“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.



Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

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!