The long national nightmare is over for our four furry children. Mom’s back!! During Marilyn’s nearly two week stay at Beth Israel Hospital for heart surgeries, the dogs almost seemed to be grieving. They were quiet. They had to be cajoled to eat. They refused to play all the games that are part of our usual days. Obviously, the past two weeks were anything but usual for the four legged and two legged members of our family. Our spirits had dimmed. Anxiety was high. Each new hospital report cut through our collective morale. It all changed with Marilyn’s surprise weekend rehab therapy work. The projected extended PT schedule was cancelled and we brought Marilyn home late yesterday afternoon.

The dogs usually greet family members with exuberance and enthusiasm. We were concerned because Marilyn is still in the early stages of recovery and very sensitive to any body contact. When we allowed the dogs access to Marilyn last night, they were very tentative. Later, they crowded around her but kept their distance. The two terriers joined Marilyn on our love seat  but were very careful. Dogs have a keen sense of when their humans are hurting. They are protective rather than playful. When Marilyn fell asleep while watching TV, the dogs dozed off. When she woke up, they opened their eyes looking at her. When Marilyn’s pain and breathing issues rose, the dogs made moaning sounds. When Marilyn’s pain subsided and her breathing improved, the dogs visibly relaxed.

Today, Marilyn’s first full day home, the dogs took to barking and romping again but kept a respectful distance from Marilyn. One of the Terriers, as I write, is nestled at Marilyn feet. It’s her favorite spot. Nan is Marilyn’s dog. She’s the one who was most out of sorts during Marilyn’s absence. Bonnie, our vivacious Scottie, is lying atop the sofa, comfortable in her watchdog spot. We believe Bonnie has her own Facebook page. She monitors all street activity and is, I believe, captain of the neighbor dog watch committee. She periodically cocks her head back to make sure all is okay with Marilyn.

The big difference came at chow time. I filled the four food bowls and summoned the kids. They raced into the kitchen, eyed their dishes and scoffed the food down, barely pausing for breath. Everything was okay again. Licking their lips and barking with satisfaction, they raced towards the doggie door, pausing briefly to make sure Mom was okay and then dashing outside to do their business.

Marilyn smiled as the kids sped by, nodding her approval and satisfaction that she had returned a sense of normalcy to our furry kids’ world. Reality set in with a jolt of pain to Marilyn’s right arm which sustained muscle damage during her hospital stay. She winced, muttered something I couldn’t hear and then leaned back to wait for the pain subside.

The dog day afternoon continued with the furry kids outside loudly informing neighbors that Mom was back. Marilyn’s pain gradually subsided and we hoped the rest of her first day home would would allow us to enjoy each other’s company. Beats the hell out of making conversation in a hospital room.


‘You came back! Why? A woman like you!! To a place like this?? Why?” Those of you who don’t know that line should be ashamed. It’s a riff on Eli Wallach’s demise as the bandit chief in “The Magnificent Seven”. Well, Marilyn came back today and there’s no reason to ask why. She’s home after almost two nerve wracking weeks at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care Unit in Boston. Marilyn gladly relinquished her status as the patient with the most seniority in her unit. Marilyn had almost become a fixture for families visiting other patients. She would wave as they passed her room. Some say Marilyn is now a legend after her stint that included a bypass, a valve replacement, a pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs. To insure her iconic status, Marilyn sustained a muscle injury in her right shoulder, her “good” shoulder. The shoulder of the hand used to send emphatic gestures to her husband.

Marilyn’s return home today came as a surprise to some of us. It was thought she needed several days in a physical therapy facility to strengthen her body after almost two weeks of immobility. Marilyn pulled a wonder woman on us by regaining mobility dramatically over the weekend. A physical therapist made it official after examining Marilyn today. Visiting families looked sad as Marilyn left Beth Israel Hospital. Who would replace the iconic patient in room 606?

The mood here at “The Kachingerosa” brightened considerably with Marilyn’s return. We had to “gate” the four furry kids to allow Marilyn to enter the house, carefully make her way up the stairs and into the living room where she settled into her favorite spot on our love seat, a smile mixed with groans of pain and pleasure. She scanned the room carefully like a stranger returning to a place of her dreams.

The two terriers, Bonnie (the Scottie and ring leader) and Nan, who sounds more like a pig than a dog were allowed to spend time with Marilyn. Nan is Marilyn’s dog. I think you could see the joy in Nan’s eyes. Dogs have a sense about their people, especially when they are hurt or healing. So, the normally playful terriers were very gentle with Marilyn.

The first evening home is going slowly for Marilyn. She’s trying to catch up on some of her favorite TV shows. But she’s still in pain and has breathing problems as she tries to relax. Marilyn still has a long way to go. There will be visiting nurses, follow up appointments with specialists and a very limited program of activities for the next few weeks. But Marilyn is home and our family is whole again.


The title of today’s blog should be a hint. I’ll get to it in a minute. Marilyn asked me to bring her clothing, her lap top and myself — in that order. Oh, yes, make sure there’s clean underwear in the clothing bag. Didn’t your mother warn you about going anywhere without clean under wear??  Marilyn sounded relatively upbeat when we chatted on the phone this morning before I left home. I should know better by now. I really should.

By the time I walked into Marilyn’s room at Beth Israel Hospital’s Cardiac Care Unit, things had changed. She wasn’t upbeat anymore. She was in pain. Lots of pain! Marilyn’s right shoulder, her “good” shoulder was the source of the pain. She said she thought she might need Tommy John surgery. Somehow during the past few days, she was jostled around and her right shoulder took a beating. She said it hurt more than her tender left shoulder where surgeons had gone in to implant her pacemaker. Trying to fend off the pain, Marilyn’s breathing became sporadic, exacerbating her situation. A nurse was summoned and a painkiller was administered. It took awhile for the pain to subside and Marilyn’s breathing to become more even. The pain was still clearly etched across her face although she tried not make any loud sounds. I just held her hand, feeling essentially helpless. There wasn’t much I could say that wouldn’t sound like mindless babble.

Finally, Marilyn looked up at me, a smile slowly replacing the grimaces. She patted my hand and softly said, “I love you”. “I love you, too,” I replied. “I love you three,” she countered. Always having the last word. Time crept along slowly. We didn’t say much. I think that was good. Later, a staffer came in to take X-rays of Marilyn’s lungs. There’s still concern about pneumonia. A half hour later, another staffer came in to discuss decisions surrounding which physical therapy facility Marilyn will be going to in one or two or three days. Hopefully, we’ll be meeting with administrators tomorrow to make that decision. Marilyn is anxious to get to PT and begin strengthening her body. She’s bored and restless. But she is still weak!!

The laughs came as Marilyn was trying to make a dinner choice. She read aloud from the hospital menu, making faces as she described each meal. One item caught her eye. The meatballs! She’d had the meatballs a few days ago and there were okay. Matter of fact, she had EIGHT meatballs the first time. They were tiny, Marilyn emphasized, but okay. The only problem was that when Marilyn ordered meatballs again they cut the serving to FOUR small servings. I suggested she go for broke. Take no prisoners. demand EIGHT meatballs!! I left before dinner arrived, wanting to avoid the possible high drama if Marilyn’s meatball demands were not met.

I called Marilyn just awhile ago after finishing my dinner here at home. She sounded upbeat. Maybe chipper. I paused before asking the dangerous question. “How many meatballs did you get??” A short pause. I sighed deeply. “Honey, I got EIGHT meatballs!!”, Marilyn exclaimed. “Wow!!!,” I rejoiced. “You’re on a roll now,” I congratulated Marilyn. She laughed. A nice long laugh. I promised to call later in the evening to make sure all was okay.


Time flies when you’re having fun. Let’s attribute that line to Marilyn who’s now almost a week and a half into her stay at Beth Israel Hospital’s Cardiac Care Unit. The fun includes a bypass, valve replacement, pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs. Today, there was another infection scare but tests came back negative. A day after our friends Ross and Mary Mitchell came to the rescue volunteering to pay for physical therapy rejected by Marilyn’s health insurance, Marilyn was in good spirits but weak and very pale. She was dehydrated.

Cherrie Welburn and I noticed Marilyn’s condition the moment we arrived around midday. Why didn’t anyone else, we wondered. Cherrie scurried around outside, talking to nurses and other staff members about Marilyn’s condition. I think she heard something about it being a weekend and there were fewer staffers on duty. I’m just a layperson but I find that puzzling in a hospital. Are patients less important on weekends?? Cherrie and I swapped off helping Marilyn walk to the bathroom, made sure she kept drinking water during our visit and promised to call frequently tonight, nagging her about drinking water. Marilyn seemed to perk up. She checked her tablet, scanning last night’s blog about the unexpected generosity of the Mitchells and the impressive number of comments from people damning health insurers and lauding the kindness of our friends.

Marilyn, again, complimented me on my blogging efforts. High praise from Caesar, indeed!! Cherrie, Marilyn and I discussed the days ahead. Marilyn likely will remain at Beth Israel until Tuesday at least until we decide on a satisfactory physical therapy facility. Marilyn noticed that Cherrie and I were a little wobbly on our feet and suggested that we head home to rest a little.

The drive home actually was the most interesting part of the day. It included impressive construction detours around “hospital city” that had changed in two or three hours. I switched into my Boston driver mode, skillfully out matching cabbies, texting motorists surely headed to their maker and touristas confused by everything. It had a classic demolition derby feel to it.

The final leg of our drive on the Mass Pike west and onto Rt. 146 included a pelting rain and an increasingly dense fog. I felt the juices flow. I was Steve McQueen. Despite my idiocy, we arrived home safely. Cherrie has gone back to her home in Hadley to deal with a bunch of her own family crises. I’ll miss her. She’s kept me sane. She’ll be back as soon as possible. Meantime, I’ll be flying solo, keeping the faith with my fair lady.


“I’m coming home home tomorrow,” Marilyn chirped as we arrived to visit her today at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care Unit. Cherrie Welburn and I looked at each other, our winter pale brown skin seemingly turning white in the flash of that moment.

Talk about mixed feelings!! Cherrie and I were happy that Marilyn would be coming home after 9 days and 5 surgeries. Surgeries that included a bypass, a valve replacement, a pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs.

But was Marilyn strong enough? She had only one day of physical therapy and was still clearly weak, in a fair amount of pain and had difficulty just walking from her bed to the nearby bathroom.

Only the previous day, we were told Marilyn’s stay would be extended until she had more physical therapy, was stronger and able to move around with more confidence and less pain. Apparently, those plans were nullified by a surgeon this morning who looked at Marilyn’s incisions and declared her fit to be released. Cherrie and I tried to hide our disbelief and anxiety. Marilyn’s health insurance would not pay for physical therapy. What to do??

More problematic, we thought we had more time to make “The Kachingerosa” cleaner and more recovering patient friendly for Marilyn. We had more than one day’s work even at an accelerated pace!! “No problem,” Cherrie and I told Marilyn. I think our noses were growing longer by the second.

We bid Marilyn goodbye after a two and a half hour visit and drove home in rainy rush hour traffic, brain-storming our mission impossible. We decided to divvy up the work,  doing what we could until fatigue ended our day which began at 6am. By the time we got home, Marilyn’s son, Owen had already finished a makeshift handicapped entrance to our front door. Kudos to Owen for his solo efforts, despite a bad back, getting it done in the pouring rain.

Cherrie and I were scoffing down our first meal of the day when Marilyn called just after 6pm. “I have news,” Marilyn declared. “I’m eating dinner,” I mumbled into the phone speaker. “I’ll call back,” Marilyn responded. “No, wait a minute, ” I shouted, almost choking on a mouth full of food. “I’m NOT coming home tomorrow,” Marilyn exclaimed. Cherrie and I stared at each other, our pale brown skin turning almost white again. Marilyn went on to explain the unbelievable. A last minute reprieve! Something you only see in movies and it always seems corny. As noted, Marilyn was only coming home tomorrow because her health insurance would NOT pay for badly needed physical therapy.

Our Deus Ex Machina appeared in the form of two old and dear friends, Ross and Mary Mitchell. We’ve known Ross since he was a baby faced teenager at our college radio station. Mary was Maid of Honor at our Wedding. Ross and Mary are now grandparents. They visited Marilyn this afternoon just after Cherrie and I left. Ross and Mary looked at Marilyn, quickly determined she wasn’t well enough to go home and declared they would pay for Marilyn’s physical therapy, covering ALL costs!!!!! THAT was Marilyn’s message. Cherrie and I were at a loss for words.

Half an hour later, we caught Ross and Mary by phone, just as they were going out to dinner. I tried — as did Cherrie — to find words beyond “thank you” and “we are so grateful”  – but this multi-Emmy award winning reporter could not find the words. Cherrie was crying. Ross and Mary said that’s what friends are for, that they considered it an honor to help us. I couldn’t manage anything more than a choked up “thank you” as we wrapped up the conversation.

A short time later, Marilyn called again saying she would probably be staying at Beth Israel over the weekend until a suitable physical therapy facility  is found.

As I picked at the remnants of dinner, Cherrie smiled saying, “Quite a day, what an unbelievable day!” I just looked at her and nodded, still not believing how this crazy day had ended.



Without Benefit of Clergy – Marilyn Armstrong

I was Jewish when I married Garry in a Lutheran Church. I said then … and I say now …  any God I am willing to worship doesn’t care what ritual you use, what language you speak, what color you are or whether you put cheese on your hamburger. I really DO believe that everyone has the right to live the life they want to live, to have or not have children. Spend whatever day you consider the Sabbath doing whatever you want: attend a church, synagogue, mosque or sleep late and read in bed.

Travel your path and be glad.

All prayers are good prayers. Goodness is goodness, whether you believe in God or not. Faith is a choice, decency is a requirement. You don’t need a church to know the difference between right and wrong. Some of the worst people I’ve known were ardent church goers and some of the best were skeptics or atheists. I’ll bet that God knows who is who and is not fooled by how often you attend church.

Garry and I were married in his church on Long Island because he had a strong emotional attachment to it and I didn’t have any particular attachment to any religious institution, though I had and still have a strong emotional attachment to Judaism as a philosophy and as a moral compass … and as an ethnic identity: Yiddishkeit, as it were.

When we renewed our vows the first time, it was in front of a notary, but the next renewal was under the sky in our backyard by a minister of the Christian Reform Church. Maybe we’ll do it again and who knows who will officiate? We intended to renew our vows again for our 20th anniversary, but I was sick that year and I had other things on my mind. Hopefully, we’ll both be available for 25th. That seems like a good number for another renewal.

Marriage is a contract between two adults. It doesn’t require benefit of clergy. Any religion is okay and no religion is okay too. Unless you live in a theocracy and thank God we do not … yet …you don’t need to believe in anything but your partner to get married.  I hate the theocratic trend this country is taking. I’m baffled as to how God and religion are suddenly the arbitrators of what constitutes a family.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …”

That last part, that bit about pursuing happiness seems to have been lost. Pity about that because it  is not less important than anything else and may be the most important of all. What good is life and liberty if you can’t be happy too? Gay people, straight people, old people, young people … we should have the right to marry who we choose and be as happy as we can manage.

If we start defining the meaning of marriage, if we declare that marriage is sacred and exists entirely  for the creation of children, what about people who don’t want children? Are they the next group who won’t be allowed to marry? And people past the age of  baby making … can they no longer marry? For too many years in a lot of states, people of different races were forbidden to marry … was that okay? They said that it was God’s decree too. Funny how it’s always God’s plan … no individual ever seems to be responsible.

You can interpret “God’s teaching” however you like. If it was so clear what God wants of us, what was the point of all the theological discussion, debate, Biblical interpretation and everything else for the past few thousand years? What was that about?

The best and the worst things done on this earth have been done in the name of God, Allah, Yahweh … whoever, whatever. Horrors like the Holocaust, the Crusades and so much more … and God was always on the side of the every combatant. If I were God, I’d abandon the human race in disgust.

Gay, straight, or not entirely clear on the issue, marry if you want or not. Have a good life. Maybe you’ll be one of those couples that has a great relationship. Maybe you’ll wind up in the middle of a bitter divorce, but whatever you choose, it’s YOUR right to choose. I’ll never demand you live your life my way. Be happy.

I have no opinion on afterlife or not, reincarnation or not. I don’t know.  And neither do any of you. You can believe whatever you like but you don’t know anything for sure because God doesn’t talk to you or me. He (or She) does not confide his or her intentions to us. Moses was the last one he chatted with face to face and the world has turned a few times since then.

Enjoy this life. It’s the one you’ve got. Maybe you get another shot at it, maybe not. I think it behooves us all to live in the moment and let everyone else do the same!


Today was Marilyn’s 8th day at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care Unit in Boston. It was also her most active since undergoing 5 surgeries including a bypass, valve replacement, pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs. Cherrie Welburn and I arrived just after lunch and Marilyn was in a fairly upbeat mood aside from some disgruntled comments about the food. Marilyn said her breathing was better than yesterday but that her pain level was still high with the smallest movement causing “discomfort”. Marilyn was about to experience some more physical challenges.

Mid afternoon and physical therapist Rory arrived. Rory was a very affable young woman and, attractive, I noticed. She outlined for Marilyn what her physical therapy program would be and WHY she would be doing the exercises. Marilyn nodded with a cynical aside glance at Cherrie and me. Marilyn has been fairly inactive for the past week and a day and her muscles need attention, shoulders to toes.

Over the next 40 minutes, Rory gently but persistently put Marilyn through a series of exercises with Marilyn flexing her right arm  (her left arm is very tender because of where the surgery was done to implant her pacemaker), she swung her legs up and down, and her feet left to right a number of times. The biggest test was ahead.

It was time for Marilyn to walk. Rory rehearsed the procedure – something we take for granted – several times. Finally, with obvious effort, Marilyn stood up and moved slowly ahead, using a walker with Rory’s help. Out of her room and into the hallway. It was very difficult for Marilyn. Rory repeatedly emphasized Marilyn needed to walk upright not slouched so that she could breath correctly. No easy task. Even with the walker and Rory’s help, Marilyn was having difficulty as she slowly moved down the hallway away from her room. Finally they stopped and Marilyn sat down to catch her breath. She and Rory talked quietly. I think it was a pep talk. A few minutes later, Marilyn got up and, with renewed effort, walked down the rest of the hallway at a faster place, her body upright.

Cherrie and I watched from the door of Marilyn’s room as she turned around and walked back towards us. Her pace was faster, a smile filled her face as we cheered her on. When she reached her room, Marilyn was still smiling as we gave her thumbs up for her effort. Inside her room, she slowly sat in a chair and took long breaths. A few minutes later, she declined Rory’s assistance, moving from the chair onto her bed, all by herself. Crank up the applause!! Marilyn was clearly fatigued by her walk but proud of her efforts. Cherrie and I could see Marilyn needed some rest but she wanted to chat and catch up. She briefly scanned her tablet, checking the blog I wrote last night and the impressive number of “hits” and comments. I gave her my best “Garry Armstrong – Star” look and she smiled broadly. It was time to order dinner now. Cherrie and a staffer took over as Marilyn scanned the menu hoping for something different. No such luck! That was our cue for today’s long Jewish goodbye.

Cherrie and I blew kisses to Marilyn as we left, telling her we hoped tomorrow would be an even better day.


I think Cherrie and I RODE the incredible wind today from where we parked and almost through the entrance of Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care Unit for our visit with Marilyn. They call the wind Marilyn?? Sorry, my love. Cherrie and I found Marilyn in good spirits in her “regular” hospital room. She was free of all tubes and breathing “okay” on her home. This was the day after surgery to implant a pacemaker and inflation of collapsed lungs.

Some changes from last night’s report. Doctors now say Marilyn will STAY at Beth Israel for an extended period rather than coming home by week’s end. She is still weak, her breathing needs to improve and her many incisions from 5 surgeries this past week need to heal. Marilyn was out of bed and sitting in a chair. She was able, with the help of a nurse, to walk into the bathroom and take care of business on her own. Those of you have done hospital time know what a big deal that is!!

We’ve learned that Marilyn’s insurance will NOT cover post surgery physical therapy. Right now it appears we’ll have visiting nurses who will provide some PT. Marilyn’s extended hospital stay will allow us to clean “The Kachingerosa” a bit more, especially dusty ceilings and walls because the quality of air inside our home is very important to Marilyn’s ability to breath freely. With four dogs and the surrounding woods, our home is a challenge for keeping the air tolerable, let alone clean. In a few weeks, the pollen will be off the charts and it’ll look like spring snow where the pollen falls and accumulates.

Given what she’s endured the past week, Marilyn is in very good humor. That’s my fair lady.


If yesterday (Monday) was a disjointed Mel Brooks movie for Marilyn, today was almost a Frank Capra film by comparison. Yesterday, Marilyn was bumped myriad times, from 1130am to 5pm for a scheduled pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs. Marilyn went without food from Sunday evening through late yesterday afternoon because of the pending surgery. When, at last Marilyn was wheeled into surgery just after 5pm yesterday, the procedures were postponed again because they didn’t have the proper anesthesia. So ended a not so funny, dysfunctional day with promises of a better tomorrow.

Today, Marilyn was prepped and, right on schedule, wheeled into surgery just before 9am. Less than 3 hours later, Marilyn had a new pacemaker and her lungs were inflated. Breathing was dramatically improved!! By late afternoon, Marilyn was wheeled out of the ICU to a regular hospital room in the Cardiac Care unit. Things were moving so fast that they actually moved Marilyn as she was eating her “delicious” roast chicken dinner!! Marilyn didn’t seem to object to dinner being interrupted.

Cherrie Welburn, who has been with Marilyn 24/7 at Beth Israel, decided she needed a hot shower, a full meal, and full night’s sleep in a comfortable bed. The “Kachingerosa” is a well know 4 star resort in Uxbridge. Marilyn agreed. She also reminded us to bring her some decent coffee tomorrow morning. She reminded us SEVERAL times!! I hope Cherrie remembers.

Marilyn should be up and walking a bit tomorrow. Doctors say if Marilyn’s condition continues to improve, she may be able to come home by week’s end. When I told my beloved wife much we missed her and looked forward to her homecoming, she gave me a wry look. Maybe it’s because I had that sincere reporter’s look on my face.

After the long Jewish goodbye, we left with Marilyn warning us to be careful with the impending bad weather that might impact our drive from Uxbridge tomorrow morning.

Say, goodnight, Marilyn!!






I think Mel Brooks or the Zucker Brothers scripted Marilyn’s Monday at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care ICU. Yesterday, Doctors told us confidently that Marilyn was SET for 11:30 am today — a pacemaker implant and inflation of a collapsed lung. So, they stopped feeding Marilyn Sunday evening. 11:30am today came and went.  Marilyn was bumped for a more pressing case. She watched midday newscasts that warned of another big snow storm and worried about ME and how I would safely manage the daily trips from Uxbridge to Beth Israel. I arrived around one, greeted by Cherrie Welburn who is doing a 24/7 watch with Marilyn at the hospital and my Wife who had a strange smile on her face. I thought it was the calm before the storm as the clock ticked slowly through the afternoon punctuated by apologetic visits by staffers telling Marilyn she had been bumped again and again. Marilyn was now looking at me as if I was the Chicken Parm plate that’s become her favorite at BI. Finally, we got word that Marilyn would be going into surgery at 5pm. Cherrie and I gathered up the gear as we were told that Marilyn would be returning to her regular hospital room after surgery. Marilyn was wheeled on her bed by two staffers with Cherrie and me tromping behind on and off two elevators and down a long hallway. As we approached the surgery area, we were almost bowled over by a nurse who was texting as she hurried down the hallway towards us and by. That should’ve been a sign!! The staffers wheeled Marilyn away from us and into surgery while Cherrie and I were escorted into a family waiting area. A kindly woman on the reception desk asked if we wanted to watch TV. She called me “Mr. Armstrong” with a smile. We declined the offer. Cherrie set up her lap top and began to send out update notes about Marilyn FINALLY going into surgery. I scoffed down a protein bar and began to do the same on my I-phone. Halfway through my second update, we received word that Marilyn’s surgery had been postponed. Reason: they didn’t have the right anesthesia to allow Marilyn to lie on back for the two hour surgery. Cherrie and I looked at each other, trying to suppress laughter in what was clearly not a funny situation. We could only imagine what Marilyn was saying to the surgeons and their team. So, Cherrie and I were directed back to the ICU room that we had just vacated. Marilyn was already there. She had the same smile on her face that she has when we are watching movies like “Blazing Saddles” or “Airplane!”. Marilyn was focused on one thing. Food!! She and Cherrie made it clear that Mrs A. wanted dinner and she wanted it fast!! I think the urgency of Marilyn’s situation was clear. And, the fact that she did it pleasantly made things go even faster. I was still dumbfounded by it all. I spent a few moments “sucking face” with Marilyn while Cherrie made funny noises from the corner. Both ladies made me promise to drive home safely as I left them. Wait, it’s not over!! Two of the three elevators on the 7th floor were on “the fritz” as I tried to leave. I started mumbling profanities. I felt a tap on my shoulder and wheeled around to face a bright-eyed resident in scrubs. “Aren’t you Garry Armstrong”, she asked. I forced my phony TV smile and just looked at her, waiting. “I grew up watching you on TV”, she gushed. The elevator door dinged open and I escaped. I drove home harmonizing with Nat Cole and playing our wedding song “For Sentimental Reasons” FIVE times. Nat and I never sounded better. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s update has good news about Marilyn. Garry


‘I’m not as stupid as I look”, Marilyn said as Cherrie Welburn and I arrived for this afternoon’s visit at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care ICU. Cherrie countered, “Nobody Could be!!”. Cherrie gets away with a line with that. Not me. Not with Marilyn!! So, our visit began with laughter!! A very, very good sign!! The serious news first: Doctors have determined they will implant an interior pacemaker into Marilyn’s heart tomorrow. Two full days after the 5 hour surgery that included a bypass and a valve REPLACEMENT, Marilyn’s heart is not beating strongly enough! Doctors today briefly removed the exterior pacemaker Marilyn has been wearing. The signs during that brief interlude were dramatic enough to convince doctors they need to implant a pacemaker if Marilyn is to survive. Surgeons also will inflate both of Marilyn’s lungs which are collapsed. Marilyn was in better spirits for much of our visit. She had a blueberry pancake for breakfast, Chicken “parm” for lunch and a light fruit salad during the afternoon. Marilyn began to tire dramatically during the third hour of our visit and breathing became more difficult as she was coughing up phlegm. Actually,  it was downright painful!! One of the highlights of the visit was a “get well” note from Granddaughter Kaity, written to Grandma in Kaity’s inimitable style. Marilyn broke into a big smile reading Kaity’s note. Kaity is a sweetheart and, yes, the apple of Grandpa’s eyes. Cherrie decided to stay at the hospital overnight so she’ll be close to Marilyn with tomorrow’s  scheduled pacemaker surgery. Cherrie will contact me with the “breaking news” and then I’ll head back to Beth Israel from Uxbridge. We are so very, very lucky to have Cherrie as our best friend. She’s kept me sane during the last few days. Okay, here’s hoping tomorrow’s news is ALL good!!

Reporting live from “The Kachingerosa” in Uxbridge,



A short story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.  “What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Billy’s father had noticed over the last two month’s the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like the dates Billy’s dad had with his wife when they were teenagers. Billy would spend a lot of time getting ready. He picked out his best date-night type clothes and he absolutely lit up when Josh appeared at the door. Dad felt he could not be mistaken.

empty chairs

“No, dad, I can’t think of anything,” Billy finally said in his best “I’m innocent” voice. “Are you gay?” his father shot back. All of a sudden something heavy fell on Billy’s chest. It must have been the weight of reality hitting him. He was unprepared.

“Yes dad,” Billy responded as boldly as he could after the truth was already out there anyway.

“And this Josh fellow, is he your boyfriend?” Billy did not want to out Josh to his father but he figured that he somehow knew so he gave up that truth too.

“Yes, dad.” Once again they stared at one another until Billy could finally throw that weight off himself and speak up.

“So, it’s OK then?” Billy asked. His dad did not want to say “yes” because it was not alright with him, but he did not want to say “no” because he recalled how difficult teenage love could be and just figured that gay teenage love was even harder. After a few moments deep in thought, Billy’s dad had a course of action in mind.

“Son, I want you to tell your mother this week. Am I clear about that?”

“No dad, please,” the boy replied in horror. “Can’t you tell her?” If his dad was not all “open-arms” about this he could not imagine his mother’s reaction. She was far more right of center than dad.

“Billy, if you think you are old enough to be making out with another boy, you are certainly old enough to man-up and tell your mother exactly who you are.” At that, Billy’s dad left the room and quietly closed the door on the way out.

For the rest of the week, Billy was a nervous wreck. Every time he saw his mother he could feel a knot in his stomach. His father started shooting him angry glances for failing to tell his story. Billy did tell two people though, Josh and his sister, Mary. The latter was a tactical error, to be sure.

One night when they all happened to be at the dinner table at once, a rare occurrence for two busy parents and two teenagers, Mary could not hold her brother’s secret any longer.  “So, little Billy, did you tell mom yet that you’ve been kissing boys?”

Billy’s mom immediately looked like she had seen the ghost of her dear departed mother glaring at her. “Robert, did you know about this?” Billy’s mom shouted across the room at her husband. He did not respond but she could tell after twenty-three years of marriage what the response would be. “How dare you!” she screamed at either Billy or her husband, neither was quite sure, and then she stormed out of the room.

Over the next few weeks Billy parents argued often about why the boy was gay. Each thought the other had a hand in it, but only mom was mortified and angry beyond reason.

“If you had been a stronger father,” she took to telling him almost daily, “this would not have happened.”

To which he frequently responded, “I tried to discipline the boy but every time I did he would run to you and get off the hook. I would say you are the reason he’s a mamma’s boy.” From there it only got worse.

After one particularly stormy session, Billy’s mom finally declared she was through. “I want a divorce.  We can not continue these fights in front of the children.” Robert agreed and went to their room. A stunned Billy, eavesdropping in the next room, began to cry.

Robert called his brother and asked to stay a few days. He packed a bag and prepared to leave when Billy ran into his room. “No dad, please don’t leave. I am sorry, it’s all my fault.  I’ll change, I promise. I won’t be gay any more. Please.” Billy buckled at the knees and went down to the floor. His dad helped him up and sat him on the edge of the bed.

“Look son, my marriage was over years ago. It took something like this to point that out.  You can not change this anymore than I can change who you are.” At that he reached over to hug the boy. He planted a kiss on his forehead, got up, grabbed his bag and walked out the door.


Today was Marilyn’s first full post surgery day. She is still in the ICU Cardiac Care section at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. The head surgeon gave Marilyn a “thumbs up” on yesterday’s 5 hour surgery that included a bypass, valve REPLACEMENT and myectony procedure. Today Marilyn was able to see family members. She is in a LOT of pain, a number 9 on a 1 to 10 scale. The pain is increasing as sedatives and other pain killers are decreased. Marilyn is wearing an exterior pacemaker for the next few days as doctors monitor her heart. Mrs. A has a very high pain threshold but clearly is having a difficult time dealing with things right now. Considering that she was cut open approximately EIGHT inches from below her sternum down, you can gauge how bad the pain is. Breathing is still a problem and movement is very limited. If all goes well, Marilyn will be transferred sometime tomorrow (Saturday) from ICU to a regular hospital room. The best news: Marilyn’s feisty sense of humor is intact. Those of you who know her should be smiling. I’ll try to have another update tomorrow evening. Again, thanks for all the continued support.



This is the proverbial quickie! Marilyn is up, alert, talking and enjoying a pop sickle. Our friend Cherrie, staying with Marilyn at Beth Israel, says Doctors feel Marilyn is showing good color and that all went well with surgery yesterday. Marilyn was monitored over night for bleeding around the heart. There were no problems. She is breathing on her own. There is still some concern about fluid in her lungs but that will be dealt with later. Doctors are removing tubing that’s not needed right now. I have a few home chores to do and spend a little time with the dogs who clearly miss Mom. I’ll be driving in from Uxbridge (about an hour plus depending on traffic and construction) to spend time with Marilyn this afternoon. I’ll try and update tonight. I want to again thank all of you for support and prayers. Sorry I haven’t been able to respond individually but there hasn’t been enough time. I have read all comments. You folks are GREAT!!!



Marilyn is resting tonight, under heavy sedation, at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Doctors say Marilyn came through 5 hours of surgery “successfully”. Surgery included a bypass, a valve REPLACED with tissue and a “MYECTONY” procedure. They shaved a piece of fleshy muscle that was pressing on her heart. That supposedly relieved some of the pressure on the valve hopefully improving her breathing. Marilyn is being closely monitored overnight for possible bleeding around her heart. Our good friend, Cherrie is staying at Beth Israel with Marilyn and providing eyes and ears for me. I’m hoping Marilyn will be able to see and talk with me tomorrow. Meantime, I’m back home, spending some quality time with our dogs who are strangely quiet tonight. They miss Marilyn. So do I!! Hopefully, I’ll have another update tomorrow evening. I think I just wrenched my shoulder patting myself on the back for posting my SECOND blog!! Who would’ve thought I could do it?? Again, thanks for all the support and prayers.



I’m keeping this short because there’s not much to report. Yesterday (Wednesday), Marilyn successfully went through cardiac catheterization procedure at Beth Israel hospital in Boston. She just went into surgery (1pm). Doctors first must drain fluid buildup found in her lungs before proceeding with heart valve surgery. They still hope it’s a repair job rather than replacement. Marilyn is in good spirits but very, very tired. I’m heading back to Beth Israel from our Uxbridge home after I’ve taken care of our four furry kids who miss Mom. I’ll try to keep all of you up to date as best as possible. This will be the first time I’ve actually posted something without Marilyn’s help. I’m also posting updates when possible on Facebook. Thanks to all for your prayers and support.