Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When I feel regret, I think about the deliberate moments we shared since my fathers Parkinson's diagnosis in 2003.

After my son's death.
After his divorce - when his much younger wife decided she didn't want to care for an old man.
After he shed his armor and opened his arms - wide.

For the first time in his life he needed me.  And I have always needed him.

Thankfully, I wrote about many of our experiences.  The big ones - like when we flew to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish.

And the simple ones - a trip to the doctor, a visit with a friend, a warm spring day on the front porch.

This is one of my favorites.  It took place in December of 2009.

We share the far left corner of the back row, tucked behind a succession of synchronized seventy-something seniors - a line of ladies with tightly teased hair, forgiving waist bands, and festive holiday attire. 

Each takes a turn - twisting to catch a glimpse, then signals the next in line with a quick elbow jab to the gut, “Look at him go, he’s really something.”

I am to his right, just within reach.  His cane rests twelve paces back - in the lap of a plastic cushioned arm chair, under a pile of down jackets, crocheted scarfs and warm winter mittens.

“Zumba!” shouts the instructor as she whips her hair counter clockwise, shimmies her shoulders and lunges left. 

Her passion is contagious and we do our best to keep up.

“Stretch your hands high, and move your hips, now shake, shake, shake to the right!”

He’s famous for having 2 left feet.  This coupled with his Parkinson's paralysis - a stooped posture, quick-step shuffle, and rocking horse tremors - fuse with the strong Latin beat.  He's a dancing machine!

Everything about this is new to us; the music, the movement, but mostly, the shared experience.

I don’t have many memories of us doing things together, unless you count being in a car.  As a kid, he took me skiing but I don’t remember actually skiing with him. He’d leave me at the top of a mountain and wait for me at the bottom. If I couldn’t find him I’d know to look in the bar.

“You did great Dad,” I assure him.

“I farted,” he admits.

“I thought you crapped your pants?"

“No, just farted,” he assures me.

“Good for you, way to hold back.”

This is NOT my favorite topic of conversation but discussing his bodily functions has become the norm.

I don’t expect him to master zumba, rumba, salsa or samba, but I am catching as many memories as I can.

Every hardship holds a lesson - a cryptic message.  My father’s Parkinson’s has slowed him down enough for us to get to know each other.

Dad's dancing partners

one of his admirers 

Dad - before he dropped his armor  
My daughter Lindsay at my side


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Dance (viewer discretion advised)

Unscripted, unrehearsed, soul stimulating... 

Hands shaking, I pass my camera to a stranger - ask her to shoot the Monkey as best as she can.


Damn that felt good.  I will remember that leap forever...  

Eyes focused on the MC,  
Stomach sucked in - tight,  
Leg kicked back, 
Toe pointed - hard,  
Arms stretched, gallantly in flight.  

This was the year I twirled fire, topless.

blurred out breast

This was the year I shot cocks - dusty, sun drenched, cocks. 

exposed genitalia 

This was the year I captured emotions - photographed an eclectic array of eager participants, portraying their answer to the question WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?

This was the year I pushed myself, hard.  I gave in, gave up.  I cried.

But mostly, I danced.

The RED dance was challenging.  I arrived expecting to evaporate into a large crowd and instead, found a small troupe of beautiful, young, succulent women.

I thought about hiding behind my lens. I thought about peddling my bike in the opposite direction, as fast as I could. I thought about my age, my body image issues, my stiff knees and lack of limberness.

Hands shaking, I passed my camera to a stranger - asked him to shoot the Monkey as best as he could.

A crowd started to develop even before the dance began.  They were THAT beautiful.

My inhibitions meshed with their resistance to incorporate me, a middle aged grandmother, into each abstract, emotion inspired, self interpreted, pose.

The proof is in the snap... frames do not lie.

Monkey Me, fought hard from the outside.  My bad ass, black hat as low as it could go.  Chin, neck, shoulders, tight.

Eventually, I let go and... the blend began to show.

Damn, that felt good.

Later, back at camp, we eat and laugh and drink it all in.

As the sun begins to set, we leap into the street.  And together, we dance.

fishnet clad bottom

This is where I've been for the past 6 months.  When I'm not writing, or working, I'm tweaking photo's taken at Burning Man 2010.

Over 500 pictures paint a 10 minute dance in the street.  This is my first attempt at turning photo's into a movie.

I hope you enjoy this jamboree of DANCE performed on the dusty streets of Black Rock City - to the thump and constant, churning, beat of Burning Man...

Green Monkey ME tagged with a red heart.  
Ignited at the Temple of Honor - Burning Man 2003
In celebration of the true, joyous spirit of my beautiful son, Kerry Ryan Magann.  

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.  Fredrich Nietzsche

Sunday, March 20, 2011


As you can see, I talked to GOD.

He told me to stare up at the sky and squeeze my nipples...hard.  GOD was naughty.  I'm a sport, so I obliged.  If nothing else, I knew it would make a great shot.  I decided NOT to post that picture and posted this instead.  I didn't want to offend any readers.

I went to visit Dad in the nursing home today.  His "GIRLS" (UCONN women's basketball team) were on and playing strong.  He loves his girls.  They know the fundamentals of basketball.  They're fierce.  They're determined.  They respect their coach.

I found Dad fast asleep in the dining room - drooling.  His lunch untouched.  His pants soaking wet.  His hearing aid missing.  His dentures sagging.  His hair uncombed.

Dad loves food.
Dad knows he's handsome.
Dad is stubborn.

I wheeled him into his room and turned on the TV.
NO sports channel.
$425.00 a day and no sports.

"Put on the game?" demands Dad.

"It's not on Dad.  They play next Sunday"

"Ohhh kay" sighs Dad.

Again, I talked to GOD.  I asked him why?  This time, GOD is silent.

Less than a week ago, Dad laid in a hospital bed, screaming in pain.  I told him it was okay to go.  That I would be fine.

"OKAY" he said, "I'm going to start now."

15 minutes later, he opened his eyes ...wide and asked, "got any candy?"

I have 8 candy bars hidden in his bedside drawer.  Today, Dad doesn't want candy.

Here... at the nursing home, no one walks.
Most don't talk, except for several of the women.
One moans.  Every 12 seconds she lets out a loud moan.
Another screams, "help me, help me please!"

The others call out for their mother.  "MaMa, where are you?"  "MaMa?... MaMa!... MaMa?" ...over and over again.

The men are silent.  This is how they cope.

"He talks?" asked his 3 to 11 nurse, after 5 days of caring for him.

YES, he talks.  And less than two weeks ago, he walked.

I asked the doctors, nurses and aids, if any of the men call out for their parents.


I asked the doctors, nurses and aids, if any of the women call out for their fathers.

"No, never"

Isn't THAT peculiar?

Is it generational?
Is it genetics?
Is it nurture or nature?

Will the children of our time - those actively raised by both parents - will they crave their Daddy's when their time is near?

Does anyone call out for GOD, or their priest, chaplain, or minister?

NO... just their MaMa's.

Not Mother, or Mom - its always "MaMa"

Typically, the first spoken word.

Today, when I visited my father, I wheeled him down the corridors...

Past the TV room, the solarium, the Koi pond, and the library...
Past the line of wheelchairs, the blank stares and the drooping, drooling mouths...
Past the sparse, single and double occupied rooms tightened in vibrant floral bedspreads with dusty silk flowers on the window sills and starving artist paintings on the wall...

I asked my father if he knew anyone.

"Yes" he answered, "Jesus is here."

"Have you talked to him?" I asked.

"No, you talk to him," he ordered.

It's time I talk to Jesus.

I was just reminded that I did, in fact, talk to Jesus.  Time to talk to Jesus AGAIN... maybe a text.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Plan B

Where am I? 


You're in a nursing home Dad. 

Dad rallied BIG time.  This past Friday we were able to move him out of the hospital and into a first rate nursing home.

He's had a shower.  He's in a wheel chair.  He's eating independently.   And...

He's made a friend.

"Calypso," a 15 year old macaw, greeted him warmly - showed off his wings and did a little dance.  

And Dad laughed

Later that night, on a whim, my husband Mark and I grabbed the dogs, picked up our grandson Jackson and headed for Newport, Rhode Island to celebrate my husbands birthday.  Our favorite little place, in the heart of the city, had one room available - a two bedroom suite.  

The weather forecast was unseasonably warm and sunny - ideal conditions for the 55th annual St. Patrick's parade.  

I was convinced I had taken Jackson here before, but he was certain it was his first time.  

After the parade, we stopped at the local arcade.  Most of the kids were shooting guns, or basketballs, or riding in miniature simulated racing cars.  But Jackson, being a quirky individualist,  headed straight for the Wheel of Fortune.

On his first spin, he landed on a small slice of silver labeled "200 Points." All he needed to do now was guess the correct letters and solve the puzzle.

W   I   L   G   A   O ...

Let me give you a hint...


Congratulations Jackson! 
You won one THOUSAND tickets!!!

In the eyes of a 10 year old, winning one thousand tickets is the equivalent of winning a million dollar Powerball.

Elated beyond words recognizable to the human ear, he quickly cashed in his tickets and picked out his prizes.

A football, a basketball, and two baseball caps - all representative of his favorite sports teams.  

Later that afternoon, as the sun was setting, Jackson, Mark and I tossed Jackson's new football back and forth on the lawn behind one of the big hotels.  

We all had one thing in common - none of us had ever played catch with our fathers. 

Once again, I asked Jackson..."are you SURE I never brought you to Newport?"
"YES Nanny, I'm sure," answered Jackson. 

That night, while sitting across from him at dinner, I remembered...  

It was Kerry who had been to Newport.  

They were about the same age the first time he visited.

Jackson was, at this moment, the spitting image of his father.

I could feel Kerry smiling down on us.  

For the first time in almost two weeks, I could breath deeply.

I smiled. 
Mark smiled.

"What?" asked Jackson

"Congratulations Jackson, you're a winner!" I assured him.

"Thanks Nanny!"

And together... we laughed.  

Kerry, age 12. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Irish Eyes

... are smiling

A vivacious, Russian "candy striper" caught his attention when she offered him a foot rub.  From the base of his bed she lubricated her hands, leaned forward and caressed his flat feet - stroking him from the tips of his toes, downward to his calloused balls, around his ankles, and up to the his crusty nails.

"Disgusting" I muttered
"Get me my teeth lady" ordered Dad

"Are you talking to me?" I asked
"Yes" he answered.

"This little piggy went to the market..."  she sang
"Oh Boy!" said Dad
"This little piggy stayed home..."
"HOME" repeated dad
"This little piggy ate roast beef..."
"Get me some!" yelled dad
"And this little piggy had none"....

I darted out of the room before the piggy Wee Wee'd all the way.

This is wrong on so many levels.  Regardless, this buxom blond has gotten a rise out of him.  He's not only smiling, he's wiggling his toes and barking out orders.

Later, after  his candy striper moved on to her next patient, I returned to my fathers side and asked him if he knew my name.

"Only your stage name" he replied.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where Am I ?

It's a question my father has asked me every day for the past week.

"You're in the hospital Dad."

Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's in the summer of 2002.  The progression - watching "superman" slump, tremble and stiffen -  has been gradual and challenging.

But it is also a gift.  His disease has slowed him down enough for us to get to know each other.

His fierce independence now takes a back seat.  He needs someone and it is me.  I am sitting pretty in the drivers seat and he is willingly beside me.

Through example, Dad teaches me strength and courage.

I have listened.  I have learned.  And today, I will practice.

Dad stopped speaking yesterday.  He stopped opening his eyes.  He will not eat.

I am by his side, squeezing every last ounce out of him.  Photographing him, videotaping him, talking to him, being still with him.

I am focused on his breath.  In-between the soft gargle of pooled lungs, I am flooded with memories of his laughter, his determination, his uncanny sense of timing, his wit, his temper, and his intensity.

Today, he will steer and I will watch - willingly and gratefully.

Where will you go today Dad?

Oh! The Places You'll Go! 
By the incomparable Dr. Seuss 

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets.
Look’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true
that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a lurch.

You’ll come down from the lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And chances are, then, that you’ll be in a slump.
And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darker.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?
Do you dare to go in?

How much can you lose?
How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters?
Or, maybe, not quite?

Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
 or a pot to boil,
or a better break
or a string of pearls,
or a pair of pants or a wig with curls,
or another chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places where boom bands are playing.
With banners flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.
There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet
things that scare you right out of your seat.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go though the weather be foul.
On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may squeak.
On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
 and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that life’s a great balancing act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum
or Bixby
or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison