One of the first must-have gifts I remember one of my kids wanting was a Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock. I don’t know how old Jennifer was at the time, but her age certainly wasn’t in double digits, most likely 6 or 7.

Why did she need an alarm clock? She didn’t. She wanted an alarm clock. Big difference.

Why did it have to be a Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock? Not sure, but instead of an actual alarm ringing, the two characters would shout out happy phrases to get you to wake up.

My personal favorite was “Please get up, brush your teeth and start your Happy Day.”

I hated that clock. I hated it a lot. In order for it to wake Jennifer up, the volume had to cranked … to 11. This meant, of course, that it woke me up as well. Day after day, the falsely chipper, condescending, plastic screeching of two pre-adolescents.

This went on for what seemed like months, until one morning I heard Ann, chipper as all get out as usual, spit out her morning greeting. Then silence. Usually, Jennifer would kick in some sentence fragments of her own, mostly having to do with not wanting to get up. Another greeting. This time a vocal reaction. It was muffled and raspy, but it seemed to suggest shouting was the exact wrong way to go right at that moment. Silence.

“Please get up, brush you tee……..” Halfway through, I heard the unmistakable whirring sound of plastic being flung with great velocity, followed by a combination bang/cracking/spronging sounds as the object hit the wall, then … broken bits (shrapnel?) falling to the floor.

Even from another room, it was obvious that Ann wouldn’t be telling us to call our friends any more, or encouraging proper dental hygiene. So, I walked over to Jen’s room. Springs and other clock doodads lay everywhere.

As a parent, I should have been outraged, but I was so happy to see the end of that clock it would have been hypocritical to lecture. So, I just asked what happened.

“I’m not sure,” she said, and it was obvious she wasn’t. “I just couldn’t listen anymore. I have a bunch of tests today and that’s what I’m getting up to face. Not calling my friends, not brushing my teeth and starting my happy day. The next thing I know, Andy and Ann bits are scattered all over the floor. And Dad, I was happy.”

The other morning, my memory took its circuitous route through the experiences of my past, and it brought me the Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock story while I was lying in bed taking my morning inventory of how I feel. See, knowing that clock was going to go off and be annoying brought a small dose of anxiety to my mornings. I think it was the anxiety that was the common denominator, making the story more applicable than I would have thought.

Currently, my morning inventory involves reviewing pretty much the same items each day, always beginning with my ribs.

That’s where this whole journey began, after all, checking on a broken rib after being attacked by bees. There’s always pain in my ribs. Sometimes it’s a lot, but usually it’s a little. It’s always there, though.

Then it’s on to the rash that’s a side effect of my chemotherapy. As soon as I started taking the medicine again, the rash reappeared. This time, though, it’s nowhere near as bad as it was. Last time it felt like my skin was being burned; this time it’s just a slight itch in only a couple of places.

Next, I check on things that only bother me off and on, to see if the day is an on day. Usually that means my sternum and my stomach. I can’t discern any constant in why they should or should not bother me, so my guess is that stress is involved.

The morning inventory always ends with a visit inside my head; Think Central. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, I never know what I’m going to find in there. My brain certainly causes me the most distress because, while the rest of the inventory deals with what is actually happening, given half the chance, my brain will make up stuff, just because it can.

All that remains then is to assemble all the data and decide whether I actually want to get out of bed and face the challenges inherent in living life with cancer for another day. So far, the answer has always been yes, but some days the chronic fatigue tells me just to stay in bed today. It’s then that, God alone knows why, I hear echoes from the past: “Andy. Andy please wake up. It’s time to call your friends.” “Please get up, brush your teeth and start your Happy Day.”

And what’s an aging, loving father whose older daughter loved her Raggedy Ann and Andy clock, until she didn’t, supposed to do but get up brush his teeth and start his happy day?

Jim Arnold is a copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. He was born in Scotland and came to America with his parents in 1963, when he was 14 years old. He and his wife, Sheri, moved to Maine in 1998. He has two daughters, Jennifer and Alison.

Editor’s note: This column is a shorter version of the one Arnold originally wrote. To read the entire column, visit his blog,

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