When I was a coed at Eastern Michigan University, a group of my dorm mates selected as a service project, to visit prisoners at the Ypsilanti State Prison. It is classified as a maximum security facility. My dorm was an all girls dorm. Most of the young woman were eighteen to twenty. We had a romantic notion of having a relationship with a prisoner. What we got was a life learning experience.
A prison bus picked us up at the dorm for the drive to the prison. The inside of the bus was cleaned but had seats that were well worn with several ripped cushions. The windows did not operate but were covered by metal mesh . Before entering the bus, a guard checked each girl’s purse looking for contra band and items. Personal possessions were placed in a lock box.
“Your purses and personal items will be returned on the return trip.”
Many of the ladies nervously looked around, as we were led , single file, into the welcome center for visitors.
Two female guards patted down each person with professional detachment. The contents of our pockets were scrutinized before allowing us to proceed into the prison. Many of our items were placed in labeled bags to be returned upon our departure. We were left with pencils and scraps of paper. Finally we entered a multipurpose room sporting basketball hoops and heavy tables and chairs. There was a punch bowl with paper cups and a tray of cookies with napkins. Looking around we wondered where were the prisoners?
A door on the opposite wall opened. A line of young men entered ringed by armed guards. They seemed as scared as I felt. One guard read from a sheet the rules for the dance.
“Ladies sit at the tables. You will be asked by an inmate if you wish to dance or talk. You may refuse. Select only one inmate, he will be your partner for the evening.”
Nervously, the two groups eyed each other. A tall black youth, sauntered to one of the tables to talk with a girl. Gradually more men crossed the middle ground to meet us.
I lowered my eyes to not make eye contact.
“Hi, my name is John, my friends call me Jack. Would like to dance?
I raised my eyes to see a slight man with red hair and freckles smiling at me.
Sure, I guess.”
I was swept away to the tunes by popular bands from the 1970s.
After the song ended, Jack led me to a table, where he got two cups of punch.
I was worried what would I say to this stranger, but Jack did most of the talking. Occasionally I answered with a nod or a quiet yes. I found that the men at the dance were doing time for white collar crimes. They earned the privilege to attend the dance for good behavior.
Looking around at the seated and dancing couples, I was struck how normal we looked, that is until I noticed the guards circulating around the dancers and the armed guards near the doors.
Jack was talking.
“What did you say?”
“I was wondering what you are majoring in?”
Music and theater,” I replied.
“What are you in for?”
Jack smiled,”I wrote some checks that were overdrawn.” “They didn’t come to the dance if we had a committed a violent crime.”
I realized I was way over my head here. I just wanted a little diversion for a Saturday night.
My growing alarm increased when a loud siren began. All the inmates were lined up on near the opposite wall. One by one, each man was searched. One man was lead away through the door.
When Jack returned, he was quiet.
“What that was all about? I inquired nervously.
Some fool tried to pass an item to one of you girls.” That will end the dance.”
Soon several guards entered and positioned themselves around the walls of the room.
“Men, ladies, please say your goodbyes. No touching.”
Jack slipped me a note and without a word he returned to the door on the outside wall.
I didn’t open the note until I was outside and in the prison bus.
” Here is my name and my address. I hope you will be my penpal.”
To this day, I am sorry for not ever writing to Jack. But I did learn about the desperation of prison and what it can do to one’s perceptions.
in a box
no escape from the truth
I am changed.
March 27, 2023
I can’t write about family without mentioning our four legged members of the household.
I recall two pets growing up. A large long haired tabby cat named Fluffy. I have a photo of her perched on the side of the bathtub watching as I bathed. Unlike most felines, Fluffy loved to play in water. She would swat at the soap bubbles. A floating translucent globe bitten breaking it’s escape.
A rescue white American Eskimo Spitz, he was named Koke after he wouldn’t respond to his first name, Panda He would bark at UPS trucks. Jumping three feet in the air, he was intimidating behind a closed glass door. I thought he had a bad encounter with a driver in his youth. He was afraid of thunder storms. he would hide in the shower under the shower chair. This was a dark and quiet place to hide. John had a an English Setter named Junior. John he referred to him as his son. Junior was also afraid of thunder. He would lay at the edge of the living room carpet and look longing at John in his easy chair. Slowly, Junior would creep towards John and safety. He would end up in John’s lap.
John’s tells stories of the collection of mixed breed mutts that were kept when he lived in Detroit.
My father in law, worked as a heavy equipment operator for the city. He had a soft heart for the stray dogs that would beg from the workers. Bringing many of them home, to my mother in law’s chagrin. The pack included Puddles and Poo, two labradors with little common sense. Two black and tans named Big face and little face. Little face would issue one large woof to alert the household to a visitor then he would lay down. His work was through.
There was a beagle referred to as Mike. Having grown up in the city streets, he had a bit of an attitude. But the most aggressive of the pack was Rex, a scrawny German Shepard. He had a fierce growl that scared many of the neighbors. No one messed with Rex.
There were many other dogs but they moved on before they became a part of the family.
When I visit local animal shelters, I remember the kindness of one man who adopted dogs from the Detroit streets.
by Carol Farnsworth
The city burned with turmoil.
Flames engulfed abandoned houses, leaving pets behind.
One man took pity, sharing his lunch with them.
They didn’t want to leave him.
He took them home to his inner city home.
They became the protecters of the home and family.
Isolating them from the burning world around then.
email@example.com March 20, 2023
I grew up one of five siblings.My father , an ex Marine, expected his sons to be able to take care of each other. They fought, competed and played hard. My oldest brother Bob, recalled a time that he was angry with his brother Mike and took a swing at him. Mike was the bigger and stronger of the two. Laughing he wrapped Bob in a bear hug.
“Whoa there ,!”
Bob had to calm down before Mike would release his hold.
Brother Craig was not immune to rough play. Once, when the boys were playing on the basement steps, Craig tumbled down to the bottom ,I never heard what happened but I suspect that a tussle occur and Craig being the youngest lost.
The dynamics of sibling interactions changed when I was added to the mix. We would play in our back yard in the evenings. Usually, the game was badminton, croquet or kickball. One evening one of us had the idea to have a tussle with Craig on Mikes shoulders and I on Bobs shoulders. We fought, trying to push our opponents off their perch. My mother, watching from the kitchen window came running out.
“Stop!, be careful of your sister!”
After that, it was assumed that the boys had to treat me differently. I tried to join in their play with boxing, baseball and shooting baskets but I was treated with caution. I was ,”the girl.”
After six more years, my youngest brother , Brian was born. There was almost sixteen years between the oldest and youngest siblings, almost a generation. Both of my parents were in their forties. They had relaxed their rules . My older brothers complained that Brian got away with many small discretions that would not be tolerated in the early years of childrearing.
Brian loved cars. He and Dad would drive down to the local Ford dealer to check the latest arrivals of new models.
Brian had a car to drive to high school while the rest of us had to use the second car occasionally.
I enjoyed having a younger brother tag along with my friends. It helped that my two best friends had no siblings and enjoyed the novelty of a baby brother. As we grew, we became close sharing many stories and adventures. When I needed a car, Brian scoured the local paper for the perfect car for me. He would show me several cars each week. Finally , he found a yellow Trans Am with white leather seats and black interior.
“I love it!”
I bought it. Brian promised to keep the car in good repair. The first summer, he and his friend John, had a accident crossing 8 Mile road and true to his word he and John worked to repair the car. while I used his station wagon to get to work.
Sadly ,my brother Mike had cancer several years ago and is with us only in memories. I have special stories about each of my siblings and growing up in a post war era.
“I’ll give you a push.”
I swung higher , wondering if the swing would go over the top.
Using a teeter totter with my brother, he jumps off.
I hit the ground and topple off.
I follow him as he crosses a creek on a log.
I lose my balance tumbling into the water.
Tough love but if I am threatened, I know he has my back.
Thats brotherly love.
firstname.lastname@example.org March13 2023
My Dad, lived just short of 99 years. In the last months/years of his life, He decided that He couldn’t give up his eating habits. His favorite place to shop for groceries was his local drug store. There he could pick up Better Made potato chips, Breyers Vanilla Ice Cream, peanuts and maple syrup, Goebel beer and fixing for a Manhattan drink. He had difficulty with swallowing, but Dad swore the alcohol helped him. His was his daily intake along with macaroni and cheese. Sometimes he added shrimp to the dish.
He was hard of hearing. His hearing aids were often plugged with wax. Pretending to hear a question, His favorite phrase,”Well… any ways.”” was used by Dad to steer the topic to one of his choosing. Because of his hearing facts of the stories were added, omitted or changed to fit the current memory and the story line. When the conversation took a turn or changed to a subject that Dad didn’t want to talk about, He would say well, any ways. This was his way of not agreeing with the speaker and starting a new story. My brother Brian would clean out Dad’s ears with peroxide and warm water. Even if his ears had been recently cleaned, dad wouldn’t try to understand a question that he didn’t agree with.
In his later years, I was a willing listener to his memories and stories. As one of my brothers once remarked,”There was the truth and then there was Dad’s story of the truth.”
He loved to talk of people and events in his life. Living through the Great Depression, serving as a Marine in WWII, to raising a family in the small town he grew up in, Bruce was a wealth of interesting facts. Some of them were true.
On his last Christmas, Dad wanted to give us his grandfather clock. He wanted to keep it in the family. We accepted the gift but never started it. The ticking was too loud in our small house. This past year, we presented to my nephew Jason and his fiancee Samantha. We full filled Dad’s wish to pass his clock to a family member. As I wind my own mantle clock, I recall Dad taking care to wind each of his fourteen clocks so he could hear every striking of the hours. I smile as I count the strikes in the middle of the night thinking of my Dad saying,”Well… anyways.”
The old man walks slowly to the mantle clock.
Reaching behind for the winding key,
inserting the key, he turns to the left five times.
Removing the key, he winds the second spring to the right.
Using his finger, he lightly taps the pendulum, starting the ticking.
Moving from room to room, he repeats the task.
As his father and grandfather before him, The ticking marks his life.
March 6th 2023
For years, my daughter Ruth and I would stand back to back to measure our height and see who was the taller. For years, I was inches taller as Ruth would stand on tip toes, wear thick soled shoes and pull on my arm to measure up.
Last week measured ourselves again. To my chagrin, I was the shorter one.
“Are you in heels?”
“No Mom, I am in stocking feet.”
I stretched but I was on the shorter end of the measuring. When did this happen?
“Mom, You have both hips replaced and you had a broken pelvis.”
I had noticed my pants were hanging over my shoes. I was shrinking!.. My old bones were brittle and broke easily. Each break shrank my my height. At one time, I was just shy of 5′ 7”. Using the measuring tape, Ruth reported I was a mere 5′ 3”. “Four inches!” how did this happen?
This was a wake up call to exercise and take my extra calcium. Remembering both my parents and grand parents, I vowed to keep my bones healthy. These old bones must serve me for a little longer.
“Them bones, them bones, them dry bones”
Hear the work of the Lord
Da head bone connected to da neck bone.
Da neck bone connected to da shoulder bone.
Da shoulder bone connected to da chest bone.
Da chest bone is connected to da rib bones.
Da rib bones connected to da back bone.
Da back bone connected to da hip bone
Da hip connected to da leg bone.
Da leg bone connected to da ankle bone.
Da ankle connected to da foot bone.
See the work of the Lord”
Old Negro Spiritual
my bones are old, dry.
Soft spacers between spinal are flatten.
bone rubs bone in the column.
I feel the rub.
I stretch and I am glad I can.
February 27, 2023
Most stories have a beginning, a middle and an ending. John came home from the rehab center on Tuesday afternoon. Tired and thin, He stood to give me a large hug.
“It’s good not to be tethered.”
“What do you mean?”
John smiled ,”I tried to leave the floor twice.”
I looked at the bracelet on his wrist. It was a tracking devise.
“How many times did you attempt to leave?”
Shrugging, he remarked,”Several, I lost count.”
He added,”I wanted to come home to you.”
I was happy to have him home, but worried he would have an adverse reaction to the new drug. I wondered if Ruth and I could handle an outburst. I witnessed two such outbursts in the center. I heard second hand about three others. Putting my trust in the doctors and my husband, I welcomed him home.
The first challenged was ordering and getting prescriptions filled. Ruth had changed drugs to Amazon pharmacy to have the drugs mailed to our home . The hospital sent the first bath to our local Meijer. Ruth had to drive to the store twice to fill all of the prescriptions.
The next task was to place the drugs in pill holders that were labeled morning and evening . Several of the pills were the same size and shape., making it it difficult for me to help.
Ruth sorted the pills, allowing me to feel the size and shape of each pill. After the initial thirty days, all of the prescriptions will be transferred to our
With Ruth’s assistance, I have a Shiptt account to order groceries and have them delivered to our front door. Working with the website, I can scroll through a list of groceries and select items we need.
On Monday, I will pay the housekeeper online. including a tip for good service.
We have friends and neighbors that are helping with snow removal and rolling the trash to the end of the drive. Quite a price to regain our independence. Thanks to all who helped us along this journey.
“I get by with a little help from my friends.” John Lennon
I call a friend to no to chat but to ask for some flour.
I ran out in the middle of making quiche.
I order a razor so John can shave safely.
Friends bring meals to augment our meals.
Many distant friends offer support and prayers for recovery.
I am grateful for the help from our family and friends.
email@example.com February 20, 2023
Going through my email, I am often struck by the minor complaints and worries that bloggers write about. Now as I reflect on the last few weeks and wonder what changes I will see in John as he heals, I am the one who will share.
John went through heart surgery to repair his valve, then the next day he had a series of surface strokes on both sides of his brain. Though I did therapy with stroke victims in my past professional life, and had my own experience recovering from a stroke, it did not prepare me for the emotional outbursts and mood swings that have affected John. There were days when I wanted to double check the room number to see if I had the correct person. As a wife, I have tried to take the brunt of the verbal abuse and anger.
Yesterday, John should have expected Ruth and I at lunch time. Ruth knocked at the door as John was wrapping a call.
“I guess the marriage is over.” John spoke into the phone. As we left the room, my daughter burst into tears. I wrapped my arms around her to comfort her the best that I could.
“But mom, I saw the angry facial expression he had.” What could I say? I could only hear the inflection and the harsh dismissal from his room. We stopped at the nurse’s station to leave the clothes and treats. Glancing at her phone Ruth read aloud
“You can come back but leave your mom outside.” I spent the time checking my email and Ruth returned.
“Dad thinks that you are challenging his perspective and his therapy.” I had asked several questions, but only to clarify what was said and to make sure that I heard correctly. A kindly doctor then approached, introducing himself.
“I am Dr. Harriss. I think your husband had a bad reaction to one of his medications and that drug is still in his system affecting his moods” He then suggested that I could take a break from visiting John for a day or so. I had visited for the last seventeen days in a row. So today I am staying home and wondering how Ruth’s visit is going. I guess I will find out soon enough.
I am reminded of the play,”Our Town”by Wilder
In the scene at the funeral, Emily Wilder takes her place among the dead. She longs to relive a day.
The dead warn her to pick a normal day. She picks her twelfth birthday.
Trying to get the attention of her mother and her father. The day spins too rapidly.
Finally Emily asks to return to the grave. She laments,
“The living don’t see all the lost moments, how wonderful life is.”
I am reminded to be mindful for each day I am given. I hope the same for you.
firstname.lastname@example.org February 13, 2023
Stress will produce strange reactions in a person’s body. Some people break out in hives. Others have memory lapses. Still others have a meltdown. I have butterfingers.
At first I thought my hand was weak from overuse and fatigue. In the past week, I have dropped several items. The first incident occurred drinking my evening tea. The ringing phone startled me. I dropped my favorite mug. I was tired and ready to go to bed. Instead, I found the broom and dustpan to start the cleanup. A blind person listens to the sound of the broken pieces swept into the pan. Working in a clockwise pattern, I start to sweep the room from the outside to the interior. Broken ceramic travels a distance on a tile floor. Hearing the crunch of pottery underfoot, I would back up to clean farther. Gradually, I cornered most of the larger pieces. Finding several smaller slivers of the porcelain stuck to the bottom of my slippers, I thought “What can I do?”
My tired brain came up with a solution: let the Roomba vacuum the area. I pushed the button after closing most of the rooms not affected. After removing my hearing aids, I went to bed.
In the morning, I found the kitchen free of most of the slivers of glass. Normally, I walk barefooted feeling the different surfaces with my feet. I congratulated myself on my problem solving abilities.
Two days later, I spilled a container of crackers on the kitchen floor. The crackers traveled to the far corners of the room. I picked up the larger pieces but had smaller pieces and salt to sweep. I turned to the Roomba to assist. Blocking the exits, I turned the robot loose to power clean the floor. After an hour, I pushed the button to signal the Roomba to return to the docking base.
Last evening, cleaning a kitchen cabinet, I spilled a small container of sugar. The top was loose and it dropped. This mess was smaller but it took time and the assistance of the Roomba to complete the task.
“What is wrong with me?”
Then it hit me. All of the incidents occurred when I was tired and ready for bed. I would not be able to sweep up the messes without assistance. The broken cup presented a safety challenge. I was glad I had the equipment to do the cleanup.
“What do other blind persons do?”
I vaguely recalled the housekeeping training at the rehab center. We were to clean our room and the bathroom. The room was square and had few pieces of furniture to clean around. My hearing loss made it difficult to hear the sweepings in the dustpan. My best solution is to sleep when I am tired and not over-stress myself.
Burning the cooked egg,
Utensils fly from my grasp.
Too many items on my mind.
Time to take a break.
Each person has a limit.
Realizing this is nothing new.
I turn to clean the stove.
Nearly touching the hot burner.
Gently I feel for the pan.
Edging the items from the stove.
Realizing I have to be careful.
Sight or not.
email@example.com February 6, 2023
Over the last year, I have been recovering from a stroke. I have experienced lapses in memory, word recall, and retrieving items. I will walk into a room then have no clue what I wanted. I retrace my steps to find the memory thread. To get items kept in a same drawer now on a shelf. My husband, John, recently had a stroke. He already had some short term memory issues. It makes life interesting.
Last week John had open heart surgery. Afterwards, the doctors kept him sedated to allow his heart to recover. I wonder if I will see more thought and memory issues as he recovers.
I stayed alone in my home while John had surgery. I had to be mindful what I was doing and where I was going in and around the house.
For example, I put on shoes with treads to feed the squirrels. The deck was slick with ice. Tossing the sunflower seeds over the porch’s edge, I returned to the safety of the kitchen. I will not try to make my way to the mailbox. One of my neighbors can be asked to bring me the mail.
Last evening, I made my way downstairs to the washer and dryer area. I found the water on one side of the washer was disconnected. Only the hot water was on. The level of the water was on the lowest setting. Playing with the knobs, I finally got the load washed. Bringing the wash upstairs was another problem. Balancing the basket several steps above my step, I rested the clothes and lifted the basket one step at a time.
My mental map of the house doesn’t match what I remember from a year ago, especially if a piece of furniture has been moved. Before going into the hospital, John decided to move his La-Z-Boy and couch in the front room. I travel around the room daily to recall where items are now located.
After pulling several glass pie dishes off a high shelf and hitting my head with one, I learned to move all heavy glass pie pans to the basement for storage.
So now, I will wait and see what adjustments John and I will make to our lifestyles. As one friend remarked, “Aging is not for the weak.”
With love and a bit of laughter, we will learn skills anew.
I stop half way to remember where I am heading.
Finding myself in my office to find I have forgotten what I wanted.
I retrace my steps to the starting point to start anew.
Taking a moment, I wonder where the winding key for the clock went.
More than a senior moment, these are minutes.
“Now where did I leave my slippers?”
Carolfarn@aol.com January 30, 2023
Here in western lower peninsula of Michigan, we have had two snow falls of over 20 inches each. In between the snow has melted away. We are accustomed to snow on the ground from January till mid April. Not so this year.
In my home town of Northville, The area on the east side of the state was referred to as the Swiss Alps of Wayne county. Glaciers left deposits of sand, gravel and dirt, forming the hills surrounding the town. From one hill, you can glimpse the tall buildings of Detroit 24 miles away.
My dad tells a story about skiing with his sister Marian holding onto tow ropes, while their mother drove down the deserted Edward Hines Parkway.
I recall wading through waist deep snow to take cookie orders for my girl scout troop. The pity factor was in my favor. I sold over 100 boxes.
Near the Horse race track, the local recreation dept. flooded the small parking lot to form an ice skating rink. It had lighting for skating after dark.My whole family skated. I was embarrassed because I had hand me down hockey skates. My skates were black instead of the white figure skates like the other girls wore. To get them to fit, I had to wear two pairs of heavy socks.
There were several sledding hills in the parkway. My favorite was at the end of Eaton drive. If you slid too far the hill ended at a spring that never froze. The water hazard lent excitement to the run.
The parkway also boasted a toboggan run. Whole families would race down the steep hill, to slide into hay bales to help them stop.
The former site of a tuberculosis treatment center became the Mayberry State Park. The wooded paved paths were perfect for cross country skiing. I would drive to the park to ski from the staff entrance. Often ,I would have the park to myself in the early dawn.
This year, people can take walks without worries about slipping on the ice and snow. Perhaps there is some truth to global warning.
Alone with Myself
Morning sun broke over a sparkle filled woods.
Carrying my poles and skis, I searched for a place to sit.
A long fallen trunk offered a purchase.
Jamming my poles into the drift, I slipped on one ski then the other.
I stood with the help of the poles, ready to push off.
The rhythm of the skis gliding made a soft swish in the quiet of the day.
My mind was free to ponder as long trained muscles took up the remembered cadence of moving.
I saw the low hanging branch and swerved to the right.
Snow and ice crackled underfoot as I crested the rise.
Tucking my poles under my arms, I raced down the hill to the pond.
The clear, smooth surface called to me.
I turned away fearing I would break through.
Instead, I rested to let my breathing slow and listen to the sound of my pulse in my ears.
Worried thinking vanished as I joined nature awakening to the sunrise.
I breathed long gulps of chilly air.
Renewed in body, mind and spirit.
Carolaspot@aol.com copyright 1-23-2023