I’m Irish American. It was a long unnecessary road for me to find this out for certain, but there you have it. Yeah, there are some Swiss guys in the wood pile back there and a few Scandihoovians, but the final word from Ancestry DNA is that I’m Irish, well, Irish, Scots, Welsh and so on. The vast majority of ancestral ingrediments in this little person is Celt.

It came as no surprise. I was raised to be proud of me Irish heritage, tinking der was none better, no foiner ting. I was raised wit’ a love of poetry and god knows there’ve been far too many whiskey drinkers in me family (not me by da grace of God). I’ve been in an Irish bar, a bar in San Diego frequented pretty much exclusively by Irish ex-pats, and asked by a drunken Irishman, “Aye, Martha Kennedy is it. When were you last home?” Home being the “Ould Sod.” My date was an Irishman, former student, an expert in drinking a lot and taking cabs from bar to bar. It was an interesting night, but I could drive home.

So what? Well, in the writing of The Price I learned stuff about being Irish that I hadn’t known before. Poor Irish and prisoners of war were put on ships and sold as slaves in the colonies, most often Barbadoes and Virginia. One of these was one of my ancestors, a Scots/Irishman named Ninian Beall. Who knew? Nobody teaches us this. The more recent ones came during “the starving” and lived in Canada and northern New York. My great-grandad worked on ships on the Great Lakes. It was then he met my great-grandma, an Irish/Finnish French speaking woman from Quebec.

The Last Pure Irishman in me family, Thomas Kennedy

I don’t know what this ancestry stuff means other than it’s a lot of interesting stories and some useful information about our physical beings. Early onset hip degeneration is an Irish thing. Me brother, other Irish/American friends and I had hip replacements at a comparatively young age.

But…maybe there’s more to it. I dunna’ tink dares any poetry to compare to Irish poetry and me special favorite is William Butler Yeats.

Never give all the Heart


Never give all the heart, for love 
Will hardly seem worth thinking of 
To passionate women if it seem 
Certain, and they never dream 
That it fades out from kiss to kiss; 
For everything that’s lovely is 
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight. 
O never give the heart outright, 
For they, for all smooth lips can say, 
Have given their hearts up to the play. 
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love? 
He that made this knows all the cost, 
For he gave all his heart and lost.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATSI went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

And my own favorite, and the reason to continue writing books hardly anyone reads:

The Song of the Happy Shepherd

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATSThe woods of Arcady are dead, 
And over is their antique joy; 
Of old the world on dreaming fed; 
Grey Truth is now her painted toy; 
Yet still she turns her restless head: 
But O, sick children of the world, 
Of all the many changing things 
In dreary dancing past us whirled, 
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings, 
Words alone are certain good. 
Where are now the warring kings, 
Word be-mockers? — By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings? 
An idle word is now their glory, 
By the stammering schoolboy said, 
Reading some entangled story: 
The kings of the old time are dead; 
The wandering earth herself may be 
Only a sudden flaming word, 
In clanging space a moment heard, 
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds, 
Nor seek, for this is also sooth, 
To hunger fiercely after truth, 
Lest all thy toiling only breeds 
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth 
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then, 
No learning from the starry men, 
Who follow with the optic glass 
The whirling ways of stars that pass — 
Seek, then, for this is also sooth, 
No word of theirs — the cold star-bane 
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain, 
And dead is all their human truth. 
Go gather by the humming sea 
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell, 
And they thy comforters will be, 
Rewarding in melodious guile 
Thy fretful words a little while, 
Till they shall singing fade in ruth 
And die a pearly brotherhood; 
For words alone are certain good: 
Sing, then, for this is also sooth. 

I must be gone: there is a grave 
Where daffodil and lily wave, 
And I would please the hapless faun, 
Buried under the sleepy ground, 
With mirthful songs before the dawn. 
His shouting days with mirth were crowned; 
And still I dream he treads the lawn, 
Walking ghostly in the dew, 
Pierced by my glad singing through, 
My songs of old earth’s dreamy youth: 
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou! 
For fair are poppies on the brow: 
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.

And some fun with an Irish Band.

Erin go Bragh, from long ago and far away.

A Century

I think every generation cuts its teeth on, then kicks to the curb, the generation preceding it. I see it in the behavior of Juvenile, I mean Junior, Congressperson Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez. When she hits 40, she’ll have a shock and I can’t explain it better than that. I remember it, though. In my thirties, teaching at an international school in San Diego, I had all the answers to everything. My boss, who was in her late 40s/early 50s just nodded and went ahead with what she knew to be right. Us young’uns went around reinventing the wheel and she ignored us. I noticed at that point in my life, too, that my older colleagues — those five years older or so — hitting forty, started looking bewildered. I happened to me, too.

I didn’t know everything after all and the world was not waiting for me to enlighten it. It was truly shocking.

But my generation really went at our parents. I understand why, now. They — those from non-urban areas, anyway — had grown up in a world that had almost ceased existing by the time we were teenagers. My mom and her sisters grew up on a farm on the high plains of Montana. She knew how to care for livestock, how to hitch Percherons to a wagon, well, the list of stuff she knew that was completely alien to me is very long. And vice versa. We were challenged to find common ground.

My mom, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Pat and Aunt Martha, 1922

I see the same thing today — not so much from the generation that would have been my kids if I’d had any, but THEIR kids, the so-called “digital natives.” They don’t think about where all the stuff they’re used to came from (us and Gen X) they just use it. Their childhoods have been radically different from “Granny’s” (I’m granny but I’ll smack you if you call me that) and even that of their own parent’s. The idea of a “helicopter parent” didn’t exist when I was a kid and the kids who would have been mine were probably cruising around on their BMXs with their own house keys.

The forty-something folks who were once “my” kids? I love them with all my heart. I had the privilege of being the “other adult” in their lives. I learned that role from my Aunt Martha who, unlike my own mom, retained her interest in the future throughout her whole life. She didn’t freeze in time or live in the past. She remembered her childhood and loved her family, but, as she told me a few days before she died, she left on purpose and never wanted to return. Everything she wanted was BEYOND the horizons of the family.

She left. She went to business college and when WW II started, she packed her Montana small town suitcase and went to Washington DC to work for the OSS, the precursor of the CIA.

I liked her from the time I was born, I think.

Back row — Aunt Martha, Aunt Kelly, My mom
Front row — My cousin, Linda and me, first birthday (I think) 1953

I was thinking about my Aunt Martha’s fiftieth birthday while I was walking Bear today. The custom in my mom’s family had been to put as many pennies under the birthday kid’s plate as they were old that year. We taped 50 pennies to my Aunt Martha’s plate. The plate wouldn’t lie flat on the table. We also tried to get fifty candles on her cake, but that kind of back “fired” when the top ended up covered with wax. It was a fun birthday. I was seventeen.

As life went on and the war between my mom and I escalated for reasons I didn’t really understand until about ten years ago, my Aunt Martha was always there. I can’t even count the times when she pulled me out of some family disaster and took me to Denver to stay with her. For every little big moment of my life (new office in Rainbow Girls, for example) she was there one way or another — sending me corsages of yellow roses or just showing up.

She always showed up.

The most amazing showing up was when I was flying back to Montana from San Diego after my mom died. I changed planes at DIA. I walked down the concourse looking for my connection and there was my Aunt Martha. We hadn’t planned it, but we were on the same plane.

For reasons no one completely knows — maybe there were many contributing factors — my Aunt Martha ended up with dementia in her later years. She had to move back to Montana (she didn’t want to) and go into an assisted care facility. Two of her sisters were in Billings so it was a reasonable decision for the family to make. For the first year, she would call me and ask me to come up and help her find her own house.

The house — townhome — she’d lived in (and loved for decades) in Denver we’d picked out together. We both walked into it in the process of helping my mom find a town home. The high ceiling, the big living room, the clerestory windows, the light coming in, made both of us gasp in delight. In Billings, she was where she needed to be, but it wasn’t ever really all right. She made the best of it, but understood that it was necessary because she was slowly losing her mental abilities, her memory.

On one of my trips to visit her after she’d moved to Billings, my Aunt Jo, my Uncle Hank and my Aunt Martha met my plane. My Aunt Jo told me to drop them off at their house and then take my Aunt Martha back to her place so we could visit for a while, just us. When I opened the door to her apartment, I saw the room was decorated by dozens of yellow post-it notes. All of them said, “Martha Ann arrives today.”

I miss her very very much. Our parents are important, but sometimes it’s the “other adult” who matters most.

She would have been 100 years old today, Washington’s Birthday.

Aunt Martha and me, 1955

“Let Us Cultivate Our Garden”

Most people out here in the real west are jonesing to get into their gardens. Cold weather porn has been arriving (see featured photo) in our mailboxes since Christmas. My email is attacked daily with solicitations about growing deer resistant, bee attracting, mosquito repelling gardens this summer.

Meanwhile in Bearadise, the garden is…

For the moment I’m growing cardboard boxes. They’re doing well. One of their main virtues as a winter crop is keeping Bear out of the flower and vegetable beds, especially as they’re frozen to the ground. They are also mulching their little hearts out, attracting and providing a haven for earthworms. We’ve had enough of a melt that the top layer of soil thawed so Bear could to attempt to dig.

My entire yard is a disaster and there’s not much I can do about it considering the proclivities of the giant white creature with whom I live. One of my goals this summer is to put down a small patio and a walkway between the gardens, leaving Bear the back part where her favorite digging spots are. There’s also the chance that if she keeps at it, she’ll extricate two annoying, giant, weedy lilacs.

I garden but I’m not an enthusiast. I can’t help it. I think it’s in my blood. My lack of enthusiasm but commitment to growing things works well for the plants. In the course of my life I’ve had some huge gardens, sometimes very fancy. But at this point I’m most interested in what the plants do. Two years ago I had freakishly huge zucchini plants — and discovered that I don’t like zucchini all that much. Last year at this time I was putting tiny tomato seeds in Jiffy Pots and moving them around to sunny windows. The best thing in my garden last year was my Scarlet Emperor Bean of Song and Story. That bean was a magic ray of hope and a friend during the weeks leading to my hip surgery when I was scared and in a lot of pain. I gave them each a Chinese name — emperor or author. They were amazing to watch grow, and those that went into my garden grew to be 12 feet tall. I didn’t eat them. I wanted their seeds to plant this coming summer.

Hong Li, my first Scarlet Emperor Bean

These regal beans gave me a lot of seeds and I have shared them with friends. This year my garden will have them but also Australian pumpkins. 🙂

Australian pumpkin seeds and Scarlet Emperor Beans

There is something else to my garden that’s very special. When I moved here, there were no gardens. Just a beautiful lawn (that ship has sailed, thanks Bear). Then…

Quotation from Candide outside my garden fence.

My friends, K, who lives next door and E, who lives across the street both garden passionately. As we got to know each other, and they saw that I also have to dig up perfectly nice grass to plant flowers, they shared their “extras.” We now have many of the same flowers in our gardens, lots of iris which grow well here and multiply like crazy.

I thought about that last year when the iris began to bloom in our yards. Sometime in the future when there’s no K, E or M, those flowers will be growing in our yards. Someone could say, “Wow, these gardens all have the same flowers.” And the flowers will whisper a reply, “Yes. The people who lived here were friends.”

“Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing”

As I was writing my post yesterday about my sweet ski “adventure” I remembered a rune of a Viking on skis with a bow and arrow and I wanted to put it in my post. I googled it and found it, yay! (should I end this here?) I also found a program on PBS that caught my attention, “Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing.” How could ANYONE not be caught by a title like that? For me it was especially provocative. My dad suffered from MS and, beyond that obvious hook, who isn’t fascinated by Vikings and, yeah, Langlauf. ❤


I already knew that MS is more prevalent among people from Northern Europe. It has a much higher incidence in Scandinavia and among those of Scandinavian descent. Science has now tracked it across the North Atlantic, a disease of the central nervous system carried in Viking Ships. My dad’s mother was from Sweden, and Ancestry tells me I am mostly Scots, Irish and Scandinavian, all parts of the world where MS is comparatively common. Yay Vikings!

MS is an autoimmune disease that most often shows up in young adulthood, but people can have it for a long time without knowing it. The film goes into detail about the diagnosis and the science behind the progress of the disease. It can now be accurately diagnosed with an MRI, which didn’t exist when my dad was alive. My dad’s MS was diagnosed with certainty in an autopsy. If you’re interested, you can learn about MS here, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society webpage.

Dad, me, Aunt Martha 1963

The program followed six people in the United States and Norway who’d been diagnosed with MS. One of the points of the program was how exercise can help people with MS. The problem with exercise is that heat — even a rise in body temperature — can be debilitating, causing fatigue and a relapse of symptoms. The obvious sport for a person with MS is the national sport of Norway; Nordic skiing.

In 2012 and 13 (I believe) the American Birkebeiner worked in partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to raise money for MS. Three of the skiers in the program did the American Birkebeiner race. At the same time, three Norwegian women skied the Norwegian Birkebeiner.

Both American Birkebeiner races drew Norwegian Olympic champion skiers to Wisconsin to race and raise funds. One of those champions has a mom who suffers from MS.

As I watched them race, I was lost, thinking, “Birki WHAT?” I had no idea…

It started in 1206. Birkebeiner skiers, so called for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway’s Osterdalen valley during the winter of 1206, smuggling the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. The flight taken during the Norwegian Civil War took the Birkebeiners and prince from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim. Inga of Vartieg never became queen as the prince’s father was killed before he could return for her in Vartieg. Norwegian history credits the Birkebeiners’ bravery with preserving the life of the boy who later became King Haakon Haakonsson IV and forever changed Northern Europes’ history by his reign.

The story and painting of the flight were the inspiration for the first Birkebeinger ski race held in Norway in 1932. To this day, Norwegian skiers still carry a pack, symbolizing the weight of an 18-month child, in the Worldloppet’s Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet race from Rena – Lillehammer. Thousands of skiers commemorate the journey with annual Birkebeiner races in Norway, Canada, and the United States.

The race known today as the American Birkebeiner began in 1973 as the dream of the late Tony Wise. Thirty-four men and one lone woman were on the starting line clad in woolen sweaters and knickers for the 50-kilometer race from the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin. Nineteen more women and juniors would ski a shorter race from “OO” to Telemark. Few knew they were going to make history. There were no U.S. Ski Team members or foreign skiers, just a handful of enthusiasts from a couple of midwestern states, out to try something new. Many of the entrants were on cross-country skis for the first season – some for the first time.

Today, over 13,000 skiers of all ages and abilites and 20,000 spectators fromaround the world gather every February in the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin area to celebrate “The Birkie”, a race which has become a legend in the cross-country ski world. We look forward to you joining us!

The six racers with MS all made it. One of the Norwegian women said she hadn’t expected the race to be fun. “All along the way people cheered me on, gave me coffee, water, food. My time was better than I thought it would be, and I never felt alone. I had so much fun!”

Another Norwegian woman said that the race kept her training every day, even when she didn’t feel like it. When race day came, she was nervous, but ended up having a great time.

A young Wisconsin racer, a former competitive skier who’d been dismayed by her diagnosis (naturally) explained — as the camera followed her awkward little pink tight-clad form around the 25 mile course, “I stopped worrying about my time or competing. I was there to have fun and to make it all the way. It was wonderful. I hope I can keep having fun like this way into my 80s!”

A young man whose main symptom was arm weakness, said, “I felt my arms going about half way so, for a while, I just poled every other stroke.” He stood beaming with the Birkebeiner medal around his neck.

Le Fardeau du Temps

Not long ago I found a letter my youngest aunt, Aunt Dickie, had written to my mom. My mom was going to be the maid of honor at Dickie’s wedding. It was 1949. My mom and dad were already in Colorado, not yet married a year. Both my mom and my aunt were in their late 20s.

My aunt wrote about her dress, how she’d conferred with “Mom” (my grandma) about whether to get long white dress or something she could wear later. The decision was something to wear later and Aunt Dickie described it in detail — gray wool shot through with silver threads. Aunt Dickie wrote about the apartment they would move into, the car she wasn’t going to buy, how she wanted to call my mom but long distance was so expensive. These were exciting decisions and she clearly couldn’t wait.

It was lovely to read but haunting. All of life stretched ahead of these two young women. I read the letter knowing how everything would turn out for them, the rollercoasters fate had prepared for both. It tore at my heartstrings.

As time fulfilled itself, my mom was a complicated person, our relationship fraught and impossible. My aunt was a resolute and grounded woman who saw with piercing clarity the situation I was in and loved me.

When we talk about the baggage of life, it’s usually not good stuff, but some of what we carry is love. Love is not only weightless, but has wings to lift the heavier burdens from our shoulders.


* Time’s burdens — stolen from Baudelaire who, in his poem “Enivrez-vous” seems, in a way, to be answering Hamlet, but that’s maybe a story for another day…

Prerogatives of Sole Survivors

I dreaded the slide scanning chore for years, and, like a lot of chores, it turned out not to be so bad. Looking at China was inspiring, great.


Yesterday I sat down with the famdamily slides and more or less cursed life as I stacked them into the (usually not functional) bulk scanner. Some of the slides are over 60 years old and the glue holding the sides of the slides together had stopped working. Retired, I guess.

Since so many of them were totally irrelevant to me (as the sole survivor, I get to be the arbiter of relevance for this family) I started holding them up to the light to see if it was worth scanning them. Lots of slides went into the trash, things like store-bought slides of the Air Force Academy or faded scenery photos of the Black Hills. It was a relief just to toss them.

I found some wonderful things in that huge collection of slides.

Like a lot of families in the 1950s, we took road trips, usually to Montana, but in 1957 we drove from Denver to Florida, then to California, Oregon, Montana and back to Colorado. I was five and my brother was three. Some of those photos survived and they are sweet artifacts of a very different world.

Somewhere on the road having lunch, 1957. The background hills look like California, but who knows?

Some of the photos are hilarious, though they were probably not meant to be. Others bring back good memories of the time when our family was functional and happy. Looking at them, I decided to forget that I know how it turned out. But my initial feeling as I dived into this was anger, an anger I never felt before. I was furious with them all for dying.

I’m not big on Facebook memes but a friend happened to post this last night when the “… l’horrible fardeau du temps” (…the horrible burden of time) (Baudelaire) was pushing me to the ground. The meme seemed to give good information, maybe it was the truth. It really was a huge pressure fitting my life around my mom’s expectations. I carried the hopeless weight of my brother’s addiction for years, but couldn’t fix him. My dad? He was doomed from the start and he always said that he, mom, and Kirk were not my job. ❤

It was wonderful to see some of those people again, people I loved and times I savored even as a little kid. The best photos are the ones no one set up or posed, the photos of a day in the life.

Neighbor kids, my brother with a broken arm and an airplane, my Aunt Martha and my grandmother, our house in Nebraska.

When I was done with that for the day, I put on my new skis for the first time. Out there on the snow, with the beautiful San Luis Valley sky and mountains all around me, the snow beneath my skis, the frost falling off the tips of the cottonwood trees, I thought in the vague direction of my mom and brother, both suicides, “Maybe I just loved this more than you did. Maybe it was always enough for me.” I glided forward, somewhat tentatively, hoping I’d still be able to do do this and I was, I am. ❤

The Three of Us

Over Christmas people were always asking me if I were going to be alone. Being alone doesn’t always mean being lonely, and, anyway, I wasn’t alone. 🙂

There are three in my family. It’s true that two of us are dogs. But…

Yesterday I went to the vet to get Dusty’s meds. There was a small old dog, (small meaning 40 pounds) black, white and tan, lying on the floor behind her person. Her person looked French He was short, light and Gallic, salt-and-pepper hair, slightly receding hairline, about fifty-five with sad brown eyes. The few lines on his face and the turn of his mouth said, “I’m worried.” He gave his dog a treat from the treat jar and waited for Maureen, the receptionist, to be able to get him in to see the doctor. Maureen was all alone on the front desk of this busy vet and contending with a persnickety computer. The person ahead of me was picking up antibiotics for her sheep.

As Maureen went to fill the bottle of pills for me, I went over to see the dog. She reminded me a lot of Mindy. I could tell she was quite old.

“Is this your friend?” I said to the man.

“We’re penpals.” Ah, he was funny.

“You write each other?”

He just grinned.

I petted her and asked her age. I learned she was 17. “What a sweet girl.” I scratched her ear.

“She has an infection on her foot.”

“I see that,” I said. Her right front foot was pink and inflamed. “She’s a wonderful beast,” I told the man. “What a sweet being. Old dogs just have a kind of wisdom.”

He nodded. His eyes filled with tears.

“Is she an Aussie mix?”

“Patterdale terrier,” he answered. I had not heard of that breed before.

Meanwhile, Dusty’s prescription was filled. Maureen said, “How about $72?”

I said, “I like that ‘how about’,” and smiled. I handed her my ATM card then thought better of it and gave her a credit card. “I might want to eat.”

I don’t know what happened next with “Jacques” and his dog. In his eyes the whole time we were interacting was very deep love for his dog and dread about what the doctor might say. No 17 year old dog has a long life ahead of them. I knew “Jacques” knew what I know, that I wasn’t alone for Christmas. All three of my immediate family was together.

I drove home hoping that all would go well for Jacques and his sweet dog and hoping, also, that afterward — because it will come — he will find another. ❤


The sun that brief December day 
Rose cheerless over hills of gray, 
And, darkly circled, gave at noon 
A sadder light than waning moon. 
Slow tracing down the thickening sky 
Its mute and ominous prophecy, 
A portent seeming less than threat, 
It sank from sight before it set. 

Snow is in the forecast (please, please, please). I don’t think a “shortest day of the year” passes without my thinking of “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier, a poem always recited by my grandfather to his family, very possibly on this day every year.

One of the things I’m fortunate about is having grown up in a family that loved poetry — both my parents. Maybe it’s one of the things that drew them together. My dad really wanted to BE a poet but he had as little aptitude for it as I ended up having for math.

I love these old picture poems. In a world in which ordinary people didn’t have cameras, poetry had to do the job and I think it did well.

Ah, brother! only I and thou 
Are left of all that circle now,— 
The dear home faces whereupon 
That fitful firelight paled and shone. 
Henceforward, listen as we will, 
The voices of that hearth are still; 
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er, 
Those lighted faces smile no more. 
We tread the paths their feet have worn, 
      We sit beneath their orchard trees, 
      We hear, like them, the hum of bees 
And rustle of the bladed corn; 
We turn the pages that they read, 
      Their written words we linger o’er, 
But in the sun they cast no shade, 
No voice is heard, no sign is made, 
      No step is on the conscious floor! 
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust, 
(Since He who knows our need is just,) 
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must. 

Not that PBR

I’m sorry but what? My family? Two dogs. A couple of cousins in the wilds of Montana (one of whom flirts with me, very creepy) and a couple others here and there. Family is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some families are just fucked from the getgo. Some fall apart over time. This joyful holiday get-together-with-family BS is just an added pressure this time of year, and I’m at the point in life where I get to choose my “family.”

Last Christmas I spent with some of my chosen family in Colorado Springs. Providence brought me a sister not long after my brother Kirk died from alcoholism. “Here,” Providence said, “from Kirk.” We thank Kirk from time to time because without him dying we wouldn’t know each other. To learn about that, you can read my post on the Kindness of the Gods.

The Christmas Eve get-together of family and friends was hilarious and grim as only family Christmases can be. The “brother-in-law,” we’ll call him “M,” got drunk and spent the evening sitting on the “going to the basement” stairs of the split-level house my chosen sister (CS) had borrowed from her second brother (who was not there) because it had a dishwasher and more space than her house. Probably 30 people attended. I knew most of them, but didn’t get to talk to everyone. I was in a lot of pain from my hip and couldn’t stand for more than five or ten minutes, so I had to spend the party sitting on a comfy chair (“No, no, not the comfy chair!”)

My “son-like-thing” was depressed and mildly inebriated, in a bad relationship and lost in life. My nephew, one of the sweetest people on the planet, a developmentally disabled guy in his 30s, sat with me on a small sofa with his head on my shoulder staring at my tits. My CS’s oldest brother and his piece-of-work wife interviewed me about my education and credentials to see if I merited their attention and conversation. I passed, but that didn’t mean we had anything to say to each other.

After about a couple of hours, my CS noticed that “M” was MIA.

“He’s on the basement stairs. He’s been there all night.”
“Is he OK?”
“He doesn’t look so good.”
“I’ll take him home,” I said. I’d signed up for that job early in the day.

Some friends helped “M” to my car. No one knew if he (blind and arthritic and drunk) could walk on his own, and the thought of him falling was not to be borne. “I’ll meet you there,” said one of my CS’s friends who was there with her son and his new girlfriend. I was pretty stove up at the time, needing hip surgery and unable to easily climb stairs, so I wouldn’t have been able to help him into the house. We’d have sat in the car godnose how long.


“Great,” I said, relieved. On the way “home,” I dropped off my CS’s very pitiful ( 😦 )alcoholic musician friend, then took “M” home. The friends drove up, ready to help, but “M” was fine. He went in by himself, headed directly to the basement, his hangout, with the mini-fridge and the 20 pack of *PBRs.

“You going back to the party?” asked the friend.

I shook my head, thinking how amazing life is that even with everyone in my own dysfunctional blood family dead, I could still have a Christmas Eve like that. ❤


*PBR stands both for Professional Bull Riders and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.


Friends are the family you choose, or you happen upon, going part of the way with you or years with you, precious as diamonds, rare as rainbows, more fun than a carnival. Sometimes they’re dogs. My friends are all very different from me except for ineffable qualities of heart, respect, affection and sympathy. In our cyber world, friends can live thousands of miles away. Wherever they are, life is much better with them than without them.