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It’s day number five in the chair and I’ve already had enough.

Enough with the nest I made in the corner of the sectional. Enough with showering in a chair, even if it is a fancy teak bench. Enough with being confined to two rooms at the back of the house because there’s an inch and a half step into the kitchen. Enough of being dependent on Bob for literally everything… otoh I’m so glad he’s holding up!

IF I wanted to be grateful, and I do WANT to be, I’d write about the weather. This is that short heavenly time in the South – the time when it’s almost like being in California. Almost. Temps are in the 70-80s with low humidity and very few bugs. Bob helps me haul myself out to the zero gravity chair in the backyard and all the pain melts away under a beautiful blue sky while I get 15 minutes of vitamin D.

Ms Bean lies beneath the lavender hedge to keep me company.

I’d write about my daughter, who stops in nearly every day and arranged for a yoga teacher to give me my very own chair-yoga-practice. I’m definitely grateful to her for schlepping the grandkids and my emergency back-up emotional support French Bulldog with her. Even the Groom visits when she’s working. It’s good to have three docs in the family.

I’m very grateful to my family and friends, to everyone who called, texted and emailed. For bringing us Vietnamese food and wine. For having a clear-out-the fridge dinner before we were supposed to leave for Italy. And speaking of Italy; a big thank you to our friends for keeping us in the loop. Every day we get a pic or a text from the gang, who I will now dubb “The Italian Job” after a movie from 2003.

“The Italian Job is simple. An explosive guy, a safe-cracker, a computer genius, a wheel-man and a man with a spectacular plan of stealing 35 Million in gold bars.”

I loved that movie! OUR Italian Job includes an educational administrator, an educator, a lawyer, an engineer and a public health official who plan on enjoying their tour with Marco and Claudio and their truffle sniffing dog. Maybe they will buy some gold for their wives? Or maybe the wives will buy them something, or they will send big crates of red wine and cheese home?

I’m already planning the next soiree.

The biggest thanks goes to Bob for putting up with my, “Honey could you do me a favor” queries every few hours minutes. But while we’re all wondering just what Mr T was doing with his cohorts on his golf course in NJ, I’ve been putting the Love Bug to work. My wheelchair can’t fit into the new MBR closet, so I asked her to finish gilding my plain wooden full length mirror. I’ve never owned a full length mirror, and now I can’t even see myself in it, which is just as well.

Because as I’m writing this at the game table in the family room since I also can’t fit into the Snug, I can see that my gratitude is outweighing my grief.

My Golden Girl

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Today I wore my airplane travel outfit and stayed home – comfy Eileen Fisher sweats and my new lilac shearling Berks.

Today is the day we were supposed to meet up with our friends in Viareggio, Italy and cook together and laugh together and visit wineries and flower markets and you get the picture.

Instead, Bob ordered a wheelchair and a walker and we sat around without wifi because Google Fiber was down.

Another old school thing I did was reread Mary Laura Philpot’s book “Bomb Shelter.” It has served me well over the past year. She was writing about people who have nothing better to do than criticize perfect strangers. Some woman at a book conference told her no one would take her seriously if she dressed “that way.”

How was she dressed? She had on a colorful fuzzy patterned skirt.

It reminded me of meeting someone outside in a tent on the Navesink River. It was a fancy fundraiser for something and I was introduced as the local columnist . This older woman with a ponytail and a big bow at the nape of her neck said, “So THAT’S you claim to fame!” Then she turned away and took another sip of Chardonnay.

I wish I had a list of snappy rebuttals. I should have said, “Honestly Bunny, where do you buy your ribbons?” Or “Well aren’t you a rude bitch?” and walked away. Instead I swallowed my pride because like Philpot, I desperately wanted to be taken seriously.

Women get a bad rap. We need to smile. We need to be caretakers and selfless, humble human beings. We are expected to wear makeup and dress a certain way. That is what my generation was taught. But what we really need to be is cheerleaders for each other. We should be passing on the light, encouraging our sisters to reach farther, to climb our very own ladders of success.

We told our daughters that anything was possible, and then after 49 years of settled precedent, Roe was defeated.

And I fell off a tiny ladder and it turns out it was worse than I could have imagined and I kept walking and stretching and pushing until I couldn’t walk anymore. It serves me right, thinking pure willpower would fix a broken bone. So now I have two! The doctor told me to “shut it down,” no more walking. Rest.

I’m taking myself seriously now. I’m listening to my orthopedic doctor and I’ll sit in a wheelchair for awhile. But today the Queen died.

I thought about her life and her Corgis and how people always took her seriously. It just came with the job. I’d watched every single episode of the Crown; her legacy of selfless devotion to her people seems archaic today. But I adored her. I’m sure she was thrilled that Harry and Meghan named their daughter after her. She was the same age as Great Grandma Ada when she died.

My MIL Adala who wrote a thesis about using humor in therapy. Who studied to become a clown. I’d rather be a cheerleader than a critic in this one life we get to live.

Wouldn’t you?

My last stand

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I’m standing on both feet now and trying to walk normally. After nearly a month of favoring one side over the other, the pain has shifted to my better half. Why does this happen? It’s called compensation.

It’s as if every other part of your body has been on hold for a month, and now, just now that you’re throwing away the crutches, the rest of your body gets to complain:

“You think swinging one leg around all scrunched up with your weight on your hands and your back all twisted felt fine? Now we’ll show you!”

It’s like the letdown headache. We suffer through whatever stressful thing we have going on, and afterwards the ball drops. At least it feels like a heavy ball dropped on your head. Even the common cold can somehow be set on the back burner until we finish our exams at school. This sort of thing happened a lot with me, which is why the whole “body/mind” connection always made sense. The dancer in me never lost touch with my own proprioception. Until now.

That is – our ability to sense where we are in space. Unlike other senses, proprioception is difficult to measure. We know when we need reading glasses, or if our hearing is diminished, but nobody actually thinks about how we move from A to B. The Cambridge Dictionary defines proprioception as :”the process in which nerve endings in the muscles and joints are stimulated (= made to operate) when the body moves, so that a person is aware of their body’s position.”

This sense becomes abundantly clear if God forbid you’ve had a stroke. Like Bob’s cerebellar incident during his spine surgery years ago. Today he’s better climbing ladders than I am. But unless you’ve tried rappelling down from the ceiling in an adventure movie while lasers are flashing all around at odd angles, you’re probably blissfully unaware of proprioception.

In fact, I’m reading an excellent book on perception in animals – “An Immense World, How Animal Senses Reveal the World Around Us,” by Ed Yong. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism in science. If you need to rotate some nonfiction into your bedside stack of books, I highly recommend this brilliant read.

“Thinking expansively would help us realize that nature’s true wonders aren’t limited to a remote wilderness or other sublime landscape — what Yong calls “otherworldly magnificence.” There is as much grandeur in the soil of a backyard garden as there is in the canyons of Zion. Recognizing the breadth of this immense world should spur in us a sense of humility. We just need to get over ourselves first.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/22/books/review-immense-world-animal-senses-ed-yong.html

His book begins with an elephant in a room… an actual elephant… along with some other animals and bugs.

The truth is, we all walk around, or limp or roll around, in our very own sensory bubble. We may not be attuned to the earth’s magnetic fields like some turtles, and we may insist on lighting up the planet at night, despite sending the wrong visual cues to nocturnal animals. But after my little bunk bed mishap, my other senses have been over-compensating. In slowing down, in sitting with my emotions and my broken pelvis my bubble has expanded; from the luxurious feel of cashmere yarn through my fingers while knitting, to the sound of a cardinal right outside my snug’s window.

I’ve become humbled by the kindness of strangers. People have been willing to hold doors, or reach for something when they see me struggle. After meeting with my wonderful Physical Therapist Jen yesterday, I realized I’d forgotten how to walk properly. And so I’m working on my own proprioception, trying not to think about walking so much… because when I think about tightening my core, and shoulders down, and heel down, and head up I tend to walk like a robot.

Now I just need to get out of my own way!

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It’s opening night for my granddaughter’s middle school musical!

Y’all know I’m an old song and dance girl. Before I danced in my high school’s version of “Oklahoma,” I played the lead in “Camelot” at Camp St Joseph for Girls. I had to sing “If Ever I Would Leave You” in tights and a pillowcase and I must say I killed it.

My star kept rising with “The Music Man” and ascended to new heights when I played Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls.” Even if Bob (who played Nathan Detroit) and I were fighting one day, you know like if he may have not wanted to go to the Junior Prom or some such nonsense, we were professional enough to carry on with the show! The very first show tune I taught the two year old Love Bug was “A Bushel and a Peck.” We even had a dance number – if only we had had TikTok.

The Bug’s Mother is another story. The Flapper hung a tiny pair of ballet slippers over her crib when she was born in the hospital. Sounds like a fairy tale right? My Mother didn’t let a car accident stop her from dancing and by God, her new granddaughter would trip the boards like Terpsichore. And of course, dancing in the Berkshire Ballet’s “Nutcracker” would become our mother-daughter Christmas-Hunakkah tradition. Until…

One day the Bride announced in a letter that she no longer had the time to take ballet lessons. She was about the Bug’s age then, and too busy with school and horseback riding. I had to respect her wishes but I’m sure she knew my heart was a little broken. Little did we know that the Rocker would become the performer; maybe I should have taken him to tap classes instead of hockey practice!

Tonight my Bug will be playing an Oompa Loompa and I will be sitting front row center proud as a peacock! Will she catch Broadway fever from her first bit part in Willy Wonka? When she looks out at the audience tonight and hears the applause will something click? Is today the day she finds her passion in life? You never know but this is the age for making momentous decisions.

“I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvellous and even more fantastic for you and for all my beloved Golden Ticket holders – mystic and marvellous surprises that will entice, delight, intrigue, astonish and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine such things could happen to you! Just wait and see!” 

https://roalddahl.fandom.com/wiki/Golden_Ticket#:~:text=A%20Golden%20Ticket%20is%20the,find%20was%20a%20press%20sensation.

This is about the age I left my foster parents and decided to live with the Flapper forever, coming out of my sheltered chrysalis. Beware of the preteen, she is a powerful totem with her golden ticket.

In a world of pure imagination

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Our family’s birthday season begins midsummer with the big boys and ends with the little Pumpkin’s falling leaves. We celebrated a milestone in Malibu. Although every birthday gives us a chance to rejoice or deny our humble beginnings; I’m in the denial phase at the moment.

The Groom’s family has a tradition where each person at the dinner table tells the story of the actual birth day. We all have different points of view so it’s like writing a book. Every chapter is the same time period only told from a different perspective.

The Flapper told me that my brother Michael was her easiest birth. She was outside hanging laundry on the line when she felt him coming and told my sister Kay to run through the backyards to fetch the doctor. I imagine her running barefoot through clouds of sheets. Michael was born fast, destined for a life in the sports world.

I was her only hospital-born baby. She told the doctor after five children she needed a rest.

As my Father lay dying, the doctor told the Flapper she didn’t have to boil my baby bottles. He said washing them was fine which was a tremendous help. I picture him looking like Santa Claus, in a plain gray suit. Cultural norms have changed since the 40s. Today more than 80% of newborns are breastfed.

While I was lying on the floor after my Malibu fall, Bob examined me. No broken hip, check. And my mind immediately cast blame on myself of course. Why do I act like I’m still 16? I don’t want to ruin this vacation so let’s just soldier on and walk up and down hundreds of steps to a beach. Until I couldn’t walk at all.

This week, the MRI tech who escorted me into the room told me I could take off my glasses and my mask. He pointed to a table and went on about how I’d be all alone in the room, and then he added,

“Dr Fauci is going to prison!”

At first I wasn’t sure if he said that, but to cement the thought he repeated it. I replied,

“I know he got Covid, but that’s not a crime.”

Then he gave me two ear plugs, tied my feet together and crossed my hands over my chest on the table. I was a prisoner in a metal tube with a redneck at the wheel. I tried going to my happy place but that wasn’t working so I just concentrated on my breathing while a jackhammer of sound waves attacked my pelvis.

Turns out I fractured the upper part of my sacrum. Which really isn’t a bad spot – too far to the right and I’d be paralyzed, too far to the left and my hip could have shattered. Lucky me.

I’m trying to resist absolutist thinking – like now I’ll never play pickleball. Instead I tell myself I could write more and read more and watch more Netflix while resting on the couch. Why do we need to give birth or nearly die to allow ourselves a rest? This American work ethic thing is real. I feel like a sloth or maybe an escargot!

Poor Bob. His birthday is coming up next and he’s on nursing duty. Washing clothes, cooking and watering gardens while walking dogs and tending to me. Not all at the same time of course. Turns out his talents exceed my expectations. I told the Pumpkin that TOGETHER PopBob and I would get through this just fine. “Don’t you agree Bob,” I said.

After an affirmative mumble from my harried husband, the Pumpkin looked at me and said, “Sounds like he’s not convinced!”

Wish us luck dear readers. I’m on the lookout for a rabbit’s foot charm, or an Irish shamrock to add to my feather pendants.

A reflection of me, before the fall

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There we were, in idyllic Malibu, when someone, I think it was the young granddaughter had an idea. “Let’s make a movie.” And she thought the narrator should be a French Bulldog.

See there’s this sort of normal American family, and every time they take a vacation something curious always happens. Like the time the grandson was bit by a Portuguese Man of War, in Hawaii. The parents are both doctors so a tragedy was averted and the tentacles were removed.

It just so happened that on this very trip to California the whole family caught Covid. Now everyone was vaccinated but still the mom had it the worst. But just as the grandparents were due to arrive, a sand bee bit the mom on her ring finger. OUCH

Who ever heard of sand bees?

Anyway, the poor mom had to have her wedding rings cut off. They tried everything they could think of to slide her rings off, but nothing worked. Eventually they had to drive down the windy, treacherous canyon road to the urgent care.

Since the family was serenaded by a pandemonium of parrots and a few showy peacocks every day, the young girl thought she would sweeten this trip with another catastrophe. What if a peacock bit her on the nose?

Our screenplay took a different turn once the uncle and aunt arrived. They wanted motivation… and plot… and music of course! Suddenly I volunteered to be the villain.

Our movie is still in development. There’s a strange blue triangle house we need to explore and we still have to jump a fence and catch a peacock. Also we had a small mishap in casting.

Nana fell off the bottom rung of the bunk bed ladder. It wasn’t a pretty sight but she won’t be hopping any fences soon. Stay tuned for the trailer!

Dadadadum.

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Our local Nashville PBS will sometimes air a short segment between programming called, “A Word on Words.” I believe our famous independent bookstore helps sponsor this Emmy award winning series, and I always sit up and take notice. Authors J.T. Ellison and Mary Laura Philpott were the first hosts to interview writers about their craft.

“NPT’s Emmy Award-winning A Word on Words features accessible interviews with authors and poets about their latest books. Launched in 2015  the series was designed to be accessible and engaging for a new generation of readers. Join our A Word on Words hosts for more discussions with writers about their work, their process and what they are reading for inspiration.”

https://awordonwords.org/

Words have always been magical to me; and there’s nothing better than hearing (or reading) a word I don’t already know. Recently our master bedroom closet was finished by a talkative carpenter. It’s no surprise that most of our old crystal cottage is not plumb. And just as he was getting around to the last corner, he turned to me and said,

“This is all cattywampus!

For me, it was as if someone had handed a toddler a lollipop. I had to ask him about the word, and where he was from (North Carolina), and before you knew it there was a story sprouting in my mind. The Bride told me she’d heard the word before, but that’s probably because she went south for college and pretty much never returned. Cattywampus means exactly what it sounds like – all mixed up. It’s a noun that means askew, disordered, uneven, awry. Scottish in origin and related to “caddy corner.”

Our family loved to make up words. For instance, the Bride was incensed to learn that not only had she believed that our word for something sharp, “porky,” was a real word, but she insisted that her friends believed it too, well into her teens. Somehow, our German Shepherd dog’s incessant drive to chase porcupines, and having to pull those quills out of his snout, resulted in pointy things turning into pesky “porky” things, which makes sense. Right?

Who doesn’t love a little on·o·mat·o·poe·ia in the morning?

This morning as I was scanning the Twittisphere, I came across another word I’d never heard of – banjaxed! According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s an Irish colloquial term meaning:

“Broken, beyond repair: Tired, worn out, out of breath: Drunk, inebriated: Not functioning correctly.”

Just like SCOTUS. Not only are they banjaxed, their decisions are cattywampus! As an ex-school board member, I was shocked to think that Christian prayers can now be said aloud on our public school sports fields. Maybe shocked isn’t the right word, gobsmacked is more like it. Shall we let Muslim football and soccer players stop playing when it’s their time to pray? The team must stop and roll out their prayer rugs on the fifty yard line?

As for me, I can’t wait for the January 6 hearings to begin again tomorrow. Oh and for the third season of Ted Lasso! What would Ted do?

A view askew of the new closet

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If you’ve been following along on my journey, you already know that our nation’s birthday is a bittersweet holiday for me. It was on the Fourth of July, 1949, that the Flapper took her family for a car ride to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver plowed into our car headfirst. And that car accident was the reason I was raised by foster parents; the reason I had two families, two homes, two mothers.

“Unfortunately, Independence Day has 19% more traffic fatalities than the average holiday — due, again, to drunk driving and increased traffic. What’s more, 52% of all traffic deaths occurred because someone involved wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Additionally, fatigue plays a serious role in Independence Day deaths. Many Americans use the time off for this holiday to take the family on a short trip, and the long drives lead to tired drivers, which lead to deadly mistakes.”

https://www.autoinsurance.org/deadliest-holidays-to-drive/

That being said, I have always hated driving on this weekend. And even though we now have seat belts, and mothers against drunk driving, I’m still skittish. OTOH, some of my best childhood memories are from the fireworks celebration over Lake St Joseph in the Catskill Mountains. It signaled the start of summer camp season, and I couldn’t wait to get back to camp. Sleepaway camp, even if it had a nun in every cabin, represented freedom in my pre-adolescent Catholic school girl’s life.

At Camp St Joseph for girls, I had the opportunity to excel at sports, to sing in the plays, and train to become a lifeguard. This was pre-Title IX. I was voted captain of my team, and became a top notch jacks player. I advanced to Counselor-in-Training (CIT) at 16 and taught boating and canoeing. Camp was the place I forged my identity – I would dream about it well into my 30s.

And when the nuns read us the riot act, after finding out about my scheme to pass notes to Boy’s Camp through the altar boys during Mass, I was the first and only CIT to volunteer to leave. That was my last summer at camp. I was becoming a lapsed Catholic just as my world opened up to include my biological/extended/family, including a Jewish Step-Father!

Maybe the SCOTUS would like to revisit Title IX? They seem to be doing a good job at setting us back decades by overturning Roe in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Org case. If they feel the states can force women to carry a fetus to term, maybe their true mission is to keep us barefoot and pregnant? I’ve lost all respect for this court, this crowd of ultra-radical right-wing partisan appointees.

“Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor and a liberal constitutional scholar, said that, based on the logic of Dobbs, “there’s no principled way to hold back the tide that would return us to the law of the late 1800s on matters of privacy, reproduction, sexual intimacy and L.G.B.T.Q. equality.” Although Lochner itself is probably “too radioactive” for this court to embrace outright, the court’s overall hostility to government regulation of business and its celebration of individual freedom are clearly in the ascendant. Professor Tribe warned that the effect could be to “return our jurisprudence to a preindustrial, agrarian world. It’s all but unthinkable.” The consequences, he added, could be “horrendous.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/02/business/scotus-lochner-v-new-york.html

I wonder if the good professor read Margaret Atwood?

We woke on Friday morning to a street full of tiny American flags up and down near mailboxes. We don’t know who was responsible, but suspect it was a real estate company. Some people took their flags down, but we didn’t. The 30% of religious/right/cult followers in this country don’t get to dictate who can exhibit their patriotism and who can’t. I’ve even got my stars and stripes pinwheel on my desk! And I’m wearing my handmade red, white and blue eternity necklace.

But if you see me crying at a parade today, and I’ve been known to cry at 4th of July parades, it may just be for the human rights I see slipping away.

I’ve just learned of another mass shooting at a parade in Chicago this afternoon. Dear God, what will it take?

A blueberry lemon ricotta birthday cake

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I woke this morning to sun, and the promise of new beginnings. Then I remembered.

SCOTUS’ opinion yesterday, to allow states to criminalize a woman’s right to choose, settled like a veil around me. How could we let this happen? It turns out there’s an easy answer.

We’ve allowed an illegitimate Supreme Court to bring their extreme religious/originalist interpretation of constitutional law to light. We’ve allowed a Majority Leader to ignore a Presidential pick, namely Merrick Garland. In short, our laws are beginning to reflect the minority of fundamentalist Christians in this country.

“They cling to their guns and their religion.” Maybe the mic was supposed to be off, but presidential candidate Obama was right on.

My reaction has surprised me. I am buried, I am burdened by grief; it’s as if a family member has died. Maybe it’s a part of me that was killed yesterday. That part of me that felt like I was an equal partner in my world, in this democracy. Did my country just divorce me? I know first hand what the consequences will be now in this red state. My daughter was interviewed for the local paper last week.

“What will the consequences be for an ER doctor if Roe is overturned?”

She was working in her ER yesterday when the 6-3 decision broke and texted me – I was doing a Zoom Pilates and not watching or listening to the news. I was practicing self-care, starting the day with exercise instead of watering the garden after breakfast. After rolling up the yoga mat, I picked up the chiming phone and sank into the couch.

She had told me the decision would probably come down on Monday…we all knew it was coming because of the leak. Still, I thought just maybe SCOTUS would see the light.

Here’s a sampling of what the Bride will likely see in her Catholic hospital’s ER.

Teenagers with belly pains who are pregnant.

Women and girls in septic shock from a botched illegal abortion.

Ectopic pregnancies.

Rape and incest victims.

Homeless women who are pregnant.

When a woman walks into the Bride’s ER, in the middle of the night, experiencing a miscarriage (whether self-induced or natural, it’s hard to tell), will my daughter think twice before helping her end the pregnancy? And if she does save the life of this miscarrying woman, could my daughter be arrested?

Will her hospital insist that she save the life of a fetus above all else? Above the life of a woman? Will our local Planned Parenthood clinic even exist? Will there be an ‘underground railroad’ to ferry girls back and forth to Illinois? These are fair questions.

Back in the 60s, girls from certain families flew away for weekend “vacations.” Some flew to Mexico. And before that, women who found themselves in ‘the family way’ hopped on down to Florida and sailed to Cuba. Afterwards, those privileged, upper class girls were sent off to a fancy young women’s boarding school. Their indiscretion was never spoke of again.

Then you had the middle-class girls who were sent off immediately, to some quasi-religious, unwed mother’s home. These teens got to carry their pregnancies to term in secret, in a dorm-like environment of their peers. Shame was served with every meal. After they gave birth and signed the baby away to foster parents, they could be re-integrated with their families and back into their communities. Maybe they were visiting an elderly aunt for six months.

What were the poor, the disenfranchised women left to do in the 60s? – the married Catholic woman who already had six children and couldn’t possibly handle another – the single mother who was living on welfare and on the edge of addiction – the teenager who couldn’t possibly tell her religious parents she was pregnant – that girl might try to hide her condition, and carry the fetus to term only to deliver in the public bathroom at her Senior Prom.

But today, or I should say before yesterday, teens account for less than 9% of abortions in this country. Surprised?

The other women living below the poverty line, women with children, had to seek out illegal, back alley abortions before Roe. What was the statistical probability that these women would not develop an infection? How many died, or were made infertile by a hack butcher? These will be the real life consequences of a conservative court.

We are going back there, rolling back 50 years of precedent. We are treating a woman’s body like a commodity again, to be regulated. We must codify Roe, for our grandchildren.

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My Daddy Jim was the only dad I knew.

I had a biological father who died before I turned one. He was a pharmacist and owned a drug store. I had a stepfather at 12 who died my freshman year in college. He was a lawyer and a judge. You could say I had an abundance of smart, successful fathers, but only one real, true Daddy – my foster father Jim.

Daddy Jim had an eighth grade education. He left school early to work, in order to help his large Irish Catholic family. It wasn’t uncommon then, there were no child labor laws. He joined the Navy, and because his eighteenth birthday fell between two great wars, he never knew combat. He was a teenager when he married my foster mother Nell, and they only had one child.

Their daughter Jackie was a nurse when they scooped me up after my Year of Living Dangerously. Jim was over 50 years old when suddenly he and Nell filled their empty nest with a baby. Me.

Daddy Jim gave me the capacity to love.

I’ve given this a lot of thought; girls raised by a nurturing and loving father have a better than average chance at finding love. After all, some fathers can be driven by their careers, their hobbies, booze or even extra-marital affairs. The young women they raise might think that love can mean detachment, or even abuse. Intimacy can be elusive.

Over Father’s Day weekend, I made a list of the memories I have about Jim:

He Gave me the World – He would read to me from a newspaper. Since Nell didn’t drive a car, Jim would take me shopping for food. I learned how to talk with the butcher, and the baker – how to connect with others. He would take me swimming and ice skating at a pond.

He Would Comfort me – Whenever I was sick, he would hold my hair back. He would always stay with me until I fell asleep. We would stop for ice cream sundaes after Mass every Sunday. Whenever I asked him what he wanted as a gift for Father’s Day, he’d say ‘nothing.’ But I’d get him a new pair of slippers anyway.

He Liked to Surprise me – Every day when he’d return home from work, he’d have a tiny surprise in one hand or one pocket, and I’d have to guess. How did I always guess the right hand? I can’t even remember what these gifts were, probably a flower or a fancy rock? Maybe a nickel? It didn’t matter. What mattered is that I knew I mattered to him. Jim once built me a doll house made of popsicle sticks!

He Taught me How to Play – Whenever I was “bad,” he’d chase me outside all around the house until he’d catch me and give me “paddy whackins.” It was like play-spanking because we’d collapse out of breath with laughter. And every day after dinner we’d play cards for pennies. This was serious stuff. He taught me not to cheat, and to save my winnings in a piggy bank.

He Helped Around the House – In the old days, it was highly unusual for dads to do housework. And even though Nell was a full-time-homemaker, Jim would wash the kitchen floor every Saturday morning while I watched cartoons. We’d dry and put away the dishes after dinner, before gin rummy. He’d clean out the ashes in the coal bin and pick up the dog poop in the yard.

When Jim retired from his government job as the “Transportation Man” – the person who coordinated the trains in and out of Picatinny Arsenal, he was given a watch. I wish I could tell him how much he meant to me, so much more than a watch, or a pair of slippers. He died before Bob and I married, and he’d forgotten who I was at the end.

He was the embodiment of unconditional love. And I was so lucky he chose me as his daughter.

Pop Bob at the Farmer’s Market

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