Friday, July 24, 2009

DONIA CAREY - A TRIBUTE




ON JULY 11TH, DONIA CAREY LOST HER LONG FIGHT WITH CANCER. PEOPLE KNEW HER ON THIS BLOG AS FIFI LAMOUR. SHE WAS AN INSPIRATION TO EVERYONE WHO KNEW HER, DEEPLY LOVED AND RESPECTED BY ALL, AND HAS LEFT BEHIND A MASSIVE GAPING HOLE IN THE LIVES OF EVERYONE WHO HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO KNOW HER. WITHOUT DONIA THERE WOULDN'T BE A BIRD AND BUFFALO. SHE BROUGHT THE BIRD (AKA STEWART SUMNER) AND THE BUFFALO (AKA MARCEL DeCLERCQ) TOGETHER. SHE ALWAYS "GOT" WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO ON THIS BLOG AND WAS OUR BIGGEST FAN AND MUSE. LIFE WITHOUT HER WILL BE UNBEARABLE BUT WE INTEND TO CARRY ON AND GO ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS AS SHE ALWAYS HOPED WE WOULD.

LAST YEAR, THE THREE OF US EMBARKED UPON A PROJECT TO WRITE A BOOK OF SHORT POETRY. WE WROTE MANY A POEM AND IT WAS A LOT OF FUN. HOW WE WISH WE HAD FINISHED THAT PROJECT AND PUBLISHED THE ANTHOLOGY. DONIA WAS SUCH A TALENTED WRITER THAT IT IS A CRIME HER WORK IS NOT AVAILABLE IN BOOKSHOPS. ONE DAY IT WILL BE, OF THAT THERE IS NO DOUBT, AND THEN THE WORLD CAN ENJOY THE WONDERFUL CREATIONS SHE MADE UNDER ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES.

SO THANK YOU, DONIA, FOR BEING SUCH A SPECIAL, UNIQUE HUMAN BEING, WITH A HUMANITY AND SENSITIVITY NONE OF US COULD HOPE TO MATCH. WE HOPE YOU LIKE THE TRIBUTE. WE HAVE SELECTED FOUR PIECES WHICH IN OUR HUMBLE OPINION REFLECT THE DIVERSITY OF DONIA'S WORK. THE LAST PIECE, LOVE IS WHERE YOU FIND IT, IS POSSIBLY THE FINEST SHORT STORY DONIA WROTE. IT'S QUITE LONG SO YOU MAY WISH TO PRINT IT OUT. WE HAVE ALSO INCLUDED SOME OF THE TRIBUTES PEOPLE WHO KNEW HER HAVE POSTED ON THE ZOETROPE ONLINE WORKSHOP. BEFORE THAT, THOUGH, A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY DONIA HERSELF.


RIP, SWEETIE!

birdandbuffalissimo hugs
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx




"I sang for e.e.cummings. It was a private command performance of settings of his poems, and Mr. Cummings hummed some snatches of the songs as he left to bail a friend out of jail. Most of my life has been spent as a working musician, although I did a five-year stint as editor at a scholarly publication. In high school I was voted Class Poet, but since I was also voted Tallest Girl, though several others topped me by an inch, you might take the honor with a grain of salt. I am an editor at The Madhatters' Review and the Linnet's Wings, and have had stories published in a number of online publications."




Love on a Log by Donia Carey

The love of my life is a frog
Who lives in a slime-covered bog
Our noisy assignations
Cause public demonstrations--
We fancy a hump on a log.


***


Fifi Lamour's Limerick by Donia Carey

Travel East or travel West
Sparky's Toe Jam is the best
Oh, how I love to lick each piggy
When we do the friggy-wiggy
Helping all that jam digest

***


Rooftop in August by Donia Carey

The roof of a 4-stack tenement on an August night. Nighthawks squawking, wheeling like children’s spin toys. Churches on both sides, steeples, bells. Men on the roofs, jumping from one to the next, six feet in between. Showing off before their women, practicing their skills. Women watching, hearts in throats, admiring their prowess. Or envying it. Feet tingling, wanting to jump too. What stops them?

Later, on the roof again, just two people, the man, the woman. Secrets whispered into bosoms where hearts pound to the white heat of banked desires.

Kisses. More kisses, mere kisses, no more, not yet. Promises. Then the one promise, the binding one.

The globe revolves; the spinning gyre the scent of flowers the ratcheting birds humming cicadas the heat from the white streets all rise up and whirl in a cyclone of possibility, and they are at the vortex, this man, this woman. A couple, the sacred unit. The bells sanctify them and the world smiles upon them: it stamps its approval.

Yet the feet insist on tingling, and the soul struggles to fly.



****


Love Is Where You Find It by Donia Carey

The soldier arrived at our house on Thursday afternoon the way they usually did, in the big woven basket shaped like a mummy’s coffin. My brother helped my father carry him in. I heard my parents talking.

“Such a shame. So young,” my mother was saying. “And the war nearly over.”

He was only nineteen, accidentally shot in training camp by one of his buddies. Why did God allow such things to happen? I shivered, and felt a sudden tenderness for this unknown, now dead, soldier. What had he dreamed of doing, and had he been happy? Did he love someone and had he been loved in return...Or had he been lonely, too?

He was almost thirteen then--a dangerous age. A fleeting innocence, the false angel wings of the shoulder blades; petty secret guilts, never quite absolved in confession. I was waiting for my real life to begin.

We were a mother, a father, an uncle, an older brother, and I. We lived in the funeral parlor. It was a crenellated castle, a Victorian monstrosity that seemed to have spent its life awaiting this final, perfect metamorphosis. We had no separate apartment. If we had a death at Christmastime, the angel atop our Christmas tree might poke up over the funeral draperies. The rare times that my father had an extra “case" or two, a “body” (we never said “corpse”), he had to find a place for them upstairs. Arriving home from school one afternoon when I was about eight, I entered my room to find all my things gone and a stranger in a coffin where my dollhouse usually stood. My shock was immediate and overwhelming. Still, I was more outraged because nobody had warned me about it than because of the presence of the dead person. I was trained to do my part; after all, weren't we soldiers in a continuous battle, not for hearts and minds, but for bodies?

Business was slow. The whole house came alive when someone died. A great excitement overtook us; we leapt into our roles like actors.
Our father did the dirty work. He chewed his cigar, resting it between drags on the rim of the embalming table as he wielded his terrible trochar. My brother, being a boy, was allowed to watch, even the worst ones: the crushed, the drowned, the wasted. Out of morbid curiosity and because I wasn’t supposed to, I was drawn to the place as the tongue is to a broken tooth. “Not nice for a lady,” daddy said. I felt jealous of my brother and seethed at the unfairness of being left out. Secretly, though, I was relieved. I was as repulsed by what went on in that small basement room with the painted windows as I was fascinated by the idea of death at its purest, the final paring down and dissolution--what I saw as the liberation of the immortal soul.

“Who does she think she is? Somebody special?” my Uncle John had asked the night before at the supper table. He'd caught my frown and barely suppressed sigh as I took my seat next to the wall. “How’d she get into this family, anyway?”

A familiar wave of nausea swept over me. Our suppertime theater had begun.

They were all--my uncle, my mother and father–grabbing at the front page of “The Evening Clarion.” That’s where the death notices were listed. My father was blowing on his soup, having lost the battle for the paper to his more aggressive wife and brother-in-law. “Anybody new today?” he asked.

“Agnes Nowak, she was a Piwinski from up the River Road...”

“Yeah, I heard she was in the hospital...who got her?”

“Who else but The Vulture!”

“Danny Flaherty? Damn that man! That makes three this week.”

“How does he do it? We’ve buried in that family before. Agnes Nowak should’ve been ours.”

“Oh, there’s some connection there. Wasn’t her sister’s husband a cousin of Flaherty’s wife?”

“Second cousin, now you mention it. Still, I’m surprised. You’d think the Nowak daughter would have had more influence. After all, didn’t Marta sing at her wedding?”

Uncle John threw me a dirty look, as though the loss of business was my fault. It was so unfair. My uncle couldn’t stand me or my singing and let everyone know it, running up to his room on the third floor and slamming the door to shut out the sound when I practiced my scales.

I had a high, breathy voice, the kind people describe as “angelic.” Since I was ten, I’d been an unwilling part of our funeral package, excused from morning classes at St. Michael's School so I could get to the church next door before the funeral cortege arrived.

We had one funeral the next morning: an old man, a veteran of World War I, "the war to end all wars." As I waited in the choir loft for Professor Karski, the organist, my stomach growled and gurgled nervously. I hoped today the Professor would be nice to me. It used to be his daughter who sang the funerals; she wore showy black picture hats and had a loud voice that went flat. Now I, a mere child, supplanted her, and her father resented it.

The Professor coughed his way up the stairs, ignored me, walked straight up to the organ bench and pulled out some music. The sexton came and began to swing on the ropes, the clanging bells so raucous that all the cells of my body vibrated and I had to put my hands over my ears.

I peered through the stained glass to watch the procession. The stone steps were long and steep, the coffin heavy, and the pallbearers spindly. They strained under their burden and the group wobbled forward under the direction of my father. In his funeral outfit: derby hat, striped pants, and the coat with a beetle’s-wing tail--his mouth naked and vulnerable without its cigar--he at once became someone I didn’t know.

Professor Karski revved the organ and it whooshed like a deflating cushion. He cleared his throat, spat into his handkerchief, pulled out the tremolo stop, thrust out his jaw and launched right into a Polish dirge, “In the Dark Tomb You Will Sleep Forever.” He embellished his playing with rolling diminished sevenths and sour notes that enhanced the awfulness of the music. Adam's apple bobbing merrily, he whinnied the lyrics; they depicted a dreadful judgment and left us comfortless: "After a short while you and I won't be around, either."

With the final chord came the altar boy, recklessly swinging a censer as he led the pastor up the aisle to meet the flag-draped catafalque. Incense rose up. Its acrid scent settled in clouds around the organ console. I bent my head and slipped a Smith Brothers cough drop into my mouth; both the incense and the thought of my oncoming Ave Maria were making my throat dry.

Down by the altar, Uncle John fussed with a flower stand. He glanced up at me and scowled, the mole on his cheek in high relief, and my stomach gurgled again. He was right, my uncle. I’d beem born into the wrong family. I was squeamish and sentimental. I was too sensitive. It took all my restraint to keep singing and not burst into tears with the mourners. Maybe I was switched as an infant; how could I fit in so badly otherwise? I held onto this fantasy, even though I knew I'd been born at home rather than in a hospital.

During Communion, I surveyed the people below. It was not a big crowd; the old man had outlived most of his peers. Nobody was crying. The Mass ended. Actions happened in reverse, with even more incense. The pallbearers lurched down the church steps, self-sure veterans now, and soon the sparse cortege shoved off toward the cemetery, a pretty place on a hill outside of town. I wished I could have gone there that morning, but I had to return to class.

When I got home from school that afternoon, my father was in the wake room setting up the soldier’s coffin. Cigar smoke wafted through the closed double doors. After my father completed the finishing touches, he called us in to admire his work.

We were his final critics. “How does she look?” he would ask us. We’d give suggestions, such as “Too much rouge.” My mother was a nurse, and she couldn't stop herself from plumping up the pillows behind their heads, saying, "There! That's more comfortable, isn't it?" She arranged their stiff hands around prayer books or rosary beads in a mimicry of piety. We'd agree that now everything looked natural.

But this time I went into the wake room where the soldier lay ready and couldn’t speak. The breath died in me, and I wanted to back out the door. My father had done too good a job. The soldier really looked as though he was sleeping. Mostly they didn’t. Mostly they looked like something from a waxworks.

He looked more glorious than the statue of St. Michael in our church, except that he had a buzz cut. It had been growing out and you could see his hair had been beautiful, dark and thick. He was so different from the silly pimply boys at school, the ones who chased me and called me skinny-bones, who asked, “What does your old man do with the blood?”

I did not want to stay there in the room with my whole family, desecrating--that was what it was--our love. Finally I had found the person of my dreams: someone I had been expecting all my life, someone who would understand me. I knew the moment I saw him lying in that casket that there was something powerful between us. Just as I knew his eyes were brown.

That night, after everyone had gone to bed, I crept past my parents’ room and down the stairs. In the wake room a few dim torchieres illuminated the maroon velvet draperies, the coffin open like a big lacy candy box. Someone had placed a small heart of carnations in its open lid, a heart bandaged with a white ribbon on which “Uncle Stephen” was spelled out in letters red as blood.

I knelt at the prie-dieux and looked at Stephen. He smiled at me, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Maybe he wasn’t dead. Maybe it was one of those terrible mistakes, some kind of suspended animation, and if I prayed he would wake up. So I began to pray really hard, screwing up my eyes. Through the shimmer of my tears I thought I saw him move a little.” Oh please, God,” I begged. “Let him wake up!” I stared at Stephen, watchful for another movement. None came. I touched his sleeve. Even through the wool of his uniform tunic, I felt the cold stiffness.

I was not an ignorant girl. I had more than an inkling of what happened in that embalming room. Didn’t I filch my father’s morticians’ magazines just to shock myself with “The Case of the Month”--and then smuggle them into school to gain what I realized would be a spurious popularity with my classmates? Yet those physical facts were less real to me than the underlying reality of dreams. So I denied the material world and cast my lot with miracles that transcended physical laws.

It was late. I was cold and the muscles in my whole body had grown stiff from the strain of praying so hard. I murmured goodnight to Stephen and went back to bed. I felt I had made a good start. It was Friday night and the funeral was not until Monday morning, so we still had some time.

The rest of my sleep was full of dreams. I was in a cave flooded with golden light. I tried to find where the light was coming from, but saw no source and no openings in the walls of the cave. I felt hungry and thirsty, and immediately food and drink appeared: great jars of golden liquid and enormous loaves of golden bread. I bit into the bread and spat it out: it had no real substance, just the taste of a cloying perfume. I tipped the jar to my mouth so I could wash it out. The liquid instantly evaporated, leaving the taste of incense and decaying flowers inside my mouth.

Morning arrived. I was exhausted and queasy, but my mother insisted that I eat something. With some trepidation, I bit into a hard roll, and was reassured by its familiar taste. I yearned to look in on Stephen but my mother enlisted me in Saturday chores. By the time I was finished it was 3 p.m., and Stephen’s family had arrived for the initial viewing.

I looked down over the upstairs railing and watched as they came through the door. His parents clung to each other in a way that was both loving and brave. A young woman who must have been his sister walked behind them, leaning on her husband's arm. He held the hand of a small, dark-haired child. Stephen’s nephew, I supposed, and felt a pang in my heart.

A young blonde wearing a black-veiled hat walked importantly behind the family. She was weeping aloud and mascara was oozing down her face. She began to moan Stephen’s name, and his sister put an arm around her. Who was she? She probably thought of herself as Stephen’s girl friend, but she couldn’t have been. She was all wrong for him, her black dress too tight and her lipstick too bright. I knew she couldn’t understand him the way I did.

I was impatient to be with Stephen again, and there was no chance until late that night. It was ironic that I could not be with him now. I told myself that it didn’t matter, he and I transcended time and space.

Again, after my parents went to bed, I made my way downstairs. I felt happy as I entered the wake room. I walked over to the coffin and said a little prayer. A spray of orchids lay next to the little red heart. I thought they were vulgar and had no illusions as to who had sent them. I would have sent violets.

I knelt and buried my face in my hands to pray, and peeped through the tent of my fingers to watch Stephen. He looked so handsome in his uniform. His hair seemed longer. This night he did not move. Was it my imagination, or did he look a little tired? I remained kneeling for a while, but heard a noise. Someone was coming down the stairs, probably my father. “I’ll be back tomorrow, my darling,” I whispered in a voice like a woman in a movie, Bette Davis perhaps. Then I tiptoed out the side door and waited until the coast was clear to go back up to bed. I meant to pray some more in bed, but fell asleep during the first Hail Mary. That night I did not dream.

Sunday in church I tried to pray but it was hard to concentrate, surrounded by coughing, fidgeting people, and the strictures of the Mass with the constant jumping up and down, the guilt-provoking sermon, the collection basket coming round twice–not to mention the background music, if you could call it that, raining down from the choir loft. I felt my prayers were of an inferior variety, certainly not strong enough to provoke miracles.

The rest of Sunday was unbearable for me. People arrived all afternoon, many from out-of-state. Cigarette smoke inundated our kitchen, scrubbed pristine after our noon dinner, and spiraled upstairs, invading our bedrooms. The initial hush of the afternoon had expanded to lively talk and laughter, as the men retreated to the smoking room where, from the sound of it, someone had produced a bottle. I felt outraged. There were still stragglers downstairs until after ten, even though the wake was officially over at nine.

Everything was ready for tonight. I’d put my hair up in rags and spirited my mother’s black lace mantilla from her cedar chest. I didn’t think we’d need a suitcase but had put my birthday and Christmas money into my straw pocketbook, along with the mother-of-pearl rosary beads and lace handkerchief. We had no violets, though earlier that day I’d gone out back and picked some lily-of-the-valley, tied them with a hair-ribbon and wrapped them in some wet tissue paper. I lay in my bed, nerves jumping, whispering frantic prayers.

To calm myself, I imagined exactly how it would happen. Stephen would awaken slowly, stretch and yawn. Then he’d open his eyes. He’d look at me and smile. We wouldn’t need to speak–our eyes would meet and say everything. Then I’d take his hand and help him out of his coffin, like helping him out of a boat. We would run away together, I would be free of this depressing house, these tiresome people, this life.

At last I heard my father lock the front door. I waited for everyone to go to bed, hoping my mother’s nightly game of solitaire would be over by midnight. By the time the lights were dimmed and quiet settled on the house, it was a quarter to one.

When I removed the rags from my hair, it bounced out in corkscrew curls that I tried to smooth out with my hairbrush. I took some bobby pins and created an updo, leaving a Veronica Lake effect over one eye. The only dress I had that was remotely sophisticated was getting too short, but it would have to do. I put a dab of apple-blossom cologne behind my ears and looked at myself in the mirror. I draped the mantilla around my shoulders. I was ready.

Stephen was waiting for me. A flower petal had settled in his hair and I brushed it off. His buzz cut felt spiky and stiff under my hand. “Don’t worry, dearest,” I whispered, “it will soon grow out.”

The orchids were wilting, and I threw them under the coffin, behind the velvet, and replaced them with my sweet-smelling bouquet. I began to pray in earnest, with all my heart and being, eyes closed, opening them occasionally to see if there was any progress. Hours seemed to pass. Still nothing. I was getting sleepy and my head began to droop. Something murmured and revived my hope, until it happened again and I realized it was my own stomach.

“Oh, God,” I prayed, “please, please, wake him up. If you do this one thing, I promise I’ll never ask you for anything ever again...Stephen,” I pleaded,” you must help, too. I don’t think you’re really trying.”

It was getting chilly. I spread the mantilla over Stephen’s chest; maybe it would warm him up. The night was passing slowly and yet too quickly–I could see the sky lightening. I was so tired that I began to drift off mid-prayer. But I mustn’t give in to sleep. If I couldn’t even manage to stay awake at such a crucial time, how could God take me seriously?

I stood up and staggered around the room, bumping into a folding chair and almost knocking over a flower stand, giving me a little adrenalin. All quiet upstairs, no one had heard. Returning to Stephen, I knelt down, but my knees began to hurt so I pulled one of the chairs up to the coffin and thought I’d sit for a while. When the miracle happened, I’d be ready.

Settling into the chair, I closed my eyes just for a moment. Stephen was stirring. He flexed his arms, unclasped his hands and spread his fingers, closing them into fists. I knew Stephen too well, knew this couldn’t be happening. It was a dream, I knew I was dreaming, and I had to stop. I scrabbled to crawl back into reality, and yet the dream progressed. Now Stephen’s eyes popped open, bloodshot brown eyes that looked angry. In one sudden movement he had climbed out of his coffin and was looking menacingly at me. “What are you doing here?” he shouted, waving the lily-of--the-valley bouquet in my face. “What are these? What have you done with my orchids?”

I shook myself out of the nightmare. Why were my prayers rewarded with such ugliness? The sun was up and dust motes were dancing in the window. My dress was wrinkled and there was a scratch on my leg where I had barked my shin on the flower stand. The pins had fallen out of my hair.

Stephen lay as still as before, his face gentle and good. I felt his spirit around me. How could I doubt him, even in dreams? I bent and kissed his forehead. It was cold.

Upstairs an alarm was ringing, and there were sounds of people getting up. With shaking hands I reached down and retrieved the orchids. They were barely crumpled. I brushed them off and put them back inside the coffin.

Stephen was still wrapped in the mantilla. My tears dropped down onto the black lace as I gently pulled it away from his shoulders. Through blurred eyes I saw a shimmer of something white on his breast, almost like a luminous flower. The image lasted a moment and faded, leaving behind the faint scent of lily-of-the-valley.

I left the room without looking back. It was getting late and I had to be on time for the music.




***

THE TRIBUTES...

Donia's daughter, Diana, called me just now. Donia died last Saturday, July 11. She'd been unconscious for about 24 hours when she stopped breathing. Diana is having a memorial for her on August 8th, in Cambridge. If anyone wants to send her something for the service, zmail it to me and I'll forward it to her. Sorry to have sad news to share-but I'm glad Donia went softly in the end. xxoononnie

Nonnie Augustine


She reviewed a flash of mine in February. "Mr. Smith, you've done it again. Answered the question everyone thinks about but dares not ask. Adult content, indeed. Your writing is simple but elegant and to the point. You have an excellent control of the dialect (as far as I can tell), and have a knack for using the right word at the right time..I like the way the fellow conducted his research all over the land of the thistle and kilt (am I right about the thistle or did I mean whistle?). He found his answer from a humble farmer, who was not afraid to divulge age-old secrets to a seeker. Fine tale. Made me laugh, as always." The always gracious Donia.

GC Smith



Donia was gracious, lovely, spirited--in spite of wheelchair bound--including cursing the lazy bastards who failed to shovel snow from sidewalk ramps, or if they did shovel from the sidewalk, piled the snow on the wheelchair ramps. We were ever going around them, into the street, in order to cross. She wanted to get out of her house, so we walked a number of blocks to a Thai restaurant, during which we came to know the woman we loved so much. She is truly missed. You all should know that she told me over and over again how much she looked forward to the sunday 5 to 50's. Here are her latest entries, the first being her last, posted May 24, 2009 (I don't mind telling you, it brought me to tears).

IS IT TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT CATS?(55W)

O, my pansy-faced love. I found you today motionless on our chianti-stained couch, playground of our fatiguing games. I closed your eyes and held your soft body. Then, as tradition dictated, I dug a deep hole and laid you to rest in a weedy vacant lot. A muffled meow resounded beneath my feet.

THE VOICES

Timorous? Yes, I am timorous. I fear a relapse and have put on my magic apron, but the first voice has already begun its soft taunting and mimics my breathing. More voices join in snickering unison and repeat,"You are a nothing. A cypher.” I pull the apron over my head but its magic fails.

A Silent Tragedy (55 words)

I sat by the river, a ribbon that wound along the edge of the city. In dusk’s lavender glow, a man in drag crouched on the other bank, head in hands. I saw the spark of a match and the man went up in flames. I turned away. He was of no import to me.

(no title)

A red-faced street person stood on a soapbox under a mulberry tree in our town's scenic main square. The man was bombastic and very drunk, and he was offering people "a new leash on life." A young scamp began to bark, soon joined by a pack of stray dogs, adding a stirring musical background. 55w

Beach Varmints

The sun sets on the Côte d’Azure, but I’m reluctant to leave my comforting burrow in the warm sand. The slap of footsteps; the spark of a lighter: Noel d’Entrechat, notorious rogue who fritters his time on the plage, has found me. Lasciviously beaming his lemon eyes at me, he says, “Care for some nookie?”

Compromise (55 words)

Bedraggled Bobolink collapsed near a windmill, a hermit’s home. Chased there by farmers shouting, "Begone, bad bird, eater of wheat and depriver of kiddies’ hot farina!” Gunshots rang, staccato, staccato. Bobolink high-tailed it to the windmill. "Got room for me? We can hermit together.” "Okay," replied the hermit. "But none of your goddamn singing!"

Richard Osgood

Bye bye, Donia - now you can fly. Nevertheless, I'll miss you. Donia and I corresponded so frequently that we laughed about it - about why we didn't move close enough so we could just go knock on each other's door when we wanted to talk. Here's an example - a recent note from Donia about health ... ###

----- Original Message ----- From: Donia Carey To: David Coyote

Dear Scruffy,

Our wonderful bodies that carry on a busy life of their own, taking care of us, begin to have problems, like old cars. I think of old novels where someone breaks a hip, catches a chill, develops pneumonia, and doesn't survive the winter. Strange, isn't it, how quickly things begin to go wrong; why just a little while ago, I was fit as a fiddle.

Frank died of prostate cancer at age sixty, having been diagnosed eight years before and then gone into a sort of remission for over seven years. He was treated at Mass General with radiation, taking the bus to Boston at dawn and returning afterward to work in his lab. He died in his own home, his friends gathered in the next room. "Sounds like a wonderful party" he said. "Wish I could join them."

Like you, he would not be hospitalized in spite of his pain and weakness. He had hospice nurses that he called "the fat ladies who take care of me."

Everyone in my family went in their own beds, without tubes and iv's. I wish that I could die here at my new home, but it may not be possible. Because the state pays for nursing 'homes' and hospitals but not for home care, it's a problem. Crazy, isn't it?

I read a little about PVCs, and it seems the medical community is divided about their possible danger. You probably know more about it. I have a heart murmur that my mother discovered when I was eight, but so do many people. And sometimes I feel my heart do flip-flops, like a little fish in my chest, but I think that's not unusual.

Earlier this evening, I was speaking with my cousin John in Connecticut. He is one month older than I, and we've been friends and grammatical adversaries since high school, trying to one-up each other. He never married and has been very kind to his sister and her children, and to me. Over a year ago he had a stroke. He always goes on about how close to death we are.

"John," I tell him, "you've been saying that for years."

His father, my father's brother, died at fifty-six of a heart attack; my dad died of the same thing at fifty-seven. Of the five siblings, they all succumbed that way; three in their fifties, one in her sixties; and Josephine the meanest and most guilt-free, in her eighties. My dad's two brothers were alcoholics: John, an ill-tempered drunk and Joe, the jolly type. I'd never seen him sober.

I do digress. But cousin John, brought up in his dad's funeral home, ended up with a different attitude from mine. Although both of us, seeing death around us all the time, were affected.

Funny about the belly-button, David. I was on Prednisone for several years but it didn't affect the cute little thing. My grandmother cut the cord herself and made sure it was nice. Since my kidney operation and loss of weight, my bellybutton almost disappeared. I looked down at my belly and saw something unrecognizable--a mosquito bite maybe? Realized it was my missing bb. When I read about your own bb problems, I took a look at mine and saw that with some weight gain, it has gone back to its former self. Oh, waiting for the results of tests is nerve-wracking. I hope you pass with flying colors, as you did with your driver's license.

I had my own visit on Tuesday. The cancer is returning--my white cells went up a bit, and forty percent of them are lymphocytes--not good. But my neutrophils went up, so I can again eat fresh fruit and vegetables. I was told that it's too early to begin treatment again (my god, I just finished the last one in January!), and that I should be able to enjoy the summer. That made me feel happy, because the two summers before I was back in treatment and they were hideous.

My main problem now is still my eyes. I am due for another appointment to check on the macular degeneration. I wonder if that is what's causing my fast-deteriorating vision. And i'm violating doctor's orders and wearing my glasses; otherwise I can't see at all. Ah, well.

Good luck on your exams--sorry about all my dismal talk. Maybe we'll be those people who persist to their nineties, creaking along and shaking up the young 'uns.

love always, Donia

David Coyote

This is sad news, indeed. RIP, Donia. What a wonderful person she was.

Marc Lowe

A sad day.

Mark Hubbard

Shit. At least she is out of pain but... shit.

Steve Kane



Truly, truly a sweet & honorable lady. we love you, donia. we bless you.

Donna D Vitucci

I am so sorry to hear this. Donia always knows how to get to the exact heart, the essence of it. It's a sad day.

Maggie Shearon

PLEASE POST YOUR TRIBUTES TO DONIA IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.

5 comments:

shannon_sammataro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
katrina said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Carol Novack said...

Donia was amazing in so many respects: eg, talent; wit; generosity; perceptiveness; and extraordinary courage. She never complained about the tortures she went through for so many years, tending rather to narrate, often with humor and compassion, the history of her illness, trips to doctors, tests, people she encountered, and dubious treatments. I was fortunate to count Donia as an editor and publish her wonderfully melodic prose poem "The Little Room," at http://www.madhattersreview.com/issue1/whatnots/carey.shtml. She was also a friend who visited me in NYC not too long ago.

We will all miss her. I'm hoping to present a comprehensive tribute to her at my journal.

Bill West said...

She was a kind and special lady. Fabulous writer. Missed.

diana said...

Stowaways
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7204328@N08/sets/72157624341845109/

Hi, I hope this link works. I wanted to share some of the clippings from my mom's infamous stowaway trip on the Queen Elizabeth.
Diana