So I had my brain scanned yesterday.

It seemed the prudent thing to do. Over the past several months I’ve been having random dizzy spells—walking the dog, food shopping, waking up—and I’ve also fallen a few times on ice, always because I was looking at something other than my feet, and even though I’m now used to taking tiny little baby steps anytime I leave the house, all it takes is a moment of inattention before my head is where my feet should be. And my hands have been shaky. I’ve been dropping things and occasionally missing the spiky hair my tweezer is after. And there are some unfortunate genetic traits in my family that have been diagnosed by MRIs. And my husband insisted.

“No, it’s not normal for everyone to get dizzy once in a while,” he lectures me when I tell him there’s nothing to worry about. He’s angry because my first spell was about six months ago and I hadn’t yet done anything about it. He’s also mostly worried. He kind of likes me.

“I’m pretty sure it’s just the altitude,” I tell him. I’ve recently made it clear to him that I don’t want to die in Leadville. “I don’t want to die in Leadville,” is what I said.

He disappears and comes back with his pulse/ox machine and tells me to stick out my finger.

“Your pulse seems a little high, but your O2 levels are fine. It’s not the altitude,” he declares.

My doc decides that with the family history and the recent falls, an MRI is in order. We’re quiet as we drive over the mountain, although Ranger whines the entire way. It’s good, because it gives us both something else to focus on.

“Don’t make me pull this car over,” I warn our petulant pooch, but I’m certain that he can sense the tension in the car.

I check in at the counter. No, I’m sure I won’t be claustrophobic. Yes, I have my medical authorization. I tell Mike I’ll see him in an hour.

The cute young tech ensures I’m comfy on the table before sliding my noggin into the machine. He guarantees me that if I need anything, he’ll be responsive. I close my eyes. In I go.



BoopBoopBoopBoopBoop . . .

I pretend that I’m in a futuristic massage machine, and that helps me relax. But what will they find? I’ve lived a good life. I’ve worked hard. I’ve been lucky. I still think it’s just the altitude.

“Your doctor will have the results in a few hours,” he tells me, handing me my very own disc copy of the scan. I take this as a good sign.

We drive home no less stressed than we were an hour ago, but soon we will know the verdict. Mike goes back to work, and I am left to whirl about for hours in what-if-world until he returns for dinner.

My boys are both teetering on the brink of complete independence, a goal I’ve wanted for them since they came crying into my world. They’ll miss me, but really, they’ll be immersed in their own worlds, and will have plenty of stories to tell about their somewhat off-kilter mother. My dog is fairly well-adjusted and will get used to having just one cantankerous master. My sisters will wonder how I managed to be so lucky for so long. There will be many tears. I want to believe that Mom will remain the rock she has always been, but I’m not convinced. My husband . . .

“Mrs. McHargue? This is Danny at the clinic. Do you have a moment?”

My heart skips a beat, something that happens frequently and is nothing to worry about. I listen to the results of the scan.

The good news is that there are no masses, no lesions, no plaque.

The bad news? Well, there really is no bad news. Impacted sinuses, but how hard can that be to fix? No real answer to the shaky hand issue, though.

Mike looks at me expectantly.

“They think it’s just the altitude,” I tell him, and he laughs at me because he knows they wouldn’t say that, but his relief is palpable.

I put the self-indulgent what-if-world far behind me. Perhaps it’s time to give meditation a try. Looks like I’ve got time.






“Are you telling me I’m a bobble-head?” asks my mom.

When my father died recently, just shy of what would be their 65th wedding anniversary, I had the good fortune to spend two weeks alone with my mother to help her transition into widowhood, a term we both decide—instantly—we do not like. Amidst the piles of paperwork requiring attention are her medical records.

“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” I tell my 85-year-old mother. “You’ve been doing it for years.”

“You’re kidding me!” she says with a horrified expression, looking at me as if my head, too, were not completely secured on my neck.

It strikes me as peculiar that my father, my four sisters, and mom’s lifelong friends would not have mentioned the “familial tremor” that has been obvious to us all for so many years. It’s a slight jiggle, and it’s more pronounced when mom is looking down, but it’s certainly apparent. I am just as guilty as them all, however, in assuming that someone had surely mentioned it before.

“You might want to talk with your doctor about it when you see him next, but really, if it’s not bothering you, then I don’t think it’s a big deal,” I tell her, hoping to make her feel better.

But now I can tell that she is going to be very aware of this new revelation, and I feel a little bad that I am the one to spill the beans. Still, I believe it’s something she deserves to know.

“I’ve always felt so sorry for those little old ladies in church who do that,” she tells me, and then starts to laugh. Perhaps she is considering that at age 85, all 102 pounds of her, she is now one of those little old ladies.

I remind her of a statistic she once quoted, erroneously, years ago. We had been discussing percentages during a family trip, and mom told us all, with great authority, that the human head weighed 80 pounds. After a short silence in the car, someone was brave enough to say, “Um . . . I really don’t think that’s true,” and when we all stopped laughing—miles down the road—we realized that she had meant to teach us that when drawing the human figure, the head is 1/8th the height of the entire body. Mom is an artist, not a scientist.

She chuckles with the memory.

“But that would certainly explain why I can’t hold my head still on my skinny neck,” she says, and when the two of us stop laughing, I know that Mom will be just fine, 80-pound bobble-head and all.


If I could go back and stifle every word I uttered that hurt you, I would. Words spoken in anger and frustration are never helpful; they only deliver pain and sorrow.

But like you, I am human, and despite my seeming authority, I often fail. Failing as a mother–not always, but enough–has left gashes on my soul I wish I could heal.

You are a man now, and my prayer is that time will fade from both our memories those times when I could not hold my tongue, those time when I acted like a child.

Tea for Three

I’m trying to let go.

After finishing Ken McLeod’s Reflections on Silver River (look it up!), I find myself looking around my home for things to give away. Since our German Shepherd, Ranger, is fairly new to our household, he’s safe, but I suddenly feel overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in my life, both physical and emotional.

And so I’m working on letting go, a challenge that is extraordinarily difficult when it comes to some of my emotional baggage which requires sitting on to close. This physical stuff, too, will be a challenge because I can always justify why I might “need” something someday.

One suggestion in McLeod’s book it to give away one physical thing to one person every day with no expectation of anything in return. Ouch.

I’ve loved looking at the elegant bone China teacups Mom gave me as they’ve gathered dust in my corner cabinet for years. Three little cups–green, blue, and yellow–my favorite colors. My first giveaways.


I invite two friends for a tea party. Tea for three is lovely, though the small cups require multiple fillings throughout our visit. I wonder if anyone ever consumed just one cup from these little lovelies during a social gathering.

I text my baby sister and asked which color I should send to each of the women who will marry her three sons, and I feel good about this letting go. Time to let someone else enjoy these gifts, and three new family members will have something to share, or give away, in the coming years.

I remove two hand fans which have served as backdrops to my pretty teacups for just as many years and give them to my friends as they head out into the cold. Smiles and hugs.

My corner cabinet looks lighter now, and I have three fewer things to worry about. For today, I have let go just a little. I think it might make tomorrow’s letting go just a little easier.


SEX! Say the word aloud and people giggle like little girls, nervous about what might be said next.

“That’s all boys want,” mothers warn their daughters. But do they not remember their horny adolescence? Are they ashamed to admit that they “want it” too?

The father of five daughters, Dad would joke about why Mom kept getting pregnant. He said it was because she was hard of hearing. When prompted to explain, he would tell his audience,

“I’d ask her if she wanted to watch TV or what, and she’d say, ‘What?’”

My parents loved each other, and I’m fairly certain made love to one another for more years that may seem proper, but I’m hoping that in their 65 years together they also had plenty of good old sex, making the beast with two backs, making the dogs howl next door, making the neighbors jealous.

I remember finding Dad’s stash of Playboys when I was about 13. Perhaps I was delivering laundry to their room, perhaps I was searching for hidden presents, or most likely because one of the bodacious blondes on the front cover was peeking out at me from under the Farmers’ Almanac.

In any case, the surge of adrenalin I felt—all over and under—when I risked liberating the lady from the night-table was all I needed to keep going back for more. My visits had to be well-planned, and it was a challenge finding time when, in a household of seven, I could be alone.

I was a scrawny, pimply teen, and as I surreptitiously watched my older sisters making out on the family room couch with their dreamy boyfriends, I knew that no boy would ever love me. Fortunately, I had figured out how to love myself with the help of Dad’s magazines.

Fast forward to sweet 16 and never been kissed.

My best friend since kindergarten was way cooler than I. Emm lived across the street and our parents partied together frequently with others in our ripe-for-T.V.-sitcom neighborhood. Her parents owned a house on Cape Cod, and Emm had grown up more quickly than I. She could hold her own with kids who frightened me. She smoked and drank well before the legal age; I had tried a puff from my grandfather’s cigarette when I was ten and knew I was going to die immediately and go straight to hell. Mom had shared sips of red wine on special occasions and had me believe that a little glass of Port was “good for the blood,” but I never attended the parties Emm went to in our early teen years. My fear of losing control always overpowered my fear of being a dork.

Until that sweet, sweet summer. I had accepted an invitation to go to the Cape without the usual crowd and Emm let me know that we were invited to a party—with cool guys—scary guys—college-age guys—without parents. I knew what that meant, and for some reason I felt I needed to prove to her that I could be cool, too.

I desperately wanted to believe that I could hang with any crowd, especially this crowd which was way outside my comfort zone. Emm and I picked out our “majors” to accompany the lie that we were college freshmen, and although my instinct was screaming, “Run away!” when I entered the beach house which reeked of beer and cigarettes and pot, I had already committed to experiencing something new. My very first full beer disappeared without any of my “new friends” realizing how horrible I thought it tasted, and the nearly immediate buzz I got made the second one taste much better.

It also brought one of the nameless dudes to my side with the suggestion that we take a walk outside.

“Don’t . . . don’t . . . DON’T!” my angel was screaming, but I did. Despite my zits, I had a rack that commanded attention, and I let myself believe that this cute boy found my company enthralling. So off we went into the ocean breeze, despite a warning from my lifelong friend, who by that time may have been feeling a twinge of protectiveness. She knew I was untouched.

The salty air was dizzying, or more likely it was that second beer, and after staggering down the road a bit, I somehow ended up under him in the sand behind a clump of bushes. Although my “Run away!” instinct was still on alert, his hands on my body sent new-experience shockwaves throughout my being, and his soft lips sucked the spirit from my bones, leaving me a quivering mass of cherry Jell-O in his clearly experienced hands.

There’s something about a good Catholic upbringing that simply doesn’t prepare you for the first time a confident boy decides he’s going to have his way with you. Although I remembered laughing with my sisters when Mom had claimed that one aspirin would prevent pregnancy (“Just hold it between your knees and don’t let it drop!”), I had never received the down-and-dirty details of this uncomfortable topic, and was beginning to feel that I was in way over my head. But oh! I was feeling so incredibly cherished!

For the first time in my life I felt sexy. Cute boy wasn’t missing an inch of my skin-tight-bodysuited physique, and I wasn’t about to stop him . . . until . . . my jeans were suddenly unbuttoned and . . . uh-oh! . . . a stranger’s hand was headed where no stranger’s hand had been before! What do I do, what do I do? But handy-boy must never have “dated” girls who wore shirts that snapped at the crotch before, and he was struggling to find a way in/under/around an obstacle he could not comprehend. Frustrated yet persistent, and by now I was scared enough to know I wasn’t about to help him, he kept tugging on my locked-down shirt, desperately trying to lift it to get a little skin—but succeeding only in increasing my degree of excitement down under.

Suddenly sirens were blaring—literally, and thankfully.

A police car on full alert passed us slowly and stopped not too far away, a sudden sobriety engulfed us both, and I knew for the second time in my life that I was going to hell. Without discussion we scrambled to our feet and slunk back to the house, arriving to find a very sedate group. I was so relieved to be back in the company of a trusted friend that I was ready to get the party going again and moved to turn up the music, only to be stopped and told it was time to go. Evidently the police had come to the house while I was engrossed in a grope-fest and had put the kibosh on the party.

I could not have been more relieved, excited, tingling, and buzzed by the time Emm and I got back to her house and we were safely in bed, which for some peculiar reason began to spin. I’m pretty sure that once I stopped giggling, I fell asleep with a smile on my face. I’m also pretty sure that I finally earned a couple “cool points” with my best friend, but equally important, I had escaped an experience I was clearly not yet ready for. And I no longer felt like a dork.

When I shared this story with my Mom recently, she was horrified, and probably lost sleep thinking about her 55-year-old daughter who could have lost everything 39 years ago. I didn’t share the part about discovering myself years earlier with the aid of Dad’s secret sex-kittens.