Former police officer/current school security guard advocates for more armed school security staff

“An armed security force is not the ultimate answer, but used in conjunction with greater mental health awareness and treatment is a tool to reduce the number of children that are being murdered in our schools,” Sean Moriarty, retired police officer, current school security guard

In the wake of yet another school massacre where nineteen children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, my reactions mirrored those of many drained Americans. “When will this stop?” “Those poor families.” “What can we do as a country to stop this?”

My query on facebook, Why are there not armed security officers in every school in our nation? brought out mixed reactions and opinions. I thought it was pretty obvious we needed armed school officers in every school now—at least while we wait for real change in gun laws, in our mental health systems, and in our collective hearts in this country. I admit I posted from a deeply personal place. My husband, a retired police officer, is currently working as an unarmed security officer in an elementary school. Both my son and his girlfriend are new teachers. So many beloved friends and relatives are teachers.

What you are about to read though, is not my hand-wringing. Instead I bring you the sound opinion of a viable, immediate solution to our vulnerable schools. Here is my experienced and level-headed husband, Sean.

This is my professional opinion coming from over thirty years as a police officer with several of them as a S.W.A.T team member/commander and firearms/ tactics instructor. For those who say ban gun sales, that ship has sailed. There are an estimated 400,000,000 guns in this country. I strongly believe in regulated gun sales with an emphasis on background checks and mental health assessments. There should be no sales to unpermitted persons and no sales to anyone under the the age of 21.

Now onto armed security in schools. First let me say that those advocating for arming teachers are not thinking it through. The amount of training needed to shoot in a combat situation (which is exactly what a school shooting situation is) is not realistic for teachers. They have enough on their plates educating our children and keeping up to date with their own education and school mandates. A highly trained (emphasis on highly) armed security force can not only be a deterrent but effectively respond to a situation.

An unarmed security guard in a school is basically a bullet trap designed to slow the assault down enough to put the school in lockdown.

-Sean Moriarty, retired Police officer, current school security guard

As I said, the guns are out there so it is a pipe dream to think halting sales will stop this madness. The (armed) security force would have the time and opportunity to train during the summer and other school breaks, along with professional development days. An armed security force is not the ultimate answer, but used in conjunction with greater mental health awareness and treatment is a tool to reduce the number of children that are being murdered in our schools.

An unarmed security guard in a school is basically a bullet trap designed to slow the assault down enough to put the school in lockdown. I will do whatever I need to do protect the lives of the children at my school but I could do a much better job if I was properly equipped.

Please share this post.

Contact Your U.S. Senators and Representatives – Everyday Advocacy. Reach out to your local Board of Education.

Kiss Left Me Cold and Wet: Confessions of a Cranky Concertgoer

I wasn’t even meant to go originally. My husband Sean bought two tickets to the Kiss show at Hartford’s Xfinity Theater back in November of 2019 for he and our then 27-year-old son, Chris. The two joked about the over-the-top costumes, frenetic guitar stylings, and pumped-up pyro techniques promised at the iconic, four decade-old metal band’s “End of the Road World Tour.” 

Waiting for the Kiss curtain to rise.

The tickets were $30 lawn seats. Not a huge investment if the show was lame, they reasoned. 

As it turned out, Kiss was postponed twice. First, due to Covid (before vaccines), and then in September 2021 after front man Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons tested positive for COVID-19.

As the fateful rescheduled day finally arrived, Chris politely begged out of going. A high school chum was heading east from Colorado. He also wanted to see his girlfriend.

“I’ll go with Dad,” I said, gallantly. Far be it from me to stand in the way of my adult children’s romances.

Besides, how bad could it be? Sean and I make a point of seeing performers from “back in the day.” Age-defying performers like Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Gordon Lightfoot, and Weird Al Yankovic impress us with their tenacity and longevity. Kiss deserved the same homage, right?

On Saturday night, Sean and I sidestepped a sea of fellow cheap-seaters and set up our folding lawn chairs on the slope of the hill.

Before the show, and the rain, on the hill at Xfinity Theatre, Hartford

As we sat on the hill on an awkward angle, I noticed a twinge in my lower back. I noted to self, better stand and stretch on and off throughout the show or I could pay for it later. Peering ahead, I could just make out the dwarfed stage, rows and rows behind giant hanging screens meant for us lawn folk.

Since both of us are counting calories, we decided not to have booze, though in hindsight, I think it might’ve helped. Instead, we sipped well-marketed sparkling water called, “Liquid Death” for $5 a piece. 

While we waited for the warmup act, we surveyed our fellow lawn mates. Most were middle aged folk, like us, greying at the temples, thick-wasted. The majority were white, tired-looking guys with beer-belly paunches emphasized in their fifty-dollar Kiss concert t-shirts. A wiry, older thin woman, a few chair rows down, gyrated to every rock song blaring over the speakers, lit ciggie in hand. She was bump-dancing with a chubby little girl we couldn’t decide was her granddaughter or a very late-in-life love child.

As it grew darker, the air around us became heavily saturated with pot smoke. In hindsight, again, maybe a contact-high would’ve helped.

The clouds above thickened. We hoped the rain would hold off until after the show. 

It didn’t. 

A light mist began as the opening act, a muralist, David Garibaldi took the stage around 7:45. This was interesting. No warm up band, but a warm up artist.

He painted three very large murals, very quickly as he engaged the audience. One was of Alice Cooper, the other the Statue of Liberty, and the third, a mural of Kiss, to be signed by the band. This piece was to be raffled off on an on-line fund raiser to benefit families of fallen soldiers. Sean entered. “Wouldn’t this go great over our bed, honey?”

An example of David Garibaldi’s work.

While Garbaldi’s art warm-up was captivating and the fund-raiser was noble, it was unfortunate he was also tasked with warming up/riling up the crowd as he painted. I kinda felt bad for him as he pointed his brush to each section in turn, to see who could make the most noise. “When Kiss asks me which section was the loudest, I can tell them!”

What? It felt like a strange grade school pep rally. The crowd (around us and especially in the closer-to-the stage, sheltered-from-rain seats) were hot for Kiss as Garbaldi left the stage at about 8:15. 

Any second now, I looked at my Fitbit, the huge Kiss curtain should rise. They’d be ready to rock since they didn’t have to wait for a warmup band to dismantle. They could get right on.

Tick, tock. Drip, Drop.

Here’s where I got cranky.

15 minutes later, no Kiss. 30 minutes later, no Kiss.  45 minutes later, no Kiss. 48 minutes later, no Kiss. At 9:03 it starting to rain more-than-tolerable mist.

I turned to Sean. “Do you think they had a geriatric emergency? Or are they just arrogant as f—?”

Sean shrugged. 

Even though we brought our raincoats, the front of my jeans were getting damp. Because I frequently stood up to stretch my back, my butt sopped up the wetness when I sat back down. “If they’re not on by 9:15, I’m out of here.”

Sean frowned. “I want to see at least some of the show.”

He texted his co-worker who was inside the sheltered area, much closer to the stage. “45 minutes from the warmup guy is getting a little ridiculous. My wife wonders if they had a geriatric emergency.”

His friend joked that someone must’ve spiked the prune juice. He did say he could see their big boots peeking out from under the curtains, “They should start soon.”

FINALLY, the stage opened. Kiss was introduced as “THE Hottest Band in the World!” 

Gads. What? There was no apology or explanation for the interminable wait? Did they even care if a good number of their suckers (I mean their Kiss Army) were out in the elements waiting a whole 48 minutes for them after their warm-up guy? I certainly got cold…and damp!

Assessing the close-ups on the mega-screens, none of the four septuagenarians looked as though they had just suffered an age-related incident that evening. Instead, thanks to the face make-up, leather, and studs, they all just looked as if they stepped off one of their 70s albums.  Once or twice, though, you could see the tell-tale loose skin on their necks if you weren’t distracted by the frenetic flames and lasers. Still, they were as spry as 20 year olds! Good for them, but how was that possible? A deal with the devil, perhaps?

Impossible not to see, and hard to “unsee” Gene Simmon’s
giant codpiece!

Sorry, I just wasn’t impressed. I was cold and wet, and peeved at their real or put-on arrogance. They cupped their hands to their ears, demanding for louder cheering, adoration. They badgered for more applause. I get that it was supposed to be their over-the-top theatrics. What I registered was lowbrow and wrestling federation tricks.

And I know that Gene’s super long tongue waggling is his schtick, but I got totally grossed out, seeing it blown up several times its already unnaturally lizard length on the big screens. I was disturbed with his Demon character, blood dripping from his mouth. 

To their credit, as musicians, they played extremely well for dudes in their 70s. I’m sure die-hard fans were lit up with their stage presence, prowess, and cultish behaviors. I’m not completely above sophomoric lyrics—Lick It Up, and Doctor Love—I love the rock parody documentary Spinal Tap. It had to be inspired by Kiss!

Spinal Tap is an awesome movie and has fantastic sound track!

I felt bad for Sean but was relieved when he asked if we wanted to make an early exit.  We weren’t the only ones leaving before the finale. There was a small stream of others who would also miss “Beth” and “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night.” Later, as we checked the set list, we discovered we did see about 3/4s of the show.

After we got home, I began to wonder about myself. Am I getting too old to sit at on an odd-angled folding chair in wet pants waiting 48 minutes for an iconic band to grace us with their greatness? Am I a snob? Am I too impatient? Maybe we should have upgraded our lawn seats?

Rounding the Bases

  “This is where Dad wanted to be!” I called the fourteen of us into a huddle around the pitcher’s mound at Old Yankee Stadium in April 2019.

“Not up at the family headstone in Torrington. So, today we honor his wish.” 

My sister opened one of the sandwich bags of ashes I had given out to my three sibs and spread a copious amount of Dad on the pitcher ‘s mound. He had tried out for pitcher when he was 19 years old right there on that spot now dotted with gray.  Though Dad didn’t make the team back in 1961, we’d always been impressed that he at least tried out. Because of this, our entire family has always been and will always be Yankee fans. 

I quickly looked around the faces of my sibs, our significant others, our children, and nieces the huddle. It was a bit of a miracle that all of us actually got our acts together and converged more or less on time, without any real jangled nerves or bs. 

We four had such a long, painful history of not getting along. So much to had to due to our parents’ ugly marriage and divorce. There was Dad’s 26 years of wandering and then managing him the last 14 years of his life as his conservator caused lots of stress. 

Yet, when Dad died a week before Thanksgiving I noticed that for the time being, at least, something clicked for the good in his four children. I like to believe Dad had asked God on his way to Heaven, or maybe when he got there, to “Please heal my four kids’ relationships,” I hoped it would last.

But now there we were in the huddle. I asked to my younger brother to give the next instructions to the clan.  As the eldest of the four sibs, my role has often as the leader, or in some rougher terms “The Boss.” Yes, I planned the details of this trip, toted Dad’s ashes in my backpack on the train, and I made the pins of dad we all were wearing. Someone else could share in leading.

Andy announced that each of us take our bags to various parts of the field. Someone would tell when it was exactly 12 noon and we would then release Dad at the same time. 

Giddy and thrumming with anticipation (and also feeling a little like we were being naughty kids), the four of us took various positions in the outfield. My two adult children and I skipped to left field. 

My husband stayed at home plate looking at timer on his cellphone. “Ready, one minute.” Then, “Ten seconds. Then, “Three, two, one.”  
I opened the zip lock top of the baggie and spun around scattering Dad like I was a twirling ten year old. My two children stood back, laughing.  “Go, Dad!” I said.

I glanced over at my brothers, in center and right field. They seemed to be smiling with their families. My sister ran into the infield and sprinkled what she had left in her bag on each of the plates. 

Spontaneously, our whole group amassed together just beyond first plate and I passed around York Peppermint Patties, Dad’s ultimate favorite candy. We held them up making a toast, “To Dad.”

After that, with a bolt of energy, I hustled over to home plate. Pretending to hit an imaginary baseball, I ran, well, jogged actually, to first base, then to second, on to third. When I finally rounded to home, I stomped on the plate and threw up my arms in victory. 

Beware: Trans Siberian Orchestra “Christmas” Show Turns Into Fiery Hell

I make no apologies if you were thinking of going to the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More show this year. Indeed it is the “More” part of the show I feel I need to warn you about if you have never been and were expecting “pure Christmas.”

It’s been about ten years since I first saw them—and loved them—with my husband. We were so impressed we bought a few of their CDs and have listened to them over the years during the holidays. We were looking forward to a great stage show of bigger than life Christmas classics and TSO’s signature Christmas pieces to usher in the season. I was especially excited because we were taking our adult son Chris with us. He is a musician. I thought he would be surprised with TSO’s live, powerful rock/metal take on traditional Christmas classics he’d heard growing up that were normally heard in a church and on our holiday CDs.

We excitedly settled into incredible floor seats six rows back from the stage. The huge billowing purple curtain hung just a few feet before us.  “It’s going to be wild,” I said, memories of the intense, huge laser light show a decade ago still dancing in my head.

Well, the first hour was the awesome, traditional Christmas TSO that I remembered. Vocalists, bass, six-strings, keyboards, an incredible electric violinist, drums, and back up singers delivered traditional hymns and classic TSO Christmas tunes in grand, thunderous rock/metal style. It is mind-blowing to hear O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night, What Child is This? and classic TSO This Christmas Day and Christmas Canon Rock .   (Listen to this if you are not familiar with TSO). You could feel Christmas reverberating right through you.

Like the last time I saw TSO, there was also a booming baritone narrator who lead us  through a lovely Christmas story. This one was about a runaway girl who witnessed Christmas miracles while she sought shelter in an abandoned theater.

The lasers were mesmerizing; you could feel a blast of heat with the pyrotechnics. Again, TSO made “real” snow that drifted down onto our heads. That, and the fog transported you to a believable, magical Christmas place.

So what’s my problem?

The second half of the show! Where the first hour and half I was lulled into a most  festive frame of mind, I was suddenly (figuratively) thrown into the fires of hell! Gone with the holy, angelic voices and snowy effects. Instead, a giant lizard with rolling golden eyes took over the screen! And it just went down from there.  I mean way down. Like to the portal of hell down. Suddenly the women were wearing impossibly shorter, barely crotch-covering dresses. They were gyrating on a catwalk overhead, strapped to a pole with a chain. The stage lit up with awful red/orange lights.  Then out shot out the real flames!  Way too many and way too close to be cozy. In fact,  I could feel my eyeballs drying out in the instant heat. The guitarists seemed more menacing and lewd. At one point the women singers sang/chanted in Omen-esque Latin. They danced in a circle that conjured images of a coven. I imagined that the gates of hell would soon open and Satan himself would take center stage!

Goodbye, Christmas buzz!

I know there are diehard TSO fans out there who will probably think I’m old-fashioned and a jerk, but why did TSO have to even have that second half of the show? Rife with apocalyptic, illuminati-esque symbols on the screen. It was very medieval (evil), very Game of Thrones with the castle motifs (I admit I’ve never seen Game of Thrones). Am I missing out?

I left the Mohegan Sun theater feeling very disturbed, sad, and that I  had been subjected to something that felt icky and dark. My husband, son and I discussed the show all the way home later into the night. Chris “googled” TSO and found there were other people who shared some of my observations. I guess I need to clear my palate with something wholesome and Christmassy. Maybe It’s a Wonderful Life marathon? Any suggestions?

 

The Hardest Part of Parenting: Realizing Our Kids are Only On Loan To Us

OH MY! Chris Moriarty just moved up to Burlington, VT on Sunday to start a new job. I can’t believe what a gut punch that was. Thought I was ready for it—didn’t even think about it leading up to it, really. Erin Moriarty has been out of the house for three years. We see her almost every month and we’ve gotten accustomed to this. She loves where she lives. Now Chris is going to check out Burlington, too.

Yet, after he pulled out of the driveway I was a mess. I know it is so good for him to spread his wings, so good for all, but those first few hours after he left were almost unbearable. (A weird kind of birthing process?)

It is NOT written in any of the baby books how fast childhood goes or how bittersweet (translation, “wrenching”) it is when they fly out of the nest. It can be mind-blowing to realize that our children really are meant only to be “loaned” to us. In time, they should be encouraged/let go to have their own life to probe, discover, embrace…

I am proud beyond words for him for taking this step. My heart is so full that he and Erin have such a good and solid sibling relationship that they are there for each other.

I know I speak for Sean Moriarty when I say we are so grateful for the many blessings we’ve been given in raising both Erin Moriarty and Chris Moriarty. God has granted them and us two decent (not saying perfect), but two (plus) decent decades growing up as a family. Because of this, every time we get together it will be richer and more precious still. God is so good and merciful…and is watching over them.

e-c-in-ireland
Chris 23, Erin 25, in Ireland 2016

Life is Beautiful by The Afters :

Trick-o-Treat Pick Up Truck: Neighbor from My Childhood Evokes Harrowing Halloween Memory

“Tyron Rumsowa” (an anagram of is real name) must’ve stood all of four-foot -six in his steel-toed farm boots. Even on the rare times he’d come to church— on his horse he’d tie up on the black iron fence–Tyron always wore what looked like a boy’s size 10 faded denim overalls. He had salt and pepper hair and matching scruff on his small face. His deep-set eyes and slightly crooked nose reminded me of a turtle. Small in physical stature, Tyron made up for it with larger-than-life antics that even 20 years or so after his death, are still remembered as legendary by the over 45 crowd in my hometown.

As a kid in the mid 70s, this Lilliputian neighbor of mine always seemed ancient, but surprisingly spry. He’d drive his big red tractor up and down the road or be dangling from a ladder sprucing up his big red colonial down the street. Tyron farmed several acres that ribboned behind four or five houses on our street, high on a ridge. From our Cape Cod across and at the bottom of one of his pastures, I could make out silhouettes of his cows, horses and sheep grazing high on the hill against the backdrop of the sky.

As a recent assignment at our library’s memoir writer’s group, I immediately thought of this real life character from my childhood. I could expound on several of his antics, but in the spirit of the season, a particular Halloween night when I was in first grade (’71) comes to mind. Thankfully I was too young and innocent to know how deadly this kid holiday might have turned out; I am sure it scared the hell out of my poor mother—thanks to our real life character neighbor!

Mom was leading my younger sister and me as we trick-o-treated around our neighborhood. The pinprick eye-holes of my plastic witch mask that smelled like my cousin’s Lite Brite were hard to see through. It was sweaty, but I could draw in the crisp, late autumn air through the oval mouth hole. Sometimes it made a whistling noise when I exhaled.

We were about to head back to our yard and into the house to count our candy when Tyron came crawling up our street in his late 1950s pick up truck. I heard it sputter along, but I had my mind on more important matters.

“I hope I got lots of Snickers!” I muffled through my mask.  I couldn’t wait to dive in my loot after the obligatory examination of potentially tampered candy. We never found any pins and needles. We lived in a safe neighborhood, after all.

“Get down!” Mom screamed all of a sudden. I felt a whoosh behind me and the next thing I knew I was witch-face-down in a pile of leaves. “Stay still!” Mom whispered pulling my sister and me under each of her arms. Too stunned to speak or cry out, we just lay there, clutching our pillowcases of candy.

I could hear my breathing loud and fast inside my witch mask. After a little while, Mom whispered frantically, “Quick, run to the house!”

I stood up, but couldn’t feel the ground beneath me. My legs were flailing behind me like a Raggedy Ann doll as Mom carried us like two sacks under each arm to the house. “My God,” she said, out of breath setting us down in the kitchen.

We took off our masks and looked up at her. “What was that about?” I asked, not sure if I was supposed to laugh or be serious. “I’m scared Mommy,” my sister said tearfully, clinging to my mother’s arm.

“What the hell is going on, Sone-ya?” my father asked, his eyes wide.

“Tyron had a shot gun pointing of his pick up window!” my mother said, her eyes were big. She had her hand on her chest.

“What?” he said. “That crazy old coot!”

I don’t exactly remember what happened after that. There were no cops. My mother or father probably just called Tyron’s son who lived across the street from us. I do recall mom saying that Tyron was angry at kids trespassing that night on his back forty.

Looking back, I have to say that no one was really scarred by this event. We just sat on the braided orange rug in the living sifting through our candy.

Do you remember a colorful character from your childhood? Post about in it the comments below!

Shout-Out to Fellow Travelers and Friends We Made in Ireland this Weekend (18 Sept-21 Sept)

How do you unplug? We travel. Sometimes it’s a planned and plotted out vacation, sometimes it’s spur of the moment. Last Tuesday, my husband who is enamored to the point of obsession with his roots, found great last minute airfare and hotel to Ireland. A police captain on the force for 28 years and caregiver to many, Sean finds his happy place on the Emerald Isle. Who am I to stand in his way? Like the lyrics to Eddie Money’s “(I’ve got) Two Tickets to Paradise, Pack your bags we’ll leave tonight!” we stuffed two carry-ons and left on Thursday 18 Sept spending a long-weekend in Dublin returning Tuesday, 22 Sept. Our main purpose was to attend the album launch of our friend Lughaidh “Louie” O Broin’s wife and her band The Evolution Project‘s new album, Outta the Blue at the hip Odessa in Temple Bar. (Read more about how we met Louie in “Moriartys in an Irish Bar Fight in 2012!”)
Besides cheering on these up and coming musical stars, we ended up meeting a slew of cool folks along the way. We want to shout out to those we met (and gave our card to) as we dashed through Dublin. Hello to fellow USA travelers Kathy and Rod from Seattle! Have a great next leg of your trip to South Africa! So good to meet you, Carrie and Paul from Yorkshire, England! What insightful conversation in Cassidy’s over our game of Scrabble! To John at the Abbey St. Methodist Church, we thank you for the tour and warm welcome. We were blessed to worship with your congregation representing 25 different nationalities. Sláinte, Larry and Evelyn of western Ireland! So great to chat at the album launch! Bike safe, Larry and all the best on your Master’s Evelyn! Stephen, Gary at the Padriag Pearse Pub, what good craic! We came in “just fer a pint!” but drank in so much more of Dublin’s life, vibe and culture! Hope all is well on the homefront, Stephen! Gary, did all the letters get delivered to the right addresses? LOL! Hats off to Jimmy at our last pub—Sean’s Cuban and bit o’ Jameson’s on the rocks. Sean and I hope to cross paths with each of you again, or at least keep in touch via this blog and/or our Facebook pages. https://www.facebook.com/sean.moriarty.505?fref=ts, https://www.facebook.com/tanja.moriarty.
“May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live.”

Thankful on Three Year Anniversary of Husband Surviving Broken Neck

Today, (June 10th) I humbly and gratefully observe the three year anniversary of our horrific motorcycle accident where my husband Sean broke his neck in five places.  I firmly believe God sent immediate help and spared us from long-term injury, paralysis and even death! Here are two previous posts explaining what happened and why I say Thank You, God!  God sent help Man’s Craving for a Beer Saved My Husband’s Life

Click here to hear Sean’s theme song by Chumbawamba

How To Thank My Retiring Therapist?:Kenny Loggins’ Lyrics Beat Out The Best Greeting Cards

Hallmark (and other companies) create greeting cards for nearly every occasion. Births, sympathy, encouragement, graduations…but searching racks and racks of prose, I just couldn’t find one that aptly says Good-Bye and Thank You to my retiring psychologist!

The card I finally ended up giving my therapist, I had narrowed it down to four possible but mediocre choices, was a bit wordy. On the front it said, “Finally, a thank-you note that says how I really feel.” Relational enough to give to a therapist, but even after a ton of descriptive words such as “grateful, happy, supported, content, forever in your debt, acknowledged, peaceful…” it still didn’t quite nail it. The writer in me added “thankful” and a deeply personal message. Yet, mere words didn’t fully express the depths of gratitude I wanted to convey to my professional advocate and guiding light for helping to save my sanity, salvage relationships as well as extricate myself from toxic ones, and who knows, possibly extended my very life! Reflecting now, I think that the incredibly accurate, succinct and perfectly-timed lyrics I heard on my car radio as I drove away from my last session fully expresses what is in my heart and pays tribute. Enjoy the song at the end of this post.

I had my very last appointment on August 28th with one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever been blessed to know, clinical psychologist Dr. Ella G. Marks, PSYD. I began seeing Dr. Marks on a weekly basis over four years ago because at 45, all the stuff I tried to keep stuffed down, held back, or tried to hide just wouldn’t stay buried anymore.  Four and half decades as an adult child of an alcoholic family, a product of divorce, years of appearing to “fly right” but still over-indulging in risky behaviors, being lost, pressing my luck, and meandering off-track had blurred and scalded into a hot mess. It began oozing out in physical symptoms of panic attacks and heart palpitations. I couldn’t ignore it. It was time to really take care of me and do some very heavy, but very necessary lifting. Or else.

I prayed and researched and left voice messages.  There was something about Dr. Mark’s soft-spoken, lovely, Virginian- accented-voice message that gave me courage and lead me to her kind but firm care. When I still rather hesitantly made my way to her creamed-colored office with a bright white couch in the office park in Madison, CT,  I was comforted by her soft creased face, her sparkling blue eyes and billowy white hair.  I found out by peeking at the dates on her framed diplomas in her office that she had to be in her early 80s. I learned early on that she had studied at first to be a dancer, but then married an Episcopalian preacher, had four children, and then decided to go back to college.

She completed her bachelors in her late forties, her masters in her 50s and fought to enroll in her doctorate program at the tender age 59. She served as a social worker, then earned and hung her shingle as a psychologist and bariatric medicine doctor at the age of 71.  How blessed was I to connect with her a decade later!

Quite a head case, I remember saying to her, ” I have lots of anger and confusion. Am I too much for you?” She smiled graciously and said, “No, you are not. You have a lot of mourning to do.”

I would discover over the next four years just how well-equipped this woman was for the likes of me. She guided me to some really tough and ugly places to repair years of damage, grief, and anger stemming from a tumultuous alcoholic environment as a first-born.  I worked honestly through confusion, hurt, betrayal, marital challenges, a serious motorcycle accident, extended family woes, and a recent exodus from a church I’d given my soul to for 46 years.  She praised me often that I was “what they call a worker,” and reminded me that therapy is a “partnership” whenever I thanked her for helping me. She gave me permission to give myself some credit for my healing, for good things I have done and am doing in my life.

I had written in my card to Dr. Marks that she will forever be a part of “my new psychological DNA.” I will from here on out have greater success with stopping a negative thought and replacing it with a better one. I will think of what she would advise and say in any given situation. A life-long dividend of the work we’ve done.

I know it was hard for Dr. Marks to retire from her beloved work. She who practices Pilates and walks every day is in excellent physical as well as mental shape and “presents herself” as someone at least a decade younger than her actual age.  She reluctantly wound down the over 20 years of her practice, extending her calendar for months since she’d first announced earlier this year she’d be retiring. “My family wants me to leave before they ask me to leave,” she’d smile, “but I am going on one more month.” That lead to another and another, until finally the end of August was really it.

I cherished her guidance and wisdom to the very last session. My throat tightened as I pulled into her parking lot. As I climbed the stairs for the last time, I took photos of the waiting room, her office, but out of privacy, I did not take any of her.

So surreal. She lead me in from the waiting room, the one last time. Into her office, one last time. “How are you?” She asked in her customary greeting. “Full of emotion,” I squeaked out. I noticed she was welling up a little, too. “This must be hard for you saying goodbye to everyone,” I said. “It is,” she confided.

Then we settled in across from each other. I gave her my card and photo of me hula-hooping that was taken at the recent Buzzi Reunion at my house. I joked that I wasn’t meaning to be a narcissist, but wanted to show her my happy spirit, celebrating our years of working together. She smiled, “You are a worker!”

As we sat, I said that I hoped we could see each other again, for coffee. Always the good doctor even up to the very last minute, she wanted to impart one last tool to help me hereafter to cope with stress and any mild depression. Meditation. She told me of a study where participants who meditated each morning and evening fared better than the group which took only medication and the other only talking therapy. I balked a bit saying I’ve tried meditating, but my mind wanders like a herd of cats even when I try focusing on a monosyllabic word or sound. Because she knows my faith walk, she said to me, “Just try to say, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”

I smiled because I was wearing that bracelet that very day for extra help knowing I’d be saying goodbye.

Half way through our last session, I had arranged for my husband Sean to come in and meet my Dr. Marks. I had shared so much between the two of them that it only seemed right they’d finally meet in person.  It was one of those spiritually-charged, crystallized moments in time as I made the introductions. Sean thanked her as he sat on her white couch next to me. They chatted casually, each feeling as though they’d known each other well—I guess after all this time, they sorta had!

Sean asked her what she had planned now that she was retiring. Without hesitating my heroine said she was going to travel to India where’d she’d gone many times on sabbatical, “but after the monsoon season in September,” and then she was going to join a hiking club!

God bless her!

When it was time to say goodbye, Dr. Marks and I hugged for a very long time. “We can get coffee now, can’t we?” I asked hopefully. “Oh, yes. We will no longer be bound by hippa.”

“We have each others phone numbers.”

As I began driving out of Dr. Mark’s office complex for the very last time, tears of every emotion streaked down my face. Sadness,closing a chapter, a sense of accomplishment, good health, new beginnings, joy!

All of a sudden Kenny Loggins’, “I’m Alright” began playing on my car radio. I kid you not. Sean, who was tuned in to the same station, called me from his car ahead of me. “Can you believe what is playing?” I blurted first. “You are alright,” he said.

I’m alright, Dr. Marks. Thank you, and thank you, God, for Dr. Marks! OK, and thank Heaven for the serendipitous Kenny Loggins’ lyrics as I was driving on!

"I'm Alright!"I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.
“I’m Alright!”I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.

Sonja (my mom) Unsung…Until Now!

My mom, Sonja, with her customized walking stick, 2017.

Although my mom almost never wears makeup or even lipstick, I think she’s one of the classiest women I’ve ever known. Class doesn’t necessarily come with cosmetics, money, fancy clothes or other adornments. It also comes with what you do with what you’ve got for the greater good, and especially for your children.

Born in 1942 and raised in a rural Higganum, Connecticut, Sonja Deloris Granat grew up in a small farmstead with her parents, four siblings, and Swedish, immigrant grandparents. They weren’t dirt poor, but I remember mom saying each child received just one gift at Christmas. On the farm, they grew and sometimes sold their own produce, meats, and homemade cheese.

At an early age, mom loved nature and influenced by her grandmother, she learned about God. She prayed once as a five year old to see a turtle. When she stepped outside there was one right by her feet! Mom recalls loving to go to elementary school, though she was a bit of a wallflower throughout her high school years. After graduation, she and one of her sisters commuted to Central Connecticut State College where mom pursued her bachelor’s in elementary education. Her college girlfriend introduced mom to her brother, whom she married in 1963.

While mom worked several years after my sister and I were born to earn her master’s degree in elementary education, twists and turns in life prevented her from teaching in a public-school setting. She did, though, use her skills and passion to lead girls and boys through scouts and 4-H. She taught Sunday School and was superintendent of Sunday School for many years at her Methodist church. 

As I look back, I see how mom did an exemplary job raising four kids in the lean years before and after my parent’s divorce in 1977. We always had enough food. Though we often wore hand-me-downs until we were old enough to work to buy more trendier clothes, mom kept what we had clean and mended. But she gave us so much more than this.

Mom always read to us. As toddlers, she read Greek and Roman literature as she balanced quality time with us and studying for her Master’s. More age-appropriate reading matter included “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” by A.A. Milne, and Johnny Gruelle’s, “Raggedy Ann Stories” and “Raggedy Andy Stories.” She turned us on to Aesop’s Fables, Bible stories, and Walt Disney stories in books and record sets. On Saturdays, she drove us to (Middletown) Junior Matinee’s to see live productions of Peter and the Wolf and other children’s plays.

Working as a library assistant, she’d come home with the latest children’s books. She introduced us to Judy Blume. I devoured “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?”, “Blubber” and especially, “Deenie,” a girl I longed to befriend. 

Mom co-led a wonderful Girl Scout day camp in our town in the summers. We’d learn crafts like sand candle making, macrame, ice cream making. We’d have haunted houses in the cabin!

Mom found affordable fun. We camped at state parks—-Hammonassett Beach on Long Island Sound, and Wells State Park in Massachusetts. We’d stop by Sturbridge Village, an 1830s living museum, and visit Aunt Edna and Uncle Ward on their working dairy farm.  

She inspired us with the Teddy Bear’s Picnic (melody by American composer John Walter Bratton in 1907, and lyrics by Irish song writer Jimmy Kennedy in 1932).  We often picnicked at roadside parks like Seven Falls, or at Haddam Meadows on the Connecticut River. 

Some of the best times of times was going to the local drive-in! She would pop tons of popcorn and mix up a jug of off-brand Kool-aid. We’d pile in the back of the old blue station wagon and catch the latest kid movies—-Escape to Witch Mountain, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Herby Rides Again!

Through all her many trials, mom always kept her faith and keeps her faith. She took us to Sunday School every Sunday while we lived under her roof. Sometimes, to my chagrin, it meant having to leave early on weekend camp trips with the Parents Without Partners Group and our teen friends. Growing up, mom would read Luke 2 every Christmas morning before we opened our presents. 

Mom also could not and does not stand for swearing or even saying the word “fart.” It’s kind of amazing Mom was/is this way with her own father, the king of “Pull my finger” as a lifelong influence. Trying to instill class in us, she’d instruct, “Say excuse me, when you blow a poop.” As we got older, we’d laugh at this substitute for the common expression, but something stuck with me later with my own kids. They were raised to say, “pass gas”, not “fart.”

Mom loved her crafts and was quite the seamstress. She made Brenda and I matching skirts, vests and jumpers. Mom made my senior prom gown in 1983 and later wedding gown in 1988. As I look at wedding pictures, I am still so in awe of the wonderful job she did on this elaborate and gorgeous garment.  I believe it was the best item she had ever sewn. 

My beautiful mom and me on my wedding day in the gorgeous gown she made.

Mom was front and center the whole time Sean was in Desert Storm and when our babies were born. She was gleeful, blowing bubbles and was such source of support and encouragement. Mom and second husband Ernie were always so happy to babysit and even took our kids on a cross country trip. She instilled her love of nature and fun in her grandchildren. She introduced them all to the joys of swimming. As toddlers she’d encourage them to, “kick-kick-kick!” and “reach-reach-reach!” as she played with them in her above ground pool.

Mom with grandson, Chris, 1993.
Mom, in retirement at her place in Maine, 2016. She fished and picked tons of wild blueberries, keeping track of how many fish were caught or cups of berries picked.

Today, at nearly eighty, I still see so much class in my mom. She is less ambulatory than her early days, but I still see her classiness in motion.

She starts her day with one of her daily devotional readings. She moves on to her daily crossword and jumble in the Hartford Courant.  Then she moves on to her novel reading.  Mom often has two or more books going at once, in totally different genres from her extensive book collection. Kate Douglas Wiggin’s, “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” were two titles she recently bounced back and forth reading. She’s on John Steinbeck’s “The Pastures of Heaven,” right now.

Mom still plays a mean game of Florida Rummy and is a formidable Scrabble opponent. She crochets Afghans and can whip up a new dishcloth in a half hour. Mom looks forward to celebrating Christmas Eve with an authentic Swedish smorgasbord and glogg at her house. Mom keeps up with the goings-on of her grown grandchildren. She and I still have meaningful discussions about faith and life. She treasures when family visit, especially when all four of her unique children are there together.

Sonja and her children. On left, Tanja, behind her are Brenda and Ed.
Andy is to her right.

Covid-19: Summer Time Blues

A week ago, Friday, my husband Sean and adult son, Chris took our travel trailer to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. They were psyched for another weekend of NASCAR races and people watching. 

My guys caught some of the NASCAR race action before they had to come home early. For the record, I’m not blaming NASCAR.

I was thrilled to stay at home, soak in the hot tub, and catch up on reading. 

All was well until Saturday at 6 p.m. 

 “I have Covid,” Chris said over the phone. 

“Cut it out,” I said. He often jokes.

“We just took tests,” Chris said. “I tested positive.”

“Seriously?”

“I’m totally serious, mom.”

Panic punched through my short-lived calm. 

I didn’t see this coming. When Sean called earlier, he chuckled that Chris was a little sluggish that morning. One-too-many beers from the night before?

Sean was on the phone now.

“Chris had a headache this afternoon, so he went in for a nap. When he came out, he told me he had the chills. I felt his forehead and said let’s go get a test. He’s positive. I’m negative.”

I went into worried-mama-overdrive.

“Maybe he should go to a clinic? Call the doctor, the on-call? Send the new Covid medicine to a nearby CVS? Is there Tylenol in the first aid kit?” 

Sean sighed. 

“The nearest pharmacy is closed now. Maybe we should just pack up and come home?” 

They decided they would keep to themselves and make the three and half hour drive in the morning.

I hung up and began to pace. We’d come so far avoiding this awful virus that had killed my mother-in-law in December of 2020.  Sandy came down with Covid even though her small, boutique-like convalescent home had taken steps to protect residents with porch visits, masks, and plastic wall dividers. She ended up in the ICU on a ventilator for 19 days over Christmas. Her fragile health made it impossible for her to rally. Poor Sean had the unthinkable task of removing her from the vent. In just two short weeks after her death, residents at her convalescent home received their first Covid vaccines.

As soon as we could, our family got shots and boosters. Both my husband and son work in public schools and despite spikes and new variances, none of us had gotten sick.  Like most people, we relaxed wearing masks unless we had a medical appointment. In the back of my mind, I knew we could still get Covid-19, less severe with advances in science. I realize that there are more people in the country now who have had it than those who haven’t. Still, I had lulled myself into a false sense of security that we would never get it. Why would we be exempt? It’s always lurking. I guess you just never know who has it. Or, if someone has it but is symptomless. Or, if they do have it and freakin’ know, but aren’t responsible enough to stay away!

I tossed and turned in my bed that night.

I hate f-in Covid! Hate how the pandemic took my mother-in-law. Hate how it has changed the world as we know it. Will Chris have long-term effects from the virus? Will Sean get sick? What about me? Will I get it, too? 

After Sean pulled into our yard with the Winnebago, I waved to my son as he backed out of our driveway. Sean, still testing negative, decided to sleep in our camper instead of the guestroom. He was nervous about me getting sick, especially since I deal with asthma. 

Sean took another rapid antigen home test on Monday morning. Still negative. Maybe he wouldn’t come down with it? Later that afternoon, sitting in the yard, he developed a headache and scratchy throat. 

“Probably just stress,” he said. He rolled the newfangled thermometer across his forehead revealing a slight fever.

Sean went back in the camper and took another antigen test. Fifteen minutes later, he texted me a photo of the stick. “Positive. This ain’t no at home pregnancy test,” he wrote, trying to keep it light. 

That night, Sean’s temperature went up to almost 102. He popped some Tylenol and dialed the on-call at the doctor’s office. The nurse suggested he make a Zoom appointment for the next day. Sean explained how his mother had died of Covid, and that he was worried about me getting Covid because of the asthma. The nurse assured Sean this strain was much less severe than the original strain from 2020. She advised him to go to the hospital if he had trouble breathing. 

Sean sent a group text to my son, daughter, and son-in-law that he was positive. That meant the guys’ upcoming Baltimore trip to the Yankees vs Oriole’s game was officially off for him. Plans my daughter and I had to go to a spa while the guys were away also got canned. I let our friends know we couldn’t be able to come to their 50th wedding anniversary party. 

Got plans? Covid-19 will wreck them!

Quarantining sucks. All I want to do is sit side-by-side in our loveseat recliners with our bowl of popcorn and watch our murder-mystery programs. I didn’t mind sleeping alone when Sean was away, but I hate the fact that we’ re suddenly just housemates, sleeping apart. We’re relegated to seeing each other on the back deck, sitting more than six feet apart. I slide his paper plate dinner to his end of the table.

A week later…Chris tested negative today! I’m grateful he bounced back fast. It’s been five days since Sean got it. We are thankful that his case has been “mild” with symptoms of a lousy cold. He is feeling better every day, but will keep masked until he tests negative. So far, I am healthy thanks to Sean’s diligence and distancing.

This Flag is Your Flag, This Flag is My Flag

My fellow and female Americans, fly your flag as your right at as an American. Not as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Believer or Atheist, Straight or LGBTQIA+ person but because you are an American!

I noticed at our family’s Fourth of July picnic that not all of the 71 in attendance were wearing red, white and blue clothing this year. I’d say about half of us, including older ones like me, donned patriotic wear. I wore my flag-striped, tie-dyed T-shirt I reserve for the 4th. A number of our under-forty group, however, looked as if it were just another picnic, not America’s 246th birthday.

I believe the lack of American flag colors this year reflects the general malaise of our country’s many woes. Yes, there are a lot of challenges right now: a lingering pandemic, climate change, pro-life vs. pro-choice, and other political dilemmas. 

I just feel sad that our beloved stars and stripes has fallen victim to the polarization, revered or reviled by two camps.

There are those who go overboard and wave it frenetically, clad in “Family, Faith, Firearms” T-shirts. They stick or tack Old Glory on plywood signs scrawled with a former president’s name, already campaigning for his re-election in ’24. The more flags the better, whatever the weather or condition, seems to be their m.o.

Then there are those who maybe because of this, and perhaps in general disappointment with the political climate appear repulsed (?) by the American flag. I’ve heard many say the American flag has been “commandeered” even “hijacked” by “them.” “Look how they’ve raped (this country),” one person told me.

I know a few folks who refuse to fly the flag in their yard. Yet, when one does, it may come with a kind of wariness. What will people think? A young businessman who sells plants in an area where half of his neighbors are prolific flag fliers, apologized to us for flying the American flag in his front yard.

“Don’t apologize,” I said. “It’s your flag, too.” Did we seem the type who needed soothing because we talked a little politics over our plant purchase? That bothers me. Has the flag, it self, become yet another taboo item we need to be mindful of in common conversation?

I know of an “open and affirming” church that took down their American flag where it once flew beside the rainbow flag over their front door, “because some thought it was offense.”

This makes me sad and mad. Why do we have to be so divided, even down to our American flag? The American flag belongs to all of us! Not one “side” or faction. No one gets to own the flag or make it a symbol for their “side.” No one should despise the flag because they are unhappy or even disillusioned with the way the things are going. Rally, mobilize, and go vote, but please don’t give up the flag! We shouldn’t need to apologize nor defend ourselves if we choose to display, wear, or salute the flag, either.

My fellow and female Americans, fly your flag as your right at as an American. Not as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Believer or Atheist, Straight or LGBTQIA+ person but because you are an American! Display it at your home, on the road, at your campsite. Carry it in parades along with all other multi-colored, meaningful banners. Fly it at your church, synagogue, or mosque to show you are truly open to all. Protest with the flag by your side, or by kneeling in front of it to amplify your concerns for things that need changing in the country. Go ahead and do these things because people fought and died for you to be free under this American flag! Long may she wave, representing you and me.

How to Cope after Yet Another Mass-Shooting in America?

This last shooting in Oklahoma, on the heels of the last two, really flattened me last night. Watching President Biden’s speech “Enough!” He described in great detail, horrible scenes he and his wife have witnessed and learned of in just the past three weeks. They all should haunt us and motivate every single person to scream out and demand, “Enough!” Let this sit with you. The classroom scene of an eleven- year- old- girl smearing the blood of a nearby, slain classmate onto her own little head to pretend she was already dead, so she wouldn’t get shot…

Biden has incredible strength and faith to keep going. This isn’t about Biden, or the ever-present political divide, it’s about how to cope now. What can be done when there seems to be no safe place to avoid carnage? Our schools, shops, hospitals, businesses, churches are all vulnerable. How do you not feel like leaving, taking your family and friends out of here? Or hunker down off-grid? It’s a fantasy, I know. I was beyond crying last night, in a very dark place. I was having a hard time keeping the faith.

I know I can’t stay in this place. I got up and took out my journal. It helps to scribble-scream out frustrations, worries, anger. This led to a prayer, confessing my anger, worries, wavering faith. And lack of faith that things are going to change here, in America. Are we being punished as a nation for our waywardness? Our sins? Is there any way out?

I’ve been in Bible study for several years…Some of what we’re living through now seems pretty Old Testament at times. Yet, I can’t believe in a punitive God. I believe we’ve been given free will. I’ve come to believe in a loving God, who weeps with us. I also still believe in a loving God who hears us when we cry out in prayer, and gives us strength.

“Hear me crying out this morning, Oh, God. I come to you today in great despair, anger and worry. I pray for my country, its leaders, those who’ve lost loved ones in the past three weeks in horrific shootings, my loved ones, and myself.

Forgive our nation for turning away from You, for selfish pursuits, for our huge divide. We need to change, to mend, to heal. Please strengthen leaders to do the right thing for all people, not just for some. Comfort and strengthen families suffering beyond-catastrophic loss from unchecked gun violence. Protect our loved ones who bravely work and teach our precious children and youth in our schools. Who lead congregations, heal our sick, operate businesses, etc.

Lord, help me not to panic and be a defeatist in my thinking. Strengthen me to be brave, encouraging others, and to live the full life you’d have me to live, instead of wanting to wring my hands and retreat.

In the Name of Everything Holy,

Amen.”

Sandy’s Song: COVID-19

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, I’ve flip-flopped working from home, then going back in the office, and now back at home until I am full vaccinated. I felt too anxious with co-workers who in a vulnerable building, were not wearing masks, or at least not enough of the time. Some didn’t think COVID-19 was real or that the virus could “happen” to them or their loved ones.

Well, COVID-19 did happen to us. Sean’s mom, Sandy, 74, was living in a small and seemingly very COVID-careful convalescent home of 55 beds. For the longest time they had stayed COVID-free. Precautions were such that we could only visit Sandy while sitting six feet away from her, sitting outside on a porch, wearing our masks. Then the last time I saw her, right before Thanksgiving, the convalescent center was even more stringent. Sandy was sitting indoors, six feet from the open window leading to the porch. She was in her wheel chair, behind a wall of Plexiglas-glass, wearing a mask. Sean and I were outside on the porch looking in the open window, wearing masks. A little much, we thought.

That last visit, Sandy seemed the best I’d seen her in a while. Bright, joking, looking forward. I remember telling her to stay well so when things calmed down she could come and stay more weekends with us like she had before COVID hit. We had hoped that after COVID-19, she and Sean could resume looking into Sandy getting into her own apartment with visiting nurse assistance.

Then we hit a wall. A few weeks before Christmas Sandy and a few others had come down with COVID-19. Rumor was that someone (a doctor?) had come in to the building who was infected, without symptoms. At first it seemed Sandy, who was moved into an isolated area, only had a mild case. We prayed she would be OK, but COVID attacked. Her lungs were in such rough shape; she had COPD, emphysema, and was already on oxygen at times. Her blood oxygen dangerously low, Sandy was sent to the intensive care unit at the hospital. She and Sean, who is her conservator came to the anxious conclusion that she would need to be put on a ventilator. Sandy told Sean she was scared, and Sean did his best to assure her that the doctors said she really needed it.

For 17 days we prayed that the medicines they were treating her with would pull her through. At times it looked like she was improving, ever so slightly, but then Sandy’s regular pulmonologist would worn us. If she didn’t turn around soon, she’d have to come off the ventilator. Being on it too long was causing pneumonia and infection.

We kept praying and tip-toed through very low-key, half-hearted Christmas. My daughter and her son were down from VT after testing negative for COVID. Sean, my son and I were negative, too. We did NOT see any other relatives.

On December 27th, Sean made a hard and heart-wrenching decision, after consulting many times with his aunts and uncles and with the doctor, to have Sandy removed from the ventilator. She was getting worse, not better. She would need to be let go. Sean had found a priest who would give his mom last rites, a priest who was subbing in for the hospital’s chaplain who had contracted COVID-19! We were told by the attending pulmonologist that once taken off of the ventilator, Sandy would pass in about ten minutes. Poor Sean was with his mom and the priest when last rites were given. He said his goodbyes and then he and the priest waited in the family room for her to pass so they could go in and offer “prayers for the dead,” in a half hour or so.

In that time, I reached out to my prayer warrior mamas and some family via text that Sandy was off the ventilator and assumed that she passed around four p.m. That’s what I had been told would happen. NEVER AGAIN will I make that kind of assumption. About an hour and half later I text Sean asking where he was thinking his mom had passed and if he was alright. I could picture him in his truck, distraught, crying. He might have gone for a beer, but where? No bars were open. After another half hour with no response from my text, I called him.

“Where are you?”

“I’m with my mother.”

“Oh, honey, will you be home soon?”

“I am with my mother! She’s is looking around the room. Do you want to talk to her?”

What? At first I thought he was SO distraught that he had lost it. “What? How?”

“She’s here. She’s stubborn.”

“She’s alive?”

“Yes.”

“Um, OK.”

“Do you want to talk to my mother?”

“Yes. Hi Sandy. I love you.”

“I love you.” She sounded so weak. So far away.

“It’s OK, Sandy. I will take care of Sean. I love you.”

Sean said he’d call me a little later.

From the waiting room, Sean told me the attending nurse said this it going to be a slow death. That Sandy could live on a few more days. “The nurse said the other pulmonologist never should have told us she’d pass in a few minutes after they took her off the ventilator. They just don’t know.”

“Could she still turn around from this?”

“It’s not likely, but you know my mother! She has always done it her way!”

All I could think was, Oh, my God. Please. Not that I wanted her to die, but I didn’t want her to struggle. For Sean to be in this agony, too.

After I got off the phone I freaked out. I video called my good friends Bobbi and Jops and just blared, “She’s still alive! She didn’t pass yet like I thought, like I told you …and other people. Oh, My God! I feel so—crazy!”

For the next three days we prayed for God’s Will Be Done, and hopefully meaning a complete recovery for Sandy. She had been on the brink more than once over the past four years or so with extreme pneumonias and infections. It astounded us at first how she rallied in the past. My son had said, “I’ve said goodbye to Grandma Sandy at least three times. ” But here she was, off the ventilator, and still with us. She had always been such a headstrong woman, a fighter. I could just imagine her thinking, “The doctor said I’d die after ten minutes? I’ll show him! I’ll go when I’m damn good and ready!” In the past 37 years of knowing her and all of the hard times she’d endured and survived, I was thinking that she might just overcome this!

For the next 48 hours, Sean kept vigil as the ever-dutify son. He explored every option of medicines that might help that hadn’t already been tried. The doctor explained that his mother was dying and all that could be done was to keep her comfortable, any other medicines would just prolong the inevitable. Sean, in spite of COVID-19 restrictions that originally allowed just one “compassion visit” to loved-one who was terminally ill, was able to suit up head to toe and visit his mom two times. He said they were able to talk, but very little. Mostly I Loves Yous. He told me he asked his mom to say hello to his sister (who passed in January 2020).

At home and every time Sean’s phone rang, my heart raced and I froze waiting for news. Sandy was comfortable, but fading. On December 30th around 3 p.m were were sitting in our living room when Sean received a call from a nurse. She said that she had just gone in with the pulmonologist to check on Sandy. They were in the room when she passed, peacefully. Sean thanked her for the call and then got up and walked down the hall to our bedroom where he made the calls to relatives.

I stared out the window at the subdued afternoon light and felt numb. It was surreal as it is always surreal when someone you love dies. I knew and loved Sandy and all of our crazy ups and downs for 37 years. She never ceased to amaze me. Even up until her passing.

That evening, Sean, Chris and I ended up in our rec room with a fire going in the wood stove, toasting Sandy with Guiness as we listened to albums. The very next day Sean retrieved Sandy’s belongings the convalescent home left outside in bags on their front porch.

He spoke with his aunts and uncles and decided we would hold a celebration of Sandy’s life in the late spring 2021 due to COVID. Maybe by then, it would be safer for his elderly relatives to travel to Connecticut, they’d have their vaccines by then.

Speaking of vaccinations? Two weeks after Sandy’s passing, residents at her convalescent home began receiving the first of their two COVID-19 shots.

Home Haircut: Husband Trusts Me with Clippers!

He’s so trusting!

New adventures in this Covid19 climate. My husband has a barber in Middletown. He goes every six weeks or so, usually very early in the morning because the shop fills up quickly. Sean, like many guys has a preferred cut, a fade, or in the summer, a high and tight style. He is pretty particular about his hair.

Though, I told him I wouldn’t mind at all if he let it grow out the wavy way he wore it when we dated in the 80s.

What a hottie! Springfest at SCSU 1985

After Covid19 protocols closed the barbershop, Sean combed the internet for a decent hair clipper set. Hard to find on-line, like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers, or fluffy toilet paper. After two failed attempts for home delivery from two different companies, Sean donned mask and gloves and picked up a good set at a local box store.

On an appointed day, Sean who is a very careful reader, laid out the pieces end-to-end and announced,

“Honey, you can do this!”

Trusting Sean.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! The worse that could happen is that I’ll just have to buzz it all off.”

“But what if I cut you? ”

“You really can’t.”

So I read and re-read the directions as he got a chair and towel.

The zzz-zzz of the clipper reminded me of bees. I nervously and lightly ran the clipper guard over his thick hair. Nothing happened. We decided I had to go use a smaller clipper guard. He pushed my hand hard into his scalp with the clipper to illustrate I needed to apply A LOT more pressure to make any hair come off!

I sucked in my breath and felt like I was jamming it into his head. It didn’t shred him so I loosened up and started to play a little.

Ooh, look at me! I’m a hairstylist!

Sean got up and looked in the mirror and came back laughing. Wasn’t what he had in mind!

Embracing the challenge and with even more instruction from Sean, I managed to blend or fade, or whatever it’s called. He didn’t have to shave it all off and start from a cue-ball.

Not bad! He’d tell me or would have buzzed it off!

Turning Double Nickels: Party Like a Couple of Ten-Year Olds

Hollyann and Tanja ready to get silly at their Wonka Bash

Both my husband’s cousin Hollyann and I decided we’d embrace turning 55 this February by throwing ourselves a silly birthday party. We needed fun. We wanted to defy aging. It’s just a number, we reasoned. But I went further. “55 is double nickels and 5 +5 =10. Let’s be 10-year-olds with a ten-year-old theme.”

Hollyann and I went over a few themes. Brady Bunch? Superheroes? Costume? Nah… “How ‘bout Willie Wonka, a la Gene Wilder—Not the freakish Johnny Depp one?” I proposed. Hollyann shouted, “I like Willie Wonka!”

Immediately we began brainstorming. How about a Violet Beauregard piñata! 

A golden egg relay! Bubble gum bubble blowing contest. Guess the number of Gobstoppers! A chocolate fountain! Ice cream sundae bar! Fizzy Lifting Drinks (ginger ale and raspberry vodka!) 

What was the best party you ever went to or have ever thrown?