It’s Time

At this moment in history, our government is in the clutches of zealots.

Extremists believe they have all the answers.  There’s no doubt, gray, or ambiguity and anything which supports these convictions is just and true.  Only they know what’s best—for everyone.

But, the object of adoration varies by individual.  

For many the guiding light is money.  Enriching oneself on the peoples’ time has become an achievement deserving of great pride.  This is why Richard Burr could trumpet the party line that Covid19 was a liberal construct while dumping millions in pandemic-vulnerable stocks.

Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka, and Jared make billions from proximity to power.  Skids are greased, access is dangled, and government business is steered to fill family coffers.  In the past, the enriching oneself in this way was guarded against with multiple layers of oversight.  Today it’s considered smart husbanding of one’s resources.

Many in Washington worship power and perks.  They will contort themselves, their convictions, and reality itself to win the next election.

That is why GOP members of Congress appear on television, and with straight faces insist that the president, who tells an average of twenty whoppers a day, is an honest man who’s never lied to the American electorate.  It’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declares that his witness-free impeachment hearings were legitimate. 

For some, the religion is a fundamental Christian doctrine with a large dash of prosperity theology.  It drives men like Vice President Mike Pence to grant bigots the freedom to deny goods, services, and even life-saving care if their beliefs tell them to.  It’s why Senator Marsha Blackburn makes false medical statements on the floor of Congress to strip away women’s reproductive rights. 

And then we have the orange man in the White House, Donald Trump.  A self-styled strong man who admires ruthless dictators but who also turns off the lights and hides in the basement when things get scary.

At which altar does the president worship?

As he makes clear daily, he is the founder and pontiff of the cult of himself.

Trump advises owners about football players who protest racism and police brutality by taking a knee.  “Get that son of a b—- off the field” because “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high”.  He demonstrates his own reverence by nauseatingly fondling the flag like a middle schooler at a boy/girl party spending their first seven minutes in heaven.   

Calling protesters “thugs” and threatening “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” he sees no irony in then standing in the Rose Garden and stating “I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.” punctuating his words are the sounds of explosions to clear those peaceful protesters away from the White House so he can walk to a church and scowl while awkwardly clutching a bible and shushing the press.

Unleashing the military on law-abiding American citizens on American soil was orchestrated by Attorney General William Barr, an acolyte who’s turned the Justice Department into the president’s personal hit squad.  Barr perverts justice and subverts truth all to satisfy the whims of a small, ill-informed man whose yardstick for those who serve him comes down to one essential feature; personal loyalty—constitution and qualifications be damned.

If there was ever any doubt concerning the president’s loyalty fetish, he made it abundantly clear in his recent tweet when Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski publicly revealed her doubts about supporting his second term: “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing — If you have a pulse, I’m with you,”.

As long as you’re with him—and not one second longer.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Since You Can’t Rewind, Be Kind

Gentle Reader, dig if you will the picture, of you and your very best friend engaged in a visit.  It’s a glorious day and you’re enjoying each other’s company.


You’re in the grocery store with your child.  You’re both in a good mood and having fun together.  The phrase, “ice cream for dinner” may have been bandied about. 


You and your friend, or you and your offspring, are approached by a stranger.  Yet somehow, this stranger knows your companion.  They know their fears, mistakes, and secret shames.  They know the words that wound and how to wield the knife to cut the deepest.

In a blink, your friend, your child, has been flayed open with hidden weaknesses exposed to punish and humiliate. 

Words said cannot be unsaid, and these cruel, malignant words will be a burden never relinquished.  The trauma of these searing invectives will be bourn for all their days.

 So, what do you do?

Do you remain silent?  Do you join in, pile on, and feast upon your loved one’s pain?

Of course you don’t.

You defend and protect with the ferocity of a grizzly woken in late January to protect her cubs.  You shut them down and shut them up.  Depending on your self-control and blood sugar level, you just might punch them square in the mouth. 

And, once this evil troll has been dispatched (one way or another), you turn to your wounded, beloved bird.

Then, Gentle Reader, you set and splint the break, working to heal, and in the healing make stronger.

You remind them of their awesomeness.  You list their intelligence, fortitude, and magnificent heart.  You point out their kindness and sense of humor.  You tell them they are fiercely loved and ferociously lovable.

All in an attempt to defend, protect, and erase the un-erasable.

Of course you do.  Because you love them, and cannot stand to see hurt in their faces.

So let me ask you a question.

If you wouldn’t let a stranger talk this way to the ones you love, why, oh why would you say things to and about yourself that are so much crueler?

And your personal WMD’s are so much more lethally focused.

You can hear that boy’s voice when he publicly spurned your heart in the fifth grade.  The memory of the night when you thought you were looking pretty foxy and those guys driving past called you fat.  Closing your eyes, the malicious laughter of the eighth grade mean girls lacerates like they are standing right in front of you.

Every human, from the friendless first-grader at a new school to the most successful entrepreneur, has that venomous Greek chorus inside their head.  That internal voice that tells you you’re a screw up, or hideous, or a mental tree stump.  The monologue that explains, in exquisite, mortifying detail, why you will never succeed, and why you should just quit wasting your time and embarrassing yourself and everyone around you.

And I am a fully paid-up member of this soul-shredding club.           

So, let’s make a deal.

I am extremely protective of you, Gentle Reader.  And based on the communication I’ve received, you are in turn, mightily protective of me.

The next time we have that impulse to commit psychic hara-kiri with a sword made of words, stop.  Ask yourself if I would let a stranger speak to you in that fashion, and if not, knock it off.  I promise when I get rude with myself, to channel my Gentle Readers, and likewise, quit it.

Let’s be the restful, supportive angel on each others’ shoulders.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Quarantine Shame

“How many likes did you get in the quarantine, Grandma?”

If you had to pick a time period in which to be quarantined, now is actually a pretty convenient time.

With high-speed internet access, computers, and smartphones, you can contact almost anyone on the planet.  With the plethora and variety of companies that deliver to your front door, it’s much easier to not leave the house.

Just this week, I finished The Kid’s birthday shopping, got a new trashcan for my station wagon, and had a doctor’s appointment.  The Kid played bar trivia, had a beer with old friends, played a board game, and met with co-workers.

All without leaving the house, or having anyone over.

But in the true spirit of yin and yang, there’s also a dark side to that wifi.  I’m talking about those camera-ready folks who are masters of social media.  The kind of folks who post photos of perfectly lit rainbow avocado toast captioned, “Breakfast on the run.”, pics of themselves standing in front of a Greek sunset captioned, “Blessed”, and a perfect Princess birthday party captioned, “Threw it together this morning.”

Under normal circumstances, this crowd is mildly irritating.

But during quarantine, when even the most stable personalities are operating with some level of anxiety and depression, those people make me feel like a complete, glow in the dark loser.

Some guy named Thomas Cervetti who lives in Malaysia “was bored during quarantine”.  So he and his equally bored family decided to gather up all the bath towels in the house and make an elaborate stop action surfing movie.  It looks like the love child of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 Sledge Hammer video and the classic surf movie, Endless Summer.

Truthfully, it’s a creative, adorable, and highly entertaining diversion.

Using only bath towels.

Here’s my fancy quarantine plan for our bath towels at Chez Matthews: getting them out of the washer and into the dryer before they get moldy.

A couple spent an entire day making a rodent-sized art museum for their pet gerbils.  Smaller than playing cards, there were “Vincent van Gogh” canvasses, a furry little “Mona Lisa”, and some pretty impressive impressionist paintings.

Again, adorable.  Especially the photos of the gerbils standing around them, looking like art critics.  All they need are tiny little glasses of cheap, warm Champagne.

I’ve been artistically serving our dinner on matching plates and coordinating my hair elastics with my sweatshirt.

Actually, I haven’t put a whole lot of effort into the ponytail holder thing.  Tonight the tie I have in is an entirely different shade of blue than my shirt.

Someone else designed and sewed a bunch of felt dolls.  That may sound mundane, but these dolls look exactly like every single member of her entire extended family.  Now she has the cutest soft, fuzzy family facsimiles to share her quarantine with. 

When I try to sew a button back onto something, I usually end up needing a quick trip to urgent care and seven or eight stitches.

One family has a small door that leads to a space under the stairs that’s used as a dog house for their gorgeous Golden Doodle, Rusty.  They decided to spend some of their quarantine time going all canine curb appeal on it.  They put in a tiny leaded glass front door, vintage-style mailbox, a porch light sconce that looks like it’s straight from Pottery Barn, and a faux window with attached window box full of blooms.  There is a painted, weathered sign with his address: 7878 Doodle Drive.

And I’m sitting here covered in Crowley fur and dog slobber feeling about as creative as a mimeograph machine.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

The Texas Millionaire

She had the posture and demeanor of a whipped dog—submissive yet hopeful.  Her facial expression was usually a small, apologetic smile.  She was an average size woman, yet seemed to be under the impression that she took up too much space, so her hands stayed clasped and arms tight against her body.  Her steps might be quick or slow, but always so light she seemed almost to float.

Mona lived her life under the constant, paralyzing fear of offending—anyone.

When I worked at the hospital lab in Elizabeth City, it was staffed mainly by women.  It was a kind of a slightly dysfunctional sisterhood.  There were occasional squabbles, but we all had each others’ backs.  You mess with one person from the lab, you messed with all of us.

Mona was hired at the lab, and because of her sweet self-effacing personality, everyone liked her.  She was cheerful, quick to volunteer help, and very kind.

She had three kids between the ages of twelve and six.  They were very shy, polite, and always had one eye on their mom.  Mother and children were an uber tight unit 

But somehow, without knowing why, we felt sorry for her.

When the lab Christmas party rolled around, we understood.

Her husband was awful.

He was a bully.  He was a strutting peacock of a bully.  The kind of bully who assumed that everyone was as twisted and small as he was.

He took delight in humiliating his wife.  He barked orders at her, made her wait on his every whim, and blamed and belittled her if everything was not perfect.  He’d then gesture to the person he was standing near, and say something like, “Can you believe how stupid she is?  She’s lucky I put up with it.”

Of course, we were all appalled at this jerk.

After the party, we all had an extra measure of affection for Mona and felt very protective of her.  But deep down we all wondered how and why she stayed with this absolute horror of a human.  We daydreamed about what we would do and say if we were in her position.

One day Mona came into work with a different look in her eye.  She was excited.  And maybe a little happy?

At Elizabeth City’s tiny little mall, she’d met a very nice man who was in town on business.  He was from Texas and had already gone back home.

He promised to write to her. 

And he did.  And told her he was a Texas oil millionaire.  And later, he’d fallen in love with her, and wanted her and the kids to move to Texas.

Of course, the women in the lab were 100% convinced that this guy, for whatever reason, was stringing her along, and probably lived in the basement of a mobile home.

Even I, who is usually very trusting to the point of pathological gullibility was certain this guy was the baddest of bad news.

Then he sent her four plane tickets so that she and the three kids could come out to Texas for a visit.  We were all petrified he would cook and eat a couple of them and sell the rest into human trafficking.

She came home with pictures of her and the kids enjoying what looked like South Fork ranch.  Turns out the guy was a legit, well-known and beloved Texas millionaire.  She moved out west and when her divorce was final, married her prince.

Her first foray into romance was a bust.  But despite the fears of us all, Mona got her fairy tale and her happily ever after.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Gimme Shelter (In Place)

10:00 AM-Go outside to walk the dog.  Spot a neighbor out in his yard.  Very excited to see a fresh face.  Begin waving vigorously.

10:02 AM-Wave so vigorously I fall off the porch.

10:10 AM-Disinfect and bandage abrasion on arm.  Also, left shoe missing.

10:15 AM-Walk the dog.  While walking, yellow pollen makes throat scratchy.  Notice an ever-larger circle of social distancing after each cough.  One woman grabs child, picks up dog and trots in the opposite direction.

11:00-11:20 AM-Eat potato chips.

11:20-11:30 AM-Eat M&M’s.

12:01 PM-Eat lunch.

12:35 PM-Decide to take care of my skin during confinement.  Enjoy a facial slathering on every expensive skin product I own, along with the much more expensive samples I’ve received.

1:15 PM-Think about writing, vacuuming or organizing closet.  Decide to organize closet.  Once upstairs, change mind and take a nap.

1:27 PM-Product encrusted face keeps sliding off pillow, making sleep impossible,

1:31 PM-Wash approximately thirty-eight dollars worth of lotions and unguents from face.

3:40 PM-Once awake, lay on bed and consider various topics for columns.  Drift off again.

4:15 PM-Awake again, take a look at the inside of the closet to plan organization.  Envision a finished closet that has been so amazingly ordered it resembles an Ikea-designed storage system, using only what is already owned.

4:16 PM-Change mind and go downstairs.

4:17 PM-Have a snack of potato chips and M&M’s.

4:30 PM-Petey leaves the room.  Hide remote control to hopefully bring to end a constantly changing montage of thirty-five-year-old college basketball games interspersed with bits of the Grace Jones Mad Max movie, a Gene Hackman suspense movie from the eighties, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

4:41 PM-Petey finds the remote.

4:45-6:00 PM-Look for rain boots on Amazon.

6:15 PM-Take the dog for a walk.

6:40 PM-Stop at fenced playground for Crowley to get a chance to run around off-leash.  It’s dusk, so take the opportunity to swing on the swings.  Swing as high as possible for an exhilarating ten minutes, only stopping when I notice curious neighbors study the swinging spectacle through their upstairs windows.

6:53 PM-Head for home.

See, it’s a thing…kind of.

7:10 PM-Try to decide for dinner.  Have settled on two choices-a balsamic dressed salad of mixed greens, shaved red onion, Chapel Hill Creamery’s farmer’s cheese, toasted pecans, and dried fruits.  Or half a bottle of coffee liqueur dumped on a freezer-burned Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich.  Then I have to decide what to make for Petey.

8:30 PM-Alphabetize jams and jellies in refrigerator.  Am surprised to learn marionberry is one word so will place under “m” rather than by last name of “b”.  Dicey moment occurs when having trouble deciding whether to categorize Ikea-purchased jam under “L” for lingonberry or “S” for sylt lingon, its Swedish-language name.

9:30 PM-Do a load of towels, and a load of clothing, which consists entirely of fuzzy socks, sweats, and pajamas.

10:45 PM-Play six hands of double solitaire with Petey.  As usual, he denies cheating, but wins five out of the six.

11:35-12:55 PM- Look for rain boots on Amazon.

1:05 PM-Read issue of the UK version of Cosmopolitan magazine.  Now have in-depth knowledge of British drugstore lipstick.  Am informed of the dangers of counterfeit alcohol in Southeast Asia vacation destinations.  Know the going rates of Scottish gigolos and how to hire one as an escort to an Edinburgh wedding, and where to purchase a hat for said festivities.

2:15 AM-Have a snack of Oreos dunked in the remaining half bottle of coffee liqueur.

3:00 AM-Watch ten-year-old videos of sheepdog trials in New Zealand.  Now have a true understanding of what bored really is.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Retro House Party

It’s getting worrisome and weird out there folks.

For reliable information and updates, I strongly urge you to visit:  I also strongly urge you to double-check any information you get from other sources; scammers and trolls abound.  Even people of goodwill are unknowingly sharing material that’s useless at best, and harmful at worst.

I am unqualified to offer any sort of medical advice, but as someone who has lived through many periods of both forced and unforced house-bound-ness (is that a word?), I have plenty of thoughts about warding off cabin fever.

Yes, there will be WiFi and the internet.  You can stream, game, facetime, insta and tik tok.  And that’s just awesome, it’s crucial that everyone can entertain themselves during this odd and worrisome idyll.

But, here’s a completely radical and subversive idea—what about spending some time all together, as a family (or family of friends and/or housemates)?

Back before radios and TV, there used to be something called house parties (If you’re a fan of British historical fiction or the TV drama Downtown Abbey, you know from house parties).  For the uninitiated they were what we will all soon be experiencing—prolonged periods in one’s own home, with all occupants present.

Rather than virtual, the fun had by all was actual.  For us modern, tech-savvy humans, this can be novel, memorable fun.  But you’ve got to commit; turn off all the screens and put your phones in a drawer.

And as always, I have suggestions.

The first idea might be a bit much for some folks, but if you have smaller kids, I can almost guarantee they will love it; put on a show.  Write and perform your own skits, perform a family-friendly play, or have a talent show with everybody pitching in to create scenery and costumes.  As you put it together, the older kids will almost surely get on board.

Have a karaoke night, or even an old-fashioned singalong.  You’re a smoking singer in the shower, why not share your gifts in the living room?  You learn a lot about people when they reveal their favorite songs.  Of course, those with little kids run the very real risk of being subjected to that ear-worm from hell, Baby Shark (baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo mommy shark doo doo…).


Board and card games.  Growing up, my family played tons of games around the kitchen table.  When we played Clue, it was like watching a movie; Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, and Colonel Mustard were as real to me as our neighbors.  A couple of my favorites are Monopoly and Life, they take hours and even be played in installments over days.  For a shorter good time, Sorry and Parcheesi.

Try a card game like Uno, or Mille Bornes, a French card game based on a road trip.  And a regular deck of Hoyle’s can be hundreds of games, like hearts, gin rummy, double solitaire and canasta (a retro game that requires two decks, but is ridiculously fun—while growing up, Petey’s family played it often).

When you get tired of all this homemade fun, have a film festival.  Choose a category like 1930s monster movies, Cecil B DeMille bible epics, Beatles movies, or have a Sharknado marathon.

Gentle Reader, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about this situation except wash our hands and stay home—it’s enough to drive you to distraction.

But maybe, to keep everybody safe and sane, try some fun, old-fashioned, homemade, distraction.

Take care, and remember: every single one of us is stronger than we know, and we will get through this.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Who Knew It’d be hot in August, in North Carolina, in a metal-clad mobile home, with no shade, no under skirting, and no AC, in August?

Did I mention it was August?

Looking back, all I can say is that we were young, dumb, and in love.

It’s the only explanation for willingly moving into a 12X60 corrugated aluminum box without an air conditioner. 

After our honeymoon (to Busch Gardens—more on that in another dispatch), we officially moved in.

Not our love shack, but similar.

And a day or two after that the question on both our lips was, “What were we thinking?”. 

It was awful. 

But the worst part was knowing that there was no relief to this muggy hell until the fall.

I stuck it out as long as I could and longer than most would.  But after a few weeks with the knowledge that it would be months before I would be cool and comfortable, I was done.  I informed my groom I was going to my parent’s house, and would happily return when we had an air conditioner.

He knew I was serious.  I ultimately never spent a night away, because after I told him of my plans, we went out and bought a small window unit.

We put it in our bedroom.  Whenever we came home, we’d make a beeline for our bedroom, shedding our clothes as we ran.  There, in our birthday suits, we’d turn it on, crank it to high, and lay on the bed; sweaty, but grateful for the cool.

Then one day, Petey’s mom bought us a second, larger AC at a garage sale.  It was pretty; made in the art deco style, fashioned of cellulose in a lovely shade of celadon green.  Since it was a more powerful unit, we decided to put it in the main area of the house and install it in the kitchen window.

Since we didn’t yet own a ladder, we did the installation from inside the trailer.

I imagine, Gentle Reader, that you’ve guessed where I’m going with this tale.

We were just about done—it only needed a few minute adjustments when it happened.  It fell outside through the window to the ground, some seven feet below.

We ran outside to inventory the wreckage.  It seemed to be salvageable, with mainly casing damage.  Petey grabbed it while I gathered up AC shards.  We agreed that the machine was not gonna die—not today, and not on our watch.

We set the unit and its pieces on the kitchen floor, broke out the super glue, and got to work.

It was hot work; after a while, we stripped down to our underwear and the sweat was still dripping off us.  It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle on the sun.  After what seemed like decades, we ran out of both glue and broken pieces.  We carefully put it in the window, secured it, and turned it on.

It worked!

But it wasn’t exactly up to factory specs.  Its cooling capacity was somewhat diminished.  And it made sounds.

At low, it groaned like a chorus of septuagenarians getting up from Lazy Boy Recliners in unison.  On the medium setting, it acquired the squeal of a tween at a Taylor Swift concert.  And on the rare occasion we set it to high, it rattled like the breathing of a squad of consumptive Victorian heroines.

The AC’s did their job.  And soon the weather cooled and the units were put into storage for the winter.

Then, in December, Elizabeth City experienced the coldest stretch in many years.  And Petey and I could be found chasing around town for some space heaters to keep us alive.

Did I mention young, dumb, and in love?

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Hard Wisdom

After continued flirtations with death, multiple surgeries, and lengthy hospital stays, there came a point when Petey was stable and recovered enough to come home for good.

And the life which we’d known before his illness was gone forever.

The months-long fight to stay alive had taken a toll.  His strength was such that returning to nursing, or any type of work was now impossible—the simple effort of bathing and dressing exhausts him like twelve hours of nursing used to.

Petey had to come to terms with the fact that his life had become something he didn’t recognize, and never wanted.  He was forced to deal with the anger and shame of being “the invalid”.  He was a carer that now needed someone to care for him.

It wasn’t an easy transition, not for any member of the Matthews Family Band.

The Kid existed in a constant state of terror.  But my stoic child presented to the world both a face and demeanor carved from stone because loss of control meant a volcano of embarrassing and unwanted emotion would crash down in a never-ending pyroclastic flow of feelings.

I coped by indulging in a form of optimism so extreme as to almost be magical thinking; rejecting facts and the situation at hand and substituting a belief that absolutely everything would be fixed by the coming treatment/surgery/medicine/doctor, and our former lives would be restored to us.

When things were too precarious for even my almost hysterical optimism, I would go to my fallback position; numbness. 

When no one with an MD could offer any hope, and returning to that empty house every day made me think I’d die from fear, stress, and loneliness, I’d shut down. 

I’d do and say the appropriate things, but for days at a time, nothing penetrated and I sleepwalked through life. 

It was while living within this continuous crisis that friends and family stepped up or let us down.

My parents?  They burned up the highway between Greensboro and Duke.  They visited almost every day and came in with Starbucks, took us out of the hospital for meals, never left without slipping cash into our pockets, and always presented a stout shoulder and unwavering encouragement.

Other relatives treated Petey’s illness as a personal affront.  They demanded we manage and massage their feelings about the situation.  They offered nothing positive and always had a carefully curated reason why they once again were unable to make a visit to the hospital.

We had friends that carried us away for a respite from HospitalWorld.  They would tease, cajole, and fill us with what, during that dark time, passed for happiness.

And we had people with lots of thoughts and prayers, but very little else.  One neighbor asked me daily if I needed anything.  I hesitated, but finally weeks into our hellish ordeal I asked him to clean up a few piles from our dog because I was never home during daylight hours so was unable to.  He declined.

But the very next day he asked again if he could do anything to help me out. 

Thanks but no thanks.    

Our lives aren’t the lives we inhabited before the illness.  This is our normal now and we’ve had to accept that.  Is it the life we would have chosen for ourselves?


Not a chance.

But Petey’s still home and is currently sitting on the couch next to me.  And though we have tough patches, every day I hear his laugh that sounds like warm caramel and see the same twinkle of  mischief in his eyes that I fell in love with thirty-eight years ago.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Hard-Won Wisdom

It’s been almost six years now, since Petey came home from the hospital the last time.

For months, his back and legs had been in terrible pain that every day, got worse.  He was regularly seeing an orthopedic doctor and had had a medical text’s worth of treatments.

Nothing helped, and the pain grew worse.

The pain eventually got so bad it was becoming almost impossible to work.  Finally one day, he left the unit he’d worked in for more than twenty-five years in a wheelchair.  That shift was the last time he ever worked as a nurse.

Two months later we noticed his feet were the color of a new bruise.  He had an appointment to see our family doctor for another matter and I asked him about Petey’s feet.  He took one look and ordered us to the emergency room—he’d call and let them know we were on our way.

It turned out, the artery that supplied the blood below his waist was so blocked, it was practically non-functional. 

He needed a synthetic replacement artery.  But he might still lose his feet which had an unknowable amount of damage because for months had gone without anything close to an adequate blood supply.  The surgery, which was supposed to take three hours, took seven.  Afterward, he spent days in intensive care, on a respirator. 

The good news—his feet were okay.

The bad news—his kidneys had shut down.

This began a nightmare of dialysis, further complications and more surgeries.  He’d get stable enough to come home, only to be rushed to the E.R. in a few days for more surgery and another extended hospitalization. 

Dialysis took a heavy toll on him.  He had it twice a week, usually as an inpatient but occasionally he was at home and would visit a dialysis center.  Each session lasted four or five hours, and battered him physically and mentally.  By the time he regained a portion of strength, it was time for more dialysis.

The treatments kept him alive, but as each week passed he grew weaker and less able to bounce back.  The doctors frequently reminded us that kidney disease went in only one direction—downhill.  It was entirely likely he’d eventually need a transplant.

Petey’s world shrank to the few feet around his hospital bed.  His days spent in anxiety, pain, and uncertainty.  Our lives lurched between worry and the boredom of the sick-room, with brief flashes of abject terror. 

In less than a year Petey had gone from cheerful, active nurse, husband and father to a patient.  To many of his doctors and a few of his nurses, he became a “case”; his humanity replaced by symptoms, treatments and prognoses.

My days were spent at his bedside, acting as companion and advocate.  Petey was too sick and demoralized to take a stand, so I was the one whose foot was regularly put down with doctors and hospital staff on matters ranging from timely test results and procedures to diet and discharge.

At night I returned home to walk the dog, eat, shower, do some laundry, and go to bed.   Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Finally, in March, he was well enough to come home for good and defying kidney soothsayers, went off dialysis.  But in 160 days, he’d spent almost 120 confined to the hospital.

It’s been just about six years since the illness, and I have thoughts.  Next week I’ll share them with you, Gentle Reader, and also tell you what a good friend looks like to the person going through a catastrophic illness and the person who’s taking care of them.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

The Girl With The Street In Her Face

Another second-grader in a pretty blue dress.

I was wearing one of my very favorite dresses in my second-grade photo.  It was a light-gauge knit in a combination of navy blue and what back then was called harvest gold.

My hair was cut in a shag.  My mom’s best friend, Mizz Judy cut it in a perfect replica of TV mom Carol Brady.  For those not familiar with the style, it was short and layered in the front, and long and flipped up in the back.

It wasn’t quite a mullet (business in the front, party in the back).  It was more “funny business in the front and PTA mom in the back. 

The photo from the tenth grade is a self-portrait (OMG-it was a selfie. Yuck!).  I’m wearing jeans, a huge gray fisherman’s sweater, and standing in front of the mirror in our guest bathroom.      

I’m taking the shot with my Konika TC camera, which hides most of my face. 

I was the very chic-est combination of Avedon and Diane Arbus.

The two pictures have something very odd in common.

The face that was wearing the shag haircut was one large, weeping scab.  Almost all of the skin had been abraded and was in the process of healing. 

In the later photo, if you look closely around the camera, it too is more scab than skin.  It looked like it had been on the wrong end of an electric belt sander.

Not me; but I was so traumatized by the incidents, just looking this gives me a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I literally got nauseous looking for an image to put here.

In both cases the culprit was asphalt.

One weekend when I was in high school, a friend, Billy Winston came over for a visit on his new motorcycle.  I asked him if I could go for a ride.  After a short lesson, he sent me on my way. 

I wanted to speed up.  Billy told me to get into second gear.

Unfortunately, he neglected to tell me that you shouldn’t accelerate and shift gears at the same time.

Yeah, it didn’t look anywhere near as cool.

Because if you do those two things at the same time, you begin performing a stunt referred to as, “popping wheelies”. 

The motorcycle and I parted ways.

I was fully clothed, but it looked a lot more like this.

I landed face down on the street, and the bike was on its side.  It had a few scratches, but my face was a mess.  Dad scooped me up and we headed to the emergency room.

Back a few years at Central Elementary, our gym teacher had a new game for us called Brownies & Fairies.  At some point in the game, the two teams face off and run at each other like the blue guys versus the British in Braveheart.

I was face down on the black top, but I’m pretty sure this is a photo of the actual event…

The very first step I took, I tripped and face-planted onto our black-topped playground.  I was then trampled by thirty-five second-graders.  It was like a cheese grater.  The majority of the skin on my mug was left on the asphalt.

The elementary school nurse washed my face and painted it with mercurochrome, a disinfectant which left me with a rosy-orange stain all over my kisser.  She then called Mom to come collect me.

At the ER after my motorcycle wreck, I was immediately given a tetanus shot.  Then the nurse entered with a basin of soapy water and a stack of gauze.  She explained that hundreds of tiny bits of asphalt were stuck in my wounds.  If each and every piece wasn’t scrubbed out, they would remain, as little black bumps all over my face—forever.

See what happens when the asphalt isn’t removed?

I’d just been flung onto the street, face first and given that most painful of inoculations; the tetanus.  I hurt.

But in my fifteen years on the planet, I had never experienced pain like I felt when she scrubbed my scraped and oozing kisser.

And it was all because of that darn asphalt.

It’s a death trap, I tells ya!

Thanks for your time.

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