An Empty Dock at Dusk


Satchel Paige has been credited with warning, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,”

I did it anyway.

I surveyed my “lookback,” prepared for me by a social network algorithm that uses snippets of members’ internet pasts.

The micro-show begins with a mosaic of thumbnail photographs from recent years.  I catch a flash of Brandeis blue, a glimpse of me leaning into my son’s graduation gown in a picture taken two months to the day after his father died.  Gathered mint silk peeks from a top frame; it is the curved hem of my youngest daughter’s prom dress, which Jim never got to see.  Above the frame she is beaming, beautiful, a young lady.

Cut-off segments of the mosaic show puppies’ upturned noses and white-tipped tails, rectangles of tree branches backlit by vivid orange and lavender sunsets.

The mosaic fades out and a single photograph takes it place.  On a June day in New York City, one of  my daughters is standing in front of one of her oil paintings in a gallery.  It is eighteen days before the day everything changed.

18, 17, 16 . . . .


Then a picture of an empty dock at dusk, steeped in late summer’s stark shadows.   No one but I knows the context.  It was August. My husband was sitting outside at Prescott Park, drinking juice and snacking, waiting for a Richard Thompson concert to begin.  A fanny back held the chemotherapy drugs still being pumped into his newly implanted port by labyrinthine tubing.  He wore sunglasses, a baseball cap, and the same soft orange cotton T-shirt he had worn the day he was diagnosed.  He smiled and enjoyed the night.  I wandered to hide the trickle of tears and, facing away from the crowd, took pictures of the gathering night.

I stare at my most popular status report: it is about a Father’s Day toast we made to Jim on a mountaintop.

From pictures I have shared, the mini-movie displays photographs of three of our children graduating without their dad, a favorite picture of us on our last vacation, and, mercifully, a panoply of puppy pictures: new life, new love.


Of course, I engage in time travel every single day.

Unlike the Trafalmadorians, however, I travel in only one direction, ceaselessly back, as a member of the Class of ’17 once wrote.

It seems I lack the ability to picture my own future, except in the limited sense that I have an idea what it will be like to be in my office tomorrow, or before a certain court, or in front of my classroom.

I can peek ahead in mundane matters.  Sometimes I accurately gauge when I am perilously close to being out of dog food or gas, and I occasionally fall on the correct side of a tuition payment’s due date.

But those tentative steps into the future are repeating patterns, things I can envision doing only because I’ve done them before.  For a reasonably imaginative person, I can’t seem any longer to venture beyond what I’ve already experienced.  I wonder if that’s a part of grief. When my husband was alive I had no trouble envisioning a future.  I could imagine our children going off to college and having lives and families of their own, and see us spending decades together in the phase of life that comes when children have grown.

All of that ground to a halt in the space of a few words.  From that moment, I could only see as far ahead as Jim’s death and, perhaps mercifully, could not imagine life beyond that for the rest of us.

Some people lead lives of hopeful, assured planning and aspiration.  Some of my best friends actually write down and daily survey their future goals.  I don’t.

The rest remains unwritten, and as yet unimaginable.  


January 2013 (c) SMG

Exactly one year ago, with considerable technical assistance from my daughter, I began the adventure of blogging.  I thought it might be a good way to organize my thoughts and keep a circle of family and friends enlightened as my children and I tried to navigate the first year after my husband Jim’s death.

I thought it might also enable me to share Jim’s story, and help keep him with all of us.  His unerring grace could be an example–perhaps, most of all, to me.

Along the way, I have been surprised and moved by responses from people we know and people we likely will never meet.  More than 900 readers have taken the time to leave comments on the first year’s posts.  Two of my five most frequent commenters are women I have never met, but I can say with certainty that I adore them and their writing and know we would be “real-life” friends.

I have been inspired by other bloggers’ stories and photographs and artwork, and enlightened by their perspectives.

My most-read post was not the one that was “Freshly Pressed”; it was an account of an event I never could have conceived of when I started the blog.

Blogging has brought me fun facts: in the past twelve months, people have dropped in from 95 different countries, including the Isle of Man, Panama, Finland, Luxembourg, Gabon, Djibouti and Morocco.  Today people have visited from four continents, and 14 countries are represented among this week’s readers.  In the last seven days, the second leading source of visitors was Trinidad and Tobago.  I have seen my posts translated into Arabic and Russian and Spanish and Japanese.

I have learned that people who type in the search term “live shagging” are likely looking for something very different than they get here: an account of Jim shagging flies on the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

Evidently Pablo Neruda’s poetry is very popular among my readers, as is the late and lonesome Solitario Jorge.

My name is the most common search term.   At first I was a bit unnerved at the frequency of searches which couple my given first and last name with “murder” and “murdered.”  I soon discovered that a notorious murderer shares my name.

The search terms “Freddy Krueger tombstone” and “biker gangs in Scotland” also somehow will get you to my posts–as will “weary of chickens,” “bad beagle blog,” “indigo autistic idiot savant syndrome,” and, “did albert einstein know what a quark was?”

My favorite search engine phrase is the amazingly elaborate one that included this snippet: “during consultation, the patient said that he is married to a fairy that he loves so much and that he can hear voices from space telling him that his daughter. . .” (My search engine page leaves me hanging at that; I wonder what this reader may have been looking for?). Continue reading “Blogiversary!”

What are the Odds?


Please give me a little leeway and try to get past the next paragraph.  I apologize, profoundly, in advance.

Before dawn, one of my beautiful rescue dogs relieved himself in the snow and made a perfect outline of a swan–the feathered back, the delicately curved beak, the bend of a graceful neck.  (I’ll spare you a photograph; some things, as my aunt once wrote, are best left to the haze of imagination.)

And it actually occurred to me to ask one of my children for a statistical assessment of the odds: what is the actual numerical probability that such a discharge would hit all those points on a plane coincidentally?  Because the only other option seems to be that my otherwise slightly special beagle is supremely artistically talented.  (Perhaps, like I, he is an idiot savant?) Continue reading “What are the Odds?”

Changing Seasons: Summer to Spring Segue

Fall  Edging In (c) SMG

My husband Jim’s diagnosis hit us along with summer’s pulverizing heat.  Coming out of the air-conditioned hospital to lean against a cement pillar and weep was like stepping through a portal onto the tarmac in San Cristobal.

For me the summer was a whirlwind: physicians, surgical procedures, hospitals, chemotherapy, pharmacies and prescriptions, paperwork, imaging and re-imaging.

It was exhaustion–not pain or nausea, nor even a side-effect that made drinking cold liquid feel like swallowing crushed glass–that most distressed my husband as he endured the worst of the treatment attempts: having to sleep for so long meant to him a day slipping through his fingers, among precious few seasons of such days. Continue reading “Changing Seasons: Summer to Spring Segue”

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