Saturday, June 29, 2024

Fireflies and Lightning Bugs - They have returned!

 Tonight I witnessed fields full of lightning bugs - fireflies - and actually cried to see so many. 

It has been a few years since I've seen any in my neighborhood. And so, I can again share this.


"Fireflies" ©2014 Noreen Braman

 As dusk darkens my yard, hundreds of tiny lights rise from the grass, like silent fireworks. The yard is alive with light. As I watch these little stars twinkle, it is hard to remember that this is the magic of an insect, not some ethereal spirit.

I am awed by the evolutionary miracle that has taken place so that fireflies can find a mate in the summer darkness. Suddenly, I am aware of the mystical importance of it all — primeval life going on amid the suburban rubble.

As humans, we can feel that only our own existence is important, that somehow we have the power over life. And yet, nature is there, gently reminding us that life goes on, with or without us. As long as I can see fireflies doing their dance on a hot, summer evening, I'll know there is hope for the world.

©2014 Noreen Braman
 updated from my previously published version that appeared in Sunshine Magazine.

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Letter to An Airline Regarding Treatment of People Who Need to Carry Medical Items With Them


Here is a letter I had to write to a certain airline, yesterday. I am withholding the name of the airline, pending their response. Has anyone else been treated like this?

June 16, 2024, 3:49 PM

June 21, 2024 - I've not gotten any sort of response, so I will now reveal the airline that treated me so badly. It was Delta. 


June 25, 2024 - Got an email apology from Delta. Seemed sincere, they would forward the letter up the ladder. That should have been the end of the letter - but for some reason, they thought financial compensation was in order. A refund of the cost of my flight? Nope. A $75 coupon for a future flight. SMH


I am writing to inform you of the cruel and embarrassing treatment I was subjected to in trying to board a flight from Atlanta to Newark. I was booked for 2 flights from St Louis to Newark. The first leg of the flight was wonderful. The gate attendant did not call groups until the jetway was mostly clear, and volunteers were requested to check bags, if they could. I had one small bag with wheels that I have been using for many years, with other airlines. This bag has been placed under the seats of large and small airplanes, and sometimes put in the overhead when there was room. The bag is important because I carry certain medications and items related to health conditions. It is important to repeat that this bag has never been checked in, only on occasion, taken on the jetway and returned to the jetway after the flight. This was my first time using Delta Airlines, and I have to say, after the way I was treated by the second Gate Crew, I don’t see myself using Delta Airlines again.


 The flight was already delayed, so the crew was attempting to get people on the plane quickly. They asked for volunteers to check bags, as was done on my first flight. Unlike the earlier flight, groups were called too fast, creating a long, long line. As part of section 7, I was near the end of the queue. Suddenly, a gate person started to separate " no bag" people from "bag" people. I was confused, as many of the “no bag” people had 2 or more bags bigger than mine. Apparently, she was choosing people with bags with wheels to be tagged and taken away. She grabbed my bag by the double carrying handles, and tagged it with the adhesive label (which prevented easy access to opening the bag), just as I was telling her I am diabetic and need my medications and other related items. She then accused me of not listening to her announcement about taking medications out of bags. However, that was part of the volunteering your bag speech. I was not prepared in any way to remove my medications, my glucometer AND my laptop. I had only a small zipper bag over my shoulder that just held my wallet and cell phone. No huge purse, no tote bag. She had nothing for me to put everything into. She expected me to squeeze my hands into the small opening left by the tagging label, and hand carry at least 7 things plus my laptop. She told me to keep moving in the line, and that I had to deal with it on the jetway.


I thought maybe there were bags or baskets down there there to put medications in for this kind of situation. But there was nothing, and no one to help. So, I had to remove my sweatshirt,(thankfully I was wearing one, otherwise, was I supposed to remove my shirt to use as a "bag?") kneel down on the jetway, and with wind blowing in my face through the open door, try to get everything I needed out of that bag, with all the passengers in line staring at me. Another gate attendant then began yelling that I couldn’t be on the right side of the jetway, and then she stood over me, telling me I had to give up my bag immediately. I finally was able to tie my sweatshirt around my medications and equipment, get my laptop, and then walked past all the same (now seated) passengers who had witnessed me kneeling on the floor trying to tie up my belongings like Huckleberry Finn. 


Only this wasn’t a funny story. I was demeaned, embarrassed, and a line full of strangers was allowed to hear me having to explain private medical issues. My privacy was violated, my health care items were placed in jeopardy, having to be rolled up in a sweatshirt and put on the floor under the seat in front of me. Not one Delta employee offered me any help other than to stand over me to tell me to hurry up. If this is how you treat 69-year-old people with medical issues, it should be made known to others like me so we can avoid your airline.


BTW: My bag is identical to this









Monday, May 20, 2024

For Memorial Day: In memory of the father I never knew, and his mysterious death


As Memorial Day approaches, I realize that it is 69 years since the day in May when my father died. A USMC Corporal, who served his country in several places, including Camp Lejeune, who died mysteriously at age 23. He left behind my grief struck grandmother, my devastated newlywed mother, a brother, a sister, and me, a 3-week-old baby. The pain and trauma was so deep that I grew up learning very little about my father, and what little came my way was mostly inaccurate. I was told he died from inhaling airplane exhaust. I was told he died from tonsillitis. I was told he died from a cat scratch.

I found a drawer full of memories when my mother, then my stepfather, passed away in 1988. The drawer had photo albums, receipts from a young couple’s married life, wedding cards, and many, many, cards expressing sadness and grief over William Johnston Braman’s untimely death. His death certificate, typed on paper so thin you can see through it, revealed his cause of death – Uremia. The dictionary definition is  “a raised level in the blood of urea and other nitrogenous waste compounds that are normally eliminated by the kidneys.” The origin of the word means “urine in the blood.” The National Institute of Health states that uremia “develops most commonly in chronic and end-stage renal disease.” Those words would become important to me.

But Uremia was not a final diagnosis. Below, as a contributing factor was written “pending chemical.” No matter how much I searched, I found no report of what those chemical tests revealed. I closed the box, confused, but I was a busy young mother, with 3 active children who would all have to deal with our own trauma in the years to come.

But when I began to see solicitations by lawyers, looking for persons harmed by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. I submitted a request to the Veteran’s Administration. Yes, he had been at Camp Lejeune in the 50s. His death occurred at the Brooklyn VA hospital. His death certificate was incomplete. Something felt wrong.

I asked the City of New York for another copy of his death certificate and checked the box to included cause of death paperwork. What I got back was a clearer version of what I already had. No chemical testing reports.

The TV lawyers were not interested in helping me figure this out. Did my father die from contaminated water? Renal failure is listed as something caused by this contaminated water. Did he actually die from serving his country? How in the world could anyone ever compensate me and his last remaining sibling for his loss?

I called and called the Brooklyn VA Hospital. Calls were misdirected, voice mails never returned. As a government hospital, it could be possible that records from the 50s were still in some rusty file cabinets. But no one even called to say those records had been destroyed. Nothing.

I approached my Congressional Representative, sending copies of everything I had, service records, death certificate. No answer, no answer, no answer. Finally, in late 2023, I was told that a request had been made to the Brooklyn VA Hospital, and to allow 30 days for a reply. No answer came. Not from the Hospital, not from the Congressional Office.

Meanwhile, there is a timeline ticking down to make the government aware of those who were harmed by this contamination. Currently, staff at one of my state senator’s offices has stated they will try to get info from the VA, to find out if the records still exist. And if they don’t, what does that leave?

Should I go on without ever knowing, or should I start believing that the words on his death certificate are proof enough that his death had a “chemical” cause?

I was born in April 1955. My father died in May 1955. Thanks to his 14-year-old sister, who snatched me out of the baby carriage while my mother argued with nurses who refused to let a baby into the hospital, my father was able to hold me. He wept uncontrollably and died soon after. My eyes fill with tears as I write this, just as they filled with tears when my father’s last remaining sibling, his sister, told me this story, just a few months ago.

And now I am desperate to fill in the blanks. To pass on the story of a man who died young, but whose genes live on in me, my three children, and my seven grandchildren. A man who may have given his life for his country.


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Diabolical Electric Hypnosis

Communication Dilemmas

(Replace the technology terminology
as this poem becomes glottology) 


Don’t write me a letter, send me a text, 

Don’t text me, give me a call, 


Don’t call me, message me on Facebook, 


Don’t use Facebook, set up a zoom,


Don’t use zoom, in fact skip the internet altogether,
with its diabolical electronic hypnosis. 

Send me a letter, but don’t write in cursive

©2024 Noreen Braman

Sunday, April 28, 2024

NAPOWRIMO April 28, 2024


The Feeling That Shall Not Be Named

the brain holds the archive
of all the stories lived,
and daily shuffles through them
randomly projecting a memory,
in whispers, shadows and echoes
that manifest in the body,
as the physical state of anxiety
all of the fear, but none of the context,
only waves of existential dread


©2024 Noreen Braman