creative writing instructor.  But I digress.  Imagine. . . .)
      Kathy - at the risk of foundering around with cliches - is, like my Mom, one of those people who, if you're REALLY lucky, 'happens' into your life - and stays there.  We attended a VERY small, private, ALL-girls 'academy' in Brooklyn.  It was a link in a chain of such schools administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph which is a Catholic TEACHING Order of nuns - not to to be confused with the cloistered variety, dedicated, SILENT - save a sung psalm or two - hard-working, producing - bread, scarves, whatever - whose SOLE mission is prayer; or the Nursing varieties whose assignments are self-evident (think Blessed Mother Teresa) or the once-prolific mendicant varieties who devote their lives to raising money for the underprivileged, ill, generally needy.  No.  The "Josephites", as we familiarly termed them, were educated to be educators.  Did you know that the primary meaning of the word "educate" - from the Latin "lead out" - is to do just that, elicit the knowledge the student either owns or discovers and produce a 'learned one'.  I recall thinking - with Kathy, "Thank GOD!", because if it by ANY stretch meant to "infuse" knowledge, we would have most assuredly graduated as a group of well-groomed, "good" and cerebrally-empty young ladies prepared to pursue office work, an MRS or - with a LOT of help, TEACHERS.
     (Bye the bye, Monty shared - graciously - that, in addition to his proficient/prolific writing accomplishments, Mr. Faulkner serve at Mr. Jefferson's University of Virginia, as the TIMER for the track team AND  - in an interesting glimpse of biography, was an equestrian extraordinaire who met his unfortunate demise as a result of complications from complications of a horse-riding incident in his home, Oxford, Mississippi.  You will learn, dear reader, at a more opportune time, that Alf Mapp, Jr., "Jeffersonian-biographer" extraordinaire, and a prudent man as well - perhaps because, like Mom, suffered severe mobility issues secondary to polio - lived and wrote until January, 2011 at the age of eighty-five.
      Now in addition to her inner and OUTER enviable Irish beauty - auburn hair, sleek, agile body, laughing eyes and dazzling smile - Kathy was hopelessly, naturally, genuinely funny.  She not only saw/found the humor in everything around her but projected that amusement with words, reactions, expressions - verbal AND facial - to those of us fortunate to be in/part of her 'company'.  We laughed, giggled, 'hid' outbursts all day in response to her comedic style, observations, way-of-being-in-the-world.  She was Captain of the Cheering Squad, active in the Arts - NATURAL pianist, actress, dancer - and LOVED to organize and execute parties - in and out of 'le scene academe'.  An only child, product of an early divorced set of parents, she many reasons NOT TO BE the Kathy she was.  But she had a PLAN.  Very simple, actually:  I plan on being happy.
     (I'm finding that Kathy's "plan" has been shared by some rather successful/talented luminaries.  Monty also shared Mr. Faulkner's ("old gray fox") layered and deliberate methods of behavior during Q and A sessions that often followed his readings or speeches.  In one such exchange, in response to Monty's query as to whether the author was in the habit of viewing films whose genesis were his novels.  He wryly responded that it was not in his contract.  He was not REQUIRED to see the films.  Even today, recalling the exchange and the hint of a smile aborning on William's face while responding, Monty smiles too because Faulkner was smiling because he knew Monty knew that the author had in fact written the screenplay for "Sanctuary", a film derivative of his last novel.  But THAT hadn't been the question.  And I recall a passage in Alf Mapp's (pictured at right) "Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity", in which he reveals how Jefferson - very close FRIEND of James Madison - when asked for design assistance on Madison's home-expansion/improvement plans, gave Madison a rendering of a magnificent entrance - which happened to face Monticello, Jefferson's home - in which the height of the door was just shy of Mr. Madison's height, causing him to "bow to Jefferson" every time he went out.  And WE thought they were ALL about government!)
      Kathy and I sat in the last pair of desks which, of course was invaluable strategically, because we could more easily conceal our antics.  Now they were innocent - the pranks - but set a poor example and caused mayhem among our 'holy penguin mentors'.  We ALL hated the imposed school uniforms - navy skirt/vest/white blouse/stacked-heel oxford navy shoes AND navy blue beret - so donning one huge, fuzzy, ORANGE slipper on hand for a Friday sleepover and risking a stroll passing the open door of the Principle at the end of a lunch period netted all manner of chuckles.  That I WAS 'CAUGHT' and once again stripped of my Pope Leo Honor pin was a small price to pay.  Because I was NO fan of these women.  Why?  How about "No, you may NOT be a cheerleader.  You would be an occasion of sin."  This because I had "bosoms", you see.  All that jumping around, you know.  WE ONLY PLAYED OTHER GIRLS' SCHOOLS!  WHOM was I tempting??? 
      Well, despite their objections, I went on to Georgetown after graduation and Kathy went to Queens College - they LOVED that.  A heathen institution.  And don 't you know, Kathy was the Captain of THEIR cheering squad until the end of Freshman year.  Kathy had married her "steady" since beginning of HS Junior year, Willie, and they were expecting Nora, their first of SEVEN wonderful children.  They've been loving and laughing for lo these forty-some years.  I stopped counting when they had their 20th grand peep. In fact, Monday, they welcomed Annabelle into the clan.  She's beautiful - just like, no, ALMOST AS beautiful as her grandmother.  Kathy still makes me laugh, serves as an iconic example of brave and strong womanhood and inspires with glorious tales of her special little student - yes, SHE TEACHES still - an autistic little guy, now functioning one-on-one with Kathy, since pre-K, in the second grade.  I'll always feel blessed to have been in her grade.  Would that I could be in her class.  Later, Lorane. . . .

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today, dear readers - I am quite thrilled/honored to discover 2 new followers - I felt a need to look around and get my bearings.  We've just had a 'benchmark' event in our family - my "dear and glorious" Emergency Medicine Physician of 36 years officially retired from 'active' daily practice yesterday.  The kids and grand peeps who are local had a festive celebratory dinner for him at the end of the day.  I was not able to attend because of a particularly difficult time with post-operative, chronic back and arm pain but ofttimes it is wiser, I have learned, to sit still, not risking further exacerbation.  And certainly my heart was with them.
     (Also, the self-imposed quietude provided an opportunity to think about VERY dear ones who are celebrating birthdays this month.  My mother's is today, my DEAREST, OLDEST friend from high school days is marking another amazing year and - not that this last in any way leans toward preference/partiality - we, as Catholics, celebrate what is known in religious parlance as "The Feast of the Immaculate Conception" or the day on which Mary was chosen to be the earthly Mother of Christ.  No Mary, no protagonist so hers is a unique Motherhood.)
     In addition to birthdays, my thoughts went to writing - big surprise, you say.  Well, as our lives follow the serpentine path particular to each individual, I believe - and, if you've really been following - I've not infrequently alluded to my study/admiration of the psychiatrist C. G. Jung.  It's rather a things-happen-for-a-reason type of 'being in the world' and - especially in the clarity of hindsight - perhaps the ONLY remaining sight with a modicum of proficiency at my age, an age that makes 'dirt' appear infantile - and I re-read things I've said for their value - positive and negative. 
     Perhaps a BRIEF perspective on my recording of life experiences as they seem to get prodded along by Jungian notions is in order.  It serves to introduce some new players/ideas and, who knows, may either be helpful OR fall into the wanting to "eat-those-words" column.  When I was doing lots of medical/technical writing, I came to know Drs. Howard & Georgianna Jones, founders of the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk.  Dr. Howard, in one of his tutorial interviews, once said, "It is true that when we recognize principles operating in nature, we realize they are beautiful and can't be any other way."  His English professor was Robert Frost - color ME green - who once told Howard that in poems, you wrote so that the reader couldn't predict what would come next, but when that reader came across the word, he realized it was the only word that could possibly be there.
     Dr. Howard had come to feel that nature was kind of like that.  When you figure out what is going on, upon mature consideration - almost dashed THIS listener's enthusiasm for experiencing the prospect - you discover that that is the only way it could be.
Naturally I pondered this pearl and, as is my wont, turned to my more comfortable analytic methodology, ie, what-would-Jung-think-about-this?  Jung had devoted his life to the operating

principles of the human psyche, if you will and concluded that part of what we are is conscious and part unconscious, that is, not immediately known to us as being 'of us.'   The stratum closest to the conscious mind he called the personal unconscious; the boundless, elusive forces behind are known as the collective unconscious.  We are influenced, indeed at times compelled, to act or be a certain way by these personal and universal forces.  By the time we present these forces to reality, they have a particular, identifiable force. Our conscious mind or ego has shaped them.  In the amorphous, timeless, mercurial realm of the unconscious, these forces are formless, universal symbols which Dr. Jung called archetypes.  They conjure up images which apply to any given epoch using the language and reference frame of that time.  Jung proved their intransient repetitiveness in his study of dreams, fairy tales and folklore.  They are with us, have the power to stir and alter us.
     This being the case, one necessarily finds them in literature.  If the written word attempts to reflect the human condition, its archetypal nature should be one of its ongoing principles.  I do not analyze my writing - and aren't WE all breathing a sigh of relief re: turning THIS page, if you're not raiding the fridge waiting for her to "get on with it!" - but I DO write so that the writer can't predict what will come next.  And am obviously a prisoner of the 'let's-point-out-the-obvious' coven.  BUT.  The completed work has meaning for me - did she say "completed"?; so this DOES end? - has achieved a goal, responded to an emotional need.  The message is there - for the most part personal, but should it have application BEYOND the personal, can touch the "not me", then there could be something in it for the reader as well and THAT is a true 'Nirvana' experience for this ole penner.
     The archetypes that parade through and energize my words, give them nuance beyond MY conscious intent.  So, as you read these slices of my existence, you are invited to to read the works and just let them speak without accompaniment.  Just keep in mind that this writer, in that she cannot predict what will come next, has not been commissioned to 'create any archetype's content' or current essence and present it as 'literature'.  Writing is like that. "When you figure out what is going on, upon mature consideration, you discover that that is the only way it could be."
     (NOW back to birthdays.  Hats on?  Party mood warmin' up?  I decided to start with Mom - where I started before.  Julia Jeanne Scicutella was born in Manhattan if immigrant parents from Bari, Italy.  She was unfortunate to be greeted by the polio epidemic and, as if to stamp her passport and future "temporary" US citizen, her young mother suffered from a cardiac malady requiring her father to re-turn the infant girl and older brother, Paul, to Bari where it was hoped the clean, fresh air would be less of a burden on her condition.  This was not to be the case and Antoinette, at age thirty-three, died of what seems to have been rheumatic heart failure leaving behind her two precious children and husband Leo, an olive grove laborer.  Antoinette's mother did her best to care for her grandchild but it wasn't too long before Leo was courting again.
     Of course money was scarce - as was time for a lame daughter - but Julia soon established her place, helping where she could and always, always visiting her mother's mausoleum - shared with five school teachers each of whom were apparently loved/missed deeply by their devoted students.  More to the point, the students - also frequent visitors - had the means/inclination to shower their departed instructors with heartfelt prayers and MANY, LARGE votive candles.  Mom would often speak to me of the importance of sharing.  By way of example, she'd fondly recall placing what, in her mind was an over-doing of votive-candle-bringing, one or two now SHARED votive lights by her mother's encased oval photo as she knelt to pray.
     It wasn't long before the home scape changed irrevocably.  Leo married Angelina and they had Michael.  Oh! such crowded quarters for an infant.  So, in that Angelina's 'people' had a Bishop in their clan, it was arranged for Julia, becoming more lame/burdensome, to move in with the good Sisters at several local convents.  And the groves thrived, as did Paul and Mikey, and just when the oil was flowing with enough volume and return on the sweat beads, Angelina suggested a FRESH start, in the New Country - and they whisked the family off trans-Atlantic, to the Island - Ellis.  I believe we've been on this trip before.  Third class, Enrico Caruso on the same ship to begin a USA tour and Julia - lame, head shaved (lice, you know), babushka'd and actually believing the story Leo fed her about the "miracle" of pulleys in Brooklyn - you just have to push the line and the clothes move across with ease to a tall pole on the other side.  Beside herself with laundering expectations and dreams of opportunity, it was with enormous love and gratitude that she recalled Mr. Caruso coming DOWN to third class every night of the crossing to perform.
     They settled in a Polish neighborhood, Julia was speaking Polish and English flawlessly within six months and the real miracle - an interested orthopaedic surgeon at Long Island College Hospital - performed ground-breaking surgery that severed the polio-shortened tendon in her heel allowing her to walk with but a slight limp.  After that, she worked, met and married - selecting my Dad from an army - literally - of beaux, and raised and educated a son and daughter with him.  To this day, she is the most beautiful and strongest woman I have ever known.  I salute you, Mom, and love you.  I cannot sing "The Song Caruso Sang" but if you listen, my readers and I are belting out a "Happy Birthday To You.")
     Don't know about you, but , as usual, she did me in.  So, on the morrow, I shall continue.  More B-Day greetings, pitch around a few archetypes - and "bad" angels and maybe throw in a coup la Jungian saws.  Hope you'll join me.  Later, Lorane

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Many years ago, while raising our little 'copers' - soon-to-follow - I did freelance writing in different local publications and genres.  There were feature stories, medical-technical pieces and my personal favorite, a monthly column which appeared in a magazine, Hampton Roads Surroundings accompanied by the photo on the left.  (It was SUCH a favorite endeavor and popular, even, that I anguish daily over its title - clever yet not 'cutesy' - and TOTALLY evaporated from my memory.  And I'll thank you to scotch any rumors/thoughts of the notion of "early-onset Alzhimer's)  What was my point?  Oh, yes, this column.  Rhe charm/appeal of it seemed to be a sardonic brand of humor underlying the telling of real-life experiences - usually of other people - who may or may not have known that I wa referring to THEM/THEIR EXPERIENCES. 
(I'd LOVE, for example, to share with you the one about a young married couple who quarreled SO bitterly while on vacation, she attempted to end their relationship  -and HIS life - by poisoning a tuna/noodle casserole.  Her attempt was a total botch - so strong was his constitution - that ahe - clearly in a moment of reckless abandon - whacked him over the head with a bottle of Aste Spumante in the hopes of causing an oh-so-memorable, throbbing headache.  Unfortunately, the poor, unsuspecting - and apparently generically-flawed - rogue suffered a fatal brain bleed because 1) her aim was serendipitously accurate and 2) landed the liquid rocket encased in a thick, cheap, glass containersquarely on his unbeknownst kinked and weakened cerebral arteriole.  But that will have to wait for another day, another story, another black bleed.)
     I DO recall - on too many occasions, I fear - thinking, "Some day you'll eat these words, L."  Like the day someone actually recalled that couple from my foolishly adept description and inquired about the entire saudry mess.  However, those thoughts wer certainly NOT confined to my writing.  There were countless times in my own youth when I'd 'mouth-off', as the saying went, to my mother and would pay dearly - or not so. Mom had this uncanny way of snapping up a wet dishcloth, twisting it into an efficient projectile in a nanosecond and then flinging it at me - often across a room, the "Babe" having nothing on HER arm - and landing it smack on my lips.  She never looked but she never missed.  Got MY attention and verbal respect, I'll tell ya.  And, as is SO often the case, although I can honestly say I never struck my children, they are fond of reporting "that look" which I apparently saved for moments of "If-I-get-up-and-walk-over-there-you're-going-to-pay-for-every-step-I-take."
     (In ONE of my columns, I just could not rest until I'd shared a story of "just desserts" involving some neighbors - actually it was the MISTER - who got too much, too fast and took every opportunity to announce/display/brag about this largesse at any opportunity.  First THE landscape artist, next up, the interior decorator, the ADDITION, the ALL-NEW Country French kitchen - you get the portrait.  We were finally graced with a dinner invitation at which the many, expensive wines flowed freely.  THEN dinner - a true Cana affair, with the four of us seated and Spodrd and Waterfored, armed with enough sterling to re-stage the Battle of Yorktown.  And just as the MISTER stood ceremonially to pour the first "red" into our goblets - which were fine and fetching and footed on the imported Italian ecru "Holed-Marble" table, I began to feelan uncomfortable, unforgetably delicious wetness dripping languidly onto my skirt.  Seems, MISTER hadn't inquired re: porosity of "Holed-Marble" and HAD he, it would have been allowed as how liquids HAVE been known to ferret their way through the table tops - or so SOME importers had said.  SUCH a waste of fine red vino!  Rather the same hue, in fact, as my skirt and MISTER'S cheeks.)
      I was, as previously stated, NOT inclined to be physical with my children.  (Actually, Philip - to your right - was ONE of TWO exceptions.  At his seventh birthday party, I heard quite a eucus eminating from the den.  I entered and was met with the vision of Philip jumping - as high as he could - up and down while shreiking, on the sofa.  I yanked him down and SHOOK hin until he stopped - which he did in short order.  Then he just looked at me as if to say "Thanks." and went on to enjoy awonderful party.)  BUT.  when he was just starting high school, I encouraged him - as we did with all three - to work hard, especially during summers off.  He did just that.  He worked for the contractor who built our summer cottage on the Outer Banks.  I recalled seeing him a few times, slaving away in the hot sun, using electrical tools, standing alongside 'veterans' who appeared a tas unsteady for ten AM and disappeared altogether for a "dip" in a newly-constructed fountain.  Recalling my encouragement of Philip's sedulous application of himself doing manual labor during vacations AND THEN seeing his new comrades-in-tooks, I wondered if I'd 'eat those words one day.  Sure enough, after a few years, he found similar crews with whom to "temp" during breaks in nthe school year.  THIS crew, however, was kind enough to get him connected with fellow users of not-to-be-gotten goods.  The gods were good and this spate lasted but a few weeks but I still rue the day I spoke of this particular association.
   Julie had more of my temperament as a teenager.  BUT.  She was also blessed with an extremely strong work ethic.  Indeed, when she became old enough to work during summers on the Outer Banks, she had at LEAST two jobs - often filling in for someone at a third.  I felt it was becoming too emotionally/physically depleting.  So, I encouraged her to invite friends from school down; to relax and party more.  She did just that and when a Boston buddy from Georgetown drove all the way down, they went out after Julie got off from work.  Bree, buddy, tired-but-game, asked if they could get anything for me/the house on the way home.  I replied that yes, we could use colas and chips.  And, having read into the night, I fell asleep.  Suddenly aware of a screaming phone, I wakened and saw it was 3 AM. Running to the phone and barely got out "hello" because I was hearing: "Ma'am, are you Lorane Leavy. . . This is Officer Whomever of the Dare County police. . .have a daughter named Julie?. . .Please come to the parking lot of the Food Lion immediately. . .no one is hurt. . .careful, Ma'am."  I sped the 2 miles to the empty but for a sherriff's car and Bree's.  Approaching slowly, the cast revealed their places - Officer standing with Bree adjacent to the car; young man in rear seat; Julie, slouched down with baseball cap covering half of face in front passenger seat.  "Is that your daughter, Ma'am? I nod robotically.  "She's got a bit of an attitude."  More nodding.  It seems while Buddy Bree wan dered into open-all-night Food Lion for chips and soda, Julie and friend, bored, still in PARTY MODE had been blasting the car radio with all windows down.  Asked to get out of the car, "Attitude" replied that legally, her car was her home and cop needed a warrant.  Right.  "Well, I certainly apologize, sir.  I'll be giving her a ride directly home."  She followed me wordlessly until we were in her bedroom when she began beriding ME for letting that "A___hole cop talk to HER like that when she was only playing music!"  I was too busy chewing on "You should party more. . ." until the sound of poor buddy Bree dragging her suitcase down the steps brought me to the business at hand.  EVERYBODY to bed.
      Jennie - coiner of that "look" phrase - was never physically touched - whereas at about age 3, Julie got her bottom whacked for stepping off the curb, into the street on a busy NORFOLK street.  BUT.  Jennie's wedding was just turning out to be SO storybook - reception at the Old Cavalier Hotel in the very room where SCOTT AND ZELDA danced! ("Who were Scott and Zelda?"), I suggested, nagged even, to rent a quaint old vintage trolley to transport the wedding party to the two-cities-away church.  This, you may recall, netted us a burning trolley; on the side of a major highway; with a blackened-hem Vera Wang-clad Jennie climbing over the guardrail accompanied by eight maids, one flower girl and a ring bearer (plus parents, Mistresses of Ceremonies, etc. Please See "Get Her to the Church on Time.")  Word-filled mouth again but I DID manage to wash them down with enough bubbly to laugh.
(The are some delicious tales about the parents of this brood in my column-of-n-name but, alas, in the interest of decorum, delight and divorce costs, we'll just have to sit on them for now.  Otherwise, I'll  only be speaking to the dog for the next few days and she's VERY much 'Daddy's Little Girl'.  So, Later, Lorane. . . )