Archive for February, 2012

I think I’ve already written before about my weird youngest brother.  He’s weird not because there’s anything wrong with his view of life, but because he comes up with words like “distructions” to cover both “directions” and “instructions.”  On my most creative day, my brain doesn’t work like that.  I wish I knew how he did it.

I mention him at this point because about fifteen or twenty years ago, he underwent some kind of religious conversion – my mother, best described as a “born-again Catholic,” was very happy about it, I remember that – and would sit at his favorite bar, nursing a soft drink and periodically shouting, “Repent, ye sinners!”  It says much for the character of New Yorkers that they didn’t toss him out on his ear.  On the other hand, he was sitting at his favorite bar, and the habitués were probably used to however it is his brain works, and just took him with a grain of salt.  More likely, with a barrel of salt.

My Christian readers will know by now that this is the season of Lent, the season of repentance.  Any non-Christian readers I have are probably rolling their eyes right about now – hang with me, it gets weirder – and any fundamentalist Christian readers are probably itching, right about now, to tell me to invite Jesus into my heart and my repenting days are over.  My Orthodox readers are doubtless holding their breath, hoping I don’t step in it.  I hope so, too; but I don’t think so.

A couple of weeks ago, the priest of my parish preached a sermon on the subject of repentance.  Now, for you cranks who are about to wig out on the general cluelessness of priests when it comes to modern life  – Orthodox priests are married, with children.  Nobody with a spouse and children remains clueless for long.  And the gist of his sermon was the impossibility of sinlessness for anyone human.

Sin is, like, so not cool.  So irrelevant.  Right?  I mean, mention “sin” and the immediate response of the world at large is going to be a variation on Dana Carvey’s Church Lady:  “Well, who do you thin is responsible?  Satan?”  “Rearrange the letters of ‘Santa.’  Could it be…Satan?”  And everybody cracks up because we all know a variation on this dear “lady” and “her” obsession with Sin and Wrongdoing.  (Dana Carvey is a guy.)

That was the point of Father’s sermon.  Sin isn’t necessarily wrong-doing.  That’s a construct of the Roman Church, and all the Protestant churches that split off from it.  Sin is a lack of contact with God, period.  Repentance is a turning towards God, yet again.

No, really, think about it.  What’s “wrong” with thinking about having to do your taxes?  At this time of year, all Americans are focused, to a greater or lesser extent, on this necessity; for all I know, so is most of the developed world.  Either we did ’em and are looking forward to a sizeable refund; or we did ’em and are cranky about the balance we had to make up; or we haven’t done ’em and are trying to find the time to put together all the documentation to get ’em done (into which last category yours truly falls).  Taxes are a necessary evil, and we all have to get the dratted things done.

But while we are thinking about our taxes…we aren’t really focused on God, now are we?  Our thoughts are occupied with anything but God.  Which puts us into a state of separation from Him.  Which, according to Orthodox theology, is a state of sin.  Not a state of being Bad, Evil, Get-Ready-to-Be-Zapped-by-Lightning-You-Damned-No-Goodnik; just, we’re not thinking about God.

And repentance is a state of thinking about God, talking to Him, being in communion with Him.  Period.  (Please, no semantics about Him/Her.  God is a spirit, and spirits are sexless.  However, understanding the limits of human intelligence, God chose to reveal Himself, in every instance, in a masculine form, so that we could have a grammatical frame of reference.  Referring to God in the masculine gender simply respects His preference in His revelation of Himself, and come on – don’t we also desire our preferences to be respected?  So have a little courtesy here.)

It’s Lent, and during Lent, we focus on repentance; that is, on greater contact with God, talking to Him more, considering His desires more, putting more effort into our relationship with Him.   And part of that effort to refocus is the infamous Giving Up, as in, “What are you Giving Up for Lent?”  Chocolate?  Candy?  Booze?  Orthodox Christians observe a modified fast – that is, we eat, but we confine ourselves to a vegan diet.  No meat, no dairy.  That knocks out Giving Up your favorite treat.

Giving up…um…television?  That’s a little closer to the mark.  But what are you going to fill in the time with?  Janet Evanovich novels?  Dishing with the Girls, shredding reputations left and right?  Reading is good, but good reading is better:   The Bible is always a winner, but there are many, many other spiritual books to occupy your thoughts with.

Or – you could fill in the time with talking to God.  About what?  Most of us are so accustomed to the notion that prayer is asking God to do something for us, that we forget it has other components, like thanking Him.  One of the obligations of a really pious Jew is to find 600 things to thank God for every day.  Six hundred!!  Maybe you could start with six?  And build it from there.

This is repentance, not, “I’m such a bad, bad person, and I promise I’ll be good if You…”  You start by recognizing that not only have you sinned, but you also continue to sin – how many times in the past 24 hours did you really think about God? – and then you turn your thoughts and words back to Him.  And you accept that you will never be able to think about Him as much as we’re supposed to, which is all the time; it’s simply not possible.  And that’s OK, in the sense that when we feel like complete failures, we also realize:  of course we’re complete failures.  If we weren’t, we wouldn’t need a Messiah.

I can’t wait to lay this on my brother.  It’ll knock him right off his bar stool.  😉

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As in, “Planet of the Onlies” and “Planet of the Apes.”

I was cutting up some leftovers to augment tonight’s supper of Shepherd’s Pie, and was reminded of recent conversations between me and my husband, having to do with meals and meal preparations.  I’d known, because he mentioned it many times, that his super-thrifty mother had a habit of purchasing a five-pound pot roast for Sunday dinner (for three people) because it was Cheaper to Buy in Bulk – then serving pot roast for dinner every single night until Friday, when, as good Catholics, they’d have fish.  MIL-zilla didn’t like to cook, so pot-roast-every-night killed two birds with one stone.

But recently, the subject of our own leftovers came up.  Often, my husband won’t finish an entire meal, so saves the scraps until they’re almost at the point of rancidity, then cooks up a stir fry or soup out of them.  This is something I cannot get my own head around – when he was working, I used to eat the leftovers for lunch, but now that he’s home, he wants them saved for his own concoctions.  I was commenting on the difficulty I have with the concept of leftovers when he innocently asked, “What did your mother used to do with leftovers?  Didn’t she make soup?”  And it dawned on me:  At our house, “leftovers” was an alien concept.  Five kids, three of them boys?!  If you weren’t careful, food would disappear off your plate while you were still eating it!

This isn’t the first time the differences between only children and a posse has come up.  Another time, I was talking about what I used to get for lunch when working as a secretary before our marriage:  “Usually a hamburger, or some kind of fish.”  And again the question, “Didn’t you used to pack a lunch?”  Well, no.  And that was a good question, because money was always tight at our house, and a packed lunch would have been much thriftier.  I thought about it for a minute before it hit me:  “Anything I had brought into that house to make for lunch the next day, would have disappeared by morning.”  Well, maybe not liver, and even I draw the line at liver.

Only children just don’t grasp this.  In the house of an only child, you put something down, it’s still there when you return for it.  Nobody else comes along and says, “Oh, hey, I was looking for a pen/a dish/five bucks,” and that’s the last you see of it.  Let alone food.  The first time we had this conversation was one evening when visiting the in-laws.  We had eaten dinner and put the baby down for the night, and that was when my father-in-law brought out his Ultra Special Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies (I like chewy better), and gave my husband and me two each.  As I was crunching mine down the hatch, DH put his at his place.  “We’re going for a walk,” he announced, “and I’ll have mind when I come back.”  This was too good an opportunity to miss.  “Boy, you can tell Jim’s an only child,” I remarked.  “He’s going to leave those cookies there, and he actually expects them still to be there when he gets back.”

MIL-zilla also having been an only child, she and DH exchanged puzzled glances:  Why wouldn’t they still be there?  My father-in-law, who not only had had a sister and a stepbrother but also had worked as a fireman, burst out laughing.  He knew!

Then there are the “luxuries” you can afford yourself, when you only have one child, not all of them material.  I’ve mentioned MIL-zilla’s super-thriftiness.  The odd thing about it was:  She and her husband only had the one child.  The house they lived in had been MIL-zilla’s parents’ – she grew up in that house.  She was employed as a nurse by the City of NY, and her husband, as I’ve mentioned, was FDNY.  As City employees, they had benefits the rest of New York could only dream about.  Yet – DH was convinced that they lived on the thin edge of poverty, because of all the cost-cutting measures she took.  The one that sticks in my mind was the washing machine, an old-fashioned wringer-washer that involved a lot of manual labor.  She hung onto it because It Still Worked, and her motto was, “Use it up, wear it out, make it last.”  You can afford luxuries like that with only one child.  If she’d had half a dozen, that washer would have been replaced by an automatic in record time.

And she would have had to be a lot more creative with dinner.  We never knew what pot roast was when we were growing up.  We ate a lot of meatloaf.  (A lot of meatloaf.)  We ate a lot of stuffed cabbage.  We went through a ten-pound bag of potatoes a week.  And vegetables, which were a staple on the “Zilla” table, were for rabbits at our house.  Who could afford them?!  DH used to talk fondly of the German frankfurters his mother would buy from time to time.  At our house, we bought the A&P Special – heaven alone knows what went into them, but Thursday night was Hot Dog Night at our house, and we were grateful for that one hot dog on a bun – now that was luxury!  (Eight hot dogs to a package, so one was “left over” – it always disappeared by morning, first come first serve.  I didn’t know food got moldy until after I was married.)

And the bathroom.  The “Zilla” household was unusual, in that it had two bathrooms, and for MIL-zilla, this was a necessity.  She could never fathom how seven people could live in a house with only one bathroom.  Of course – in the Zilla household, they could take their time shaving and brushing their teeth.  At our house, you used the bathroom for only the very basic necessities, and even bathing was something you rushed through; somebody was bound to Need the room before too long.  (When I’d had it up to here with MIL-zilla, I used to torment her with tales of when my uncle’s family lived with us for five months during the closure of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Four adults.  Seven children.  (Eight, actually, but one was still in diapers.)  One bathroom.  She’d turn white at the very thought.)

See – these are the things you don’t even think about when you get married.  You’re so wrapped up in a haze of Love and Happiness and Fulfillment, that it doesn’t even occur to you that such trivia exists.  Over time, it can be the stuff that drives a wedge between you, or it can be the kind of thing you shake your head over in wonderment that your Dearly Beloved actually came from a different planet – the Planet of the Onlies.  Or the Planet of the Apes.  When my nephew got married this past summer, our son asked, “Does Katherine [the bride] have any idea what kind of family she’s marrying into?”  “Nobody knows,” I said, thinking of the Zillas, but then added, “Just ask Dad.”  My husband guffawed.  Maybe he knew I was thinking of his parents, or maybe he was just agreeing that my background was hopelessly chaotic.

But this May, we will have been together for 43 years.  Obviously the planets found a way to align.

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My Funniest Valentine

Mother-in-law horror stories abound, I know.  And in the annals of MIL-zilla, there are worse than mine was.  That said, mine operated on the rules of commandos:  Slip in under cover of darkness, strike fast, and slip back out, all in record time.

Mind you, there was no way on earth to see it coming.  She had a way of getting people to talk about themselves, their secret hopes and dreams, even their deepest wounds.  Then, when you least expected it, she would pop up with a completely warped version of what you’d said, a bomb that she would drop in a setting where you couldn’t possibly defend yourself, and then slip away, leaving you feeling sandbagged and looking like the worst kind of liar.  I wasn’t the only one it happened to, although I was a favorite target, being not exactly what she’d had in mind for her only son.

I would have had no inkling of what I was in for, except that even commandos need to study the enemy territory thoroughly, and my mother-in-law had one fatal flaw (one I share, although I do my best never to be malicious):  It never occurred to her that people Know Other People.  She used to slip around the corner to the office of her best friend, who owned a monument company (Middle Village being in the middle of three large cemeteries, there was a lot of call for monuments), and she would complain bitterly about That Girlfriend of Jimmy’s, for hours on end.  The best friend had a secretary, a very efficient treasure whom she would never have dreamed of parting with.  What neither of them knew was that the Very Efficient Treasure was best friends with my aunt.  One day my aunt happened to say something about Mrs. L., and the Very Efficient Treasure gasped.  “Is your niece the one who’s dating Jimmy?  Oh, tell her to look out for Mrs. L.!”

Say what??   I thought it was an odd comment; I thought my future mother-in-law was one of the nicest people on the planet.  What I could not possibly have known was that MIL-zilla had someone else in mind for Her Jimmy, a fellow nurse whose father and brother were both doctors, and German, to boot (MIL was German).  And she was Catholic – so was I, but I was “Polish” (my stepfather’s being Polish was enough to consign me to the Untermensch category).  And she sang in the choir (so did I, but I was still “Polish”).

So when it got serious between Jimmy and me, MIL-zilla went into action.  There was the time she offered me the last Very Special Cookie – and when I took it, informed me with glee that whoever took the last of anything was doomed to be an Old Maid.  “Better hope that’s not true,” I said, “because the only way that’s gonna happen is if Jimmy dies.”  That was not a welcome thought!  There was the way she kept confusing my first name with the name of a young person she knew with a totally messed-up life – that lapsis linguae lasted till after the wedding.

And then there were the flowers.

My husband and I had the kind of courtship that’s supposed to end in disaster:  He was stationed overseas shortly after we met, and we conducted our romance almost completely by mail.  I flew to Germany one Christmas to visit him, and returned with an engagement ring on my finger; we planned our wedding for May, his favorite month.  Due to my family’s straitened circumstances, we planned to have only a small immediate-family reception, so the need to wait for A Hall and A Caterer was eliminated; we ended up having cold cuts and salads, the obligatory cake, and wine for drinks.  It was an offbeat and nerdy reception, but a completely traditional wedding, but not nearly the gala affair MIL-zilla had been hoping for (probably hoping for more chances to throw a monkey wrench into the works).

Valentine’s Day came in the middle of all this wedding prep.  With the prospective groom 5,000 miles away, the best he could do was to order flowers and write to me to be on the lookout for a Very Special Present for Valentine’s Day.  When the big day came, there was…nothing.  A card, yes, but no present whatsoever.  In the evening I got a telephone call from MIL-zilla, inviting my mother and me over to see her flowers.  And what a bouquet it was:  huge by any standards, with carnations and lilies and daisies and I don’t know what-all else.  We looked, we admired, and went back home, bewildered.  “Maybe the florist never got the order,” I said to my mother, but she thought it was tasteless of my fiancé not even to send a small present.

The wedding took place as scheduled, and we flew off to a new life in a foreign country.  I’ve blogged about that elsewhere, and in retrospect, I’m glad we planned our wedding the way we did; given MIL-zilla’s propensities for mischief-making, I’m not sure our marriage would have survived the first year if we hadn’t been 5,000 miles away.

It wasn’t until four or five years ago that I mentioned those flowers to my husband, and how odd it seemed to be invited over to admire his mother’s flowers.  “What about your flowers?” he said.  MY flowers?  That was when I learned that he had ordered a dozen roses to be sent to his mother’s house, and had written to her of the breakdown:  six for me, three for his mother, and three for my mother.  The bouquet that came was not roses by any stretch of the imagination, but there were plenty of flowers to go around three ways.

He was mortified.  He was horrified.  And I…burst out laughing.  MIL-zilla had struck again!

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By the waters of Babylon, there we sat and we wept when we remembered Sion.

Upon the willows in the midst thereof did we hang our instruments.

For there, they that had taken us captive asked us for words of song.

And they that had led us away asked us for a hymn, saying:  Sing us one of the songs of Sion.

But how shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?

–Psalm 136, LXX/137, Masoretic

In liturgical churches, today is one of the preparatory Sundays of Lent.  For most of those with which readers will be familiar, Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday; some traditions, such as Catholic and some Lutherans, will have ashes rubbed on their foreheads while the priest or minister says, “Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  In my own tradition, Eastern Orthodox, it’s a little different.  We won’t begin “Great Lent,” as we call it to distinguish it from other fasting periods, for another two weeks.  But we do have three Sundays of preparation for Lent, and today is the second of those three.  Russian Orthodox churches will have sung the Psalm above during Matins.

It’s one of my favorites because it describes pretty much my whole life:  singing, in a strange land.  I’ve been singing for over sixty years now, first as a tot and then as a child who just loved music.  My first “formal” setting for singing was the Glee Club of the high school I attended, and after that, I sang in a variety of church choirs (and two secular choirs, when living in Germany).  And always…feeling like a stranger, literally or figuratively.

Singing in Greek, when I attended Greek Orthodox churches:  It doesn’t get much more foreign than that.  The words, the alphabet, the music itself, are so very foreign to the Western ear!  Greek music uses quarter tones – if yout ry to sing do, re, mi while “sliding” up the scale, you will hit a variety of pitches in between do and re, between re and mi, and so on.  Those are not only quarter tones, but also micro-tones.  I’m told there are about sixteen of them.  Greek music doesn’t use them all, but I’m sure it’s not for want of trying.

Singing in German, when living in Germany:  I didn’t speak German before I moved there.  Don’t have any German blood in my veins.  But, married to someone whose mother is German and who spoke German, it was a given that we were going to experience the full culture to the best of our ability, and in retrospect, it was a good decision.  The richness of German musical tradition does have to be experienced to be fully appreciated.  There is, of course, the classical-music aspect, but there are also folk songs that are simply charming in the way they touch on every aspect of daily life.  We know too little in the United States about the folk-music traditions of our European ancestors, and we are the poorer for it.

Singing in a Catholic choir should never have felt foreign.  I grew up in the Catholic tradition.  But it was the pre-Vatican-II tradition, with Masses by the classical composers, Palestrina, Mozart, Fauré, among many, many others.  By the time I was out of high school and singing in choirs, though, all of that was passé, and we were singing music best described as “liturgical folk songs.”  Not that they were real folk songs.  They were songs composed in what their composers fondly imagined to be folk style.  For a lover of classical music like me, this was sheer torture, and I think I never felt more like a stranger than when I was trying to make Catholic choirs work for me.

Even the Glee Club:  High school is either the best time of your life, or the worst.  For me it was the absolute worst.  The nuns were different from the Dominicans I had grown up with; the girls were from all over the Diocese, all from different parish cultures; the subject matter was of absolutely no interest whatsoever.  (It was an Academic curriculum.  In grade school, I had been encouraged to pursue an Academic curriculum.  In retrospect, I should have gone to a commercial school and taken a Business curriculum, but there’s no way to know that when you’re thirteen.)  The only thing high school had going for it was Glee Club – and I didn’t even pass the audition the first time I sang for it. (I’m sure the sprained ankle didn’t help.)  The second time was the charm, and for the last two years of high school, Glee Club was the highlight of the week.

I learned so much about proper singing in Glee Club:  How to open your mouth wide, how to make a sound chamber out of it, how to pronounce words so that they could be understood by an audience – singing diction feels ridiculous, but if you sing the way you speak, you swallow half the sound – correct posture to open up the lungs, breathing from the diaphragm to increase your breath capacity, things that were reiterated in every subsequent choir I sang with.  My overall high-school education was worth very little; Glee Club taught me everything I’ve ever really used in life.  But it was probably the strangest of all the strange lands I’ve sung in.

The Psalm “By the waters of Babylon” is, at its root, a song of exiles, a song written for people who are in a place utterly foreign to them, with strange customs and a strange language, and a way of life so strange that the people who have been taken captive can’t even sing when requested to do so by their captors.  I wonder how many of us feel that way at different times in our lives, looking around and saying, “I absolutely do not belong here, and I have no idea how to get where I do belong.”  I’ve felt that way for most of my life.

Except when I’m in a Russian Orthodox church.  Many Russian churches do use English in their Liturgies, but many others still use Church Slavonic (best described as “Church Russian”).  If you’re in a parish that uses Church Slavonic, the music will be written in the Russian language, an alphabet derived from Greek.  It will not in any way resemble Byzantine chant, but it’s also different from the music common to Western churches, even from the classical music that used to be such a common experience in the Catholic Church.  It’s…mystical.  It makes you think, “This must be what heaven sounds like.”

And when I sing it – I’m no longer in a strange land.  I’m home.

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When I came home from school that day, my mother and her sister were arguing in the kitchen.

“It’s supposed to snow later,” said my aunt.  “What if there’s a blizzard and you can’t get there in time?”  My aunt holds something of a neighborhood record in the Worrywart category, which, considering that we lived on the only Gentile block in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, is saying something.

My mother waved her hand.  “It’s just twinges.  I’ll get there and they’ll send me home, and I’ll look ridiculous.”

I didn’t really pay too much attention.  I was a sophomore in a Catholic high school, and had a mountain of homework to get through.  I left them to it, and holed up in my bedroom.

Two or so hours later, it seemed to me that supper should be about ready, so I poked my nose out.  Dad was home, making potato pancakes, standard Friday-night fare in our house.  Mom was nowhere to be seen.  “She went to the hospital,” he said.

Oh.  So the baby was finally coming, and about time; it was due on Valentine’s Day, and this was February 16.  The usual bickering of four children, ages six to fifteen, was a bit subdued that evening as we consumed our pancakes.  All of us wondering when our new brother would be born.  Not that we actually knew it was a boy.  Back then, there was no way to tell what the sex of your baby was until you held it in your arms.  But after four boys, it was a pretty safe bet that #5 would also be male.

The telephone rang around 7:30, and being the closest to it, I picked up.  A male voice asked for my father, and I handed him the phone.  “It’s Dr. Manzo.”  Dad listened for a minute, glanced over at me, then said, “OK, thank you, Doctor,” and hung up.  Then he turned to me, to all of us, really.

“What’d he say, Dad?” I asked.

“He said, ‘Mr. Smith?  You hear your daughter crying?'”  Then Dad broke into the biggest grin I’d ever seen on his face, as the import of his words sank in.

She’d had a girl.  I had a sister.  A sister!  I was fifteen years old, and I finally had a sister!

In those days, they kept you in the hospital for five days after a normal birth, close to two weeks for a Caesarean.  This having been my mother’s sixth child – her last pregnancy had ended tragically, when the fourth boy died the day after he was born – she’d had a ridiculously easy birth.  I found out about it when she arrived home:

“I was so surprised,” Mom kept saying.  “I never thought they’d keep me.  I got into the lobby and I kept saying, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m not in labor,’ and the nurse put her hand on my belly and yelled, ‘Get this woman up to Delivery!’  I couldn’t believe it.”  The “twinges” she had been experiencing had been real labor.  And she’d had no clue.

Right from the get-go, my sister was a different proposition from anything any of us had ever known.  My brothers each had a personality:  The oldest one cried nonstop for two years, the middle one was always observing, the youngest of the three was so laid back we weren’t sure if he was normal.  (Intellectually, yes.  Emotionally, yes.  But “normal”…well…I don’t know too many minds that could effortlessly combine “directions and “instructions” into “destructions.”)  My sister, though, was born with a twinkle in her eye, and a limitless capacity for affection.  You’d pick her up to change her, and she’d turn it into a game.  And just when you began to get annoyed, she’d throw her arms around you  and land a kiss on your neck.  It would be time for bed, and she couldn’t settle down until she’d made the rounds of every member of the family for a hug and a kiss.

People have always fallen in love with her, women as well as men, children, adults, puppies – puppies, my sister is and has always been the biggest fan of dogdom on the planet.  These days she’s a Town Clerk and Tax Collector for a small New Hampshire town.  How many people do you know who love their Tax Collector?!  True, she takes plenty of abuse on the telephone.  But the townsfolk who come in to pay their taxes (saving a stamp – that’s the New Hampshire way) all want to spend a couple of minutes chatting with her, joking with her, waiting for her infectious laugh.

The thing is – until my sister came along, we were just surviving every day.  Every day was some kind of battle for domination, of the television, of school supplies, of the chores (as in, who could you fob them off on), of boy toys, of my mother’s attention, and good luck with that one.  Once my sister entered the house, the fighting became almost a game, a way to sneak an extra hug out of the Baby of the Family.  To this day she doesn’t fully realize what she did for us:  She took a motley crew of people who had been thrown together, and turned us into a family.  She’s the one who stays in touch with all of us.  Hers is the house my brothers stay at when they’re visiting from out of town.  She’s the one my parents turned to as they grew older and feebler, and she’s the one who cared for them in their last illness; not that the rest of us wouldn’t have, but she was the one they wanted.  She’s the one I’ll brave snow, ice, slush, gale-force winds for, just to have breakfast on Tuesdays – at 6:00 a.m.

On February 16, she turns 50.  Fifty years of blessedness.  Fifty years of the sweetest smile, fifty years of the laugh that no one can resist, fifty years of love, fifty years of feeling, at last, like a family.  We’ll throw her a party, and my brothers will make snotty cracks about being over the hill.  And she’ll give as good as she gets; always has.  And when I meet her for breakfast the Tuesday before the party, I’ll give her a card that tells it like it is – a card that tells her what a blessing she is to me.

God bless my sister Anne.

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