Losing Malcolm – Excerpts

“Weeks go by. Slowly night comes.”
–Tomas Transtromer, “Lamento”


“How’s everything going?” the pediatrician asked, peering first at the newborn in my arms and then at my face.

He hadn’t seen us since Malcolm’s birth by Cesarean three days earlier, when he had declared my son “perfect.” Now, in my postpartum daze, I barely recognized this stocky man with his outdoorsman’s complexion and hair the color of sand.

“We’re doing all right,” I said, in a whisper. I didn’t want to disturb Malcolm, who seemed deep in sleep. His small chest heaved irregularly, like the flank of a dreaming dog when it’s hot on the chase… (read full chapter)

Dog Woman

Dr. Patty Romph looked at me and smiled. Her eyes reminded me of a Labrador retriever’s—sad, with puffy, down-turning brows. As she came towards me, I could smell the out-of-doors on her, a loamy and slightly salty odor. I realized that, for the first time in my life, I hadn’t breathed any fresh air for three whole days.

She held out a large, red, chapped hand, one that had obviously worked a spade, hauled rocks, and pulled weeds. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. I came as fast as I could…” (read full chapter)

Post Op

Malcolm had passed his second full night “post-op.” He opened his lids and looked at us, with his bright eyes, as if he fully expected us to be right there and was saying, “Hey, I’m back.”

Our son looked positively pink, for the first time since his birth. Some minor bleeding into one of his lungs had stopped as mysteriously as it had started. The nurses were weaning him off the respirator. One hung a black-and-white mobile above his head and he stared at it, vigorously kicking his legs. They were beefy legs now, and his once-bony toes and fingers were pudgy. You might almost have been tempted to call him chubby! He was working hard to heal, the nurses told us…. (read full chapter)

Tea with Mrs. Bennett

Mother tapped softly on my door and came in. A neighbor of hers, Mrs. Bennett, whose husband had died recently, wanted to come see me. “I told her she could come for a cup of tea after lunch.”
“You what?” I asked. “I would barely recognize the woman. “Why are you letting her come see me?”
“She insisted,” Mother said. “I don’t know why…” (read entire chapter)


“When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come.”
–Buddhist saying

On a drizzly December morning, my neighbor Gail and I stood solemnly in my back yard. She placed a small bouquet of rosemary and “the last mums from my garden” on the freshly turned mound of earth. Molly, age ten, had died the day before.
“She was considerate right up to the end,” Gail said.
It was true. We had not had to look on, helpless, as Molly became demented, incontinent, or gimpy with arthritis. She never did hard time in an Intensive Care Unit, attached to tubes and monitors. When she died, she was a lumpier, grayer version of her youthful self, but still reasonably fit… (read full chapter)