Friday, April 2, 2010


Well, there it is--all 245 pages. I read this last chapter--Goodbye--at each of my Dad's memorials. I thought each time how wonderful it was that he had left this gift, his own eulogy almost. After having transcribed the whole book--it gains greater context and seems like even more of a gift than it did before--the whole book does. It feels to me like he left a part of himself with me, with all of us, something almost tangible. The anniversary of his death is in 9 days.

Thank-you readers for coming on this journey with me. It has not always been pleasant (at least for me) but has been ultimately extremely moving and fulfilling. Peace.


My tale has come full circle. From the kid perpetually in trouble to Frog to Private Gill to the California hipster to husband to Dad to the homesteader to the fallen one to the lawyer to the granddad. My dying time will come, like my Dad and his Dad before him. Sarah, Jeff, Sam, and Oliver will live on, blessing the world with their presence.

Looking back and taking stock, this life I've lived is certainly not the one I would have chosen. When viewed in hindsight, life seems to overtake us, like something that happens to us, rather than something we do. If I could go back and tell Frog not to drink that piss, or that impetuous homesteader to steady that damn ladder, or that husband to stop being distant and unavailable, I'm not so sure I would. I figure I'll take the life I've known rather than one unknown.

Despite all my flaws, stupidities, failures and surceases, I've come out alright. This one feels right and ordained, quadriplegia, divorce, and all. It's as if someone decreed, "Alright, Raymond Gill, this is what you get. Good luck."

I have been a spectator of and participant in this wonderfully absorbing, vast cosmic drama. From the Big bang fourteen billion years ago to the uncoupling of the four forces to this fabulous universe expanding at the speed of light to the mammoth supernova exploding in our stellar neighborhood that seeded our solar system with heavy elements that grew together four billion years ago to create our sun and eventually our Earth.

From the molten fireball that was our early planet to a temperature to sustain life to plus three billion years of bacteria to dinosaurs to Cromagnon man and Neanderthals to civilization to Jesus to Buddha to Allah to the Great Spirit to Egypt to Greece to Rome to England to these United States to Ohio to your truly tapping away on my keyboard to share some of my story with you.

What more can one ask?


April, 2002 + Austin, Texas

I had moved to Austin. Jeff, Sara, and I, with lots of help, had built a small home for me about thirty feet behind their house. Sam was close at hand and I loved it. To be near him, I had left a vocation and a cause that had given me purpose and fulfillment.

Sam's photo at three presents a boy with wide-open blue eyes, sandy blond hair, chubby cheeks, and an alert, curious manner. He is looking directly at the camera. He was attempting to climb through a wooden slat fence built to keep him contained. His look says, "Well, you caught me this time, but..."

Sam who was three at the time of this story, was playing outside in the yard between the two family homes on a glorious Texas spring day. The sky was aquamarine. The sun was warm, but not hot, maybe 80 degrees. Luminescent white clouds like satin drifted by. Birds were flying from tree to tree, lawn was growing into a deep green, early flowers brought an array of color. This back yard felt warm and cozy. All-in-all it was a great day to be alive and so close to my beloved grandson.

I watched him dance about in awe and wonder as young ones do. He was briskly and cautiously toward me. I knew a big moment was about to happen. I could see it in his sparkling eyes and hear it from his very first syllable:

"Grandpa, I've got a butterfly on my finger."
"Bring him in so I can see him."
"He loves me. He's so beautiful."
"He is beautiful, Sam."
"I feel special."
"You are special, Sam, to have a beautiful butterfly who loves you."

See what I mean about adding twenty years? Profoundly artless and sweet and wonderful was the sincerity of that moment. Wisdom is where you find it. I found it in the heart of this three year old. We shared a moment in the company of that delicate and iridescent creature. Like Sarah's chickadee, this wild and fragile little butterfly perched contentedly on Sam's finger. When our moment had been fulfilled, Sam whispered, "I'm going to take him outside, so he can go back to his family."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

this makes me cry, of course and miss him wicked--still some days I expect that if I picked up the phone and dialed his number he would answer--feeling that he could be right around the next corner at the grocery store--especially on a Spring day like today--he should be sitting out in front of his apartment arms akimbo, eyes closed, face lifted to the sun, listening to the birds--strange that he's not around in his former easily recognizable solid physical form--strange that i have to work hard to recognize him in the dirt and earth worms, sun's rays, lilac leaves--but really he's all over the place, especially in my boy's eyes--everywhere and nowhere--he would like that paradox.


June, 12 + Austin, Texas

I carried an empty feeling for a year. In October of 1998, Sarah told me she was pregnant. Deep in my bones I felt this was absolutely right and natural. I knew Sarah's pregnancy was in the ordained order of events, like season following season. Dad had lived a full life, and passed on in due course. Soon another life would come along in the Chain of Being. This someone I could mentor like Dad had mentored me. Minus the belt, the notes to Miss White, and the piss-drinking, of course. I was very happy, more for Jeff and Sarah than for myself. For me, being a grandparent was something abstract, imagined, but not concrete. I had no emotional context. That all changed June 12.

Samuel Dylan Williams had been born at home on June 10, 1999. My little bird charmer had given the gift of birth at home as Linda had. This was the old way, before modern medicine had taken over. All had gone well, very well. There's a video tape to prove it. They are something, these women.

I was to meet Sammy D. June 12 at Linda's funky cabin in a rural town outside of Austin. The cabin was a dead-ringer for a typical Wellington home. How fitting. Imagine the setting: You entered the main room and kitchen through a low door. Against the walls were sink, gas range, refrigerator and shelves of herbs, dishes, all in plain view. We were sitting around the old cast-iron wood stove in the middle of a 15 by 15 foot center of the dimly lit cabin. Dogs barked in the distance; we heard no traffic, no music, no TV or radio, no city sounds. This quiet was one feature that had drawn us to the Maine woods.

Sam was two days old. I felt like a fourteen year old on a blind date: nervous, self-conscious, awkward. I chattered about nothing as I waited for my date to show up. I caught the first sounds of Sarah, Jeff, and Sam. Their car motored up the dirt drive. My heart beat double, my palms got sweaty, and my breath came in fits and starts. Something grand was about to happen; I just knew it. Like saying goodbye to Dad, except this time there was no sadness, no emptiness, only joy and anticipation.

Sarah and Jeff came in quietly, on tip-toes, with this silent bundle totally wrapped in swaddling. Sarah placed the bundle in my lap and pulled back the blanket. My blind date was love in infant form. I beheld a perfect, tiny, and beautiful pink cherub. My heart split wide open. I sat speechless, weeping without restraint. I held Sam like he was a delicate vase.

Head over heels in love, I was changed from that moment forever. With this magnificent little being, there would be no room for cynicism or sarcasm. With Sam I would be emotionally immediate and open; there would be no distance between us. Unabashed joy and abiding fear entered with him. Like my love for Sarah, joy and pride came mixed with anxiety. Strange economy that deepest love carries strongest worry. They suffer most who care most.

Sarah was blooming and radiant, vitally alive with motherhood. My Princess of Narnia had become a Madonna, fulfilled and complete. Jeff was glowing with fatherhood. He was a man born to be a dad. These two presented me with the gift of a lifetime, one precious beyond reckoning. 'This little guy's gonna add twenty years to this old cynic's life,' I thought.


June, 1997 + Greenfield Center, New York

My Dad died October 4, 1997 after a six month bout with lung and liver cancer. The Gill family was given the four dreaded words that spelled the end: malignant, aggressive, inoperable, and terminal. He was 79 and had smoked a pipe for sixty years. dad had been feeling listless and fatigued for months. That was not Raymond Gill, Senior, at all. That he lived so long is a testament to his nearly indestructible life force. The pipe notwithstanding, I was nonetheless stunned. He faced his mortality in a natural and peaceful way.

I pondered, could this unquenchable spirit, this Mount Fuji of men die, and be no more? Could his unassailable, powerful presence pass from the earth as if he were like other men?

I wrestled with the inevitable and steeled myself, knowing full well what his death meant for me: grief and loss. The Gill family would be leaderless, like an Army company without its feared yet beloved commander. I was moving onto the front line of mortality, as in the Oriental formula: grandfather dies, father dies, son dies. As politics is local, so death is personal.

The family came together for a reunion and goodbye visit three months before the estimated time of death. For me, our time together was not pervaded with tragedy or even sadness. Dad would have none of that. Not him. There was no avoidance or denial or false anything. I blanch at what I'm about to write, yet it is true. The atmosphere for me was that of a family visit to the VA hospital shortly after my injury. There were no tears, maudlin displays, or pity. During this visit, we had an unspoken agreement of togetherness and mutual resolve.

Our family accompanied Dad to radiation treatment, ate together, laughed at dumb jokes as always, watched Dad's favorite old war movies, and swapped stories heard many times before. A sense of emptiness hung over us all, and we felt it. This week together was somewhere between a wake and a reunion, depending on who you were and what your relationship with Dad was. Mom was very quiet and extra solicitous of Dad. This would invariably elicit, "I can do that; what do you think I am, a baby?" Rugged and independent to the last curtain.

The evening before we travelers were heading home. I asked everyone to give me some time alone with him. They all went outside. Dad was seated peacefully on the couch in the living room of the home on the land of my childhood. A heavy white curtain was directly behind him, like a frame of an old photograph. Dad sat composedly, quiet and upright. No slouching for this man.

I sat directly in front on him, very close. I knew this was it: my final goodbye to this huge presence in my life, this man who had withheld so much and given so much. He had been the standard of manhood I had emulated or rebelled against every day of my life. We were like unfriendly neighbors sharing a contested border. Strife could break out at any time over any issue or imagined slight. We were never neutral.

We were straight with each other at long last; it took my injury to bring down many of the walls between us. The first embrace I remember getting from him occurred after the wheelchair had claimed me. I was 33 years old. I guess I was no longer a threat, in that Freudian oedipal father/son economy. I would say, "I love you" to him; Dad had never reciprocated. Never. He was always uncomfortable with that, witness the inevitable silence that always followed, like an echo that refused to sound. I longed to get past that reluctance.

I eventually won his respect and admiration when I became an attorney. I felt his pride in me law school graduation day. I had traveled a great distance from my piss-drinking Cortland days, and we both knew it.

The room was shadowy and very still. The only sounds came from the 'tick tick' of a small pendulum clock on the kitchen wall and the muted laughter of the family at play outside. I labored to breathe, like I do at times of anticipated emotion. I felt nervous and claustrophobic, like a young man going into combat for the first time. I had never opened up to a dying person, much less this one. I felt like the first time parachutist about to jump. I knew this was a momentous occasion. I was afraid to begin. Time passed. I had at least to say something.

"Dad, I want to say a few things." I felt relieved, even though the words hung in the air like Banquo's ghost. There was no question now; I knew this was our final scene together. Dad stayed true to himself, getting right to the point. "Go ahead, say what you want." We were all alone in the world, no past or future intruded, this was now, this was here. I started to weep.

'This will never do', I thought. I struggled to stop, my body shaking with the effort. I managed to put words to the sadness, giving this man his due, and this instant its fulfillment. Word welled up from that silent abyss where love is. I told him Sarah was OK, that she had married a man like me, like him. I told Dad not to worry needlessly about her. I knew that was very important to him.

I thanked him for what he had given me, especially in living with my injury: "I could never have made it through this injury and gone to law school without the strength I got from you." He remained as absolute as Hamlet's gravedigger: "Well", he said, "You're doing alright so far." So far. Almost twenty years. From Dad, that was high praise, indeed.

"Dad, I hope you live to see a hundred." As we mutually drew the curtain over his days, he gave me greatest gift he had left to give. He showed me how to die: "I want to live," he said, "but if not, it's OK." He was ready and at peace. Centered. Time, his time was no more. He was about to enter the Unknown as if it were a nap after dinner.

Have I adequately conveyed how profound and poignant this was? This tough, yet loving tiger of a man had become gentle, wise, and immediate. I unabashedly loved him without constraint, love clean and manly. "I love you, Dad." Our journey together, rocky road that it was, was complete.

He died at home in his bed surrounded by loved ones. I was at peace, though I missed him and felt empty. I attended his funeral, as we all did. Dad's death came fully home to me when I first saw him in his grand ornate casket. he looked so small, so pale and so icy, lying there, out of place in that huge velvet and walnut box. As if you could confine Washington on Rushmore in a cardboard carton. My accumulated feelings from years of turmoil and rebellion to peace and resolution burst in upon me. I let go. A convulsive flood of bitter tears poured, cleansing and consoling.

One night Dad came vividly to me in a dream as I lay deep in sleep in Texas. He looked into my tearful eyes, all tenderness and understanding. He held my head lovingly in his hands. He gently leaned forward and kissed my forehead. Like a touch from the Buddha. My Dad was a powerful man.

CANCER (part II)

May 7, 2004 + Cleveland VA Hospital, Ohio

I was packed off the next day for the spinal cord unit of the Cleveland VA hospital. Old friends abounded, including patients and staff. I felt very much at home there. I trusted two of the doctors I saw regularly. Being at this unit felt like a homecoming. Almost everyone had a slightly different demeanor than at previous visits. The usual light-hearted, 'Hail fellow, well met' had given way to a more somber atmosphere. This was understandable, yet unnerving. I checked in as always and was assigned a bed, where I lay worried, my guts in an uproar.

Day followed day I lay in my room alone, waiting for something cancer related to be done. Nobody was telling me anything. That made it all the worse. Every qualm, spasm, or pain meant the end, I feared. I demanded some action. Various tests were done, including CAT and PET scans, an MRI, and bone marrow examinations. For two or three days, nothing more happened.

After a few days my spinal cord doctor came to see me. I had made a deep and lasting connection with her. She was in her sixties and very thin. Her hair was blond; she had a Scandinavian look. Although we were close, she was usually all business.

She walked directly to my bedside and very uncharacteristically took my hand. She looked like she was being crucified. 'Here it comes', I thought 'my death sentence'.

The news was very bad indeed. The Doctor whispered, "There isn't much we can do, I'm sorry."

Oh, my God. This is it. It's official I was facing death. My center caved in, my strength melted away, and my resolve vanished. I cried. Mike, my nurse, cried. I called Linda. She cried. It was awful.

I was left alone in my bed. I struggled in solitude, trying to make peace with this crazy notion I was going to die soon. Twice in a week I had heard the identical diagnoses from doctors I trusted. How much more proof would I get? How much did I need? Somehow, humor got through. Bypassing a number of stages of grief, I went straight to bargaining. I mused, "Let me live; take Bob, or Ed or Sally. I'll tell you their dirty little secrets." (That's a joke, you know).

I was desperate for relief, in any form. Preferably morphine. Relief did come. It surpassed morphine like water surpasses salt in the parching desert.

During the hour following my sentence to death row, I lay in my bed. My mood swung from misery, to depression, to despair. Then two cancer doctors walked in and came to my bedside. These guys were the real thing. I fully expected a confirmation of what I had already heard, this time with approximate date of departure.

"Mr. Gill, you have a particularly slow growing type of lymphoma. This type should respond favorably to an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy. We can begin immediately." I mumbled something about the two prior diagnoses and their dreadful conclusions. The elder doctor informed me he and his colleague were oncologists and had the goods, so to speak. To which he added, almost as an afterthought, "The average life expectancy with your cancer is twelve years."

TWELVE YEARS!! 12 years, I tell you! A dozen, 642 weeks, 4,368 days. My reprieve had come. I was elated, effusively ecstatic, and ebulliently energized. I would live on. I would see Sam grow up, Sarah and Jeff thrive, and new days, new, new, new. The doctors warned me, however, that there were other tests to take, bridges to cross, and hardships to endure. 'Yes, yes' I thought, 'but i would be alive!'

In the days and weeks that followed I pondered my death. How would it come, what would it be like, would I be ready? Would Death be like an old friend, or foe? Would it be like little Reepicheep going over the edge of the world in his tiny carrack, purposely seeking Aslan and the East, as in the narnia Chronicles? Would Death take me to Hamlet's Undiscovered Country or Krishnamurti's Unknown?

Will I step off to the stars like Thomas Merton visioned? Will I see the Divine? Will I pass into another form vis-a-vis the Tibetans? Will I be recycled back into the Universe so that future generations may breathe my atoms? Will I pass through Dante's Inferno? Will I discover something better, or worse? Will I cling tenaciously and fearfully to life like Tolstoy's Ivan Illych? Will I go easy and at peace like my Dad, for whom death was like a nap after dinner?

However it may come, I prefer the Woody Allen approach: "I don't mind dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens".

Monday, March 29, 2010

CANCER (part 1)

May 6, 2004 + Columbus, Ohio

I had felt lousy day and night for a couple of weeks. Most of the symptoms I experienced at that time were well known to me; I had had many of the very same over the years. They pertained to quadriplegia, generally. A host of my rather severely injured spinal cord sisters and brothers complained of these, primarily to each other. The ailments and conditions we discussed were a regular feature of the 'this injury sucks' conversations so enticing to so many of us. Misery loving company, and all that. One dynamic I could almost always count on was an empathetic ear from a kindred paralyzed soul. Make no mistake, however, these times together were by no means invariably, 'Oh, woe is me' sessions. We simply and forthrightly expressed our difficulties and frustrations, such as intermittent bladder infections, medical errors, and buildings without ramps. personal triumphs of accomplishment like, "I learned how to drive and just got my new van" and "I'm going back to college this fall" and declarations of pure joy, "I'm getting married next month" and "I'm going to be a grandfather again in April" were also shared among us. That well-worn old saw, 'We're all in this together' was an unspoken agreement among us.

There certainly were angry unsociable ones who just wanted to be left alone by everybody. We all felt like this at one time or another, so most of the kindred understood. The vast majority was of like mind and lived by one simple truth: you ultimately go through the pain alone, but you share the aftermath. These session provide relief. Succinctly put, "If you see your neighbor carrying something, help him with his load." We readily offered that, one to another, in our highly trusted, tight-knit family.

Back to my personal story. My symptoms included the unpleasant feeling of sitting simultaneously on white hot coals and dry ice. In our circle, this is called 'phantom pain', and is similar to feeling pain in an amputated limb. 'Phantom' because, you recall, I had no sensation from my chest down; 'Pain' because it hurt something awful. Sitting all day and lying all night on fire and ice, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate dogged me without letup. All I could feel and think about was pain, phantom or not. Something had to be done.

My condition notwithstanding, it was a glorious Ohio spring. Days were breezy and balmy, like those, "Yah, Mon, come to Jamaica" commercials. Every shade of the colors of the rainbow seemed to be everywhere, as light appears when viewed through a prism. Ohio State University (OSU) and its environs resembled a lovingly tended arboretum, replete with tropical and local foliage poised to explode into full flower.

People of all ages were happily out of doors, like school children let loose on the playground following lectures on the proper use of the semi-colon. All around me they were walking, jogging, roller blading, skateboarding, sitting, and reading. On the OSU Oval students played every sport imaginable, including cricket, Frisbee and Frisbee golf, flag football, soccer, and body watching. Bikinis, muscle shirts, tank tops and sculpted physiques revealed a long winter of pale skin.

I couldn't enjoy any of it. My usual enchanting 'stroll' on a paved bike path along the river was now an exercise in misery. This path ran by woods, fields, and lawns, waterways, and over an old wooden bridge: scenery to gladden the heart. Not mine, however. The usually exquisite butter pecan ice cream cone tasted like medicine. I didn't look straight into people's eyes because of the pain I'd see reflected there. I was a mess. Through circuitous and unreasonable logic, I figured i would be alright. I had only to hang on a little longer. Don't ask.

When the pain got so bad I was forced to part with my stubbornness, I dragged myself to OSU Medical Center. Despite the agony, I believed I had an easily remedied bladder infection. I had had numerous bladder infections over the years; antibiotics usually took care of the problem posthaste. Perhaps I suffered from an increase in phantom pain, that could be managed with Valium or something. In short, I was not that worried.

This OSU Center was a teaching and (one hopes) learning hospital that sprawled over thirty acres. The Complex was huge. After getting contradictory directions from several well-meaning but misguided people, I eventually made my way to the correct building and room.

The place operated like a military unit. A complex hierarchy of doctors, nurses, administrators, technicians, and aides bustled here and there. Each was recognizable by uniform, carriage, and display of deference. For instance, doctors acted like generals, swaggering about, issuing orders, and expecting swift compliance. At the middle of this pyramid of power were earnest young medical students acting like captains. They were readily distinguishable within the unit.

These students issued tentative orders to subordinates. They invariably wore long white jackets and had stethoscopes on prominent display, as were expensive watches, chest pockets holding costly pens, and note pads. Most were friendly, some excessively so. I guess they were learning bedside manner. The majority looked both self-important and bewildered.

I registered at the desk, hoping the busy receptionist/company clerk would not inquire about social diseases incurred during my Army days. The forms she handed me wanted only perfunctory information, such as my grandfather's middle name. The document asked whether I was or had been crazy (in more subtle language, of course). I had some problems with the crazy question. I courageously wrote "No".

i handed in my completed forms, fibs and all. I was then directed to the waiting area, where several sick seniors and others sat dejectedly with frightened loved ones. One obese woman complained so all could hear,

"I had a sore on my butt the size of a golf ball. I told my doctor
to cut it right the hell out of there if he wanted to. That damn
thing kept me up for days and stunk like that abscessed molar I had
back in '89. My Uncle Abner had a goiter on his neck, size of a
grapefruit. Poor guy; lung cancer and emphysema finally took him
off. He smoked four packs a day for forty years--funny he thought
he'd live forever."

'I'm not that bad off', I thought, 'I'll just get some pills and be out of here in no time'. I waited, reading a ponderous tome for my OSU class, Female Medieval saints. I tried to remain invisible. I didn't want to explain to anyone how I had come to be 'that poor crippled boy. "The Doctor will see you now." I confidently followed my guide into a claustrophobic medical antechamber.

This one resembled all the others: well scrubbed and brightly lit. I gazed at the exam table, jars of supplies, scrapers and gougers, lances and pincers. There were wall charts, of course, issuing dire warnings to the neglectful. Diseases of all kinds were displayed in their grotesqueness. These included intestinal problems galore, including that nasty irritable bowel syndrome, poop related ailments alone took up half the room.

At long last, after several unsuccessful attempts not to visualize that goiter, a nursing student arrived. She was accompanied by a mentor nurse. The student nervously took my temperature and blood pressure. She looked me over like you would a used car.

Not long after these two women left, in walked an attractive physician. She was on the shortish side and very light on her feet, dainty. She had a manner of easy confidence about her; I trusted her and felt drawn to her immediately. I believed I was in good hands. She had auburn hair and glasses to match, and wore the typical long white smock doctors wear. She had a very feminine manner, as if she were Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. Like her alter ego, this physician had a marked air of true professionalism. There was nothing frivolous or preoccupied about her.

She looked directly at me, as if trying to size up my condition with one penetrating stare. She then glanced down at her clipboard, which must have been very interesting. She studied it intently, as if taking a critical medical test. "Hmm", she said, "Let's have a look at your abdomen." She felt my stomach area with firm , yet gentle hands. My muscles relaxed, letting go of much of the tightness and pain. She left, telling me someone would be along shortly to bring me a liquid to drink.

Five minutes later, my previous mentor nurse came in with two bottles of milky chalk. I normally gag this stuff down, but this wasn't so bad. I drank it all, then waited. I was shuffled off for a CAT scan, lying on my back looking up at ceiling tiles. I had had this procedure several ties previously, so it was no big deal. I thought, 'So that's how they do bladder exams here'.

CAT scan done, I was lazing in my bed back in the antechamber. I dozed off to hazy dreams of, "Mr. Gill, you have bladder infection that is very treatable. What are you doing Saturday night?" But no, not even close.

The good, fetching doctor walked in reluctantly, without the confident, light steps of her first visit. Her body language told me she wasn't sure this was the room where she wanted to be. She appeared to be concerned. he squinting created wrinkle lines at the corners of both eyes. 'This can't be good', I thought. She leaned over me and looked deeply into my eyes. She said simply, straightforwardly, "Mr. Gill, your scan shows swollen lymph nodes and a swollen spleen. You have lymph cancer."

I was stunned. I felt as if my trusted doctor had just kneed me square in the midsection. The announcement took my breath away, like an elephant sitting on my stomach. I babbled a lot of questions such as, "What does this mean, what do I do now, how bad is it, am I going to die soon?" This all came out at once and sounded like incoherent drivel, as if the words were in the wrong order. I was caught totally unawares, unprepared, and defenseless. Naked.

The doctor said things i heard from far, far away, like echoes from some distant gorge. She used words such as, "Admission, PET scan, biopsy, chemotherapy." She left. I had heard these words before, but never in reference to me. That makes all the difference.

I was totally deflated, confused ,and lonelier than ever. I wrestled with my mortality, sick to my stomach: 'I'm going to die, probably soon. I haven't solved the Great Mystery or finished what I had begun (what this was remains an enigma to me). I am leaving this wonderful world of Sarah, Sam, Jeff, family and friends'. You could almost hear Taps playing in the background.. Right in the middle of this, 'Hey, Ray's getting a raw deal here--Super Bowl of self-pity, in came my deliverer. She was a nurse. She brought me morphine. She injected the Devil 'MORFINA'. Out she went.

With her went the self-pity, the mortality, and the Great Mystery. Now, I know all about, 'Say no to drugs' and junkies and back alleys. Take it from me. Never, I repeat NEVER say no to morphine.

For the foreseeable future, all was well. "Cancer, you say? Who cares? I'm on morphine." I was given a room and put into my bed. I became an instant curiosity: "That interesting quadriplegic lymph case on the third floor." My tongue felt like a huge, unfeeling liver. My jaw seemed to be on Novocain. Ever the trooper, I answered all the questions from somber students with eyes full of 'poor guy, but at least its not me'. I eventually drifted off.

As for the dope, here is my considered opinion. If a person of medicine ever says to you, "I've got good news, bed news and morphine." Respond: "First I'll take the good news, then the morphine, then the bad news". Go easy on yourself.

CANCER (part 1)


February, 2001 + San Juan, Texas

Sarah, my son-in-law Jeff, and Sam, my then-infant grandson lived 5 hours north of me, in Austin. My center of gravity had moved north with them. A powerful magnetic force was drawing me to Austin.

I had missed the childhood years of my nieces and nephews. At best, I saw them every two or three years. I hardly knew them. I resolved not to let this happen with Sam. I didn't want to be at his high school graduation only to realize we barely knew each other. I wanted to be close to him.

I had the greatest job I could ever want. Litigating on behalf of low-income folks, representing and marching with the UFW, and dedicating my efforts to win decent wages and benefits for farm workers was second to my family.

I felt my days at the South Texas Project coming to an end. I was torn in two. Moria, Jamie, Juanita, UFW staff, and Valley farm workers had become my beloved brothers and sisters. I knew these good people loved and respected me and the work the Project did. I also knew my efforts gave meaning and purpose to my life.

For instance, I met with a group of farm workers in the UFW hall one afternoon, preparing them for court. I gazed at the huge painted murals on the walls. Each of these spoke of the many injustices farm workers suffered: low wages, no health insurance, no other benefits of employment, and exposure to deadly pesticides. That is the short list.

The people at the table were intimidated by the justice system, especially the U. S. District Court, with its aura of majesty. Expensive appointments were everywhere there. Deep pile carpet, raised bench done up with costly oak and mahogany, two huge, all wooden tables, and velvet drapes met the eye. In short, the Courtroom and the UFW hall were polar opposites. The Courtroom was quiet, august, and solemn. The UFW hall often rang with the sounds of children being children, music, and boisterous laughter. hard working UFW members felt at home there, as I did.

I reassured my farm worker clients that things would be OK and I would handle the legal and factual issues. I told my Plaintiffs that the court system did not intimidate me in any way. I saw the relief they felt. They knew they had an experienced attorney to act for them. The justice system was a world apart. Most farm workers do not believe they belong there.

[Digression]: Cesar Chavez died in 1993. This was a devastating loss for the UFW and a personal loss for farm workers in the Valley. Due to the sudden and unexpected announcement, we were caught off guard. No ceremony or memorial had been organized. UFW members spontaneously gathered at the Union hall. Food, an alter, candles, flowers, rows of seats, remembrances, and posters appeared throughout the day. More and more members arrived. The good folk did what needed doing.

People stood and spoke feelingly of their love for him. In that hall, grief could have its day. An impromptu memorial was organized without word or effort. This was accomplished from the inside, so to speak, without comment.

I felt extremely privileged to be there. I moved freely from the UFW hall to state and federal courts. My efforts improved the lives of these folk whose labor is so essential to out well-being, and they let me know it.

I knew my Rio Grande Valley life was giving way to another, as yet unknown one in Austin. A farewell gathering had been organized. My successor was already in place. A huge crowd appeared. Wonderful things were said. I felt heavy and lonesome. I said "Thank-you, thank-you" time and again. I laughed with some and wept with others. These very good people had given me more than I can ever repay.

The move to Austin was anticlimactic. I lived with my family there and worked several part-time free legal service jobs. We all moved to Ohio in 2002.

As I write, I gaze at the huge framed picture of Cesar Chavez, given me by my UFW family and signed by Cesar's nuclear family. Titled 'Portrait of a Cause', this magnificent poster captures the farm worker struggle over the years.

I live close to Sarah, Jeff, Sam, and now Oliver. I see them frequently. My thoughts reach out to the Valley and the dedicated ones who continue to work on the front lines. This is for them:

"May your hearts always be joyful,
may your songs always be sung..."



November, 1998 + San Juan, Texas

We had taken on a new line of cases. They were filed with the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) on behalf of undocumented women who suffered abuse at the hands of a documented spouse or male partner. These men regularly mistreated these women, who were unable to work and had no 'right' to be in the U.S. When the women tried to leave the relationship, the male threatened to call the INS to get her deported. This was a fearsome prospect, so many women remained in abusive relationships, no matter how bad. The INS handled these cases with compassion. The law allowed our clients to remain in the U.S. pending the outcome of their court cases. If successful, the woman would receive a card that allowed her and her children to stay and her to work.

As the case proceeded, we gathered documents and photographs, questioned witnesses, prepared filings, and, in general, handled these cases much like others of a similar nature. We had success with these cases, winning them all. The women would come to our office to receive the fruits of our efforts. Unabashed hugging, sobbing, and thanking lit up our homely office. Some gave us homemade gifts, such as Tres Leches (literally three milks) cakes, which is reserved for special occasions.

In one such case file, a one of a kind document came to my attention and left me stupefied. I wondered whether I had been lawyering too long. At least one case too long.

I had been practicing law for fourteen years by this time, in courts federal, state, county, city, and local. I had addressed many government agencies, school boards, committees, and assemblies. I was a seasoned, experienced attorney who had read reams and reams of case law, commentary, briefs, discovery responses, motions, and party and witness statements. None of these writings was anywhere near the statement in question.

The document had been prepared by another attorney during litigation in another suit in a different court; it was therefore a matter of public record. In that case, my client had sought custody of her and her husband's children. In a sworn statement, she gave several reasons why she, and not her spouse, deserved custody.

Paraphrasing one such reason in the court filing about which I write, the document stated, "I seek custody of my children because i caught my husband Juan having sex with our family dog." reason enough, one would think.

At the risk of appearing overly titillated or lurid, I feel I must discuss this occurrence. Imagine the scenario, if you have the stomach. Our client, a solid and loving, maternal woman prepares to open the door to the room of the marital couch. She calls her spouse to come to supper, "Juan, supper is ready."

She opens the bedroom door. She sees the situation set forth above in all its hideous and rather objectionable reality.

Now imagine you are Juan. What can you possibly say to save the day? "Honey, Fido means nothing to me", or "It's Fido's fault", or "I was just trying to make you jealous". Have there ever been any words in any language in the entire history of the human family, to excuse or justify what Juan (and Fido) are doing?

What else could Juan say or do? Perhaps he could admonish poor Fido. "You're a very bad doggie", or punish him or her, "Fido, we can't let you do this again. From now on you're sleeping outside." Send Fido away? Get a cat? Sorry Juan, there's simply no way out.

The Project made this case a high priority. We succeeded.

The more I thought about it and pictured Juan and Fido, the more I wondered whether I had chosen the wrong line of work.

Friday, March 26, 2010


July, 1995 + San Juan, Texas

I sat in my South Texas Project office on a typically hot and humid July day. The heat index had to be at least 106. The time was 1:15 PM. I was hurriedly preparing for a 2:30 PM Motion Day hearing in federal court in McAllen. I had plenty of time. I would leave in 15 or 20 minutes, take the half-hour drive to the federal courthouse at my accustomed 15 miles per hour, and be at the hearing 15 or 20 minutes early. I hated rushing around, especially on hot days. I was well aware that time consuming problems could happen no matter how early or late I was. Witness my life, a case study in the proposition, 'If it aint broke, don't use it'.

I was anxious as usual. Attorneys had to be prepared for this judge, especially on Motion Day. Your Honor demanded professionalism, and routinely dressed down lawyers before their peers, in open court, and on the record. He reserved reprimands for those who were late, were not ready, had not filed documents on time, or had exhibited disrespect of the Court.

I recall one such reprimand. The courtroom was full of paralegals, legal assistants, attorneys, witnesses, court officers, and hangers on. The judge berated a high priced, hot shot barrister. "Mr. Smith, in all my years on the bench, this submission of yours is the worst, most confusing, and poorly written example of incompetence I have ever seen."

That was the prelude to a five minute harangue during which the Judge waved in the air one sheet of paper. This document could not have contained a decent sized paragraph. That display of unrestrained anger left me breathless and quaking in my cheap polyester pants. When my turn came to face the fire that day, I wanted to say, 'Your Honor, I would first like to remind the court that I am NOT Mr. Smith."

I was ready. The matter in hand was another in a never ending line of injustices to farm workers. My homework had been done. The Judge liked these cases. 'Doing Essential Justice', he termed it (off the record, of course). He liked me, though that was subject to change without notice, like your phone bill.

I was nervous going over the case. About then, I got a whiff of urine. Always with the urine. I have sat in it, taken exams in it, lay in it, drove in it, and even drank it. This has happened more than a hundred times. That notwithstanding, I always initially deny the obvious.

Following that spurious denial, there are five to ten seconds of fighting it. Then, reality tells me 'tis I. I'm sitting in piss; it smells. It's hot. I don't have time to change clothes'. I'm revisiting the bar exam quandary and the dog poop AG job interview. What to do? I had to go. If not, I would have been on this judge's blacklist a long time. That prospect too closely resembled Miss White's list.

I had two options, neither of which I relished: (1) run home, hope my personal care guy Eduardo is there, available, and somehow able to fix this mess, or (2) go as I was. Two was perilous. I had to give (1) a shot, even if that meant I would be a little late. Mind, heart, and all racing, I flew home. Eduardo was there and available. He never looked so good.

Eduardo was, in Spanish, a 'Grandote', a tall, large man. He was thirty-eight and all angles, elbows, knees and joints. His hair was thick, black, and wavy. He had an offbeat sense of humor, slightly cynical. He moved like Charlie Chaplin and the young Bob Dylan, herky-jerky. He would wheel around 360 degrees on one heel and present what he held, like a combination mine, ballet dancer, and waiter. He was fast, a quick study.

I outlined my dilemma. We rushed to my room. He sized up the situation in an instant. He opened up my pants, hands and arms flying akimbo, with me in the chair. We see the inevitable: my condom catheter (called a 'Texas Catheter' no joke) was totally off. My pants, chair, and spongy cushion were soaked; piss was everywhere. In full emergency mode, Eduardo donned rubber gloves, removed the condom, grabbed a washcloth, towel, and soap, washed and dried me off. He then sprayed medical adhesive on my penis. This adhesive was like a combination model airplane and super glue. Eduardo sprayed this stuff all over my penis, nuts, pants, and himself. He then deftly put on another condom and rolled it down over the glue. Next, he poured on way too much sickeningly sweet cologne. And for good measure, he doused me with so much baby powder I could hardly breathe or see.

The room seemed to be filled with tear gas. Like an operating room doctor, Eduardo expertly finished and closed, and re-zipped my pants. He removed his gloves with the snap and flair of success. "Es muy bien, si or no?" (It is very good, yes or no?) This was a joke between us, 'si or no', when things were very bad.

Eduardo had a tough life in Mexico and the US. He was a good guy; we laughed a lot. We had a short, unrestrained belly laugh, as if Groucho had just removed a hammer from Harpo's stomach. I got back to business and dashed off.

I was squarely caught between the mess and the Motion. I could hardly remember what I was doing. I switched into auto pilot mode. I drove through congested McAllen traffic on this scorching hot day, got to the courthouse, and gathered up my briefcase and black bag. This ungainly bag, the black bag, held myriad documents, most of which were redundant and unnecessary.

I carried them into the Federal building on my urine-soaked lap and placed my briefcase on the conveyor. This ensured that everyone at hand would not miss the aroma. Next, I passed through the first run of security guard searches and metal detectors. I made small talk with the guards. I put the briefcase and black bag back on my lap and nervously waited for the elevator. "Those guys on the tenth floor are in for it", I imagined one guard saying to the other when I got off.

There was, of course, a gaggle of lawyers and acquaintances present. The ride in the that full-capacity elevator was like a bad dream. This nightmare resembled my law school dream, where i am the only one naked in a room full of angry people. I tried my best to appear nonchalant, but that was impossible.

There could be no doubt where the smell came from. Everyone, including your author, fidgeted and looked down. Anywhere but in each other's eyes, like Mr. Drudge's receptionist. I made my way through the second security check much like the first.

I finally made my way to the courtroom and parked away from the bench and fellow attorneys. I anxiously waited for my case to be called. I would then have to approach the bench, officially appear before the Court, and argue my motion. While sitting in uric acid.

I internally paced. Could i do this? Would it go OK? Would a lawyer or two come over for a visit? Would Julia, an attorney i was interested in dating, be there? Would she come over? Would she find out? Was this a replay of the Maine Governor's mansion escapade where I got away, no questions asked?

I remembered that U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas had spent his last days in a wheelchair, incontinent and smelling up the Court. His urinary leg bag would leak in the confines of that august assembly. I thought he whispered to me:

"Oh, I know that you know that you smell,
but sitting in piss is not hell,
the Judge may be kind, or pay no never mind,
and you will have some story to tell.

My heart lightened.

By the time the Judge called my case, I remembered why I was there and made my initial announcement, "Your Honor, Attorney Raymond Gill here for the Plaintiffs". I expected the he Judge to respond, "Mr. Gill, I am aware of your presence. I am taking judicial notice that you are sitting in urine, stinking up my Court, and demeaning the administration of justice thereby. Your Motion is denied, your case dismissed, and you'd better NOT BE DRIPPING PISS ON MY RUG!"

No. My Motion was granted. As far as I could tell there was no drip, drip, drip. I got out of there in a hurry. I mean to say, I hustled my ass out of there! There was no Julia, not then or ever. Woody Allen once said that 90 percent of life is showing up. He never mentioned piss in that context, but I saw what he meant.

On the way home I had another good belly laugh, as I gazed back over what had just occurred. Among all those $500 per hour, self-important attorneys chasing all those corporate dollars, I had successfully represented my low-income farm workers.


February, 1992 + San Juan, Texas

During the Sixties, I had respect and love for a number of great people, including Cesar Chavez. He was a man of compassion, whose life was one of integrity, courage, and dedication. I had loved and respected him from afar; I had never met him in person. That was to change in 1992.

The occassion was the United Farm Workers biennial convention. UFW and South Texas Project staffs, amoung a host of like-minded others, had worked for several months and feverishly for weeks, to organize the event. My direct responsibilites were parking, security, and a big part of our closing march. This meant I would be outside a great deal of the time directing volunteers. cars, trucks, and media swarmed into our limited parking areas, which were here, there, and everywhere. If there were any space anywhere, a vehicle of some kind was parked there. Weather predictions promised warmth. Forecasters confidently put the tempurature at 65 degrees on a slightly overcast day without rain. This was ideal for our convention and march.

We all knew our beloved UFW co-founder and acknowledged leader would be there. This would be a momentous event. We all knew it. I had been on tender hooks since arriving at 6:00 AM. I wondered and worried about what I would say or do in his presence. After all, this man had had an audience with the Pope and government officials from the President on down. Cesar was hounded by media of all kinds. He was respected and admired worldwide. This was big stuff for me.

I remember the moment like it happened this morning. I was outside the UFW hall, consumed with my duties. This man moved and lived free from ostentation. He simply walked up to me and thanked me for giving my legal resources to UFW members and other low-income folk. No fuss or ado for him. Here with me was Cesar Chavez himself. I initially felt abashed and akward like a child meeting his legendary grandfather for the first time.

He immediately set me at ease. He was humble in a natural way. We chatted a few minutes. I felt as if he and I were alone in all the world. I was encountering La Causa in person. I was captivated by how quiet he was. Before me stood a man who radiated love and peacefulness. I felt it, without more, as he thanked me and quieted me.

Confidence surged through my being. I was centered, grounded, and exactly where I needed to be. That is a marvelous feeling. I knew this was his gift to me. My father taught me how to die. Cesar was among those who taught me how to live.

As I sit writing, I look up at a photograph of that occasion. I sit there, smiling into the camera, appearing happy. Cesar leans over me. He wears a short sleeve, blue and white striped shirt, which is perhaps a bit small for his chunky and muscular torso. We are shoulder to shoulder; his strong left arm encircles me. A throng of marchers stand behind us. This is a pose he has taken many times, I am sure. Only this time it is he and I.

Shortly thereafter we marched. I stayed close to him, near the front, and watched him deal with the media, well-wishers, and hecklers. He was thoughtful and gracious, no matter how stupid the question or belligerent the opposition.

Over the years and over the miles, I have often thought of that day and that man. Cesar died in 1993. From Cortland State to the UFW, I have been seeking my own way of being in the world that personifies peace and love. Deep in the Rio Grande Valley of extreme south Texas, I had encountered a person who was all I longed to be.


August, 1991 + San Juan, Texas

I had been living my 'Gandhi in the Valley' fantasy for five months. When I first arrived I dusted off our low-rent furniture, sorted through piles and piles of mail, hired an office assistant, and put the files in some order. I also re-established funding, made friends, impressed people, and generally got the Project up and running. I thought I was doing OK. Without fully realizing it or understanding the implications, I had been viewing myself and what I was doing through a self-centered lens. I was the lawyer helping farm workers who couldn't help themselves. I was operating in a limited, myopic way that created distance between the people and me. Juanita saw right through it.

On a hot and humid Friday, she called me to the table in the back of the Union hall. No one was in sight. Juanita was very sensitive and knowing.

The hall was a spacious, open room with a make shift stage, chairs upon chairs, and a smooth, bare, concrete floor. The eye could not overlook several huge, brightly colored murals that depicted the farm worker cause on all four walls. One was surrounded on all sides with graphic portrayals of the UFW struggle for justice. This was the center. Here is where the Union met, organized, marched, and boycotted. This building and hall were where the Project offices were located.

From this awe inspiring place, the UFW and the Project carried on our peace and justice work together. Here untold numbers of people volunteered, politicians campaigned, speakers spoke, and poor folk received the help they needed. It was this room that spontaneously drew deeply grieving farm workers on the news of the death of Cesar Chavez. It was only right that Juanita brought me here for a talk I will always remember.

She was not one to waste time; she got right to it. I knew something important was in the offing, like, "Ray, you're the greatest these folks and I have ever seen; you're just like Cesar." No.

Juanita spoke in firm yet gentle terms. Holding me with her deep magnetic eyes she said, "Let the people tell you what they need". That was the heart of it. I knew what she meant. She also said some things about the distance I was creating and my assumption of superiority. In short, I had to learn that the work I was doing was not about me.

I felt totally deflated, like a charlatan who had been exposed. My first instinct was to argue and defend myself. However, by this time, I trusted Juanita explicitly. I knew she wouldn't say this to hurt me. Her motive to speak to me came from her love for farm workers. Her concern for them was obvious in all she said and did. She was centered and grounded in them. There was nothing I could say.

This lead directly to a long, painful, and confusing time of deep soul searching. Why had I come here, really? Was I here to bask in the glory of my service? I wrestled with these questions all the time. I knew I had to fix this, but how? I was transfixed with this dilemma. I strained for an answer. Maybe if i did this, maybe if I did that, or maybe I should do something else.

I even pondered leaving, but I knew that was failure and cowardly. I had to persist, to pursue this one compelling thing. I had had experience like this deciphering Dylan's music and opening to Ahmed's counseling. I was living dead center in my own existential koan, flailing about internally. I vowed to tough this one out no matter what.

Zen folk know. It's the mind, stupid. I was immersed in noise, static, and confusion. I felt depressed until an answer came: Watch Juanita, watch the people, and listen. I watched, listened, and learned.

Finally, I had it, I saw it. There was no separation between Juanita and the Union members. She loved them and they loved her. She never talked down to anyone. She cared about them and the members responded. They trusted her because she was one of them, not someone in a job sent there to perform certain duties.

I followed Juanita's example. I learned to trust the people I had come here to serve. Things got better. My 'Gandhi fantasy' evaporated. I had, once again, arrived.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

so they're not all piss stories and dirty jokes--my last entry/reaction was, I admit, a little harsh--this section feel confusing to me. He moves fast, jumps around in time and place and seems to be in a rush to make sure he fits in all the other important events in his life--there are only about 40 pages of this memoir left--we have now read 206 pages, -sort of amazing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


March, 1991 + Virginia and San Jose

Sarah, my friend Bob, and I loaded up my van and headed to Texas. The plan was to drop Sarah off at an Ashram in Virginia. She had previously arranged to stay there for four months to continue her spiritual journey and figure some things out. Bob and I would then motor on to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. There I would begin my farm worker attorney job. Bob would go back to Maine.

The trip down was fun for Bob and me. As usual, I was full of myself. I was on the road again, moving into a new chapter of my life. I had come up and out of deep depression. I felt newly revived, energetic, and full of excitement. The trip was uneventful, other than the gloriousness of traveling south through the rebirth of spring. My future looked rich and challenging. Could i make it in Texas? Would I pass the Texas Bar Exam? Would the people accept me?

Sarah seldom spoke. When she did she seemed unsure of herself and apprehensive, like a young, untested recruit facing battle for the first time. I did next to nothing to reassure her or even talk to her. I should have seen the train wreck coming.

We got to Virginia and the Ashram. Sarah became quieter than ever. I remained oblivious. She checked into what seemed to me cool digs. The place was situated in a quiet, rural setting. It resembled a huge and lovingly tended park. There were helpful people about. Sarah's room was clean and neat.

As I was saying my goodbyes, Sarah started weeping and then crying. She was anguished beyond words. She felt she was being abandoned yet again by one of the two people she loved and needed most. "How can you leave me alone in this place, where I'm a complete stranger?" she sobbed. "You left me when you fell, when you went to law school, when you went to the VA. You're always leaving me. I'm you're daughter. I need you. Don't I matter?"

Every word was a stab in my heart. Here we were again. I was leaving the one person on earth I had vowed to give my last breath and whose welfare was supposed to mean the most to me. I felt helpless, weak, and trapped. There was nothing for it but to play out this recurring nightmare to its bitter end.

I tried to explain why I had to leave. My words sounded hollow and stupid. I comforted her as I could. I left her lying on her bed, distraught and sobbing. Sarah had laid out her youthful heart to me. She had been open exposed, and totally vulnerable. She needed the same from me. I wouldn't come out from behind my defenses, take my armor off, as she had done.

She was absolutely right. My initial instinct was to deny, defend, and strike back. Her tears and her words finally reached me. She had seen into and through her youth. Every one of her words rang true. Memories of coming up short as a father and friend poured in on me. There would be a reckoning between us down the road.


July, 1991 + San Juan, Texas

"Oh, I got a letter on a lonesome day..."

The reckoning between Sarah and me came in the form of a letter. Sarah had been doing Inner Child Work at the Ashram. In the process she had confronted her upbringing, her disappointments and failures, and her deepest feelings. She had been empowered to squarely face and hopefully come to terms with the people, forces and events that had shaped her life.

During her stay there we had, of course, been in touch. She wrote breezy letters about the beauty of the Virginia spring and the friends she was making. She would usually add a note or two about the work she was doing uncovering and discovering things inside her. I was very involved in my new life. I was learning Spanish and studying for the Texas Bar Exam. I was busy. I didn't see it coming.

I opened the letter, expecting more of the same. What it said shocked me. Her letter was a heart-wrenching testimonial of her pain. My little girl had become a courageous and articulate young woman. Her letter spoke in plain language.

She confronted the damage years of living in a family that was broken. She was groping, partly in the dark, to come to terms with love gone wrong. She wrestled with her inability to square my deeds with my words. She knew I loved her yet, I had left her time after time. She knew I loved our family yet, I had betrayed Linda and her with Kate. Although i had oftentimes said that openness was important to me, I had grown emotionally distant and inaccessible. She knew I was strong, yet I was weak and withdrawn during her high school years. I has a lot to answer for.

Once I got past my defensive, "No, No, No," I sat quietly gazing out across the Rio Grande Valley landscape, which was flat, parched, and treeless. The years rolled through my mind: Sarah's birth, Wellington, my injury, Kate, law school, divorce, Waterville, Virginia, Texas, to this letter. I thought of all the people along the way. I thought of the pain, ever at hand. Loss, sadness, and shame welled up in me, like a geyser preparing to overflow. As in that Waterville apartment when, "I just reached a place, where the willow don't bend..." I let go. Tears rolled down my contorted face without restraint. I wept until I was out of tears.

I realized then that I had been presented an opening. Sarah had given me an opportunity to reach across the miles and over the years to recover what had been lost. I resolved to be as courageous as she. I could not face knowing i had failed her again. I would not shut her out or go half way.

I wrote her back owning it all:

"Yes many times I have been weak when you needed me strong,
away when you needed me there, cowardly when you needed me valiant,
and self absorbed when you simply needed me.
I made our home a battleground for no reason but my anger.
I fell for another woman. I betrayed our family.
I erected barriers between us."

All of this was true,

"Through all the pain, hurtful words, and failures,
through the dissolution of our family, your Mom,
you, and I were looking out for each other.
We were trying in our own way to take care of each other.
Despite the heartache, we continued loving each other.
Sweetheart, we are still doing this today."

With that, I closed. I felt released. I knew at last the healing had begun.


Circa 1989-1990 + Waterville, Maine

Our family had come undone; we each moved far apart: Linda in Texas, Sarah in college in New York, then Costa Rica, and me in Maine. This geographical scheme was a manifestation of a much deeper reality. We were emotionally scarred by five years of anger, resentment, and retribution. Linda, Sarah, and I had retreated to safer ground. As long as we stayed detached, we could try to make sense of how we each felt.

Although Sarah and I lived together during her high school years, we were miles apart emotionally. This is laid out above. Suffice it to say we existed in two armed camps: she struggled with the radioactive fallout while making her way through the minefields of adolescence. I was a father in name only during most of those days. Depressed, I could only with the greatest effort drag myself to the supermarket, deal with bills, and otherwise run our household. This was hardly a recipe for helping my daughter find herself.

She and I did make it through. Sarah graduated from high school and was accepted at the college of her choice. I landed a great job which I came to love. Sarah and I became friends, although a deeper experience was to come.

Wat of Linda? How could we three become a family again?

By 1989 or so, my efforts to punish her had dissipated. I had forbidden her entrance into our Waterville home. I had imposed a frigid silent treatment, which I knew lacerated her gentle and loving heart. The time had come to retrieve our family from the ashes, and our love from the barriers I had erected.

In that year I welcomed Linda into Sarah and I's home. This was a monumental event. Our family was together again. In unspoken agreement we committed to living in peace with one another. We knew this would require mutual love and respect. We succeeded at last. This is what loving families do.

As I write I am happy to say Linda is Sarah's best friend and a close friend of mine. When we are together, it is very sweet to watch we three ministering to each other. We share a profound love for each other and for our reunited family.

Shangri-La has been placed into the hands and care of younger strengths. They are raising a family and living out their homestead dream. Bitter and Sweet.


January, 1991 + Augusta, Maine and Austin, Texas

My job search took a much longer time than I expected. I stayed diligently on it. I loved my position and co-workers at the Maine Commission for Human Rights. The Commission job was not necessarily a lawyer position. Being an attorney certainly helped, but the other four investigators were not lawyers. I wanted to test my mettle in the legal arena.

I dusted off my resume, wrote a letter of interest, and sent them to a host of potential employers. I even considered social work in Africa. The wheel chair got in the way of some, I'm sure. Month after month passed, and I still had no possibilities. A friend told me about a peace and freedom publication that listed job searches on behalf of like-minded folk. i thanked her, thinking it was a waste of time. I didn't bother to try.

All other avenues ended in dead ends. After four months, I decided to send my stuff to the magazine, thinking it couldn't hurt. Several more months went by and I received no letters or calls. I gave up on the magazine.

On a cold, winter Friday, I got a call from Austin, Texas. One of my co-workers said it was about an ad in a magazine. I was astounded. I picked up my phone. My caller was named Jim. The conversation went like this:

Jim: "I read your ad in such and such magazine. I have the perfect job for you."
Me: (getting excited) "Go on."
Jim: "You would be a lawyer for the United Farm Workers, Cesar Chavez' Union.
You would be the Director of the South Texas Civil Rights Project."
Me: (very excited) "Where is it?"
Jim: "The Rio Grande Valley of Texas, across the Rio Grande River from Mexico.
Are you interested?"
Me: (very, very excited) "Yes, I'm inters ted."
Jim: "Good. Fly down to Austin. We'll talk. Then you go south to be interviewed
by the people you will be working with. If all goes well, we'll all know
before you return to Maine."
Me: "When should I meet you?"
Jim: "As soon as you can get here."
Me: (very, very, very excited) "I'll see you tomorrow."

Just like that! I landed the perfect job because Jim happened to glance at my ad in a magazine I hadn't known existed a few months prior. The position was for a full time attorney who would be Director of a Civil Rights Project in South Texas representing farm workers and other low-income folk and marching with the UFW and Cesar Chavez' people. maybe I could get to meet him. Talk about PERFECT!!

Within a few days I was in Austin. Jim and I got on right off. Soon I was in the Rio Grande Valley. This is a story in its own right:


January, 1991 + San Juan, Texas

This was all happening very fast. I loved it. The following day Linda, Sarah, I drove from Austin due south to the Rio Grande Valley and arrived at the UFW center. I was to be interviewed pronto.

I made my way into the lobby of the UFW (United Farm Worker) building in extreme South Texas (and I do mean extreme). This was a long, long way from Maine. The land was almost perfectly flat and treeless. The population was approximately 85% Latino. Spanish was spoken everywhere. This was a land apart.

I had resolved to move from Maine where it was always winter and never Christmas. I had, had enough of pushing my manual wheelchair through ice, snow, sand, and salt. My fingers were always so cold I could hardly use them. For me it seemed a relentless, never-ending winter. Maine could be cool in July.

I had been working in Augusta continually from February, 1986-1991. Every work day I drove thirty miles each way to and from my job. On one occasion, I was on an AAA tow truck hook from Augusta to Waterville with me in the vehicle. I went through one winter in my old van without a heater.

Day after day I felt like the cold was freezing my nuts off. I was getting home so chilled it took all evening to warm back up. Next day, I would be up early and back on the tundra for yet another Arctic day. It was time to head out, west or south, but definitely not north or east. I even went so far as to consider Africa. The unending unpleasantness just got to be too much. A brief digression will make my point:

[Brief Digression: January, 1990, Maine Legislature, early afternoon--This was a classic winter day in Maine--weather dominating everything. It was cold with a howling wind. Heavy wet snow flakes poured down from the slate gray sky.

I had prepared an address to a committee of Maine legislature on a disability discrimination issue. After parking my van, I got down to the ground on my electric lift. I had landed in the teeth of a blasting, frigid headwind blowing snow in horizontal sheets directly into my face. This was a nor'easter of Maine Yankee proportions:

"Now, I rememba the winta of nintey, why it blowed
so haad, the snow come right through the baan wall,
I'm a tellin ya,
froze Chesta right theya, it did"

Fifty feet in front of me was the mammoth State Office Building, with its myriad windows. The place was full of the faces of warm, dry, and happy State employees looking in my direction. I wore only a dress shirt and tie. I had no coat or jacket on because it was a short and quick roll into the building and out of the weather. As I was maneuvering my chair off the vehicle's lift platform, the right front tire got badly stuck on the platform lip. I mean, I was jammed. I couldn't move forward and I couldn't move backward. The harder I tried to move, the stucker I got. I had to get help, and fast. I sat there freezing and becoming rapidly obscured by the snow.

I thought, 'Not to worry, there is a host of State workers looking right at me.' I waved, gestured, and gesticulated. I mimicked my dilemma and their rescue, as if I were a French mime. The people at the windows, who had witnessed the entire episode, waved back. They smiled at me, as they watched me frantically struggle. I was disappearing under a blanket of snow. Just then--I decided to move south (or west or both). Eventually someone came from somewhere (else) and released me, buried and frozen.]

Meanwhile, back at the Texas interview:

You recall that I was being interviewed for the South Texas Legal Rights Project Director/Attorney position. Other than myself, there were three people present: Juanita (UFW represenative), Barbara (former Project Director), and Dr. Nelson (local activist/professor).

Barbara was a lawyer in her mid thirties. She wore thick glasses and squinted, as though searching for something she had lost. She was thin and angular and fidgeted. She asked a lot of legal questions. Dr. Nelson, who was in his mid fifties was tall and thin. He said he was a political activist and organizer and that was about all he said. The interviewer was Juanita.

She was the star of the show. She very easily and naturally commanded respect and attention. Juanita was in her early forties. She had olive colored skin, like many Latinos and Latinas everywhere. I would soon come to see that she was a combination Cesar Chavez, Carmen Miranda, and Madonna. She had flowing, long, jet-black hair. Her soulful brown eyes were bright and piercing. her manner was firm yet gentle.

Over the next ten years I would come to admire, respect, and emulate her as the living incarnation of all I strived to be. She was really something--a person who would add immeasurably to my life. She did this simply by being herself, without more.

I looked around me. The Rio Grande Valley UFW hall was a low level, one storey, plain cement block building. This community center was set on ten acres fifteen miles from Mexico. We were in the lobby, which measured fifteen by twenty foot. The entrance led directly to a long and unadorned front desk. Folding chairs, a large sofa, and one overstuffed easy chair welcomed farm workers and visitors. Pamphlets, posters with the UFW motto, 'VIVA LA UNION', placards, and pictures were everywhere.

Colorful English and Spanish notices decorated the walls. This dusty room was replete with bright colors. The decor seemed to be thrown together with liveliness the motif. Movement, progress, hope and passion were proudly on display.

When I set foot in that lobby, I felt I was home. I felt it instantly. I knew beyond doubt that this place was for me. It exuded low-budget, political funk. I loved it!

I chattered on about something or other, trying to sell myself. Then, apropos of nothing, Juanita looked straight into my very soul with her piercing, Madonna eyes that held me spellbound. Straight from her heart, she said, "We really need you here".

"OK, THAT'S IT. SHUT IT DOWN. NO MORE NEED BE SAID. I'M IN. SHOW ME WHERE TO SIGN". From that instant I was there. I didn't care about money, working conditions, how I'd get there, or living arrangements. All of that didn't matter now. Juanita had said the magic words. The incantation had been spoken. Words fall woefully short, now that I've come to the heart of it all. Juanita's five word statement convinced me how right this job in this place with these people was for me. Juanita had cleanly cut through the clutter and gotten right to my need to be needed and valued.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

another piss story--organizational oversight--should be with the others in a nice little grouping--although this book was 'done' as I continue to transcribe I see how very rough/unedited and incomplete it still was when he stopped actively working on it--as I mentioned before most of what you are reading I am transcribing and reading for the first time myself--this is not the picture of my father I would have chosen to paint--these are not (mostly) examples of his highest, deepest, most enlightened or even accurate depictions of his life--they are frozen and embellished stories of events he found amusing or touching or seminal, but they lack in the telling the fullness of context. He parades follies as though humiliation were a tonic and I find it sad, embarrassing, pitiful even that he thought that this is the 'stuff' from his life, from him--that others would be interested in hearing, as opposed to the nuanced, subtle, complex musing of his mature and poetic mind. It leaves me exhausted and bored and ultimately disappointed because honestly what he was doing was not putting down a memoir for posterity, for his family to read and remember but telling a dirty joke at his own (and others expense) so as to render himself the entertaining center of attention--kind of par for the course, really.

Monday, March 22, 2010


June, 1990 + Augusta, Maine

The Governor of Maine had invited a cross-section of disabled or handicapped or challenged or otherly abled or crippled folk to the State Mansion for a photo op. He also wanted to speechify about all the great things he had done for us, such as allowing seeing eye dogs on brewery tours. He had accomplished embarrassingly little.

I hated these contrived and artificial settings and still do. It's too much like being a trained seal. I went at my much admired and respected boss' request.

I was late of course, fashionably so. I could barely push my chair on the exquisite, deep pile, cream colored, wall-to-wall carpet. I found my spot at the back, close to the exit. The twenty by thirty foot room was beautifully appointed with huge, light-brown, velvet curtains. Seats matched the decor and were placed in neat, evenly spaced rows. Ample room was provided for wheel chairs and other nobility devices.

I looked around at the people in the room. There were a number of greeters, seaters, and self-important, officious aides hurrying about, as if the sky were falling. These aides wore dark hued suits, ties, and rather severe blouse-skirt combinations that bespoke 'business only'. This group was mostly young go-getters who were the legislator and governors of years to come.

There certainly was a wide variety of people in that place. Present also were two elderly gents, each of whom could be one hundred years old. These guys lounged in hospital beds. One of them kept trying to cough up fur balls the entire time. This was one of those Michael Jordan moments when I'd be hanging with my blind, crippled, and crazy homie. The last category of participants was closely watched. Those suit and tie people policed this event so nothing embarrassing occurred. Can you imagine the panic if one of the invitees shouted, "Satan speaks; get thee behind me Governor"?

The Governor began his self-congratulatory, prepared speech. He was framed behind two eight foot windows encased in oak and sumptuous velvet. This was no accident. The room and all were set up so listeners' attention focused on the speaker.

I distractedly listened to part of it. The other part I spent wondering what that attractive redheaded Aide knew about quadriplegic sex. After fifteen minutes of trying to pretend I gave a shit, I began to get a subtle whiff of processed uric acid, or piss, as it's known in the vernacular.

'Some poor bastard's leg bag or foley or night bag is starting to stink', I thought' Probably that toothless old dude half asleep near the front'. The longer the speech droned on, the less subtle the odor became. I was amused at the thought that this politician was being subjected to the dank fragrance of urine in his own, albeit temporary, home. The smell got worse. Like the dawning awareness the offensive odor is not in the dream, but in waking reality, I began to entertain the notion that the essence of eau de urea was mine. This was not so amusing a prospect.

I knew without doubt who the culprit was. I leaned over and looked down to confirm. Just as I had known, I saw and smelled a spot the size of a basketball under my leg bag. I watched the steady drip, drip, drip enlarge this spot by the second. 'Uh, Oh' I thought, 'I've got to get the fuck out of here'. I cast my glance about and saw that no one was on to me. So as not to raise suspicion, I sidled slowly back and out.

One of the helpful young aides pushed my chair, complete with the unabated trickle to the door. I thanked him and lowering my head to keep a very low profile. I finally made it outside to freedom, like E. T. from his pursuers. I chuckled a bit on the way back to my office. I felt smug to have left my mark on the whole vacuous affair. Like a male cat, I had marked my territory. 'I showed that political hack what it means to invite me to his Mansion', I mused.

When I got back to work, my Boss asked me how it went. That Governor was not her favorite either. I felt free to say, "Oh, it went OK, except someone or other stunk up the place by urinating on the carpet".

Friday, March 5, 2010

sex does matter

but I'm glad that's over-kinda gross from a daughter's perspective!


December 1990 + Waterveille, Maine

This vignette stars those disreputable, yet most readibly desired, facets of human behavior: (1) lust for sex, (2) anticipation of sex, and (3) sex itself.

Shortly before Christmas, a totally unexpected gift landed in my lap, so to speak. Perhaps 'on my lap' is more to the point. Connie had come in due course along the stream of life; Tania arrived in a torrent. Like the unanticipated rapids that swamp even the most experienced rafter, she suddenly appeared.

This is how it happened, I think. It is common knowlegde that there is more than one way to skin a cat. That old saw duly noted, let me say right up front for the animal lovers among us (me included) that no cat has been skinned, hung, harmed, or otherwise molested in this story. Or this entire book. Well, one cat broke a nail, but that's it.

She was Tania, Tanney to me. She was thirty or so, of medium height, and not a particulatly beautiful woman. Tanney was not hard to look at either. She was a little heavy, as if she had recently lost some, but not quite enough weight. She had reddish-brown hair and deep brown eyes that seemed to smolder with scarcely hidden passion. She was like a volcano that was always ready to do the Mount St. Helen's thing.

What drew me to her was the instant awareness that here was a hot blooded bomb shell, an explosion sure to happen. With the right fuse, that is. She had something of the Victoria Secret's model about her, the look that said, 'I can bring you some fabulous sexual thrills or I can eat you alive'. I felt that in my stomach. It was as if she had asked me to come along on a world-class roller coaster ride sitting on white hot coals.

We met in Augusta where I worked for the Maine Commission on Human Rights. Tanney was a Complainant, someone who had filed a discrimination complaint against her employer. I was the investigator assigned to her case. Investigators were forbidden from getting involved with clients while their cases were pending. With her I may have overstepped the line.

Tanney had a penchant for tight-fitting, revealing clothes. This was a bit out of place in that rather informal, yet professional workplace, where dressing like Britney Spears was most unusual. Her legs were shapely and came together in a place I very much wanted to visit. She had big breast which she generously displayed when leaning toward me in her typically low-cut blouses. She caught me eyeing her more than thrice. It didn't take long for us to make progress toward each other. Fortunately, her complaint settled, so the runway was clear for take off.

(1) Lust of sex: We would make up excuses to be together. These seemed innocent enough: a ride home, trips to the food store. After awhile she would spend some time in my apartment, leaning over me. Her hot, sweet breath torched my skin when her chest was all but in my face. She wore cheap perfume that reminded me of a low-rent Mexican hooker of my Army days, when sex was more important than the clap, or worse.

One Sunday morning we were completely alone. Sarah was away at college; everyone else I knew was out of town or caught up in personal buisiness. We spent three hours together, she in a Marilyn Monroe-like outfit: tight black skirt, fishnet hose, low-cut white blouse, and heels. Wow! That get-up on a Sunday morning. The message was clear and I was getting more impatient by the hour. "You've got to get your hands on those hooters," I thought. To say, as President Carter had, that "I had lust in my heart" was an understatement, like saying Mount Everest is tall.

(2) Anticipation of Sex: It was about then that I got a new idea. I would pay her to help me take care of my small apartment, Hitler's Bunker, you recall. My place was very ordinary, except for one feature that proved very handy: a walk in closet that had a wide, smooth, and strong wood shelf at wheelchair level. I had been able to keep my apartment tidy enough without assistance for several years, but suddenly the need arose for more help.

We self-consciously acted our married couple roles on these Saturday and Sunday morning interludes. When the work was done Tanney would hang around my place. We made sure the door was locked, curtains were drawn, and phone off the hook. It was as if I were a sexually oriented male magnet in a very small room feeling myself irrestisably drawn to a powerful female magnet in hot pants and a halter top. The anticipation was exquisite.

My imagination ran wild. My heart was close to all-out fibrillation, like waiting breathlessly for the Pecker Checker on nights gone by. I pictured scenes of the most outrageous sort. These invariably ended in mutual sexual collapse, like San Francisco after the quake. I had to move this affair up a notch and consummate or implode into ashes. You can only get to the brink so many times before you lose interest, as Kissinger's brinkmanship diplomacy proved.

(3) Sex itself: One Saturday morning, we food shopped and came back to my apartment. I felt tension in the air stronger than usual, as if I were watching a fuse burn closer and closer to the dynamite in my bedroom. No one else was around. The door was locked, curtains closed, phone off.

The apartment was quieter than a morgue on a holiday, like the stillness of the wind before the hurricane begins. Tanney walked toward me; she was about six feet away. I put my hands out to her beckoning her ever closer. We were two sub-atomic particles drawn together by the all-powerful strong nuclear force.

At about the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), I removed the sides of my chair. She was on my lap. We were lip-locked and throwing clothes here and there. Our hands moved all over each other. Those magnificent hooters were all I had hoped for. I felt I was in a free-floating dream state, as we touched, fondled, kissed, and panted. "This is great"' I thought after a while, "but it can't stop here". My Eureka moment arrived just in time. "The closet!"

I headed there at NASCAR speed, with Tanney on my lap. She seemed a little bewildered, especially when we got to the shelf. I stopped, locked my brakes, and gently helped lift her up and onto that shelf. I thought that that magnificent wooden shelf had been constructed in that location with that much holding capacity at that exact height by some knowing crippled carpenter. Tanney needed no help, once she was there she saw where this was going. She was a quick study.

In less time than it takes to say it, Tanney removed her remaining clothes. I pulled up under the shelf between those fleshy thighs. She grasped the shelf with both hands, leaned back and held on tight. I could hear her gasp for breath as I got ever closer to her nest of spicery, to quote Richard III.

Tanney moan like a cat in heat. Her body quivered, her breathing grew faster. Her moaning became louder and more urgent. Like Connie, Tanney got God mixed up in the business. Her prayers appeared to be answered.

What of your salacious author?

I managed to complete our shelf activity more or less intact. I had all I could do to keep enough oxygen in my lungs, so an not to do brain damage.Sensing that the bulk of the work had been accomplished, I backed up and we resumed our sexual alligator wrestling. As our passion subsided, Tanney whispered repeatedly, "yes, yes, yes" I felt proud and manly, like with Connie. Only this time there was no papaverine or other aid (unless you count the closet).

I had been planning to move to Texas in February. Arrangement had been made. I had accepted a lawyer job there and could not go back on my commitment. A flaming fling was about the last thing I had imagined. I knew I had to tell her about Texas. Her solution was enthralling, "Well, we'd better have our fun before you go".

I thought I was hearing things. Perhaps I was a sex-starved guy hearing what I wanted to hear. No, I heard what I heard. Tania was serious about having fun. It was written all over her face and maybe other parts of her as well.

The next couple of months were a thrill ride. We were eager to please each other. It was hard to tell who was more committed to our roller coaster. When it came time to move to Texas, it was very difficult to say good bye to her. I sincerely cared for her, as I had Jean and Connie. We had become friends as well as lovers. Tanney I wrote this one for you:

Tanney gal, I miss you still,
I think, my dear, I always will,
our days were always thrill by thrill,
and happy times in Waterville,
you opened for me that safe deposit,
hidden away in my very own closet.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


October, 1990 + Waterville, Maine

OK, so my 'sex as far as the eye can see' thing with Jean didn't work out. Not to worry. Surely there were others out there who would inject papaverine and enjoy some sex in the breakdown lane. I just had to discover one. Hell, I had the potential for the four hour escapade every time I saddled up. The problem was, of course, how would I get over with that? I couldn't say, "Hi, I'm Ray. What do you think about injecting my dick with papaverine and riding me like Annie Oakley for four hours?" Maybe the medical approach, "Are you inclined to syringically inject an anti-spasmodic crystalline alkaloid derived from benzyl-isoquinoline into a sterile, sensitive genital site characterized by its incipient erectile potential so as to maximize coitus 225 minutes?"

Suffice it to say, no approach worked. Thinking that my unusual affliction doomed me to a gelded future I gave up on ever using my little vial again. E and I settled into a relationless and solitary sexless existence, what single life on the Arctic Tundra must be. Weeks and months passed. Every time I opened the fridge, there on my door sat my once upon a merry day alcoloidals, seeming to poetize:

"You thought your woes were at an end,
and I would be your little friend,
but Jean is gone and I'm stuck here,
growing weak, near death, like E, I fear."

What with the tundra and the poetics I was back to Fantasyland and then...along the stream of life came Connie. If you were going to create ideal Papaverine Mama, what qualities would you look for? I'd want a (former) needle freak (for the needle part), cokehead (for the part that just has to be illegal), experienced in offbeat sex (for the offbeat part, and a little crazy (for the 'you want me to do WHAT?' part). That was Connie. We found each other in the Waterville grocery store, absentmindedly perusing the tabloids on a lonesome Saturday afternoon.
Me: "I see Liz Taylor was abducted by space
aliens again."
She: "You mean those weekends with Michael

That was all it took. We hooked up immediately, like Clyde finding Bonnie finding Clyde. She was Dylan's quintessential 'graveyard woman' a real 'junkyard angel'.

Connie was a junkie's dream. If you asked her, she'd walk barefoot through forty miles of broken glass to lift the dope from an evidence locker at One Police Plaza. She could make a syringe out of barbed wire, safety pins, and rubber bands, and start a fire using nothing but Q-tips. Connie could mix the meth like Betty Crocker, do the boot like Dr. Kildare, tidy up things like the great granddaughter of Mr. Clean, and not leave a clue. Nothing fazed her. I was sure she could handle a four hour, 'this goddamn thing won't go down' papaverine overdose.

She was a combination Florence Nightingale and Janis Joplin: kind and good and very bad. Connie was tall and shapely. She had an inquisitive look, probably because she wore inch-thick glasses. She had a ready, up for anything smile, nice hooters, and a no holds barred sense of humor. I never thought I had to impress her. Her every move seemed easy and natural. I liked her ab initio, as judges say, right from the start. We had a ball together. She was a great date for a night at the track, a quiet evening at home, or a wild-ride all-night blow out. She had range.

Following a few heavy make-out sessions that reminded me of a very bad movie I didn't care much for the first time (Phase One), we got down to Phase Two. This was discussing Phase Three: "You help me into bed, get me ready for the injection, and prepare the syringe (no doctor or detail needed this time). Next, Oh Happy Day, you get your point across and boot that juice." Then Baby, ecstasy, of a kind. As the Velvet Underground put it, we're both 'rushing on our run', feeling 'just like Jesus' son'. Yeah, man, it was going to be a trip.

After an evening in Skowhegan donating to the Racetrack at the Fair Relief Fund, we headed home. Did I say easy and natural? I was crazy with anticipation and worry, like the Olympic skater terrified of the upcoming triple jump. Will it work? How old is that vial? This isn't going to be an 'I understand' scene, is it? What about the four hour thing?

Connie meanwhile is romantically rhapsodizing over some ballad she heard on the radio, apparently unaware of my self-inflicted agony. She seemed to be unconcerned about what came next. We made it into the dark apartment that resembled one of Hitler's underground bunkers, all still, airless, and claustrophobic.

I stole in as if I were a hooded burglar about to heist and heirloom. I was afraid I would get caught and be exposed. I immediately went into clinical mode. I rehearsed Phase Three, sounding as if I were walking an intern through a kidney transplant. Connie was barely listening, thinking someone else was speaking to someone else about something else. It took a little remedial effort, Connie being stuck in that song and all. She appeared to be waiting breathlessly for her severely wounded one-legged but undaunted courageous young starry-eyed soul-mate soldier boy to crawl those twenty five miles behind enemy lines over all those land mines and dead Germans to collapse in her yearning embrace.

When Connie got a look at those hypodermics all cylinders fired. 'Now THIS I can relate to.' Things moved faster. Soon I was in my bed, in that same small blue bedroom where jean had so briefly ruled queen. Night sounds, such as stray cats having sex and moaning in the alley, cars whizzing past into town, wind in the trees, and music, muted from a distance gave us our background symphony. Connie finally had the syringe, the vial, and a very hungry look. She was rooted where she stood, transfixed. Her eyes darted from the works to me to the works.

I was thinking she was thinking, 'Where is the better payoff here: experimental, maybe it'll work, maybe it won't, sex with Ray or me and my monkey.' What a scene! I was in bed on my back laid out naked with some pretty fierce hunger. She stood next to the bed, nude herself, gazing off into some coke dream. Connie was softly moaning, stroking the syringe, and humming a most appropriate tune: 'You've got your demons, you've got desires, but I've got a few of my own.'

Remember, Connie was a needle freak. Syringes and glass bulbs were her thing. Sex was, at best, an afterthought. Recalling the Jean fiasco, I knew I couldn't let this opportunity slip by. 'I can't let that happen, I won't let that happen, and I can't let that happen', I vowed to myself. How many more shots at the crown would there be? Maybe none. I had to break the spell.

"Connie!! Get Down to Business!" "Oh", she whispered distractedly, "Yeah, right, I almost forgot". I felt a tad selfish. She was enjoying her sojourn down Desolation Row, fondly revisiting those charming big city OD scenes. Her meth head beau would be fibrillating in the cold water shower while the Riot Squad was about to break down the door. Connie would frantically be trying to flush the dope while Floyd lay on the kitchen floor dry-heaving. We had a goal oriented task of a carnal nature to complete, damn it. Like Agnes, I , too, can get clinical.

The rest was both a climax and an anticlimax. Connie poked, stroked and Lazarus re-arose, though it took a little longer this time to get things up and running. I promised earlier I wouldn't describe the mechanics. Suffice it to say there was the requisite moaning, groaning, swearing and sweating. Connie implored the Divine, who evidently came through. For this once, God's name was not taken in vain. Connie assured me all went real well on her end. I was greatly relieved. I felt manly. The lonesome diner had his fork back. Also, the four hour problem was a non-issue.

The anticlimax part: without genital sensation, sex was like watching a friend doing Debbie Does Dallas. Hooray for him, but how about me? This is one of the unspoken tragedies of most quadriplegia. A perfectly healthy, erotically active man is suddenly deprived of sexual sensation and orgasm. There is no preparation for such a loss. Like most quadriplegics, I lament my condition from time to time. When I do I remain undecided: if I had the choice of only one, would I opt for full sexual function or mobility? The majority of non-injured folk would probably find that strange and take mobility hands down. Fewer spinal chord injured men would be so sure. Freud may not have been all wrong.

I restlessly drifted off to sleep with Connie in my arms. I was puzzled; I felt both satisfied and unfulfilled. 'Just who had done what to whom there,' I pondered. That's what sex in Wonderland must be', I concluded.

Is it even necessary to say what happened shortly after that? Methhead Mike was released from prison and looked up Connie. Almost immediately I heard, "Ray, he needs me; he says I'm his guardian angel. You and I will always be..." I didn't need to listen to the rest, though we did remain good friends until I moved to Texas.

I've missed jean and Connie over the years. Thinking of you, my sweets:

"May your hearts always be joyful,
may your songs always be sung,
and may you stay, forever young."

Lest I slight my little friend, I add this limerick:

I do love you, Papaverine,
when injected by Connie or Jean
your reviving powers
keep me up for hours
making possible matters obscene