Friday, April 30, 2010



“Hi Ed,

“Two things to say: first, I once had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by Stephen Hawkins. Only his assistant could understand his verbal comments. But Hawkins managed to find meaning in life in his condition, so I imagine we all should be able to so, no matter what.

“Second, I like your articles, and urge you not to give up, if that was the thought behind your desire to talk about death.

“Guess I'll say more after all.

“You are in a position to explore a part of life that most of us will never have access to. A very dear friend suffered a bi-lateral stroke 2 ½ years ago and might have uttered 5 or 10 sentences since. He's now 54, physically intact (although maybe blind—we cannot tell) and we find your articles inspirational. You have what we all hope and pray (and doubt) he has, your mind is intact.

“If I misunderstood your article, ‘Tough Subject,’ [April 14, 1010] then pardon me. I just want to say that if it is a call for help, that I am answering.

“Nice to meet you, Dan”


No, the column wasn’t (intended) as call for help, but I suddenly see your point and perspective and am compelled to (1) apologize for heretofore not seeing it; and, (2) thank you very, very much for the concern, the courage, and the…I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I wish I had some of it…care, is part of it, but whatever else makes you decide to sit down, interrupt your busy day and write such a letter.

I must have dozens of them in my head at any moment, and I’m ashamed to say I’ve written none. The one time I wrote one (to Hal Holbrook), years ago (and it was not important), I was astounded that he…well, that he got it, frankly… but that he read it, appreciated it, and wrote back. Yet, I don’t think I wrote another, certainly not like yours..

Steven Hawkins has crawled around my head, too, by the way, especially since this so-called damage that I privately refer to as one of the greatest adventures of my otherwise lazy (I’m not opposed to laziness, by the way) and incredibly rewarding life.

I look at things a bit differently, now—just a bit, I swear to God—and yet, suddenly all of it is more wondrous by tenfold. I mean every bit of it, every obstacle, delay, interruption, scene, tragedy, comedy, poignancy, terror; all of it seems to exist as a show, an awesome production for (my, I guess) entertainment, education, and growth.

One of the examples I’ve used is the walk from the car to (the currently closed) Abel Conklin’s Restaurant. I never before paid attention, in all the years I’ve been going there, and it is one miracle after another, gone unnoticed all these years. Forget the ancillary miracles of the car, the trees, birds, sounds, scents, the sky and all of that, for a moment, just concentrate on what a body has to do to get from a Honda CRV to the door.

You are across New Street. First, you get out of the car, but you have go up the (high) curb to aim yourself properly across the street. This involves stepping up, crossing over some lovely (but uncertain) grass, and facing the voyage head-on.

Without the balance you are unconsciously unconscious of, mounting the curb is a daunting task, and one whose completion makes you feel quite proud (after a year or so of feeling self-indulgently useless, incompetent, ashamed, and inordinately punished for some sarcasm; but that’s another essay.).

Forget the traffic. It would take too much time to describe its variety, speed, direction and relative inattentiveness. Just figure there’s standard traffic—oh, all right, maybe two drivers have homicide lurking in their brains—and a breeze blowing out of the north, just to keep balance in mind.

Now, step off the curb, and notice two things about New Street. First, it’s sloped, maybe 20-degrees right-to-left, because Huntington is built on a hill; and it’s crowned to boot, to keep the rainwater headed for the sewers. You have to put that in your mental computer and prepare for it or, you most assuredly will fall.

And on the other side (suddenly quite a ways off), there’s another curb, leading to another patch of lush grass. This, before you steady yourself for another challenge: the brick walk.

You may have thought a brick walk was level. It looks level, I will grant you. It may once even have been level, for a day or two, but now, it mimics the soft ground underneath. It’s like walking on billiard balls pretending to be bricks. Then, there’s two oversized, inch-thick, slate steps that collect and store rainwater (unevenly, it would seem, but in fact, the opposite); and now you’re at the door.

What a trip. I’d take you to lunch to celebrate my making it to lunch.

You know—not to change the subject, but, yes, to change the subject—I’m increasingly overwhelmed by your letter even as I write these sentences. On a different day, and, perhaps if I were not feeing so lucky, it may have been the single most important sentiment or gift of encouragement I desperately needed, at a singularly crucial time in my life.

So, evidently, this is my long-winded way of saying, “Thank you;” and, “Thank you,” again, for the reminder that we’re in this life (or we are tragically not), together.

It’s all so simple. When I can, and I have the strength, and the luxury of some time, and the opportunity, for God’s sake, I should help somebody up.

You know, it’s damn nice to meet you, too.

An honor, in fact.



  1. This is actaully a column for a future date. But after I wrote it, I thought, "What if the plane for a one-week Floride vacation crashed, and nobody ever heard, or read, this column?

    Imagine what a writer thinks about his writing, to even entertain a lofty thought like that? I ought get good, quick kick in the ass. Still, here it is. Heaven help me.

  2. When you're a writer, you've GOTTA think like that....or heaven help you! It's not hubris, as long as you're keeping an eye out FOR hubris. It's simply.... sharing your gift. Enjoy Florida. :o) Joan

  3. WOW.. and I didnt even have to wait until Sunday night.. here the column is already! ;)
    I was reflecting earlier tonight (rare I keep my thoughts to myself)
    So rare, that my Katie had to stop and ask me if I was ok.. and I told her..
    "Well- I was just looking at the book shelf I have over my desk; and Im noticing that I have several of my favorite novelists up there, as I am in the midst of reading all the books simultaneously- save for one.
    They are Nathaniel Hawthorne(American Notebook), Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass), Robert Frost (Favorite Poems), The Bible (well.. lots of stories :), Ed Lowe (Ed Lowe's Long Island), & Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice).
    Can you guess the one Ive already read (and reread) completely several times?
    Im in good, no.. GREAT.. company here, among all these literary classics. :)
    Praying you find Fla beauteous at this time of year.. Im sure it finds you this way :)
    Our best to "herself'.. Be safe..
    g :)