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Goodbye, Ron.



My favorite picture of my dad, farm boy to the core and grinning from ear to ear.  Once he found out I liked the overalls, he wore them every time he visited me.

But last time we visited… call it a premonition, call it whatever you like, it was the first time we cried when saying goodbye.  We both knew we’d never see each other in person again.  Neither of us could say it.   But we knew.

About a year and a half later, they diagnosed him with cancer that had metastasized pretty much everywhere, to the point they couldn’t find the origin. I’d thought that you could do tests for that, but apparently not always.  They gave him 3 months to live in May.  He died November 12th, at 10:06 pm.  He was at home, holding my mother’s hand, not in any pain, and she gave him permission to let go.  And he just vanished.

He would have been 73 later that year, outliving almost all of his male relatives, who tended to die of unexpected heart problems between the ages of 45 and 65.

I dealt with my feelings around his imminent death by writing a whole lot of poetry, much of which is on my poetry blog.  My mother wrote a poem too, after he died.  Here is my mother’s poem, used with permission, copyright (c) 2014 Anna Baggs:

50 years 5 months 10 days How can I say they were not enough
when they were filled with so many adventures
so many plans realized
so many obstacles overcome
so many joys bubbling up in our days together
so many surprises unwrapped
so many special days celebrated
so many ideas nurtured to fruition
so much support for individual dreams
so many near misses averted
so many rough patches gotten through
so many problems overcome
so many hugs and kisses planted
so much love grown a heart nearly bursts to hold it all
so many laughs shared they echo inside me like a brook’s water over rounded stones
so much music and well worn books shared
so many pets loved and incorporated into our family
so much personal and professional growth fostered
In sickness and in health we supported one another
Until death do us part. And here is the surprise I find…
Death does not separate that which has grown together
and Love is forever and reaches through time in both directions
Bending back in our memories and forward in our hearts and actions.
No parting of spirits here….You will be in my heart forever….
Rest In Peace my best friend forever, Rest In Peace.

My parents in front of their home in the California Siskiyou mountains, with their dog Daisy.

My parents in front of their home in the California Siskiyou mountains, with their dog Daisy.

My father didn’t want a funeral. He wanted a simple burial in a pine box in a cemetery in the middle of the woods in the mountains he lived in and loved so much. He got to pick out his casket (known thereafter as “the pine box”) and grave (known thereafter as “the campsite”, and decorated in red for visibility like his real campsites were). He said the graveyard was so beautiful and peaceful, he didn’t want to leave. Nobody exactly said so, but I’m sure everyone including him was thinking “Soon, too soon, you won’t have to.” :-(

He read my poetry blog a lot. He said he got to know all kinds of things about me that he’d never known before. I think the tables have turned, but more on that later.

I had been trying to learn to write concisely, and that has included writing haiku and tanka (as well as things with the same basic format as haiku and tanka, but not quite the right subject matter).

He didn’t want a funeral, just a burial.

Four old men and my dad's pine box.

Four old men and my dad’s pine box.

They dug a hole in the ground, lowered the pine box in, and my mom threw in five daisies from their garden, one for every decade of their marriage.

Daisies tied together with red ribbon.

Daisies tied together with red ribbon.

Then she read some prepared words, including three of my tanka:

When the box was in the ground everyone gathered around the grave. I said I wanted to say a few words and repeat them here.

“We his family commit Ron’s body to the ground. 

Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

May Goodness bless him and keep him.

May Love absorb him and its grace give him peace.”

I will now read three tankas written by our daughter Amelia.”





Spectrolite Eulogy

spectrolite looks brown
but shines rainbow colors when
the light hits it right

you were plain brown rock with
hidden colors no one saw

Goodbye Father

I dropped a rock
into the world’s deepest lake
turned and walked away

until I dropped that rock
never had I said goodbye

Love and the Ocean

just one drop of rain
fell into the wide ocean
dissolved in the sea

Ron dissolved into Love
where Love is, so too is Ron

I looked up then to find that every man had tears in his eyes and [name redacted for privacy] was openly weeping.

Your words Amelia, while written and read for your father had profound effect on grown men seasoned by war.  Never under estimate how words can touch a heart.

I thanked all for coming and we all walked down together.  I was given yet another rock found three feet into Ron’s campsite.

 Kodiak and Daisy were in the car and together we drove to Happy Camp. Later coming back I saw [two of the men] on the hillside diligently shoveling in to fill up the grave.

They promised to leave a flat area on one side I think so I can come back with a chair whenever I want.  I am glad for that. There is a temporary marker there with his name and dates that will stay there until a permanent stone is designed and fashioned.

I felt your father would have approved of everything done today.

It was the simple burial he wanted. 

Thanks to each one of you his wishes were realized…

Heartfelt thanks, Mom”

My father knew he wouldn’t make it to the holidays, so he chose early, things to send to me:  His hat collection (hats were very important and meaningful to him).  A whole lot of what I’ve come to call “dad-shirts”.  Rocks from his rock collection.  A bag of treasures found around the farms and mountain homes he lived in as a child. And through all these things, plus some conversations we had very near the end (some of which involved us just staring at each other over Skype chat, not typing or saying a word), made me realize that he spoke my language all along, or rather that I spoke — inherited — his.  The things my mother has been sending me of his, all tie together to communicate deeper truths about who he was, than I ever thought I’d know.

He was also working on a novel when he died.  He was a good writer, far beter than me, it’s just like it came naturally to him after 70 years of not writing a thing. He took a lot of pride in the fact we were both working on novels at the same time, so now of course I have to finish mine.

Not many people knew my dad well.  Because he was on the spectrum, and because somehow his appearance evoked stereotypes that had nothing to do with his personality.  It took me a long time to realize that people outside the family had a very different view of him than people in the family did.  That’s what the spectrolite poem was about.

I’m going to miss him forever, but at the same time, as always, he doesn’t feel like he’s gone. Just feels like he’s in a part of time I don’t have direct access to.

The real scarf.


This is a scarf my mother bought me during the holidays last year:

Me with a red scarf around my neck, with fringe on the end

Pinned to it was a note saying “to wrap around your heart”.

I cried.

Because it was a reference to this comic I wrote, about my experiences with delirium.  The scarf in the comic comes to symbolize a connection to the deepest parts of reality, the only thing I had to hang onto when I was severely delirious and disoriented.  And in real life, I use this scarf the same way.  I wear it when my mind isn’t working quite right and I want to maintain my hold on reality.  Things like this are really useful.  And I cried when I first received the scarf, it was one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten.

It’s strange to walk places.


I walk to most places now.

It’s strange to not have to think about curb cuts, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, and making sure that the nurse at my doctor’s office moves everything out of the way so I can back my powerchair into the room without bashing into things.

It’s strange to have to hunt around for chairs to sit down in.  Because just because I can walk, doesn’t mean I can stand indefinitely.  In fact, standing has always been harder than walking.  My cane helps signal to people that if I need to sit down, I need to sit down fast.

I am sure that the way I look to people has changed, but I have not yet been able to work out how.  In the past, I remember how people’s estimation of my cognitive abilities went up once I was in a powerchair full-time.  Because apparently I have some quality of my appearance that usually makes people underestimate me cognitively, but if I’m in a wheelchair, they can blame that quality on a physical impairment.  Now that I’m out of the chair, I wonder if I’ll be getting treated like a two-year-old more often again.  Or if enough has changed, that that won’t happen either.

I may be walking places, but my identity has not caught up with the idea of being a walking person.  I still imagine that I’m in a wheelchair.  Of course, I’m not fully out of the wheelchair, either.  I still use wheelchairs for distances I can’t manage yet.  But when I do walk, I still somehow imagine that I’m in a wheelchair, and I’m always surprised to find that I’m not.  Everything looks different when I walk, it’s all viewed from a different angle in more ways than one.  I’m still not used to it.

It’s not just a matter of identity, it’s a matter of perspective.  Literally the angles are different.  The places I can go are different.  The expectations I get from others are different, and not always what you’d expect.

And I feel like I haven’t quite caught up yet.

I also feel like very little about me has actually changed, and yet other people see a huge change because the categories of full time power chair user and person who walks with a cane and may sometimes use a manual wheelchair are so different in their minds. The equipment you use becomes how they see you, even other disabled people do this.

Being tired is not the same as fatigue.


Being tired, even being exhausted, is not the same as the kind of fatigue that people with chronic illnesses are dealing with day to day. And I knew this, intellectually. But after going on steroids to treat adrenal insufficiency, and getting some stamina back, it’s like a revelation.

I haven’t really had much in the way of clinical fatigue since I got on steroids. I only feel it on my bad days, and my bad days aren’t all that bad compared to how they used to be.

I do get tired. I get exhausted. But even at my most exhausted it’s not the same.

Fatigue, when talking about in a medical sense, is more than exhaustion. It’s a sense that everything is drained from your body. You don’t just feel tired, you feel sick. Your body doesn’t work right.

I wish I could just upload the feeling into people’s heads so they’d understand it’s not the same.

Like, take the feeling of clinical fatigue, wrap it in a package, and hand it to all the people who think that chronically ill people are just lazy.

And then take the feeling of ordinary tiredness without clinical fatigue, wrap that up in a package, and hand it out to people with chronic illness so they’ll remember that they’re not just lazy or tired.

Because that’s so hard to remember in the thick of things. It’s easy to think that you’re only dealing with the kind of tiredness everyone else gets. It’s easy to start believing that you’re just not trying hard enough.

But if you ever get the chance to try a treatment that works, and works big time, and alleviates a good chunk of that fatigue. Then it’s crystal clear that if anything you were working harder than most people do, and for less results.

Because that’s what keeps coming back to me. So many things are so easy now. I was working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, and getting nowhere. And now I’m barely working at all in comparison, and I’m improving every day.

So this understanding is important for healthy people because they often expect too much of us. But it’s also important for sick people because we expect too much of ourselves.

The way a cat loves.


[Written the same day as my previous post.]

I love the way a cat loves. When she takes every blank place my memory won’t fill in. And she sits at the center. In a big bold cattish way. And fills in all the blankness with layers and layers of catness. And somehow curls up in my arms, curls around my whole mind, at the same time, keeping everything in. Her love replaces blankness with catness and terror with love and sobbing with purring and I love her for all of it. And loving her back makes a circle.

Don’t ask, I can’t tell, I can’t even explain.


[Originally written on October 17, 2012, after a hospitalization for pneumonia and gastroparesis, in which I experienced severe delirium for five weeks. This was my first attempt to explain what I was going through. It was the basis for part of the story in my comic.]

She skated towards me wearing a red winter scarf. My feet were frozen to the ground. She waved her scarf in the air from a distance. It was the only thing with color in sight. Then it flew through the air and landed in my hands.

I clutched the scarf tight. I didn’t see but felt her fall. I didn’t see but felt life struggle to maintain itself, and fail. I didn’t understand. I never understood. I couldn’t make sense of anything anymore.

I never let go of the scarf. I unzipped myself and wrapped it around my heart. To keep everything warm when nothing was certain. And then I cried until I thought I would never stop.

And I’ve tried to hide what is gone. But I’m not sure if it fools anyone. There are places we used to go, things I used to do, and they seem as dead as she is. Only sometimes I feel something squeeze my heart. And things pop into focus once again, in color.

I can’t tell you all of my wishes, because they are all in code. I can’t tell you what I can’t do anymore. It’s just one more room in the building, left blank and unexplored. I wish I was known for who I was and not for what I did. I can’t tell you what I’ve lost or what I’ve gained.

I can still see more than people want for me to see. I can still feel things deeper than people expect. What I can’t understand, I still can’t understand, only more. I still want things that can’t be named. I still can’t tell you any other way than this here, right now. What stays, what shifts, what’s changed.

If you wanted something different, I can’t help it. This is what you get. If you don’t understand, maybe it’s not here for understanding. I’m just exhausted, and didn’t have the energy to tell you the normal way. So I took what I had and I went where I could. And this is what you get.

Don’t tell me what I should have said. Chances are, I couldn’t. This is brain damage we’re talking about. It isn’t convenient. It doesn’t instantly vanish. If I could only tell you a tenth of it.

It’s hard to look around and see that nearly everything I used to pay attention to, is impossible to understand. It’s hard to know I can’t say anything unless it follows a particular pattern, like this does. I couldn’t say this part without all the rest before it. All the rest. Not something else. Something acceptable.

I’m scared and I couldn’t tell you why. It’s winter and the wind is blowing hair in my face. I’m glad I have the scarf around my heart. Otherwise I’d get lost in all the snow. Everything used to be familiar. Now there’s so much snow I can’t identify anything. Or not much of anything.

Please, something be familiar. Something be unfrozen. Something be other than white. I feel tiny, and I’m shaking, and I don’t remember anything. Not what I just said, not that you’re alive. In here, I don’t know you. I don’t know me. I don’t know anything.

But it always fades back. And there’s always more. And I always find myself writing this. To you. To who? To me. To they. I don’t know. All I know is I couldn’t have written this any other way. And maybe someone can even figure out what I meant. Because it’s in there. If you look in the right places, and with the right eye for the reality of one experience or another.

I am through, so I hope, sitting up all night with neon pink insects eating my eyelashes. Lying in a sunlit room with parts of me flying into the sky and back again. Night after night trying to avoid being flattened into a grid pattern and dissolved. In lots of pain. With lots of nausea. And I hope never to visit that realm again. A lioness carried me out.

Not that anyone noticed. They come in and change your IV bag and the hours between are left for you to lie still and drift into bizarre hallucinatory worlds that always have an undercurrent of hell on earth to them. They don’t check you for it. That’d take time. So of course they’re blindsided by my paranoia and then, after that was gone, sliding into the blank white snow everywhere. They only noticed what affected them.

I’m out. But it’s not over. And I wish I could tell you the things I can’t say or understand. But they’re just lost. And I get scared if they’re ever coming back. And this was the only way to tell you. So don’t ask it to be less roundabout or full of things that didn’t literally happen. Because right now that’s one thing I can’t do, can’t do at all. Don’t call this creative writing it’s the only damn writing I have at all this moment. And what I’ve done hurts like blinding colors in my eyes instead of a scarf warming my heart. If she’s dead or asleep, I can’t tell you, don’t know, but it hurts.

Trendie Tubies


[A makeshift clothes line made by tying yarn up on a bookshelf. Clipped to it are three cloth circles. One is a yellow cat on a black background, another is light brown owls on a light green background, and the last is blue flowers on a white background.]

I don't normally advertise products here, but I thought anyone using a feeding tube might be interested in these things. They are called Trendie Tubies. They are absorbent cloth pads, in a variety of styles, designed to be used around the opening of your feeding tube once it's healed enough to stop needing the kind of dressings you might need right after the surgery.

I absolutely love them. They're absorbent, they're comfortable, they don't feel anything as awful as having dressings taped to your skin. They're very soft. And they have all kinds of neat designs. My favorite is the owls. Here is a picture of what they look like when they're being used:

[Photo of a Trendie Tubies thing with blue flowers, on a GJ tube over light skin with blue clothes surrounding it.]

They have a little Velcro thing you can't see, so they can fit around all different sizes and kinds of tubes.

Here's what their About page says, so I don't end up paraphrasing it:

Trendie Tubies Accessories are hand crafted by a Mother-Daughter Duo.

All items are handcrafted and not mass produced so each item is unique and will not be uniform.

Trendie Tubies are a comfortable & absorbent machine washable pad that helps with the leakage that is common with G-tubes,

J-tubes and GJ-tubes. They work for both button tubes and peg tubes and even trach's!

Each Trendie Tubie Accessory is approximately 2 3/4 inches round and made up of 3 layers of fabric sewn together.

-The top layer is a soft flannel with a cute design of your choice.

-The middle layer is cotton terry cloth to absorb any moisture and leakage.

-The bottom layer is fleece for a soft comfortable feeling next to the skin preventing irritation and granulation tissue.

-They have a small Velcro tab for easy closure and are double zig-zag stitched to minimize fraying edges.

All materials have been pre-washed.

Allergy Alert – We have an extended family of dogs, cats & horses…be aware just in case allergies are a concern.

We strive for 100% customer satisfaction.Your comments & feedback are always appreciated.

Here's a link to the Trendie Tubies website, where you can buy them.

I bought one for every day of the week. Three owls, two cats, two flowers. I can't recommend them highly enough. And I'm posting this because, as far as I know, most people haven't heard of things like this. The VNA wanted me using gauze dressings the rest of my life, which I really didn't want. They say they're machine washable but we've been hand washing them because it's more convenient, then hanging them up on the bookcase to dry.