The Artist Known As Charlotte Has Left The Building

The call came in at 2:00 a.m. Charlotte had left this earthly plain. We left immediately to be with her until they took her away. For the last year or so we had supplied to Charlotte coloring books. Though she was having trouble identifying all the colors correctly because of her cataracts, she was an artist. In fact she was quite talented. After giving her written labels she could read the names of the colors she went crazy. She did shading, blending and color choices with her colored pencils that would more than bring these scenes to life. She had kept this talent hidden all her life. She focused on family and faith over her personal likes. Oh how I wish she could have expressed herself more.

Her father was a baker and she acquired those skills. Charlotte and my wife had a cake business on the North Shore in Chicago. Their business was quite successful and most of the private country clubs would only recommend them. Even Oprah’s producers would commission cakes from them for different events. They were also sculpting cakes into people, products and even buildings well before the “Cake Boss” came around.

So my friends if you have any artistic talent at all please share it, spread your spirit your joy to inspire others.

Go To The Light Charlotte

I had walked these hallways before. They seem like a mile long in different directions with bright fluorescent lighting, shiny vinyl flooring and handrails on both sides. In fact I have spent years volunteering in what I called this house of death. It’s been a few years since I was here but watching death come day after day can take a lot out of you. The tears that flowed for so many out of these eye’s had run dry. Now I was here to watch death take another family member of mine. I came to the room which was plain as can be, one single twin bed, two chairs, a dresser and hospital bed eating table. 

As I sat down you could see the bright blue sky with small puffy clouds that make shapes and animals that you can recognize through the closed shade. For thirty eight years the woman who lay in front of me has been my mother in-law. Now less than 75 pounds, her arthritic bony fingers and skeletal body, barely resembled the women who put family first above all else. When I married my wife it really became an unusual arrangement. Charlotte, my mother in-law moved in with us and Charlotte’s mother “Grandma Claire” also joined us. No man had ever eaten as well as I had over these years. I joke they made me the man I am today as I proudly rub my what people would call a beer belly. But in my case it was definitely a culinary explosion in my belly as I am not a friend of beer or alcohol for that matter.

For years people have said to me that living with all these women I must have an unbelievable amount of patience. Truth be told, I have very little patience. I want to make things happen, I want results and it frustrates me when it doesn’t happen. In this particular instance I am impatient for death to come and take her. She’s in pain and has been for a while. I want nothing more than to relieve her of that pain. I know there are a number of friends and relatives waiting for her on the other side. You can’t be selfish at a time like this. The tears are flowing again and I can’t turn off the faucet. But this time I believe she is going straight to the light and into welcoming arms. Thank you Charlotte, thank you for being the woman that you are.

My Race To The Grave

I guess some people might say I had a death wish with the way I have let myself go. I’ve talked about my Coca Cola addiction for years but I haven’t let it go. I’ve cut it down from 8-10 cokes a day to maybe one every other day or so. My weight has crept up steadily for years. In fact for the last 18 years being tied to a desk and becoming sedentary in my daily life has helped further that issue. As they say if you don’t use it you lose it. My legs at one time were “strong as bull” now they just about fall apart carrying the load. So what happens, two blood clots in the leg and multiple embolisms (5) in my lungs. Anyone of them could kill me. I was lucky they were very small and the doctor said I was a lucky SOB as if they were any bigger I would be dead or in the operating room right now. My thyroid is also off, which has prevented me from losing weight and has other impacts on my health. Arthritis has also come into my life and has made itself home in my knees, hips and my C4 vertebrae where it is pressing on several nerves and or blood vessels making me dizzy in the head.

Weight issues have always been an issue with my siblings and myself. I believe my father passed that lovely gene down to us. Our mother has fared well in the gene department regarding weight. So my dear sisters and friends (Todd) apparently we have been in a race to see who can get to the grave the soonest. I do plan on losing this race. I hope you join me in this attempt to stop the race. Apparently it starts with one step at a time in the opposite direction. A moving target is harder to hit. I guess I will have to let my Apple Watch yell at me every so many minutes to get up and move (I was tired of that). I’ve gotten a head start, 14 lbs. down so far in the last two weeks on the lovely cardiac diet. This meat and potatoes guy has actually eaten some vegetables and salad. But let Mom know I will still not eat those cold yellow wax beans with the cream sauce.

My Brother

To me, Mark has always been kind of a free spirit. As a young man he displayed this free spirit by having an old square box post office truck with a mattress in the back as his main transportation. Not the typical vehicle that a teenager would have to impress the ladies or for that matter be very inconspicuous to the local police. He then liked to ride his 1300cc Kawasaki motorcycle down the Edens Expressway in Chicago going 100 miles and hour in the rain and probably without a helmet.

He loved sailing and was on a boat as often as he could. One summer he even sailed a boat all the way down the Mississippi into the gulf and over to the Florida Keys. He loved his adventures. I’m told now, that that they are restricting access to the Galapgos Islands as many of the huge turtles and many other species of plant and animal life are going extinct.  Mark was lucky to spend time there with his father and experience the formidable population that many people may never get to see.

Mark’s father, Walter was a corporate attorney and was a bit challenged in raising Mark and decided Mark needed to have some hard work, so he sent him off the mountains of Columbia in South America to build a fish hatchery for a good friend that lived there. It was probably the perfect adventure for him. Learning how to avoid the drug lords, the revolutionaries and the animal life that could kill you was something he adapted to well.

He came back to Chicago and then went into construction, working on building high rise office buildings downtown. Being a laborer down in the pits of mud wasn’t the kind of adventure he needed though despite the money that was good. It gave him the ability to learn about wines and what the difference was between a couple of hundred dollar bottle of nectar and a cheap bottle of wine. If he could of, his next adventure would of been creating a vineyard.

The direction his life took next was unexpected. He began his life in North Carolina. He got married had two kids, which were his most proud events in his life. But as life goes on, you deal with twists and turns you don’t expect. Marriages don’t always last and children grow up to begin their own lives. Mark’s dreams and adventures were long gone and his health was taking it’s toll. Like so many other people in America or for that matter the world, Mark became homeless. But he liked nature and if he had his way he would of been happy living in the forests of North Carolina. He still had skills though, and despite his handicaps he still had his humor and still could make friends and with the help of others he survived for the last two years. No, it wasn’t perfect  but he was happy. He had that free spirit in him when he was feeding his pet squirrel that had friended him and then he was going to jump in a  cool spring in the river and watch the world go by.  He would then ask me what I was doing and he would laugh as I told him I was chained to my desk at work  slaving away for the man.

About a month ago Mark called me and was crying. He said he had seen the most precious thing he had ever seen in all of his adventures. He got to see his grand daughter via facetime over the internet for the first time. He loved his children more than anything in life and despite all that can come with relationships with our families he had what most parents call unconditional love for his kids. For him that’s all that mattered and it was enough.

Not being the free spirit that my brother in law Mark was, our relationship was disconnected. I was lucky enough to have him as a brother however, my compassion for him and my unconditional love for this brother took over and I thank god that he went so quickly and that his last few months he had a good life. I’ll miss you my brother save a seat for me with you and Walter.

One Man’s Breast Cancer Scare

I believe, most men in their own mind, think they are still 20 something in age and are still slim and trim and quite the catch. I do wear a lot of black, hence a slimming affect reinforcing that image in my own mind. We also do not see ourselves as weak but strong and silent and masculine beings.

Today, those feelings were strong as I entered the Burrell Breast Care Center to have a mammogram and an ultrasound. I wanted to be strong, to avoid those thoughts of what could be happening. You see two years ago I found a small lump on my right side below my armpit. My doctor did take an x-ray but came back with it’s just a fatty deposit nothing to worry about. Today that deposit has grown to more than double its size. Hence the concern on my part and a trip to the Breast Care Center to relieve any fears. Just because my own weight has increased why would I correlate that into the fatty deposit growing exponentially also?

So they call my name and I turn around and there is Ms. Radiology 2020 who happens to be in maybe late forty’s or fifty’s. But looks fantastic and, in goes the stomach, the slouch straightens up. In my mind, she’s looking at least a hot forty-something hunk of a man. I also hope she is looking at me through rose-colored glasses. I discover that I am going to have a mammogram. Now us men are absolutely clueless about this procedure but have heard the complaints from women about the pancake machine. Of course, this doesn’t deter me, us male “gods” do not have pancakes to flatten, our chests are flat and strong. All I know is this beautiful woman is about to manhandle me and there is nothing to be frightened about. (Begin playing Def Leopard’s song “Pour Some Sugar On Me”)

I now humbly apologize to all women out there for my stupid male brain and it’s stupid thoughts about what you have gone through. Ms. Radiology is a masochist and is about to torture me as a contortionist.  She was trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I’m surprised she didn’t bring my leg up over my head so my hips would somehow lean me in more as she took her pictures which I’m sure will be posted today at

After she had her way with me she left me alone to contemplate all the wrongs I have dreamed and thought about women over the years. Father Mike, I will be at the confessional tonight at 5 and I’m ready for my penance of 5 Hail Mary’s and 4 Our Fathers.

I was told to expect the Doctor in a few minutes but then came another technician who stated she was going to perform my ultrasound test. All I could think about was, what was, she going to do with all that lube with my back to her. Was she friends with Ms. Radiologist? Was she a man-hater, was I to be punished for all of man’s sins against womanhood?

I was spared the onslaught and curled up into the fetal position as she performed the test. I would have to wait there half exposed with gooey lube all over my side. The doctor never even showed himself, he must be locked up somewhere forced to look at these images of his fellow man all day for his own sins.

I was informed that I am just a disgusting big ball of fat example of a man and to remove myself from these premises and to reflect on the suffering that man has imposed on women. I then proceeded to dress in my slimming black shirt and black pants and my Johnny Cash look and mosey out of there hoping they wouldn’t see the real me.