On the Occasion of my Son Moving Cross-Country



Page By Alexandre Cabanel via Wikimedia Commons 

There’s a space in my heart that’s the shape of you
No matter where you go, no matter what you do
That space will be here, and so will I
As life goes on and time goes by
We’ll both grow and change, my dear
That’s how we’ll make more memories to live there.




Happy Father’s Day, Uncle Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to my Uncle Bill
half the town was Koettings
the other half Keelers
anyone else in that tiny place had just married in.

A 70+-year-old bright-eyed Koetting rogue
Youngest of 9 or 10 or 11. . . I forget. . .
I couldn’t keep count of all
those strapping German-Catholic babies.

Everyone loved him, and he loved
Hogan’s Heroes, not M.A.S.H.
(too many commies in M.A.S.H, not his war)
He gave fatherly advice but didn’t usurp the role.

Koettings and Keelers and them
that had married in. Everyone loved him.
Son of immigrants, proud VFW inductee,
Texas farmboy, my mother’s sister’s husband.

Beloved Uncle Bill.

Why I’d like to punch Chuck Norris

(and a bunch of other people!)

Public perception about asthma seems to remain the same despite advances in science, information campaigns, and famous athletes discussing the condition. It’s been a long time since I saw that Chuck Norris movie in which he cured a boy’s asthma with karate training, but it still makes me angry when I think about it. I once had someone try to cure me of asthma with physical exercise, and she almost killed me.



Enter a caption

I was a sickly kid. I’ve had asthma since before kindergarten. When I was a freshman in high school, we were all required to take P.E. (physical education).  There were the star athlete students, and then there were the rest of us. I was super clumsy from a recent growth spurt and my team sports skills were negligible. The P.E. teacher did not hide the fact that she loathed me.


This came to a climax one day when a P.E. class ended with running laps. I was sick with asthma during the rest of class and I had been light-headed and even more incompetent than usual. By the time lap running came, I could barely plod around the gym. The gym teacher started yelling. I gasped out something about asthma and she yelled some more about excuses. She was not going to let me go until I ran every lap, even if I was late to my next class.

By that point, I was wheezing so much that girls running by me could hear it. Some of the star students tried to tell her that I was really sick while a couple of my friends stayed with me as I staggered round and round the gym. She ordered the friends away and told the star students something along the lines of “I needed to learn a lesson”.

I finished every lap though it took me through both tardy bells and into the next class. She finally dismissed me. A couple of my friends half-walked, half-dragged me up to the principal’s office. I was so bad by then that the office didn’t waste time calling the school nurse. The principal drove me straight to the emergency room, where they shot my thighs full of adrenalin (a fairly standard treatment of my youth before all the great medicines of today) put me on oxygen for hours, and prayed.

Obviously, I lived. The principal had stern words with the gym teacher, who in turn had stern words with me, in front of the whole class. I should have let her know that I was ill. I shouldn’t push myself if I was feeling that badly. The important thing for us to know was that this incident was not her fault, it was mine, and by golly she wasn’t going to have her teaching record ruined by the likes of me. By pure happenstance, I never had another bad asthma episode in her class again.

Since I can’t really punch Chuck Norris or my former gym teacher in the face, let me try to spread some knowledge instead. We asthmatics are not just being lazy. We don’t have asthma because we’re fat and out of shape. P.E. won’t cure us. We don’t always outgrow it. We aren’t “wheezing on purpose for sympathy”. And if you force us past our limits (or if we force ourselves), you CAN kill us.

Don’t be all Chuck Norris about asthma.

P.S. I grew up to be a reasonably active adult. I hike. I dance. I do other stuff. I still have asthma.

The Places I’m From


(c) T.L. Ryder

I am from that indigo moment before dawn
Boiled up from 2 parts sulfurous water
One part shining, frozen snow, and
a dash of good whiskey thrown in for flavor.

I am from the edge of the reservation,
From the side of the cliff that we didn’t fall down—much,
From the back corner of the library, where we
Read the books your mom wouldn’t let us take home.

I am from red-skinned people with black hair,
From white-skinned people with red hair,
From people who came here for a better life, and
People whose way of life was taken from them.

I am from Star Trek, Star Wars and Dune,
The Force be with You!
From the pleading of rosary beads at bedside,
From the glory of Father Sun bringing life to the world.

I am from flat bread, fry bread and sheep tail fat,
Boiled cabbage with bacon, greasy lima beans,
Sage cut from a bush in the prairie, fresh pronghorn stew,
Hamburger Helper and Tab.

(found this old thing from 2010 and decided to re-post it)


THEY say “Home is where the heart is.”
I have left a piece of heart behind
blue asbestos siding
picture window
white trim
and yet
THEY say “You can’t go home again.”
I drive by and find shards of memory
the blue is gone
new bay window
unfamiliar shrubs
and yet
I say “Home sweet home.”
The ghost of once upon a time lives on
old driveway
Dad’s shed
still there
And yet. . .



Easter, about 1968. The picture window is gone but the house still stands.

Little Old Guy

Today I write a goodbye to the Little Old Guy who lived across the street. I don’t know if he’s passed on to the next life or simply moved into a care home or with relatives. His house and driveway are empty, and there’s a bank notice on his door. I last saw him shortly before Thanksgiving. Wherever he’s gone, he shall not return to our neighborhood, and we will miss him.

rhydgo-rpvg-pascal-mullerAlthough we were never formally introduced, he was a familiar fixture from the day we moved in. He was friendly and terrifying in his giant pickup truck, which he drove quite badly every day. Whenever he drove out, he distributed smiles and waves to everyone. He especially liked kids and people walking or out doing lawn work, though he would also wave at neighbors in cars as well. In past years, when we saw him off our block, my kids would shriek “It’s Little Old Guy!” and wave frantically to him while I prayed that his return wave wouldn’t precipitate a multi-car pile up.

He used to sit on his front porch and wave at passersby as well. In recent years he didn’t porch sit. Perhaps the heat became too much for him. Last summer I became very worried for him. One day his beloved truck was pulled up in front of his house instead of in his driveway. Both its door and his front door were wide open, with no sign of the gentleman. It turned out that he was fine and had simply forgotten something and gone back for it. Another day he temporarily snarled up traffic on a busy road making a completely addled turn into the shopping strip parking lot. These were signs of the beginning of the end. I knew that he would not be among us much longer. He was ancient looking when we moved in ten years ago. It was amazing that he managed to stay in his own home so long.

His house will probably remain empty for some time, as houses in our neighborhood tend to do. Nobody wants to sell Abuelo’s house, and taking on the task of living there is daunting. It will require repairs, remodeling, refurbishment. While we’re a quiet, safe, middle class neighborhood, it’s not a desirable address on the happening side of town. And so there is a hole waiting to be filled in Arcadia.

Bon Voyage, Little Old Guy. It was a pleasure trading smiles and waves and dodging your erratic driving.