Morgan the Writer

Recently our two granddaughters spent the afternoon with their grandmother for what is known in our family as “Gramma Day.” It’s a casual weekly get together time after school with “just the girls,” as the girls themselves like to remind me. Their afternoon with my wife, Betty Ann, almost always concludes with a meal that the girls enjoy at our house before Grampa, that’s me, takes them home in time to get ready for school the next day.

Morgan the Writer

Morgan, as a seven year-old first grader, loves to read and just lately has discovered the art and satisfaction of writing stories. This particular day she was walking around the house with her little spiral notebook and had it sitting near her plate as we all ate supper. As I was about to leave the table and begin clearing plates, Morgan said, “Grampy, can you sit with me? I want to write another story.”

Just how much my granddaughter has ever paid attention to the fact that I too love words and stories, I cannot say for sure. But all that mattered Morgan's storywhen Morgan asked me to sit with her is that my answer needed to be yes and it needed to be right then. And there we sat, at the dining room table, notebook out, pencil in hand and one little thinker with the eraser on her cheek and staring at the ceiling waiting for the words to come.

One word to another

I knew this stance, this feeling, instantly. And as one word and then another came I watched her facial features change as her eyes lit up and her pencil found the paper. There is a kind of certainty, of absoluteness, in watching young writers press their words upon a page with so much force that dents in the page that follows. And for Morgan on this day the story was about her life and world, of family and home and their dog named Bella.

Drawing of Morgan's dog BellaAnd what was my role and what did I have to offer? Mainly presence, encouragement and most importantly to stay out of the way as the writer shaped her words and the story took its shape. Every few moments Morgan had the word and not the spelling. I watched her pause, sometimes caring to correct and sometimes not. Been there, done that,” I said only to myself. Knowing that nuggets of inspiration travel at the speed of light and as quickly disappear, I watched, silently, as Morgan harnessed all that came from a place that any writer knows and from feel, to think, Morgan got it down on paper.

Morgan the Writer
Morgan the writer

That’s how pages fill and spill onto the next. Age doesn’t matter. “My story’s going to be two pages long this time, Grampa,” she said. And so it was to the very last sentence and conclusion, in big bold letters that read, “The end.”

Text and images by K. Lee

Post-Surgery Notes

Last month I underwent lower back surgery to hopefully correct some issues and lessen the pain in my lower back. For nine years I have more or less managed the pain with injections, meds, nerve blocks, acupuncture, PT and message. But when things worsened earlier this spring, both my pain management doc and surgeon agreed that it was time to act. To be sure, I consider myself among the fortunate who entered the hospital for what amounted to corrective surgery with a hopeful outcome.  As we know, not all hospital patients have such a luxury. Still, and as anticipated, my post-op hospital stay was especially painful which was managed with liberal doses of pain medication. Laying there in my little drug haze, I managed a few observations that I kept thinking of as my own Post-Surgery Notes for what they are worth.

Post-Surgery NotesBrigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston is a Harvard affiliated teaching hospital. This means there are people, lots of people, coming and going at all hours of the day, and from my observation, performing at various levels of proficiency. I met most of them. On certain days it seemed like everyone was training someone, except at 2 AM. That’s why I’ll take the overnight nurses any day. Here’s why:

Susie Wanna Be RN: My biggest mistake with Susie Wanna Be, who is a third-year college nursing student, was that I like people, especially young people who are committed to learning new skills. Susie knew I was approachable, which meant she came in with her energetic ear-to-ear smile about every ten minutes during the day to take my vitals. It took her forever, but hey, where was I going anyway? My druggy mind kept thinking I could have used my teeth and opposite hand to get the blood pressure cup onto my arm faster than she did. So we chatted and exhausted entire topics in the time it took Susie to register a BP reading. I learned too that Susie especially liked thermometers. She’d jam that thing down under my tongue like she was spear fishing until I finally wised up and said, “Le me hold that for you.” Still, I liked her enthusiasm, especially when she came in at 4 PM to say good-bye for the day and that she’d see me tomorrow.

“I need Ice!”

When my day-shift nurse came in, along with a newly minted RN colleague who was new to the unit, to ask me if I needed anything, I asked for ice for my back. “I’ll get the PCA to get that for you right away, Mr. Lee,” she said. Minutes passed, maybe lunch hour, I’m not sure, until I heard marching footsteps coming down the hall. Even the Personal Care Assistants came in doubles. One was taller and more determined than the other and she was holding the bag of ice with both hands.

“Where do you want the ice?” she asked. Now this struck me as funny since the entire floor was filled with patients recovering from lumbar surgery. “On my lower back,” I said. I barely had enough time to grown my way onto my side, before PCA holding the goods rounded my bed and with two thrusting hands shoved the ice bag up against the length of my surgery site. Good lord! I thought she was going to knock me clear off the bed as she said, “Can we get you anything else?” Catching my breath, I said no, and watched them trotting off in lockstep out the door and on to their next victim. Safe to say that I didn’t ask for ice again.

Military Intervention

Fellows working for surgeons seem to run the place. Or at least they do if the charge nurse agrees. They arrived, at every inopportune moment seemingly out of thin air. But then, maybe it was the Dilaudid, I’m not sure. My doc walked in every time ram rod straight, square-chinned and wearing scrubs. He looked ex-military. I wasn’t able to stand at attention when he entered, but I did feel like saluting. He asked, “How’s the pain?” I said, “Hurts like hell.” He responded, “That’s expected. We did a lot of house cleaning in there. Now wiggle your toes for me,” he said next. “Are you walking? Walking is good. We want you to walk, walk, walk! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re walking too much, okay?” Roger that.

Nighttime follies

During the overnight hours my nurses came in on cue with meds to keep their favorite patient comfortable. The floor was darkened and quiet. Most of the time after washing down the meds I’d fall back to sleep. Until I didn’t. They’d say, “If you need anything, just press the handset.” But in my crystal-clear mindset I took that to mean, don’t bug us. And besides, G.I. Joe doc told me to walk, walk, walk, and sometimes at 2 AM I felt the urge to explore, and  well yes, to pee.

Early each night they left a new plastic urinal on my tray like it was some kind of an invitation. I never used it. Instead, I saw it as a catalyst to get up, grab my walker, and shuffle off to the bathroom.  One night, I slide whatever body parts would move to the edge of my bed, sat up, reached for my “wheels, “ and staggered off to pee.

That night something felt strange, like I wasn’t alone in my little trek across my room. I got to the bathroom door and looked back, and there in the shafts of limited light I noticed that the rear peg of my walker had somehow snagged onto my bed sheets and as I walked had totally stripped my bed from head-to-foot. It looked like a long white train off the back of a wedding gown from the bed to the tip of my walker. “Oh shit,” I thought to myself. While at the toilet, I pulled that little cord that tells you to do just that if you need help. I always wanted to pull one of those cords to see if anything happened. My nurse walked in and in a voice higher than what’s needed at 2 AM said, “Oh my god, what’s happening here?”

Spills and Thrills

Another night, same time, same urge. (My wife says it was the same night, but what does she know? I was the happily medicated patient, so I should know.) The man does learn, so I made sure that no bed sheet hangers-on were following my walker this time. At three days post-op and totally juiced there is a lot to think about going from flat to sitting and from sitting to standing with hopefully legs to follow. I had this annoying drainage tube that ran from my back to a contraption that looked like, in my perfectly astute mind, a 1980’s Walkman, until one looked closely to see that it was full of red stuff that expanded like an accordion as it filled. I always forgot this damn thing. No matter.

Duty called and off I went with my two-wheeled wonder until I felt a tug in my back and heard a crash on the floor. My Walkman imposter hit the floor as I shuffled onward and the tube from my back to the contraption disconnected, splattering liquid that looked, there on the floor, like a crime scene. Damn! But the mission continued. I came out of the bathroom armed with a giant wad of paper towels, tossed them on the floor and moved my slippers  in impressive fashion around  like a pro mopping up the scene and left the soggy red wad in the corner for my favorite nurse and went back to bed.

About an hour or maybe a day later my nighttime nurse came in, looked at the wad of towels on the floor, gasped, and then looked at me. When she noticed that I had reattached the tube to the “Walkman” before going back to bed, she smiled. I think that’s when we became friends.

By the fifth day, having walked with my walker all over the place and after passing my “stairs climbing” test, the PT signed off and I was released to head home. I remain grateful for the excellent care that I received while hospitalized and hopeful that my recovery will return my back to good health over time.

Text and images by K. Lee

I am rich, very rich, in daughters

I am rich, very rich, in daughters.
Betty Ann, Jen, Amy and Rebecca
I am rich, very rich, in daughters

Each child, all three and all girls came into our lives at intervals back in the 1970’s. So as I reflect upon the joys, mysteries and occasional challenges of being a dad, my memories span decades and over time have woven into a vibrant tapestry that is still being shaped today. Time, as we know, has a way of smoothing out the scariest and most difficult moments of parenting. Yet whether it was illness, injury, emotional hurts or those fright-filled forty-five seconds when a daughter went missing at the mall, as a dad I have been blessed to parent alongside a terrific woman and wife for the past forty-four years. I am convinced beyond doubt that parenting in partnership in every way has made me a better father and a dad to our girls. For sure, I am rich, very rich, in daughters.

As a dad and being a parent to adult children is in itself a peculiar and marvelous kind of relationship. One minute I find myself remembering the child who once mastered the playground and the next moment my daughter, now in her mid-thirties is detailing her upcoming trip abroad with her work.  There are subtle moments, too, when as dad, my role is to listen, support, sometimes suggest, comfort or simply be present non-verbally to any one of our daughters should the need arise. And there are times, to my amazement actually, when they as full-fledged adults, are in so many words, or by their actions, are letting me know that I should be listening to them and accepting their advice. I may not always agree with their message to me but I know that I love them more deeply for it.

I especially cherish three major life events with each of my daughters. And it is one that very few fathers have the opportunity to experience. All three are married now, and because I am a Friends Minister, each daughter and the men they were engaged to asked me to officiate at their wedding. Their mom, not me, walked each daughter down the aisle. As a dad to this day, the memories and feelings I had upon each daughter’s wedding day, from the honor of hearing the weight of their vows recited to solemnizing their union and pronouncing them married one to the other, is a gift that gladdens my heart every day.

They sneaked in on little ships one day
I am rich, very rich, in daughters.
Joshua’s day-old feet

Then the years came when that blessing and gift grew by two, then three and four and now, like wildfire into five and then six new lives. Count them! Six glorious little lives all their own called grandchildren. They sneaked in on little ships one day when I was busy doing something else that seemed important.

I am rich, very rich, in daughters.
The crew: Kevin Owen, Maddie, Josh, Zach and Morgan

I am not sure how this all happened. There’s no manual, no playbook, nothing on being grampy, just unwritten expectations that come without words or fanfare. Each of them, Kevin, Madison, Owen, Joshua, Zachary and Morgan, just moved in to the middle of who I am, set sail and changed whatever course I thought I was on forever.

Sometimes I look at each of them and say nothing. I just look at them, these little relatives, and I wonder about the joys and storms each will face as their lives unfold into tomorrow. Already each owns real estate within my heart. Each makes me laugh, love, play and worry in ways I have not known before. It brings me back to the hours when I first became a father all those years ago, wondering how I would measure up, not just as a father, but as a dad.

I am rich, very rich, in daughters.
My better half, Betty Ann!

These days whenever one of our granddaughters greets me, she always says “Hello grandfather.”  To the rest, I am grampa or grampy. To my daughters I am forever their dad which is a title I will never relinquish. And to myself, when I scan the room with my whole family sitting about, I am husband, father, dad and grandfather on every day. But on this Father’s Day, I am filled with joy and with a prayer of very deep gratitude for what has become a family complete.

Text and photos by K.Lee

A Snow Row Race for the Ages

We are the Gray Buzzards rowing team and have been together long enough to know why we’re called the Gray Buzzards. We are also glad to report that the Snow Row 2017 is now in the books. And what a race it was! Actually, with winds blowing 20 and gusting to 30 knots, it felt like less of a race and more like surviving an obstacle course. We would learn, soon after the race was over, that one boat carrying two rowers flipped over just yards from our start on the beach, and two others were blown so far off course that the Coast Guard towed them back to port. It truly was A Snow Row Race for the ages.


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Keeping things Positive

Keeping things positive.
A great example of reframing!

Keeping things positive is a response to a question about how I deal with all the negative messaging we receive every day. I mentioned to an online friend that I had signed up for a twenty-one day online retreat (I don’t know why they call it that, it’s really a mini-course.) about reframing negative messages at Spirituality and Practice.

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