The Uphill Slide

There is always something.



“You came because you have a life change,” she said as we sat down across from each other. She meant a game changer.

I’m a grandmother. I share mundane responsibilities for one of my grandsons. He and his mother and I live under one roof. We have the common spaces with our own sorta’ private bedrooms. Sorta’ private because it’s all common space for the youngest of us.

Are we mother-daughter-son-grandson or roommates? Are we family or friends? The lines are blurred. The roles unclear. We fight. We do things together. We do things alone.

How do you think I feel about my responsibilities in this household? I love them. I hate them. I have a friend with sole responsibility for a grandchild. We mention the grandfather with responsibility for a couple of his. I feel like the lucky one for shared and not sole.

Sometimes I feel unappreciated and my dreams ignored. I can imagine what the young may feel. Dreams are for us. I think my grandson is growing up, and I’m growing old. I dream of shirking and shedding. I didn’t ask for it. I remind myself I willingly accepted it. No one said it was easy.

I told my grandson I wanted to run away from home. He laughed. He told me to go. He didn’t understand the serio comic. I gave him a hug and said “I love you.” He said it back. He doesn’t need another game changer.


Getting a Date

Getting a Date
Ear Hustle
Duration: 34:05
Published: Wed, 25 Oct 2017 12:50:33 -0000

There are only a few ways to leave prison: serve your time, get out early on parole… or escape.

Steve, Danny, Phillip and Ron are all trying to make their way out of prison. In our final e…

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Sent from Podcast Republic 17.12.30R


It Gets To Me Some Days

My son put his hand on my shoulder yesterday while I talked. A small gesture with big impact.

The President dismissed John Dickerson. You call that an interview? The President’s on wiretapping and Obama, yet again. Obama is personal, not politics. Why? Trump tells the reporter we each have our own opinions. Is this opinion or fact for the news?

Life is surreal. The body is being pulled in all directions on the tortuous rack.

A hacker in Ohio was charged with crimes. He entered computers with ‘Fruitfly’ and turned on the camera as the anonymous voyeur.

Cover your camera.

He stored child pornography on the hacked computers. He targeted children. He entered Macs that have the reputation of hack resistant.

Who’s gonna’ believe you claiming it’s not your child porn on your computer. The weaponized computer turned around on us. And it’s lucky? to have caught this man since his hack wasn’t big enough to draw much attention. It’s the small-time hackers who often escape detection. Thirteen years he went undetected in people’s lives. He was a child on the brink of adulthood when he began.

Facebook tracking all my clicks and likes and shares. Selecting more of the same for me. Targeting the best and worst. A machine knowing me too well. A BFF or an enemy?

Should I become unplugged before I become undone? 


The First Time

How can you relive the delight and memory of a first time?

By continually chasing the unique or vicariously through the eyes of someone else’s first time, poor substitute though that may be.

The theater was over the top decor hinting of Hollywood, though that’s not important to a three-year-old. But it’s part of the memory—the place. The carpet, the brass, the cardboard cutouts of upcoming movies, the grandiose posters looking down as we hurried by. The carpeted red-light tunnel breaking open to first sight of the big screen.

I pushed down a seat for him, his weight just enough to hold it. The lights dimmed and the screen lit with images. He sat immobile clasping his hands and watching the movement on the screen. And I watched him. Was it awe on his face? Amazement? Fascination? Fear? What was he thinking as he sat in a dark room with strangers? He didn’t laugh or show the pleasure of movies on the small screen. I chuckled at dialogue that referenced things not in his memory. The mother and daughter in our row got up and left so he moved to the seat on the other side of me. He folded himself up like an accordion in the seat. I feared his legs being squeezed. Then it was over.

He rushed to greet his mother at the door and told her we ate pizza. Nothing else. “Did you see a movie?” she asked. He was silent as she asked questions. “What was the big animal in the movie?” I asked. “A giraffe?” he answered. Had he watched Ferdinand, the bull who loved to smell the flowers and rejected the life he was bred to lead? Had he not liked the movie or was the theater and the screen and the strangers overload?

It was a first for both of us. Not what I envisioned, but this is my story. Someday I want to hear his.



The speaker buried two husbands, so she explained of thrice singleness. The widow beside me was still wearing her wedding ring and diamond. I haven’t worn mine in years. The salesman warned us that the intricate design made it impossible to resize them. Two kids and thirty years later, he had seen my future. The rings wouldn’t slide over the knuckle. The husband’s was a hazard at work, or so he claimed early on.


Up Before Dawn

A couple of days ago I tried to make a date with a friend for today. “Oh, no,” she exclaimed. They’re predicting a big snowstorm.

Last night she called to check on us. Did we drive our fortnightly trip to Bedford? She was afraid we might wreck or be holed up in a motel. But Cary sped ahead of the snow back to Pittsburgh and went to bed almost immediately reminding me of her 6 AM work start. That ubiquitous badger in my head said I would be getting up too.

It was a pure white wonder lit by streetlights and then my headlights. We were the few awake in a sleeping world. Unplowed roads and unshoveled sidewalks with only a few tracks to follow. Snowflakes in the headlights.

A few hours later the purity of pre-dawn was black and blue from tires and chemicals.


If The Dead Could Talk

All it takes to prove my online humanity is simple arithmetic or knowing the alphabet.

Before the holidays I stood in front of rows of crosses draped with purple ribbons. Each representing a person in Butler County who died from a drug overdose. I was moved by its simplicity of death in rows. Local business owners, while claiming to understand such loss, called it an eyesore in a bad location to WTAE. The news station titled their piece State of Addiction:  Heroin memorial gets attention in downtown Butler.

I read about this memorial on Facebook in a post shared from the Butler Citizen whose subheader is Butler News, Real News, With No Filter. 

That article’s title “Butler is having a overdose memorial to “honor” the “heroes” that overdose- DISGUSTING a slap in the face to real “heroes” told you in 21 words the opinion of the author. I’m uncertain if the words in quotes are from an uncredited source or the writer’s own. Agreed that these dead did not become heroes for having a fatal overdose nor is it an honor to die from an overdose.

A venomous piece directed at this memorial and its creator and the dead overdoses. As if to prove that all these individuals deserved to die, the writer offers sad and ugly details of certain lives. Keeping score of the misdeeds in life. Are those few ‘facts’ the story of their lives? Do those things prove something? Or are those ‘facts’ trying to tell you more about drug addiction or life? There is much more to all the stories of the dead. This article is flat without meaning beyond hate. It was ugly and cruel the first time I read it. It’s still ugly and cruel.

There is no dishonor in remembering those who died in what President Trump labeled a “health emergency”. And now Governor Wolfe is prepared to label this an emergency for Pennsylvania. County Coroner William Young III’s office reported the death total Wednesday afternoon. The trend follows a marked increase in drug-related deaths in the county in recent years — 13 confirmed in 2013, 33 in 2014, 47 in 2015 and 74 last year.

I was affected by these deaths and knew not one of them. I was a victim of stolen goods and a disrupted life though not by any of these dead. The writer thinks a victim would be irritated by a memorial to someone who stole from her. Perhaps some would. Not all. What the writer does not understand is that a victim’s anger and disgust at a crime can be tempered with forgiveness and love for a human being. Even as we wish to get our stuff back, we never wish that person sentenced to death or to be forgotten or believe our stuff was worth that human life. But that’s me. I’ve read the comments.

Reactions and comments are as important to understanding a community as the article. They didn’t disappoint. Race lines were drawn—Negro dealer vs. dope sick white girl. Suggestion:  put a dumpster on the lot to trash bodies of dead overdoses. Or this story from the self-proclaimed war veteran who shot video of himself pissing on the cross of a stranger. But it is not the dead who are touched by the words and comments and actions in this posting. It is not the dead who feel the humiliation of a golden shower. The dead are beyond caring.

This memorial was not a “huge pile of hot garbage”.

This was freedom of speech with a mix of purported facts thrown in. Or maybe it was the work of trolls meant to incite. Strangely, the post reinforced things I already believed. Hate is pervasive and contagious. We like to hate groups of people. In this case, fatal overdoses. And we like to compare one person to another to measure worth, maybe even against ourselves so we can say, “At least I’m not a drug addict responsible for my own demise.” But these hate posts teach. It doesn’t matter what you say or do or who you are. Someone will hate you for something. So quit trying to please. Stop biting your tongue. Don’t let hate become you.

This post isn’t news. It’s opinion like my post, divergent opinion. And this outlet that published the post seems like that mix of news and social media. On the fringes. A dangerous combination where a reader can never know fact from half-truth or fiction. Yet still be quoted as a reliable source.

What brought me back to thoughts of this Butler memorial was a podcast, of course. The House from March 2016 on Embedded. The subjects were Opana and HIV in small-town Indiana. Opana-a drug of choice. A painkiller. Think about it. Pain-killer. Hallucinogen. Uppers. Downers. Altering the world we live in. I’ve wanted to alter the world I lived in from time to time. And the answer was in a little pill all the time, however impermanent it might be. Just for a moment, I could forget….

Kelly McEvers took listeners to a bedroom in a house in Austin, Indiana to watch a nurse alter Opana to injectable form. The pill laid melting from a flame beneath a scrap of aluminum can. Three addicts watched waiting to share the dose. They sucked their share into syringes mixed with water. Her description of one man trying unsuccessfully to inject in his diseased arm was in mental vision ugly and desperate. But he didn’t give up searching for a vein. And this altered state of Opana has led to sharing needles and the HIV outbreak. And the small town in Indiana and Butler County are connected by this epidemic. I wonder now if the war veteran or the nurse or the parents who lost custody of three children are clean or still using. Or would they have a cross in some vacant lot as a memorial to a lost life?


Where Do I Begin?

Singles’ events. Not romance. Not hook-ups. Just meeting new people. Nudging serendipity.

I have people. Nothing wrong with more people. Not as in collecting friends and followers on social networking. Face to face meeting.

The Californian beside me had no local network. No one to discover her dead body until the smell coming from her apartment alerted her neighbors. I laughed with her saying that my roommates will stop my body from beginning that return to the earth before funeral preparations.

This meeting was advertised for singles of a certain age. 70 and up says the organizer. Over 60 a woman chimes. Is she too young at 57? I said I thought age 50. AARP eligibility. Senior moment. We of the certain age like to joke of senior moments as if younger people do not forget or get confused.

We played 1950s trivia. Men won. One joked he knew the answers because he lived through the answers. Next:  movie trivia. These were buffs. Will someone join me for a showing of The Shape of Water?

We ended as all nascent movements. Trying to find purpose and footing. Details kill. Lunch on a weekday? “No, I work.” How about a Sunday? “Only if there’s no game.” Olive Garden? Primanti’s? Uno? “It doesn’t really matter. Except I don’t really like Olive Garden. There’s a senior discount at Uno on Wednesday’s.” How about a show? “How much would it be? Would we all go to the same movie?”

Someone mentioned Meet-Ups. A couple of ears tune for that. The Californian and Midwesterner on my other side seem interested. Darn. I was feeling potential in them.

Would it be wrong for me to ghost this group next month? They have my phone number. If someone calls, I could just quote Marx. Not Karl. Groucho. I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.


Some Things Are The Same

I’m a school kid jumping out from underneath the covers of my squeaky iron bed. My bare feet hit the cold brown wood-pattern linoleum. I grabbed my clothes and dressed while standing on the floor register blowing warm air.

In the bedroom this morning I felt the chill on my exposed face as I laid in bed. I crawled out from underneath the covers; my bare feet slid out on beige carpet. I walked to the programmable thermostat that displayed 62° again. A temperature that can feel warm one day and cold the next. I pressed the up button until the display lighted 75°. Overcompensating for 62°.

I crawled back under the covers, tugged to pull them over my head, stuck in earphones, and waited.


Plunging A Toe

Another widower with the inset of a dozen red roses sent me a friend request. I saved it to screenshot to submit to a scam website. If you see this man….

He looks familiar. Like someone running for office. Perhaps a victim himself, a stolen face. The profile isn’t real. But is there a chance it might be? I suppose. And that is what the person hiding behind a mask banked on. That at least one lonely person was dreaming of a romantic widower.

My friend told me more than once that she never envisioned me with a man like my husband. She was wrong for a long time. “Alas,” we sigh, “love is blind.”

My husband callously told me at the beginning of the end that now I would know exactly who or what not to seek in his successor. An assumption, of course. But I did know after months of reflection. Self-awareness to know that change is more than the facade and superficial things of a more or less even exchange. That it is not enough now to return to the romanticism of  beginnings.

I’ve thought of dating. Begun looking at men in a different way. Thinking of possibilities. I sat with four friends at lunch discussing online dating. Happily married, widowed, divorced and then me. We agreed it’s scary. Scarier than serendipity? Are younger women afraid of this online screening process? Or does it make it easier to filter out likes and dislikes? A natural extension of the online life and social networking?

We’ll see. Maybe.