Sunday, June 22, 2008


Today is my birthday. June 22nd. I'm 60.

A lot has happened in the last year. I published two books of poetry (Lightning and Ashes and Third Winter of War: Buchenwald), got nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for the latter, finished a novel that an agent was really interested in and then lost interest in, celebrated my wife Linda's retirement, moved to Danville, Virginia to be closer to our daughter Lillian, and got shingles.

All of those happenings were on the plus side--except for the shingles.

Really, shingles have made this birthday special.

Before the shingles, I always felt pretty good. Beside doing a lot of writing and reading and all the things I mentioned above, I was getting lots of exercise. Two or three times a day, I would run or ride my bike or lift weights or nordic track or do yoga. Like I said, I was feeling pretty good.

Then I got shingles right after the move to Danville. At first there was burning and stabbing pain, what one doctor called "lightning pain." It hit about 5-6 times an hour. Now there's just burning pain--pretty much all the time. I was taking about 3 kinds of pain killers and using lidocaine pain patches. All of that medication zonked me out--made me sleepy, dizzy, nervous, short-tempered, confused, and it didn't do much to get rid of the pain. Doing all those meds made it impossible to do much of anything. So now, I try to take no more than one pain pill or patch every day.

But slowly, it's all getting better. Very slowly.

I've started writing again, and I've started reading again, and I've started exercising again.

I figure pretty soon I'll be 59 again.

(If you want to read my 59th birthday post, just click here.)