The Defender

The Defender.

“I’ll bounce back.”

My son suffered an MCL sprain at soccer practice last Thursday. It’s a second degree sprain, and doesn’t need extensive surgery, just plenty of ice, elevation, and rest — three things he can ill afford after making his first JV team in the one sport he loves more than his own life.

Alas, considering the alternatives, he’s doing better with the bad news this week, easing into a new normal, and focusing a little more on academics, which took a minor hit with all the practices and games.

Other parents of other athletes who’ve injured out came to me with support and very good, very comforting advice: “It’s one season.” “He’s a freshman. Better now than at tryouts, or worse, playing Varsity his last year.” “At least it’s not his ACL, that’s worse.”

Today, we saw an orthopedic doctor to confirm what the walk-in clinic physician basically said. The good news is, he doesn’t have to wear that initial immobilizer, or even hobble around on crutches for long.

Going to the bathroom has been quite an adventure, for example. We had a good laugh on the drive back home over that. “Mom, it takes me 10 minutes to take a crap! I can’t go with this thing on my leg!”

His new knee brace is called — fittingly — The Defender. The Defender allows for more freedom of movement at the knee joint, locked a few degrees out and in. In two weeks, he can unlock the brace, and move around without any restriction.

Next Tuesday, he goes in for his first physical therapy session with Jeremy, who will, hopefully, show him another new normal: How to properly take care of his soccer body beforeduring, and after play, so James can try to better prevent another similar strain.

Depending on how well he progresses in his physical therapy, there and at home, my son can start training for soccer again this summer, when he’s not learning driver’s ed — in plenty of time to kick ass at Feb. tryouts and maybe make the Varsity starting team.

You never know.


I met a man

I met a man by accident. We were in this dream/war/crusade/prison together on the outskirts of town. “Legion” meets “The Stand,” or something like it. We talked about ice cream flavors, the feel of summer vacation on our schoolyard crushes, endless games of kick ball, fireflies we let out in the polka dots of our mason jars.

The group of us left behind, the last of the 20th century, remnants of this man-made, white picket fence, we gathered around the last counter in the last diner on earth, waiting for them to take us out. Kindness, a virtue we refused to keep to ourselves. We shared what was left of the running water out back before the black strap boots came knocking doors down.

Down here, nothing mattered but the small talk of aging strangers. The last thing I heard before steel rods cut me down, “It was nice meeting you, Carol. I wish— “


20170327_150115 copy

Today was a day for lost things.

Mishaps usually dog me every day. But for some reason, I could not hold onto any item without spilling it, losing it, tangling it, spending hours fixing it. At one point, I looked up from my tangle of yarn, spilled green tea, and — where’s my cell phone?! — to find 11:45 p.m. had turned into 1 a.m.

At one point, I tried to carry five things from my bedroom into my office, forgot the cup of green tea tucked in the crook of my left arm, and leaned over to place the basket of crochet on a nearby bench. Everything came tumbling out.

I know I spend way too much time crocheting endless projects for nobody in particular, way more than the friends I can count on both hands. I do it, though, because I can and because crocheting new stitches fills me with a sense of achievement I don’t normally find in my everyday life.

I spend more time unraveling what I’ve done, but I guess that’s okay, that’s how you learn.

Last night set the trend for today. I had the worst nightmare ever.

I think what triggered it was my husband sitting upright in bed, then complaining of asthma-like tightness in his chest. Not wheezing, just the urge to cough, which he’s always suffered from, really. I made him put some doTerra essential oils on. Eucalyptus/Peppermint did the trick.

He’s currently on Qvar and a rescue inhaler, the same medications our son started off two years ago. Knock wood.

I’ve learned after his bladder cancer never to take any unusual symptom for granted.

My nightmare kicked off after a nice night at a friend’s special occasion out of state, maybe a wedding in Portland. I remembered that night as this strange, knowing man (I saw on TV) informed me that my husband was dying of a rare disease that will tear his body into shreds before our eyes within two hours, max. My husband didn’t know what was going on, only that he started to feel hungry for the first time in ages.

I picked up the innards of my cell phone, which I’d dropped, trying to put my mind together enough to punch in the number of the nearest hospital — about to close in three minutes — and Barbara, a friend who let us stay in her vacation home.

In the background, I could hear the man I have been married to for 26 years begin to shriek in outrage and growing pain, as he demanded to be fed, decrying the barbarism of keeping a man from his meal. “What kind of place is this?!!!”

My own mind began to slowly shatter, as I realized our son was probably napping at home after school. How would I tell him? What do I do for money? Is this disease contagious? Why am I only getting two hours with this man, how is any of this fair?

In the far distance, growing alarmingly closer, I could hear the sound of a street gang gleefully tearing my husband’s flesh apart as my grown son screamed at them to stop.

Just a dream, just a dream… I have never been so happy to wake up in my life.

Music isn’t a Pop Game

Music isn’t a game. But pop is, was, and always will be, apparently.

I’m a diehard pop fan. I grew up on the Top 40 and I make no apologies for it. My father and my mother were pop fans too, in their own time. They gave me an acquired taste for bossa nova jazz, rock, and Broadway tunes. My younger brother turned me onto metal, and my former fiancé, alternative college radio (The Caulfields’ “Rickshaw!”).

Lately, I’ve been watching “The Pop Game” on Lifetime, knowing full well this isn’t real music and these aren’t real musicians. Well, except for Ian, the Texan guitarist, songwriter, and singer who has routinely given me chills by tuning the popular masses out and tuning into his own, almost angular vibe.

So, obviously, Cravetay is my least favorite.

Amateur pitchy wannabes like her are the reason mainstream music’s suffered from a disturbing lack of talent, creativity, depth. Like “world renowned” record producer Timbaland says more than once, We can fix the vocals, but you’re born with swag.

I think what pisses me off the most about this show and this pervasive attitude that anyone can be famous is the whole cult of personality disease infecting our free world.

Talent does and should matter. Other art forms require talent, why not music?

Like all art, the best is when the artist allows the muse to flow in then out, projecting his/her true voice without any adulteration, auto-tune, social media hype, or stylist. Art is truth.

No other art form can lay such truth bare better than music. No other art form requires the artist develop his/her voice to the best of his/her ability more.

I’ve heard too many real artists go unnoticed because the big box office studios prefer to go with superficials, the almighty physical appearance, almighty youth, that stupid excuse for bullshit called swag.

Swag is personality. Personality combined with ability equals truth in art.

Watching and disparaging what others do isn’t art. Ask any closet poet who writes from the bottom of a pit of hell of his own making.

Focusing solely on yourself as “the star” isn’t music. The music is what matters. Someone like Cravetay will never improve as long as she plays to that shallow bottom line, even if she will probably win the Pop Game. Because isn’t that what the world wants? Sugar on the fiber cereal, pass the Pop Tarts.

I’m also listening to a lot of fatalistic indie music lately, which drives home the point even more that life’s too short for games of any sort, pop or otherwise.

Not sure why. Maybe because my own time is at hand (I’m in my 50s, not getting any younger, and there’s this shooting pain near my pelvic bone) and the universe likes to fuck with me like that.

Those musicians have a shit-ton to say, and they say it thoughtfully with a whirlwind of artful instruments at their disposal, distilled down to the raw, gritty nub through their flawed, heartbroken, heartrending, imperfectly open humanity.

They’re not about putting on a glamorous show where one guy wins, and the other loses. They’re about collaborating so we can feel better about ourselves, so we don’t feel as alone, so we can feel something.

The only thing I feel when I watch “Pop Game” is rage, and the urge to throw my remote at the TV as hard as I can.


We attended the soccer match tonight. It felt good to support the team, even though my son injured out with a fractured knee and MCL sprain.

People showered him with love, from his teammates to his English teacher whose son played for Varsity. She gave him a muffin. Once, I looked up through the early evening shower to catch one of the JV defenders pat him on the back.

He would never admit this, but he was glad I made him go when — at the last minute — he tried to back out.

We plan to go to every game to support the JV and Varsity squads. They’re his teams too, even if he can no longer join them on the pitch, in the heat of battle. I hope one day he will understand how much it means for him to be there.

Most people go their entire lives going the easy route, staying home, nursing their private wounds, checking out because they can’t be a part of the action or, heaven forbid, the center of attention.

I never want my son to be one of those kind of people. They’re a dime a dozen.

Final scores: Kamiak JV lost 1-4 in a brutal match, but Varsity beat Mariner 2-1 in a very heated game with terrible refereeing. I’m banking on our Varsity team winning every game from now till the end of April for personal reasons.

Go, Knights!

So, this happened…

“Come pick me up. Messed up my knee. Walk-in clinic. Coach said it’s most likely a knee sprain. When you have time can you email Ryan? I’m sorry, mom.”

My son’s text came at 6:44 p.m. today, right as I was finishing the other ear of my second try at a new crochet cat hat.

X-rays showed an avulsion fracture, a sprain of the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) on the left knee. While going for the ball during a scrimmage — with only 30 minutes left to the two-hour practice at school — my son hyper-extended his left knee, backward, really hard. Hard enough to cause a small fracture at the knee joint.

As the doctor and the two nurses at the walk-in clinic made a joke out of this entire process, I found myself doing what I always do when overwhelmed: I closed my eyes, fighting hard to stay present, and not to cry out loud.

When I picked my son up from practice to take him to the walk-in clinic, he complained that I wasn’t reacting well, like before back in Jan. when he broke his pinky playing a soccer tournament. Back then, I joked around, I made it okay for him to take this in stride.

This time, I couldn’t take the universe piling on any longer. Not on this kid, not again.

Earlier in the day, he’d received the all-clear from a hand specialist for the pinky he’d broken. On the drive back to school, I remembered lecturing him against taking every moment of his precious life for granted with boredom or argumentatively nitpicking semantics with his mom. Don’t be complacent, I’d said, you never know what could happen.

He maintained that I was being too negative about his knee injury — until the doctor gave us the results of the x-ray: it’s a mild injury, considering, but definitely a fracture, there, most likely no surgery, and the recovery time’s only about six weeks, four on crutches.

Six weeks is a lifetime, an entire season of JV soccer — his first, the one he worked all his life for, enduring rejection after rejection during Premier/Select tryouts last spring, the lean years before when we couldn’t afford the better, elite clubs.

As soon as the diagnosis hit him, my son felt just as upset and overwhelmed.

So, we do this all over again: wait for the orthopedic office to call for an appointment next week, keep the injured limb immobile, ice, rest, elevate, “Do you want a note for the school and P.E.?”

Before he went to bed, I cleaned his good leg with a soapy washcloth and a bowl full of warm water. I wiped his leg dry, noticing it shake uncontrollably, recalling one of the coaches at school telling me about that when the injury first happened.

The uncontrollable shaking is a part of the side effects from his asthma/allergy meds, which exacerbate whatever condition he was born with. His cross to bear.

Most of my frustration and anger at the universe went away at that point. I was reminded of my son’s individual mortality, the idiosyncrasies that make up his DNA and forge his character.

Here was this young boy who seems impossibly strong, invincible. Yet, I knew better. I’d seen his soft spots, the vulnerabilities, the handicaps he’s had to overcome in his short, 15 years, the back-to-back trips to the ER (three-four), the asthma attacks, the anxiety that comes with keeping on top of a list of prescriptions most adults don’t ever need…

I know many, many other people have to deal with so much worse. I know I sound so selfish and wrong crying about my one child who is at least alive and able to reasonably function.

But right this very minute, I’m allowing myself to be upset for him, to be as selfish about his happiness as the rest of you are about your own.

You have no idea how long he’s waited to play competitive JV soccer for his high school, how hard he worked to make tryouts after so many “experts” in the game dismissed him or pointed out his drawbacks in the most humiliating fashion, what he’s had to put up with to get to this moment… only for the universe to seemingly revel in taking it all back.


Tomorrow is the long-anticipated game against a rival high school. My son looked forward to helping his JV team fight the good fight on the pitch. Thirty minutes, 30 fucking minutes, then he would’ve enjoyed a good night’s sleep, school, and the game of a lifetime, the second in the season.

Tomorrow, we’ll be there — G-d willing — him to support his team on the sidelines, me to take pictures, before heading back home in his crutches and the long climb upstairs to rest, and maybe dream of something better up ahead.



My parents never told me what it is to die a slow, painless death. But I came from a time where you didn’t talk about these things. You just ate the last cocktail olive, wiping away the crumbs with a paper towel, and waited until the children were in bed before taking the knives out.

Somehow, while I spent my entire lifetime chasing their mottled, three-car garage dreams, I forgot to look at myself. My shadow has wandered off between 30 and here. I am a ghost, waiting to remember my epitaph.

And, I never danced with you.

Peace Now

I’m reading. He’s good, tucking maybe regret, definitely affection — as a man would — in intentional throwaway recollection, the kind with marks.

Last night, I enjoyed my first home-cooked meal, a bowl of spaghetti sauce, organic, and a ton of broccoli. Sleep came in a brain wave of this light blue-green stitch and an endless series of possibility. Just past midnight, which is abnormal for me.

But I’m up now. Sunless.

Her repetition doesn’t seem right for this half-assed, ultimately cool, belated eulogy.

Touch and Go


She sits by the computer window, waiting to hear a personal moment — usually tucked in the middle of his fire and brimstone sermon. Usually, she is there, dressed up as a life lesson, an example to be made of sacrilege.

Casualties of war, they once bonded over forbidden fruit, the cut of the smallest piece of cartilage, the impulse to flee, imagined hurts, daydreams of resurrection — real fire and brimstone, as they bore into flesh, tore apart the good bones of the brokenhearted victims of her anatomy.

With every passing service, he worshiped away the remains of his angry young man into the role of the pious, spouting scripted Scripture, carefully maintaining polite society, strangers gathered together on the first day of Bible study.

Every other year, she pores over transient pages of their shared past, drawn together by mutual hatred of the prodigal daughter who got away — the one he fantasized about the fucking from behind, the one who blamed her for everything.

In her intermittent dreams, she sits there still, three rows behind the exit, waiting for his return, wading through the grandchildren, the ex-pat rejects, hungry parishioners unlocking their jaws for one more crumb from the Bread of Life.

The hours between Sabbath and Monday are always the loneliest.