The Light And The Dark

We were away this week. And by away I mean away. I completely checked out. No phone, no email, no texts, no TV, no Facebook.

Just people. Sand and seals and starfish. Card games and songs and mini golf. Lobster rolls and three different clam chowders. Bright sun and cold fog. A precious baby boy who shares my name. Family.
Chatham vacation beach family

I was so unplugged I didn’t even take that many pictures. And it was amazing.

Maybe I didn’t check out as much as I checked in.

There was some hard stuff too. That town, that house – they are filled with ghosts for me. I stood at the same counter where I heard my dad’s last words. I walked the same stone terrace where my brother and I lay hand in hand later that night. I drove the same winding streets where we followed the ambulance for miles. Read more...

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Three weeks into the college football season and most Wahoos are already looking forward to the start of basketball (T minus 48 days in case you’re wondering). It’s always hard to be a UVA fan, but the last few years have stretched even the most faithful of us to our limits. On the other hand, I suspect the pharmaceutical industry is sending Coach London a big ol’ gift basket every week.

Indeed, many of the faithful, some who have been season ticket holders for 40 years, have just stopped going to games. Read more...

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The Picture We Never Took

Last Friday was apparently National Sibling Day.  I didn’t know that was a thing until I saw the plethora of pictures pop up on Facebook and Instagram.  Hallmark used to be the inventor of fun but meaningless holidays.  Now it’s social media.

But maybe it shouldn’t be a meaningless day.  We have holidays to recognize mothers and fathers – why not brothers and sisters? They are, after all, our first friends and our first loves.  It is from our siblings that we learn to share – the affection of our parents, the space in the backseat of a car, the last piece of cake.  From them we learn how to fight fairly and how to forgive. We learn how to keep a secret and how to communicate without uttering a word.  We know each other’s greatest sins and biggest dreams. We have seen each other at our best and at our worst and we love each other anyway. Read more...

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The Moment When Everything Is Possible

Sunday morning I put on my lucky orange pants for the last time this season.  I didn’t know it at the time of course, although I had an inkling. That is, after all, the nature of the post-season – survive and advance or lose and go home.

One year ago, I stood in a similar stadium, watching Virginia play the very same team, and there wasn’t a single part of me that believed it would be the last time.  Hope is a funny thing that way.

But one year ago, I didn’t know what I do know. That you cannot will something to be simply because you believe.  One year ago, I hadn’t yet listened to the voices of the paramedics performing CPR on my dad.  I hadn’t held my child and told him everything was going to be okay, even though I knew it wasn’t.  In my head I knew.  But my heart still believed in the improbable.  As my brain was busy calculating the ugly logistics of death, my heart was exhilarating in the moment that was surely ahead of us when the doctors would joyfully tell us of the medical miracle that they had performed. Read more...

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What Harry Potter Taught Me About Love and Loss

In the months since my father has died, I have heard the same question over and over again: “Are you really okay?”  Most of the time it is a genuine question, although sometimes it is dutifully asked as a perfunctory exercise of social graces.

Either way, my answer is always the same: “I’m really okay.”  I always have been, even if I didn’t understand why.

But the parade of confused looks and barely hidden disbelief at my unconventional reaction made me start to think that everyone else knew something I didn’t. Read more...

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The Little Boy Who Made Us Complete

Six years ago today, I became a mother of boys.  Plural.  And it wasn’t long after Billy put our second baby boy in my arms that the questions began.

“Wow.  Two boys.  You must be….busy.”

“Are you going to try for a third?”  Third is always code for girl.

“At least you don’t have to pay for any weddings!” (always said with a chuckle).

The comments and questions come in many variations, with different tilts of the head, raised eyebrows, and innuendos hidden by smiles.  And every time I hear one, my blood boils.

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What Santa Brought Me For Christmas

I didn’t have a chance to write my letter to Santa this year.  All December long, I kept a running list in my head, and, just like the boys, added and subtracted things along the way.  I never took pen to paper, partially because there was always something else to do.  Decorating our tree, decorating mom’s tree, coordinating teacher presents, Christmas cards, fixing the strands of lights that had gone out, baking, assembling, guessing which Star Wars lego sets were really the ones the boys wanted. Read more...

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Special Friends

25 years ago, my parents decided to have a small Christmas party in their new house, inviting a small group of their special friends.  In some ways, the party has changed very little from its original incarnation.  Every year, people subtly begin asking in September whether we have picked a date yet so they can mark it on their calendars.  Every year, my mother bests herself with witty turns of phrase on the invitation.  Every year, my dad makes sure that everyone’s glass is full at all times.  Every year, there is a giant 12 foot tree in the living room.  Every year, we take our family picture in front of it right before we open the front door.  And every year, we invite only our special friends. Read more...

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What’s Not in My Christmas Card This Year

Of all of my favorite Christmas activities – and good Lord there are many – doing our Christmas card is high on the list.    Normally, I love coming up with pithy holiday puns for the greeting.  I relish spending countless hours I don’t actually have looking back through pictures and choosing the ones that capture the personality of the boys, even if their hair isn’t brushed or their clothes don’t match.  The pictures that tell the story of us.

But this year I have been uninspired.  My heart just hasn’t been in it. Read more...

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Being thankful…even when it’s hard

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Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday.  Don’t get me wrong – I love sitting around a table with my family and eating.  Those are, in fact, my two favorite things in the world.

I don’t have anything against Thanksgiving. I’ve just never been inspired by it.  Maybe it’s because we are lucky enough to routinely sit around the table and eat giant meals with our families.   Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving has none of the magic and majesty of other holidays. Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is entirely… contrived.  It isn’t about anything except being together.  Being thankful.  Which is, of course, exactly why some people love it.   I get it. Read more...

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Three Boys and a Girl

There were three little boys at my brother’s wedding this weekend.  Two of them were mine.

That night, filled with so many firsts, was the greatest night in their little lives.  The night they were no longer just children in a sea of adults.  The night they were grownups too.   They donned tuxedos and bow ties just like all the big boys did and checked the football scores while they waited.

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They solemnly walked down the aisle of the church, clutching the rings in their sweaty anxious hands.  Halfway down they forgot to be nervous, briefly breaking character to wave and smile at familiar faces in the crowd.   They sat in the pew – the very first pew – and poured over the wedding program, tracing over their names again and again with fidgety fingers. Read more...

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What Do You Say When Words Aren’t Enough?: A Sister’s Love Letter to Her Brother

Ever since my brother got engaged 4 months ago, I have been thinking about my rehearsal dinner toast.  But every time I sit down to write, my attempts come up feebly short and I go back to mainlining M&Ms and coffee.  I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I have been at a loss for words (this is the fourth in case you’re curious) and I don’t know why.   It might be because I subconsciously feel the need to overcompensate for the absence of our witty and eloquent father, who no doubt would have given the greatest toast ever.  It might be because I am trying to figure out how to get through the whole thing without blubbering. Read more...

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I Will Always Know

According to National Geographic Kids, 97% of parents secretly eat their kids’ Halloween candy.   Which means that 3% of the population is just lying.
One of the underappreciated privileges of parenthood is raiding your children’s candy stash after they go to bed.  The trick is to pick things that they (1) don’t like or (2) have a plethora of.  For years, the boys only liked fruit candy (Skittles, Starbursts, gummy anything) which left me free to enjoy all of the chocolate based items with impunity.  Billy, who shares tastes similar to the boys, had to be more circumspect. Read more...

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For All the Saints

I have not been to church since my dad died.  It’s not because I am angry or because my faith has been shaken.  Or because I am worried that the sound of my heels clicking on the stone floor will trigger a memory of the last time I walked down that center aisle, holding my mother’s hand.

07 10 14_0001No, it is none of those things.  It is simply that my heart was not yet ready for the enormity of emotion that fills me every time I sit in those pews.  I still don’t know if I am ready.  But today is All Saints’ Day. Read more...

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How Love Changes (And Why That Isn’t a Bad Thing)

Last week marked the fifteenth anniversary of my first date with Billy.  I know most people probably don’t celebrate such anniversaries but my parents always did (February of 1967 in case you were wondering). Their first date was a comedy of errors. My mother, having been dragooned into a blind date at Yale, disliked my father on sight. My father, already cranky due to lack of sleep, was further peeved because he thought he had been assigned to another girl and thus spent the weekend trying to steal what turned out to be his own date.  It was a rather bumpy start for two people who would, by the end of that first weekend, begin a 50 year love affair. how love changes and why that isn't a bad thing Read more...

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