A Serious Problem

Former-OxyContin-Abusers-Turning-to-Heroin-SS“You are too serious all the time,” says my 16 year old daughter.

She also says that all I talk about is drugs and alcohol and that I turn every conversation into a “life lesson”.

And she is right.

Because lately, I have been completely immersed in the epidemic that is facing the country. Talk of  prescription drug and heroine use and overdose is everywhere I turn…news, documentaries, talk shows. The story is the same; suburban kids and young adults are dying at a rapid rate. The heroine dealers are actually setting up “shops” in affluent suburban neighborhoods where they know there is already a prescription drug problem. They offer a cheaper, more readily available alternative to the prescription drugs. And kids all around America are jumping on the one-way drug train  that seems to be moving in the same direction — prescription drugs, to cheap heroin, to overdose( saved w/ narcan), to rehab, recovery, relapse, overdose, and often death.

And so many of them look just like my kids — popular, good looking, athletic, likely to succeed in life. My guard is up and I am too frightened to let it slip.

Last time I cleaned out my medicine cabinet, I found 5 bottles of Oxycontin. Five full bottles from breast cancer surgeries, knee surgeries, appendectomies, etc. I never took more than one or two pills after any surgery and moved quickly to Advil/Tylenol and I always made sure my kids did the same. This left us with a full bottle of Oxy’s for each of my 5 member household. The amount the doctor prescribed always well exceeded any pain meds we needed. A recent study showed that the amount of Oxycontin out on the street is equal to one full bottle per every adult in the US. It’s just too easy for these kids to get. They only need to walk to their bathroom.

It’s not that I am just realizing this now. I have always been aware and worried as my kids have gotten older about drugs and alcohol. Maybe more than most because of the amount of addiction in my own family . I grew up seeing first-hand the devastating effects of substance abuse .  So as a parent, I have always been a stickler for rules about drinking –21 is the law– period. Ours is not the house where kids can “drink safely underage”. I have never bought into that theory. And I don’t respect the parents that allow other people’s kids to drink at their houses. Do what you want with your own children– leave mine out of it please.

But I am not stupid. I know high school kids will drink. I was in high school. But I feel that if I stand up for the law and hold steady to my ground rules than it might  make them a little more worried about starting early. I don’t want to make them sneaky …but if they have to sneak then it will be a little harder for them and hopefully not worth the effort or the ramifications when I do catch them. Why make it easy? Especially when the effects of alcohol on a young brain are out there in print and studies have proven it over and over–the younger kids start to drink, the worse the effects are on their brain capacity. Why would I want to enhance a handicap in my kids? The world is a compettetive place. Wouldn’t I want them to have every advantage available to them? Brain cells are an advantage.

So the longer  I can make them wait–the better. My 19- yr-old son said it perfectly one night; he said that he didnt drink early on because of three reasons # 1. He knew I was a “psycho” about drinking. #2. He played sports. and #3. It seemed pointless.

He is not a “goody goody” by any means and he did drink in his senior year and honestly by the time they go to college it’s out of my hands.  But the fact that his number one reason for abstaining was his fear that I was “crazy about drinking” makes me happy. And it tells me to continue that serious craziness with my youngest daughter.

If I am serious with my kids about drinking, then I am stone-faced-stoically-super-serious about drugs. I won’t even laugh about drug jokes– which they make quite often.

“What’s wrong with you you?” I might say lightheartedly to my oldest if he does something stupid.

“I don’t know it must be the crack I smoked this morning,” he chuckles and guffaws.

“Not even funny,” I retort.

Because it’s not. Not even in the least. It actually scares the shit out of me.

I don’t know for sure what makes some kids get wrapped up in drugs and others not. I think it’s a few different factors that sometimes come together and sometimes work independently. I believe there may be a predisposition to addiction — a genetic element. If that is true than my kids definitely have it and that makes me more vigilant. I also believe that security and insecurity and timing all play a huge role.( I won’t even get into how social media plays a role in insecurities, that I will save for another day). But if your son or daughter is feeling bad about themselves and someone is there with a pill to make it all go away and the timing is right (or wrong)–bang. It can happen that fast. Or the opposite; if your kid has a super inflated sense of self-esteem than there may be the feeling that nothing can hurt them–they are invincible, they won’t get addicted. It could be all three of these together. Or it could be none at all.

There is no right or wrong answer. No perfect way to raise a kid nowadays. The problems today are so much harder to handle than when they were toddlers. I have 2 kids in college and one in high school. One that is over-confident, one is too hard on himself and one that struggles with insecurity issues. I don’t know the answers. All I know for sure is that I may have been deluding myself as to the expiration date on parental worrying. There isn’t one. And until the day when I am sure they are all on safe ground, when their egos are intact and their morals are fully set in amber, I will remain a pain-in-the-ass Mom about this issue. Because I never want to be writing a blog one day from the other side–looking back and thinking I should have taken it more seriously.






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A Promise to a Friend


There is a blank page before me. An endless sea of white, yearning to be filled with words and ideas; dots and lines. I stare at it and long to write out my thoughts.  To express the ideas and agonies that race through my mind on a daily, no, hourly basis. Every day for the past two years I have told myself that– ‘Today’s the day, the day I get back at it’.

But it never seems to happen… because for the past two years I have been running a bakery that I co-own, which has taken up every ounce of my creativity,  my energy, and my stamina. With each new recipe I create, with each pie I sell, and each cookie I bake, I push my writing further and further to the back of the shelf.  By the time I fall into bed at night, mentally exhausted and physically drained from a whirlwind of baking and feeding customers– I have left no room for reflection and observation–the two ingredients necessary to perfectly shape a piece of writing.

For two years, I have been ignoring my passion for writing– the one thing that had always left me happy and fulfilled.  Somehow I had allowed myself to get wrapped up in someone else’s dream, while neglecting my own. Sometimes we get caught up in things without realizing what’s going on.

Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to re-set our priorities.

Last week, while making 250 pies for Thanksgiving orders, I learned that an old friend had passed away.   She had contacted me last year when she was diagnosed with her breast cancer — for support, information, reassurance. I tried to help her with the logistics of it all having reached the end of my own treatment –the chemo, the dehydration, the mouth sores, the hair loss. I tried to prep her and be on call for any questions day or night. I knew that the type of breast cancer she had–triple negative–was a difficult one, but I tried to remain upbeat.

When I heard of her passing I realized that I hadn’t seen her in quite a few months, though I thought of her often and heard of her recovery and re-lapse from others. I was busy with the bakery–the guilt here was palpable.

As I reflect back on the years of knowing this woman, reflect on her true spirit, her laugh, her non-judgemental qualities–one thing stands out prominently; how she was always interested in what others’ were doing and how she always cared wholeheartedly. I am sure each of her friends will agree. She seemed to take a genuine interest in others lives and always remembered what they were doing.
As for myself, this is what she said every time I saw her:

“Fran,” she would say with a serious look, “when are you going to finish that book?”
“I know, I know , I am trying,” I would answer,”But do you really think anyone would want to read it?”
“Oh My God, Yes. I want to read it….you have to finish it, I’m not kidding…”

She was an avid reader. We spent many years in the same book club together before I dropped out. She would not only read the book that the group picked, but 2 or 3 others in between. So for her to tell me that she loved my writing and wanted to read my finished book, gave me an incredible sense of purpose and renewed vitality when it came to my writing.

There are other things I was reminded of this past week; like how I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my own life, or how we should visit those we think about more often–but those are blogs for another day. For now, I just needed to fill this first empty page as a jump start to get back into my writing and to say thank-you to my friend for believing in me. I truly  hope you are surrounded by books in your own personal library in heaven and dining with all the authors you have ever wanted to meet. To you I make this promise — I will continue to make time to write every day. I will write this book. For you. And for Me.

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Same Goal,Different Path

As so many of you know, Susan and I have ridden to raise money for cancer through the PMC for the last 5 years. Together we have raised over $40,000 in that time period.To our sponsors we say THANK YOU!!   This year,we have decided to change things up a bit, spread the wealth, and change our scenery while still pushing forward in our battle against cancer.  This year we will ride in one or two (maybe 3) rides that may be shorter in length and are more reasonable in the amount of money we must raise.   We start in June this year (leaving us far less time to train) for a one day 100 mile ride (daunting)….we are determined to do this and with your help  should easily raise the minimum of $500.   The American Cancer Society is  a wonderful Organization that uses their donations not only for research and detection but a large part goes to patient support–something I am very passionate about since so many more people are living  with cancer today and need help on a day to day basis.   Thanks for your support!   The link to my page is:  http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/CommunityFundraisingPages/CFPFY10NewEngland?px=36058701&pg=personal&fr_id=46909

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PMC–the epilogue

pmc end

Five years ago, while still  enduring chemo treatments, I asked my friend Susan to join me in riding the PMC, the 192 mile bike-a-thon that raises millions of dollars for cancer research..  By asking her this, I was asking her to make a serous commitment in time and energy to train for this ride.

Susan had no choice but to accept this challenge.  After all, I was still practically bald.

Three weeks ago we finished our 5th PMC ride. Each year we pedaled 1200-1500 miles from January to August to strengthen our legs and hearts, to build endurance and stamina in every kind of weather. Over time and miles, like every partnership in our lives, we fell unknowingly into certain roles. Susan became the “Sherpa”. Susan mapped out our ride-routes every week. She planned our training schedules and guilted me out of bed many mornings when I would rather roll over and pull the covers over my head. She plotted and planned every PMC weekend down to a fine point. Like any good type A business woman, Susan researched aspects of the PMC weekend and found out what was best to pack, what time we had to leave to insure that we make the bus ride, and even planned out the order of  our pleasures as we approached Bourne and the end of our first day–shower, beer, massage. Each year she learned a new trick for saving time or making our journey easier for the next year.

My role in the PMC equation became apparent early on as the “fundraiser”.  My background in sales and marketing made me a far better candidate for this as Susan is not one to ask for money. It is this part of the PMC that makes Susan cringe.  She hates it. But it doesn’t bother me as much because I know, having been the recipient of a drug found by research–a drug by the way that saved my life–that the whole point of the PMC is to raise awareness and money to continue the research that will save more lives. If  the drug Herceptin was never funded and therefore never allowed on the market, I wouldn’t be here today to be writing this. So fundraising? I say ‘bring it on’.

Because everyone –I mean everyone–has been touched by cancer. It’s not even a possibility anymore. It is just a fact.  So in the past years I was getting creative with the fundraising. I used social media, I had Silpada parties and I began making Wash-R-Ware necklaces which in the first year profited $6000 dollars for our ride.  In the past I was able to raise my money and a good portion of Susan’s to guarantee that neither one of us was left to pay the balance. You see we each have to raise $4300 by October 1st or it comes out of the charge card we put down as collateral.  Some people gasp at this amount.A lot of money? Yes, I think it’s a lot of money. But there is a goal every year and there are only so many riders. So the total needs to be divided among us. There has to be a cap of riders -there isn’t enough room on the roads–even now it’s  a very crowded ride.  Crowded with riders who are there for the challenge–there for the cause.

So I have always promised Susan that I would make sure to raise the money.  And every year we have–except this year.  I was very busy in building the business at my new bakery and I unfortunately let the reigns ease up a bit on the fundraising .  I was able to reach my goal thanks to so many of your generous donations.  For that, I am truly so very thankful.  Susan, however,  did not meet her goal and I feel like I have failed her in my role. ( she would be very angry at me if she knew what I was asking–so please don’t tell her.)

The thing is this.  If Susan doesn’t reach her goal–this is the end of our PMC  line. She won’t do the PMC anymore. Without my Sherpa, I don’t think I can do the ride alone.  At first when she told me that this was the last year, I thought “ok, that’s cool, we have done this enough”…but as I sit here looking at photos of the weekend–the riders and the volunteers, the survivors and the pictures of the deceased–I am getting heartbroken over the thought of not training and riding next year. How can I remove myself from one of the greatest cancer fundraisers that exists when I still have my health–when I am alive because of the PMC.

So if you are out there  and you wanted to donate this year but forgot or thought it was too late, take heart.  There is still time.  Here is the link to Susan’s page.  It doesn’t have to be a lot. Every little bit helps. And if we can help her reach her goal–then maybe, just maybe, she will agree to ride again next year.


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You Won’t Cry This Time

Sophomore year. The plans had been set all summer–the plans for returning to college. Buy used furniture, Rent a U-haul, grab his friend in Jersey, drive to new apartment in South Carolina. I listened to the plans, but I wasn’t really involved.

But then the doctor called and changed all that.

My 19-year-old son, Calvin, had been waiting for a cadaver knee bone to fix his knee for close to three years. He’s had five surgeries in as many years. So when the hospital called him two weeks ago to tell him that a bone was available and he had to have surgery on August 12, even though he was slated to leave with his buddies for college on August 13th and even though he has to be on crutches for 6 weeks and avoid jumping on his leg for a full year–what choice did he have but to say yes?

So the plans were quickly changed. His buddies were out–and I was in. In for a 17 hour ride with Cal to the University of South Carolina and in for 24 hours of setting up his new apartment and in for a 2 hour flight home. He needed my help and I was more than happy to oblige.

“You won’t cry this time, ” he said to me in our kitchen, as we planned our road trip to return him to his new home, ” Not like last year. This year it will be like ‘whatever, who cares, he’s a sophomore now’.”

“Of course not,” I agreed. Sadness, tears; they were the last thing on my mind. I was thinking of all those I know who were sending their first child, and for some their only child, off to their freshmen year. That is the tough one–not the 2nd 3rd or 4th years.

So we loaded up the G-20 and zipped off–first to his one week follow-up at the doctor –and then out the Pike heading West and then South. It was a good trip. We took turns driving and sleeping, fighting a little over directions but mostly having a pleasant time. We compromised on music–listening to his Rap, House, Country, 70’s rock and then my Alternative rock, folk, singer songwriter, and sometimes finding a common ground.

“I brought you to help, but also to meet my friends because you’re the cool one,” he said as I was dancing in my seat to some electronic house music he had put on.

“I’ve been telling you that I’m cool since you were 5 but you didn’t believe me.” I said, still dancing, thinking I had finally convinced him.

“Ok, so please stop doing that.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Once we arrived we got right to work. His new apartment that he will share with 3 other guys is up two flights and his room is up another. This made it difficult for him to help me and will remain difficult for the next 6 weeks. I’m not sure how he will do it. Over the next 6 hours we shopped and organized and shopped some more… at the same time I could see him getting re-acclimated to his friends, buddies he had met last year from Jersey and Philly and one from the South Shore. Nice kids all of them. They were all truly happy to see each other.

The next morning Cal was off to the DMV to claim his citizenship as a South Carolinian resident and I was left to finish organizing his room–the room that reminded me so painfully of the apartment I lived at in Hingham with my parents after High School–with its white walls, freshly hung mini-blinds, grey wall to wall carpeting, large walk in closet–very 80’s. And here I was hanging up his clothes, and delegating t-shirts and shorts to specific dresser drawers. It was in this muffled carpeted quiet that I realized that I hadn’t bought any of these clothes. Most of them I had never seen before. I had not picked out any of these striped button down shirts or silky golf shirts. I had not stood outside the dressing room door at Old Navy or Macy’s handing him items under the door like I did for so many years saying “try this shirt,” or “what about these pants.” And I would probably never do that again.

I was organizing a man’s closet; not my little boy’s. And that’s when the sharp pain hit. The one at the base of your throat. The one that makes it almost impossible to speak because you are trying so hard not to wail for fear of waking up the others in the house. The one that happens when you realize time has gotten away from you and there is absolutely no turning back. You know the one I mean.

I stepped back from the closet and looked around the room through glassy eyeballs at all the things he had acquired over the last year. A full year of independence under his belt. So many decisions he had made without me–from easy ones like buying clothes to harder decisions regarding drugs and alcohol. All made without my input. Right or wrong, they were his decisions and the consequences were his to navigate.

Later, as he drove me to the airport in a torrential downpour I was silently thanking the doctors for finding the bone for his knee and therefore allowing me this time to come and see Calvin off at school this year. Giving us these hours together so different from the sendoff last year where we were both nervous wrecks leaving him in an unknown place all alone. Last year I left my boy at school; this year I realized he is no longer a boy– He is a man — a good man. Soon to be a great man. I have done my part and now the rest is up to him and I get to just sit back and be proud.

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Hoping for a Miracle -PMC UPdate

The PMC is 3 weeks away– Panic is setting in, but just a little.

 In the past you have all been very generous with your donations and for that I am so very grateful. Usually by this time I have reached my goal–this year not so much.  
This season has been fraught with many obstacles for me, some good–like the opening of my new Bakery, BakerBaker: some not so good–like my daughter’s lengthy stay in the hospital and a knee surgery for me 3 weeks ago. But through all this Susan and I have continued our commitment to training for the 190 mile bike trek for Dana-Farber. We have changed work schedules, ridden in the wee hours of the morning with little sleep, and braved the rain and 90 degree heat–all in the name of getting our old bodies into shape enough to handle this task.
Yesterday, while pedaling a 90 mile ride in the 90 plus heat, I got nauseous around the 50 mile mark–and everything ached. I couldn’t actually stop at that point as we were 12 towns away so I had to just keep pushing through it. It occurred to me as the sweltering pavement rolled out in front of me and my stomach did flip-flops that I was feeling exactly like I had felt while going through chemo 5 years ago.  That same sick feeling with no end in sight. Achy and tired.
 But  that ride did have an end and so did my chemo days…..and I want to make sure that those chemo days end for all others too–with the same happy results that mine have. Or better yet–that no-one has to even go though Chemo at all–now wouldn’t that be a miracle.
It is for just that miracle that we ride.
 Some have requested that I re-send the link…so here it is:
Thank you for your support–in the past, the present and the future.
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Drip, Drip, Drip

dripping-faucetOver the past 13 years I have gotten quite used to my daughter’s behavior.  That is–kicking and screaming and freaking out over every small incidence in her life. I had grown accustomed to the slamming doors, the crying jags, the frustrated yelling at me  because her shirt wasn’t washed or her hair looked like hell or the temperature outside didn’t suit her. I had handled it in many different ways, most of which didn’t work or actually exacerbated the the problem. I had made allowances and side-stepped arguments, yelled back, ignored, laughed, cried or just left for work.

Last night I got a text from my daughter after she had gone to gymnastics that said, “Sorry for yelling at you, I was just rushing a lot”.

This was a turnaround moment for her. This was the first time she had acknowledged her irrational behavior and looked outside herself for a moment–long enough to see how her behavior might effect others. Fabulous. Wonderful. But this is not the real problem.

The real problem with this moment, was that I realized that I hadn’t even NOTICED that she had been rude to me. It never even registered. I had become so used to her  behavior that it had become commonplace and accepted.

It happens all the time–in marriages, work settings, families-sometimes it starts small, a jab here, a snide remark , and before you know it you are living with someone who doesn’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated. And like a dripping faucet on a porcelain sink, little by little you become worn away. I don’t mean serious physical abuse here–just small changes that we accept daily without noticing. Sometimes its someone not acknowledging your accomplishments or  reacting sarcastically on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s someone taking advantage of your goodwill. Condescending remarks or the ever-dreaded eye-roll when we mess up. Behaviors we accept from those around us. Why? Because it’s easier to walk away? Easier to avoid conflict? Maybe, but eventually your porcelain wears away and the rust comes through.  That rust will spread and become ugly–and you don’t want that.

I know I am not alone here. I see this happening to so many of my favorite people. Some say it’s a natural occurrence, when we are around certain people for so long we take them for granted. But it doesn’t have to be.  It shouldn’t be.

My daughter came to an understanding of her rude behavior because she is growing up.  Those around me who are already adults–well you are already grown and I can’t change you, I can only change myself.  The first step here is to understand that I deserve to be treated greatly.

Therefore I will start to speak up when I am not treated properly–to the eye-rollers and negative nellies and the sarcastic souls I say “be gone”.  I will surround myself with only those people who truly love me for who I am.

Won’t you join me?

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I’m Feeling Lucky

Five is my new lucky number for a few reasons. I turned 50 this year, this is my 5th year riding in the PMC and it is also my 5th year cancer anniversary. At 5 years post diagnosis and treatment the world of oncology considers you “cancer-freee” and sends you off into the world of “normalcy”. Does this mean I will stay cancer-free?  Maybe not–but for now it’s the baseline number doctors use to end treatment on breast cancer….

So I ride again, in hopes that we find more preventative cures and do not give the cancer a chance to return to me or anyone else around me.

It’s a tall order– this cure for cancer–but I’d rather be doing something to fight for that cure than sitting around complaining that it will never happen.

Won’t you join me in that fight? I know many of you aren’t lucky enough to have the time to train and ride in the PMC (actually, I am not sure where I will find the time this year–but that’s another story)–so instead of riding, you can join me by donating to mine and Susan’s ride.  With us doing the sweating and your contributions to our fundraising goal we can all work together for the same goal–an end to this horrible plague that is afflicting too many of our loved ones —

So for myself as well as my Mom who died of Colon Cancer and my Dad who died of complications due to Esophageal cancer and my Brother-in-Law Bob who was struck down far too young from Kidney cancer, for Steve and Meg and Susan N.,  and for Linda who is battling it as we speak, as well as the countless others in all our lives who battle this disease every day ………

………………………………………………………..Team “Kicked By an Angel” Thanks you!


You can click PMC Paceline. to donate or visit http://www.washernecklace.com for a handmade washer necklace–100% of proceeds going to my ride

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Testing 1,2,3

Hello. Anybody out there?  I’ve been away from my writing far too long. The thought of this has been pawing at the back of my brain along with the growing list of guilts and anxieties regarding my well intentioned tasks–cleaning my house, visiting my brother, spending more time with my kids, not getting enough exercise. They jockey for position in my head like a kindle of thirsty kittens trying to drink from their mother.

When I was a kid my mother would sometime say, “Keep your thoughts to yourself.” A way of  trying to teach me to have a filter, I suppose–those who know me well, know that it obviously didn’t work. But that is what I have been doing lately. I have been walking around with thoughts, large and small. I’ve had great intentions of putting them down on paper but at the end of the day I fall into bed exhausted and tell myself that tomorrow I will get to it.

As every day passes it becomes more and more difficult to sit in this chair and write. But today I will start slow. Like when I have been away from running too long, I start back up by running a mile or two, ease into it.

Much has happened to me and around me in the last 6 months which I would like to share with you.

But first I need to know if you are still out there.  Let me know. Because I have a lot to say….

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When my daughter and I jumped off my front porch yesterday to take a stroll up the street with my friend Laurie and her beautiful baby boy, Adam, I was light and happy. It was a good day, a day I didn’t go to work and decided to take a bike ride, a run, and make chicken soup instead. I had just gotten off the phone with my oldest son, Cal — now safely tucked 1000 miles away into  his dorm room at University of South Carolina.  He’d told me that although many of his friends were homesick and having a difficult time, that he was having the  time of his life and he was ridiculously happy. (“Really? You don’t miss me a little bit?”)…..  But of course, a son’s happiness is what a mother wants, so I was happy. Mostly.

Laurie was walking her son to see the train at the end of the street. I walked with them explaining how I once knew the train schedule by heart and how I ran to the bridge four or five times a day with my boys,  Calvin and Aidan, when they were tiny little engineer-want-to-be’s. It was nice to talk about the halloween costumes I had made the year the boys begged  to be “the Commuter Rail Train”and how that was no easy feat.  Although, my lame attempts at costume making caused them to be  mistaken for hobo’s by every teacher and trick-or-treater, it didn’t matter to them. Cal and Aidan knew that they WERE the commuter rail, metal wheels on their feet and oil in their veins.

As we stood on the bridge in anticipation of the train, , watching the light race toward us, feeling the rumble in our legs as it sped beneath, my hand reached out for Adam’s tiny warm arm. In a flash of light and wind and noise I was fifteen years younger and standing with Calvin, holding him up to the fence so he could be as close as safely possible, while feeling the train with his whole body. I let the tears run unabashadly down my face, not attempting to wipe them away, until my daughter brought me back to the present in her ever-annoyed voice, “Mooom, are you crying? Gawd, MOM.”

“You people are going to miss me when I am gone,” Cal had said before he left for college. “I’m the only one with a sense of humor around here.”

“Yah, right, Cal, whatever you say, ” I had said with the best eye-roll I could muster.

Please don’t tell him I was wrong….

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