I could not believe the phone was ringing.

I have the phone set on “silent” until 9 in the morning, so it isn’t supposed to ring before seven — and when it does, it usually does it rather sotto voce, so it won’t knock me out of bed. This was probably not all that loud because what is left of my hearing is intact, but it was early. Generally, this is that time of morning when I am having my most interesting dreams.

I looked at the phone. There was a real name and a real  number, which meant it was a real call. Which, given the hour, I really needed to answer.

“Hullo,” I choked into the phone. I hadn’t yet cleared my throat, so I was hoarse and probably nominally incoherent.

“We’ve got your door,” he said.

My door. Right. Thursday. The day of the door. The arrival of the ordered door, the replacement, the repair of the front of the house. Owen and Dave had been here yesterday installing a new microwave oven above the stove. They bought it for me as a gift. Without my asking. This is a first in my life. People don’t give me “serious” gifts — other than Garry, I mean. He has and sometimes, still does.

The microwave is new and shiny. Black and beautiful to match the range and the dishwasher I never need (there are only two of us — how many dishes do we really use?). I’m afraid to use the new microwave because it will get dirty and then it won’t be new anymore, but I digress.

While they were here, the guys cleared space in the shop downstairs for the incoming door. I already knew they would bring it today. I had set it up and this is Koopman. They keep their word. I merely didn’t think it would show up during the pre-dawn hours. I was thinking maybe eight? Nine?

I said “You are here?” Just to make sure they weren’t in some other town with maybe an hour before delivery. That happens, too.

“Yes,” he said. “We are here.”

“Okay,” I said. What was I going to do? Send them away? “Let me put something on and I will limp downstairs.”

By the time I got there, they had opened the shop’s double door, put the door in its holding place, and latched the door again. They were ready to move on.

“Wow,” I said. “You guys are really efficient! I am impressed,” and I was. They grinned.

“We asked the boss if we could start a bit later, but he says we need to get started first thing in the morning.” By which clearly, he meant first thing.

“Well, you did. This is the earliest thing to happen to me in any morning I can recently remember. But this is great. I can go back to sleep.” I said. But before that, I opened the computer, typed out a two-line note to Owen. Closed down. Curled up and returned to the land of dreams and fantasy.

Almost five blessed hours of sleep later, with one handsome new door in the shop, all is well in my home-like world. All the fumbling and bumbling and bad craftsmanship and ugliness of this month has, in the course of weeks, been replaced by miraculous help from those who didn’t have any reason to help me. Hands and hearts. And a son and his partner who cared enough to do a more than the minimum … and there is light.

These are the real miracles, you know. Not the ones we think of where Zeus or Jehovah or whoever splits the heavens and pops down for a chat on truth, enlightenment, and the meaning of everything. Miracles are small. Personal. And greater for their intimacy. When a friend gives you some money to fix your door and your son and friend surprise you with a shiny new piece of kitchen equipment, the entire world looks new and shiny. Because despite the horrors, there is goodness. We are better than we need to be. Remind me I said this.

These are miracles. And I thank you, miracle bringers.


Oh Bury Me Now!

We were watching West Wing last night. Watching it again because I need a reminder that government doesn’t have to be as horrible as it currently is. I am pretending that the show — West Wing — is the real presidency and everything else is fake. I can’t do it all the time. Sometimes, news bursts into my bubble and I try to deal with it, but since I am at a total loss as to what is going on in my “real” world, I don’t get very far. Last night’s episode was the one in which the President and Josh get shot by one of our many crazy people with guns. Josh is much more seriously injured than the president and spends many hours in surgery.

After which, he spends many more hours unconscious.

The right way to be

Anyone who has been seriously ill following surgery and was unconscious for a long time — medically induced or otherwise — knows what I mean when I talk about waking up. There comes that point when they decide you’ve slept long enough and it’s time for you to awaken.  If you don’t know, it isn’t like you don’t hurt while you are unconscious. You hurt plenty, but it beats out how you are going to feel when you are actually awake and so-to-speak conscious. You lie there and you can hear the nurse or doctor … or your family and friends … asking, begging, pleading with you to wake up. I remember clearly saying “NO!” and drifting away. I’ve been sick enough for long enough to know — they are lying to me.

“It’s okay to wake up. We’ve don’t the surgery and you’re better.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire. You’ve done the surgery and when I wake up, it’s going to be pure, unmitigated hell. If I hurt now, in my semi or unconscious state, just think how terrible I will feel when I open my eyes and am forced to think.

“NO!” I said again, more forcefully this time. I knew I was not going to feel better awake. Absolutely no way was that going to be an improvement to the several days I’d passed in a stupor.

“Don’t you want to talk to your husband?”


“How about your friend.”


“Well, you don’t have a choice. It’s time to wake up.”

The expression “just bury me now” springs to mind. You know with 100% certainty that nothing they do will keep you from feeling the level of terrible you are going to feel. In fact, as they keep digging you out of your unconsciousness, you really feel how bad every piece of your body feels. It’s ugly.

I finally opened one eye. Then the other. “Where,” I asked, “Are my glasses?” Because I couldn’t see anything except a white blurriness. If I was going to be mortally ill, I wanted edges on my reality. I don’t know why, frankly. The edges didn’t make anything better. It turns out they woke me up shortly after surgery and I tried to throttle the nurse, so they put me back under for a couple of days. Apparently, I was seriously pissed off.

They didn’t bury me. I was awake again. And, ironically, it was the last sleep I was going to get in that hospital because from the first minute your eyes are open, they wake you up every 45 minutes for a pill, a shot, a blood draw, the change of transfusion bag. To add something painful to the stuff that already hurts, or jiggle the hurting stuff around so that everything feels worse.

Oh bury me now. Please.

They were explaining that they had to do one more surgery because my heart was refusing to beat. “Don’t worry Mrs. Armstrong. It’s a minor procedure.” Relative to what?

“Really? then let’s not do it.”

“We have to. Your heart won’t beat on its own and you can’t walk around …”

Walk around? I’m going to walk around?

“With a wired pacemaker on your chest.”

Why not? Is someone going to take my picture? Am I going to be the cover girl on “Repaired Hearts Monthly”?

But I woke up and they didn’t bury me. And remarkably, after a year or two, I started feeling better. But if you are in that bed and you are unconscious … and they are telling you the worst is over and it’s time to wake up? Don’t believe them. It’s a bald-faced lie.


Share Your World – July 10, 2017

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

We spend rainy days pretty much the way we spend every other day, except we are less likely to go out. When the weather is good — or especially pretty — we grab cameras and take pictures.

Rainy days are less inspiring. And we have to berate the dogs to go out. We don’t love pouring rain, but they really hate it. You need strong self-esteem to convince a Scottish Terrier to go out in the rain. They will test you.

List at least five favorite treats. 

Fruit is probably all five treats. Cherries. Melon. An occasional banana. Grapes — in season. Apples if I think my tummy can deal with it. Kiwi (mm). Oranges and grapefruit, if they are any good — and in recent years, they have been pretty bad. Ditto peaches and nectarines. Plums are sometimes worth hunting down and the early strawberries are great.

Otherwise, I have some crispy, low-fat, low-calorie vanilla cookies I like with coffee and if you haven’t tried Thin Oreos … well .. they are the king of store-bought cookies. Don’t argue until you’ve tried them. The chocolate mint is potentially lethal.

I love popcorn, but my gums don’t. I love other nuts, but my stomach disagrees. I could eat cashews until the tips of my fingers need surgery to repair the damage, but they are just a wee bit fattening, especially eaten by the pound.

And, when everything else is too sweet or out of season, thin pretzels.

Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

The rivers. Starting at the canal. Weaving through River Bend. Stopping at the dam in the middle of town. Weaving over to Manchaug, then down route 98 to where the river widens enough to fish.

Aldrich Creek runs parallel to this street, so you can go to the next street over, forgetting the name. This would be pretending I knew the name. I don’t think I ever learned it. It is just “that road over there.” Drive down past the farm and watch the cows grazing in the meadows while watching the river flow past.

Water is everywhere, especially this year after so much rain!

You are trapped in an elevator, who would you want to be trapped with?

I’ll take a pass on that. I can’t imagine wanting to be trapped in any elevator, no matter who I was with. Well, okay. There are a couple of authors that I might not mind, as long as it’s a short amount of trapping. I have this fear of being in an elevator with no bathroom that exceeds anything I might gain from someone interesting to talk to!



Old Blackstone Valley architecture, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. In Boston, you might also see a some buildings that were built in the 17th century and possibly, late 16th (but don’t take that to the bank). There may be a few other slightly older ones in Florida where the Spanish settled early, But that’s about as old as it gets, architecturally, for European architecture in North America.

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