I was fascinated by John Paul Scotto’s experiences with neurodivergence [“Hey, Man,” September 2022]. I have suffered from many of the symptoms he describes, including agoraphobia, alcoholism, alienation, and anxiety (to start alphabetically). Scotto’s essay helped me examine these tendencies in myself, and I look forward to reading more of his writing.
John Brehm’s devastating poem “Dudley Ball” [August 2022] brought back my elementary-school years. We had a puffy-cheeked kid who was relentlessly taunted and called “Chipmunk Cheeks.” Unlike Dudley Ball, though, this kid had at least one student who spoke with him: me. I sensed in him a kindness and a vulnerability. Nearly sixty years later I still have his short obituary. He was only seven or eight years old when he died.
Zoë Bossiere’s essay [“The Beetle King,” August 2022], however, reminded me that I was not always that “gentler kind of boy” she describes. I recall torturing a defenseless banana slug by pouring salt on it. Like Bossiere, I feel a familiar guilt bubble up in me as I look back on that horrific act.
I am grateful to The Sun for highlighting, as Brehm puts it, the “fears and flaws” of our lives, in a single issue of the magazine.
“Dudley Ball,” by John Brehm, reminded me of my own teased and taunted classmates. Might I have befriended Fat Bob, a rosy-cheeked animal lover who could trumpet like an elephant? Could I have been kinder to Metal-Crutch Chuck, spastic legged and stitch scarred? I remember how, upon request, he would sing the entire song “American Pie.” I could have, should have. But I was jello-brick dumb. Wisdom, what little I now have, has come to me glacially slow.
Gary Percesepe’s essay “The Count” [February 2022], about the author’s response to the accidental death of his older brother, is a haunting depiction of the vulnerabilities of childhood. I wondered and worried about what occurred beyond the scope of that essay and was happy to see the story expanded in “Some Notes on Fathers and Sons” [August 2022].
Every family is a puzzle, and I found Percesepe’s writing a poignant reminder of what’s unique and what’s universal about our relationships with parents and siblings, especially those who are no longer with us.
I was moved by Gary Percesepe’s “Some Notes on Fathers and Sons.” The essay was so packed with emotion, it felt like a short novel. I kept thinking of my own father’s passing two summers ago, and my lingering regret at bungling his eulogy. I suppose that’s one of those times in life when you only get one at bat.
My first reaction to Joseph Holt’s essay “Ten Years Sober” [July 2022] was anger at his judgment of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Then I remembered how I felt at ten years sober. I, too, was tired of the repetition: the same people sharing their stories, the same readings, the same slogans. I spent several years stepping back from connection at meetings and judging everyone. In other words I returned to old behaviors and attitudes. I didn’t drink, but my marriage crumbled, and my anger and self-pity escalated.
Then, at sixteen years sober, I decided to give the program another chance. Nothing had changed in the meetings. What had changed was me.
I have been sober for more than thirty-four years now. If I hadn’t reconnected with AA, I would not have found the daily Zoom meeting that now connects me with a large circle of friends, many of whom I have never met in person. For an introvert like me, this arrangement is perfect.
I was disappointed by the end of Holt’s essay. I wish he had gone to an AA meeting, collected his eleven-year chip, and had a new experience.
I was lured in by the title of Ellery Akers’s poem “Love in Our Seventies” [July 2022]. Now single and in my seventies, I slid into her story and was awestruck by its authenticity and humor. Although I am content being single, I wonder if I could be tempted to try to find love again.
On a warm August afternoon I took a break from working in the flower garden that my late husband planted for me. As I rested with my cat at my side, I opened The Sun straight to the essay “Siri Tells a Joke,” by Debra Gwartney [July 2022]. The author’s grief after her husband’s passing brought me to tears.
Jim Ralston’s essay “My Fight against Time” [July 2022] reminded me of my marathon-running days, when I’d blow by some old duffer who was barely maintaining forward motion and feel pity for him and fear about my own future. But now that I am that stumble-paced geezer, I realize I needn’t have worried. I enjoy my morning “run” as much as I ever have.
I was not surprised to see the outpouring of indignation over Finn Cohen’s interview with Wyatt Williams [“The Carnivore’s Dilemma,” May 2022], and I am glad that people care about the ethics behind their food.
When I was in my twenties, I worked on several different farms. One was a 1,600-acre, certified-organic vegetable farm where killdeer dive-bombed the tractor as it plowed over their nests. Bits of snakes, rodents, rabbits, and gophers were regularly churned out the back end as we tilled dozens of acres in a hurry to get the crops planted.
At other, smaller farms we raised chickens, goats, and rabbits, cycling them through the pasture and orchard and using their manure to enrich the fields. On days that we processed animals, we held small ceremonies to recognize the significance and heaviness of the moment.
When looking for ethical and humanely raised foods, it’s not just the living conditions of the animals that should be considered, but also the size and scale of the farm.
Daniela Kuper’s short story “Good Housekeeping” [May 2022] is profound. I felt like I was right there with the protagonist as Kuper subtly and compassionately describes aging, deteriorating health, and dependence. This is one of the best stories I’ve read in years.