Posted in Uncategorized on August 13, 2017 by clancyjane

When Mom moved on to the next

highest plane

with a warmer clime than the cold Lucerne winters

and I was fetal on the floor

sister Paula said this is why we only get one Mother- because no one could go through this twice.

There is so much to miss in the palpable absence of a physical presence, like

a windchime laugh that rings through the earbones, and her arms wrapping tight to press your hearts close.

And nothing without her exists like that, but a hug from the Sisters who won’t turn loose is an excruciating 2nd.

Emma Earline Keaton

Posted in Ms. Emma on March 4, 2017 by clancyjane


I was a hayseed in Chicago when I met Ms. Emma in 1996.  She took sick for a spell, was appointed a guardian, and admitted to our facility for care.  Our director assigned me to do a social history interview.  She said, “This lady won’t talk to you.  She won’t talk to anybody.  I just introduced myself and she threw me out.  So just go up there and then chart that she declined.”

I went up there.  And me and Ms. Em?  We talked for two hours.


I can’t say for sure how she ended up there, but I can tell you it almost killed her.  She was diabetic, but that’s not where things went wrong.  It’s more to do with geography.  When Dad’s blood sugar dropped, when he was pale and sweating and started talking crazy, I’d rush around for some sugary orange juice to solve the problem.  But that was in Lucerne.  In Chicago when you pull a stunt like that, and you’re estranged from people who know you, they load you up on psychotropics and put you in a home.

And if you are extremely unlucky, they assign you a psychiatrist who later  becomes known as the Clozapine King (check it out, and here).  We didn’t know that then, of course.  They say that some patients died of prescribed over doses under his care, but Ms. Em wasn’t one of them. He came to visit her one night, sometime after 10:00 pm.  We were expecting our annual survey at any time, so I was there late, charting at the nurses station which was across from her room.  He didn’t wake her.  But he did write up a big, long note about his session with her.  He also abruptly changed her med regimen, adding in the drug he was paid to prescribe.  She was hospitalized almost immediately.  We invited him not to come back.  Once he was out of the picture, she began feeling a lot better.  She hand wrote letters to the judge who appointed her a guardian.  We rode the L downtown to court many times while he tried to figure her out.  And when he granted her a hearing, and finally emancipated her, we celebrated at Burger King.

She started traveling to Memphis by train in her seventies, by plane in her eighties (the same decade she also started dating again), and learned computers in her nineties.


She was always wondering what she could do for someone.  She kept an eye out for who she could help.  Nearly blind and on a stick (that’s what she called her cane), she rode PACE, a train and 3 buses to reach a friend who was moved to a nursing home far from her.


She would call me up and we’d go visiting her friends who had moved from their apartments, to assisted living, and then nursing homes.



We liked to be together.  We were regulars at Edna’s and Old Country Buffet.  We loved the jazz concerts at the Chicago Theater.  The last show we saw together there, a year ago to the day she died, was History of Bronzeville.  From our upstairs box, we watched the Lindy Hoppers, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holliday among others, and talked about what life was like for her when she moved to Chicago from Memphis in 1948.

Ms. Emma had been everywhere she wanted to go in the contiguous United States, but she thought she might like Hawaii, so we were headed there in the fall.

Two straight nights before I got the call, I dreamed of her.  She was wearing a coat and hat, and dressed much like she always dressed when we were going somewhere.  I had a trip planned to see her in a couple of weeks, so at the time, I attributed the dreams to that.  But now I think she was letting me know that she was setting out without me, and that she was all right.

It wasn’t unusual for her niece to call me, but when I saw her number on my phone this time, I didn’t want to answer.  It looked wrong.  It sounded wrong.  I said hello anyway, but before she told me, I already knew.  The work day wore on and I forgot to eat, so I was pretty shaky by the time I left the first job for the second.  I missed my turn and what I thought was my last shot at lunch well past 4:30.  I had just decided I could make due with another cup of coffee when I saw the Burger King sign.  I remembered the BK gift card in my duffel, that I bought her but hadn’t sent yet.  I stopped and bought us each a sandwich.

ms-emma-with-dr-kingI don’t eat meat very often, but I ate my hamburger and then I ate hers, too.  I could feel her shaking her head at me, looking to the sky and laughing like she’d do, with a soundtrack of smooth jazz in the background. How can the world go on without that?  There is no other one like Emma Earline Keaton.  I wouldn’t be who I am without her good self.  The first half was Lucerne, and the second was Ms. Emma and Chicago.

There is something we carry, Like a rhythm that tells us who we are. It’s the rhythm of living… And I can see it in all things, all, but especially Emma.  ~Kurt Elling, paraphrased

“If he is dead why try to txt he wuldnt reply he is dead”

Posted in evil inherent in nature, life, Tim with tags on August 30, 2014 by clancyjane

Tim doesn’t text anymore. He’s around, but he doesn’t text. Tonight his sister, Laura, texted both of us by responding to a thread the three of us were included on from some months past. Someone else has his number, though. We were both a little shell shocked by the result. Tim’s number, and Tim’s smiling face in the photo beside the words- which were definitely not Timlike.


Love Letter

Posted in death, gratuities, life, moms on April 12, 2014 by clancyjane


(In loss, I have never felt so loved.)


We were raised by our Mothers, and they by theirs, to be good people who are good to people.

We were raised with others like us, those we’ve known for as long as we’ve breathed, and others we left Putnam County to find.


When I read what you’ve written to me, and not only to me but to others, I remember when Mom said there was no one more lucky than we are lucky- to have each other, and each of our others.


You are so present.

So true.

So loving.

You are at once so grounded and unafraid of flight.


There is no one more lucky than me, to have who I came with and who I collected, and to see you daily through the interconnect.

I love you and I love how you love me and I love how you love each other.

If we looked in on love like this, at like-minded like-hearted neighbors, we would ask each other

how could they exist?

How could they be so authentic and kind.


And how could they be us.





The frogs we have in common

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2013 by clancyjane

The frogs we have in common are noisy tonight at Quala’s edge, Kokaking! of herons and empty chairs.

O’Hara packed some tangerines when he set out to find you,

but I arrive fruitless with only the thought

Why’d you do it? Why’d you leave us?

Too soon, and without your brown hoodie.

Aren’t You, Kid?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2011 by clancyjane

I wasn’t there when the wild thing got her.  I knew it like you know things in dreams, without knowing how or why– but knowing, with a certainty unrivaled in the walking-around-world.

I didn’t know her, though.  I didn’t know who she was, or her name, or how she came to be mauled by a wild beast in the middle of  northern Missouri.  Still, I somehow recognized her 80 year old self as an unknown other rolled her, in her wheelchair, into church.

Mom and I were seated a few pews back from the front.  The lady entered, and terrified, I ushered Mom to the far end of the row.  I scanned the entrance for a sign that the wild thing had re-found his victim and followed her inside.   I readied for a threat that never came.  As hard as I watched, it was only the lady, and once safely seated she smiled and nodded her relief.  Mom and I made our way back to the opposite end.  We were close enough now that I could see Joan just ahead, and very near the lady.  We fastened eyes and the fear faded enough that we could all sit down.  We settled back in our seats a little, but I kept one arm linked together with Mom’s, and the other extended, aisle-side, to ward off whatever wrong thing might come.

Mom took note of this new arrangement and said You’re still trying to protect me, aren’t you, kid?  And I said Yeah, Mom.  I’m trying my best, and I stayed there like that until morning, positioned between her and whatever harm might want to find her, but day broke and the sun burned through and I opened my eyes to find she was gone again anyway.

Not The Kind Of People

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2011 by clancyjane

We are not the kind of people who have lumpectomies.  We are the kind of people who sail through a summer with Carole King blasting, luring handsome Kansas boys from 17th street for a dance and a drink.

We are not the kind of people whose parents die.  We are the kind of people whose Dad’s take us fishing, whose Mom’s take us swimming, for picnics at the creek.

We are not the kind of people

We are not the kind of


We are not the kind of people and we are

the kind of people who

are not the kind of people

we are not.