Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Radio Signals in a Digital World

My son, born under the Hale-Bopp coment, studies the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and beyond. Based here on the mysterious spark of water and carbon, a chemical reaction perhaps, life. Out there, the telescopes scan the unknown, adding day by day to the reserve of human knowledge. Sending out into the vast Beyond a record of our human life meant to travel beyond our boundaries and limits in search of something more. We hope and dread some acknowledgement of our passing by. Is it not enough to reach out and touch each other?

There is more to learn than a lifetime can teach in the habits of the toads living in the damp recess under the deck with moss and the remains of last year's acorns. I unpry my son's hands to loosen his grip. For a moment the small creature stares up at us, white tipped toes splayed, heartbeat visible through the thin skin, the pouch at its neck inflating and deflating. We stare back, then watch him hop out into his world, our backyard now a toad's universe spiraling out into the woods beyond. We too are small and vulnerable, breathing deep when danger has passed, together amazed at what the day provides.

R. E. T. (Random Emotion Triggers)

There are days where she cannot believe that death is a possibility. There is so much work to be done. Lessons to plan, menus, pajamas to fold, novels to read, three sons to feed. How is it possible that she must contemplate death while cooking rice for dinner, or walking the dogs along the tall corridor of trees? No one mentioned that the fear still could catch her unaware, with tears at unexpected moments, on the way home from the video shop, or peeling carrots, or combing her now shoulder-length hair. This time, a weekend movie set in space. Each individual made in duplicate, multiples. Memory transfered from the broken body to the whole. She holds her husband's hand, remembers how many times he's been the link that held her in this world, held her near to sanity when letting go, when ending the effort began to seem a viable option. And other times too, at football games, at the orchestra, as they held their sons in the moments after birth. Tonight she looks away, blinking, waiting for the fear to pass and the moment to turn to gratitude for another day alive, for another moment to watch and to be a part of it all.

One Year, Again.

I've been to "one year" before, one and a half years ago. The doctor said to come back for a bit more blood work, for another scan. Those scans said: second primary tumor, hereditary. I wonder if the first cancer saved my life. There was no evidence, except in my blood. And no one would have been looking at blood under a microscope if I hadn't already been sick once before. Typical onset is 70, screening begins at 50, sometimes later. I was 35.

Monday was my "one year" from the end of treatment checkup. Last July during my 8th infusion of what was meant to be 12 doses of Folfox6, I began having trouble reading, then seeing, then breathing. Then I realized that I was having a reaction to the medications that were meant to kill the cancer cells. My face burned and I felt choked; I could hardly raise my voice to call the nurse. And in a flurry, a brief moment or two, the line was unplugged from the port.

The nurses called my husband and he drove from work to sit with me. For an hour, the nurses watched to make sure the side-effects were subsiding. I closed my eyes and practiced breathing until the air passed freely in and out of my lungs. My husband, held my hand. In my head, the storm of emotion raged, questions, doubts, and fear. If I could not continue these infusions, what would we have to do for treatment next?

After some time, the doctor returned to send me on my way home. What next? Clinical standards suggest twelve dose, but medicine is still a question, a guessing game, an art of conjecture, laboratory work, and faith. The reaction signaled the end of the chemotherapy and the start of wait and see. Now, blood work and scans.

Now attempt to return to normal life. Now the fog lifting, clarity, hope, and each day another chance to live better. To learn what I am meant to learn: mostly, that I cannot do it all on my own, no matter how able, how strong, how determined, how intelligent, how stubborn I may be.



In the dream, the group plans to trade one friend for the money to finance a holdiay blowout. Her life insurance will pay for presents, treats, wrapping paper, tinsel. She watches benignly as they collect their temporary treasures around them. Why? I ask. Everyone looks away


In the mirror this morning, I ask my reflection: what life am I trading? And for what?
For what?


At daybreak, I climb the hill on 20th Street. A buzzard rides on the updrafts, circling. A mouse lies dead on the pavement's edge. Today, I will trade for nothing that will not bring me joy. My son and I hokey-pokey down the hill, even as he protests. I choose these: long walks with children, dogs, and my life's love; the promise of new friends and places; the comfort of those who have shared my highs and lows; and the never-ending pleasure of words. What trinkets could compare?