It Ain’t Fiction, Calypso

One of the first things I do most mornings—after eating pills and recording my body’s behavior—is to skim various places on the internet. This morning, my skimming took me to a piece on the NPR website. Reading Linda Wertheimer’s goodbye note, announcing her retirement, brought tears to my eyes. I have enormous regard for her and for so many of her colleagues—some of whom have died—who have made the organization what it is…Cokie Roberts, Noah Adams, Bob Siegel, Susan Stamburg, Nina Totenberg, Scott Simon…the list could go on and on. All Things Considered has been one of my favorite programs, along with Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and a host of lighthearted shows like A Way with Words; Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me; Car Talk; etc. But, regardless of my appreciation for so many of NPR’s programs, I have always held Linda Wertheimer in the very highest regard, above and beyond her context on the air. I will miss her. Maybe I should send her flowers to acknowledge her retirement and to express my deep appreciation for contributions to my understanding of so many things.

Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive.

~ Brian Clough ~


Like so many nights of late, I went to bed quite early last night. When I got up at 4 this morning, I had slept with only a few brief interruptions (my bladder jars me awake from time to time) for about eight hours. Eight hours is said to be normal or what one’s body needs, but I have needed only six or seven hours for most of my adult life. Of course, last night’s eight hours followed on to several lengthy naps during the day. I will ask my oncologist, when I see her Thursday morning, why my need for excessive sleep has gone on almost non-stop since my first chemo treatment. I expected only seven to ten days of fatigue. She’ll probably say individuals’ responses to chemo vary; I think she may already have told me that, when I asked the same question a week ago. I do need to remember to ask her whether, after my chemo is completed, my immunotherapy treatments will require an hour or more every three weeks (for two years). I have so many questions. I wish I could spend an hour or two with my oncologist, when she is not pressured to tend to other patients, to ask those questions and the follow-up queries that arise when I hear the answers. Wish. Wish. Wish. Perhaps I should invite her to dinner. Her husband, a interventional radiologist, could come along. I suspect she wants nothing more than to spend even more time with a cancer patient after a grueling day treating so many patients, some of whom probably will die within weeks or months. That reality cannot be easy to live with.


So many ideas are spinning through my head that capturing just one to explore is next to impossible. I want to write stories that integrate fact with fiction, something I enjoy, but a thousand other things clamor for my attention, as well. Grisly, unthinkable stuff competes with tender stories that cause tears to well up in my eyes just by thinking of them. Spy adventures vie for my fingers’ energy with as much power as do stories based on complex characters dealing with complex circumstances. And historical fiction, on occasion, intrigues me. But I so rarely finish writing, once I start. I lose interest. Or another idea overtakes the one in which I am enmeshed, causing me to set one aside for another…which I will set aside later. I could be a decent writer, I think, if I wrote better.


I am scheduled for my annual physical in an hour and fifteen minutes. I should eat something first, because I am hungry. But I am hungry for a croissant, which I do not have, accompanied by another espresso, which I do. Perhaps espresso and a piece of rye toast with no-sugar-added peach preserves? That will do. Off I go.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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