Robyn's Nest

selected writing of R. T. Saunders

Caregiving is a Lonely Act of Kindness


The Washington Post - November 20, 2016

It's uplifting to find a family coming together, so targeted and focused in their planning that the end of life process becomes a natural flow. 
I don't think this is the case for most. In a monthly caregiver support group I attend I hear tales of loneliness, of frustration and anger, of guilt for having that anger, of people managing a system that is stacked against them and everyone has their hand out, of paid home caregivers who do little caregiving and need constant supervision just to get basic service, of home hospice and doctors that show little concern other than who is paying the bill, where bouts of "sundowning" are met with doses of morphine. 
More often than not one family member does this alone with other family members hearing the struggle of primary caregiving but unwilling to put themselves out of their daily routine to reach out and serve. This is the reality of dying with a parent or spouse in America.

Yet one person stays.  Ever present.  The family member, close friend, or dedicated, selfless caregiver. THIS is the person that provides the service that gives dignity.  THIS is the person who lives in the background, allowing the dying person to shine one last time. THIS is the person who is there  in service while the act of passing happens, allowing the key to be found, the doorway to open.  No other act has as much kindness within it.

NY Times Comment - April 2016

In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat

My comment:

Westchester, NY

My family and I traveled with my 89yo mother in The Haven on two occasions, one trip far better than the other. We are not "super rich" or the "elite". We are, however, people who budget their savings in order to afford special service when they travel. And why do we do this? To feel "special" or upper class entitled? We do this for some self pampering, yes, but also because on the ever larger ships of over 4000 passengers the crush of people is constant and the fight for lounge chairs around a crowded pool with ever pounding music tends to make a trip that much more unenjoyable. On our ship I observed people going to fine dining rooms in old t-shirts, jeans, and flip flops, walking through cabin passages they could barely fit through carrying a plate of curly fries at 11pm, and their children having a spitting contest to see who could reach the people walking on the decks below. So I save my pennies and I choose sections like The Haven. I am not a slob, I was taught manners and proper table behavior, and perhaps it takes a few extra dollars these days to find what I want. Is there a class distinction? Gosh, I hope so, because being classy is something that has disappeared from civilized living. 


I love trains.   I love to watch them travel by, to hear clicking of the wheels on the tracks, to see the long lines glide by.   I love to be in the car "stuck" at a crossing gate that has come down, to wait expectantly for the big machines to pass, all to the consternation of less enamored friends.  The train whistle, an annoyance to some, is my siren call. 

I am not sure what draws me.  I guess it's the wondering.

“Where is that long line of freight cars going; where will it end up and what’s on them?”  “Who are those people on that train, how was their day and what are they going to?  What’s waiting for them after their journey?”  And all the while these silver guilded servants lumber on. 

Trains are simple really, although now loaded with complex electronics, but the basic wheels on the track is a concept that jets us back to the time of discovery, of the linking of the continents and the start of prosperity.  Now, more frequently, we hear the electronic voices announcing the stations arrived at and to come, replacing the conductors who used to call out the stops and be seen hanging precariously out the door checking on the safety those coming and going, keeping the train on time, always on time. 

The freight train with its linked connections of many, sometimes hundreds, of cars is a marvel to watch.  The trains glide along in their long dance, counted on to stay in line and behave in their practiced order, with little supervision by the handful of human overseers.   They move into the night, through locations that people wouldn’t last long in by themselves, hauling products we all need, to join the others in the vast yards waiting for their next assignment.  And at the front of all this, the Engineer!  

I used to think that the job of a long haul train engineer was very glamorous, and a bit mysterious, and perhaps a bit boring!   After all, what does one person do at the head of a line of 200 freight cars in the middle of the night?  Then, I learned.  All those friends traveling behind you can turn on you in a second if you’re going downhill a bit too fast, or drag you backwards with their own might if you don’t get them uphill fast enough.  You are alone, with the power under your hands, and the forces of inertia and gravity are yours to sense and harness.

A commentary on NY State prisoner beatings

A commentary on The New York Times article...

 AUG. 11, 2015

After 2 Killers Fled, New York Prisoners Say, Beatings Were Next

Yes, as we all agree, this kind of behavior is beyond disgraceful, but it continues, year after year, as those who have power lord over those in their charge; beating, berating, humiliating, intimidating, coercing,. This is the culture that we allow to be created. We don't care to hear what happens behind the walls and barbed wire. This is the "hero culture" where anyone in law enforcement is celebrated, and thanked for their service, no matter how inappropriate.

Corrections officers are at the bottom of the pecking order. They don't get the full respect of the law enforcement community or the public because they are viewed as babysitters, by a public that needs to have someone watch those that are discarded. We put people in jail and  we don't really care what happens; our gaze is politely averted. Then, if and when these former inmates are released, we make sure they are labeled and identified for life as "felons" not worthy to work or fully participate in society. 

Should you be an inmate labeled "sex offender" you are tracked, your whereabouts noted, and while in prison, you are segregated for your own protection, but the level of your harassment is that much greater.    One C.O.(corrections officer)  was once heard  saying to an inmate, "No one on the outside cares about you.  You are scum!  If this building burned down and every one of you were killed, not a single person would care."

These beatings, this coercion and intimidation, is not new. It happens over and over in every state in this nation, and, in some form or another, daily.  And really, we don't care.

In response to Bobby Jindal...

For someone with Presidential ambitions Bobby Jindal does nothing to bridge divides in his April 23, 2014  New York Times Op-Ed piece, Bobby Jindal: I'm Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage ( .  His use of language with charged words such as “left wing” and “radical liberals” speak only separation and marginalization which is the overall key to his thinking, and focuses him, not on an inclusive future, but on the old code words of a failed conservative agenda.

I am always struck by people who espouse Mr. Jindal’s philosophy who like us to think we live in some long gone “Little House on the Prairie” world where all we need is a simple life, where Mom cooks around the hearth and Dad tends the field and we all “simply allow free exercise of religion”.  That’s all we want really.  To be left alone and worship God in our own way.  Except this simple prairie world has long disappeared along with our wiping out of most the Native American culture.  Now we are met with schemes from political and religious leaders as to how to best keep the gays, lesbians, and transgender from perverting our simple homespun life.

I think we can take comfort in the fact that Bobby Jindal has virtually no chance of ever being nominated or elected president, despite his ambitions.  Perhaps he should spend his time protecting society from others that might limit the vast freedoms in Louisiana.  Vampires perhaps?  Far more dangerous than those LGBT folks.  What say you Mr. Lestat?

Published in The New York Times, Op-Ed comment, April 23, 2014


The power of Christmas

In "The power of Christmas" in the Washington Post  (December 23, 2013) Michael Gerson wrote:

"The man who was born in obscurity and died an apparent failure is viewed as a guide and friend by more than 2 billion people."

The correct view should be "viewed as incarnate God", as proclaimed by all Christian Churches. "Guide" and "Friend" is a nice New Age approach, but fundamentally incorrect. The purpose of Christmas is not to celebrate the friendship of some sage or mystic, but to proclaim the ever present God made known to us.
Merry Christmas!!

Washington Post comment

SpeakTruly commented on JFK anniversary on TV: An onslaught of stale shows, and a nation stuck in a freeze frame…

JFK anniversary on TV: An onslaught of stale shows, and a nation...

REVIEW | Why do we keep reliving Nov. 22, 1963, in an onslaught of stale 50th-anniversary shows?

Oh how sad, another article by "someone who wasn't born" when JFK was killed, this time a critic. Yes, yes, we must move on, just as we have moved on from the Civil War, The Great Depression, The Civil Rights struggles in the South and nation as a whole, and over and over. Time for reflection and memorial does not lessen our need and desire to move on in life, but helps us clarify events, bring them further into our consciousness, and remember how life is changed by singular events. Yes, perhaps some of the upcoming television programming isn't up to snuff (we have all seen far too many poor JFK imitations) and they don't meet todays standard of incessant jump cuts, flashy graphics, and inane dialogue so necessary to keep the attention of thirty somethings, but they present another attempt by a society so meshed with media to reflect on an event that stunned even someone like myself, as a ten year old, and so changed the future of the American political agenda and the nation as a whole. 

So, I am sorry you are bored by all this. Go watch "The Voice". That will help you clear your mind.

On Writing

snoopy writing.jpg


Writing is not a skill we emphasize or truly value. We "communicate" now, not write. The flow of a well turned phrase, the turning of ideas in a well argued piece, skillfully edited, are increasingly absent. Our thoughts are in catchy 140 character statements with the hope that they will "go viral" and we'll be noticed. If we did value good writing then the major newspapers, journals, and others, would not be filled with typos and grammar errors on a daily basis.

Speed is the product now. Marketed information. It no longer matters how it's said.

The American Dream

This American Dream stuff gives me a pain. Telling the world about our American Dream!  I don't know what they mean.  If it exists, as we tell the whole world, why don't we make it work in one small hamlet in the United States?     

Eugene O'Neill

Let Your Light Shine

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson   A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles

seven deadly social sins


Mohandas Gandhi


"Sometimes you have to look hard at a person and remember, he's doing the best he can.  He's just trying to find his way, that's all.  Just like you."

 Ethel Thayer, On Golden Pond  

All material Copyright RTSaunders, LLC. 2016