I wanted to take a family picture

I sent a message in our sibling group text. I said something like, “at our dinner Friday evening I hope we can take some sibling group photos.” Of course I thought to myself: I bet mom would love it if we took a picture of all six kids together. I hope we can make this happen.  

After years of battling illness, my oldest sister, Brenda’s husband, Ted, passed away. My family was gathering in Minnesota for his funeral. We would all be in Minnesota at the same time for less than twenty-four hours. My oldest brother, Brian’s, plane landed in Minneapolis at 5:30PM on Friday and my flight departed at 5:14PM on Saturday. Friday evening was the time to make our photo op happen. 

Getting us all together in the same place has not been easy. The last time the six of us kids were together was at a very carefully orchestrated, boundary-intense family reunion we held in Minnesota eight years ago. At the time we planned pictures for a Saturday morning. I recall one of my sisters was not in the mood for family pictures and asked if we could reschedule. I was so grateful  when she showed up to the site of our photo shoot: the backyard of our childhood home. During the shoot, we managed some happy jumping photos (my personal favorites). Before our family reunion, it had been fifteen years since we all were in the same space. (I believe it was for Brenda’s and Ted’s wedding.) 

We are much older now. I am keenly aware that this may be the very last time all six of us kids will be in the same place, that is to say, alive and together. Maybe that is why my mind drifts to my best friend Marianne, and the picture she recently shared. The image is beautifully heartbreaking. In the photo, Marianne, her twin brother Michael, and oldest brother David, stand around the casket of her youngest brother, Jay. Jay had suffered a tragic accident two years earlier and had finally succumbed to his injuries. In this photo, Marianne’s brother David looks completely disheveled and grief-stricken. Michael appears earnest, eager and sweet. I may be partial. (I totally am.) Marianne, who stood between her two living brothers, looks as if she is not only holding them up; she looks like she is also holding up the world. Michael is standing next to Jay, (and appearing to act as if Jay were still alive). Instead, Jay lies peacefully in his coffin. I had not seen Jay look this good since before his accident. Then I wondered how long it had been since they had a picture together. Their mom passed away in 2006. Maybe it was then. 

I am sure there is a connection and that my plea to take a sibling photo is because in truth, I didn’t want Marianne’s sibling picture to become my own reality.

LIfe is real. Life is uncomfortable. Life is beautiful. Life is ugly. What my life is not is a carefully crafted photo of six adults standing shoulder to shoulder, smiling, while appearing to exist in perfect harmony. 

Here is the deal: My brothers, sisters and I are not a close, connected group. We are a bit broken and bruised. Occasionally one of us goes to therapy and sometimes others of us seem to heal. Other times, we seem excruciatingly awkward and completely weird. Then when things seem to be smoothing out and settling down, someone inevitably does or says something that rips us apart, intentionally or cluelessly. (I believe my family thinks that someone is me.) Of course, we get triggered. We retreat. We lash out. We struggle to forgive. We are determined to hold our boundaries. When boundaries fail, we disconnect, quietly relieved as we return to our own lives. These lines of hurt, regret, and misunderstanding go every direction. So do the lines of love, understanding and forgiveness,  at least, that is what I hope and want to believe. 

This time we left our lives and came from near and far to be with my sister, Brenda. As I made my way to Minnesota, I pleaded to the heavens and really to anyone who would hear me, “I hope we can set aside our differences for a five minute photo shoot.” 

It was me. I wanted to take a picture together. We are all adults. There was no mother, no father or parent insisting we show up, comb our hair, smile and show our teeth. (I had a huge gap in my teeth and never liked to show them.) It was our choice to be there.

Before making my way to Minnesota, I coordinated with my sister Brenda and brother Bill for Friday evening’s family get-together. Brenda made a few suggestions. So did I. Bill is my other brother. He has currently blocked me from seeing his Facebook posts and has actively avoided speaking to me since I flew to Minnesota for his wedding reception three years ago. I do not know why.

I care about him. I worry about him. I love him. Long ago I considered him a best friend. This same brother suggested a lovely, local park near his house. We agreed on the park. As we texted back and forth, I took deep, careful breaths, hoping I would not text something that would set him off. I did not want to blow it, and I also realize that writing my reality here may also blow it now. I knew what a big deal it was that he was exchanging texts with Brenda and me. Nevertheless, for me, my sanity is about truth. So, I tried to be true to myself.

Then the Friday evening family event planning continued. After making various food suggestions, we decided on pizza. I offered to order it and then naively realized that offering to order the pizza meant I needed to pay for the pizza. I was frustrated (with myself). I struggled with the assumption that I would pay for the pizza. As such, I believe my unresolved baggage allowed me to believe that somehow my family was taking advantage of me. As a result, I fumbled for words and fumbled on my actions. I made a suggestion that everyone pitch in and then made a joke about ordering Dominos instead of the more expensive Punch pizza.

I am sure I annoyed someone. Bill stopped responding. Soon my mom was texting me privately to ask, “who is paying for the pizza,” I also privately shared with her my gaffe. As I was responding to her in a private text, she responded in the group text that she would pay for the pizza. I know she does not have the money to pay for a pizza party. I felt selfish, ashamed and incapable. Quickly, I texted everyone regarding how sweet mom is and said, “Of course, I will pay for the pizza.” Of course mom followed with, “I will pitch in.” And finally, I took time to process all those deep and buried feelings. After downloading to Dave what we now affectionately call, “Pizza-gate,” I realized I would be ok. I took a deep breath and Friday night I ordered six Punch pizzas. We ate three.

I think it was Thursday when Bill shared that my step father would be at the pizza picnic. My step dad and my mom have been divorced for thirty years. 

Friday night arrived. My step dad and a woman who is apparently his much younger girlfriend arrived with him. She was wearing a black t-shirt with an American flag and the word, “freedom” printed across her chest. She spoke confidently in a thick New York accent and vaped her way through the evening. I brought Marianne, who also lives in Minnesota. Marianne wore a blue sundress. I was nervous and tried to talk about anything other than uncomfortable family issues, politics or religion. Naturally (not naturally) I talked about board games. Trying a little self-deprecating humor, I said and I quote, “The only area I am competitive in is board games.” My mom quickly piped in, “That is not true. You are a very competitive person.” I cringed and tried to defend myself. Then I tried to change the subject. I felt stupid for trying to defend myself. I stopped talking. I think it was Brian who interrupted and said, “Beth, what is your favorite board game?” I appreciated the redirect.

Bill was a no show. Sure, I wondered if it was because my stepdad was there. I did not want to infer. Instead, I asked why. I asked where he was. I asked if he would be at the funeral the next day. I asked if he was ok. I hope he is ok. I also made light of him not being there. Then I asked about taking a group picture. Brian assured me, “Beth, I will make sure he is in the sibling photo.”

*By the way this might be a good time (or not) to mention that Brian and I have had an incredibly rocky relationship, which includes his ex wife accusing me of tongue-kissing their daughter, and then a whole runaway train of accusations akin to the “Satanic Panic,” (*that time in the 1980’s where daycare providers, Sunday school teachers and parents were wrongly accused of performing all sorts of creepy, satanic rituals on small children, like making daycare kids travel down a toilet drain to a torture room): 

As far as the accusations made on me go, I did not tongue-kiss their daughter, nor did I do all the other stupid stuff they accused me of doing, except I did drink Diet Coke in their home & I did post a picture online with one of their daughters, her newborn daughter and my sons sitting on a couch together. And no, my family did not come out all guns-a-blazing in my defense. Better (and more confusing), by sidestepping the issues, I think they perpetuated the narrative that I am bad, manipulative and that I was guilty. Consequently, these crazy indictments left a rift in our family so wide that I am uncertain how we will ever heal. As a result, from my perspective, Brian and I are not ok.

All this to say that before traveling to Minnesota and also at our dinner family Friday night, I mentioned to Brenda, who does know most of the story, that Brian and I would be ok. “Watch us talk to each other. We both know this moment is about you, not us. We will put aside our stuff and be kind. Watch.” And true to my words, Brian and I were kind. (In fairness, we have had practice.) He maintains that he has no issue with me. I definitely still have issues with him. He was emphatic, so I decided to trust him when he insisted that he would talk to Bill and that Bill would pose for a sibling photo at the funeral the next day.  

The funeral was beautiful. I sat to the right side of Brenda. I did not hold her hand. I touched her shoulder and kept telling her (during pauses in the services) what a lovely funeral this was. It was. Ted’s brother Kim and his niece Erica spoke. I teared up when I spoke to Erica and her sister, Melissa. I felt seen when Kim’s step-daughters talked to me about religion and race. (Thank you ladies.) My cousins on my mom’s side also came. Brian pointed out that they were not speaking to each other. One of them quickly left after the other arrived. 

Bill, his new wife, and one of Bill’s sons arrived right before the funeral began. I tried to speak to him. It was awkward. He did not respond. I don’t know. Maybe he did not hear me?  In the family prayer which is held right before the service, I handed him a little paper bag filled with postcards. On several occasions a few years back, Bill asked me to buy him postcards on all of my travels. “I collect them.” He said. As a result, I spent many trips searching for the right postcard and then searching for a post office so I could send them to Bill. Bill rarely, if ever, told me he received them. Dave often asked, “Does Bill like your postcards? You really worry and spend a lot of time trying to get this whole postcard thing right.” “I don’t know.” I said. “He doesn’t say anything unless I ask and then I feel weird asking.” One day after spending hours trying to find just the right postcard, Dave proclaimed, “Beth, enough! You don’t even know if he wants you sending him these postcards. I wish Bill would say something. I wish he would let you know. Please stop.” So I stopped — until last spring. I wanted to offer an olive branch so-to -speak. I wanted Bill to know I care.

Consequently, on a recent trip, I searched for postcards that I thought would make him smile. I brought those postcards to the funeral and handed them to Bill. I said, “Here are some postcards I picked out especially for you. I hope you like them.” He stared at me for a second and looked away. Maybe he said something. I am not sure. Maybe he nodded. It felt cold. Then I took a deep breath. My guess is that even if I did upset Bill that ultimately whatever is going on is not about me. It’s about what Bill is dealing with and working through.

After the funeral, Bill, his son and his new wife stood in the gymnasium, where Brenda’s local church congregation was holding a luncheon. My mom and Brian went to talk with them. I wanted to talk with them too. I tried to speak to them twice and was feeling super self conscious and defeated. I looked away. I looked back and saw them walking out. Brian and my mom followed them out of the building. To answer your question: No. We did not get our six-siblings-together picture. Today I am certain we never will. (*Maybe my feelings will change.) Seconds later, one of my sisters turned toward me, hugged me and cried, “You aren’t going to leave without saying goodbye, are you?” I assured her that is why I was standing there and hugging her now. “I came to say goodbye. I love you.” I said. Then I left.

Now thousands of miles away on a trip with Dave and Kyle, I think I have been able to process. What seems clear is that my family was upended by layers of grief. Nevertheless, they seemed to feel more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing behavior rather than the loss of Brenda’s husband, (or maybe I just felt more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing rejection). It makes sense. Brenda’s husband, Ted, was terminally ill and in so much discomfort. His death, as hard as it is and probably will be, for my sister, came as a tender mercy. My brother is still alive and we seem irrevocably broken.

At the end of this day and after reconnecting with my family, I recognize that perspectives’ and vantage points of every individual vary and will probably vary now. I hope for compassion and forgiveness. I always will. I also own and realize I could have gathered the other five of us siblings and taken a picture together. I really wish I had. 

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Traveling to London: Non-Traditional Families

My sister, Dominique, her husband George, Dave and I

Last week I found myself sitting in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for our departing flight. I was excited to learn that Dave and I had been upgraded to first class. My period had started hours before and I was excited to have a more comfortable flight.

We were traveling through Houston and then on to London. We arrived at the airport early.  I pulled out my phone to see that my sister, Brenda❤️, had texted me, wishing me safe travels. (She and I texted the entire way ❤️.) I responded and then began scrolling and decided to respond to my friend who asked,

“You have a sister?”

“Actually, I have three.”

My sisters

I thought about her question as I tried to respond to my brother-in-law, who was texting me at the same time. A few days earlier I sent Dave’s family the following text: 

“Dave was speaking with his doctor recently about having trouble sleeping. She mentioned that long term Benadryl use may contribute to dementia. She also mentioned that Benadryl can trigger restless leg syndrome. (You don’t need to use Benadryl long term to impact RLS). Anyway, your mom has mentioned to me that for quite some time she took Benadryl twice a night (something like that). She also mentioned struggling with really bad restless leg syndrome. I hope it is ok that I share this information with you. At the risk of offending you, I have pushed it off — for months. [Yet] the thought to share [it with you] keeps coming back. So I am doing it now. Please know I do care about your mom. I also feel a lot of compassion for the Adams’ Family delayed sleep phase issues ❤️. 

Anyway, I hope life is good. ❤️

much love, Beth”

NOTE: Experience has taught me that when I reach out to my in-laws, typically all the non-genetically related spouses respond, (which we usually acknowledge and then share some wonderful laughter). Occasionally I get a terse response. Eventually, the group text goes off the rails and my brother-in-law, who is married to Dave’s sister, begins texting me privately. True to our pattern, I received a “yup” from Dave’s sister and an accusation of being a gaslighter, “possibly” a non-intentional gaslighter, from Dave’s brother-in-law. In his defense, I was the first to ask a question. Of course, because I was raised to believe everything is my fault, I whipped out a frustrated, over-explain-y response. Because we were about to board a plane, I stopped texting so I could use the airport bathroom one last time. As I walked through the bathroom, I noticed that someone left their cellphone in a stall. When I returned to our gate, I observed that another woman abandoned her luggage near our boarding gate. September flying always makes me a little jittery. (I imagine I am not the only one.) I mulled my concerns over with Dave and then reported the abandoned luggage to the gate agent, who promptly thanked me and added,

“this is a weird time of year.”

“Yes it is!”

Within seconds, the gate agents made the announcement for us to line up and the plane began to board. Dave and I were in group one. We stood in line. Then everything came to a screeching and underwhelming stop. Announcement after announcement stated that our plane had mechanical problems. At that, Dave and I found a place to sit, which was also far away from the luggage abandoner. (Obviously, I had to make sure I would not get blown up from her suitcase bomb). Now forty-five minutes later everyone who had already boarded the plane was asked to deplane. Another hour went by and our beautiful, perfect-seats flight to Houston was canceled. Dave immediately hopped on the phone with United Airlines. I used the bathroom (again) and then decided to get in the long re-ticketing line. I stood near Ronny (a trucker and a farmer from Baton Rouge) and ZadRienne (like Adrien) from a small town in Georgia. (We are now Facebook friends and this was her second time on a plane.) After Ronny asked ZadRienne to put her mask over her nose (great ice breaker), we spent the next hour (and probably way more) discussing canceled flights, the pandemic, things like people who refuse to get vaccinated, and all the trucking accidents on along Interstate 80’s  Parley’s Canyon section. In truth, we spent the bulk of the time deconstructing the recent news story about missing (at the time) Gabby Petito and her boyfriend (still missing) Brian Laundrie. Ronny and I were convinced Gabby was dead. (Sadly, as the world now knows, they found Gabby’s body a few days after I arrived in London.) Ronny is a father of girls. I have sons and Z had just left her boyfriend (they had traveled from Georgia to SLC together). We all felt like we had skin in this dysfunctional relationship game. We talked about appearances. We talked about consent. We talked about the need to say no. We talked about emotional abuse and how dudes are really clever at appearing like the good guys. We wished the Utah police had arrested Gabby for scratching her way back into her van. Personally, I understand the frustration of “scratching” when you have had your worth beaten out of you. We also spent a lot of time talking about all the missing people, the ones who are not getting the same attention as blond-haired Gabby was. It is heartbreaking, and honestly, this conversation regarding domestic violence rattled me. Eventually, I motioned Dave to come over. Soon the gate agent was directing us to another gate.

“Run. Run. They can help you. I told them you are coming,” She said.

We ran. At the instruction of the gate agent, Z followed me. Now at the new gate, the gate agents were boarding another plane at the other gate. Everyone was confused as to why we were there. I helped Z get her new ticket. “This is only her second flight.” I told the gate agent. As I said goodbye to Z, we realized my and Dave’s flight (now to Chicago) was boarding at the gate we just left. Dave panicked:

“What about our luggage?” Will it make it to London?”

A male gate agent heard Dave, pulled out his radio, said something into his radio and ran away to do something — hopefully find our luggage. The gate agents confirmed we were on the flight to Chicago. In all the chaos, we realized that the door was about to close for our flight. At once I hear Dave:

“Beth, we aren’t checked in.”

The agents checked. We were not checked in and we lost our seats (again). Ally, (now I remember her name), the gate agent asked us to take a deep breath. We talked about the importance of being nice as she, Dave and I ran to our gate. Dave was clearly upset and struggled to contain his emotion. Ally kept assuring all would be ok. Now back at our original gate, the gate agents said,

“we only have one first class seat. Who do you want to have it?”

Dave was halfway on the plane and I said, “Give it to him.”

Right then Ronny walked over. “Are you ok?”

I think I said something like, “We are about to miss our flight. They forgot to check us in. I don’t know if we have our luggage. I am sorry, We have to go. It was nice meeting you.”

The gate agents asked me to, “hurry, hurry,” and I ran to my seat.

For approximately thirty seconds I was relieved to discover that no one was sitting next to me. I felt even better when the flight attendants announced, “Everyone has boarded the plane, We are going to shut the door and take off.” Usually this announcement signals that everyone is in their correct seats. Unfortunately, before they finished the sentence a large, partially-masked man plopped himself next to me and then let his body drift into my seat. Ew! I knew this wasn’t his seat. I wanted to tell him that I knew this was not his seat. Instead, I sat silent and began thinking:

“Dude, I had to take a Covid test to enter the United Kingdom. I have to take another Covid test two days after entering the country. AND, I may have to take another Covid test due to my flight delay! Put your damn mask on! Stop letting your big man-body touch mine!”

At that, I intently side-eyed him. He looked back at me and put his mask on, at least briefly. Gah! Perturbed, I decided to calm myself by scrolling through my messages. (Bad decision!) My brother-in-law texted again [insert big eye’d emoji here]. I have since deleted our entire text chain. I also took pictures of said chain — just in case. (Ask me about why I throw desserts away in the outside trash can. Deleting this text thread uses the same principle.)
Now confined and crammed up against the airplane window waiting for the plane to actually take off, I decided to deconstruct my interaction with my brother-in-law (in my head, of course):

Maybe it was because I had spent an hour talking about emotional and physical abuse. Maybe it was because the large man next to me felt entitled to sit where he did not belong. Maybe it was because I felt my brother-in-law’s tone was patronizing. In that claustrophobic moment, I did not like the (contemptuous) way I feel Dave’s family tends to see me. It was also clear that nothing I did would change that. Then I realized that I did not need to explain. Whatever was enabling my current emotion, I decided I needed a boundary. I needed to say no. I sent him a text and the plane took off.

(*Another time we were waylaid in Chicago)

Now in Chicago, it was late and our luggage was nowhere to be found. Dave and I knew the next day we would have to buy some clothes and supplies like tampons. I texted my sister, Dominique. She and her family live in Chicago. Then my mom asked if I was going to text her. Dave and I found a United airport lounge and spoke with Linda, who reminded me of my friend Carrie’s mom who is also named Linda and is just as sweet. Linda found us a hotel, gave us some meal vouchers, which were problematic to use (not her fault), told us to get some food upstairs and when we finished, she walked us out so we would know where to go. We talked about traveling. I told her I loved her hair color. She said it was Nice and Easy and was actually easy to do. She told us about solo travel and that she wants to visit the UK soon. We talked about Cornwall, the tiny UK country roads and our love of seeing the world. Then we were off to our hotel. On the shuttle we met newlyweds traveling home from their honeymoon. They were also supposed to be on the canceled Houston flight. In our room we heard the methodical bang of a headboard hitting the wall. I wondered if it was the honeymooners.

In the morning my sister, Dominique, texted me. She is actually my step sister. I have one biological sister and two step sisters. When my mom married their dad, they had this genius idea to separate the biological sisters from each other. (It was a terrible idea.) See, we were newly baptized Mormons and according to the LDS church we were now one big happy family. So from age one until age eighteen I shared a room with Dominique. We are very different from each other. She is tall and I am not. I cannot sit still. She is very talented and can sit still for days. She knits, sews, crochets, owns a tattoo/art studio, just had a fundraiser for Afghan refugees. She is married to a super rich hedge fund dude. She recently bought a house in Sedona to go with her 9,000 square foot home in Chicago. (I know it is 9,000 square feet because she volunteered to tell me a few times how big it was.) She complimented me for living in such a small house and seemed disappointed when I told her it was larger than she thought it was. A couple of years ago she commented on Instagram that I lived a “really charmed life.” Maybe it was the irony of her words that hit me wrong, or maybe it was because she and I were misaligned from the start. I never knew where to set the pain of our orchestrated relationship. I have not seen her since 2014 (at our family reunion). 

I love her ❤️ and I feel for her too. For starters, she had to share a room with afraid-of-the-dark, needs-her-blankie, short-tempered, rambunctious loves to run, plays-in-the-woods-with-boys me. Our relationship is strained, complicated and one neither asked for, but were given. I also care about her and I love her. I could write a book on us. One day I probably will, or at least, that is what I hope.

Somewhere in her text thread she said,

“George and I would really love to see you both. So if it means coming to you, we can do that.” A few texts later she said, “I’m trying to make up for so many lost times.”

At that, Dominique and I (George and Dave too) were spending the day together. We spent much of our day at some weird outlet mall near the airport. Dominique kindly waited as I looked for clothes. She assured me several times that she was there to help me. She wanted me to know they wanted to spend the day with us. She told me her very favorite trips ever is one she and George took with Dave and me. We took them touring throughout Southern Utah. It really was a fun trip. I was overwhelmed and not sure how to take in all of her generous energy. Like I said, our relationship is complicated. When Dave left his jacket in the mall, she sweetly suggested that they could wait in the super hot parking garage as we looked for it. I listened to her stories about her kids, her life and her business. I asked her about the tattoo on her arm. She talked about it being a work in progress. Dave suggested kebabs because he always suggests kebabs. George found a crazy Lebanese place about twenty-five minutes from the airport. They treated us to what was listed as a “dinner for 5.” I kept saying it was a dinner for fifty! We all laughed. At Target, she and I looked at pajama bottoms. She was like, “wait, that is not the fabric you like.” When Target didn’t have the fabric I like, she talked about fabrics she liked and that maybe they would work for me. I tried on a man’s tan zipper sweatshirt. I could not find any zip-up hoodies in the women’s section. I am pretty sure Dominique didn’t like her short sister in a man’s sweatshirt. She gently asked,

“Do you like sweatshirts so long?” Regardless, she was very nice and said, “I like the color.”

I was certain once we arrived at the airport that Dave and I would be out the door of their Tesla, the one with the crazy doors. Nope. Dominique found a parking spot. As we sat in their car, we visited and reminisced. Soon it was time to go. We gathered our things, took a few photos and they walked us to our terminal. I can’t say that things are exactly healed. I can’t say when we will see each other again. What I can say is that it was a good day. On this September day, she completely leaned in and was the best sister I could ask for. It felt good to be loved and for someone to consider me.

Dave and I arrived at our gate. I want this flight-to-London story to be over as much as you. I promise we once again had excellent seats. As we were standing in line to use our United meal vouchers, Dave’s phone alerted him that we were upgraded. Sadly, we lost our good seats and were in the middle seats of an “upgraded” section. I lost my mind, or at least I believe I had. We walked to the gate. The gate agent looked at us like we were crazy and made sure we knew he had no time for us crazy folks. I began to cry. He stared blankly.

“You can’t have your seats back. What do you want to do? I need you to get out of this line. I have other people to help. What do you want to do?”

I walked away, still crying. Dave followed. I flipped out and demanded Dave sit down and then I yelled at him. (*No autopilot in marriage: we still have worked to do ❤️.) Everything was wrong: one of us was sitting in one section and the other in another section. I asked Dave to see if he could get the gate agent to put us in the same section. We walked and gave the agents our tickets. One ticket had our new seat scribbled on it. We ended up in the upgraded middle seats. As we each climbed into our respective middle seats, a man seated next to Dave, who was sitting in the aisle said,

“Woah! I saw you two go at it out there. Are you ok?”

We assured him we are the kind of couple that puts it all out there. (Meaning, Dave does not put on a veneer of calm and wait to beat me at home.) Then the people in the section rallied for Dave and me. They said they were sorry we had such a crappy flight. Everyone was kind. Everyone seemed to get that we had already had a long journey. Our little section of our United flight Chicago – London restored my faith in humanity. So did my sister, Dominique. Before the flight took off, Dave asked the woman to his left if I could sit next to him. She was like,

“No problem,”

and offered to take my middle seat. I moved to the seat next to Dave. We held hands and were glad to (finally) be on our way.

We arrived in London the next morning. We were tired and happy to be here. 

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If You Are in Crisis, TEXT #741741

Us, Malaga, Spain

“First, (if) you’re in crisis. That doesn’t just mean suicide: it’s any painful emotion for which you need support. You text us at 741741.”

…Last week Eli came home from school and told me one of his friends had died. The next morning he told me that his friend had committed suicide.

My heart breaks and keeps breaking some more. When I hear about a suicide I always envision the following scene: I see that person stuck in the rapids. I see myself far away, reaching out my hand. Then I realize I cannot get to them and they are gone.

My mom’s husband’s son killed himself when we were on vacation a few years back. A high school friend’s sister, who was a mother of five, drove to a park and killed herself. My best friend’s dad killed himself when she was away for work. Dave’s friend & coworker drove onto the Golden Gate bridge, parked his car, quickly got out, walked over to the edge, and immediately jumped to his death. I went to coffee with a mom who told me that her daughter slit her wrists and it is a miracle she is alive. Last year a student at a nearby school committed suicide by hanging in the school building. Two years ago Kyle’s dear friend tried to kill herself. This girl’s sister tried to kill herself the month before. At the same time, one of Eli’s friends called and told him that she had just taken a handful of pills.

After Eli heard about his friend he felt understandably disjointed. So, as Eli tried to process his friend’s death, he and I talked and talked. He reminded me about the rough emotions his peers are dealing with each day. Then he reminded me of this moment:

“Mom, remember that girl, the one who took the pills? I would have been the last person she spoke to before she died.”

He was fifteen at the time. He told this girl he was going to get help. Immediately he spoke with Dave and me. Then he tracked down her parents. We all made sure she was ok.

Córdoba, Spain

Years ago I tried to write about suicide. I was asked not to include personal stories (because they might embarrass someone). Instead, I talked around the subject.

Here is what I wrote on May 2, 2005 (*I have updated this post to reflect current statistics — By the way, suicide rates have nearly doubled since 2005 & my outlook has also changed.):

“The first day of my seventh grade Social Studies class was like any other first day of junior high. It was a warm, sunny autumn in Minnesota. This was the first year I would get to pick some of my own classes, move from room to room and actually not have to be with the same kids all day long. My teacher was new to school and I believe this was her first teaching job. She gave us our seating assignments, called roll and I remember that one seat remained empty. I didn’t really think anything of it. Kids surely would be changing teachers and maybe when this boy saw the new Social Studies teacher, he bolted for the nearest exit.

A month went by, and although some of us had been absent a day or two during that time, this boy’s seat constantly remained empty. The teacher asked once again,

“Does anyone know where Ritchie is? Did he move?”
And then, like he never existed, the teacher (choosing to leave the very large elephant in the room) never spoke of him again.

For the first month of seventh grade all this boy was to me was the perpetually empty seat in my Social Studies class. Eventually, because the subject was so hush hush, I found out through other students who knew him from their elementary school what had happened.

At age twelve, one hot and humid Midwestern summer day, this little boy went into his bedroom and hung himself.

His death haunted me for a long time. In many ways I think it still does.

‘Why would someone my age (which was twelve at the time) want to kill himself? What was he like? What made him so sad or feel so unredeemable that he felt like he needed to take his own life? Why won’t the teacher talk about it? Why do people treat this boy like he never existed? Are you less of a person if you kill yourself?’

I am a verbalizer by nature. I like to process things and I like to get my feelings out in the open. I was completely thrown by this and because I was still young and innocent. I was also completely baffled by all of the silence. I needed to talk about what was swirling around in my head, which was the shame, the sorrow and the reality that once you die, there is no coming back. The good, if there can be good from this boy’s death, is that at a very early age I understood the responsibility that we have to see the people around us. We share this world together. Consequently, it became essential for me to notice the lonely and sad people that crossed my path. And I thought that maybe if I took a moment to listen or smile or include them, they would know that someone out there sees their worth.

Sadly, the more years I live, the more I see that it probably takes more than a smile or a hug to save someone’s life. (That doesn’t mean that I think I should stop reaching out, however, and I won’t.) The more people I encounter and the more I read, sadly, the more I know that suicide is much more common than many of us may realize. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide. By 2018 statistics, suicide is Utah’s 8th leading cause of death. Additionally, In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts. When you see the numbers laid out like that, it’s pretty astounding.

And then it occurred to me that maybe we do not realize that suicide is so common because we (still) do not like to talk about it. It is an understatement to claim that suicide is a horrible and very sad thing. Yet the more I think about suicide, the more I acknowledge that people who kill themselves have completely lost hope and are SHRIEKING for help! I think if you asked someone who has survived a suicide attempt, they may just say they tried to kill themselves they may actually minimize their pain in their response. We all need to feel worth, not shame. In a society that does not (seem to) like to speak about suicide, are we giving a person another message: that because of how they feel, that somehow they are shameful and bad and that this world would be better without them. Do I make any sense? This is such a big topic and just my little web post can not give it justice. The bottom line is this: if we are not talking about suicide, or if we are not allowing suicidal people to talk about their suffering, I would argue that we we are closing doors that may ultimately save someone’s life.

Further, as a person who has experienced depression first-hand, I know what it is like to feel hopeless, worthless and feel like, “What is the point?” I know what it is like to feel lost, yet not have the energy to go on.

Córdoba, Spain

A week ago, after having a very contemplative discussion with our neighbors regarding things like how evil Walmart is, the need for universal healthcare, all the problems in Africa . . . (the list went on and on), I had a sleepless night thinking about all the things I would do to make the world a better place. The next morning I decided to post that list. Number eighteen on my list was ‘Better understanding of Depression/Suicide Prevention.’

Of all the things I listed, number eighteen seemed to strike a huge chord with many of you.

Out of the many emails I received on the subject of depression and suicide, two sisters, Ryan and Molly, contacted me (Ryan emailed me and Molly left a comment). Ryan immediately told me about a walk she was doing in July called, Out of the Darkness: A 20-mile walk [through Chicago] through the night to end the silence surrounding suicide. She kindly suggested that if I really want to make a difference, I could start here. Her email came at a haunting moment: I received it just moments after speaking to someone close to me, just after she had returned from the funeral of someone she knew that had committed suicide. The universe is crazy like that. Of course, I took Ryan’s email as a sign and immediately donated to the cause. The next day I received an email from Molly. She let me know that Ryan was her sister, they were doing the walk in honor of their dad, and she wondered if I could get the word out.

I said yes, and that is when I became completely overwhelmed. To write about suicide and depression has made me acknowledge that as much as I have personally found peace in my life, there are days when I feel like a complete loser (hopeless). Those are not easy feelings to face. I also had to face the completely crushing sorrow I feel each and every time I hear of someone who has either taken their life or has tried to take their life. As sad as I have been (and I have been very sad before), I was willing to face my own pain in hopes that maybe someone out there will know that I get it, that there is always hope, NO MATTER WHAT!

Priego de Córdoba, Spain

Here is Molly and Ryan’s story as told by Molly:

‘My sister Ryan and I decided to participate in the Overnight after being invited by our aunt. She is my Dad’s sister. My dad took his life thirteen years ago this coming August. We never really talked to anyone about it and so it is something I have never come to terms with. What I know is that he felt like his life had gotten so far away from where he wanted it to be, with no chance to get things back on track. He just felt that his family would be better off without him. What I wonder is, would things have been different if he had shared these feelings with just one person? Did he ever even think about talking to anyone? What if my sister and I had been able to talk about it after it happened? Would I feel differently about it all now? Hopefully, through donating and participating in the Out of the Darkness Overnight we will all be one step closer to a better understanding of suicide. People just don’t talk about it because it is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it doesn’t help anyone to pretend it doesn’t happen.

So in honor of the life that we all lost, I will be walking, along with my sister Ryan and my Aunt Maryellen, in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk with the hope that we will be helping to make at least a small difference in how we all deal with suicide.

I have talked to more people about my dad since I registered for this event than I have in years. I know that other people feel strongly about it, but like I said, nobody likes to talk about it. I agree with what you said, nobody should feel so hopeless, but if they do, that there is no shame in it and there are ways to change it. I just want as many people to know about this as possible. Sure, I am looking for the money to meet my fundraising goals, but that money is going to make a difference in someone else’s life somewhere down the line.’

Thank you Molly, Ryan (still) and all of you for giving me an opportunity to talk about something that is so important to me: hope. If we lose hope in ourselves, each other and in this world, then what do we have?

And I cannot end this without saying that if you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone that is, please get help. Please tell yourself you can make it through the next five minutes, then the next, then the next. Please reach out! We are here for you.”

Malaga, Spain

Now back 2019:

Earlier in the week I had an opportunity to write on a memorial page for Eli’s friend. I cannot imagine the heartbreak his parents are going through now.

Here is what I wrote: “Our son Eli and your son share many mutual friends. Your son is a year younger than Eli. Eli told us he met your son last year and that your son sat by Eli and their group of friends. Eli told me how smart he was.

A few weeks ago my husband and I walked into the Sugar House Rubios to grab something to eat while we waited for Eli. The restaurant was virtually empty. A very nice young man took our order. I remember joking around with him because my husband kept changing his mind. It was your son. He did not roll his eyes at my husband’s wishy-washy-ness. Instead, he was very patient, kind and suggested some options (telling us what he liked best). A few minutes later, Eli walked in and walked over to our table. Eli did not see his friend. As he sat there, he told us that your son had just texted him. Eli told us his friend was working at the counter and immediately popped up and went and visited with him. I remember thinking,

‘what a thoughtful kid.’

As we left, we all walked over to the counter and visited with your son. I only wish I had paid more attention to that moment.

When Eli received the news this week that your son had passed he said,

‘Mom, I saw him at school on Monday and gave him a hug.’

We want you to know that your son touched many lives. Eli did not know him as well as others. Nevertheless, your son impacted Eli’s life and Eli definitely considered your son a friend. We are all very sorry for your loss.”

This evening we will attend the funeral. I still have no words. I am so sad that this family are in a place where they have to make this suggestion and also grateful stated that in lieu of flowers that we donate to the American Society For Suicide Prevention. Hey and if you are sad, please know you can always reach out to me. Never feel like you are too much. Never feel ashamed. I may not have the right skills, but I have the energy to help you get to the right place. I am here and I see you — for real. I promise.

Ultimately, I think we can no longer ignore how pervasive suicide, suicide attempts and depression are. That is why I keep wracking my brain, trying to figure what else I can do.

As a mom, I try to be more transparent. I try to let my boys know that that they are of worth and that I see them — that their feelings of sadness are ok, and that it is ok to fail. I am sure there is more. I am open.

Malaga, Spain

End Note.
From the principal of Eli’s School:

“Our students’ lives are precious, and as we move into the coming weekend, we want to equip you and your families with every resource at our disposal to keep our students safe. Below, you will find a list of additional resources to help you help your students.”


Know this: You are loved. You are not alone.

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Thinking of Michelle

Kyle & Eli February 9, 2007

It was a really weird, last-minute-holiday-shopping type of day. I was buying Christmas and Kyle’s Birthday presents. With the Winter Solstice staring me in the face, it was dark early and I must admit that I let the darkness creep inside too. I was hungry, needed some sugar or caffeine and wanted to get back to Park City.

I waited and waited to make a lefthand turn out of the 33rd South Salt Lake City Red Balloon, and the holiday traffic was not letting up. Tired of waiting, I took a right instead and found myself trying to navigate a different route back to the highway.

It was really no coincidence that as I drove West down 33rd South, then made a righthand turn at 2000 East and saw La Puente Restaurant sitting there on the Northwest Corner, that I started thinking about Kyle’s pre-school friend/cousin, Sam Williams.  La Puente was the last place I saw Michelle, Sam, Ben & Ana.  Kyle & Sam are the same age and Ben & Ana were roughly the same ages Kyle and Eli are now.  Back in 2007 it was the Williams Family and their tragedy that nearly brought me back to blogging.  I have wanted to write about this, but it never felt right until now.

My Boys Today

It all began when Kyle was in pre-school.  He came home  one day, excitedly handed me an eight and a half by eleven lined sheet of paper with the name Sam and a phone number written so big the letters filled the entire sheet. “Mom. Mom. You know Sam?”

“Yes. I know Sam.”

“Guess what?”

“What, Kyle?”

“Sam says we are related and that we are cousins. Here is his phone number. We need to get together.”

Sure enough and as crazy as it may sound, Sam and Kyle are most definitely related and yes, they are second cousins, depending on which side you are coming from. A few days after Kyle brought home the phone number I saw Michelle, Sam’s mom, at Pre-School pick-up and as she stood outside with the sun glistening on her face she said, “Beth, did Kyle tell you the news?”

“I believe he did.” I replied as we both laughed.

“It is true. We are related. Beth, your mother-in-law, DeAnne, is my first cousin. Last weekend I was at Aunt Jean’s in Saint George . . .”

“I know Aunt Jean.” I excitedly interrupted and blurted out.

Michelle continued, “Well, I was at Aunt Jean’s and I asked her why she had a picture of Kyle’s parents on her piano. She told me, ‘well, that’s Davy, you know, DeAnne’s son.’ Then she told me how we are all connected, how Dave’s mom lived with my parents a long time ago and that she knew you and Dave. It is such a small world.”

“So small that sometime you find out that you are related, right?”

“Right. Sam thought it was really great and could not wait to tell Kyle.”

With this new piece of information Kyle’s friend, Sam instantly went from pre-school buddy to Kyle’s family.

Kyle & Zeke

As time and life goes, the pre-school year ended and I was not great about staying in touch.  And then one evening, as we often did with them back then, our friends Kat & Alan asked if we wanted to go out to eat.  Because we were burned out of Rubio’s and Cafe Rio, they suggested La Puente and we were on our way.  Once seated, Michelle and and I almost immediately noticed each other. She and her kids were sitting close by.  Once Kyle realized a fellow family member was sitting so close he burst out of his seat to greet them.  Then Eli, Kyle, Sam, Ana, Ben & Zeke (Kat & Alan’s son) made their way over to the “Arcade” (the entryway of the restaurant that has a few video games and gum ball machines.  Kyle and Sam quickly retold their story, proving once again even to Ana & Ben, that yes, we are related. “Sam told us about you. We are cousins, right?” Ana said making sure we all understood that she and Ben knew that we were family.  The kids had a blast. We literally had to drag them out of the restaurant with apologies that it had been so long and promises that we would see each other soon.

Shortly after that, we moved to Park City. And if you know anything about Utah, once you move to the other side of Parley’s Summit, you might as well live in Antarctica. It is strange how a half hour drive over a high mountain pass transports you into another world.

. . . Several months later found Dave, the boys and me in Hawaii for the very first time. We were there for nearly a month. Our trip magically began in Oahu and ended brilliantly in Kauai. By the end of our trip I was convinced that we would somehow find a way to move to this island paradise. The sunshine and ocean waves were the Natural Xanax I needed to conquer my seasonal Winter Blues.

Our last day arrived much to quick. We had to check out of our condo hours before our flight departed. With our bags packed, I did the one thing I always do in the morning and that is read the online news, especially the local news. I saw the initial article: Pregnant Woman and Two Children Killed in an Accident. With no other information, I needed to check the news again because somehow in the back of my mind I knew it was Michelle. I know the area well. I know the underpass the family was driving under. I knew she was pregnant. All the facts were adding up.

We had to check out of our condo and I had to wait to find out. As my boys spent their last day in paradise I knew a family back home was hurting.

Lydgate Park. Kauai.

At the same time I was reading the news the behind-the-scenes communication was happening in the Dorny family (Dorny is my mother-in-law and Michelle’s maiden name) and I received an email from my Mother-in-law with a link to an article telling us the very sad news.

I remember the weirdest things from the funeral. Dave and I were very tan. I was wearing a new Apple Green shirt I bought at Banana Republic. The line was long and I was surprised to see so many non-related people I knew. As we came closer to the caskets, we saw pictures and trinkets. The closer I came to the three caskets, the smaller I felt. My throat was tight. We stopped by Ben and Ana dressed so beautifully. We stopped and I thought about my own boys. I thought about loss. I thought about how childish I am and how short life is. We moved along until I stopped at Michelle’s casket. Of course I am crying as I write this. I was a small space in her world and I was overcome. She lay there. It was obvious that she was pregnant. I stopped and I could not move. She is a mother and she was gone. I could not stop thinking of all the times we met at pre-school. I liked her before I knew we were related. She was cool, calm and kind. I see the sun shining on her face as we talked outside the preschool. I stop and catch my breath.

I wanted to pull her up. I wanted to walk her right out of that room and tell her, “You can’t go. Not yet. Life got busy and we drifted apart. We are family.” And then it was our turn to say hello. Thank goodness. Michelle’s mom grabbed my hand, welcomed and thanked me. How can she be thanking me? And as Dave stood by Michelle’s dad it was eerie. Dave is physically a younger version of her dad. They are tall, thin and broad shouldered. Thank goodness they look so much alike because within seconds we were ushered over to the rest of the family and yes, they all look like Dave. We talked with all the aunts and then it was time to go.

And this is how they died.

On a quiet Salt Lake City Street a drunk 17 year old boy was driving alone, driving on the same road I found myself on, 2000 East. Somewhere around the I-80 underpass this boy lost control of his car. The Williams Family had no time. In a flash their life was forever changed. Almost immediately, Sam’s dad watched the last breath leave his mom’s body and in that moment he decided to forgive and then he moved forward.

Let me tell you, Kyle, Eli and I visited Sam after the accident. We knew it was not easy, yet Chris took a breath, forgave  and allowed his family to heal. I admit that on sunny days it is much easier to move forward. And on dark days, I still fight not to slip back. In my life I have been an idiot. Things that roll off will sometimes creep in. In those moments especially, I am aware that it is not always easy to heal or forgive. As I think about standing there wanting to desperately pull Michelle back into this world, I know I have to keep trying and keep healing. That is all we can do.

Then because I was not able to make a lefthand turn, I found myself turning right on 33rd South. I turned on 2000 East  right by La Puente. A few moments later I found myself driving under the same highway underpass. I was so focused on finding my way back to the highway, I was not sure how I got there until I was there. And then I thought about Michelle and healing. Seriously, it was like she was sitting right there next to me. In a drive under a dark highway underpass, I knew it was time to share my space in this. It was time to remember how grateful I am that  I met Michelle, how grateful I am that Kyle survived his ordeal, how grateful I am that I was able to have children and how grateful that somehow I am healing and the only way I heal is by forgiving and forgiving myself.  Really! Life is way too short not to heal and let go.



Because I myself, am not sure where I stand with religion, I struggled with wether I should post the following video link. I guess you can take it or leave it. This being said, I want honor the Williams family and so I am posting it. Chris tells the story of his loss and healing like no one else can. I think it is pretty cool. The message of forgiveness is amazing!

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Gunnel Starting our Sandwich Generation

(I know I said I would continue our Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Story. I have a lot already written and ready to post. It will have to wait until tomorrow).

Gunnel and Makeda August 2004

October 30, 2006.

Dave, the boys and I were in our hotel room at the Beaverton, Oregon Springhill Suites. The day before we had driven from Park City, Utah to Portland to spend Halloween with Dave’s brother, sister and their families. I will never forget what Eli said as we entered downtown Portland at the end of our long drive: “Hey Mom, I have an idea! Next time let’s take an airplane.”

My lovely sister-in-law, Dori, her husband Miah and their new baby Andrew had just stopped by to have breakfast with us. Mayhem is an understatement to what has happening in our tiny hotel room. After being trapped in the car the day before and now trapped in a tiny hotel room, the boys were ready  to break free. Kyle was six years old and Eli was four at the time, and before they and their young cousin completely fell apart, we decided we should go swimming, which really meant everyone would go swimming but me. I was looking forward to the peace.

The television was on. I could hear SpongeBob conversing with Patrick in the background as I located the swimsuits.  I was in the bathroom when I heard the ringing. I loked at the caller ID and saw that it was my super fly bestie, Marianne. I answered and our call went something like this:

“Beth, I am at my mom’s. I went over to check on her after she didn’t show up for dialysis. A police woman met me at the door. She would not let me in before she checked and made sure everything was ok.”

Because Marianne was so calm and matter of fact it seemed as though it had been a few hours instead of a few minutes since Marianne had found her mom. So I asked “Marianne, are you serious? She is dead? What happened?”

“Probably a heart attack.” Later they found that Gunnel’s heart simply stopped working, from one beat to the next, her heart was done. “Beth, she is in the other room. I don’t like it. She is on the floor and they won’t let me move her until the coroner gets here. I want to cover her. It does not seem right.”

It took me several “Whats?” and, “Are you serious?” to process that my dear Marianne was seconds away from finding her dead mother. It was confusing and surreal. I wanted to reach myself through the phone and be there with her. I wanted to fix it.

“Oh Marianne. I am coming. We are in Portland, but I will be there. I am coming. Don’t worry. I will be there.”

I remember hanging up the phone and seeing my sister-in-law, Dori’s eyes.  I could see that she knew something was up.

“Beth, what happened?”

“Gunnel died. They think she had a heart attack. Dave. Dave. We have to go.”

In shock I quickly explained to Dori who Gunnel was, probably giving more details than necessary. I told her how she was Marianne’s mom and that I had known Marianne since I was five, that Marianne was more of a sister, that I had just seen Gunnel two years earlier at the birth of Marianne’s daughter, Makeda, that Marianne was in the process of a divorce and how sad it was that Gunnel died now. Even though Gunnel had been in poor health, her death was completely unexpected. She had actually been doing better.

Then, as I seem to do when things get really bad or really sad, in a breath, I threw myself on autopilot. On autopilot, I can deal. I can tell you every little detail and even tell you how sad I am and somehow I will not shed a tear. Not because I do not want to shed a tear. I am a mother and I have children to care for. I must get us to the funeral.

We stayed in Portland through Halloween and then drove ourselves back to Park City. We were on a plane to Minneapolis six hours later. The Minneapolis Airport is a hop away from the Mall of America and as we headed to the viewing, with nothing to wear, I had Dave stop. I stood in the Mall of America Banana Republic trying on black skirts and having the sales lady tell me the shirt I chose was too tight.  In the dressing room, alone, I had I moment to let down. The sales lady pounding on my dressing room door, I say, “I am buying clothes for a funeral.”  She didn’t seem to care. I said it again. “I am buying clothes for a funeral. My best friend’s mother just died! I have nothing to wear.” I still don’t think she understood and I really wanted her to understand. We had to be at the viewing so without the sympathy I was longing for, I opted for the larger size, bought a skirt and another outfit and we were on our way. In our rental van, I put my new clothes on. Dave had already changed and we would ready the boys once we arrived.

It was a beautiful fall day and the sun really was shining just so. Perfectly the rays hit the autumn leaves as we pulled into the funeral home. As sad as I was for my friend, a gentle warmth and excitement came over me. I was home. Immediately I saw Marianne’s brothers and knew I was where I needed to be. Like a birth or a wedding, a funeral is a place to connect. I was home and I was connecting. I found Marianne and stayed close by her side. She has always protected me and even in the midst of all of this, she was making sure I was ok.

Marianne, Beth & Sara

We eventually made our way into the viewing room. It always amazes me that the body sits alone in a big chapel-like room while all the guests find their ways into the small passages of the funeral home. It was the same when Dave’s father passed last year. Marianne and I had Gunnel to ourselves. I brought the boys in with me at first. They were not sure what to do and left. Marianne and I stood there. We stood there talking about sweet Gunnel. We imitated Gunnel and Marianne’s Dad, Jack, who had passed years earlier. “Gun it Gunnel.” Jack would say as he slammed his hand on the dash whenever she was driving too slow. Gunnel had bravely moved from Sweden to the United States as a young woman. We talked about how cool and awesome that was. We talked about her cooking. She was always cooking and making so much good Swedish food. We remembered her huge, belly-rolling laughter. We talked about how she never said an unkind word about anyone, even when we wanted her to. We talked about the time before her eye surgery how she had sat so quietly at Marianne’s wedding. She was freezing and needed her sweater. Because it was dark and Gunnel could not see well, she patiently waited for someone to notice. I was glad it was me. I was glad I had noticed and had that moment with her. We laughed about how easily everyone in their family cries. Marianne told me how much she already missed her mom.

“Beth, I talked to her every single day. I do not know what I will do.”

Then I noticed. I noticed what I had been doing. The entire time we were talking I was moving my hand through Gunnel’s beautifully set, soft silver hair.

“She looks so pretty.” I said. “I hope this is ok,” referring to me touching her hair.

“Oh Beth. You know it is. It is my mom.”

Since that time I have watched Marianne long for and  miss her mom. I have seen those lonely moments and wished I could bring Gunnel back. Gunnel is not here to watch Marianne’s babies grow.  And now, somewhere in the middle of my life,  I see that I am part of the Sandwich Generation. We are raising our children while caring for and then watching our own parents die. Gunnel was the first. And since then I have seen more parents become ill and have seen more of our own babies be born. Dave’s dad passed away a year ago. And just last night another dear friend’s father died. It is such a strange place to be, right in the middle of this sandwich.

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