Category Archives: brain research

The Last Call.

Two men had said “I love you” to her within five years of each other. They were both drunk.

Why she attracted only drunken love was beyond her.

Or, was it?

Drunks are smarter than the average bear, all the pundits claim. Deeper, too. Why they find themselves among the 15% who become enslaved to alcohol is also the fault of their brains; something about the amygdala and an obscure, but potent, enzyme. She thought enzymes were what made food dissolve in the stomach but, on this morning after New Year’s Eve, she was already short on sleep and in well over her head.

Her family heritage was a red flag all by itself. Paternal grandfather an alcoholic (and, womanizing wife beater); maternal grandfather a pious tee totaler, but not his father ( descendant of William the Conqueror ). The men drank; the women enabled them.

One brother had become enamored of wine and Frangelica in his senior years. The younger had admitted to a lunching phase with his construction crew decades earlier which had gotten “somewhat out of hand”. She, being the lone girl in an ultra-conservative family milieu, and duly branded by the fear of God, had vowed never to stock the stuff. But, perhaps her pheromones smelled not of musk but of barley hops; among all the men in the room, the one who walked crooked would find her, first and every time.

What of the laws of nature, specifically chemistry? Was there something in her DNA that had already charted the course of her hapless love life?

If identical twins raised apart could choose the same shampoo and winter coat, would the female descendants of alcoholics be pre-destined to couple with the addicted who sought them? And, why? Was it all merely nature in search of equilibrium?

One of the two love professors had been in her sphere for four, fractured years. By his cycling binges and tears, and the lies which drove them, she’d found herself exhausted. The other had been part of her professional world for most of its life. On a scale of compatibility, there was no contest; what really mattered was whether and what she needed on not only the first day of 2021 but the veritable rest of her granted life.

Intelligence was a requisite; clouded by poison and a predictable descent into infantilism, not so much. Charm had worn itself out, especially the inebriated variety; what good was a witty opening line at closing time? Health and vitality were increasing commodities; whence these?
“ Hey, baby; how’s your liver ? ”

She loved with immediacy, and exclusively, but committed with caution. If time hadn’t actually passed, it had nevertheless taken a cumulative toll. Being convinced, or not, of love required time; being actually nourished by love would take more than gaping need or empty promises, however familial.

Life was an open question. Love was supposed to be the answer. Perhaps time, like the lucidity which follows stupor, would illuminate.

Was she to be the woman left at last call?

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© 1/1/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, including by translation, permitted; sharing encouraged via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for respecting original material. Cheers!

littlebarefeetblog.com

2020 : The Living End.

The sun streamed in, through the window. Her final three breaths formed pockets in her throat, as we held hands for the last time.

Those are the moments which color my memory of the end of my mother’s life.

Her death had so many merciful aspects. Wracked by arthritis for many years, her body’s terminal diagnosis came on the heels of an apparently painless encroaching brain malignancy, glioblastoma. Those five and a half weeks transpiring from biopsy result to hospice were a swift decompensation of all faculties, her smile being the last to go.

Normally an acute observer of human behavior I had inexplicably missed any telltale sign that she was gravely ill, as stunned as the rest of the family when the news came down. I’d been particularly certain that the successfully excised melanoma fifteen years prior meant we’d have our Mum well into the ninth decade, just like her mother before her.

In the years following her passing, many features of her departure would provide increasing comfort. The timing. The tempo. The absence of protracted agony. If she had to leave us then, at least she hadn’t lingered into the confines of old age or been forced to endure any awareness of her body’s decay. And, most of all, I was grateful to have been there, by her side, in her final weeks. There would be no match for presence, I’d realized, particularly when my beloved father was already gone minutes before I could appear at his.

Today, we wait alone in our homes, imagining the countless strangers – at whose bedside those they have only come to know within days to hours stand, sit, or watch. Perhaps each has been half consciously aware as the nurse assigned to them makes every attempt to make all moments meaningful. Perhaps both feel the other’s hands in their own. The angel beside the bed cries the tears of a thousand loves, as the rest of us wail in our hearts with collective mourning.

Thus will be our memory of the living end of 2020.

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Pray for the nurses.

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© 12/29/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Recycling The Insufferable Optimist.

She couldn’t get into the house quickly enough.

The idea for her next piece had come during a drive around the local state park, taking in the last burst of color before its erasure by the wind. She was anxious to begin. The title alone was so compelling; she could already feel the thing writing itself.

Yet, oddly, a thought intruded: one quick Google might be in order. Best to rule out whether her gem had erupted from another in some deep, subconscious past.

Fearfully, she pulled up the search bar. Sure enough; at least two, both of them published, had already coined the phrase, one as far back as 1997. The moment was heart sinking.

Her mind sought solace, in reverie.

1997. That had been a year. She’d spent its post-Braveheart winter completing a screenplay to star Mel Gibson, the summer gallivanting up the California coast and across to the UK for the Edinburgh Fest. No time for a book review, let alone a book. Besides, her larynx had developed a pesky resistance, stuck in head voice for hours at a time; and, forced to leave her precious elementary string program (bumped by a seniority bid) she’d endure the fall and early winter teaching middle school chorus, reduced to a rasping breath by day’s end.

Come spring, after a bout with bronchitis which had left a three week hack in its wake, her fate seemed sealed: laryngoscopic surgery, slated for St Patrick’s Day, in Pittsburgh. She’d spend the rest of 1998 enduring its laser focused rehabilitation. No time for a leisurely book review, or even a book; the risk of absent minded coughing or even throat clearing lurked, at every moment. No time, either, to take a phone call from a prospective literary agent. Besides, while away she’d let a frustrated creative house-sit; he’d used the phone she’d dictated as off limits because of its receiver’s annoying habit of cutting the line. Had there been any call backs, none would have registered.

Her next pre-emptor appeared in 2015. They shared one commonality; both were anonymous bloggers, casting their carefully cultivated and diligently edited pearls before any number of earnest freshman composition students and swine.

The most recent, in spring of 2020, would be by far her most formidable: former CEO of the aforementioned search engine monopoly. Perhaps he had sent her routing out the competition with a penetrating thought weapon. After all, how dare anyone attempt to supplant his definitive take – on anything!

So how, now, to proceed? Pretend that she somehow possessed a distinctive version of an image so vivid, indeed more timely than ever?

Unlike her predecessors, hers was neither embodiment nor apologism but a sweeping observation. Her intent was to characterize those who could not or would not bow to prudence, refusing or unwilling to acknowledge the gravity of either forewarning pronouncement or prophecy. She would out every leap of faith, all abdications of reason, each act of denial in one grand gesture of indicting condemnation. If she had anything to say about it, the virtual world would be wiped clean of the last of the insufferable optimists.

Yes. Pessimism would have its day.

And, that season couldn’t come soon enough.

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© 10/25/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, anonymous or no, whose name appears above this line. No copying in whole or part, including translation, permitted without written permission of the originator. Sharing encouraged, by blog link only. Thank you!

littlebarefeetblog.com