Tales from the empty nest

 

nest-918898_640Today, the Princess asked how the empty nest was going, and I said, “It’s great! We’re having a lot of fun.”

She said, “Are you just saying that because you’re afraid to tell me the truth?”

I laughed. Repeated the question to McIrish who also laughed.

“We’re doing just fine,” I assured her. “Limping along.”

sleepyThe truth is, the empty nest is wicked awesome! Now, this is largely because both our kids are happy, well adjusted and enjoying college, and we’re very grateful for all those things. But it’s also because McIrish and I genuinely like each other. In the empty nest, adult snuggling can happen at any hour. We’ve been sleeping a lot later. All those hours our kids stole from us are finally getting repaid.

There’s not a lot of laundry or dishes to do. The grocery bill has plummeted. The house is very tidy, and if I leave the house and come back, it’s still tidy!

We eat later. We’re like cool Europeans, even. We stay up later.

We get to watch TV on the big television set upstairs, in the family room…not like animals on the tube TV downstairs. (Actually, we prefer the old TV for some reason, but if we want to watch the flat-screen, we can.)

We’re really embracing a gentle, uneventful middle age with both arms. “Look!” McIrish said the other night. “The clouds are so pretty.” We stood, arms around each other, and admired the clouds. They were so pretty!

huckDuring our biweekly phone call with the kids, we report things like seeing three deer in the valley. We give them an update on the monarch butterflies that grace our garden. The state of the cat (unchanged, omnipotent, attractive). The thrilling linen closet reorganization. The dogs’ new chew toys. The excitement of my upcoming knee MRI.

Of course, I miss my babies. But as I remind myself daily, our job was to raise them, and we have.

And luckily, they’ll be coming home soon.

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The things you do for love

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 11.47.25 AMThe other day, the Princess and I were in Sephora, that den of temptation. My darling girl had to get something before she went back to college, and we were in the line, when I saw…it. The Thing That Would Change My Life.

Baby Soft Foot Peel.

Now, I’d seen Baby Feet before, and looked at pictures online, but the packaging was not in English, and given the hideous pictures of what seemed to be foot-based leprosy, I was hesitant.

Now, however, the instructions were in English. I bought two packages, one for me, and one for…me. Or possibly my friend Shaunee. The Princess recoiled when I offered her one, but did say she wanted daily updates on the peeling process.

Here’s how it works. You put on these wet plastic booties. You sit for an hour or so. You take off the booties, rinse your feet, and wait.

What followed were the most disgusting and deeply satisfying four days of my life.

Day One showed nothing.

IMG_4309Day Two, I thought I stepped on some paper or a tissue…,but no. It was a flap of my skin. Oooh. I looked at the sole of my foot and nearly wept with joy. If you’re the type of person who enjoys, say, peeling sunburn, as I am, this product is for you. Long, thin strands of dead skin, slipping easily off my leathery hoof, revealing normal, human skin below. It was so much fun, people!

Immediately, I sent a photo to my sister, mother, daughter and best friend. My mom dry-heaved; my sister wept; my daughter texted, “OMG, I’m so excited!”; and my best friend oohed and ahhed.

 
However, there was a problem. As you might know, I’m in a knee brace and on crutches. Mobility is not my thing. So, I sat on the porch and peeled away. “What are you doing?” McIrish asked as a piece of his beloved floated past on the gentle breeze.

porch“I’m sending out Kristan seeds into the world,” I said dreamily. “Little Kristan trees will grow everywhere, and you’ll never be without me.”

“Can’t you do that somewhere else?” asked he.

“No. Also, I can’t reach my left foot, so…” I held up my injured extremity. “Honey? Would you peel me?”

Ah, the empty nest! “If only Dearest was home, he could help,” I said, settling back into my chair as my husband did what can only be termed “marital duty.” Such a beautiful day! Such a blissful feeling, that skin being removed! “Oh, that felt like a big one,” I said, and my sainted husband held it up for me to observe before letting the wind take it.

NOT chewing dead skin off the soles of my feet (unfortunately)

NOT chewing dead skin off the soles of my feet (unfortunately)

I had to wear socks for the next couple days so as not to have the dogs eating bits and pieces of me. My friends and female relatives received daily photos of the bottom of my feet. I sent my sister a card with some skin samples taped to it; my niece reported that she screamed. I’m so proud.

The peeling is over, alas, and yes, my feet are smoother than they have been since I was a chubby little tot. I’ve allowed McIrish to feel my feet. “Aren’t they smooth? Aren’t they nice?” I ask. He gives me a look and sighs.

I think I’ll save the second package for Thanksgiving, when the kids will be home so we can all share in the fun.

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The Knee and Me

crutchesMy knee and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. For 25 years, it’s occasionally bothered me, and I limp around tragically for a couple of hours until the pain magically disappears in the blink of an eye. Since hitting the big 5-0, though, it’s taken longer. A day. Then three days. Then a week.

Being my mother’s child, I ignore it. It’ll go away, I think (the pain, not the knee). It’s a strange kind of discomfort—it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels out of alignment. I have four very beautiful knee braces, and my favorite one has hinges and straps and looks a little S&M/steampunk.

Gotta get me one of these.

Gotta get me one of these.

The Knee (I think it deserves a capital letter at this point in the story) held up when we dropped Dearest Son off at college, but was making itself known as the Princess’s move-in approached. Nevertheless, I persisted in being Super-Mom—cleaning Dearest’s room with a shovel and bleach, taking Prinny to the mall, baking her banana bread to bring with her to college.

The Knee fooled me on Friday, though, and decided not to work at all. I got my crutches—rather, the Princess’s crutches from sixth grade, because they have the names of all her friends written on the arm pads, so they’re more cheerful—and went to the urgent ortho clinic.

“Oh, how fun!” I said to myself, mentally fluffing my hair. “I’m the youngest person here!” One woman wore a t-shirt depicting a wolf in front of a full moon. Beautiful. Another woman in a wheelchair and had an oxygen tank. She loudly told her martyred grandson that if he took her to the dollar store she’d consider Wendy’s for lunch. His expression was tortured (just like my son’s when I ask for a foot rub). An older gentleman smiled at me and tipped his hat, and I felt adorable.

Finally, my turn arrived. “My knee’s out of whack again,” I said cheerfully, because I love going to the doctor’s. The PA moved it around, proclaimed it a little swollen and said I had arthritis.

Tabitha_Teratoma_by_lucylovebiscuit_5

Tabitha Teratoma, because real teratomas were too much even for me.

“It’s not arthritis,” said I. “I mean, yes, I have a little, but it’s not that. I think it’s structural.” I like to diagnose myself (and others). “Possibly a neurological weakness.” Tumor, I thought. Or, even more thrilling, one of those collections of hair and teeth that I saw at the Mutter Museum of Medical Weirdness.

“Ice, Motrin, elevation,” the PA chanted. Like I didn’t know that already! “Go easy on that knee.”

“Okay,” I lied. After all, I was moving my baby girl into her first apartment the next day. I would be folding and fluffing and nesting with her.

Alas, the Knee decided to declare war after all these years of our uneasy truce. I couldn’t sleep, groaned a lot, woke McIrish and whined, then drove down to Pennsylvania with my girl the next day, swallowing my pain quite nobly, I thought. Folded, fluffed, nested, all with crutches and the S&M brace.

IMG_4273

Ice, ice baby.

Today, the Knee is punishing me. It’s swollen and lumpy and seems to mock me when I check it. Told you I was trouble, it seemed to say. I give it the same look Tyrion Lannister gives his brother Jaime—I love/hate you, how could you do this to me, want to have a flagon of wine later on?

And so I sit here, watching the news, waiting for Game of Thrones, McIrish and the dogs waiting on me as if I were their wounded queen—all in all, rather happy in my empty nest.

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The KKK and my family

GreatGram&Poppy

My great-grandparents on their wedding day. Grammy was 15, and it was 1914, I think.

My mother’s father was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. His parents immigrated from Hungary; neither spoke English when they arrived. My great-grandfather worked in the coal mines. My grandfather had two brothers. They didn’t learn to speak English until they went to school.

After my grandmother died, my Poppy got more and more nostalgic. He’d tell me stories about his youth, stories I’d never heard, and I typed as he spoke to save his memories. He told me about the time he and his brothers were walking over a train bridge, and the tracks started to vibrate, and they had to jump into the Wabash to avoid being killed by the oncoming train. He told me about the little African-American girl next door named Junie May, his first crush, and how they had a fight, and their mothers talked and laughed in the kitchen afterward, then told them to hold hands and be friends. He told me how my great-grandmother made curtains out of flour sacks and kept the tiny house—a house with no running water and no electricity—as neat as a pin.

klanHe told me about the time the Klan burned a cross on their yard.

My great-grandfather, the coal-miner, was a white Christian. But he was Catholic, which was deemed not a real Christian by the Klan. He “took jobs” from “better” white people, and he needed to be shown his place. So the white-robed Klansmen burned a cross on their yard.

“What do you remember?” I asked my grandfather, who had been maybe five or seven at the time.

“We were so scared,” he said. “My mother got us out of bed because she was afraid the house would catch on fire, and we saw the glow of the flames. We asked why the men were dressed like ghosts, and Mom said it was because they were ashamed to show their faces.”

How lucky I was to have had such grandparents!

How lucky I was to have had such grandparents!

My grandfather went on to attend Notre Dame (and played football there). He married a girl from down the street, the girl who had loved him since she was ten years old. They had nine children, and somewhere in there, Poppy also got a master’s degree from Yale and served in the Merchant Marines in WWII. One of Poppy’s brothers became a flight instructor, training pilots. The other brother graduated from Johns Hopkins, became a doctor, served in World War II, and died a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force.

But if the Klan had had their way, they would’ve been driven from the country, or have been killed.

This weekend has shown that the Klansmen no longer feel the need to hide their faces. They still carry torches. They still pass judgment on who deserves what in our country. They still try to intimidate people. They still kill people.

Poppy on his 90th birthday with my son.

Poppy on his 90th birthday with my son.

I’m unspeakably proud of my non-English-speaking, uneducated great-grandmother—a business owner, a mother, a force of goodness who laughed every day and taught me to curse in Hungarian. I’m humbled to have grown up with a grandfather who embodied intelligence and kindness. And I’m damn proud that the Klan, that group of hate-filled, entitled ignoramuses, found my ancestors unworthy. It’s a badge of honor.

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A community of friends

 

lorelei and me

Lorelei and I meet after 7 years of writing & talking!

The best thing about romance readers is they believe in hope. Better endings. The ability to change and grow. For the past week, I’ve been in Florida for the Romance Writers of America National Conference, and as I’m writing this, my heart is simply full of love. I’m smiling as I type.

Yes, it’s great not to be wearing heels (I’m barefoot at the moment and plan to stay that way). I’m so happy to be home! But I was so happy to be there, too. Let me tell you about some of the highlights of this past week.

 

IMG_4005

Winnie, Carolyn, Courtney, Farrah,   Tessa & Dren

The board meeting. I’m on the RWA board, though I’m going off in a couple months, so this was my last face-to-face meeting with the remarkable people who give so much of their time and talent to make RWA a forward-thinking, professional, welcoming organization. The AC was on hyperdrive in our room for hours—I’d guess it was 55 degrees in there—and when Engineering admitted defeat, I put on my Angry Mother face and got us 27 down comforters. And that’s how we finished the rest of the board meeting, folks. Wrapped in blankies. I also got free drink tickets for everyone in that room, which I think will probably get me a service award or something.

RITA winner Virginia Kantra and her fan!

RITA winner Virginia Kantra!

The friends. I got to see people I rarely see in person. Some old friends, some new, some Twitter friends, some “we met my first conference and I was in awe of you” friends (looking at you, Brenda Jackson!).

On the first day of the conference, I was meeting some new-ish authors in the lobby, and it was really loud, so we just bopped up to my room and chatted for an hour or so, and I loved that.

My Plotmonkey friend, Anne Renwick, won two Prism Awards—best steampunk and best first book—and you probably heard my happy sobs when she found me in the lobby late that night. I dragged her around to show off her awards to all my other friends and texted her husband and was just so stinkin’ happy to see all that work pay off.

Beverly Jenkins and her fan.

 

Brenda Jackson is probably the nicest person in the world.

Brenda Jackson is probably the nicest person in the world.

The speeches. Beverly Jenkins, first of her name, descendant of slaves, slayer of words… If I spent the rest of my life standing on my feet, cheering for Miss Bev, it would not be enough to convey my love and admiration for this woman. Susan Wiggs was funny and warm and wise, just like you’d expect.

At the librarian/blogger /bookseller luncheon, Brenda Jackson told us of her own journey, her family’s past, and the way reading empowered and informed her, and how thrilling it still is to read a book that transports you.

I mentioned the friends, didn’t I? Some years, there are certain people who light up your heart. Lorelei, Julie, Geoff, Alyssa, Sonali, Xio, Virginia (and Mike!) Caro, Pintip, Elly, Damon, just to name a few of dozens. I’m so lucky! Writing has given me some of the best friends in my life, and I’ll always be grateful to RWA for being the catalyst for those friendships.

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Dearest Son

summer 08 008 (1)Dearest Son was due on Valentine’s Day; he came on December 6, an emergency c-section in the middle of the night requiring a two-and-a-half month stay in the hospital.

They didn’t show us his face when he was born— “It’s a boy, Kristan, you have a son,” Dr. Dolan said and handed him off to the neonatologist. No cry. Limp baby, not breathing. Please, I prayed to God, DSCN1257Jesus, my father, that one word that every mother has branded on her heart. Please.

We head a cry, a loud, sustained scream, and I burst into tears of joy. My boy. My tiny boy, one pound, ten ounces, full of sound and fury, signifying everything.

For the next 76 days, I sat next to his incubator, which we decorated with pictures of his big sister, and two beanie babies—a lamb and a pig. When his sister, not quite three, came to see him for the first time, she sang him the ABCs, and he turned his head toward her and opened his eyes.

 

DSC05993We were told about the chance of brain bleeds and GI problems, developmental delays and physical disabilities. “Don’t you worry,” I told my tiny son. “Whatever happens, we’ll take care of you. All you have to do is live.”

His name in Irish means gleam, and man of prayer, possibly the most fitting name for a baby ever, given the number of prayers said for him. His remarkable brown eyes gleam daily. As a toddler, he was full of energy, scrappy and mischievous. The day he learned to walk was also the day he learned to run. He loved to eat the cat’s food and hide in the cupboard, stealing
chocolate chips. His sister would bring him in for show-and-tell, and all her friends were his as well.

At his nursery school parent-teacher conference, the teacher started to cry. “I can’t tell you how much I love your son,” she said. It was a reaction we’d get again and again. In kindergarten, he donated all his allowance money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He was the DSCN9104student who’d stay to help the teacher clean her room, or carry boxes. He has an innate kindness, a knowledge for knowing when someone needs a little more. He was always small, but he’d defend kids against bullies twice his size, furious at the injustice.

We insisted that both kids stay in karate until they had their black belts. To our shock, this boy who had to be forced to practice, whose sister had to teach him the with beardforms over and over, completely aced the grueling all-day test. He was eleven.

As he grew older, he learned that a sense of humor could diffuse tension better than outrage. He’s kind to the elderly—his high school community service consisted of writing memoirs with people at the local nursing home. Women love him—his curly dark hair, his eyelashes. He’s used to it.

Both kids were required by their parents to do a team sport, since it was good for the soul. Dearest reluctantly T&Dchose cross-country. He hated it. He would walk half the course. Shin splints, he’d say, or a tough course. “Just do your best,” we said.

In high school, he surprised us by staying on the team. At each meet, he’d gamely finish last, always smiling as the parents of the faster kids—and his own parents—cheered him on. There was that one time when I managed to say the right thing at the right time, driving him home after a meet. “It takes a lot of character to enter a race, knowing you’ll come in last,” I said. “I can’t tell you how much I admire that.”

 

D&TWhen he was a junior he started training extra, talking to the coaches. He no longer finished last. His work ethic and attitude were exemplary, and his teammates voted him captain his senior year. That was the year the regional qualifications changed, dropping the qualifying time, which meant our son would have to take his very best time and improve it by twenty seconds…in one mile. “Do you think you can do it?” I asked him. “Coach and I both know it’s a long shot,” he said.

During a meet on a cold spring day, his father and I leaned on the fence, watching the mile run. By the second lap, it was clear our son wouldn’t make it thedeclan time he needed; he was barely on pace, and runners
tend to get slower in the second half. But he ran a hard third lap, Coach calling out his time. And in the fourth lap, something happened. Our son’s stride lengthened. He started closing in on the runner 30 yards ahead of him. Dearest Son was breaking away, and his team and all the parents cheered madly for him that last half lap.

kids at christmasHe came tearing down the home stretch and met the qualifying time with four seconds to spare. His whole team went crazy, and our boy…well, he looked across at his dad and me and gave a little nod. “Get over here!” I said, sobbing happily, and he did, giving us sweaty hugs.

He loves his grandmothers and extended family, my sister especially. He plays with our dogs, poolteaches them odd tricks, woos the cat, bickers with and laughs with his sister, who is still his best friend. He can make me laugh till my teeth chatter, and does a dead-on impression of me. In many ways, he is father’s boy—hardworking, quiet, focused on the things he loves. I know he is mine as well—the sense of humor, the love of a lazy day. Mostly, though, he is himself.

In less than a month, my son will go to college. I hope he’ll bring Lambie and Piggy, as the Princess brought Ernie, but he’s a rather dignified person, so we’ll see. He’ll run cross-country and study government. He wants to go into politics, and I’m glad, because the DJK seniorcountry could use someone with his integrity, intelligence and heart. He has a plan and a strategy for doing well, and I have no doubt that he will make the world a better place. He already has.

It will be odd, having a day that doesn’t revolve around my children’s schedule. Strange not to have my boy at the dinner table, or asleep upstairs in his messy room. I’ll miss him terribly, my little boy, and yet it’s time. He’s ready. He did what I asked of him eighteen years ago—he made it. He’s so much more than the boy who lived…he is the boy, the young man, who shines.

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Up in the Air

 

mosquitoNext week, I’m heading to Orlando for the national conference of Romance Writers of America! Yay for the conference! Boo for Orlando in the summertime! If you see me being carried off by a huge mosquito, please alert the authorities. That being said, if I am attacked by an alligator, I think I’m all set (thanks, Evil Boxing Trainer!).

Anyway, I have some air travel tips gleaned from a zillion hours spent on airplanes over the past few years.

tomWear comfy clothes on the plane. Don’t wear pajamas. You’re not four. Leggings, ballet flats, a shirt, a sweater, because it gets cold up there at 35,000 feet. Plus, what if you meet Captain Sully or Tom Hardy on the plane? You don’t want to look like you need a keeper. (Also, if you see Tom Hardy on your plane, you have my permission to do as you wish). That being said, you fashionistas (gazes in mirror) should go easy on the accessories. You don’t want to have to take off your necklace, four bracelets and that fabulous belt in line, because the people behind you will be forming an angry mob.

I’m pre-checked, so I get to glide through like a boss. If you’re not prechecked, and sometimes even if you are, remember that you have to take off your shoes. You might want to wear socks. Think of how many feet have been on that same floor.

Knitters and crocheters, be prepared to surrender your needles. I know, I know, you were going to make the most beautiful blankets in the world for Beyoncé’s twins during the flight. Write them a poem instead.

angry-mobRead and obey the TSA liquids policy. Again, remember the angry mob forming behind you as you plead your case for taking your hairspray with you. Do bring hand sanitizer (3.5 oz or less!) and antibacterial wipes. You won’t be sorry. They don’t clean the plane between flights anymore. I’m not sure they ever clean the planes anymore.

plane-crashKnow where the life vests are. Miracle on the Hudson, anyone? Also, I’ve found that watching movies featuring airplane crashes greatly reduces the chance of an airplane crash. This is my theory, and I’m sticking with it. I’ve watched Cast Away five times on airplanes. Not one crash yet.

Help with bored babies. It’s hard to fly with kids. I can’t tell you many parents have blessed me because I played peekaboo with their little ones. Sometimes, because I am a baby whisperer, I’ve even offered to hold the baby,
beywhich causes the child to coo in delight and then fall instantly asleep on my shoulder. (This is the talent of mine that will get me on the survivors bus during the apocalypse…forget the “writing of the bad date scene.”) Beyoncé and Jay Z, please take note.

Be nice to the flight attendants. Yes, we’ve seen the videos of those horrible people who punch passengers. 99.99% of flight attendants aren’t going to hit you, kick you, threaten you. They know their reputation has suffered greatly. That being said, if you do see someone getting roughed up, by all means, make a stand. Be helpful. Imagine that that the person being dragged off the plane is you, or your kid, and do the right thing.

Say hi to your seatmate. You don’t have to become their best friend (cough), but say hello. Civility is dying in our country. Let’s do our part to bring it back.

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Cozy spots

laundrybasketWhen I was about three, I locked myself in the bathroom closet. My dad was away with the Army Reserves, so my mom was home with three little kids. I’d been brushing my teeth, and for some reason, I decided to go into the closet, climb into the laundry basket and close the door.

It locked. I don’t remember why we had a closet that locked from the inside, but such was life back then. The door had slats on it, so some light came through, and it was dim and cozy there in the dirty clothes—ask my cat, because he does the same thing quite often.

huckleberryMy mother found me and tried the door unsuccessfully. “Can you open it, honey?” she asked. I couldn’t, or I didn’t try…it was nice to be alone in the quiet closet, away from my siblings. Maybe I would sleep in the closet all night. “We can slide baloney slices under the door,” my brother suggested. “You can eat toothpaste.”

I contemplated a life spent in the little closet. I could climb up on the shelves and sleep in the towels, play with Mom’s hot rollers, which were very fun. Take many naps, because unlike other, less savvy toddlers, I loved napping.

firefighter toyMom shooed my sibs into their rooms and called the fire department. I may have dozed off as she talked to me through the door. Then the firefighters were there. “Do you have a toothbrush?” one of them asked my mom, and she handed one over, and just like that, he popped the lock.

My little adventure was over. Mom picked me up, walked the amused firefighters to the door. I believe they gave me a toy. Mom let me stay up a little longer, so I got a little extra time with her, just us two.

All my life, I’ve loved small spaces. Cozy spots, I call them. I guess we know why.

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That old Cape magic

cape houseWhen I was a little kid, my parents bought a house on Cape Cod. It’s a simple little place—absolutely nothing glamorous about it except that it’s on the Cape. The furnishings are battered, the windows rattle and the screens have holes in them. Knotty pine abounds. The kitchen table is in the living room, since it can’t fit anywhere else. My mother is overly fond of blue, so everything is a little like camouflage—the blue pitcher on the blue counter, the blue carpeting and the blue bathroom. There is no air conditioning, just a few moldy window fans. It’s poorly insulated, so it gets both hot and cold. The cellar smells like dampness.

sunset on the bayAnd yet, the house the most wonderful place in the world. The sky never seems so blue as it does on Cape Cod, and the smell of crispy fallen pine needles is the smell of summer to me. The crows wake us at six a.m., and no matter how early you go, there’s always a line at the donut shop. At sunset, people flock to the bay side to watch the show, and when it’s dark, the beam of Nauset Light sweeps over the tops of the pitch pines. You can always hear the ocean.

rosesRight now, the climbing roses are blooming, those crazy plants that wind up telephone poles and cedar trees and eat fences (there’s a split rail fence in this picture somewhere, I promise). Rabbits wander lazily through our yard, unused to humans and dogs. When it rains, there’s no hope your towel or hair will dry without electricity. On sunny days, we all smell like the beach—salt and sunscreen, with a hint of coffee thrown in as well. When you ride your bike down the rail trail, you catch the wonderful scents of fried seafood and garlic, burgers on the grill, the bay at low tide.

There’s not a lot of space in the house, so by the end of our week here, with five humans and two dogs in residence, it will be cluttered with magazines and newspapers. The camera locust treewill sit on the counter because there’s no better place for it, really, and flyers about whale watches or real estate will litter the coffee table.

I love cleaning the Cape house for the next residents here. I leave it tidy and sparkling, always with a lump in my throat and a heart full of gratitude that my father gave us this home away from home.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like the Cape house.

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McDaddy

 

the fireman returnsWhen Dearest Son was born, he was very tiny. I was terribly sick, pretty much out of it for a few days, needing to stay in the hospital for two weeks to recover. Those days seemed to last for months.

In hindsight, I don’t know how my husband did it. He was barely thirty years old, had a toddler at home, a wife who was battling seizures and kidney failure, and, upstairs in the neonatal unit, a baby who weighed one pound, ten ounces.

F&TMcIrish did everything—the grocery shopping, the cooking, the laundry. He worked twelve or fourteen hours a day, soothed our little Princess when she cried for her mommy, visited our son and reported back to me when I was awake enough to ask how the baby was. “He’s doing great,” McIrish would say without fail. “He’s such a cute little guy.”

T&DWhen I came home from the hospital with the world biggest c-section scar slicing across my abdomen, McIrish scoured the bathroom to kill every germ. Until I could drive again, he was the one who shlepped me the thirty-minute drive to and from the hospital every day. He read stories to our daughter, took care of our kitten, and, in the NICU, ticked our little preemie’s feet and told him he was brave and strong. When Dearest came home from the hospital 76 days after he was born, it was one of the happiest days in our lives.

T&kidsSince then, McIrish has taught the kids to swim, to change a tire, to drive a nail, to plant vegetables. He has embraced—every day–the old adage that the best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother. His example of constancy, hard work and everyday heroism is something the kids will carry with them all their lives.

christmasMy readers often tell me how lucky I am to have McIrish. Rest assured, my friends. I already know. I’ve known since the very start.

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