20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers


Cleaning House

Lung cancer claimed my father almost four
years back. My husband, brother, sis-is-law
and I then faced the agonizing, raw
job: Empty out the house. This, quite the chore,

as he had seven thousand records, books
too numerous to count, woodcuts and prints
and lithographs that numbered high. What hints
would help us in this cleaning of the nooks

and rooms where all of it was stored? My job?
His study. His large desk stood in the middle,
with all the papers in its drawers a riddle
I’d solve. Then, shelves and shelves, a crowded mob

of books, newspapers, magazines and more.
Upon the windowsill each reference book
stood tall and at the ready for his look.
A cabinet, like mini-Staples store,

held every kind of paper, clip, or glue,
yes, staplers, rulers, paper punch and ink,
in duplicate, so organized I think
that Office Depot could have shopped there too.

His bookcases held all his published works,
set carefully in alphabetic line.
I stood before them, thought of all the time
he spent composing. Literacy lurks.

This was my thought as I sat down. He wrote
for hours here in this very room where now
I sit alone without my teacher. How
will I thank him for his instruction?

to self: Say thank you when you can. You may
not have the opportunity again.
I learned this from my mother way back when,
but needed practice so I could obey.


I’m Glad

This morning something came back to me which I would like to share. You know, sometimes we get clogged up with negative thoughts or we concentrate on what’s not so great in our lives. But this was a moment of sweetness, and looking back, I will always be glad that I did it.

My father died three years ago. He had lung cancer that had metastasized from the base of tongue, and had many issues with eating and swallowing. He lived his last year in an adult care home. As he lived in Tucson, Arizona and I live in Michigan, we talked on the phone daily, but our visits had to be spaced out.

On the occasion of his 89th birthday (he died three months short of 90), I wanted to fly out again. My husband, always accommodating, agreed. So I went shopping. I bought books that I thought he would enjoy, wrapping paper that I thought was cheery (no wrapped presents on the plane), the perfect cards, a framed picture of my brother and me, and other small things for him that would decorate his room. I even bought a cool picture frame that would eventually hold a photo of his beloved German Shepherd whom he’d had to give up. When we arrived I also bought a colorful Happy Birthday balloon.

I’d talked with the owner of the home, and she and I planned this out to a T. She would walk into his room, presumably to check on his feeding tube (which she did several times a day), and my husband and I were to stand in the door quietly. His recliner faced away from the door.

You see, this was a surprise visit.

A. said, “Hello, N. Let me take a look at that tube.” And then she turned toward the door and nodded to us.

She backed away as we approached his chair. My husband was behind me. My father didn’t see me, as he was involved watching CNN.

“Happy birthday, Dad,” I said as I came into his view.

And the next moments were priceless. It was the classic double take.


“Hi, Dad,” I said with as much equanimity as I could muster as I hugged him and tousled his white hair.

“What, uh, how did you get here?”

“Oh, American Airlines did a pretty good job of that!”

He just kept staring at me, as if he couldn’t quite believe that we were really there, that we would do such a thing. As I handed him the birthday balloon, piled the gifts into his lap, and started clicking pictures, I noticed little tears glistening in his eyes.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

(Four years later I can still see his surprised face, hear the nuances of his words, and feel the emotion of the time.)



Go Back…

Are  you still there, deep below the  layers

Physically changes barring your spirit from emerging

Pain spreading through your body like fire

Trickling over healthy muscles and engulfing them

Doctors unsure, questioning their values, morals

Where is the quality of life, where is the comfort

I see nothing but starvation, dehydration and emaciation

Your eyes when I look into them make it all real

The future without you beside me,

I want to go back, I just want to turn around and go back

To see that man again with the strength, purpose in his walk

To feel secure, safe,

Not alone.



Wearied by this gnawing at my mind,

I am holding onto  memories like treasure.

The chain of disease grows link by link,

Forging ahead, pushing, pulling, still hoping.

Draining the strength from my body,

So tired, battling day after day.

Pulling me into a mire of darkness,

Looking for hope, strength, light.

Fear wrapping its fingers around me,

The cold wet grip that tightens and takes your breath,

Like a snake capturing its prey.

A small spark still lingers, still exists,

In the darkness a light begins to grow.

To believe, to hope, to know,

That there is a chance.



A note about this poem,

My husband was diagnosed in January 2012 with non small cell lung cancer stage 3.  It has been a tremendous battle so far and what he has endured this far is beyond belief.  He has lost almost 80 pounds, he was not a big man, and can no longer eat or drink.  So this poem is written from his perspective.  To those with cancer, you are my hero.  What you go through is horrendous.  Never mind the disease, the treatments alone are torture and those are supposed to help you get better.   It is a journey not for the weak.




This Disease is Killing Us…..


Somedays my thoughts are inspired by the struggle with lung cancer attacking our family other days it’s the memory of infidelity and the impact it left. One day I just want to write about where I’m heading finally…

Originally posted on Can you hear me whisper...:

the pain stirs deep in my soul

Watching you agonize over choices

This horrid disease casts a shadow

Everything is dull grey, lifeless

I force a smile hoping its enough

Maybe my strength you’ll need

I try some light conversation

But you only reject me once again

Our love , our family, our home  is gone

An ego’s debt no doubt

When the storm was strongest 

We should have held tightest

And though the outcome be the same

We would have had each other 

To comfort, care and lean upon

For richer, poorer, in sickness and health.

The vows made now seem empty

Just words but void of meaning

The only truth between us left

Is until death we part


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