seeing and breathing

the tick tock of clocks belies the passage of time. slow-motion video feels more real. i reconsider breathing—quick and shallow, deep and labored. I regard his hollow eyes and shiny lids and wonder if i am seeing things. he takes my hand. his is blue-veined, skin like tissue. i stroke his arm. rest my palm on his bald forehead. tell him that i love him. get him to crack a smile. if only i could hold him close one last time.

on long car rides i can sometimes flee grief and monotony. like a roller-coaster, even familiar hills and bends and vistas make me feel more alive, as if i'm actually going places instead of in circles. still, i'm grateful for the car and roads and time and space that take me away, even with the kid in tow. the point changes day to day. gray clouds stitched to hard waves become blue skies kissing land and sea. the view is one none of us will ever see again.

there's a scent in the air that i can't finger. witch hazel blossoms are long past. lilacs have gone to seed. fragrant azaleas have spent their lazy blooms. might it be honeysuckle? roses? peonies? not the sickly sweet that used to seep out of calvin's pores the day after getting rescue benzodiazepine. still, i've smelled something akin to that lately. again, i consider breathing. i consider N95 and covid-19.

the kid has been all right. happy, calm and smiling. four days seizure-free. he's eating well and growing like a weed. no bad side effects—yet—from the pharmaceutical cbd. if only he could make it past day thirteen. if only he could run and play and speak.

the cardinals lost their nest to predators it seems. could it have been the gray fox? i read they can climb trees. they're out there, predators. sometimes with feathers, fur, claws and fangs. at others, flabby-faced in suits and ties, uniforms, camouflage or riot gear. often they're incognito. they hurl their barbs and slurs, spray their gas and ammo, their conspiracy theories. hidden in their shade they undo modern policy, press their knees in the necks of the powerless struggling to breathe.

safe in the backseat my kid takes grapes and blueberries from me. he pulls off his shoe and chews it. yanks off his glasses and gnaws their temples and lenses. pulls off his sock and sucks it till it's sopping unless i can stop him. when setting out he almost always smiles. grimaces in the wind when the windows are down. cranes his neck to stare at the sun every time we turn south. i wonder what he knows of this world. if only i knew what he feels and sees.

i make another bedside visit. this time his house is quiet. no humming of the oxygen machine. i close my eyes with him. listen to him breathe. i tell him it is sunny and mild. a great day for gardening and porch-sitting while sipping bourbon and watching folks and cars sail off down the street. i tell him again that i love him. i tell him not to hold onto this world for me.

Simpson's Point, Maine


  1. Can you whisper in his ear? A friend kept me filled in on what was going on when I was comatose. Just the acknowledgment that there had been a kerfuffle was a real comfort. I was clinically brain dead for a week and a half, but could hear fine. Familiar things are a real comfort then. If you want, tell him Jo on the other side of the country loves him like another mother. My heart breaks for you.

  2. yes. i speak to him in case he can hear me. i tell him what i've been up to. xoxo oh, and jo who? do i know you?

  3. I have always loved your friendship with Woody. From your most recent blogs it sounds as if he is on hospice. I am very sorry. You are a wonderful friend.