Circling the Lifespan

By Dene Hellman

For those among us who are especially alert to the quirky and the humorous, what better place could there be to grow up than – like Edward V. Spudis – in Washington, D. C., just a few blocks from the White House?

But the world certainly wasn’t a funny place in 1943, and the day after Ed graduated from high school his draft papers were in the mail. He was eventually assigned to the Pacific but in the aftermath of the atomic bombs, Japan surrendered and his final months of service were spent as part of the Occupation.

Out of the Army in 1945 and considering what to do with his life, Ed chose medicine. He and his future wife, Martha, met at the University of Maryland and were married in 1953, the year he finished medical school. The couple moved to Detroit for Ed’s internship, followed by a fellowship in neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. There were very few neurologists in those days and there were invitations to join the staffs of several medical schools. The ultimate choice was Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem. The Spudis family, now including three daughters, came to town. And stayed.

The next several decades included a private practice, teaching at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, serving as Chief of Staff of the Forsyth Medical Center, and setting up and directing the EEG lab at Forsyth Hospital. Additionally, over a period of many years, Ed provided various services to the Veterans Administration.

Along the way and during those many years of medical practice, Ed’s inclination to observe the humorous and the singular led him to jot down verses and observations about patients, colleagues and families. He also began drawing cartoons in the same whimsical style.

After his retirement in 2003, Martha Spudis, who had graduated with a major in English, began gathering up Ed’s jottings and drawings with a small publication in mind. The first book, Brainstem Storms, was published in 2004 and over the years was followed by five other small volumes.

Circling the Lifespan, was published in August 2017. It includes some of the most timely and amusing of the prior poems, cartoons and musings that first saw light in previous volumes. A poem written many years ago suggests the need for neurological oversight when an elderly president is in office. Several poems reflect Ed’s longtime campaign against men wearing ties. A cartoon shows a doctor informing another that since his attack occurred at the shopping center, it must have been a grand mall seizure.

But Dr. Edward V. Spudis has a serious side is well. Anyone reading Circling the Lifespan will
soon realize that while many poems point out the funny side of things, others are serious.

Here is one about a doctor and a patient emerging from a Veteran’s Administration outpatient clinic:


At 5 p.m., I left a spotless VA outpatient clinic
with roach-free ceiling tiles, disgruntled
backaches, and dyspeptics imagining ever-
higher pensions.

I slowed to help a wheel-chaired straggler roll
out to the tarmac. He had no real legs.

He made perfunctory comments about the
weather and bird-doos on the windshield
and said, “Goodnight, Doc,” He skillfully
swung into his previously owned station
wagon, hoping that some inspirational
message might arrive. From where?

He survived violence. I sneaked through
academia. Is happiness what we have?

The neatest happiness definitions seem to
require that this world evolve into a
perpetual biologic garden spot.

We will then carefully respect one another
while adjusting to unique creations like
the printing press, antibiotics, global-
positioning satellites, and a thoroughly
United Nations. Eventually we will know
exactly which absurdities to stifle and
which parallel-universe theories to accept.

We carefully sat on the front seats of our autos
for about one minute, staring toward the
sun, and then glanced at each other.

I wished that I had something to tell him.

Circling the Lifespan by Edward V. Spudis was published by Empower Publishing and is available at

Dene Hellman, a Winston-Salem writer and editor, has written and published in numerous genres, including a novel, a memoir, a book of short stories, and two poetry books. Her work is available at Indigo Sea Press and online at 


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