Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Resurrection Hardware by Deb Smith

At her sister's funeral, Marion Ward reflects on their suffocatingly conservative family and prepares to deliver her sister's controversial last wishes; by Deb Smith.

After a few short readings and one soloist of average height, Reverend Summers introduced the next item on the funeral program. It was called "The Healing Miracles". The lights dimmed in the small chapel and we saw what appeared to be the opening credits for a movie. There was a wide shot of what I took to be something generically Holy Land-ish, a rocky desert scene with a village of sun bleached houses. Then the camera cut to a small group wearing hooded robes and sandals walking slowly through the village gate. The camera zoomed in to reveal the familiar blue-eyed bearded Jesus of my childhood. He was followed by several, I'm guessing twelve, apostolic looking men and one woman. The woman was tall with rich auburn hair. That woman was my sister, Vic.

Almost in unison the assembled guests sat up rail straight and held their breath. There was some low muttering from somewhere behind me, however Jesus was not deterred by our surprise and proceeded to cure the blind and the lame with my sister at his elbow. The whispers became almost audible and there was a cloud of humid tension in the room. As the film concluded, I snuck a peek at the faces to my left and right. Midwesterners can be hard to read when it comes to these things, but I could see a mixture of grief, agitation and disapproval.

Reverend Summers moved back to the podium and started the final readings. My mother, Janet Ward, sat in the front row next to her brother, Bill, and Bill's wife Jennifer. The rest of us sat in the row behind. My brother, Alex, and his wife Monique, to my left and my sister, Elizabeth, and her husband Max to my right as bookends for me, Marion, my partner Nell, and our daughter Cassandra. We were all appropriately somber, but nobody cried and nobody offered a soothing hand or a comforting remark. That was not us. We were Midwesterners, bred from Metho-Luther-Tyrian stock, strong, resilient and self-sufficient. My sister, Victoria, had arranged this funeral, her funeral, with that in mind.

Victoria asked me to carry out her final wishes and she had wished for the Lachaise Sanctuary. The day after she died I went out to meet with their staff. The facility was stunning and looked nothing like any funeral home I had ever seen. There were no Greek columns or early American fa├žades, no well clipped shrubbery or discreet porticos hiding hearses. The building's front was a brilliant expanse of thirty foot windows that formed a graceful arc edged by an elevated walkway that hovered above a mossy waterfall and large pond. The water was surrounded by slender aspens crowned with delicate leaves that flashed in the sun. The little woodland glen was alive with small birds and tiny yellow flowers peeked out from behind the rocks. Who wouldn't want to bring their dead folks here?

I had heard about the Lachaise Sanctuary before my sister told me that was where she wanted her service. It was named after the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris where both Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. This was the only one in Wisconsin, but there were now four more of these places around the country, each with their own fancified name invoking some obscure sepulchral reference. It was for folks who valued the trendy and expensive. It would crack Vic up when I called it Resurrection Hardware.

Inside the impressive entry way, the fittings and furnishings were the kind that would be collectable early century modern fifty years from now, functional and comforting, yet sleek and splendid at the same time. There was a broad hall with rich wooden surfaces that soaked in the sun coming through the front windows and reflected back a lightness and warmth that was soothing. I had the impression a couple of times that there was music playing somewhere. When I listened I couldn't make out a melody, but there was something rhythmical and dulcet in the air. I was shown into a sitting room with a few simple benches and a multi-media station in the corner of the room.

The space had the feeling of a small chapel, but it was not really like any church I had ever known. I had grown up in what I thought of as a pretend Christian family. I had been given no notion of religions other than Christianity, well, maybe I must have known about Jewish people from Sunday school, but not really. You were whatever you were raised to be and that was that, but nobody I knew growing up took it very seriously. The point being that we all had certain expectations based on our upbringing and although the Lachaise Sanctuary was beautiful, there was something about its self-conscious perfection that made me nervous about the service I was supposed to arrange.

I was introduced to the event planner, Renee, who described the services provided at Lachaise. The end result was entombment of the remains, whole or ashes, as with any other funeral home. What made Lachaise stand apart was that they used the most sophisticated computer generated imaging to place your loved one in any of over twenty of the most popular bible stories. Your loved one could join the apostles at the Sermon on the Mount, be with Jesus's mother at the foot of the cross, or awake with Mary Magdalene to see the risen Christ in an expertly produced short film. My family had just seen the result.

As the Reverend Summers began his benediction, my mother turned and gave me that final warning look mothers give unruly children in the back seats of cars, the one that could be followed by a slap or abandonment on the side of the road. The coffee and cookies had been served during the visitation prior to the service, so once the "Amen" was said, my family made respectably, but quickly for the door. We were all meeting at Vic's house for supper. Now that Vic's plan was unfolding, I was feeling much less confident as her co-conspirator. During her illness, Vic and I had fallen into a kind of folie a deux with text messages. Even though I knew there would be no response, I pulled up her number and texted her, "I'm doing this, but you owe me."

Last May Vic called and asked if I would come with her to the arboretum and garden center just outside of town to help her pick out something for Mom for Mother's day. We wandered the beautiful landscaping and lingered over displays of pottery and garden sculptures. When we reached the far end of the gardens she told me she had been diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer.

"Marion, I know this is a lot to ask, but I really want to be home after surgery, for the radiation and chemo. I've seen how much better people do when they are home, but I will need help. I'm asking you if you will help me through this."

I felt tingly and lightheaded. "What about Mom. What will she say?"

"You know how Mom is. I need someone strong, but someone who will respect my decisions. I'm hoping that's you."

I felt there, but not there, like the fear and sadness would crush me, and yet apart and outside of the emotion. I just stood and said nothing, trying very, very hard not to cry. Vic wrapped her arms around me.

"But, what if I can't do what you need me to do? What if I am not that strong?" I blubbered into her sweater.

"Marion Ward, I still remember how you punched Bobby Kraus in the head when he tried to take your soccer ball. I think we'll do just fine together."



There were four of us, Victoria, Alex, Elizabeth and I, and we all looked like Wards. We had the Ward nose, straight and substantial and the Ward height and long legs. My mother had contributed the auburn hair and a little fairness of skin. We had been raised in a homogeneous way without regard to gender, talent or wishes. We all took piano lessons, went to camp, performed in school plays, and made the swim team. As children we were mostly referred to en masse as the Ward kids. It would be a stretch to say that we had been close in that made for TV kind of way, but we were definitely a clan.

As we proceeded down the Ward family track there came a point at which each of us changed trains and became individual Wards. Vic met and married her first husband while she was in nursing school at the local college. Alex went away to school to study dentistry and then moved to Atlanta. Elizabeth stayed in Chicago after law school, but went down to half time at her firm after her third child was born. I stayed in town, and spent most of my young adulthood hiding from my family as I tried to figure out how to be both gay and accepted. Eventually, I got a degree in graphic design and made a good living working from home. We all talked to Mom, but we didn't often talk to each other.

Vic was a realist. I think that's why she liked nursing so much. When it came to her own situation she was hopeful, but well settled in the probability that this was going to be it. At the time of her death she was single, her first husband having long since moved to somewhere in the Florida Keys and her second husband dead of an early heart attack like our father. She had no children of her own, but had taken in foster kids until her diagnosis. It had been years since Victoria and I had spent time together that wasn't related to family events, holidays, births and deaths. Weeks or months would pass and we wouldn't have spoken on the phone or seen each other despite living only four or five miles apart.

Although the circumstances couldn't have been worse, the time I spent with my sister during her illness and through her death was an unexpected source of joy for me. We sat in the living room of her small ranch house, with the comfy furniture and sleeping cats. We talked about small things like when my mother would stop coloring her hair and we talked about the bigger things like why she thought her first marriage failed and why Nell and I had decided to have a baby.

"Marion, do you think our family is odd?" Vic put down her book and sat up.

"You know, I always used to think that the whole idea of family was odd until I was part of making one of my own. Still, it's a mystery to me what pulls some families together and others apart." I passed her the bowl of Chex mix.

"Sure, it's easy to point to the family with the alcoholic father and say they're dysfunctional, or the one with the drug addict daughter, or the ones where everyone seems to be crazy. But, what about ones like ours where nobody ever gets in trouble, or blows up, or runs away, but there just isn't much of a connection anymore?"

"Oh, you mean the part where nobody talks about anything personal or about how they feel and if there is something important to communicate we do it in such a vague understated way that it is like deciphering code to figure out what we're being told?" It had taken me years and a partner from a family that talked and hugged to understand this about my family.

"Yea, like that. Don't you think that's odd?"

"I do think it's odd, but not unusual. I think most people around here would say that's just normal."

"It may be normal, but it isn't very satisfying. And sometimes it feels more than a little lonely and scary. I wouldn't treat a patient I barely knew that way." Vic's voice was tight and sounded a little angry. She wiped away a tear. "I'm sorry I treated you that way, Marion."

Sometimes our sisterly conversations took us back to those days of our childhood when we would hide out behind the neighbor's garden shed in the shade of overgrown lilac bushes. Victoria, Elizabeth and I would talk about ways to get even with whatever insult Alex had last perpetrated on one of us, complain about our teachers, or play canasta for untold hours. The time Vic and I had spent together over the past months brought us back to a feeling of belonging together that was more personal than sharing the same cleft chin and knobby knees.

I couldn't have managed my life and my commitment to Vic without the support of my partner, Nell, who I have been with for 15 years. Nell was the least judgmental person I had ever met. That worked out well for me because I am what our daughter described as a weirdo, too many entrenched routines and too much of a worrier. Nell is a little shorter than me, but has surprising strength in her wiry frame. She is the fun parent and delights in telling Cassie the most outrageous stories, including one which reveals that my mother's bridge club is really a cover for smuggling uninspected cheese into the United States, a story which gains credibility when one visits my mother's house because she always has a cheese tray ready in the refrigerator.

When it became clear that Victoria was going to die, she started sharing her plans for her final arrangements. She told me about Lachaise, but not in enough detail that would spare me from being struck senseless by the reality of the place.

"I know this will seem a little cruel, but there is a reason I want my service at Lachaise."

"You get to do whatever you want. That's the rule when planning your own funeral. Besides, Mom and everyone may go bug eyed if it's out of the ordinary, but they will handle it."

"That's the point. I don't want them to just handle it. I saw this enough as a nurse, people only change when the stress is enough to make them move off the comfortable spot they've made for themselves. I know my death will cause the family distress. But, I am going to up the ante with this funeral. I am going to try to make them move."

"I don't know, Vic. Leaning on the family at a time like that feels more than a little mean. What about Mom? She will have outlived one of her children. Does she really deserve to be given an extra push from the grave?"

"I will just have to hope that Mom forgives me given some time, but I am really set on doing this. Are you going to do this for me or what?"

"Jeez, Vic, you're going to go off to be one with the universe and I will have the whole Ward clan after me. What am I supposed to do then?"

"Marion, you're going to have to move off your comfortable spot, too. You're going to have to stop hiding."



By the time I got to Vic's house, my mother was already making coffee and working on a glass of chardonnay. I poured myself a Stoli on the rocks and took a seat in the living room. I kissed my daughter and gave Cassie permission to go play computer games, but she opted to stay. She knew there was going to be something to see, but she sat on Nell's lap for security. Cassandra was Nell's biological child, but somehow could still pass for a Ward. The clan had claimed her as their own.

There were loud voices outside and I watched my brother stomp through the door with Monique following him, begging him to calm down.

"What the fuck, Marion! What the F-U-C-K was that?" He had spelled his way to the chair where I was sitting.

"Look. Let's just wait until everyone gets here and has a chance to catch their breath and have a drink." I picked an olive out of my glass. Alex glared at me and stomped into the kitchen.

I think Alex had a markedly different experience of childhood than I did. He was the only boy and then the only male after our father died. Looking back, I think he adopted his exaggerated masculine persona with its heavy reliance on absolutes in response. But, it's hard for me to say because he has never really talked to me about his life. I have to say that as a kid he was a great big brother. He taught me how to throw and catch a baseball, how to know when an older kid was trying to play me for a sucker, and although the advice was wasted on me, which boys were OK and which were weasels to be avoided.

Eventually, everyone arrived at the house, helped themselves to a beverage and found a place to sit. My mother tried to keep things under control, including herself, by asking people repeatedly if they needed anything else to eat or drink, cheese perhaps. It was Uncle Bill who finally broke the tension.

"Now I know you all probably have a lot to say about the funeral, but let's remember that Janet has lost a daughter. Whatever we thought about what we saw today, let's not make it harder on her than it already is." Uncle Bill was always the peacemaker, not because he valued peace but because he was uncomfortable with high emotion. This was quite ironical in as much as Aunt Jennifer had a substantial histrionic streak. He always smelled of cigars and had been our "peppermint" uncle when we were kids. Peppermints were the condition Aunt Jennifer imposed if he wanted to continue to smoke cigars.

"Thank you, Bill, but I have to say that I just don't understand what that was supposed to be. I mean, what was Victoria thinking? " My mother topped off her glass and looked at me. My mother was an attractive older woman who still took care to dress fashionably. She had lead the life she had expected growing up, except for the early death of our father. She had very set ideas about how things should be and once she had an idea set, it was difficult for her to change direction. She looked at me because she had figured out that I had been in on it. I felt the sweat start at my temples.

Monique amped up her southern peach accent and offered her opinion.

"I think it was nice that Victoria could express her faith in a way that was meaningful to her. It isn't what my church would tolerate, but they sure did a nice job on the film."

"It was not nice. You tell me where in the Bible it says people can make out like they were there when Christ performed his miracles." Alex was getting all puffed up again.

"But, the Bible says a lot of things. Who's to say what constitutes following the Bible or not?" Max asked, but Elizabeth interrupted.

"Mom asked a good question. What the heck was Vic thinking with that stupid movie and that ridiculous place?" Elizabeth gave me that "I'm disappointed in you" look.

Elizabeth and Max were both lawyers. Max worked for a public interest not-for-profit while Elizabeth did research and drafting in the business litigation group of a large firm. Max had a philosophical side that he usually kept to himself and I was surprised at his entrance into the conversation. Max came from a Chicago Yacht club family, but always made sure his boat shoes were a little tatty to keep up his bona fides in his not-for-profit world. He was typically sailor handsome, with a lanky body and a wind worn face. Elizabeth usually kept him under tight control in family situations. Nell and I had speculated many times about what deep dark secret she was hiding. Our suggestions varied wildly and were more related to how much wine we had drunk than any real evidence, but even as a child Elizabeth had played things close to the vest. She was one of those little girls who had a diary with a lock on it and we knew she kept the key in another little box with a lock on it and kept that key on a chain around her neck.

"This was even more confusing than that Masonic funeral we went to for Great Uncle Walter. You remember that, Bill, they had all those strange processions and pine boughs and I don't remember all what. When I go I just want a plain old service, with a nice casket, and a few good hymns and then plant me in the ground." My mother put the emphasis on the nice casket.

"Mama, you have a long time before you need to pick out a casket. Besides, by then maybe there won't be caskets at all. Maybe we'll all be frozen and shot into space." I knew Vic wouldn't approve, but I was trying to lighten the mood.

"Oh no! Nobody's shooting me into space. Can you imagine? With my fear of heights?" My mother's phobia about heights was well known to all of us. We had all witnessed my mother sitting at the kitchen table breathing into a brown paper bag after having had to use the step stool to get something down from the high shelves in the kitchen cupboards.

"Mother, don't be ridiculous. I have never understood why you get so hysterical over something that isn't going to happen. It's like you enjoy finding things to fret about. Maybe if you went to Bible study at the church you wouldn't be so anxious." Alex made the mistake of using his special condescending tone. I could see that he had gone too far, but before anyone could redirect the conversation, my mother stood up and put her hands on her hips.

"What I don't understand, Alexander Nathan Ward, is how you became such a judgmental ass. I believe that I am at that certain age when people should stop bitching about my deficiencies and start appreciating my eccentricities, and if they can't do that they should fucking shut up!"

She said the last part slowly, enunciating each word clearly and with commitment. It wasn't like we had never heard my mother curse before, but the ease with which she let it rip took me by surprise. Aunt Jennifer started to cry.

"You stop picking on Grandma!" My daughter, Cassandra, had been watching and listening carefully as the adults had talked nonsense. "I know why Aunt Vic made the movie and so does my mother." She pointed to me.

Thank you, my darling daughter. Now everyone turned to look at me.

"It's true. I knew about the movie and I didn't say anything. That's what Vic wanted, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse and hide behind my dead sister. You go on and be mad at me if you want to. Vic had a wish for us as a family. And, now, here we are. We've made Mother swear and Aunt Jennifer cry. I think it's time for part two of the plan."

I walked over to the corner of the room with the flat screen TV and DVD player. I pressed the power button and the TV lit up. Then the opening titles of Vic's movie appeared in front of picturesque scenes of desert and palm trees.

"I am not watching this again!" Alex started to get up.

"Shut up and sit down, Alex." I summoned the authority conferred on me through the wishes of our dead sister. I fast forwarded through the healings and the end credits. The screen went black and then Vic appeared.

"Hello, everyone. By now you have all seen my movie and are probably sitting around my living room having a drink."

Vic wore a white turtle neck under one of her old hospital tops. Those had been the most comfortable clothes for her towards the end because they had been laundered to perfect softness over years of use. She looked thin, but her color was good and her warm hazel eyes made me feel her presence.

"You may or may not know this, but I have been a regular church goer and, I think, a good Christian. I take my beliefs seriously and try my best to live up to the teachings of my church. I know that some of you are very invested in your churches and some of you are not fans of organized religion at all. We have had some tension at family holidays because of this. That's how I got this idea." The camera moved in for a closer shot. I watched my sister pull herself up straight and give her imagined audience her best head nurse look.

"By now I expect some of you will have had something to say about my funeral and you probably have already made Aunt Jennifer cry. I want you to know why I did this. I missed you. I don't mean that I expected you all to leave your lives and hold a vigil for days around my bedside. I mean in my adult life I missed feeling like we were a family. As it became more certain that this fucking cancer was going to win, I started to think more and more about our family. I realized I didn't really know who you were now, except in the most superficial way. And I don't think you knew me. If you did, you would know that I thought having a movie like this made for my funeral was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. Gotcha!"

The Victoria on the screen did a couple of quick fist pumps. I saw Cassie and Nell with their hands over each other's mouths stifling laughter. Elizabeth stood up, but Max took her hand and pulled her back down onto the sofa. I could see my brother fidgeting with the buttons on his suit coat and muttering to himself. My mother topped off her wine again.

"I know you're thinking 'how could she do this to us in our time of mourning'? Maybe she was addled by the chemotherapy. Maybe Marion put her up to this. Just put a sock in it and listen. This was all me."

Vic reached for a sweater off camera and pulled it over her head. She was starting to look tired. I doubt that anyone else watching noticed this, but I had learned to see those changes in her.

"I spent a lot of time with Marion over the last few months. Hi, Marion. I had a chance to get to know her again and I liked her. I think you would like her, too. I'm sure it would have been the same if it had been Alex or Elizabeth I spent that time with. I regret that I didn't have that chance. My request is that you make an effort to get to know each other again. Just take a little time and share something of yourselves, something honest and close."

Then she smiled and waved and that was that. My mother got out of her chair, came over to where I was sitting and kissed me on top of the head.

"Well, well, well." She touched Alex and Elizabeth as she returned to her seat.

We all sort of looked at each other not knowing what to do next. I find that with most families there is a universal response to situations like this. Someone announces that it is time to eat.

I had arranged for caterers to set up a buffet in the dining room. Vic's ranch was old enough that it had the nice built-ins and everything about the dining room had the patina of well-being and meals enjoyed in good company.

"There is a nice supper waiting for us in the other room. There are tables and chairs set up on the back screen porch. Let's have something to eat." I said and stood up.

Everyone seemed buoyed by the idea of having the respite of a little dinner. It would be the first normal thing that had happened since they arrived at the funeral. They headed for the dining room like drowning swimmers making for shore. Vic had told me to spare no expense and to make sure to have something that each person was particularly fond of if the caterers could manage it. That had been Vic's first assignment for me in the getting to know your family challenge. I had to figure out what everyone's favorites were.

I already knew my mother's favorite, cucumber salad with dill, and I knew Uncle Bill's favorite from years of family meals, Swedish meatballs. I relied on the discretion and insight of Elizabeth and Max's oldest daughter to tell me what they liked, cannoli and smoked salmon, respectively. For Aunt Jennifer, my brother and his wife I resorted to guile. I emailed them with requests for their favorite recipes pretending I was planning a dinner for friends. Aunt Jennifer confessed to cravings for pierogies. Alex liked those little cocktail wieners in ketchupy sauce, but when I balked my sister-in-law opined that he was just as fond of a good country ham. She told me that she is always looking for an excuse to make cornbread because she just can't get enough and sent me her family recipe. A nice homemade mac and cheese would make Cassandra and Nell happy. For myself, I threw in my favorite bean salad with green onions and feta cheese. It was an eclectic menu, but the caterer obliged.

As everyone filed around the dining room table the pitch and tone of voices went up into the happy and pleased ranges. Plates filled, they adjourned to the porch. The back porch was large enough for two large round tables and looked out over the back yard with a fire pit in the middle and a border of tall blue spruce trees at the back. The wine was opened and we all began the process of medicating away our discomfort with food and drink. I would give them another fifteen minutes and then it was time to stir the pot again. I still feared the worst, but I was feeling proud of how I had done so far on the path Vic set me on.

"So, Alex, what do you think about Vic's request that we get to know each other again?"

"I think she's right. Monique always sends you our family holiday letter, but I wouldn't mind talking about my work at the church. Oh, and you wouldn't believe some of the funny stuff that happens in a dental office." Alex never took his eyes off his plate as he spoke and if my mother hadn't been sitting with her back to him she would have been appalled that he was talking with his mouth full.

"That's not how I understood what she asked of us." Max volunteered.

"What do you think, Elizabeth?" I popped a Swedish meatball into my mouth. I could see she was nearly vibrating with disapproval.

Elizabeth slammed her fork down on the table. "Listen. I loved Vic and I believe that family is important, but if you think that I am going to start sharing my private thoughts and feelings you're crazy. You're my family, but I didn't pick you. It's none of your goddamned business to know any more than I've already told you. We're not children any more. This isn't the nineteenth century. I think it was totally unfair for Vic to put that on us."

Max put his arm around her shoulders, but she shrugged it off dramatically. To distract everyone from his embarrassment, he took the cannoli from his plate and put it on Elizabeth's. She scooted her chair back, picked up the cannoli and threw it across the room. The pastry hit Uncle Bill in the chest and Aunt Jennifer started to cry again. Elizabeth galumphed into the house.

My mother got up and started clearing plates at her table.

"Mom, you don't have to do that. The caterers will be back in a little while to clean up."

"I know I don't have to, but I need to." She continued to clear and Monique started clearing at our table. Mom handed Aunt Jennifer a stack of bowls and told her to come help her with the coffee. Monique followed them into the kitchen. Nell kissed me and said she was taking Cassandra upstairs to read.

The male members of the family and I were all who were left on the porch. I watched Alex ignore what had happened and butter another piece of cornbread to go with his last slice of ham. Uncle Bill was busy trying to daub the remaining cannoli filling from his tie. Once it was clear that Elizabeth was not coming back, Max went out the back door and into the yard. I was sure I caught a hint of burning cannabis on the evening breeze.

I got up and went back into the dining room. I thought a little more bean salad might settle my nerves. Vic was right when she said it might be like this at first. She was also right when she told me that however it went, they would share something about themselves and I would know it if I paid attention.

7 comments:

  1. At first I thought this story was about family dynamics and faith - which it is of course, but for me the key phrase is in Vic's comment, '...people only change when the stress is enough to make them move off their comfortable spot.'
    We (most of us) grow up with fixed and inherited stereotypes of our siblings, parents, uncles/aunts, and it takes a brave experimenter like Vic to start the process of breaking down the myths. Well done Vic...and Deb!
    Lovely detail and strong scene-setting at the chapel and Vic's house. What a spread eh! This has the feel of a longer story edited down, it's a difficult one to tell in 5,000ww and inevitably there's a bit of backstory and 'telling rather than showing' going on, but I really got a good picture of Marion and oh, the onerousness of her situation! A heartfelt read.
    Brooke

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  2. I got a huge amount from this story, and I agree with Brooke's comments totally. To move beyond the 'given' of the family takes great courage and is rich in potential (both in real life and in the telling of tales). There might well be a novel here in terms of tangled webs and striving towards honesty. Thank you,
    Ceinwen Haydon

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  3. So very nicely done. No, none of us pick our families - and our families don't pick us. Those cultural conventions that attempt to keep us together in our family corrals are, like religion, becoming passe as the practicality of the family diminishes. The distances between American family members, both physical and emotional, confirms Deb's well told tale. Thanks for a fine story.

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  4. As I read this story my mind jumped back and forth from this family to my own. The only final thought on that is that even my death would never have kick-assed my family out of their disapproving silences, ever!
    This is such a richly drawn story; Deb, you don't miss a thing when you observe life around you. I wonder if this scares your own family members, now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak.

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  5. Hi Deb, I admire the courage you have taken to write this after all being in a family is the biggest drama in anyone's life. No one wants to rock the boat, but as you have shown it sometimes needs a good shake.

    James McEwan

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  6. I come from an open family, so this story gave me so much insight into the dynamics of more reserved and private family. It seemed so realistic that I had to check your byline to make sure it wasn't autobiographical. Very touching and well-written.

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  7. I truly enjoyed reading your story and I am amazed at your courage to write about family dynamics. I love your opening paragraphs. congratulations

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