We go on a lot of family trips. Short and long. Local and far. Travel is one of my “things.” So is planning the aforementioned travel. I almost get a high out of planning our trips; the timing, the lodging, the activities. And I love it (partly) because I also love making lists. And I love crossing our accomplishments off those lists when we’re done.

My parents also enjoyed travel and gave me the opportunity to see a lot of places, with and without them. I’ve been traveling most of my life. I don’t know why I still plan so much, because almost every incredible travel experience I’ve ever had has been the result of something unplanned and not on any list. This was the case for following experience, now one of my favorite memories.

It was June, 2017. We were driving down to the DC area on a family trip. It was the four of us. Kids in the backseat on devices to pass time. Me “helpfully“ navigating. My husband, God love him, clocking all of the time behind the wheel (like always), even though it was Father’s Day.

My husband is a man that loves to stay on a schedule. Anything that takes him off schedule makes him antsy and uncomfortable. Even without a firm deadline in place, he’s always rushing, striving to hit some invisible or unspoken target that I assume he fears will disappear or become elusive should we run behind.

Mindful of this, as we made our way further south, and started to see signs on the highway, I made the off-hand comment about always wanting to visit Gettysburg. I expected a grunt of acknowledgement in return. Instead, he casually shot back “OK, want to go?” Slightly taken aback, I said “Of course.” And we got off at the exit and went for a short visit.

I love history. But even more, I love historical sites. It fills me with a combination of fascination and poignance to be in a place where hundreds or thousands of years ago people have had experiences and touched and used the things you’re looking at. It’s spooky and thrilling and makes me tingly.

I’m not, like, a big Civil War buff, or a battlefield aficionado. But I had learned and read enough about Gettysburg over the years to know how significant it is. It is rich with individual tales that make up its collective history. And while I understand it’s profundity in American history, I wasn’t expecting it to have the impact that it did that day we dropped in.

When I say the visit was impromptu, I mean so last minute and unplanned that we got there about an hour before the park was shutting down. There was nearly *no one* there. We had the place essentially to ourselves.

The feeling at Gettysburg that day, empty, where thousands of people had given their lives, so many for the sake of the continued union of the country, was beyond moving. It felt haunted. It felt spiritual. It felt sacred. Because it is all of those things. And it showed itself to us fully. It was warm but very windy, and it was as if something whispered at us through the grass as it swayed, and we stood quietly among it and looked out over the fields.

Near the end of our visit we were able to walk up to the observation deck inside the Pennsylvania State Memorial and got a breathtaking view of miles all around. I took time to imagine the horror of everything that took place. Even after all I’ve heard and read about it, it was still nearly impossible to look out over this peaceful place and imagine the bloodshed that once happened there.

But yet it wasn’t impossible. Because the reminders were all around us. We breathed and took it all in. We somberly did our best to pay respects. And then we left. Haunted, but gathered and ready for the next leg of our journey. Forever grateful for the one we just had.


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Share your memories!

My son started a new day camp this week and we arrived a little early the first day. We had to wait about 20 minutes to check him in, so I began doing what I frequently do when I’m stuck waiting somewhere unexpectedly: I began to scroll through my Facebook feed.

I wasn’t prepared for it at all when it came up. Like a punch in the gut, there was a picture of my father, exactly one year ago to the day, looking happy, healthy and relaxed, holding a glass of wine. We were out to dinner last August.

“Share your memories!” Facebook urged me. And while I know Facebook really doesn’t mean any harm, I wished it could have at least been a bit more sensitive or gentle with the suggestion considering my dad died in May.

I did exactly what the program wanted me to do. I hit “share.” I noted how I missed him. I moved on with the day. But it occurred to me later that by sharing that memory I didn’t really do his memory, or mine, much justice. And in that realization, it also occurred to me I’ve never really written down the events of the day my father passed. Considering how there is increasingly less and less about my father that I will remember as time goes on, I decided it is time to do so now.

My dad was 88 when he died. He had a number of health issues in his later years, but was not acutely ill with anything leading up to the thing that ultimately did him in: a fall. Falls tend to lead to the demise of many elderly folks. I knew there was a chance my dad would be no different, and my sister and I had urged him for several years to consider modifying his very independent lifestyle to include some interventions that would help prevent falls – or, God forbid – an incident where he was alone and fell ill in his home without anyone there to help, or call 911.

He lived alone and liked it that way. He had a girlfriend in the years after my mother passed whom he would visit with several times a week. He also went to dialysis three times weekly after an open-heart surgery had left him with permanent kidney disease. But, regardless, he was happy on his own and rebuffed our efforts many times to hire an aide or to explore assisted living.

He’d fallen once in the winter already, which lead to a bad gash on the head and stitches. But when he fell a second time on his way out of dialysis in April, although his injuries weren’t severe, he never really recovered, and went downhill from there.

In short term, and then long term rehab, he declined slowly but steadily as we all watched and looked for answers. Confined to a bed or a wheelchair most of each day, instead of healing, he fell more ill, ultimately bringing him back into the hospital where he was mostly asleep during the last week of his life. Doctors told us he had stopped swallowing and we would have to decide if he should have a feeding tube.

We kept a near constant vigil at his bedside. Things looked dire. We weren’t really sure exactly what the problem was – an infection, perhaps, doctors said.

On the final day, Dad was suddenly alert and aware of what was going on. My brother had traveled from out of state to see him and he woke up to acknowledge it. He also seemed interested in where everyone was going. If I’d go to leave the room to use the bathroom or get a drink, he would call out “Where are you going?” I told him I loved him several times that day. He said he loved me, too. I will cling to that forever now.

We thought his sudden alertness meant he was coming out of the fog he’d been in for many days; perhaps an infection was clearing. We weren’t sure. But we were pleased and thought this meant he was turning a corner. I left the hospital that night with plans to bring my children in to see their Grandpa the next day.

Around 9:30, my sister called. She is the person in charge of my father’s health care proxy and dealt with the doctors and nurses most of the time. I could hear her sobbing before she spoke.

“What?!!” I yelled, knowing exactly what was wrong before she even told me.

“He’s gone,” she choked. “His heart went a few minutes ago. They just called me.”

I don’t remember the next few minutes but I know I screamed and swore and cursed myself for having left the hospital – and having left him alone during his last hours. I know my daughter, a nightowl, was still awake and watching TV with my husband and she began crying too. I’m sure my reaction terrified her.

I got in the car to go up and see him in his hospital room. The nurses said they would leave him there for us to visit one final time. The entire drive is a blur.

“I’m so sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry we left,” I sobbed to him when I got there.

My sister and her husband came in and we sat with Dad’s body for about an hour, told him again how much we loved him, and how much we would miss him, and then did the only thing left that we could do; we went home.

I crawled into bed when I got back. My husband was waiting for me, worried. I told him there was no way I would be able to sleep, but I was going to try and lay down for a while.

I felt a cold, hollow sensation radiate throughout my whole torso, like something was missing inside, because it was. My mother had died 11 years earlier, unexpectedly, and the pain I felt at that time was like nothing I had ever felt before.

“I didn’t think anything could hurt as much as when my mom died. But it does,” I told my husband. I felt him nod, lying next to me in the darkness.

I asked him to squeeze my hand as hard as he could.

“Don’t let go,” I kept telling him for the next hour as we began to drift into sleep. “Don’t let go.”

I woke around 6am, surprised I had fallen asleep at all.

My son was awake, sitting in a chair in the living room.

“Grampa Joe is gone,” I said.

“I heard,” he said quietly.

I got him some breakfast, sat down with my laptop and began the inevitable business of letting friends and relatives know the news. As I sent off the first message, I landed in that strange place we all inhabit in the days after we lose people we love. A place where we sometimes forget that person is gone, but where all we have left now are the memories.

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What happened to our village?

Every autumn, my town holds a celebration that includes a parade down main streets to show our local pride. The parade includes kids, parents, community leaders and business owners who march with sports groups, schools and scouting troops. Last year, I marched with my youngest child in a school group. Parents were required to accompany their kid. It was a not a “drop off event,” according to the school’s email with instructions.

As a small group of us gathered at the end of the parade, we noticed one child did not have a parent. We asked her questions “Was her mom with her in the parade?” No, she told us. “Is she coming to get you?” Yes, the girl answered. Other than that, she offered us no other information.

That’s when the tongue clucking and the finger waving began among the group of parents standing around the girl. How could this parent be so irresponsible? Clearly this was the child of a lazy, neglectful mother who did not read the school email instructions. In a matter of minutes, it was decided that we needed get a police officer and report this heinous situation.

“I don’t think we need to involve the police yet,” I said, knowing that doing so would result in, at the very least, a very awkward conversation for the parent to have with the cop. “Let’s wait a bit. It was likely just a misunderstanding.”

But I was solidly in the minority, and the fevered cry to report this monstrous parent and turn the child over to police grew as the minutes ticked by. I continued to suggest we just sit with her and wait for the mom to show up.

“I think you’re giving this parent TOO MUCH CREDIT!!!” one mother barked at me.

Just as the young girl was about to be led by the hand up the street to where a busy police officer was conducting parade traffic, the mother arrived – flustered and embarrassed.

“Thanks, moms, for watching her. There was a mix up with my friend.”

It turns out the girl had, after all, been left to march with a responsible adult – who lost track of her quite by accident.

Relieved, and vindicated, I left, as several of the others stayed behind to continue to talk in hushed, disgusted tones about her.

Shame on you, and you, and you….

While things ended without a police report that day, for many other parents who dare to make a decision that others don’t agree with in this country, things don’t go that well. Like a Texas mother, who recently allowed her six year old outside to play with his older sister. As they played on a bench within view of her house, a “helpful” neighbor took note and decided to intervene. She brought the child home, because she thought he should “be inside” with an adult. The mother was later subjected to a visit from police, as well as one from Child Protective Services, during which they interviewed all of her children and the kids were asked questions ranging from whether or not they were ever abused, to if they had ever been forced to watch pornography.

There is also the case of a Chicago mom who allowed her four year old to sit in her locked, alarm-secured car for five minutes on a mild day while she went in to a store to get him some headphones. The incident was recorded on a smartphone by a bystander –  who then called police on her. The result was a two-year-long court battle, and a criminal charge for the mother.

In the words of an old SNL/Weekend Update bit: Really?

The village has collapsed

Almost 20 years ago, Hillary Clinton published It Takes a Village – a book about the impact and importance of different people on a child’s life – with a title based on an  African proverb. The title soon became common vernacular among parents.

A close friend of mine used to help me out when I was a new mother and would often babysit my oldest child on short notice.

“Thank you so much!” I would always gush. “You did me a huge favor.”

“No problem,” she’d always say. “It takes a village.”

But years later, folks, I’m here to say that the village is gone. Abandoned. The village is now a burned out city block with no green space and an old play set with a creeky swing that hasn’t been used since the Eisenhower administration.

In its place is a subdivision of beautiful, newly constructed homes and a shared playground where middle class mothers gather with lattes to discuss what their kid had for breakfast, and who insist on standing over a four year old while he slides down the slide lest he hurt himself.

Inside these homes, in this new village, is a virtual community of children and teenagers who rarely play with neighbors, but who gather on their Xboxes to shoot and stab each other on Call of Duty.  Meanwhile most have likely never even learned how to use a pocket knife to whittle.

This new village sucks – and it’s boring.

How did we get here?

Parenting was, in the beginning of time, simply a biological extension of the human experience. Then it became necessity to have children as kids were expected to support family and hunt game or work on farms. Now that having children is largely a choice that can be controlled and planned for most parents, we have professionalized and controlled it to the point of insanity – and it’s not doing anyone any good. We are so engrossed in ensuring the most safe, secure and “normal” experience for kids that we cant see beyond our own agenda – and we are hellbent that everyone needs to raise kids the same way that we do. We shame, point fingers and call the police on any parent who might allow their children any version of independence we ourselves are not comfortable with.

I miss the village I grew up in. It was a village where I could run to a neighbors house unannounced after school without a “playdate” arranged in advance. One where I could spend hours in the woods with other kids building forts or skating on ponds, not an adult in sight. Sure, there were inherent risks to what I was doing – there are with anything. But I never felt like I was in danger. In fact, I felt energized and excited about the next thing I might discover out there. These are some of the most cherished memories of my childhood – and ones my own children will likely not be entitled to have themselves.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, where the leash was much longer for kids, I was allowed to do “risky” things all the time. Every time my parents dropped me off at the mall with friends, or allowed me to go out exploring in the woods alone, they took a leap of faith that I’d be safe, and that I was self-sufficent and smart enough to take care of myself for a while. Our kids deserve the same.

So, while I realize we are likely never going back to the days where kids can head out and “come home when the streetlights go on,” could we at least find some happy medium? A village where parents are allowed to make their own risk assessments for their children without being judged by other parents – or reported to authorities?

Let’s rebuild

Can we build a village where your kid can stay inside and watch video games, or spend every waking moment playing little league in pursuit of that Division I scholarship, while mine is allowed to walk to the corner store without a parent, or wander in the woods, without being reported to police?

What if instead of judging one another, or calling the cops anytime we see something we don’t like, we took care of another? Or how about if we started by simply having a conversation? What if instead of tongue clucking and finger wagging, we took the time to ask a parent “Why?” in order to reach some common ground on differing choices?

We wring our hands and lament how much time our children are playing video games and spending in front of screens these days, but it is a culture we have created all on our own by becoming terrified of the world outside – and each other. The risk of stranger abduction is tiny compared to the risk of injury or death in a car accident, but yet we continue to shuttle our kids from hockey to soccer everyday in the car. Why?

Maybe instead of rushing to snap judgements, what if we actually got to know our neighbors? Perhaps then more cases of ACTUAL NEGLECT might be uncovered. Like this case in Blackstone, Massachusetts, where a mother essentially hid two of her children in a house of filth. The children were found neglected and sitting in a pile of their own feces by the time the police were called. Didn’t anyone in the neighborhood know this had been going on for years? How did such an egregious case of neglect slip through the cracks?

Instead, we have case after case where a child in a low-risk situation is reported. The end result of most of these cases is a good parent is shamed (and criminally charged) and a middle class child is “saved” from an almost non-existent threat. Yet truly neglected and abused children living in poverty are ignored every day.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you question the safety of a child, please do a gut check. Is this something you have seen repeatedly? Is this possibly something you’re not comfortable with, but that others might think is just fine? Is this a low risk situation – or is the child truly in immediate danger? Is this something you could reasonably “keep an eye on” for a few weeks before involving authorities (just in case you might be overreacting)? And, for that matter, what do you think will really be gained by involving authorities? Is this REALLY in the best interest of the child? Or are you doing this because it gives you a smug sense of superiority?

Because once you’ve involved authorities, they will be required to follow up and do their own due diligence. This can be frightening and confusing for kids, and embarrassing for parents, at the very least. I’m not saying it’s not necessary to get involved and contact authorities if you think you see something wrong, but does it need to be done THIS TIME? Please ask yourself that – again and again – before you make your next move.

If you were that parent on parade day, and you had asked a trusted friend to march with your kid, and then the worst thing happened – your child was lost for a few minutes – what would you have wanted that group of mothers to do? Would you want to have to explain your situation to police because they assumed your were lazy or neglectful? Or would it have been better to simply retrieve your child, after a simple misunderstanding, from a collection of friendly parents? Please ask yourself that.

I’d like to invite you to help me rebuild our old village. Let’s untether ourselves from the devices and screens and get outside again. Let’s give our kids a chance to experience some freedom and independent playtime without involving the police. Let’s take care of and trust in one another so our children will learn resilience and self-sufficiency. To fall and get up without a parent always standing by to catch. Because every time I read one of these stories about a parent who is “turned in” for what, at most, could be called a questionable choice, I wonder what happened to our sense of community. Why did our village collapse? And the thing I fear most isn’t the unknown, but that our kids have lost their chance to just be children.


Posted in Children, Lessons learned, Parenting, Reality check, This doesn't make sense | Leave a comment

The old person whisperer

Think about some of the things you’re really good at. When people think about you, what do they say? Maybe you’re a great listener. A generous friend. A long-distance runner. Successful career person.

I don’t mean to brag, but my specialty is old people.

Like, I mean, I am really, really good with old people. I can spend hours with them and I guarantee I will still have my sanity intact – while yours is possibly ready to go within five minutes of an old person encounter. I am the old person whisperer and  – damn it – I want it on my gravestone just how good I was with old people during my life because, folks: it. is. no. small. feat.

My old person expertise began at birth. Why? Because I’ve basically been surrounded by old people since the day I was born.  The miraculous story of my blessed birth goes something like this: My mother did not think she was capable of having children at her age and – surprise!!! – at the ripe old age of 41 she had me. The end.

While having a baby in your forties is something every middle-aged woman with some extra time and a good fertility doctor (or very bad birth control) is doing these days, in my mom’s era, it was almost unheard of. Everyone, doctors included, was sure I’d probably come out looking something like Chunk in Goonies.  While the actual outcome (me) is debatable, I lived to tell the tale. And that tale is a life filled with old people.

Having a middle-aged mother also meant having an even more middle-aged dad – one who was pushing 50 by the time I came along. My father’s hair was white long before I was even conceived, prompting most people to confuse him for my grandfather. My mother’s hair was going very gray when she was pregnant, and her stylist (or hairdresser, as my mom called him) begged her to dye it.  Which she did not agree to – as evidenced by the following photo.


While my parents seemed old from the get go, many of my relatives – their brothers and sisters – were even older. Quality family time when my parents needed someone to watch me was often spent with aunts, who would take me to church services or play board games – nary a cousin in sight because they were all teenagers or older, and had gone on to escape into a world not filled with old people.

Sure, I had older siblings who blunted the old person exposure at times. But my older sister was gone to college before I had even finished elementary school. And it was then that I was left alone – to learn the ways of how old people socialize (square dancing club), eat (senior specials at Denny’s) and maintain basic hygiene (my mom used to “set” her hair with curlers and called toothpaste “tooth polish” – something I’ve never quite gotten over).

Over the years, I went to an extraordinarily high number of musical theater shows and spent many weekends going places on tour busses with my parents, and other old people. On Sunday evenings we watched Lawrence Welk and drank black tea with milk.

But the experience I gained from these long years with the elderly means I now have a thorough understanding of old people. I understand what makes them tick. Not a fan of small talk, what I love about old people is they will take you from “Hello, I’m Frances, nice to meet you,” to deep topics within five minutes. Subjects can range from serious health ailments, to their disappointment in their grandchildren, to time spent in an interment camp in Nazi Germany.

“I’m just warning you, there will probably be a lot of old people at this thing,” friends have warned me over the years before bringing me in to a family party or community event.

“Its fine,” I’ll say, waving at them nonchalantly. “Old people are my specialty,” I’ll add, sighing, as I head in, and start right in with Aunt Mildred, who recently had open heart surgery, as if we were old friends.

Of course, the old person I’ve known best over the years is my dad. We lost my mother a decade ago, but my dad keeps going, approaching 90 now.

What’s surprised me a bit is the feistiness he’s developed in his extreme old years. A gentle soul who’s barely ever has a bad word to say about anyone most of his life, in his 80’s, he’s taken to spells of grumpiness lately.

“I think Dad’s lost his filter,” my sister texted me one morning, slightly alarmed, when she was escorting him to a minor day surgery procedure, a common thing for my dad these days. “He just said, really loud to me in the waiting area, ‘Do you see that woman with the long white hair? I HATE long white hair!’”

My sister was mortified and continued to send me increasingly hysterical updates as my dad tired of the aides tending to him that day and then yelled at nurse for wearing too much perfume.

My old people specialty also means I understand that old people, much like children, will only be told what to do up to a certain point. Desperate to assert their independence, they will fight like a dog if you do something that dares to take it from them.  Case in point: the driving issue. At 87, my dad still drives – much to our horror on many days.  Suggesting that he not drive himself will only make him defensive, so I have to very carefully watch how I say things to him.

“So, uh, what’s your plan for getting to dialysis today?” I asked him casually one morning, as a foot of snow came furiously piling down in New England and most of the area was in a state of emergency.

“Oh, I’m just going to drive myself,” he said. “The roads are fine here.”

“Dad! You can’t! Let me call a cab to come get you!” I exclaimed, knowing immediately I had blown it with my alarmed tone.

“It’s fine!” he insisted. “Don’t worry about it.”

I hung up in a panic and began polling Facebook friends up in the same area as Dad for a read on the situation.

“Do not. I repeat: Do not let him go out on those roads,” one friend wrote.

“Shit!” my mind raced, knowing if I called back I was going to have to approach the driving angle in a completely different, non-threatening way, much in the same fashion one approaches a cat before stuffing it in a carrier to take it to the vet.

“Look, Dad,” I said to him a few minutes later. “Um, hey, what if you could skip your appointment with the doctor’s blessing. Would you be willing to skip today?”

“Yeah, I guess I could do that. If they say it’s OK,” he informed me.

Within minutes I had the dialysis clinic on the phone.

“My 80+ year old father, who often does not wear socks with his shoes in winter, is insisting on driving himself over there for this appointment,” I pleaded.

The dialysis people, also wise in the ways of old people, got it immediately.

“It’s OK to skip sometimes,” his nurse told me. “Tell him to stay home and stay warm.”

It was that day that I thanked God once again for giving me the gift of old people expertise. I smiled, happy in my heroics, content in the knowledge that the most important old person in my world would stay out of the storm, sitting under a blanket with the thermostat cranked to 83, drinking tea with milk and watching re-runs of Lawrence Welk on PBS.

Posted in Lessons learned, Old People, Reality check | Leave a comment

House calls

It’s almost fall, and that means colds and other various forms of sickness will start to be a regular occurrence in my home. My kids will make the inevitable trip to the doctors time and time again over the next few months. This is also the time of year when the doctors will remind me to get my children vaccinated for the flu. And one can’t turn around without seeing some new story in a paper or on TV about how dangerous the flu is and how important it is to vaccinate.

I realize this officially puts me in old-lady-mindset territory, but I can’t help but think: When did everything become so deadly? Is it because I’m a mom now and I worry more about my children’s health and mortality than I do my own? Or did viruses suddenly ratchet themselves up a notch to become public enemy number one? Those antibiotic-resistant superbugs aside, sometimes I have a hard time believing things are really that bad.

My mother was a nurse. So if you brought home a sickness in my family it was treated with a matter-of-factness that felt almost reassuring. Instead of feeling scared, I usually felt like things were under control when my mom was in charge. The cold wash cloths for fever, the flat glasses of Coke for an upset stomach; all were administered with an almost business-like calm that made me think being sick was no big deal and feeling better was inevitable.

You could tell my mother three or four symptoms and she’d diagnose you with in seconds. Intestinal bug? Strep throat? Conjuctivitis? She knew almost immediately and quickly began making the arrangements to either get you to the doctors or start treatment at home.

“Well, sounds like you’ve got yourself an ear infection. Let me call the doctor,” her tone so the opposite of unnerving, I sunk into it like a comfortable old chair.

Over the years, I took to diagnosing myself and bringing the details to her for review.

“My throat is sore and I’ve got white patches when I look in with the flashlight. Strep, right?”

“Sure sounds that way. Let’s have a look.”

I loved the affirmation of getting my illnesses right. As if I, too, had some kind of medical degree conferred upon me simply by extension of being her daughter. Her approving nod made me feel smart. Other times, if she didn’t like the sound of my potential ailment, she would practically startle me into feeling better.

“I broke out in hives after eating this Snickers. Do you think I could be allergic to peanuts?” I once asked her.

“Allergic to peanuts?! Well, I hope to god you’re not! That is a HELL of an allergy to deal with! You literally won’t be able to eat anything. There are peanuts in every damn food there is.”

And then there was the morning I felt tired and achy and tried to diagnose myself with mononucleosis.

“I feel like I’m doing to die. I think it’s mono,” I told her, hoping it would mean I could get out of school.

“Mono?!” she gasped. “You better pray to the Holy Father you DON’T have mono. Let me tell you: If you have mono, in a few days you’ll feel so bad you’ll wish you WERE dead. It’s THAT goddamned bad. Now get up.”

As time went on and I went to college, I took to calling her up for diagnoses for friends, too. A dorm mate’s mystery rash. Another friend’s bladder infection. She was almost always spot on in her assessments — even from afar.

“Tell her to go to the infirmary and get an antibiotic. It should help within a few hours.”

Calm, steady reassurance: I loved it and so did my friends. What was better, was my inquiries could be made at almost all hours of the day and night. At midnight, my parents were still up, drinking heavily-caffeinated cups of black tea and watching Johnny Carson. I could put in a call for review on someone’s pink-eye at 1:00 am and she would hardly even notice the time.

“Hey, Honey!” she’d answer brightly, her Massachusetts accent heavy. “What’s up?” she’d ask, as she’d settle in to devour every detail, David Letterman just getting started in the background.

The only times that were really off-limits for medical calls were the hours between about 2am to 6am– unless of course it was an emergency. Like the time I thought I had tapeworm, for instance.

“I’m literally starving all the time,” I told her at 2:30am. “But, I haven’t gained an ounce.”

“Well,” she sighed, obviously annoyed at having been woken. “Have you been eating trash?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, have you been digging in the garbage and eating rotten, raw meat? Because those would be the only circumstances under which I could imagine a person would have tapeworm in this country. At least in this day and age,” she said, as I seethed on the other end about her complete lack of concern.

“Trying adding more protein to your diet,” she offered right before we hung up.

When my mother was 70 years old, she retired, finally, after 45 years of working in various roles as a nurse and health care expert. She walked the track with my father every day, she went on lots of group vacations with other senior citizens, and she got her first flu shot, as the doctor’s recommend for people over 60.

Within days after receiving that flu shot, she developed a condition called pericarditis; an inflammation around the heart. And within a few weeks, her body was so swollen with fluid that she could barely walk around her small kitchen without feeling nauseous from lack of oxygen. By the following summer, she was dead.

Whether her condition was triggered by a reaction to the flu vaccination has never been confirmed. She had been through chemotherapy several years earlier, and some of the doctors who treated her thought perhaps her heart was weakened by the chemo, which may have lead to the swelling. No one would ever confirm outright that the vaccination was a factor. To this day, I am not sure if it was either. But the idea of it haunts me.

What also troubles me was the way things went down in the end. For some reason, my mother was told by our family doctor that she could not get an appointment for several weeks. She, being of her generation, didn’t push it. She stayed home and suffered and waited. But this time, it was a big deal. She was very, very sick. And I can only imagine the damage that was done to her body as she waited for medical attention. In fact, it was two months of waiting before she finally collapsed in her home and was taken to the hospital.

I want to go back to that time and ask myself what I was thinking. Why wasn’t I pushing her to get in to a doctor? To go to an ER? To do any of the things I would insist on for my own children if they were so very sick, as she had been. This time, she could not offer me calm, reassurance that all would be OK. And for reasons I still cannot grasp, those of us who loved her seemed paralyzed, too ignorant, or perhaps in my own instance, too self-absorbed, to intervene.

So, every flu season, I struggle. I know how bad, even deadly, the flu can be. But, as you can see: I am tortured not only by the possibilities of what might happen if I don’t vaccinate, but also by the idea of how much I stand to lose if I do.

*Author’s note: I wrote this piece in 2008. Since that time, I have changed my feelings about the flu vaccine. While all vaccines hold some level of risk, after a near-fatal episode of pneumonia in 2012, which was triggered by the flu, I have decided that the benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to the flu shot. My family and I now all receive annual flu shots.  I realize many who may read this will be anti-vaccine and I appreciate and respect your opinion, but this is the right approach for me and my family. Thank you.

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The kid who got hit by a car, part 2: Kermit comes home

Last week, I gave you all the details, as best as I could recall, about the time I was hit by a car at age 6.  It is, for better and for worse, a defining moment in my life, and one that will always be a big part of me.

I mentioned that the incident occurred while I was waiting for the bus and was caused by something so innocent; something that is one of the ultimate symbols of the childhood school years – a lunch box.  It was a Muppets lunch box, with a picture of Kermit the Frog on the front and its own flip-top thermos. I was devastated to lose it when I was hit by the car. I never saw it again after the accident.

Until today.

A package was delivered to my front door this morning.  I order a lot of things online, so I opened it, expecting to see the usual shipment of vitamins or hair products.  When I cut open the top, I saw it was a gift.  A blue box, with a note on top.

It read “Joan, We can’t take away the memory, but we can make sure Kermit is right where he belongs.”

I opened the box to find this:


Of course, the minute I saw it, I gasped. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That very lunchbox. That very piece of my childhood that had led me to make one of the biggest mistakes of my life was once again right there – right in front of me. I teared up.

The hard-metal feel of the old-style lunchbox sent a wave of nostalgia over me. Then I opened it. And this is what really got me. This little bastard, right here:

Kermit thermos

Yup, the thermos.

I remember every detail about that thermos like it was yesterday. God! Do they still make lunchbox sets with a cool thermos? Because this thermos is epitome of awesome.

That’s when I really lost it.

“It’s exactly the same!!” I cried out – to no one, because I was alone in the house.

Here is another beauty shot. The other side has the cast of the Muppet Show – one of my absolute favorite shows growing up:

Muppets lunchbox

It turns out, the lunchbox, possibly the coolest present I have ever received, is a gift from Jeniene, an old friend of mine who I went to grad school with at Northwestern. She had sent it after reading my blog post last week.

I sent her a note to let her know how touched I was at the gift, and how emotional seeing it had made me.

“I totally get it,” she wrote back. “I only wish I could have put tomato soup in the thermos and a pb & j sandwich in the lunchbox.”

Like Jeniene notes, I can never take away what happened to me that day I was hit by the car. None of us can erase what has happened to us in our journey through life, and that’s OK. We often learn from the bad times.  I spent about 5 months healing from that accident. I missed almost half of the second grade. It’s time I’ll never get back, but that’s life.

We all know we can never be children again. Only once you’ve become an adult do you learn how good you once had it as a kid. We get older, and childhood is lost to us. On occasion, through memories, items, glimpses of innocence we see in our own kids, we get pieces of it back. I did today. The incredible gesture of a sweet friend made it happen.

Kermit thermos and lunchbox

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The kid who got hit by a car

I’ve got many friends who I’ve been tight with for over 30 years. I’ve always considered myself a good friend in that I’m pretty faithful about staying in touch with those who have meant a lot to me in life. With these people, I’ve built many great memories over the years and the depths of our relationships have many layers.

But let’s say you’re someone I knew when I was a kid, growing up in the small New England town I called home for the first 18 years of my life.  If you meet someone who knew me 30+ years ago, and mention my name, the exchange will likely go something like this:

“Oh yes! I knew her. Isn’t she the girl who was hit by a car?’

Yes, that’s me. The kid who was hit by a car. At the tender age of six, I walked out into the street – eschewing all of the usual adult advice to “always look both ways” – and was promptly creamed by a car coming down the road at about 45 miles an hour.

Since that incident, it has become one of the defining moments of my life, whether I want it to be or not. It is my legacy in the town where I used to live and with the people I grew up with. I will forever be remembered by many as “The kid who was hit by the car.”

Here’s the story: It was 1980. I was in the first few weeks of second grade. I used to get on the bus about five or six houses up the street from where I lived. It’s where my friends lived. Even though it was only a short walk, I was lazy (Ha! And we say kids these days are the first to ignore physical fitness) and, so, my dad would drive me the thirty seconds up the street, drop me, and go on his way to work.

That day, I didn’t cross over to the other side where the friends were standing right away. I have no recollection of why I did this. Some dumb kids game, or tiff, I guess. But I had a new lunchbox.  It was the kind that came with its own thermos. It had a picture of Kermit the Frog on it. I was very proud. One of the other kids standing at the stop called over to me to come and show  it off. It was then that I proceed to run right across with out any thought for the fact that the car was coming right at me.

Suddenly, things happened in slow motion. It was like watching a slowed-down movie. I saw the car coming at me. After that, I heard myself scream, blackness and the sound of what was like the swish of an ocean wave as it recedes back off of the shore.  And then, I was out. Unconscious for I don’t know how long.

When I awoke, I saw my mother running up the street in her bathrobe. Chaos. Then an ambulance.  And pain – which goes without saying.  I remember being told repeatedly not to fall asleep by the EMTs.

“Stay with us, honey. Stay awake.” They would tell me, over and over again, in the ambulance on the way to the ER. My mind kept going back to the Kermit lunch box. Lost forever, I assumed. Bad day turned even worse.

In the ER, as people rushed around me to stabilize my condition, my father, the calmest and most unnerved person I have ever known, fainted.  Again, I was in excruciating pain and shock. But if I’d had the language skills at the time to verbalize it, that’s when my six-year-old self would have said “Oh my god. Dad fainted? Shit just got real.”

The damage was a fractured femur, broken in seven spots.  For days I was also monitored for any lingering effects of a head injury.  Fortunately, there were none. Although many people who know me now might like to debate that.

I stayed about two months in the hospital while my leg healed in traction. After that there were another two months at home in an almost full-body cast that came up to my ribs. But the experience, in my six-year-old state of mind, turned out to be an overall positive one. There were visits, and presents and nurses who were regulars on the pediatric floor who became my friends.  I actually enjoyed myself. I celebrated my 7th birthday in the hospital and had a small party. I’ve always believed all of the attention showered on me during this time is directly responsible for my inflated sense of self worth today.

What I was left with after months of convalescence and rehabilitation was simply a scar – a dimpled indentation on either side of my left knee, still visible today. I had become not just the kid who was hit by a car, but the kid who was hit by a car, and survived.

Bad ass, right? But no. Not really. As I got older, it became obvious those scars were not only external.  I had a minor surgery on my wrist four years later that required me to go under anesthesia. My mother told me as I woke from the medication, she heard me say things that were an obvious recall of the trauma from the ER during the accident.

Me, just months before the accident. Still fearless and ready to frolick around cars of all kinds. Today, not so much.

Me, just months before the accident. Still fearless and ready to frolick around cars of all kinds. Today, not so much.

That was about it though for many years – until I had my own kids. I didn’t really realize how much I’d been impacted until I became a mother.  That’s when I became what my husband likes to affectionately refer to as “bat shit crazy” when it came to cars, parking lots and streets. Basically anything that involves being around vehicles that weigh several tons and can kill you in an instant upon impact.

When I think back on the car hitting me now, I recall it much more acutely. The image I have in my mind, that little toe-headed blonde girl, jumping out into the street without a care in the world, now makes me borderline nauseous because I immediately draw parallels to my own children.  The idea of standing over them in an ER, as my parents did, watching them go through the kind of frantic, life-saving measures I did, sometimes brings me to tears.  My poor parents. I can only now fathom their fear that day.

What this translates into is a mad woman who still makes her 8 year old hold her hand in even the least threatening parking lots.  My 5 year old can essentially expect to hold my hand until she enters college, because she’s the baby, and I am even more protective of her.

“Does everyone have a hand? EVERYONE??!! MY HAND, PLEASE!!! HELLO??” I will scream, oblivious to stares and curiosity about what the hell my damage is.

When it comes to bike riding, I still insist on packing the bikes into the back of the car and bringing my kids to empty parking lots to ride, even though most of the length of our street has sidewalks. I will insist everyone “stop and wait, please” when almost every car drives by.

Over the years I have treated my children to enough lectures on the dangers of cars that would give a driving instructor a run for his money.  I repeatedly warn them about cars that are backing up that may not see them, or potentially intoxicated drivers who make mistakes behind the wheel, and, of course, natures most evil and destructive motor vehicle threat: The elderly driver.

“If you see an old person behind the wheel, get away,” I will instruct them, over and over. “Don’t expect ANY car to see you. Always be on your own defense.”

My husband silently tolerates this, but I know he thinks I’m too cautious. I don’t care.  Like I said, it’s a scar. Scars may fade, but they don’t go away.

If you think I’m being extreme, I don’t give a flip. And I suspect it’s an attitude I’ll hold for the rest of my life. Because that’s me; I’m the kid who was hit by a car, and survived, who then became a mom.  I know a thing or two, and I’ll do anything I can to make sure history never repeats itself.

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My father: The opposite of a Tiger Mom

Last Sunday, I ran 11 miles – a feat I never thought possible given my extreme hatred of running, coupled with my complete inability to do it with any finesse or skill. Yet when I made it to the finish line, despite how slow I was, I felt like I had accomplished something huge – particularly because it required perseverance. Like running, that’s not always my strong suit.

This Sunday, a mere week later, I hosted a “double playdate” at my house. In other words, I have two children, and each were allowed to have a friend over for several hours.  The amount of energy I exerted during this time felt like 16 times what I put out during last week’s 11 mile run.  The vigilance, the refereeing of arguments, the reminders to “stop doing that” – all take a lot out of a person. But even more so, for me, it’s the pleasing.  The seemingly endless requests – juice boxes, snacks, popsicles, assistance with the sprinkler. Each one brings me running like a waitress aiming to satisfy.

“Another juice box, sir? Coming right up!” I say as I run into the house so fun can continue to be had without a moment’s disruption.

“Your pizza’s still too hot? Here, let me help cool it,” I’ll insist, standing over them while I blow on it, or better yet, wave at it with a towel.

Maybe it’s all those years I waited tables in high school and college at Friendly’s, but I can’t help but to hop-to for every child’s request.  Better to please than the alternative –  although I never wait long enough to find out what that might be.

I like to think – actually I know – I get this from my father. He’s always been a pleaser, too.  Although, with Dad, it likely comes from a deeper, more altruistic, desire to help people. I’m just trying to stem any possibility of tears.

Growing up, my father was always a gentle soul. An elementary school principal the children loved, a dedicated churchgoer and Sunday School teacher, the person in town who sat on any board or committee he was asked to serve on, and there were many.

And then at home he was the father everyone wished they had. Warm, fun, plenty of time to spend playing with his kids and coaching their sports teams.  Offering rides to anybody and anyone who needed one after school dances and outings at the local ski area. A fantastic dad all around. In fact, sometimes, a bit too good…..

I have memories of late-night homework sessions, advanced-levels of algebra bringing me to tears at the kitchen table as he attempted to work it out with me.

“Why don’t you let me work on these and you go and get yourself some rest,” he’d say, gently, as I’d slink off to bed, exhausted and happy to be free of the effort. The next day, I’d turn in HIS work and promptly fail all of the tests, of course.

By the time I reached senior year of high school, I was in advanced placement English courses, and my math classes were practically remedial level.  I hardly cared at the time, but there were many times over the years as an adult when I’d occasionally resent my father for letting me off the hook on the things I had no interest in pursuing in my teens. He thought he was helping, but I began to see it as a failing – a weakness that he hadn’t forced me to power through the tough stuff – like the complicated mathematical equations that I loathed.

As I’ve grown into my parenting role, I see these characteristics in myself now. My oldest, only 8, and already saddled with what I see is too much homework, often develops tears during math homework he doesn’t “get.”  I try hard to not let him off the hook, as I was, but I have to admit there are times when I do. The antithesis of the Tiger Mother, I just can’t see the point of forcing the child to spend any more than 20 minutes or so struggling with an assignment, or anything else he hates. Especially if my patience, too, pays the price.

I guess in some ways I’m selling my kids short, as maybe my father did me, by allowing me some sanity over perfection, or, even just mere accomplishment, at times. But, my experience in adulthood has been one finds their own way to success with what captures your interest, with what YOU want to do.

There’s the old cliché about “Find what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s pretty true.   I’m not saying every day of my career has been perfect, but I’ve generally always enjoyed what I do, because I was allowed to figure it out on my own – as opposed to being forced into anything I “had to do.”

My children are both still very young, and we have many years of school ahead of us until they grow into young adults with some slight idea of where their strengths lie, where their weaknesses exist.  I’m hoping on those tough nights ahead, when I cut them some slack and tell them to go to bed and forget the homework, that they’ll sleep peacefully – confidently –  as I did, resting secure in the knowledge that the best father in the world was quietly working out my math homework, praying only that he was doing the best he could for his daughter.

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Refusing to resort to small talk about big topics

A little over a week ago, my son and I were down the street from where the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon. We were not at the finish line, or anywhere close to the explosions at the time. But we were caught in a chaotic and scary situation in the city during the aftermath – an experience I blogged about here.

The panic I felt that day, and the days after, as police tried to figure out who did this, then figured it out, then took down and captured the people who did it, was a collective, emotional, draining experience for everyone in Massachusetts – perhaps even for the entire nation.  So, it came as a bit of a surprise to me when, on Monday, after my son, who is in second grade, returned to school after a week of vacation, to learn that the bombings were not being discussed at all.

“Did you all have a talk about the bombing in class today?” I asked him seriously when he got home on Monday.

“No. Why would we?” he said.

“Well, because it’s a really big deal. You and I were actually right near by, as I’m sure others in your school were, too. I figured it would be something the school might want to discuss with you, and your class, in an age-appropriate manner,” is what I wanted to say back. But I just kept my mouth shut instead  – and got pissed.

This afternoon, I received this note from my daughter’s daycare.

“Several of our students have been talking about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, both with teachers and other children. When the subject comes up, we try and address the child’s concerns privately so that children who are unaware of the bombing remain that way. Many of the children (sic) are aware of what took place, however, and a few were actually at or near the finish line when the bombs went off.”

This is how close to home this incident hit for us.  As the note points out: “a few (children) were actually at or near the finish line when the bombs went off.” In other words: In our small town alone, my son and I are far from the only ones that experienced what we did that day. It was a life-alerting experience. Which is why, to me, there is no “unaware of the bombings.” I can’t imagine living in a home in this state where you nurture that kind of environment.

I know up to a certain age, there are things kids cannot understand or grasp. But it’s never been my style to pretend things are not as they really are in order to avoid an uncomfortable topic with my kid. What kind of a service are we doing for them in doing this?

There are few things that are “off the table” for conversation in my house when it comes to talking to my children. This has included, in recent days, the marathon bombings. In the last few years, it has also included speaking openly about the two difficult miscarriages I had in 2012, answering questions about good friends who have cancer, being honest about my grief regarding my mother’s death, explaining my feelings about religion, and being open about my unabashed support for gay rights and same sex marriage. We have many gay friends we spend time with, why the hell should I avoid talking about this like there is an elephant in the room? My kids have now gone from being curious about same sex relationships, to a slight period of amusement, to now not giving a shit – exactly as it should be, as far as I’m concerned.

I realize I am not in the majority in the way I feel. Maybe I’m assuming my kids can take on topics with me like an adult – which they are not. But I just hate pretending things are not what they are. Like many of you, I was in pieces after Newtown last year. I picked my daughter up from daycare that day and could barely speak to her teacher due to my grief and horror over what was happening in Connecticut. Forgive me if I couldn’t pull it together and sing “Wheels on the Bus” ten minutes later like life was OK. My son came home on the bus, blessedly, oblivious that afternoon. But my mood changed that quickly.

I’ve gotten some negative comments and email over the last few years because of this blog. And I’m sure as the result of this I’ll get a few more barbs. But, the fact of the matter is, I hate small talk. I always have. And that includes with my children. I simply can’t stand to make small talk in my own living room with the people I love more than anything else in the world.

I believe all topics need to be approached in an age-appropriate manner. But I refuse to believe I’m doing them a disservice by avoiding tough subjects. Do you?

I welcome your input.

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Panic, fear and the unknown: My experience in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings

It is an incredibly horrible day here in Massachusetts. Two bombs went off within seconds of one another near the finish line of the Boston Marathon today. I was in the city during the event.  As a journalist, I feel obligated to chronicle my experience while it’s still fresh.

This particular day is Marathon Monday – an annual event when thousands of runners make the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston in what is possibly the most famous marathon in the world. It is also a holiday unique to my state called Patriots Day, so the state’s children have the day off of school. Many adults have the day off of work.

My son and I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park this morning. The game was packed. It was a great game. The temperatures were a bit chilly, but the sun was bright, the sky clear and the Red Sox won.

After the game was over a bit past two o’clock, my son and I headed to a train station near Fenway called Yawkey Station. Yawkey has intermittent service. I was not expecting the commuter train we took to the city from my suburban home to drop us at Yawkey this morning, because the stop was not on the schedule. I had planned to go to South Station, one of two large train hubs in the city, and was going to catch another train to Fenway. But the conductor told all who boarded this morning that we would stop there because it was a game day.  So my son and I headed back to Yawkey Station immediately after the game to see if there would be a special “game day” pick up as well. After we learned there was not, we decided to walk up to Back Bay station to catch the next train out. I also figured we would walk along the finish-line area of the marathon and I would share the experience with my son of watching people run in after just achieving a major life accomplishment.

We walked out of the Kenmore Square area onto Beacon Street where the runners were going by. My son and I stopped to talk with people cheering along the edge. I asked one man how much farther up the finish line was from there and he said it was about another ¾ mile. The runners were very near the end and the finish line very close.

We cheered for a bit and then started heading further east up toward Copley Square and Back Bay Station.  I started noticing people crying, clearly very emotionally distraught. I also heard several people, frantic, speaking to a police officer about locating runners. Having never actually been in Boston proper itself for the marathon before, I chalked it up to typical, near-the-finish-line stuff for the area.

Then my phone rang. It showed it was my husband. I tried to pick it up and heard nothing. I began to try and call him back. I tried twice and nothing went through.

In the middle of this, a man ran up to me, panicked and frantic.

“Can you make a phone call for me?”

“I would, but it’s not working. The phone seems not to connect,” I told him.

He said nothing in response to me and immediately ran off. I figured this was more end of marathon stuff.

I text my husband. “Phone won’t go through. What’s up?”

“Stay away from the marathon. Two bomb blast,” he texted back.

“Oh my god! Where? That’s where we are,” I told him.

“Marathon Sports blown up,” he wrote back.

At that point, the chaos began. Everyone around me had begun to be aware of what was happening with their own smartphones. The news was coming in. Also, more people who had been up where the explosions took place had begun to make it to the area where we were standing and spreading the word.

“Let’s go back this way,” I said to my son, and grabbed his hand, trying to hurry him back toward Fenway.

I began to realize the panic and fear in the crowd around me. It may have been that way for several minutes already, but not knowing what was going on, I didn’t realize the situation I was in until just then. The numbers thickened around us as people were pushed westward, away from the blasts, and the crowd got scary. No one was out of control or uncivil, but the thickness and general chaos began to concern me.

I can’t say “I’ve never been more scared in my life,” because I was not. Frankly, I’ve felt more panicked over the last few years in the brief moments when one of my children has gone out of sight for too long. Instead, the emotions I experienced were more of what I’d describe as desperation and confusion.

Within minutes of finding out what was going on, we were fighting the crowds to get away from Copley, and roads were being closed off all around me. The very road we used to get where we were was already closed/shut down.  A huge crowd of people suddenly came at me from that direction, telling me, and many others around me, to turn back because we could not go that way to Kenmore.

“Why?” I asked.

No one was sure.

I saw a police officer fielding questions from concerned people. Many obviously desperate to find loved ones and runners.

“Unfortunately you can’t go back up that way now,” he indicated about Copley. “It is just very messed up in that area now. Do not head up there.”

I began to have visions of being trapped in the middle of some street with an agitated crowd for hours. Earlier in the day, a food vendor at Fenway had offered me a free bottle of water and I had politely declined because I didn’t want to carry it around in my backpack. It was an absurd memory that ran over and over again in my mind as I began to wonder if saying no would be a decision I’d soon regret if I found myself, with my young son, stuck in the middle of the city.

Eventually, I followed some people into a smaller, almost alley-like road behind some buildings, and we found an alternative way into Kenmore Square.

My next instinct was to hide. I wanted to get out of the chaos.  I have both covered and read about many crime scenes and tragedies over the years. One thing that always sticks out at me is the injuries and deaths that have occurred in history simply from crowd panic and unruliness. That was all I could think about. I wanted to remove myself, and my son, from it as soon as possible.

We headed back to the Yawkey train platform, for lack of anywhere else to go. I figured at the very least we would pray the trains were still running and stand there and wait for a train for as long as it took. I had no idea how long that would be. There were many people already standing there, including many who had just run in the marathon, with the same panicked faces and hope to flee the city quickly.

At that point, my iPhone became my lifeline. I kept in touch with my husband about any train updates. I spoke to friends on Facebook and via text who offered information where they could. And then we waited and waited and waited.

During the time we waited, the number of people on the platform went from about 50 to in the hundreds. People with all kinds of stories about where they had been, what they had seen, what they were hearing.

During our wait, details developed. At one point I heard there were more explosions around the city and in neighboring Cambridge – reports that turned out to be untrue. I stood there with a real taste of fear rising in my throat as I wondered if Kenmore, one of the most popular and busy sections of the city on this day, would be the next target. Over all, it was the fear of the unknown and not knowing what was really happening, and when we would be able to leave, that was the worst part of it.

Eventually a train came by. It was headed in to the city. At that point, the wait had been so long, and people so worried, that many contemplated boarding it just to be able to claim a seat – even though the train was going in the wrong direction and was actually headed INTO the city – into the chaos. A conductor, obviously anticipating the panic, came out and explained it would be OK. A train coming to take us out to the suburbs would be coming in about an hour.

And it did come. And, again, fighting thick, scared crowds of people, we got on. I sat down and let out a long breath. Almost immediately I felt the need to throw up, which I assume was just a natural response to intense stress relief.

We got home in a little over an hour. My husband picked us up at the commuter train station and was crying. My 4-year-old daughter was oblivious to the drama and smiled happily at me from the back seat.

“You won’t believe it when you see the images on TV,” my husband said as we drove home.

That’s just my tiny, little slice of the experience on this horribly dark day. Nothing compared to what so many others went through. There were three casualties and close to 200 others injured by the blasts. One death was an 8-year-old boy. My son is an 8-year-old boy and the thought of what the family of that little by who died is going through is too much.

Life is fragile. And it changes, sometimes in the worst ways, when you least expect. It’s cliché, but true.

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