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It’s the end of the school year. A busy time of year.

Still have one more year with my youngest. But it sort of hit me this last month or so. Only one more year before she leaves.

I am sure it will be difficult. Especially if I am still overseas and she attends college back home.

One of my friends is now teaching her daughter how to prepare certain meals.

That’s practical.

Me, on the other hand, literally forced my daughter to watch “Rocky.” She had never seen it.

I have a list in my head of things she needs to read, see and learn before we send her off next year.

Because we will have to let her go. That is a fact.

I remember when our eldest was taking the car out on her own for the very first time. She was heading to her job at a strawberry farm. Couple of towns away.

Beautiful weather so rain wouldn’t be a problem. Lovely roads so that also wouldn’t be a cause for concern.

Her Dad and I were still a bit nervous once she left the house.

Finally, he says, “I’m going to follow her to make sure she’s okay.”

I was like, “Yes, please do!”

Half an hour later he comes back. I asked him how it went.

He smiled and said, “Great! And she was so glad to see me. She was waving at me.”

We both felt so relieved.

When she arrived home later in the day I asked her about the driving. Also mentioned that she was waving at her father.

She told me she was actually waving him away. That she was doing perfectly fine on her own.

I laughed out loud.

That’s a very good thing. She was prepared to drive on her own. We had ensured that this was the case.

Sure, we still worried.

But the best thing we can do for our children is to make sure that they are ready to go.

Then we will know that we have done our job properly.

Even if it hurts. Even if we worry.

 

 

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What’s Old Is New

That’s a phrase my friend, Mary Ann, used frequently.

It is so true.

When I lived in Rhode Island I read the Providence Journal. I especially enjoyed reading Mark Patinkin’s column in the newspaper each day. He would write about real things, ordinary moments, raising kids, current events, etc. You could totally relate.

I remember one story in particular. It stuck with me over the years.

Because when I finished reading it I was like, “Dang!” and “Wow!”

Made me think about how things can play out and how situations really do have two sides.

Sort of like when I read Mary Lavin’s short story, “The Widow’s Son.”

Okay, I’m a Libra so I am usually lobbing stuff back and forth anyway.

I’ve thought about this article many times over the years. It’s a “What if?” piece. And it is relevant today.

I searched for the column and could never find it anywhere.

So, I sent Mark a message asking about this story and letting him know it was probably written more than twenty years ago.

He promptly replied, “Found it!”

Apparently he has folders.

It was published on April 3rd, 1985. More than thirty years ago. When I was twenty-one years old.

After he sent it to me I read it. And again thought, “Dang!” and “Wow!”

I had some of the details wrong in my head. But not the heart of the story.

 

A man who has felt the power of fear is glad he had no gun

Mark Patinkin

April 3, 1985

 

He went to sleep around 11. His wife was with him, and his daughter in the next room.

 

A noise woke him. It was downstairs. He listened for a time, but there was nothing, so he shut his eyes, and then he heard it again. Someone was working the back door.

 

He called to tell me this story yesterday. His name is Jim Murphy. He lives in Cranston and is vice president of an industrial distributing company.

 

“I’m still shaking from it,” he said. He listened closely, until he was sure. Someone was at the back door. He looked at the clock; it was a quarter to four.

 

He walked to the top of his stairway. Standing there, he heard the noise again. Then he didn’t hear anything at all. He told himself it might have been the wind.

 

He stayed and listened anyway. Still nothing, and then it was the front door. This time, it was not the wind. Someone was opening the screen door. The doorknob moved.

 

EARLIER THAT DAY, he’d spent time putting up pictures in his daughter’s room. He’d left two screwdrivers in there. He walked in and got them, then came back to the stairs.

 

He wondered whether there was more than one person. He had always been a family man, of family outlook, but violence, now, was his only thought. If anyone came up, he told himself, he would use both screwdrivers. His wife and daughter were behind him, asleep.

 

The doorknob turned again, and then he saw the door push open. A moment later, a man walked inside. From where he was standing, he was only able to see waist-high.

 

“It hit me,” he would say later. “My God, they’re in my house. It’s happening. I’m a statistic. They’re in my house.”

 

He could tell by the legs it was a large man. What if there were two? He could not let this happen.

 

He began to yell. He screamed as loud as he’d ever screamed. He made his voice as full of threat as he could. “Everyone in their life fears this kind of thing,” he would say later. “You never know what’s in you until it happens.”

 

HE TOLD HIMSELF that if anyone came close, he would do whatever harm he could. And as he waited, he would continue to yell. And he did.

 

Then, from downstairs, there was an answer. “Dad, Dad, it’s me.”

 

He stopped and listened.

 

“It’s me, Dad.”

 

“Jimmy?” he said.

 

A figure stepped into the light. His son.

 

That night, he’d driven up from his home in New York to see a hockey game at his alma mater, Yale. Afterward, he’d decided that since he was halfway here, he’d spend the weekend in Rhode Island.

 

THE FATHER did not sleep that night. The next evening, he took his family to a basketball game at the Civic Center. There, he ran into an old friend. The friend was a policeman. Murphy told him the story.

 

“Jim,” the policeman said afterward, “do you have a gun in the house?”

 

“I don’t,” said Murphy.

 

“If you did have one,” asked the friend, “where would it have been?”

 

“I guarantee you,” said Murphy, “it would have been in my hand.”

 

“Would you have shot?”

 

He said he did not know.

 

“From looking at you now,” said the friend, ” your veins are still showing. I think you’d have shot him.”

 

HE TOLD ME that is why he called me.

 

“He’s right,” he said to me. “There’s no question in my mind. I was in fear of my life.”

 

I told him there could be another lesson to this story. He now knows what it is to be vulnerable. I asked if that might make him think about a gun, for a next time, when it may not be his son.

 

“I guess I’d have to say no,” he said. “It’s the presence of a gun that can do it, even if you don’t realize it. I know what I would have done.”

 

It is a complicated issue. I have spoken with enough crime victims to know the importance of keeping evil souls from violating decent lives. But now I have spoken with the other side of this. And it is something to make you think.

 

He told me he will never forget the sight of those two feet. He told me he will never forget the sound of his son’s voice.

 

The strange thing is that I sent Mark my message before I read about a woman who fatally shot her daughter in Florida thinking it was an intruder.

Can anyone imagine what that mother has to live with for the rest of her waking moments?

There is only one difference between Jim Murphy and the woman in Florida.

About six years ago, in Southern California, I woke up one morning and thought I heard noises in the kitchen. Since it was only me in the house, at that time, I thought it was very strange. Heart starting to race, I slowly crept down the stairs.

Only to see someone rattling around the kitchen sink. I jumped a mile. Heart pounding.

It was Rory. Home from Berkeley for the weekend.

We had no idea she was coming home. She wanted to surprise us.

Our friend/neighbor was in on the secret and picked Rory up at the airport in the wee hours of the morning. Dropped her at the door. She snuck in the house without us having a clue.

I was so delighted. After my heart slowed down a bit.

As I am sure Mr. Murphy was delighted to see his son. After the shock.

As I am sure the woman in Florida would have been delighted to see her daughter.

I don’t own a gun. Never appealed to me. Quite frankly, they scare me.

But what if I did? Would I have the ability to scream? Would I be rooted in the spot? Would I pull the trigger if I had a gun in my hands that day in the kitchen?

As Mr. Murphy stated, “Everyone in their life fears this kind of thing. You never know what’s in you until it happens.”

It’s an old story. But what’s old is new.

 

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Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. Those of you who know me personally are aware of how much I miss him. Not a day goes by that he is not on my mind.

But I write a lot about him. What I haven’t written about is my mother. The woman my father was crazy about since the day he met her.

My mother, weirdly enough, is very different from me. She has always been practical, direct, exact and organized.

Um, not me. She’s a Scorpio. I’m a Libra. You get it.

I look like her in many ways. Same height, weight depending on age, foot size, etc.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that she is actually one of the most positive people I know.

When Dad died, at the onset of Mom’s radiation treatments, I thought it would be really difficult.

It wasn’t easy.

But I had a mother who left every radiation session (and I mean every) saying to me as we were getting into the car, “I am so blessed.”

She was thinking of the young women that she chatted with in the rooms. That might have had it worse.

This from a woman who buried her husband a week ago.

She has always said, “No matter how bad things are you can always find some good in it.”

My mother lost her sister due to unfortunate circumstances when they were young and yet she still was there for her parents-writing out thank you notes-because they could not.

She told me, when her younger sister was having some heart problems-probably early 1980s-“I lost one sister. I am not going to lose another.”

She bought her mother a winter coat from her earnings. And also furniture for her parents’ living room.

My mom was the one who advocated for us, stayed up until we were all safely home and went up against folks in our defense.

She worked, maintained a household and did the very best she could.

She was responsible, acted like a parent and was a loyal mother, wife, daughter and sister.

I can’t remember what I had for breakfast but I remember these things.

So, Mom, on Dad’s birthday I want to think about you. And I want to thank you.

To use your words, “I am so blessed.” But I want to add something.

I am so very blessed.

 

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It’s been eight years since I started this blog. Seems hard to believe.

I’ve had visitors from all over the world. The biggest “hits” on my site are from the United States. Followed by India and Ireland.

India because I once wrote about a young Brown student who went missing. Now every time someone searches the first name (not necessarily him but the first name which seems to be popular in India) they come across my blog. And we all know India is a well populated place.

Ireland, I suppose, is just the power of a big family. And lots of friends.

I have wondered if I should just let it go. Maybe it’s getting old. Maybe I am constantly regurgitating old stuff.

So, I’m looking for feedback. Should I go out like Johnny Carson? At the top of his game when people might actually miss him?

Or should I continue writing this blog?

Be honest. I can take it.

Thank you!

 

 

 

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My daughter sent me a news article today. About two young people that were swept away from the shore into the waters of Northern California.

She said, “This is the brother of my friend. And she lost her father a year ago.”

Oh my!  I didn’t even know how to respond to that.

My God!

I still don’t know how to respond to that.

Life is so very precious. We are here one day. Young, vital and strong.

And then that happens.

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a parent and sibling in the same year. The pain of losing either at any time is horrific enough.

I cannot imagine a woman losing her husband and child in the same year. That is enough to make anyone insane.

We let our children out there in the world. It’s the natural way. We hope they will heed every last warning we excruciatingly exhaled in the last eighteen years. But the fact of the matter is that we do let them out into the world. And that is what we need to do.

Yes, upon hearing news like this, we should hug them tightly and tell them we love them.

But we should always be doing that.

Nothing new there.

Prayers for these families with the hope they will soon recover their loved ones. 😦

 

 

 

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Life is very short. I suppose the older I get the more I realize this.

The “number” doesn’t usually matter to me but lately it sort of does. I turned fifty one this past October. And I did think, “Okay, Mary, how many good years left?”

I’m at the age when my friends and contemporaries are losing their parents. Many of them. Lost my own father this past March. It does make a person think.

Woke up to see on Facebook that my friend’s former husband died. It was a shock. He’s my age and I don’t know any details at all. Just sent my condolences to his kids and my friend. He and I weren’t close but we were friends on Facebook. I do feel for his kids. My dad was in his eighties when he died and I was blessed to have him in my life for so many years.

Seeing the posting this morning also made me very aware that I now have five Facebook friends that are gone. And none of them were in their eighties.

I made a vow (renewed a vow?) that I am really going to try to only focus on the positive. There’s a lot of negativity out there in the world. I can’t get consumed with it. I don’t have to engage in it. I’ll do my best to combat it in other ways.

This life is short. Even when it’s long it’s short. Time is flying and who really knows how many years (or even minutes) any of us have left. How do you want to spend your time? How do you want to be remembered?

 

 

 

 

 

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I keep up with the U.S. news even thought I am not living there at the moment. I used to be appalled at the gun violence that seemed to be picking up speed at an alarmingly fast pace. Almost daily.

The mass shootings even more so. Because you don’t hear about every single murder in the U.S. It’s got to be high profile to get the sound bites.

Now, I just feel bad. No more shock.

I sit here with my friends from Canada, Scotland, England, Ireland, Malaysia and many other places around the world and I have no answers as to why my country has turned into a Wild West program with shootouts occurring regularly.

Some guy goes into a clinic and shoots up the place last Friday. No one even bats an eye and the “candidates” and “news” want to blame the type of clinic to curry favor with their followers. I use the terms “candidates” and “news” very, very loosely.

We can now add another place to the list of places to avoid. Churches, temples, movie theaters, post offices, malls, elementary schools, high schools, college campuses and clinics have already been targeted. Did I miss any? Now we have a center for disabled folks.

Lord, have mercy. Anyone have mercy.

We have a gun problem in our country. No doubt about it. Nut cases are walking around with guns. Some legally obtained and some not. But still the damage has been done. And continues. Every day.

This latest case is no different except for possible motive. It wasn’t a “he” loner who was bullied in middle school, played non stop video games in a darkened room with only a blinking screen for light and wanted to lash out at the world while getting instant name recognition. Or maybe he was. How would I know?

But this was a duo that wreaked utter madness at a work place. Sounds like terrorist activity. Okay, I take that back. They’ve all been terrorist activities-just different motives. But all the mass shootings have been committed by those born in the U.S. These latest two poor excuses for humans bought guns legally. Or so says the news.

They weren’t refugees and they didn’t smuggle guns into our country. One born and raised and the other on a spousal visa. They were both already here. The perpetrators and the guns.

We have a database for DNA, child molesters and criminals. Can’t we add a program that goes bing, bing, bing if someone buys just a tad too much ammunition to kill some game? Like more than 6000 rounds? Okay, it’s just an idea.

Yes, there are many radicalized insane mental cases out there. And I just don’t know what the answer to that is.

This couple left a six month baby girl in the care of others while they committed murder. I cannot comprehend any of that. But leaving a baby to be orphaned is absolutely beyond the pale for me. I can’t imagine. I still say to myself, God or whoever, “Please let me live until they are both on their feet.” Nobody. No spouse. No deity. No one is going to make me leave my kids alone in this world. If I have any say in the matter.

So, until something is done about the guns, then I can only say, try and know your neighbors. Be aware. Know your surroundings. If something looks strange or suspicious then notify the appropriate authorities. Don’t be paranoid but be aware.

It’s hard to believe that with all of these incidents in the last decade no one knew there was a problem with these individuals. Not their families. Their neighbors. Weird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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