Today, my mom would have been sixty-five years old.

Seven years ago, on her fifty-eighth birthday, she sat in a doctor’s office, unable to find a comfortable place in the chair, while she waited to receive the news she did not want to hear — the cancer was back.

I can still remember those nervous, little movements, like the seat was filled with pins, jabbing her into a constant shifting and adjusting, searching for a comfort she would not find in that office on that day.

I think the part she hated the most was leaving us, especially her grandkids. She wanted to stay. She wanted to help us, to protect us, to love us. She wasn’t ready to leave.

And we weren’t ready for her to leave.

But the choice isn’t ours. And shouldn’t be, really.

The office in which I worked during 2011 had a stack of bubble wrap. I don’t remember why — perhaps from a shipment. But I loved to pop the little plastic bubbles and had stashed a few sheets in the truck. Occasionally, I would share with the boys, but Younger was always frustrated by my refusing to allow him to just twist the wrap and pop multiple bubbles at once.

“It’s my stress relief, Younger,” I told him. “Nice and slow, one at a time.”

Because not only was my mother dying of cancer, but the office where I had worked for fifteen years had closed. My new job was only part-time and required that I return to college with the possibility (which they couldn’t guarantee, they told us, with a nudge and a wink) of full-time work when I graduated. I was the mother of two young boys, both in multiple sports. And Younger and his teacher had declared war on each other, and my ten-year-old son, who had previously had meltdowns over a few missed points, now no longer even attempted to earn the highest grade. And, of course, marriage is never easy and sometimes surviving for another day is the best we can do.

But for a few moments each day, I could focus on the small but triumphant sound of plastic bubbles crunching beneath my fingers, one single bubble at a time.

In April of 2011, Mom left us. And as my husband, my boys, and I were settling in the truck parked in my parents’ driveway, preparing to leave after our last few moments with her, I heard a small, soft voice ask, “Mom? Where’s the bubble wrap?”

And the soft pop-pop-pop of the bubbles accompanied us home.

I no longer pop bubble wrap. I can still hear that little voice from the back seat.

Besides, there’s not enough bubble wrap in the world.




Not Okay

I may have a few obsessive-compulsive traits.


My husband installed several three-way switches in our house.  In theory, we could use the closest switch to turn a light on and off and avoid crossing dark rooms littered with our animals, all of whom are black.

But when all my lights are off, I need all the switches on one wall to be pointed in the same direction.

Yes, it is a need.

And, yes, I will use the farthest light switch to turn off a light and walk through a dark room just to keep all switches pointed in the same direction.

And, yes, I will lie in bed and silently seethe when my husband walks through the bedroom and actually uses the three-way switches for the correct purpose, leaving the little rectangles in all kinds of positions before sliding into bed oblivious to the fact that I hate, hate, hate him.

I also need my number of eggs to be even. Because you just cannot arrange a symmetrical pattern with an odd number of eggs.

You. Can. Not. Do. It.

So the other day, I needed three eggs for a recipe. And I was almost giddy because I remembered from my last use of the eggs that I had left an uneven number in the carton.

It was all lopsided and everything.

But then, as I was pulling the last egg out, I suddenly, for no apparent reason, became involved in some kind of juggling act.

And one single egg hit the floor with a tremendous splat, yolk and shell oozing across my wood floor.


“Are you okay, Mom?” Younger asked gently.


“We can clean it up.”

“Nooooooooooo.” I stared at the glob as my husband hurried to grab cleaning supplies. “But my eggs were going to be an even number.”

“Mom,” Younger said, his voice even more gentle. “Are you okay?”

No, I am not okay.

My light switches are pointed in whatever direction my husband felt was fit to leave them in and my eggs are in an asymmetrical pattern in their carton.

No, no, no.

I am not okay.

I. Am. Not. Okay.



The Smell of . . .

The other day, after school, Younger and I made a quick trip to the local supermarket, and at one point, while we were standing at opposite ends of an aisle, I heard, “Hey, Mom.”

Occupied with searching for a particular brand of lotion, I did not even glance in his direction as I murmured, “Hmmmm?”

“What do you think really ripped abs smell like?” he questioned.

And now I did shift my eyes from the loaded shelves to where he stood, peering intently at a rack. “What do they let you drink at that school, Younger?”

“No, Mom.” He pulled a bottle of body spray from the shelf and waved the label in my direction. “Really Ripped Abs.”


Uhhhmm, yes.


Younger may not have been drinking, but I think maybe someone was.

Dad’s Way

My husband has never really been the disciplinarian of the family. He tends to follow the whatever-you-want-as-long-as-it-doesn’t-kill-you-immediately path.

A long time ago, when we were still spending summer nights at baseball fields, Elder patted my side and asked, “Hey, Mom, after the game, can we get some ice cream?”

Exhausted, I relinquished my usual role of decision-maker. “Oh, Elder, I don’t know. Ask your dad.”

Elder threw up his arms in victory, ran to Younger, and announced, “We’re getting ice cream. Mom said to ask Dad.”

And I sighed a little.

Then the other day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, Younger asked, “Hey, Dad, did ya bring me some soda?”

My husband shrugged off his coat. “Now, what kind of father would I be if I encouraged your bad habits?”

“So . . .” Younger tilted his head, eying his father. “Yeah?”

“It’s in the fridge,” my husband admitted.

And I sighed a little.

Or maybe a lot.

I sigh so much, it’s hard to say any more.