So, now what?

25 Jun


So, now what?

By L. Stewart Marsden


Flags of the Confederate States of America are coming down at state buildings. Statues of supporters of racism are being removed. Ads featuring top celebrities are aired with the message of no more. Twitter and Facebook and every other talk show host, news team and entertainment program are vocalizing a massive disgust of the shooting in Charleston earlier this month.

Wait and see. How long will it take until the dialogue and opinions and special programs finally die down and we return to the status quo?

Three months? Longer?

Yet deep inside each of us fears that once again some seriously rattled person is going to do something to make headlines. Perhaps those plans are being made now. Maybe the plans are in conjunction with outside resources — radical groups that seem to get their kicks by disrupting life. Maybe another movie theater. Maybe at a mall. Maybe some athletic event.

Two questions.

How do we prevent the next horrendous plan from occurring? How do we deal effectively with the elements that fuel the chronic violence in our country? Specifically, how do we treat racism and the racial divide for the insidious malady it is; and how do we better control weaponry that has grown to be the vehicle of daily manslaughter?

The “Demand a Plan” anti-gun ad that features many celebrities was good as ads go, I thought. And then I began to wonder which of the very famous participants will end up becoming a part of a larger effort to demand change, and not wait for the gears of politics to grind.

I wondered what can I do here in my own community? Why wait for an invitation to get involved? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last several decades? The majority of us, I mean. You. Me. Those people over there. Have we gotten to the point that we expect everyone else to get involved and then tell us what to do?

“Who will help me plow the land?” asked the Little Red Hen of the other farm animals.

Years ago … decades, actually … I attended an organizational rally at a church in my hometown. It is in the south, and based predominantly on manufacturing. It was the world-wide center of furniture and textile production. It was 1970 or thereabouts. Organizers were making plans for the March on Washington. A class peer, the daughter of a minister, was among the head organizers. We were going to be a part of a huge demonstration in order to promote peace among blacks and whites. I thought that was ironic at the time, as in our middle-sized town peace hardly existed between the two colors. And I stood and said so.

Decades ago.

I don’t think it has changed much since that time. We seem to want to depend on elected officials off in Washington rather than pick up the sticks and stones out of our own local fields.

“Who will help me plow the land?”

I’m getting to be an old fart. I’ve got many other things that seem very important to me that I could spend most of my time on. I’ve got my children and grandchildren whom I need, and who need me. Other things to do. Other things to focus on.

“Who will help me plow the land?”

Plus, plowing the land is tough work. The plow is heavy. The blade is dull. And the ground is packed and hard, and filled with stones and sticks.

But therein is the challenge. Leave it to Washington? Or in my case, Raleigh? I’m just one person, and I’m an old fart, too. Just what the hell can I do about these overwhelming problems? Isn’t this for the young and the smart? Can’t they do it?

“Who will help me plow the land?”

Oh, I’d rather turn away. It’s not only the safest thing to do, it’s the easiest. I’d surely like one day to break bread with my fellow brethren of different color and culture. I surely would. I’d like to pass that plate of steaming biscuits down a long row of people and share stories and talk of things to be.

“Who will help me plow the land?”

Here’s the thing: the Little Red Hen has gone through these motions so many times before with the same responses, she is at the end of her patience. Like that gospel scripture, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem …  How often I wanted to gather your children together…” (Luke 13: 34).

“Who will help me plow the land?”

So, now what?


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 24 June, 2015


23 Jun



By L. Stewart Marsden

I haven’t done the proper research to know when symbols were discovered by archeologists first used by humankind. Probably long before the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Suffice it to say symbols, logos, banners, flags, crests and other tangible and visual designs have been carried, borne, flown and otherwise pressed into too many battles and conflicts to count. They’ve been used to establish ownership, political and governmental dominance, and reminders of what and whom they stand for. Symbols have struck heart, courage, fear and various other emotional responses when heralded.

Depending on the perspective, symbols are welcomed or not. Some are benign in nature, like the constellations. Or the signs for gender. Others challenge long-held points of view and traditional convention, like the rainbow.

Symbols are used for order and safety, as with traffic signs and directional symbols.

Some symbols are highly personal, and relevant to only a few, as with my family’s crest.crest

Some symbols are universally recognized.

Many symbols are viewed and interpreted differently. The impact of some symbols changes with time.

In America, some symbols are seen as an expression of various freedoms. The country has fallen into debate regarding a symbol. Everyone might have an opinion regarding the symbol, though I doubt it. The historical impact of this symbol — the flag of the Confederate States of America — is a point of convergence for those that want to protect it and what it symbolizes, and those who want it taken down because of what it symbolizes.

therebelFor me, it symbolizes one of the worst periods in the history of the United States — the secession of several states from the Union and the ensuing loss of life, property and so much more during the War Between the States. It didn’t always. When I was a kid and my neighborhood friends gathered to play at war, we sometimes played Civil War. The Rebel, starring Nick Adams, portrayed a southern army survivor, Johnny Yuma, in his search for inner peace post-war, was a popular TV series. That gray crushed can-like cap with crossed rifles was bought and worn by dozens of kids I played with.

An earlier TV series that had a short run at the end of the 50’s was The Gray Ghost, a decidedly-biased and romanticized production that focused on Major John Mosby’s unit known as Mosby’s Raiders. But I didn’t know that. The show was very popular among a large following. Not one of us ever stopped to ask about the pivotal cause of the Civil War that I know of. We simply enjoyed playing war. I’ve read book after book on the Civil War. I’ve visited the grounds of Gettysburg and walked over land that was soaked with the blood of Northerners and Southerners.

Perhaps here I should inform you my parents were from Minnesota. Although I grew up in the south, my heritage has northern roots. I was reared when segregation subtly dominated in the background.

Schools, water fountains, restaurants, bathrooms and many other services and conveniences were separated between blacks and whites. It was not until I was in college that I began to have any realization of the great gap between blacks and whites. It was not until I read Alex Haley’s Malcolm X, or read Langston Hughes, Richard Wright or James Baldwin that I came anywhere close to having the binders pulled back. It was not until the great television series Roots aired that I had an inkling of the insidious practice of slavery in America.

As a child I would peer with wonder at the passing shanties along our driving route to the coast of South Carolina each summer for vacation. Dark, foreign structures that only hinted at the decades and centuries of abuse and subjugation on descendants of people from the west coast of Africa.

So within the turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s, I learned. Or better said, was exposed to truths I had not known before.

In an earlier opinion piece, I mentioned that I’ve been told on several occasions white people are inherently racist. Not sure there’s a DNA test that can isolate that particular bent, but when faced not only with the history of slavery and what appears to be continuing efforts by some to keep blacks “in their place,” I’ll concede the point. I compared that bent of racism on my part to other failings I have. For years I smoked cigarettes. Twice I quit — cold turkey — no patches, no support groups, no other nicotine substitutes. That was over twenty-five years ago. But I can tell you this: all I have to do is smoke one cigarette, and I’ll be off the wagon.

I don’t think I’ll become a raging David Duke fan, or KKK patch-wearing racist in the future. I know those people are out there. I stereotypically classify folk as racist who ride around with the Confederate flag attached to the rear window of their truck, or flapping from the radio antenna of their Dodge hemis (see … I’m prejudiced, too). And I am not so naïve as to think removal of the Confederate flag from various state flags or state government flag poles is going to correct centuries of inclinations.

But it’s a start. Take the symbols of hate and fear and stubbornness down. In both camps.

Then, Come now, let us reason together. (Isaiah 1:18).

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 23 June, 2015

Charleston, SC

21 Jun

Charleston, SC

By L. Stewart Marsden

The Old Slave Mart Museum of Charleston, SC, is located on Chalmers Street, about eleven blocks south of Calhoun Street, where Mother Emanuel AME Church stands.

Historians cite close to forty percent of the slave trade from Africa to the thirteen colonies came through Charleston.

According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an article published by

100facts_slaveslanded_lgThe most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.


And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.


outsidemarket-287x300Between the years 1525 and 1808, when foreign slave trading was outlawed in Charleston [], one can extrapolate that close to 135,000 Africans, primarily from the west coast of the continent, found themselves on the auction stage to be sold into slavery.

Interesting that Gates, a black man, uses the term only about 388,000.

More about 21-year-old Dylann Roof is slowly rising to the surface of the media blitz. And, when his profile is compared to those of other 21-year-old males, he is clearly an outlier. His opinions, biases, and compulsion to do harm are not those of the vast majority. As he might have wished himself to become somewhere in his skewed perception of the world, he is the exception to the rule.

Roof and his ilk are out there, embedded throughout our nation. We could categorize him in a Venn diagram with Islamic radicals, Christian radicals, and political radicals. He would share space with the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Eric Rudolph and James Holmes. He would be elbow-to-elbow with proponents of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. He would share his space with the KKK, Nazi Germany, and a host of infamous groups.

FDR said during his tenure as POTUS, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As a white man who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s, I have seen a lot of change. Hailing from Minnesota, my dad often said he wasn’t prejudiced against black. “We didn’t have any in Minnesota,” he would allege. Hence his innocence. But along the way by his side, I heard enough to know otherwise.

I was a Republican and rooted for the Republicans because my parents were Republicans. As a kid, it would be like growing up in a household of Mets fans, ergo you were a Met fan.

So was I also biased due to my parents’ attitudes towards blacks?

Mom hired black maids to help keep the house, do the laundry, cook the meals and look after the children so that she could be a part of the Garden Club and the other socialite groups in our southern town. The importance of that was more so because she was a Yankee by birth. Dad’s and her financial success mitigated that fact somewhat.

Mom learned to count the silverware because “it goes missing.” The terms “shiftless,” “non-trustworthy,” and a host of other stereotypes passed to her mindset due to friends’ and neighbors’ input.

When I think about that now, I wonder she could trust her children to be reared by these shiftless, non-trustworthy sorts. Seems a bit counter-intuitive looking back.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown was my and my brother’s surrogate mother. She reminded me of the Aunt Jemima illustration — a large, round and brown woman with thick kinky hair. Her bosom was the heart of consolation when needed. Her homespun remedies were as effective as any store-bought medicine (try slicing a potato and wrapping it in a damp cloth and putting it on a feverish brow).

There was a distinct difference between Virgie Mae and my mom. I could talk trash to Virgie Mae and get away with it. I fired her on many occasions, though the firings never stuck.

There was a hierarchy.

Schools I attended were lily-white until junior high. There was no busing. The city was laid out in stereotypical quadrants, with the two quadrants below the railroad tracks occupied by the less-fortunate (as they were politely referred to) and the blacks.

Water fountains were segregated, as were the bathrooms.

Signs declaring “Whites Only” didn’t exist to my memory. It was implied that if a store was on Main Street or other street frequented by whites, “coloreds” were not allowed.

The Paramount Theater had a side entrance for blacks, and those moviegoers climbed steps to a small second balcony. They were monitored for disrupting noise.

I was in the ninth grade before I played basketball with a black student. He was the lone black person on the team. He dressed and showered with us, and traveled to away games on the same bus as we did. Our coach, who we called “Stumpy J,” must have stuck his neck out pretty far to let the guy on the team. The student didn’t start. We were an all-white starting five.

As I grew older, the derogatory words, comments and jokes began to pry into my world. I won’t repeat them here.

Then Little Rock.

And Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X’s assassination.

The assassination of JFK.

King’s assassination.

RFK’s assassination.

George Wallace.

Televised marches and police responses.

The Freedom Riders.

The KKK.

Greensboro sit-in.


Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

And more.

A vortex that sucked all I knew at the time and spun it so fast and hard it was like having your bell rung in a boxing ring.

Then gradual change.

The first black mayor of Atlanta.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” types of films.

Busing and integration of schools at all grade levels.

Affirmative action.

More blacks elected to local, state and national positions.

Black studies at the college level in what were predominantly white schools.

Professional sports cracked open to receive black athletes.

Black personalities coming to the forefront in a variety of areas.






Was no progress realized? Have no changes occurred? Are we, as some suggest, going back to Jim Crow days?

Are white Americans, who will not soon, if not already, become less in overall numbers than “people of color,” digging in and refusing the tide of change?

Is there a tide?

All I know is things are different for me. Perhaps not as much as I’d like. I still live a rather secluded life as a white person. I know the advantages I have today largely have to do with the fact I was born white and to white parents.

I feel the stigma of my whiteness when a black instructor or FB “friend” states, “You are racist,” as though it automatically comes with my pigmentation. Perhaps I am. But I’m also addicted to cigarettes, and I haven’t smoked one since the late 1980’s.

I feel the helplessness of the repeating news stories of blacks seemingly accosted by both white and black law enforcement because of their color and where they live.

It is difficult not to agree with a pervading attitude that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know what the solutions are. I only know that calmer heads need to prevail for meaningful dialogue and change to occur.

Wow! More change needed. We still fear one another. Thought that one got checked off years ago.

Then Charleston.

We were wrong. The struggle is not over. We might have seen the mountain, but we are far from conquering its summit.

Notice, I said “we.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 21 June, 2015


17 Jun



By L. Stewart Marsden


My nephew and his daughter encounter an unexpected swimming mate. Actually, it's Photoshopped.

My nephew and his daughter encounter an unexpected swimming mate. Actually, it’s Photoshopped.





There’s shark activity off the NC coast this week. My family and I are about ten days from driving down to the feeding grounds for two weeks’ of sun ‘n sand ‘n shark bites.

One hapless swimmer was nipped at a beach to the south of where we’re staying. Her boogie board has two very nice impressions gouged out of either side of the Styrofoam carcass. The kind dentists use to make a dental impression. Say ahhhh!

Two others, a boy and a girl, lost portions or all of an arm at the next beach up. In the surf. In the afternoon. Not far from the beach’s pier where fishers have been chumming the waters around the stilted wooden structure. Both were left arm injuries. Apparently liberal sharks.

They were tiger sharks — or bull sharks, say the experts.

According to one website, you are more likely to die from bee, wasp or other insect stings than at the jaws of a shark. Actually, twenty more times likely to die from a cow bite.

Doesn’t take the attention off that meeting of land and sea, though. I’m sure the victims could care less about the remote chances of being bitten by a shark.

My youngest daughter says all sharks need to be killed. Yeah — that’s the spirit … kill the bad beasties.

Meanwhile I’m following Katharine and half a dozen other tagged sharks who meander up and down the east coast. Ba-bum … ba-bum … But it’s not the tagged sharks that cause the heartbeat to flutter.

The shark killed by humans ratio to human’s killed by sharks is something like a million to one each YEAR! I’ll bet the sharks don’t like those odds one bit. American Pharoah stood worse odds of losing the Triple Crown than sharks have of surviving the slaughter of their species.

Imagine what the shark newspapers are saying? What the headlines are … Keep Your Dorsals, Avoid Japan! And any other country’s waters where men worship shark parts over Viagra.

You know who’s fault this is, right?

Peter Benchley.

He’s not around to kick, though. And actually, Benchley became an advocate of shark protection before he died.

Spielburg runs a close second. And he is still around.

Then there’s Shark Week as well as the Sharknado film series.

Oh, god — if we can’t get hysterical over something …

Thank god for Donald Trump and comic relief.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 17 June, 2015

Ray Ferrer: 5.20.15

11 Jun



I was saddened today to learn of the death of Ray Ferrer, who illustrated my first book, Through the Glass Darkly. I discovered Ray because he discovered me on WordPress. His style of art fit uniquely with my stories, and he and I talked over the phone on several occasions. He was exceedingly generous with his charges to me for his work.

Ray and his wife, Rhian, moved to California from the New York area within the past couple of years, and it looked like his career was catching fire.

In January of this year he suffered a stroke, and a brain tumor was discovered. He succumbed to that condition last month. I was unaware of it.

You can see his Facebook page under Ray Ferrer, and I encourage you to click on the FundMe link, as I have no doubt Rhian has many expenses due to his hospitalization and treatment.

I’m going to republish Through the Glass Darkly in the next couple of months on Amazon. As it has several new stories, I was hopeful Ray would illustrate them for me. That will not happen. My heart goes out to Rhian and Ray’s family and friends. His is a great loss.


Ray Ferrer's cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly

Ray Ferrer’s cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly


Art by Ray Ferrer

Art by Ray Ferrer


Illustration by Ray Ferrer

Illustration by Ray Ferrer


Illustration by Ray Ferrer

Illustration by Ray Ferrer


Illustrated by Ray Ferrer

Illustrated by Ray Ferrer


Illustrated by Ray Ferrer

Illustrated by Ray Ferrer

Review: Sons of Anarchy

10 Jun




Sons of Anarchy

A review . . .

By L. Stewart Marsden


By the time Jax Teller makes the only feasible exit possible after 95 episodes of “Sons of Anarchy,” the community of Charming, California, surrounding areas as well as parts of Ireland are strewn with an incredible body count. In fact, I’m not sure there is an accurate count available. In the hundreds, I think.

What took seven years to smear onto video tape occupied just a few years of television world time.

To what end?

Was there some kind of bet between the producers of SOA with those of “Dexter” or “Breaking Bad?” Did ratings soar with each shot to the head, decapitation, people burned alive?

Anchored in fantasyland, the storyline seeks to draw both disgust and empathy for a lead character who belies heroic description. Jax begins this jugular-ripping journey with a modicum of innocence. A desire to flesh out the dreams of his dead father. To change the culture of SAMCRO and the Sons of Anarchy.

Most of its members are ex-military. All are etched with scars, tats, and the propensity to hug and slap leathered backs at every turn. Alcohol and drugs are the sustenance of everyone. Women are the subjugated possessions with incredible power that is never used.

Blacks, Hispanic, Whites, Nazis, Asians, IRA members (not the retirement kind) and all part of the mix. Transgender, gay, porno actors … all combine for the Charming effect.

Basically I was disappointed with the series. I’m nearly convinced it was the boyish ruggedness of lead actor Charlie Hunnam and his slick bare butt that lit the fuse of popularity for the series. Again, what kind of hero?

In a screenwriting course at NYU, rogue heroes were touted as a popular character. Maverick is a good example of such a hero. Loveable, funny … an outlier in balancing on the edge of propriety and the law.

Jax takes that to new horizons. And in my estimation, fails.

Again, actor Hunnam spent the series trying to land on an accent. I was never sure if he was from New Orleans, Atlanta, or the Bronx. Every once-in-a-while he slipped and his Newcastle, England accent broke through.

What I got used to was any character that you liked at all was going to get killed. With the exception of Jimmy Smits, who probably didn’t like the way his character ended up in the Dexter series.

The formula of the series really was a daytime drama format. Endless movement from one spot to another spot to have a few words, got a minute, can you spare me a second, I need to see you kinds of rendezvous with plenty of “I love you, man” and slaps on the back.

And cigarettes. R.J. Reynolds and all the other tobacco companies must have LOVED this series! I’m wondering if Hunnam has some sort of lung cancer fund proviso in his contract.

Language? Well, compared to everything else, not a big effing deal.

One more observation . . .

This spring nine motorbike gang members were killed in a shootout in Waco, Texas. The media went WILD! In this series hundreds of people are murdered, including cops — and nothing from the media.

So, like Jax, I’m glad the series is over. There was no way to charge through this series. It took me a looooong time to watch.

Can we go back to something more realistic and tame? Like “House of Cards,” please?


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 10 June, 2015

Travel day

9 Jun

No new posts today for The Test. Check tomorrow.

The Test … and furthermore continued …

8 Jun

Previous installment



Sheila Dumphreys sat on a chair facing the three adult children in the ICU waiting area. Each was in a state of shock and disbelief. Dawn reviewed her father’s Advanced Directives slowly, while Sean sat back in his chair, head bowed and chin on chest. Tink fidgeted with an unlit cigarette and stared out into the room.

In the background were the now-familiar noises of the machinery bent on sustaining Timothy Cardiff ad infinitum.

She read from the document aloud to the group.

I, Timothy Elliot Cardiff, being of sound mind, hereby appoint the following person(s) to serve as my health care agent(s) to act for me and in my name (in any way I could act in person) to make health care decisions for me as authorized in this document. My designated health care agent(s) shall serve alone, in the order named.

“My name is listed first. Sean’s is first alternative, and Tink, yours is the second.”

“Yeah?” Tink looked up as she rolled the cigarette between her thumb and forefinger, “Always last. Always the black sheep.”

“That’s not it, Tink!” Sean inserted. “Obviously it’s by age. And obviously Dad chose Dawn because she lives in town, and because she was the one who took care of Mom before she died.”

“Right. She did it the old-fashioned way — she earned it!” Tink responded sarcastically.

“Hey — I am more than glad to turn the responsibility over to you if you want it that badly,” Dawn shot back.

“No. No, I’m just tired. Sorry. Don’t pay any attention to me.”

Dawn continued to read.

Subject to any restrictions set forth in Section 5 below, I grant to my health care agent full power and authority to make and carry out all health care decisions for me. These decisions include, but are not limited to:

  1. Requesting, reviewing, and receiving any information, verbal or written, regarding my physical or mental health, including, but not limited to, medical and hospital records, and to consent to the disclosure of this information.
  2. Employing or discharging my health care providers.
  3. Consenting to and authorizing my admission to and discharge from a hospital, nursing or convalescent home, hospice, long-term care facility, or other health care facility.
  4. Consenting to and authorizing my admission to and retention in a facility for the care or treatment of mental illness.
  5. Consenting to and authorizing the administration of medications for mental health treatment and electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), commonly referred to as “shock treatment.”
  6. Giving consent for, withdrawing consent for, or withholding consent for, X-ray, anesthesia, medication, surgery, and all other diagnostic and treatment procedures ordered by or under the authorization of a licensed physician, dentist, podiatrist, or other health care provider. This authorization specifically includes the power to consent to measures for relief of pain.
  7. Authorizing the withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging measures.

“Yeah — that’s a shitload to carry,” piped Tink, shifting in her chair and shaking her head. “You are definitely welcome to it.”

“I’m going to do whatever we — the three of us — decide is best for Dad. Obviously we want him to fully recover and to live another twenty years. But if he doesn’t recover? If he’s only alive because of the machines?”

“I’ve heard of people who’ve been comatose for years only to suddenly wake up!” Tink said.

“Look — Dad watched Mom fade away in this very hospital. Seven months! No way he wants to go that way. He used to say ‘By God, take me out and shoot me!’”

Tink objected, “He was joking about that …”

“I’m not so sure. Remember Tom Hawkins? He sneezed three times and was dead. In a restaurant, for God’s sake! Dad said that’s the way he wants to go out. Looks like he won’t get that chance.”

“Hey, I need a cigarette and some fresh air,” Tink spurted.

“Wait a few minutes, please,” coaxed Dawn. She continued to read on.

Providing my medical information at the request of any individual acting as my attorney-in-fact under a durable power of attorney or as a Trustee or successor Trustee under any Trust Agreement of … blah, blah, blah … I authorize my health care agent to take any and all legal steps necessary to ensure compliance with my instructions providing access to my protected health information.

 “So what are Dad’s instructions?” Sean butted in.

“Basically, if there is little or no hope? Pull the plugs and let him go.”

“Don’t we have any say? Ms. Dumphries — are our hands tied? Can we get into some kind of legal trouble if we choose something else for Dad?”

“The only trouble would come about if someone filed a legal complaint. You three, plus Dawn’s husband, I guess — but primarily you guys decide. Dawn has the ultimate responsibility. Again, if there’s consensus, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Yeah, shouldn’t be … but that doesn’t sound absolute,” Dawn commented.

“Right. There are no real absolutes … or guarantees. And your dad knew that when he completed this Advance Directives. He knew you guys might actually choose not to follow his wishes.”

“So, did he put something in the will about that?” asked Sean.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Like if we digressed from his wishes, the will would change in some way.”

“No, he didn’t. And we talked about that. He felt you would all want to honor his wishes.”

“Shit!” erupted Tink.

“What? You think he should stay hooked up if there’s no hope?” Dawn turned to her sister.

“What I think is that who knows for sure when something is hopeless? I mean, there are hopeless situations that suddenly turn for the better. They happen every day all over the world!”

“Well then I suppose that’s what Dad wants me to determine.”

And Sean and me!”

“Not legally,” interjected Dumphreys. “Dawn has final say. And I assume she will follow her dad’s wishes, right Dawn?”

Dawn moved in her chair and looked down.

“Are we at that point yet?” she finally said. “The doctor said she wanted to run more testing in order to give us as definitive a medical condition on Dad as possible. I’d like to wait for those results.”

Tink sighed, “Yes! Don’t do anything knee-jerk right now. Let’s see how it plays out for awhile.”

“Tink, we’re all willing to wait and not to make a hasty decision — but there’s got to be a … I hate to say this … deadline. Dawn, you should go home and rest if you can. Tink and I will hang out with Dad. We can call you if anything changes.”

“Wednesday. If we have the test results and if things have not progressed, and if there are no promising changes, I’d like that to be the deadline.”

“Wow, three days? Remind me not to make you my health power of attorney, Sis,” Tink snarked.

“Stop it, Tink,” ordered Sean. “C’mon, guys … we’re family.” He stood up and spread his arms. Dawn and Tink stood, as did Dumphreys.

The three closed in and hugged awkwardly while the attorney looked on.





Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 8 June, 2015

The Test … futhermore continued …

7 Jun

Previous installment


Dawn sat in the small waiting area adjacent to the ICU. She had gone downstairs and bought a vase of flowers and a get-well card in the gift shop. She was in the process of writing a note to her dad in the event he awoke.

“Hi sis,” a familiar voice interrupted her concentration.

She looked up to see her younger brother standing beside her chair. He bent to her and they hugged, then he plopped down in the chair next to her. She paused to look him over. Sean Cardish was thin but muscular, with short cropped red hair and deep blue eyes. His ruddy complexion gave him the air of the outdoor enthusiast he was.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she smiled. “You look awful!”

“Yeah, I ‘spose I do. I grabbed the red-eye,” he looked at his Apple watch. “It’s four AM my time. How’s Dad?”

“Well, he’s all hooked up and hasn’t awakened since I’ve been here … It’s serious.”

“No duh, Sis! That’s why I’m here! Tell me something I don’t know …”

“Very serious. Have you talked to Tink?”

“Texted her. She’s driving up. I think she probably stopped overnight along the way. It’s fourteen hours in the best of traffic.”

“I would have paid for her flight.”

“And then she would have felt she owed you.”

“She should learn to get over it.”

“Yeah, well like that’s going to happen soon. You guys need to bury the hatchet — if only for Dad.”

“Takes two to tango, Sean. God knows I’ve done everything I know on my side.”

Dawn’s phone vibrated on the end table beside her chair and she picked it up.

“Speak of the devil,” she said after glancing at the screen. “Hey! Tink, where the hell are you? Sean is sitting right beside me! … Where? So how far away is that? Four hours! What the hell? … Yes, sorry! You know I would have paid for a flight up …”

She held the phone from her ear. “I’m putting you on speaker phone so Sean can join in,” and a voice could be heard responding “NO! DON’T!”

“Too late … Here’s Sean …”

Sean bent forward toward the iPhone Dawn held in the space between them.

“Hi Tink! Where are you?”

“Just past Savannah on 95. Without a stop I’ll be there in about four hours. I had to stay overnight along the way ‘cause I was so tired! You know El Cheapo Lodges in Georgia are the pits!”

“Yeah, well don’t worry,” Sean comforted her, “just get here safely. I’m here with Dawn, and we’ll keep the vigil on Dad.”

“So how is he?”

“He hasn’t awakened since they brought him in this morning,” Dawn replied. “He’s stable, but in critical condition. The ICU. Hooked up to everything under the sun.”

“Oh great. Just the way he wanted,” Tink’s tinny voice returned. “Who have you contacted?”

“I put it out on Facebook for prayers. A boatload of flowers and cards have already been delivered. And I’m getting phone calls from his friends and work associates. I’ve also contacted Sheila Dumphreys.”

“The attorney? Why?”

“Well … she is the executor of his will …”

“Goddamn, Dawn! Aren’t you jumping the gun a bit?” came Tink’s irritated voice.

“Hey, Tink,” interrupted Sean, “I think it’s a good idea to alert Dumphreys. I mean if Dad were to go, at least we would have a plan on his wishes … you know, funeral and that stuff …”

“Jesus, Sean! You too? Give the man a break, for God’s sake! I’d rather not think about that until I absolutely have to. We need to do everything we can to keep Dad with us!”

“Tink, we can talk about this when you get here,” calmed Dawn.

“Well, I suppose. I’m hanging up now . . . which hospital, by the way?”


“Okay. I might have to stop once more for gas and something to eat. Although I’m not at all hungry.”

“Just drive carefully, Tink. We’ll see you when you get here.”

“Where’re you staying, Sean?”

“Dad’s, I guess.”

“Okay. I’ll stay there too.”

“You can stay with me and Jared,” Dawn offered.

“That’s okay, Sis. I’ll hang out at Dad’s with Sean. See you guys later.”

Dawn disconnected and looked at her brother.


“Bury the hatchet, Dawn.”

“I’ll do what I can, but I can’t promise anything.”


Suddenly the two heard an outbreak of alarms going off from the ICU. They both stood and watched as hospital staff rushed to the curtained area where their dad was hooked up. A voice on the overhead intercom repeated in a surprisingly calm voice,

“Dr. Singh, ICU, Code Blue … Dr. Singh, ICU, Code Blue … calling Dr. Adriane Singh, ICU, Code Blue …”


Want to

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 7 June, 2015

The Test … further continued

6 Jun

Continued from last post


The noise of the life-support machinery bothered Dawn the most. Not how her dad looked prone on the  ICU hospital bed. Contrary to her expectation, his skin tone looked good — nearly normal. A crinkled plastic tube extended from his mouth to a ventilator next to the bed. A thin, clear tube ran from one nostril to a bag of liquid hanging among many. His hair was combed neatly. His eyes peacefully shut, flickering back and forth under the lids in REM sleep. Reading a book, she thought.

The ventilator — ka-puff … wheeze … ka-puff – wheeze — combined with the beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor that graphed his heartbeats in jagged green mountains against a black background — reminded her of the Stomp concert she and Jared saw on their last anniversary. Dad gave them the tickets. It was loud. Not her cup of tea. Just like the noisy hospital room.

“He’s stabilized,” said the cardiology. Dawn was reminded of a pet peeve of her dad’s.

“Stable is not a goddamn condition!” he would rail at the TV or radio whenever the term was used. He hated those who should know better continued to abuse the terminology. “Even the network anchors — and PBS!”

“Critical condition,” the cardiologist had correctly said.

It was a wait-and-see situation.

With all of the hook-ups, all the indicators were slightly south of normal. Blood pressure on the low side. A slight recurring arrhythmia blipping on the heart monitor. Elevated temp, just under 100.5 degrees. Even respiration with regular, sonorous breaths, his chest rising and falling.

IV fluids and meds. Hanging to the side of the bed, a flat vinyl pouch with some yellow liquid — a tube running from it under the covers. Catheter, thought Dawn. She had been hospitalized as a child and had one. It embarrassed her when visitors noticed it and asked her, “What’s that?” “Pee,” she would answer, blushing.

“He’s on pain meds and others that will help him sleep. I don’t imagine he will come out of it for another eighteen hours or so,” the doc explained.

“Is he comatose, then?”

“No. Not at this point.”

“What would bring that on?” she asked.

“We are hopeful stroke won’t be a problem. Or another myocardial infarction — heart attack,” she explained.

“Is that a likelihood?”

“Well, in the way that after-shocks can be expected after an earthquake — sure. You will probably want someone with him twenty-four seven.”

“I’ll stay tonight, and I’m sure one of my other siblings will spell me. Both are on their way and should arrive tomorrow sometime.”

“And you have medical power of attorney?”

“Yeah. Are we at that point?”

“No. But I’m glad you’re local. I’ve looked his Advanced Directives over. He’s not keen on vegetating on life support.”

“Not him. He hates hospitals. His mom lingered on life support for more than seven months before she went.”


“Yeah. So it’s not the way he wants to go.”

“Are you prepared, then?”

“Who can ever be prepared?”


“I’m gonna have to rely heavily on your medical opinion.”

“I understand. Well, we’re not there yet. But that could change — actually either way — in the snap of a finger,” and he snapped his fingers.

“Sounds awfully iffy . . .”

“Nothing is a sure bet, Ms. …”

“Ellington. Dawn Ellington. I’m the eldest daughter. I have an older brother and younger sister. Like I said, they’re on their way.”

“I’ll try to give you enough information in a timely fashion for you and your siblings to make an informed decision.”

“Appreciate that. Problem is it’s me who has the final say. According to the POA.”

“Yeah, but you know that’s not legally binding.”


“Sure. Plenty of time next of kin have influenced medical decisions contrary to the patient’s desires. Probably more likely where there is no Advanced Directive or POA. But even when those are in place, things change.”

“Great! And if I don’t agree with my siblings?”

“I’d advise consensus.”

“Even if it goes contrary to my dad’s wishes?”

“The survivors are the people you have to live with when and if your father goes.”


“It’s not an enviable position to occupy.”

“Tell me about it.”


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 6 June, 2015

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