“So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

My octogenarian in-laws have been thinking more than ever about what happens after one of them dies. After dinner last night, around the table a discussion arose among the four of us about their London house, and where would the survivor live, etc. My father now living without my mother in the same house they had bought together in Pennsylvania, and what he is going through as a widower, was the main immediate conversational catalyst.

However, my father-in-law insisted several times on taking matters too lightly for my mother-in-law’s taste. At one point, she put him on the spot: “Don’t joke,” she admonished him as he chuckled. “What will happen to you if I go first like Robert’s mum? You’re useless. You can’t do anything for yourself. You couldn’t live alone….”

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Telephone Time Again

I dread this: I have to call Dad in Pennsylvania – I haven’t spoken to him in about 5 days. I want to work as usual of course, but my mind will be pre-occupied until I get this over with once more. I can’t really ring him before 12 noon UK time.

My phone, and a coffee, a little while ago. [Photo by me, 2016.]
My phone, and a coffee, a little while ago. [Photo by me, 2016.]

For all the years I’ve been living over here, in fact since I was a college kid, my mother was the one with whom I did most of the parental talking on the phone. She was the center of it all: information was shared with her, and she then told him. Only rarely did I talk to him for any length of time; he was never a big phone user.

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The Evolution Of A Routine

Well, I’ve got the Google+ page up and running. (With a bit of help! Thank you, Adele!) Setting it up jogged my memory back to this post from what now seems so long ago December 2013. In it (back when almost no one was reading this blog! ;-) ), I wrote in part:

….Having previously worked in education, and then as a consultant, I have been used to working on my own and sometimes at home. While writing fiction is new to me, my new routine is not much different from previous ones.

A long-published writer relation of mine years ago told me he even found it difficult to avoid being bothered during the day. The assumption was that, being home, he must be “available.” He reached the point where he would rarely answer the phone (his answering machine always picked up), and never answered his door. “If I was in an office somewhere,” he said, “I wouldn’t be home to answer the door. When I’m working, I’m not here.”

He would write early in the day, and then head out to the gym or meet friends, and then return home to write more in the afternoon. It worked for him. That was also then pre-social media….

That “long-published writer relation” was, of course, my now late uncle. I remember visiting with him a bunch of times when I was a graduate student – when the rest of the “adult-world” was mostly out at their places of employment. I recall too how my now late mother used to poke fun at “Hemingway” (her nickname for him): “Is he actually writing anything?!”

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“Hold on, it’ll come to me: We met that time in Malta, right?”

While, yes, I do point to “personal” matters on here and other “public” social media, I usually do so as an adjunct to what’s in my novels. Something that might surprise you: I’m not a very “public” person. I just want my novels to be enjoyed.

I have two Facebook accounts. My main one is under my real name and is “personal” – visible to friends (in the pre-Facebook use of the word) and family. The rest of my social media – my (still underutilized, I know) Facebook author page, my Twitter, and of course this blog – revolve around my “public” persona (such as it is).

Free Stock Photo: Public parking sign and entrance.
Free Stock Photo: Public parking sign and entrance.

I think most of us understand there does seem increasingly to be a blurring of the remaining “boundary” between the private and the public, and we accept that. Yet as part of that, a distinction between “home” space and “work” space seems rapidly being eroded, too. Facebook has become one of those places we see it.

I’ve got nothing against making new “friends” who could become friends eventually. (A few from social media have, so I have allowed them into my “private” space.) Still, there is a line someplace. Case in point: last week, I’d had a Messenger exchange with a relative, and I opened (in this excerpt) by mentioning yet another older relative of ours who is very ill, possibly terminal:

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Happy Thanksgiving! (Now Let’s Wreck Our Family?)

Based on my novels’ overall background subject matter, on here as you know invariably some nods are given to the realities of politics. But that’s all. This site is NOT about partisan politics, we’re readers and writers here.

So this post is not some shocking change of pace. It’s not about “politics.” However, a few brief paragraphs of background are unfortunately required for this post if you’ll just bear with me for a moment as you read and scroll down.

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My Mom And Me

There was a time we rummaged through shoeboxes and dusty albums and stumbled on nearly forgotten photographs of deceased loved ones. No longer. Nowadays, we find hordes of digital camera photos that had once been uploaded onto now barely used PCs:

Outside a cousin's wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo - I think - by my wife.]
Outside a cousin’s wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo – I think – by my wife.]

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Stages Of Grief

This morning I’m driving my now widower father, and my 44 year old sister (she lived with my parents, and so now lives with my father: let’s please not go there right now), up to our (my wife and mine’s – and I know that’s ungrammatical, but I don’t care right now) place in the Catskills for a few days.

We probably don’t have to do this, but I desperately want to. Dad agreed. He needs a different view and I think he knows that.

And I have to get the hell away for a while from this (my now late mother’s) October 26 place of death. Increasingly, I can’t bear this f-cking house. I never wanted them to move here to Pennsylvania (it’s not about PA itself; but let’s not go there either right now), and my late mother is “everywhere” here still, of course.

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Anniversaire du Débarquement

After a parent dies, at some point inevitably you have to start to go through their possessions and what’s stored away. My father is already thinking about what to do with Mom’s clothes and coats. But you never know what else you might find….

[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]

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Anna Barbauld (In The Middle Of The Night)

I was messaging with my “chocolate cake delivering” cousin last evening. She’s feeling exceptionally down about her Dad and my mother. Obviously, I’m shattered about my mother and saddened about her father, too. Going back and forth helps a little bit, I suppose.

I’ve had to leave my phone on “airplane mode” overnights in recent weeks, because it was buzzing with messages and well-wishes in the middle of the U.S. night. All were well-intentioned, of course, and REALLY appreciated by me…. but just not necessarily at 3 o’clock in the morning! (European friends and relations, yes, I’m looking at you! :-) )

Free Stock Photo: An aisle of library books.
Free Stock Photo: An aisle of library books.

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A Eulogy: The Toughest Writing You’ll Ever Do

I delivered my mother’s eulogy at her funeral Mass back on Saturday. It was the toughest few pages I’d ever had to write. Even harder was sharing it verbally in the church with the other mourners.

After all, there are the basic facts to cover: her birth, bits on her upbringing, her marriage, her family, where she’d lived and worked, etc. More important, though, are the human aspects. Somehow I got through the 10 minutes or so without breaking down, but, as I spoke, I remember feeling numb….

My parents on their wedding day, 1963.
My parents on their wedding day, 1963.

I thought I’d share some of it with you here:

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