Resolutions Are Made To Be Broken….

I’m getting off to a great start here.

This was supposed to be my regularly scheduled Friday blog–but it’s been a long week and for most of the day yesterday, I wasn’t even sure it was Friday. Fortunately for me, I’m probably the only one who noticed I didn’t post anything yesterday.

Ironically, today’s post is about New Year’s resolutions.

Nope, I’m not resolving to stick to a regular blogging schedule. I’m terrible with schedules. I hate having to be in a certain place at a certain time. After fourteen traditionally-published novels, I couldn’t make it in that world if my life depended upon it. I would have been sued for breach of contract long before now.

I’ve missed doctor appointments because I forget I have them. I don’t make appointments to get my hair cut–I go to a place that doesn’t require one. (Okay, yes, I’ve had a few stinker cuts and have been on the verge of throttling the stylist–but that can happen in an upscale salon, too!)
But I’m getting off track here. Resolutions. Normally, I don’t make any. Resolutions, like rules, seem made to be broken. But this year, I think a few are in order:

1. No more blogging schedule. I’m pretty sure most of my followers (thanks, guys!)  either subscribe or see it on their blogrolls or my Facebook and Twitter links.

2. Less time online. All play and no work makes for a writer who doesn’t publish anything–and I have enough of a struggle in that area. What used to come easily is now like going across the Atlantic from the US to Europe in a rowboat. 

3. More focused marketing. None of us can be everywhere all the time, so I’m sticking with what’s worked best for me: Facebook–commenting in places where I actually have something to contribute, and not just hanging out in writers groups. Posting reviews on Amazon–and not just for books. Remember the tried-and-true advice on finding a life partner?  Look for them by doing things you enjoy doing. If you meet people who enjoy the same things you do, there’s a good chance they’re going to enjoy your books, too.

I post smartass comments on Facebook pages for pro wrestling and soap operas. They get noticed. Go figure.

Did you make any resolutions? What are they?

Christmas Comes But Once a Year….

Merry Christmas, everyone! Before I start, allow me to direct you to other Christmas-related blogs. William Kendall is at his hilarious best with his take on Christmas. At our joint blog, it’s a Christmas image blog for adults only. Karla Telega has a special greeting and offer for her readers. Grace at Perth Daily Photo has a greeting that will have you drooling! For the best ideas for food and decorating, check out Krisztina Williams‘ blog. Gayle at Two Little Square Black Dogs has an original Christmas display. And be sure to check out Ten Lives and Second Chances for a holiday greeting from Charlie and Gumtree, as well as The Desert Rocks for a Night Before Christmas parody from Evie and Fiona. And for a serious look at different religions this holiday season, don’t miss Lena Winfrey Seder’s Pearldrops on the Page. And for festive photoblogs, check out LondonLulu at Princeton Daily Photo and Bob’s St. Louis Daily Photo!

When I was a child, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. The excitement in our house would build for weeks, starting with Thanksgiving. My parents observed certain traditions and almost never strayed from them. Christmas shopping was done a few weeks before Christmas, when my dad received his bonus check from the union. He, Mom and I always went to Cherokee Street. We’d have a big lunch. Then we’d hit the stores, often going our separate ways so we wouldn’t know what we were getting from each other. We didn’t mind the crowds or even the inclement weather, because it was so much fun.It was time spent together, and it doesn’t get any better than that.


Our tree was never put up until Christmas Eve, a holdover from the days when Santa brought my presents. (Looking back, I’m not really sure Christmases at our house would have been any less wonderful, had we skipped the Santa thing–but I always had the feeling Dad wanted to go all-out because his own childhood, especially Christmas, was anything but merry. I was happy to oblige him.)

We never just got one gift. Dad, who only got a pair of gloves or socks for Christmas when he was a boy, and Mom, whose parents thrived at Christmas, made sure I had a mountain of gifts. Dad would count the packages to make sure we each had an equal number–one year, upon discovering Mom was short a gift, he hastily wrapped cash around a roll of toilet paper for her. (I’ll never forget the expression on her face when she saw that familiar-shaped package under the tree!) They’d spend hours putting up the tree, decorations, and lights on the outside of the house. Christmas cards would be hung on decorative ropes (but with fewer and fewer people sending cards, that seemed pointless in more recent years). Dad insisted that Christmas was to be spent at home. For years, my maternal grandparents came for Christmas dinner, but we never went out. Family friends used to come on Christmas Eve and we’d exchange gifts. It was great.

Mom baked cookies and pies for Christmas. She wasn’t big on that sort of thing the rest of the year, but Christmas was a special time. We always had two or three pies–at least one pumpkin and one mincemeat (for Dad). We’d have a traditional dinner: turkey, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls…and even though I’ve never much cared for turkey, I did look forward to those meals!

We’d all get up early Christmas morning, open our gifts, and then Mom would head off to the kitchen to get the turkey into the oven. I did look forward to Christmas!

But after Dad died, things changed. Mom tried, but her heart wasn’t in it anymore. She and I did the best we could while Collin was still a child, but as he grew older, we dropped the old traditions one by one. Now, with both Mom and Dad gone for several years, Collin and I usually know what we’re giving each other in advance. We don’t have a big dinner, and sometimes opt to eat out. We put up our tree, but don’t bother with the elaborate decorations Mom and Dad spent hours on every year. This year, we almost forgot to put up the tree, and I didn’t send out ecards until yesterday. Cherokee Street is no longer the cheerful, bustling shopping district it once was. I get depressed just passing through. These days, we do most of our shopping online.

I miss the way things used to be, but I wonder if going back to tradition would be a good thing…or would it just make us even more painfully aware of who’s not here, of what we’ve lost?

What are your family’s holiday traditions? Do you still observe them?

12/21/12: Let the Apocalypse Begin!

It seemed appropriate today to post a scene from one of my current works in progress–which does not yet have a title. It takes place at a hotel in Jerusalem and features Jaime Lynde, my protagonist from The Unicorn’s Daughter, and Phillip Darcy, one of my main characters from Chasing the Wind, just seemed like such a good match, I had to bring them together….

            


Jaime


December 21st, 2012. According to the Mayans, the day on which the world would end. And there I was, stuck in Jerusalem. All flights were grounded due to bad weather. A violent hailstorm, of all things. I wondered which sign of the Apocalypse that was supposed to be. I haven’t been to church in a very long time, as you might have guessed.

Darcy was also there. Several journalists were there.

I was trying in vain to put a call through to Washington when he showed up at my door. “Is your satellite phone working?” I asked.

“Hello to you too,” he said as I stepped aside to let him in.

“Darcy—” I held up the phone.

“No. Nobody’s phones are working. Some sort of atmospheric disturbance, I hear.” He paused. “That’s a hell of a storm out there. Maybe it really is the end.”

“Right.” I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at that. “Darcy, the Mayans couldn’t even see the Spaniards coming. You don’t seriously think they could predict the end of the world–“

He looked serious. “A few years ago, I would have laughed, too,” he said. “But I’ve seen things….”

I remembered. “The Deliverer. The Images of Hope series.”

He nodded.

“So now you’re a believer?”

“I don’t know what I believe,” he admitted, scratching his head. “I’ve just seen enough to make me reconsider my life as a hardcore cynic.”

“Yeah. I get that.” I realized I hadn’t even offered him a drink. “Want a beer or something?”

He shook his head. “Actually, I just came to invite you to a party,” he remembered.

“Party? Go out in this freak storm?”

“No. It’s here at the hotel,” he said. “All the media people stuck here are celebrating the end of the world together. Fun, huh?”

“Sounds like Sarcasm City to me.”

He grinned. “Like I said—fun.”



I was still thinking about my inability to get through to Washington when Darcy and I went downstairs to join our colleagues. I hadn’t been able to send an email, either. What was really happening? The TV in the hotel bar was getting a signal—barely. The sound was there, but the picture was full of static and came and went. The news reports suggested severe weather disturbances around the world. A reporter from Canada made a joking reference to the movie The Day After Tomorrow. There were others making less-than-serious toasts.

“Just the way I’ve dreamed of leaving this planet,” Darcy said as the bartender passed him a beer, “with the people we see every day.” He looked at me. “Present company excluded.”

I raised my glass to him. “Of course.”

“You’re worried about the Ambassador,” he said then.

I nodded. I was worried about Nicholas. I didn’t know if he was safe.

“He’s a lucky man,” Darcy said. “Lucky, but a dumbass.”



Darcy


I meant what I’d just said. I thought Nicholas Kendall was a world-class dumbass to let a woman like Jaime go…and I was an expert at being a dumbass. I’d let a terrific woman slip through my lecherous fingers because I’d discovered I was a lousy father and didn’t consider my wife’s right to have children of her own.

“Nicholas isn’t a dumbass,” Jaime said in defense of her ex. “He just wanted a wife who was home once in a while.”

I liked the way she defended him. I doubt Lynne ever defended me to anybody. Not that I would have blamed her.

“I wasn’t sure I could be a good mother,” she said.

I wasn’t surprised. She was accustomed to being independent. I couldn’t picture her in some tense political situation, camera in hand, a kid in a Baby Bjorn…but I didn’t say it. I just asked, “Why?”

“No role model to learn from,” she answered. “My mother committed suicide when I was six. When she was alive, she treated me like an inconvenience. How would I know how to be a good mother?”

“I had good parents, but I was still a failure at being a father,” I confided.

“I wonder if I’d even know how to care for an infant,” she went on.

“I hear that sort of thing is instinctive,” I offered, feeling awkward.

“I’ve heard that, too. But it wasn’t for my mother.”

“My third ex-wife was an archaeologist,” I said then. “Traveled all over the world on digs…but she couldn’t wait to get pregnant.”

“Did she?” Jaime asked.

“Eventually, but not with me,” I said. “I’d already had two kids with ex-wife number one and had discovered I was a lousy father. I didn’t want to repeat the mistake. That’s why ex number three left me. She had a baby boy with husband number two a few years ago.”

“I think I need a scorecard,” Jaime said, only half-joking.

“Sometimes I did,” I said. I was pretty sure Jaime had stopped paying attention by this point.

“Maybe I was wrong,” she said then. She wasn’t touching her drink, just swirling it about in the glass.

“About what?” I asked.

“Maybe I should have given up the career, stayed home, had a couple of kids,” she said. “I’m fifty-six now and wondering what I’ve missed.”

“Think you could have been happy as a suburban soccer mom?” I asked, having my doubts even as I asked.

She made a face. “Probably not,” she confessed. “But I think I could have been happy as a diplomat’s wife.”

“Then why weren’t you?” I really wanted to know the answer to that one.

“I was. Nicholas wasn’t.” She looked up at the TV screen. “There’s a storm in Beirut.”

“Have you talked to him?”

Jaime shook her head.

“When was the last time?”

She shrugged. “A couple of weeks.”

I signaled the bartender for another beer. He moved to refill Jaime’s drink, but she waved him off. “If the earth starts breaking apart, I can run faster if I’m sober.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen her have more that one drink in the course of an evening. Rumor has it she doesn’t hold it well. I tried to picture her trying to outrun an earthquake. It made me laugh.

“What’s so funny?” she wanted to know.

I turned to face her. “After three divorces, I’ve reached the conclusion that we should stick to our own kind.”

“Our own kind?”

“Journalists. Reporters. Media nomads.”

She looked amused. “And why is that?”

“Because we understand each other as no one else can.”

She looked unconvinced. “Think that would solve all of our relationship problems?”

“I think it’s worth a try.”

“Who’s going to be the first pair of guinea pigs?” she asked, looking at me like she wasn’t sure she really wanted to hear the answer.

“How about us?” I suggested.

Us?”

“Sure. Let’s get married,” I pursued, not entirely joking..

She roared with laughter. “You and me? Married?” she asked. “Are you completely out of your mind, Darcy?”

“We’d have a very special anniversary if we did it tonight,” I pointed out. On the TV screen, the reporter was talking about the Mayan prophecy with a graphic of all the freaky weather events around the world at his back.

“You must be desperate,” she said, finishing her drink.

I have that effect on women. I suggest marriage and even the non-drinkers will go for the bottle. “There would be some advantages,” I insisted.

“Yeah? Like what?”

“We’re both way past our prime,” I said. “No need for birth control.”

She poked me.“You really know how to flatter a girl, dumbass.”



“The last time I was here, I was roped into playing wedding photographer for my ex,” I told her as the time passed midnight and it was now December 22nd. No apocalypse. The world was still very much intact. Some of our colleagues had gone back to their rooms earlier, asking to be awakened when the end came. Those who remained in the bar again made mock toasts and grumbled about having to go Christmas shopping after all.

“Wedding photographer?” Jaime looked amused. “Which ex?”

“The Duchess.”

“You mean Dr. Raven-MacKenzie?” she asked. “Why do you call her that?”

“I call all my exes by the same nickname,” I said, reaching for the bowl of nuts on the bar. “That way, I don’t get in trouble by calling them by the wrong name in intimate moments.”

She didn’t believe me. “Come on, now.”

I gave in. “When I met her, she wasn’t too interested in me. She wouldn’t have sex without a wedding ring. I thought that was absurd, but she wouldn’t give in,” I recalled. “I guess it was her attitude, I don’t know. It just seemed to fit her.”

“And you took her wedding photos?”

I nodded. “She said I owed it to her—which, in a way, I did. So I recorded her quickie wedding to the Lord of the Geeks for posterity.” With that, I needed another drink. I signaled the bartender, who pointed at the clock above the bar. It was almost closing time.

She laughed. “Lord of the Geeks?”

“Her new hubby is some kind of genius—freaky smart. He’s also not of this world, if you believe in that sort of thing.” I stuck a handful of nuts into my mouth.

“I don’t know if I believe or not,” Jaime said, interested. “What are you talking about?”

The Deliverer. It was him in the photograph,” I said.

“The one with the ghostly images flanking him?” she asked.

“Yep. And they were also in all of the wedding photos.” I wished I could get that drink. “Some people—religious experts—thought they were angels.’

Angels?”

“Can you believe it?”

“No,” she said.


Jaime


I’d never known Darcy to fall for a scam. He could spot a phony a mile away. That was one reason he was so good at his work. Yet tonight, he’d hinted at having had an experience with a supernatural being who hung out with angels.

Angels, of all things!

All the talk of angels and prophets and the end of the world had an unexpected effect on me. I’d never given it much thought before, but I suppose I was an agnostic. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, I’d just never really given him or her much thought. I’d learned to depend only on myself at an early age. Nicholas and I had been married in a church at his parents’ insistence. They never asked me what I believed, and I never volunteered that information.

I went to the window and looked out at the storm that still raged on. I’ve seen just about everything in my life, in my travels…but I’d never seen anything like that. Suddenly I felt painfully lonely. If Darcy had been there and made a move on me, I probably would have ended up in bed with him. Good thing he had gone off to his own room.

I tried my phone again, but it was no use. How long before I can get a call through to Langley?I wondered.

I thought about Nicholas, wondered if he was all right. I couldn’t call him either, even if I wanted to. I hoped he was safe. I had never been afraid of storms—or much of anything else—but this storm was almost supernatural.

I changed into my usual sleep attire—a pair of men’s boxer shorts and an oversized football jersey. I had one from just about every team in the NFL. I got into bed and pulled the sheets and blanket up around my neck. I hadn’t done that since I was a little girl…when I was told my father was dead, that he wasn’t coming home.

Sleep didn’t come, no matter how much effort I put forth. I tossed and turned for over an hour, and finally found myself wishing Darcy would come back. I couldn’t even call him. I certainly wasn’t going to go trotting down to his room dressed in boxer shorts and football jersey.

The storm grew more violent…and I felt even more alone. Then, around three o’clock, I heard a knock on my door. I crawled out of bed and approached it cautiously. “Who’s there?” I asked cautiously.

“Darcy,” he answered from the other side.

Relieved, I opened the door and pulled him inside….

The Nightmare Before…Oh, Wait A Minute, That Title’s Already Been Used!

If you haven’t seen it already, check out William Kendall’s parody of A Christmas Carol at Speak of the Devil. Then you’ll understand why William is about to get a Christmas Eve visit himself….

Ottawa, Christmas Eve: At the home of novelist, blogger and all-around troublemaker William Kendall, all is well…for the moment. As the song says, all is calm, all is bright. Snow is falling. William loves snow, which is why everyone else in Ottawa thinks he’s, well, nuts.

“Wake up, you moron!”

William’s roused from sleep by the sound of the angry voice calling to him. He tries to open his eyes, but is blinded by an unexpectedly bright light. “What the…who’s in here?”

“Your worst nightmare, you hack!”

He sits up, shielding his eyes from the with one hand. “My ex-brother-in-law Mike?”

“Be serious. That Neanderthal couldn’t get in the door if you gave him a key.” 

“So you do know him.”

A figure steps forward from the light, clothed in attire from another century. He’s angry. William doesn’t recognize him. “I don’t remember too many of my dreams,” he says, “but I have a feeling I’m never going to forget this one.”

“I’m going to make sure you don’t.”

“Do I know you?” William asks, still confused.

“You know my work. You butchered it in your latest blog posts.”

It takes a moment for the realization to come. William still isn’t fully awake. “Charles Dickens?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Right. Mike Saxton sent you, didn’t he?” William asks. “You’ve got the Victorian costume right, but the speech is all wrong for the nineteenth century England.”

Dickens grows impatient. “Do you think the gates of Heaven were sealed after I arrived?” he asks. “There haven’t been too many new admissions in the last century, granted…but those who have managed to get in have had an indelible influence.”

“Like who?” William asks.

“Don’t change the subject!” Dickens responds angrily.

“What subject?”

“Your bloody blog!” Dickens looks like he might resort to physical violence. “How dare you make a mockery of A Christmas Carol! To compare my Scrooge to that cretin who’s running your country….”

“Harper?” William asks.

“Stephen Harper.” Dickens speaks the name as if it has a bitter taste. “My Scrooge had a heart. He could be saved! That was the whole point of the story, that there’s hope, that anyone can change.”

“Hey, he parodies my stuff all the time.”

Both men turn to the window, where comic book legend Stan Lee has been observing them. William is even more confused than ever. “Stan the Man?”

Stan Lee grins. “In the flesh.”

“Stan Lee!” Dickens smiles for the first time. “I’m a huge admirer of your work. Even Will Shakespeare is always bragging about the influence he had over your creation, Thor.”

“Wait a minute!” William interrupts them. “Stan, you’re not dead!”

“Of course not. And it’s Mr. Lee to you.” Stan looks at him with disdain. “You’re in big trouble if the Avengers ever break through the Fourth Wall…and you don’t want to know what Wolverine is planning to do to you. Drunken Hobbit, indeed!”

“I wanted to sue him,” Dickens says. “But try finding a lawyer in Heaven.”

“There are plenty of them down here who are more than happy to take my money to abuse just about anyone,” Stan says.

“Hey!” William offers in a weak protest.

“He’s not a bad writer,” Stan goes on, “in fact, he’s quite good, when he sticks to his own creations. But he’s really pissing off my characters–and the people responsible for them now. That Bendis fellow has a William Kendall voodoo doll in his office. Quesada has a photo of him on his dart board. And the marketing department really takes exception to being compared to chimps.”

“You should see how chimps are reacting,” William puts in.

Dickens shakes his head in clear disapproval. “This one must me taught a lesson. We should make an example of him for others who might consider such foolishness.”

“Let me guess,” William starts. “You’re going to send me ghosts?”

“No,” Stan says. “You’ll be getting visits from all the people you’ve poked fun at–in your blog, on Facebook and at Comixfan.”

William takes a deep breath. “It’s going to be a long night….”

*****

William wakes abruptly, realizing it was all a dream. He’s relieved. Then an inspiration comes to him. He reaches for pen and paper and jots down the idea for his next blog….
   

An Unexpected Tragedy

I came home today expecting to write a blog about the rumored death of blogging…but when I turned on the TV, instead of Dr.Oz, familiar faces from NBC News were talking about a school shooting. Another one? How many have there been now? I’ve lost track.


I have a knee-jerk reaction to news of school shootings: bullies. Bullies have pushed some tortured kid too far again and a lot of innocent people have paid the price for it once again? When will parents learn from their mistakes and teach their children to behave like civilized human beings?

But today was different. The shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut doesn’t fit that pattern. A young man, heavily-armed and prepared to kill a large number of people, went into the school where his mother taught kindergarten and murdered twenty children between the ages of five and ten. He also killed six adults, including his mother. The only reason those numbers weren’t a lot higher was due to the actions of the school’s principal, who managed to turn on the public address system during her encounter with the shooter, alerting teachers who locked down their classrooms and saved their students and themselves.

Why did this happen? We may never know.

What has to be obvious to all of us is that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. We can’t send our kids to school without wondering if we’ll ever see them again. We can’t go Christmas shopping or see a movie without wondering if we’ll make it home alive. Walk down a street anywhere in the country and you could be shot by some moron who thinks he has a right to take your wallet, purse or cellphone because he’s too lazy to get a job and earn those things on his own. Or you might be attacked by some idiot high on so-called “bath salts” who thinks he’s a zombie and wants to eat your face off. And you’re not even safe in the workplace or in your own home. If you don’t go out, there’s a good chance some jackass will come in after you. After all, you might have jewelry, cash, TVs, computers, cellphones or other items that can be sold to feed their drug habits.

Tonight, hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Put your petty differences aside. Forgive the minor offenses–and even the big ones–and cherish the time you have with them, because none of us is promised tomorrow.

My Brain Just Rebooted???

First of all, thanks to everyone who commented here and at WordPress on my blog post regarding my nuisance neighbors. Not one of you told me I was being unreasonable. I appreciate that!

Some of you know that I’m epileptic, the result of a brain injury when I was a teenager. I was hit by a rock thrown by a bunch of unruly kids throwing them at each other in the street outside our house. Is it any wonder I can’t tolerate bratty kids?

I don’t have grand mal seizures. What I have is a little difficult to describe. I think Collin said it best earlier this evening: my brain rebooted. In the middle of a conversation, I just stopped responding. He says it lasted for a couple of minutes. I remember feeling confused afterward, like I had missed something. I remember having a headache for a few days before, and feeling exhausted afterward. I’m not allowed to drive or do things like cook (except with a microwave or crock pot) or even take a bath when I’m alone. Showering is okay. I guess the possibility of doing a faceplant in the bathroom floor is no big deal.

I’m not surprised it happened. Stress tends to trigger seizures, and the past few weeks have indeed been stressful. In addition to dealing with my idiot neighbors, I’ve been adjusting to Collin’s new work schedule and my own. Thanks to Stephannie and Ruth  at The Self-Published Authors Lounge, I think I’ve found a routine I can love.

But getting back to the events of this evening…when I didn’t get online at the usual time, William got worried. He didn’t know Collin was home, so he contacted my friend Carole, my pastor’s wife. She phoned me to see if I was all right. She said she could tell I was, because I was funny. 

William is a sweetheart. All the way up in Canada, and he manages to make sure I’m okay. What would I do without him?  Certainly not laugh as much. Check out his blog and see for yourself. His parody of A Christmas Carol is hilarious!

My neurologist has wanted to know what happens when the seizures occur. I can finally tell him. I wonder how he’ll react to a cerebral reboot?

Regrets: Too Little, Too Late

My dad used to say that no matter what a person was like in life, after they passed away they were suddenly wonderful people. Don’t believe it? Watch the local news. You’ll never hear anything but glowing praise for anyone who’s been killed in an accident or in violent acts. I think this is simply a human tendency to only remember the positive things about a person after their death.

I recently learned that a childhood friend passed away…a year ago. I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in several years. We’d had a parting of ways over something stupid…a little pocket-sized TV. It seemed important at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t such a big deal at all.

We’d been friends since I was twelve and she was thirteen. We met in junior high. She wasn’t an easy person to love–an awful thing to say, I know, under the circumstances, but it was the truth. Even when we were kids, she could be rude, insensitive, a real pain in the butt. As another friend once said, “Tell her you crapped a ten-foot turd and she’ll say hers was twelve feet.” (Her words, not mine!)

That was Shirley. No matter what anyone else did, she insisted she did it better. No matter what anyone else had, she’d claim hers was better. We’d both had dreams of being published novelists. I made it; she didn’t. She came to visit, but she refused to look at the shelves of books I’d published or even acknowledged that I’d published them. She just couldn’t accept it.
I’ll never forget the weekend she invited herself for a sleepover. We were in junior high. I knew bringing Shirley and my dad together was a bad idea, but she was pushing for a weekend visit and I didn’t know how to politely get out of it, so I asked Mom, who, predictably, said yes. 

It was a disaster from the minute she arrived. Mom had gone out of her way to make Shirley feel welcome…but it did no good. No matter how Mom tried, there was no pleasing that girl. The tuna salad Mom made for lunch was “okay, but not as good as my mother makes.” She compared everything to her own mother’s ways of doing things–and Mom always ended up on the losing end. It made me angry…and confused. I’d been to Shirley’s home several times, and her mother had done no cooking while I was there (her dad, however, was a good cook). Her mother seemed to ignore her, favoring her elder sister. I couldn’t recall her ever having a kind word for Shirley. 

Mom was patient and tried to overlook Shirley’s attitude. Dad, however, took me aside and insisted I send her home pronto. 

Maybe Shirley had created an idealized mother in her own mind to compensate for the less-than-warm woman I’d known. I don’t know. But her attitude had cost her friends. I found myself wondering if she’d had anyone left at the end. I knew she had Parkinson’s disease and had spent her last days in a nursing home. I wondered if anyone had visited her there. I don’t know. I guess I never will.

The funeral home’s online notice indicated she’d been buried with no viewing or service. The burial at the cemetery was listed only as “private.” It sounded so bleak…and saddened me to even think she might have been buried with no one there to pay their respects or mourn her. Yes, she had a lot of faults…but she was also someone who’d be there for you if you were in trouble, no questions asked. She once invited Collin and me to move in with her when things weren’t going so well for us after Mom died. In spite of her abrasiveness, she had a good heart…one I always suspected she kept hidden away because it had been broken too many times. 

Shirley, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you at the end. I could say I would have been, had I known…but I found your obituary with no difficulty. I’m sure if I’d made the effort to look, I would have found you….