THE SPECIAL NEEDS PATIENT (notes from a caretaker)

And it has happened yet again.

I accompany my adult son, whom I call the “walking wounded,” into his primary care doctor’s office. This son is a special needs person who seems typical enough, yet when having to converse with someone, his expressive vocabulary exhibits signs of deficits. This doctor has known my son for over nine years, through many tests and diagnoses (of which he has several, one of which is a chromosomal abnormality).

An hour later after sitting and waiting in the exam room, my son is on edge. Unfortunately, a wait time of over an hour is the norm. His head hurts and his hands are clenching and unclenching. He needs to sit in a chair instead of on the exam table. Fine. He climbs down and sits next to me. Finally his doctor walks in. The doctor looks over a paper on which I have written symptoms my son has been exhibiting for a long time. I do this to refresh the doctor’s memory, as my son’s file resembles a bible. The doctor says my son should get one of those self-driving cars so when he feels ill, he could get to where he needs to go. I think this is a rather odd joke. Turns out it’s odd–but not a joke. He’s serious. My son mumbles something under his breath. This visit is going downhill fast, and this doctor, who says he did his part of his residency in psychiatry, doesn’t see my son’s body language which is of an animal ready to bolt.

Then the doctor turns to my son and asks him what he’s feeling. Feeling? As in, confused? Angry? Tense? Headachy? Nauseous? This is too vague a question for him. I know this. My son is about to bolt out the door. I speak up. I begin to tell the doctor what our visit is about. The doctor puts up his hand and says firmly to me: “Wait. I want your son to answer. You can’t jump in like that and answer for him.”

My son, in protective mode, sits up straight and says, “My mom can answer.”

I hand my son the car keys and tell him to go outside to wait. He leaves. Doctor says, “Well, now I can’t treat him. I needed him to tell me what was wrong.”

I point to the paper. “He dictated that to me. Those are his words. It’s what he does sometimes. I’m his mother and I know when he can’t express himself to the doctor. You’ve known him for almost a decade.”

Doesn’t make a difference. The doctor defends himself; tells me to bring him back in. Right. I again repeat, “I’m his mother. I know he won’t. It all went downhill, first when we had the first appointment of the afternoon yet waited over an hour, then when you mentioned the self-driving car which to him is like a slap in the face, and now the generalized question that he would have trouble answering.” I don’t want to say anything I’ll regret, so I open the exam room door and say, “This isn’t working.”

I hear, as I walk away, “Don’t you want the prescription for (name of latest test)?”

I shake my head, more in disbelief than to just say no.

Please, doctors and nurses, please understand that there are times when a patient prefers the caretaker to answer. Perhaps the patient isn’t well enough to speak up at that time, or maybe they asked the caretaker to answer all questions. And yes we, the caretakers, do know the ten-second rule; that when the patient is asked a question, the caretaker should wait ten seconds to see if the patient responds. If not, then the caretaker speaks up. And please do not speak authoritatively to the caretaker. Nor laugh. Nor be demeaning. We put up with a lot on a daily basis.

We know you have studied and worked hard to get to where you are today, and we respect that. But please, walk a mile in our shoes before you assume. Many impressive degrees after your name doesn’t begin to shed light on a caretaker’s responsibilities. Please respect us, too.


Meal-in-a-Box (Pass the Wine, Please)

After seeing so many ads for how I could be my own chef with ingredients picked out just for me and a few hundred-thousand others, I was ready to order at 50% off my first shipment.

But wait. I had to choose whether I wanted shellfish, meat, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO, organic, natural, low-sodium, gluten-free, or surprise-me. Instead I picked up the phone and dialed Pizzas Are Us, poured a glass of healthful red wine, and composed this ditty about my vexation of too many choices with these boxed ingredients for a meal. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.):

House Chef, Blue Chef,

isn’t there a Wine Chef?

Day Basket, fruit basket,

I think-I’m getting-looped basket.

Hi Fresh, farm fresh,

I really want a pizza fresh.

Carnivore, herbivore,

are there any fries du jour?

Black Apron, burnt apron,

too-close-to-the-stove apron.

Gluten free, cage free,

I’m-terribly-confused free.

Chop, stir, flip, stir,

the-meat-fell-on-the-floor stir.

Peas roll, carrots roll,

another glass of wine roll.

Fast food, quick food,

I-really-need-my-fix food.

And so the doorbell rang, and my boxed pizza came to me, cooked and piping hot, and my gleaming appliances and perfectly pressed apron stayed clean.



I slipped on my sandals, grabbed my beach chair and hoisted its straps over my shoulders (yes, I looked very much like a turtle, I’m sure), and slowly made my way the three blocks to the beach. The mighty Atlantic looked like it had been tamed by an unseen hand as the tide, first sounding a bit thunderous, segued into seltzer being poured onto the sand, then neatly lapped near my feet like a pup. And the air–oh, the air! A mix of salt and seaweed and SPF 4 Coppertone with a bit of dead fish as a finish.

I inhaled deeply, settled into my chair, and I was home.


Posted in writing | Comments Off on BY THE SEA


The house sported original hurricane shutters and eight-over-eight leaded glass windows. Most rooms had a brick fireplace and decorative molding over the doorways.

The gutters leaked and the old house cried. The gnarled branches of the silver maples joined hands over the sagging roof, protecting it from the wind. It was a house well-lived and much loved and held promise.

It was demolished.

The newcomers arrive with their good intentions and money. A lot of money. How else can they buy a Dutch colonial from the ’20s or a Victorian with a brick foundation from 1890, or one of the first farmhouses in this town from the middle of the 19th century, and with merely a cursory glance at the interior, sign on the dotted line as the buyers. But after only a few hours consideration, they decide it isn’t exactly what they wanted (perhaps those Dutch doors didn’t lend themselves to marble and granite foyers), so instead of renovating, they tear it down. It doesn’t stop there. The two hundred year old oak has to go too, since the Bobcat couldn’t maneuver around it, and besides, it doesn’t mesh with their imported flowers and shrubs. Their landscaper says so.

A neighbor, who has lived in the town for over half-century, tries to explain the importance of preserving history. The newcomers decide right then and there to pledge a substantial donation to the historical society, perhaps to assuage any guilt. But it’s doubtful there is any.

They build their homes “in keeping with the aesthetics of the area” with dormers and gables and large porches. The interiors, though, are made for entertaining: six burner stoves with designer tile backsplashes, state of the art appliances, and custom cabinetry. And while they’re away at their other homes or traveling the world, they monitor the houses and keep them looking lived in, all wirelessly. The lights are on but they’re not home. Their busy lives make the houses a touchstone for when they need a day or two to return to an easier lifestyle. Or throw a big bash.

Within a few years, For Sale signs dot the perfectly manicured and chemically doused front lawns. There are other houses that call to them. Or the one they built just doesn’t cut it for their present day lifestyle. And once again, immediately after signing on the dotted line, the bulldozers clawing into another once-grand Victorian. They say, after much introspection (and no inspection), it was “too dated.”

And as the song by Queen goes, “Another one bites the dust.”

–Anne Skalitza, 2016

When Friends Collide

We gathered, as always, on the first Sunday of the month, at the place where our friendship had begun five years ago, back when we were still in high school and working in the kitchen. Where jokes had been tossed about more often than the pizza dough in our hands. The restaurant went by the redundant name of “Pop’s Pizza Pies,” christened in the late ’60s when some people seemed to have no idea that the word “pizza” was Italian for “pie.” The owner, Kevin O’Neil, didn’t have a clue either.

On this certain day, Jerry’s voice boomed across the crowded room as he raised his Pilsner glass. “Here’s to pretty Tessa. And here’s to catching the scumbag who killed her.”  ….

(Read the rest of my story, “As Always,” here on OMDB! magazine)



Holiday Goodies

There’s always something

last minute to do,

like dashing downtown

only to stand in a queue.

Or tying up packages

with bells and some bows,

then forget what it was

we had wrapped–oh no!

The sound of sweet carols

fill the night air,

but try as we might,

our minds are elsewhere.

There are cookies to bake

and eggnog to buy,

yet we haven’t a clue

what we put in the pie.

Remember the reason

our homes are bedecked,

so sit down awhile

and take time to reflect.

May you and your loved ones

have joy, love, and peace,

and in the new year

may blessings not cease.

(Now go put your feet up!)

–Anne Skalitza

SUMMER’S OVER (hear me sigh)

The air is crisp,

my walk is brisk,

to lose the weight

from funnel cake.

I breathe in deep,

the climb is steep,

 summer’s over,

must get over…

…chocolate ice cream,

(now a dream),

 cannot forget

 sweet baguettes.

Boardwalk food–

cannot brood

for greasy fries,

 tomato pies.

Oh, barbeques!

I pay my dues,

and exercise

for waist resize.

~ Anne Skalitza~