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Bringing the Box

Originally posted on Red's Wrap: “I don’t want to go all the way to Chicago with your dad in a box on my lap.” “Where am I supposed to put him? If I put him in the trunk, the box could tip over. Just hold him, it’s not that big a deal.” It’s a big deal. Maybe I should drive and my husband can hold his father on his own lap. But he wants to drive. It’s what will make it feel right, being in control of the car, of himself. I feel the weight of my father-in-law’s ashes on my legs, the cardboard box too flimsy for its…

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Physical Work

At our family’s Ben Franklin store, I often worked in the back, in the stock room. That was where we unloaded the Tuesday shipment and used a box cutter to open big cardboard boxes. We unpacked dime store merchandise: pots and pans, toys, toiletries, bird cages, giant plastic bags filled with water and goldfish, sneakers,…

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Good Things That Could Happen Because of Trump

I’ve been overwhelmed with the catastrophe that is Donald Trump. The past month has been an elaborate and never-ending progression of fun house mirrors. Every day, there’s some more grotesque consequence, new ways that civil rights, sensibilities, and American traditions are stretched and distorted beyond recognition. What was never okay is now somehow okay. The adjustment is warping. I work on finding the bright side. The bright side. So naive. So foolish. But so necessary if we want to live the next four years without weeping constantly with our heads in our hands. What good could happen because of Trump? Consciousness-raising: This was a thing in the sixties and seventies but…

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In Love with Heels

Her: I thought you were out of gas. Me: I was never out of gas. I just decided to park it for a while. Contemplate the future. Her: Sounds like retirement to me. Me: Well, people do retire. I’d say most people my age are retired. Her: So retire then! You bought that knitting kit.…

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Pull the Wings Off Butterflies

Originally posted on Red's Wrap: If I was Donald Trump’s mother and I witnessed him jerking his arms in the air in mockery of New York Times reporter Serge Koveleski, I would have slapped him across the face. In front of God and everybody. Never mind that he is running for President which, as his mother, I would know he has no business doing. How his horrible behavior reflected on me would trump, as it were, any other prevailing interests, including his misbegotten notion that he should be the leader of the free world. I will not countenance a child of mine being a complete and utter asshole. Trust me, this…

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Lunch Counter

Originally posted on Red's Wrap: “I’ll need your husband’s social security number.” “Why? I’m the one paying the bills. My name is on the account.” “I’ll need his information in order to give you any information. Sorry, that’s the procedure.” My hatred could fill a football stadium. I hate the woman on the phone, the bank she works for, and my husband. I’m 65. I earn half our income. I have a Ph.D. for Christ’s sake. I am not good enough to access our joint bank account? Her tone, her insistence, throws be back 40 years. I am singed. When I was a very young woman and first married,…

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Surgical Stories: Safe

If you are the mother of a small child, it is hard to imagine that someday she  will come to protect you. When she is little and playing outside, you go to the window to check on her every ten minutes. Is she still in the yard? Are her friends playing nice? Is she climbing too tall a tree? When she…

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Surgical Stories: Strong

We used to argue about how to fold the towels. I folded them in half. She folded them in thirds. Sometimes I’d open the linen closet and all the towels would be refolded in thirds. They were tidier that way and the closet doors would shut without having to force them. Still, it irked me. I was the mother. I wanted control over the towels. But it’s a flimsy thing to control how the towels are folded. And a foolish thing to make towels a metaphor for everything. In the hospital, the morning of her heart surgery, she took a stack of towels and a clean hospital gown into the…

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Surgical Stories: Numb

One thing I am thinking at the end of this long, difficult November is that I am drinking too much. At the end of the day, I want to pour a tumbler full of wine and stand at the kitchen sink to drink it in five swallows like I might drink a glass of cold water after working in the yard on a blistering, hot day. I guess there are worse things than wanting to drink tumblers of wine. Tumblers of scotch or vodka. But I don’t drink the hard stuff. It’s too risky for me. This morning at the grocery store, a woman looked up at me from her…

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