Category Personal Reflections

A Dream of My Brother From the Great Beyond

My older (by three years) brother will have been gone 14 years this September, felled shortly after he retired at age 62 from a rare, always fatal brain syndrome known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of and miss his presence in my life. Fortunately, he pops up in my dreams intermittently, always in some strange circumstance (dreams being what they are), but often gratifying nevertheless for the touchpoint they add up to, the real-seeming encounter in which he is alive to me for those moments, moving once again through space and time as a physical presence—until I wake up.

I’ve written here before about the often riotous imaginings of the dream world, the caution against trying too hard to drag them into our current waking life via some great literal “meaning” we can apply to become better, happier persons, all the wiser for our visitations from the Great B...

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The NIMBYism of Neighborhood Life

The house adjacent to our back fence was a stately old matron, the very first in our entire neighborhood, or so we have heard. I used to admire it from the street on my walks when we lived several blocks away, its deep frontage sporting the year-round, unirrigated green lawn common to this part of the world, with its more or less 12-month rains that seemed another world altogether for this California-reared boy, used to that state’s annual May through September drought cycle.

The home played host to a family for the first couple of years after my arrival, three tow-headed children chasing after their dad and the soccer ball he used to fake keeping away from them as they all flailed and flopped about the yard.

One of those terminally creaky patio swings suitable for young (or old) lovers or multiple small children was off to the side, and just under the porch awning, a rocking chair.

Also off to the side an...

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Why I Quit Watching “The Sopranos”

When my daughter was four or five years old, we took her to a highly touted “children’s movie” animation having to do with the escapades of a pony finding its way through fraught circumstances. I remember neither the title nor anything else to do with the plot save this: at one point, the pony was tied to a stake and thrashing helplessly as foreboding music swelled and some evil force prepared to descend upon it.

The movie ended for us right then because my daughter began to sob uncontrollably, fear and sorrow etched full upon her face. After a few murmured soothings from her mother and me proved completely fruitless, we exited the theater.

I thought back to that episode recently when finally catching up to “The Sopranos,” the multi-award-winning television series that had critics of the time swooning, but which I completely missed during its 1999-2007 run...

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Oh, Bah, Humbug on All That Bah, Humbug!

You know what really makes me tired and stressed this time of year? Hearing all about how tired and stressed people are this time of year. Enough already, out out outta here with your abject tales of how rough you have it from Thanksgiving through the New Year! This is what you want to spend even two cents of your emotional capital on?

I know, I know, families can be complicated (religion even more so), rampant consumerism carries a lot of baggage (and too damn much crazy packaging!) and the cost of a Christmas tree seems to have gone as far north as the North Pole.

But still.

In the sum total of such things, we celebrate so very little in this life of toil and loss and worry that our team will yet again miss out on the World Series next year.

And if your vote is to cancel five or six weeks of this darkest time of year, when basically all of your ancestors stretching back to the Caveman Boulevard days some...

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Answering Alzheimer’s: Amy Bloom’s “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss”

Amy Bloom gets right down to it in her 2022 memoir, “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.” The city of Zurich and the fact of her husband Brian’s Alzheimer’s disease comes up in the first paragraph as the couple boards a plane headed to that Swiss city. Their purpose for the trip is revealed in the fourth paragraph, which begins with these two stout declarative sentences:

“Dignitas’s office is in Zurich, and that’s where we’re headed. Dignitas is a Swiss nonprofit organization offering accompanied suicide.”

Through the subsequent 200+ pages, the multi-talented, much-honored Bloom (novels, short stories, non-fiction, journalism, children’s books, screenplays, television scripts, college professorships, longtime clinical social worker) takes us along with her on that journey whose end she telegraphs to us in the book’s opening lines.

She does so by skillfully moving back and forth in time in short chapters th...

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