Humming and Whistling

vet mother
By Gina Easley www.GinaEasley.com

By Abbie Gascho Landis

The weekly playdate prompts me to clean, which helps to chase off cockroaches. Here in Alabama, land of robust flora and fauna, the consequences of sloppy housecleaning can be cockroaches nearly the size of mango seeds crossing your living room wall by lamplight. So I clean, wagging my full abdomen behind the vacuum and holding my vacuum-phobic toddler on my hip. Every Wednesday morning, Sam and I welcome a handful of moms—most of us in various stages of pregnancy—and three other toddlers for a couple hours of nonstop play and food and mom talk.

I am the only mom working outside home. This week, as we sit swapping stories about our toddlers’ naps and eating habits, discussing labor and delivery, I feel like I left half my body at the clinic. In the past three days, I worked forty-two hours as an emergency veterinarian. I wonder how other people stitch together their various lives.

Just over twenty-four hours ago, I lost a patient during a surgery to repair his diaphragmatic hernia. Today, the woman cradling a pregnant belly, cross-legged on the floor, jumping up to redirect toddlers or serve tea doesn’t feel like the same woman who orchestrated anesthesia, surgery, and ultimately resuscitation attempts at three in the morning. My hand prying open the elastic to check for a full diaper is the same hand that reached through the hole in the diaphragm, grasped a still heart muscle, and squeezed rhythmically until it began to twitch in my palm, for a moment. My voice singing “The Wheels on the Bus” told a tearful young woman that the gentle three-legged dog who brought her through a painful divorce had been too damaged by the car that hit him to make it through surgery.

Every now and then, one of the other moms asks me about work. One conversation began, “You deal with animals, so you might know what to do. Something died in our ductwork and there’s a horrible smell.”

Another time, someone wondered if people actually bring their pets to the clinic during the middle of the night. I answered honestly—yes—citing an unfortunate recent example involving euthanasia.

“What?”

“I had to euthanize him,” I repeated, prompting a rapid subject change.

Mostly, we just talk about being moms, which is, in fact, my harder job.

•••

At work, we sometimes order food, the way most offices do. Taking an index card around, someone collects orders from the staff and phones China Garden. The anticipation usually beats the real eggroll, which drips oil down my fingers yet remains dry inside, requiring syrupy orange sauce squeezed onto each bite. On the other hand, the crab rangoons are perfectly crisp and creamy inside if I can get to them while they’re hot. Often, just when the food arrives, I’m racing around, aware of the patient family who’s been waiting almost two hours in room three, the pushy woman who’s harassing the receptionist and seems to have no money, and the elderly gentleman in room four who, my staff informs me, is diabetic and needs to get home soon. Also, two critical hospitalized patients, one of whom does not seem to be breathing well at the moment, tug my attention.

I cram a crab rangoon into my mouth while scrutinizing the radiographs of the diabetic man’s dog. With my free hand, I press my aching breasts. Lactation makes me ravenous, and with limited time to eat or pump breast milk, my body distracts me with discomforts. One friend of mine, in her obstetrics and gynecology residency, pumped when and where necessary, putting milk production and comfort over privacy, earning the T-shirt they made for her at graduation with Creamery written across the front. I lack her moxie, and her hands-free breast pump.

I cock my head and stand back, chewing fried dough and deciding about the x-rays. Also, I’m organizing my plan of action. Get that diabetic man home now, check on the hospitalized patient with dicey breathing, examine the pet in room two for potential drop-off, and have a technician triage the pushy woman’s pet and finances while I race to the bathroom to pump. Those x-rays are normal. And go.

•••

At home after working overnight, I wake in the early afternoon. I am molten, a liquefied rock settled into the bed, the long pillow between knees and arms. My head has melted into the pillow during this nap. Some heavy low sound slips from my chest. Sam rattles his crib in the next room, while the baby stretches and jumps in my abdomen. Her movement is like a mild electric shock that twitches an involuntary muscle, the only part of me able to move at all. On my overnight shift, I rested briefly after five a.m. Several critical cases kept my attention all night. One eventually stabilized, with fluids dripping into an elderly canine vein. The other patient quit battling to breathe against the thick fluid around her lungs. A flat-faced Persian cat, she gasped in the oxygen cage for hours, then flung out her legs and died. She left the clinic in the arms of two devastated people, and I felt relief for her. The night removed my bones, leaving me a motionless slug with maternal responsibilities.

More sounds from Sam, with words now: “Up!” I find my limbs individually, sliding them under the blankets. I crawl up out of the well. In Sam’s room, I sit on the floor by the crib, where he grins and hops around, peering at me over the front rail, through the rungs, over the side. I go back and forth like a limp metronome, joining our favorite game, “I See You Over the Top, I See You Over the Side.” I aim his space heater at my lower back and knead my lumbar muscles, laughing with him as he flops into the blankets. Joy is this: my warm back, a radiant boy, electricity of the daughter I contain. Stiffly, I ease sideways, then stand up one foot at a time. I snag Sam under his armpits and hoist him into our afternoon.

•••

Last Sunday we were so busy at the clinic that I added sitting down to pee when calculating minutes off my feet in the past fifteen hours. We were so busy that one large German Shepherd mix stayed for several hours on the floor in the exam room where we’d euthanized her. Her status—recumbent, dehydrated and shocky, with a maggot infestation in her hind end—went from the top of our triage list to the bottom after she was dead. Short-staffed, we kept her in our thoughts but turned towards the living, trying to alter the course of other patients’ lives.

I began that shift with an emergency Cesarean section on an English Bulldog. Four puppies. Two with detached placentas were dead. One with a malformed head and severe cleft palate lived two hours. The fourth puppy rallied and made it home. Bulldogs are seriously impaired when it comes to reproduction. And breathing. I finished the surgery with my pregnant belly soaked in amniotic fluid, but glad to have mama bulldog recovering nicely.

I walked from surgery into the treatment area. All of the exam rooms were full. The long, U-shaped benches in the lobby had people seated shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting to see me, the only veterinarian in the building. I had to pee.

•••

Two nights ago, I thawed and browned some venison—cuts I didn’t recognize because they were a gift from a friend. My plan: fajitas. The pieces looked miserably chewy, and the smell struck me as unappetizing. I set it aside in my crockpot and made veggie fajitas instead, intending to spice the meat and slow cook it. I forgot about it overnight. In the morning, I felt wary of the meat still sitting on the counter. So I ignored it. By noon, I was actively guilty and disgusted by the meat and myself. So I put it in the fridge. This morning I made my move, almost in tears about it, and threw away the perfectly good—though neglected—food. In the trash bag, it totaled only the size of my two fists. But it was food, the flesh of an animal who died to be eaten. Either way, it made me sick.

•••

I learn in a continuing education seminar that hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, are considered hazardous substances. “Beware,” the pharmacists say, reciting regulations guiding the administration and disposal of such pharmaceuticals.

“No wonder,” I think, eyeing the other pregnant veterinarian beside me, and closing my eyes to feel those hazards in my own veins. I have been newly pregnant, then postpartum, then breastfeeding, now pregnant, heading toward postpartum and breastfeeding again. I have worked through both pregnancies and breastfeeding, feeling larger than life. Hazardous. “Don’t mess with the pregnant lady,” I joke to my coworkers.

But I do feel somehow superhuman, more than myself. I love the wide eyes on my clients, watching me enter an exam room belly first. Everyone can see the power that I carry. Little did I know that mothers everywhere carry the weight and strength of their motherhood at all times. Beyond pregnancy, it simply becomes invisible.

Hazardous. There is no end to the changes wrought upon a pregnant body, both during and lingering after gestation. I have learned not to underestimate progesterone and estrogen, and the rough seas when the two trade places in hormone hierarchy. So I grin at the pharmacists and their regulations for such dangers.

•••

I lean between wall and exam room table, transfixed by the woman across from me. It is four in the morning, and her cat is dead on arrival. Nothing I can do, but we stand talking, two women close in age. One year ago, today, her daughter died. And now her cat.

She tells me to take photos, videos, to hold each moment like glass. Her daughter, not quite one year old, was asleep. Something stirred her husband, nudged him to check on the baby. She wasn’t breathing. They acted fast. Her heart still beating. A local hospital. A need for life flight. No helicopters available. A desperate drive. Days on life support. And then it was over.

We are both weeping. Her cat lies between us.

•••

My cat prowls and stretches and climbs onto the shelf of my belly. I’m not settled in for napping yet. She’s ready, though. First I must arrange pillows strategically to support my back, neck, protruding abdomen. I turn off the cell phone. Let the dog in. Set the baby monitor on its charger to avoid low battery beeps. I fold myself around the pillows and begin with a deep breath inward, filling my chest and womb, allowing breath to flow down my curving legs to the soles of my feet. Purring, the cat joins me. I lift the blanket corner. She nestles against a shifting baby. As I focus, my face heavies, sinking against my bones and teeth. My breath, again, washes through me like a wave carrying light foam up the sand, then receding back into the ocean. In labor, these waves of breath will carry us to delivery, transforming wild pain into something I can hold.

Later, consciousness rises back to my eyes when I hear squeaks and murmurs over the monitor. I slept for an hour, pressed by the cat. Lead flows in my veins, holding me into the sofa crevices. I wiggle my toes, stretch, then roll to a stand and prowl back to the bedroom where my small, golden-haired boy grins. “Good nap!”

•••

I open the oven to pull out the chocolate almond biscotti, filling the house with aroma. We’re standing in the kitchen along the countertop’s wide peninsula. Two blonde heads bob up and down as two-year-old boys climb the stepstool to munch banana nut muffins and blueberry cornbread. It’s a typical Wednesday playdate: three pregnant moms and two kids. We’ve just decided to head outside into the sunshine when Jenny, two days past her due date, gasps softly. “My water’s breaking.” She heads for the bathroom, and Rachel and I nearly follow her in there in our excitement. We giggle and our eyes fill. I offer towels and dry pants and assurances that amniotic fluid is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever had on our kitchen floor.

Jenny calls her husband. We settle down a little, finish our snacks, and speculate about Jenny’s next twenty-four hours. Husbands arrive to drive Jenny and the extra vehicle back home. They’re all gone within minutes. A flurry of astonishment and biscotti and well wishes bustles out the door. Sam, perched high in my arms above my own round abdomen, leans his head on my shoulder. We head down the hall. Naptime.

•••

When my daughter is three months old, I discover that I can sing and whistle simultaneously. I’ve never tried that before. If fact, I’m not trying it now. After a full weekend of work and waking nights with Stella, I stumble around the house. A sound escapes me, something between a vocalized sigh and a descending whistle of amazement at how tired I feel. The result mixes my vibrating vocal cords and pursed lips into a warm buzzy feeling in the middle of my mouth. I try a tune. Success.

The next day, I try again but have to muddle through some bizarre, atonal, not-so-nicely-buzzy variations before I find the hummingbird in my mouth again. I zuzz out “Twinkle Twinkle” for Sam.

As I’m parenting two children and being an emergency veterinarian, sometimes I squawk out ineffective days, unable to balance my focus, like losing the melody between my lips and my voice. Sometimes a warm buzz fills me and fills the room. There. I find a balance, and a tune wavers along.

•••

ABBIE GASCHO LANDIS is a veterinarian and writer in rural upstate New York. She is working on a book about her relationship with freshwater mussels, set in Alabama. Her writing appears at www.thedigandflow.com.

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Unfinished

dogplane
By Gina Easley www.ginakelly.com

 

By Marcia Aldrich

The 16th of November was eerily warm, and neighbors were out in full force with their leaf blowers, trying to clear their yards before the weather turned. My husband was raking enormous piles of leaves onto the blue plastic tarp and then dragging them to the corner of the yard. We live on the banks of the Red Cedar River in a subdivision adjoining several natural areas, and the deer cross through our yard every day and bed down in the leaves for an hour or so before moving on. We hadn’t seen any for days since hunting season had opened.

In the previous week, we stumbled upon deer bones at Sander Farms, a natural area near the busy Dobie Road, a death trap for deer. Most days we take our dogs, Quin and Omar, to Sander Farms where they run off leash. A person I’ve never seen mows a trail through the tall grasses. Omar found the first bone—what looked like a leg—on the side of the trail at the entrance. Each day we found another piece of the deer, another leg with the fur still on, a rib cage, the pieces scattered through the fields as if one animal after another had taken him up and then put him down.

On this day, only Omar was with Richard in the side yard. I hunted inside the house for Quin and found him lying at the foot of the bed on the carpet breathing hard. His chest was rising and falling. Earlier that morning, I had stopped to talk to him when he was lying on the stairs’ landing. He didn’t lift his head in greeting or wag his tail. He didn’t give any indication that it mattered to him that I was sitting on the step caressing his beautiful face that had in the last year become shot through with white hair.

He was the dog who came from wherever he was to greet me at the door when I came home and made sounds that welled up inside him like a moaning, but they were not caused by pain or discomfort—they were caused by relief and happiness that I had come back to him.

Lately on our walks, Quin would stop and then after a few minutes be ready to continue. Last summer after leaving the fields, he’d lie down in the shade of a yard before continuing home. He had grown slower, bringing up the far rear, so far that it often felt as if Quin and I were on our own separate walk from Richard and Omar. Sometimes he stopped right at the edge of the driveway as we were entering the street before we had even started.

He struck me as far away, sunk into himself as if he was in pain and was conserving himself. I suspected that despite the pain medicine, he hurt. Still I thought his difficulties had to do with arthritis and joint deterioration. I didn’t think anything else was going on. He always had a good appetite.

But he stopped wanting to sleep on the bed, preferring the floor in his own space. Then he developed a cough, the telltale cough, it turns out. A dry, hacking cough. He wasn’t coughing all the time. Some days it didn’t seem as if he coughed at all, and we forgot about it. Richard said Friday that he thought we should take him to the vet on Monday. It was time to do something but still not urgent. Saturday morning he didn’t eat breakfast, didn’t go out into the leaves, sat unresponsive on the steps, and I Googled coughs in dogs and found they could be a sign of illnesses like congestive heart failure and cancer.

I wonder now why I didn’t Google the cough before. Hadn’t I been paying enough attention or hadn’t I wanted to see what was going on because I knew that seeing it, really seeing it, would be the first step down an unhappy road? And so I put those steps off. Now I looked at his breathing and I knew we couldn’t wait until Monday. Our vet doesn’t work on the weekends and I took Quin to the Emergency Clinic at the Michigan State University Veterinary Center.

I arrived at one-thirty and things went very fast even though I was sitting for hours in the waiting room. Someone came to the front desk right away and took Quin to the back of the clinic and I never saw Quin again. He jumped up on me in his anxiety. And I hugged him and lowered him to the floor, resting my head on his cheek as was my custom. And then he allowed himself to be led away. I’ve gone back over this part a hundred times; at that moment I believed he would be returned to me and that this was not our goodbye.

After the first hour, an assistant returned to update me about the primary vet’s concerns on the basis of the preliminary examination. They put him on an I.V. to give him some liquids. His gums were pale, his breathing and heart rate advanced. They were going to do more investigation and be back. The assistant hung back a bit and said I might have to make a decision today. He was kneeling down, in a kind of crouch, and he looked up at me when he said that, as if it pained him to sound so ominous.

I called Richard and said, “This is not good.” And then I waited. But I knew.

When I decided to take Quin to the clinic, when I helped him into the back seat, I didn’t know I’d have to make the decision, that we had arrived at that awful place, a place I had been before.

I noticed boxes of Kleenex scattered everywhere. I was not alone in requiring them. While waiting I had watched a woman carry in a puppy near death and then walk out an hour later alone. She arrived sobbing so loudly that they could hardly understand her at the front desk. She left in silence.

The young vet appeared, and we went into one of the small examination rooms and he told me what he feared but couldn’t yet confirm. He wanted to do a chest x-ray. Cancer. He thought the cancer started in the spleen perhaps and had moved to the lungs. The chest x-ray might show us something. And then he was gone. Primary lung cancer is very rare in dogs—they don’t smoke. If you find cancer in a dog’s lungs there is a ninety-nine percent chance the cancer originated elsewhere and is inoperable.

I called Richard again. This time he was riding his bike to the clinic and the noise from the wind and traffic was terrible—but he was on his way.

More waiting.

Then I saw Richard ride by on his bike and a few minutes later he walked in—his clothes filthy from raking leaves for hours, his hair plastered away from his face by the wind. Another hour passed and still it felt like time was flying. I wanted to hold it in my hands and quiet its pace. Employees kept apologizing for the delay—I wanted to say don’t apologize, don’t speed things along. I want a lifetime of delays.

Then the young vet appeared again, Dr. Carver. This time I caught his name. Without his having said a word, I could see in his face the news he was about to deliver. I’ve seen this look before—the look that says your dog is dying, we can’t do anything, and you are going to have to put him down. The look that says this news will devastate you, how shall I tell you?

We stepped back into examination room # 5—this time I noted the number as I noted the vet’s name—and he said “I’m sorry.” The x-ray shows that Quin has cancer in his lungs, and there is nothing we can do about it. Did we want to see the x-ray?

No, we did not. I’m not sure why we didn’t want to see it. I’m not exactly sure why in this moment and the moments that followed that I wanted to shield myself from seeing. I didn’t care to have the images of his ruined lungs. I didn’t want further tests to nail down whether there was a tumor on his spleen or liver or abdomen or all three. What did it matter? In a matter of minutes I knew I would decide as I must to let him go. We would never have a complete narrative of his decline.

If Quin were a person, he would have come home and had hospice care for the remaining time. But we don’t do that with dogs. None of my animals have had a natural death at home. They have all had a precipitous decline and I’ve taken them to a vet where it has been determined that they are dying, that nothing can be done, and then I have had the dog or cat put to sleep.

My daughter and I carried Irene, our first dog, into the vet. We lay her down on a blanket in the exam room and held her as the drug was administered that would stop her heart. It happened in a second and was utterly quiet. And then we left, walked to the car, and drove home. We left Irene there to be picked up for cremation.

The death of Larry, our second dog, was not so smooth, if that’s what you could call it. He had a tumor on his spleen that I knew could rupture at any time. Still I had some months with him, watching him every day for signs, saying goodbye every time I left the house as if it might be our last. His spleen did rupture. By the time I realized what was happening, he was very weak and I could barely get him into the car to drive him to the vet. Twenty minutes later, he was too weak to get out of the car. Several of us had to carry him into the exam room where he lay on the cold floor. With the greatest difficulty I had him put to sleep. His head was in my lap, he looked at me as he died.

And I will never be able to do that again.

Now when I see Larry I see him on the blue speckled floor, I see his eyes looking at me for assurance, to somehow make it all right as I had done for ten and a half years. But there was no making it right, no reassurance. The vet kept saying he’s looking to you to let him go. Was he?

I didn’t want that power. Eventually I let him go and he died. We walked out of the room and got back into our car and left my great boy behind. That’s what you do. Some people bury their dogs in the yard as in days of old but Larry was a ninety-pound field golden retriever and our yard was exceedingly small, postage stamp size. And we knew we weren’t going to stay in that house forever. I couldn’t imagine leaving my buried dog behind. There was no burying him. There was only cremation and picking up his ashes and keeping them near me.

•••

I wasn’t in attendance when my mother and father died. They died in Pennsylvania and I lived in Michigan. They were not young and they weren’t in good health; nevertheless their deaths, when they came, were sudden. My mother woke up complaining of a headache. After lunch she said the pain was unbearable and my father called an ambulance. She was dead by nine-thirty that night—she had sustained a massive cerebral hemorrhage. My father returned to his apartment after a week’s trip in Florida and had a massive heart attack. He died before he reached the hospital. Never stood by their hospital beds, never saw their bodies slip into death, their faces in death. Never saw their bodies wheeled away and stored in a refrigerator with a bunch of other dead bodies until the funeral home could pick them up. My parents’ deaths were managed, and their bodies were managed without me. When a person or a dog dies, we relinquish them to someone—to coyotes, to medical experts, to funeral managers, and to the people who work the crematoriums.

I have seen two of my dogs die. I thought I should be with them, touching their faces, looking at them, saying goodbye. I should be there. And I was. With my parents, I felt pained by my absence. It wasn’t something I decided. My sisters stood by my mother’s hospital bed as she died; they touched her hands and spoke to her. They both arrived at the hospital after my father had died in the ambulance, too late to say goodbye. But they saw him in his death. I feel that I let my parents down and at the same time I feel grateful that I did not see their faces rearranged by death.

Dr. Carver asked, “Do you want to say goodbye to Quin? Do you want to be with him for his final moments?” I put my head in my hands and sobbed. Give me a minute, I asked. I have to think. But I knew I couldn’t see Quin die. I didn’t want that to be the last image of him I had. I wanted to remember him as he emerged from Lake Michigan after an afternoon of swimming or pulling an enormous fallen branch through the snow. I wanted to see him alive, unfinished. I am not a novice in this dying business.

Now I know that the last image will be the one I carry with me forever—it will write over all the others. Selfish is what I am. I chose not to be the angel of death. I did not give my Quin the sign that he could go. Richard said goodbye. I didn’t even want to hear about it, didn’t want to know how Quin looked, what the room was like, was the lighting bright, was it low, what color was the floor, was he on a table, who else was in the room, did he lift his head, did he know? I didn’t want to know.

Did I fail him as I hadn’t failed the others? After nine years of never failing Quin, did I fail him in the end? Was I unable to summon up that last bit of strength to serve him? It was so fast. I would be undone forever to see him die. My refusal wasn’t about the insufficiency of love.

And then like all the other deaths, we waited for the assistant to retrieve his leash and collar and walked out the doors of the clinic and got into our car and drove the long ride home. It was dark now and it would begin to rain shortly.

•••

When we came home without Quin, Omar looked confused and anxious. He lay by the door, facing it, ready for Quin to walk through it. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. At some point, Richard asked if I wanted to take Omar to the fields. Yes and no was my answer. But we went because we still had a dog and he needed exercise and some sense of normalcy. We passed a couple we knew who walked their two dogs every night. When they saw that Quin wasn’t with us, that it was just Omar, the woman started to ask where and stopped. Something about our faces, our forlorn figures told her that Quin had died. We got to the fields relieved we hadn’t run into any other people who would inquire where Quin was and realized we had days and days of being asked the dread question ahead of us. We let Omar off leash but he didn’t take off. We walked the trail and he stayed right by us. On the slight slope uphill he found the deer’s skull not far off the path, the last part of the deer to emerge. I don’t know if a more perfect thing exists. So delicate and small, as white as can be, lying in the grasses and mud as if it belonged there. And perhaps it did belong there. Where else should it have been?

The next day was a terrible day. Dark, foreboding, with winds up to sixty miles an hour, and intermittent torrential down pours. By evening, we lost power and huddled in the bedroom listening to tree limbs being ripped from trees and flying against the windows. And it went on like this for most of the night, and I thought yes, this is how it should be, the world should come unhinged, it should flail and bang because something great has left it. Of course, it was me who was unhinged. It was my grief that I saw in the storm.

And the next day came as it does and the storm was over, power was restored, and the temperature plummeted. It was winter now. The leaves had been stripped from the trees, what had remained by mid-November. Some roads were blocked because trees had fallen across their way. I heard saws buzzing nearby.

I pulled out a photo of Quin at Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2005 when he was young. He’s just emerged from the lake, no doubt fetching sticks we were throwing. He’s running towards the camera, sand and foam coats his face, his fur is wet and deep red, and he looks right at me. I take the photo. Our eyes are locked. This was the face I wanted to remember. Not because I am deluding myself in thinking someday I’ll return home from work and find Quin waiting at the door for me, or that it will be Quin sitting on his perch on the landing overseeing our world, or Quin emerging from the dry brush of the fields and running towards me, but because I know he won’t.

•••

One week to the day after Quin died, his ashes arrived in the mail. They arrived in a small metal container about three inches tall, blue larkspur sprays on the beige background.

Thanksgiving morning, Richard and I bundled up against the cold and, with Omar, walked through the falling snow to the fields. No one was on the streets and the fields were empty. At the place where we enter the fields, we unleashed Omar, as we had always unleashed both dogs. They’d bound into the fields and then abruptly stop to smell whatever they smelled before hurrying on into the open area. Here I pulled out my little baggie, dipped my bare hand in and gathered some of Quin in my fingers and scattered it. The first fingers of ash were smooth, like sand, and they blew in the wind and carried a little ways off the trail to coat the dry stalks. “To Quin,” I said, “your final pasture.”

But the pain of losing never is finished. A friend writes about how she dreamed she found her lost dog sitting on a shelf in a second-hand shop on sale for nine dollars. “I picked her up and she smelled exactly the same, and she started licking me. It was as if she’d been waiting for me for ten years. Then I woke up, but for a moment there, life seemed healed.”

•••

MARCIA ALDRICH is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton and part of the Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Series. Companion to an Untold Story won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. Her website is marciaaldrich.com.