Love: A Chronicle



My mother was my first love. She was on this planet 91 years and I was born when she was 37. Forty-three years later she turned 80 and I sent her eighty birthday cards, beginning on the eightieth day before her birthday. Even at 80 I could barely stand the idea of losing her - fortunately she lived eleven more years. I was her primary care giver during the last four months of her life. I held her in my arms when she took her last breath. When she was dying I wrote pages and pages of "commentary" - this is a paragraph from that journal:

As she has for most of these now eight days (without food, save chocolate birthday cake) my mom has lain on her back since mid-morning, but today, she has been awake much or most of the time, rather than sleeping. Strangely awake, as if she is taking it in a final time, or taking a final look - though her look contains worlds and dreams in front and behind of this one. She hears me, responds to me, and when I began to silently cry, the feeling welling up, she turned her head in my direction as if our thought streams were clearly meeting. Never once during these eight days has she complained. She often apologizes, though playfully, for causing so much trouble. Sometimes she says, after I turn her, "I'm like turning a horse" - and I reply, "Yeah, a stiff horse." The small smile she can still form is the most beautiful one of all. On her back she is symmetrical, her grey hear brushed across the pillow, her hands rest on her collar bone and rise and fall with her breathing.


My father was my second love, though we struggled for decades having antithesis as the kind of gravel our relationship traveled on. As my psychic friend once said, "He is your grindstone." In old age the gravel became sand and then powder - Alzheimer's softened everything and my father's eyes teared when I arrived and when I left the facility he lived in. This is what I wrote about my father a year after he died:

Final events, Bill Scheffel (I have the same name as my father): moved from his apartment to "independent living" (Villas Atrium), then to "assisted living" (Shawnee Gardens), finally a "memory care facility" (The Balfour). He began to cancel his own rent checks. He stopped taking all his medications (claimed he hadn't taken them for years). I disconnected the battery cables in his automobile. His knees weakened but his handshake became stronger. His name was taped to his eyeglasses. He remembered no ones name. Was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Sometimes thought I was his brother. Had no idea when he last saw me. Was considered "a gentlemen" wherever he lived (Villas, Shawnee, Balfour). Had friends in a way he never had before. Had no idea he had these friends. Didn't necessarily know where he was at any given time or that Obama was president. Flirted. Ate everything on his plate. Fell often. Always excited to see me. Always sad when I left. Misplaced his wristwatch. Lost his wallet. Could barely stand up. Shook hands hard. Knees gave out, back mangled, poked at his food, moments of panic. Died alone in his room after dinner.

Dogen said we each have all the provisions we need for this lifetime. My father was afraid of being alone yet endured tremendous aloneness - and was nearly deaf - for the last years of his life. Until he could no longer make his bed - or even know it was his bed - he made it well, with the same military precision he brought to writing a check, to everything. He loved his car and bathed it in Armor All. In those final two-plus years he came into the lives of countless people - including my own - as an agent of dignity with a devastating handshake. Many brain cells left him yet the accuracy of his sarcasm remained as intact as Nolan Ryan's fastball. His affection for the world may have finally resided in his sardonic, self-effacing complaints, his uncannily durable insistence that the glass was half-empty. That his pessimism and my optimism are in complete agreement is a small miracle.

Strangely, Although I loved my mother more easily than my father, since they've died I've missed my dad more than my mom. Often they both appear vividly in my dreams.


Wife and Lovers

Lisa, Erris, Lynda, Elizabeth, Deena, Cathy. I've had six major relationships in my life. One was my wife, another I planned to marry, two I never lived with. All but one are still in my life, some deeply and undoubtedly life-long. Others of my friends now are woman I was once lovers with: C, K, L, L, M, S, and V (but not T, through estrangement). Some of the letters of this alphabet Ive forgotten. My love life has been mercurial, stormy, deep, impulsive, tempered, honest, naive, caring, creative, obstructed, beautiful and poetic. Here is what I wrote about one relationship, the one challenged by PTSD:

One year ago I planned to get married. Now I may never get married again. That is how my thinking has changed in a year. For this, I’ve felt embarrassed. May whip myself inside. Yet today, when I thought of my situation, I felt no embarrassment at all. I stared at sunlight on a sycamore tree. I felt the frozen January air at my nostrils. Her complaints have made me an honest man. I need frequent solitude. I'm independent. I want my own room. She senses withholdings much milder than these like a German shepherd sniffing cocaine. She is, as she says, hyper-vigilant. Her suspicion is as fast and tightly wound as a mouse trap. She expects me to accommodate her mistrust. Negotiate with the springs. Come clean, and then accept her apology. "You must love me always" is the mantra she flexes her muscles with. I am asked to become pliable and consistent. For much of the past twelve months she has criticized me. Vented her rage. Forced me to change. Much of it I've allowed, like a sail willing to take any wind. In the tempest of sexual abuse her trauma was timed to release only recently: the twelve month period we have lived through. Since March, she has suffered enormously. But gradually, like the slow deflation of a tire, some of the pressure of anger and rage has been released from her system. Then sometimes there is none. Ten days ago, for instance: she said she felt only grief, not anger. She said the relationship we once had is over. Since then she looks at me occasionally as if questioning my existence. Am I unreal? A dream figure? Someone who walked out of the television and will soon return to Channel Seven? We have lost hope, are ship-wrecked, yet sleep in the same bed (we must rinse the salt from our sheets). Dreams and insomnia cause us to forget our alienation and we wake to offer each other a smile. We cozy our flesh and lay there. Now she is the pliable one, ceases to criticize, keeps her emotions to herself. Throws the I Ching but will not share its meaning. As she becomes independent, discreet and solitary I move closer. I begin to imagine my future less compromised by her will. The waters are calm. The kisses sweet. In this delirium I relax, taste domestic felicity - and forget the lessons of our history. Our chemistry is not fair weather or neutrality, but grindstones and fire.



I learned I had cancer this way: My urologist performed a rectal examination and as soon as she felt my prostate she seemed to know, though all she said to me was, "You need a biopsy, my friend."

Besides receiving radiation, becoming tired for a couple of months and the moody depressions following hormone therapy, my cancer came and passed (my urologist claims it has passed) with little inconvenience, no pain and without chemotherapy and its side-effects (chemotherapy is not used in prostate cancer).

What does it mean for a man to have passed through prostate cancer? How will prostate cancer effect my love life? The effects of cancer upon me were seemingly so minimal that at times I wondered if I was even conscious of my journey.

A year after my radiation treatments I feel almost reborn. Before the cancer I had no symptoms. After the radiation, strangely, I have less need to urinate at night than before. Everything else still works, too. At least autoerotically. I have not had a partner in fifteen months.

In truth, the radiation - or was it the hormone therapy? (or was it depression?) - wiped out my sex-drive for many months. Now it is April, my birthday was three weeks ago and I feel sexually aligned with the narcissus and other budding spring phenomena. I am ready... but for what? I don't know what I'm ready for. Is this the result of the cancer? In some ways I feel like I've never known sex. I want to move slowly.

I feel I am approaching relationship differently now. Everything has a pattern. What will mine be? Maybe not the same pattern or even a known one.


My son was born on 20-March 1984. I felt his presence when he was conceived. We were ready with a name for him, Devin - in Gaelic, it means poet/sage)I was there at the home birth. I watched the cervix astonishingly widen, the head and matted hair begin to emerge. I felt my life changing forever. I caught him as he passed from the birth-canal world into this one. I cut the umbilical cord. I held him in my arms, and as he grew sometimes tossed him into the air, his smile becoming wider and wider the longer he was airborne.







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