Empty Chairs

October 28th 2022

I sit at the dining room table that came with the house we bought thirty six years ago. The now empty chairs that belong to it, have been used as tent poles for bedsheet tents that the boys played under. They have been stacked with the boys knapsacks and school books, held their winter jackets while they pulled their boots over thick wool socks. Even on the coldest days of the year she encouraged them to “get out of the house and into the fresh air”. The oldest boy now has a little hockey player of his own and is up and out of his house in the wee hours of the morning. Latest reports are that my son’s son scored a hat trick and has breakaway speed, dazzles his adversaries and can handle a puck like a juggler. The younger son, now in The Netherlands sends pictures of his daughter and himself at zoos and playgrounds, on slides, climbing rock walls and in each other’s arms. Both my sons have embraced nature and when they have time in their busy lives have taken the old man for hikes through a nature preserve to Milton Bay or a scramble up and down Break Neck Ridge in Cold Spring. My grandsons have created games that award themselves points for the sights they see along the way. Keeping score in their heads as they see turkeys, deer and various rocks and plants. On summer hikes the younger boy squats in the tide pool looking for fish and rocks to add to his collection as the older boy skims smooth round stones with his father.

The sight of the empty chairs reminds me that I am alone. Alone in a tiny house built in 1929. The chairs bring back memories of lives well lived in a home that revolved around a whirlwind of a woman. Who’s presence was felt wherever she went. Her smile lit up the room and her laughter warmed your heart. I will visit her today in the rose garden where she rests. It has been nine months since she past. I feel like a character in an epic tale. A tale of a man living an idyllic life boasting to the world that he was the luckiest man alive to have the woman he cherished.

And like all epics stories he loses it all and sets out on a journey, a journey filled with challenges that are greater than his ability and somehow he finds the strength and fortitude to ford the river, climb the mountain and slay the dragons, but as he returns to the house that sheltered his family and sits at the dinning room table and looks across at the empty chairs, he weeps for the loved ones he once sat across from at the table that came with the house they bought 36 years ago.

The Horizon

I once was but am no longer

A child thin as a rail

Why walk when you can run

Sitting still was just not possible

I once was

A father’s son

Who would have listened better

If he had only known

How brief the visit

I once was

A rebel, long haired, bell bottomed

Dressed for the revolution

Mourning King and Kennedy

Watched as the change we had hoped for

Ended with Weathermen becoming stock brokers

I once was

An ally working in the back offices

Supporting amazing people that

Helped the poor, the ill, the muddled and confused

Then on to clinics that cared for the health of woman, children and families

And even when I left the world of care for people

I got the chance to help those conserving the

resources of our planet

to make the world safe for the beings in our oceans, on land and in the air.

I once was

A young lover and over time

A fair husband

Bound together by kismet, love, loss and luck

Only separated by “until … do us part”

I once was

A father of young boys

Chasing the elder

With the younger on my hip

Theses days they are minding me

Helping me navigate a world

No longer familiar.

I once was all these things

But am no longer

As I look at the future

I am beginning to imagine

What I could become

And although there may not be

A myriad of possibilities

My well worn ideals, practical experience

Passion and compassion and

understanding that all this will pass

Give me all the tools I need to

make the most of what is on the horizon.

Solitary Musings on a Foggy Morn

The fog more than a mist shrouds the tree lined border of our yard

The birds not visible are in conversation somewhere nearby 

Otherwise I am left alone this morning 

It will rain soon.

You always loved the rain, windows open at night 

to catch the lightening’s flash and the thunders crash

You slept well to the rhythm of the patter of the rain

I wonder if this morning you’ve woken from a dream filled sleep

On a soft bed made of clouds

And if you are with our parents and our child

Are you transformed or do you spend your time in a familiar form. 

When I recite to myself the infinite numbers of whys and hows I love you,

I begin with your hard won wisdom, born of the troubles we’ve seen, your sense of adventure, your curiosity and the depth of your sense of humor.

I loved to make you smile and spent a lifetime thinking of ways to make you laugh.

Friends and family alike would see something that struck them as odd, funny or outrageous and save it for their next conversation with you. Just to be rewarded by a burst of your laughter. 

You were all in, on the things you loved, your children, grandchildren, godchildren, friends, Ruby and even saved a little for me.

Your exuberance for experiences in life was awe inspiring.

You became over time an excellent story teller and accumulated so many wonderful life experiences to share.

I will never forget listening to you at a friends party when someone mentioned living on a house boat. And you said “I’ve always wanted to live on one.”

The funny thing was at that moment we had been together for over twenty years and I had never heard about this life long desire but if someone had handed you the keys you would have had me packing and if it had pleased you I would have been whistling while I did.

Although I can’t wish us a Happy 46th Anniversary for me it will be filled with gratitude for those spent together.

I hope that you will be rocked to sleep tonight by the waves neath your houseboat listening to the patter of the rain with brief flashes and gentle sounds of thunder in the distance.

With undying love and gratitude. 


Now that she is gone

It’s spring and the beauty of nature abounds

As I look up at the trees framed against the white clouds 

and the blue blue sky, the trees have never looked so green

A gorgeous red cardinal flys past me as if to say 

hey we too have dressed for the occasion. 

I seem to notice beauty wherever I go 

it’s certainly in the faces and the smiles 

of our grandsons, and in the new found elegance 

of our granddaughter riding a pony bareback. 

I catch myself as I turn to tell you 

how my heart feels as if it has been gripped 

and my breath taken away by the sights 

that have never seemed so precious before.

They say that when one looses one of your senses 

That the other senses are heightened 

and that could be true now 

or it could be that in the past 

That you were my focal point

and everything else was just a blur. 

Whatever the cause 

of the veil being lifted from my eyes 

I know that you would be, that in fact you are 

pleased and are celebrating the fact 

that your Danny is finding beauty in the world a 

week before our anniversary.

Her Story

Her story

I need to

I need to tell 

I need to tell her story

Over and over 

Bits and pieces

pieces of the puzzle 

Swirling in the air 

Forming a vision 

A vision of her in motion

I see her smiling 

I hear her laughter 

She is calling to me

Oh Danny, oh my Danny

Why aren’t you dancing?

I need to keep her spirit alive

I need to keep my spirit alive

I need to

I need to tell her story

Navigating a rock strewn icy trail with crutches (a note to Norma)

I am beginning a new journey and I am grateful for the vast, crazy, painful set of experiences we had because I have become sensitized, aware, more conscious of how precious time and being present for each moment of it can be.

At some point in the not-too-distant future I will no longer be able to appreciate a beautiful sunrise or sunset nor the lapping of the waters on the shore of the sound or the birds migrating with the seasons and hearing their call as they fly overhead.

You know that I love to watch the hawks and the eagle circle and glide above the treetops keeping their gaze on the ground below and to pump hard on the pedals of my bicycle and feel the sweat run down my body as I climb a hill.

I love the first bite of a toasted everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese after a long ride and the sweet taste of the “do it yourself” machine made cappuccino even though I know that it is liquid chunks of chemicals and calories I am ingesting with every sip.

I am learning to love the friends and family members that are checking in on me, inviting me to dinner, walks in the woods, trips to Nairobi and Provence France even though I am not ready for big decisions, or travel abroad.

As I recite the things that I am grateful for and include the decades we had together, it does not fill the void of your passing. People who know say that it split our souls apart and that must be true because I can feel the jagged edges of my soul without you.

I am incomplete and I am just learning to navigate. I feel like I am walking with crutches on a rock-strewn icy trail, but I know that you would not let me wallow in self-pity, and I am grateful for the lessons in patience, persistence, and perseverance that we two kids learned as we grew into one together. I will just have to apply those characteristics and those hard fought and hard-won lessons to the journey I am making without you by my side but still so present in my heart.

My Devotion

My places of worship are the trails along the water,

those that are under a canopy of trees that snake past rivers and lakes

and through overpasses where I can see the sun reflected in the water

while white swans gently swim in pairs.

My devotion comes in the form of sweat, hard breathing and a racing heart

as I push myself to pedal through the pain

and climb the inclines of the mountain trails.

I have ridden with white tail deer that bound into the woods and red cardinals that

swoop across the trail, past trees felled into the lake by beavers and barely missing

chipmunks and squirrels as they bound across the trail.

By the the time I get to my destination I am centered, in flow, and in sync with the

wonders of nature.

And then service is over and I return to the world of pain and suffering.


Stuck, betwixt and between

Stuck, smack dab in the middle of the proverbial rock

and the increasingly familiar hard place

Stuck, no two steps forward and one step back

Just stuck in limbo.

What can we do?

What can we wish for?

Another shock to our system

Another shoe drops

Another doctors sad face

Another diagnosis

Another web search

Another set of tests and prescriptions and side effects…….

Truly, what can we do

What can we wish for?

Stuck, no two steps forward nor one step back

Just stuck in limbo.

Just Present

Before you wake

I worry

And then straighten up around the couch,

I fold the blanket,

making sure that the things you will need are in reach

I bring fresh water and a clean glass

To the little black table on wheels

that holds the bottles of pills

some that will help you feel better

and some that will make you feel worse

but hopefully stop the cancer in its tracks

For a while

When you wake

I worry

That your body will flush as it sometimes does

And your heart will race

And you will need to sit down quickly

and wait until

This tortuous morning ritual subsides

When we talk

I worry

That the challenges of the disease

and the difficulties of the treatment

make the thought of a full meal

to break your fast so unappealing

That you will only endure

A small portion

so you can take the morning assortment of pills.

When we cuddle

I don’t worry

I am present

Last meal of the day done

Dishes being splashed and sprayed

With a low rumble from the kitchen

My arm around your shoulder

Just taking it all in

Neither replaying the tiny terrors that filled the day

Nor those unknown ones that will surely surface tomorrow.

My soul and yours

Cuddling on the couch

No past no future

An endless embrace

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