Tag Archives: loneliness

Shepherd’s Winter – Part 13

th0ZK2SYQDAnimal Instinct

There are nights that blow so cold and strong trees cry out and snap. There are nights so dark that they extinguish any light. That is the north. That is the land of the lost. People wander until there is nothing.

“Only demons come out on nights like these,” Shepherd said to Pal.

Pal was laying in front of the fireplace and lifted his head as if agreeing.

“You know that don’t you boy?” Shepherd said staring into the embers. “It is instinctively etched into your mind and it is dialed up when you feel danger.”
Pal whimpered.

“It’s cold and lonely,” Shepherd said. “New York is teaming right now. It’s the city that never sleeps. Did you know that?”

Pal laid his head between his two front paws.

“Are you lonely as I am, Pal? Can you live a life in solitude? Do you need me?”

Pal’s eyes shifted from side to side. It reminded Shepherd of the way he felt when his father arrived at home drunk. Nothing was good, nothing was right, and nothing satisfied. It was best not to add fuel to his fury; just sit, wait, and wander what will set him off.

“Don’t worry, Pal,” Shepherd smiled kindly. “I am not of that sort. I turn to drink for good times. I left my misery in New York… along with the good times.”

“Pal!” Shepherd said. “Knife!”

Pal jumped to all fours. He dashed to the dinning room table, pulled a chair out with his teeth, hopped on it, grabbed a knife, and brought it to Shepherd.

“You are going to be a magnificent dog,” Shepherd said.

“Back!” Shepherd commanded.

Pal grabbed the knife and returned it to the table.

“You could kick Lassie’s ass,” Shepherd said. “Lay down!”

Pal returned to in front of the fire and laid down.

“Stay!” Shepherd said. “I’ll get you a treat.”

Shepherd raised out of his chair and walked to the kitchen. He sliced a piece of moose. His eyes roved past the bottle of whisky. All that was gone from the bottle was what he and Daniel had. “Now is the time,” he thought. He reached for a glass and sat it on the counter. He slowly grabbed the bottle and sat it next to the glass. “Now is the especially good time.”

He left the kitchen and added three logs to the fire. “Enough to cover a good drunk.”

He walked back to the kitchen. He looked at Pal. “Pal, it’s going to get pretty funky in here in a while.”

Worry cast on Pal’s face, but held his position in front of the fire.

Shepherd smiled at the bottle and glass.

There was a tug on his sleeve. He looked down. Pal looked worried.

“I told you to stay,” Shepherd said.

Pal seemed resolute in staying next to Shepherd.

Shepherd reached for the bottle. Pal tugged at his sleeve again.

“It’s okay, boy, I’m putting it back, unless you want a drink.”

Pal returned to his place in font of the fire. Shepherd brought a slice of moose and handed it to Pal. He took it with gratitude.

Shepherd returned to his chair. “That’s one trick I never taught. Instinct is an incredible thing.”


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Shepherd’s Winter Part 3


The snow came. It was in the night when it fell.

Shepherd scraped frost from a window in the dinning room. White. He brewed coffee on the stove and slipped his clothing on. He jumped from the porch and into the snow. He was a child. He laid in the snow and looked upward and watched the snow fall on him. “The first snow and I’m already mad,” he thought chuckling.

Two mornings later Shepherd sat in a his chair in the living room. He was reading Call of the Wild. He heard dogs barking in the distance. He slung on his coat and stepped out on the front porch. He listened as the barking became louder. Over a ridge of snow in the direction of the stream a dogsled team plodded toward the cabin.

The dogs and sled came to stop only feet from the porch. A man in thick clothing and a fury hooded parka walked from the rear of the sled to the steps of the porch. He slipped back the hood. It was Daniel smiling broadly.

“How are you doing, Shepherd,” Daniel said.

“I am doing well,” Shepherd said, “and you and your family?”

“We are native,” Daniel said. “We do well when things are bad.”

“Come in,” Shepherd said. “Let me warm you. I have coffee and pie. Do you like cherry pie?”

“It has been a long time,” Daniel said. “You go ahead. I’ll be with you in a moment. I will tend to my dogs.”

Shepherd went inside. He warmed some stew and placed two bowls on the table along with two slices of cherry pie and a steaming cup of coffee.

Shepherd heard Daniel stomp the snow from his boots. Daniel entered the cabin. Tucked in his arms held to his chest was a pup.

“My family and I were talking about you and how you might become lonely,” Daniel said. “A dog is a good gift. A good dog is the best gift.”

Daniel handed the pup to shepherd.

“Look!” Daniel said. “He takes to you right away.”

Shepherd petted and smiled at the pup. “What kind of dog?”

“He is a Husky,” Daniel said.

“Does he have a name?” Shepherd said.

“No,” Daniel said, “he is yours, it is up to you to name him.”

“Have you ever read Call of the Wild?” Shepherd said.

“You will name him Buck?” Daniel said. “That name ‘s been taken.”

“You’re right,” Shepherd said. “I will call him Pal.”

“That’s a good name,” Daniel said. “He will be your pal.”

“How old is he?” Shepherd said.

“Two months,” Daniel said.

“I will have all winter to train him,” Shepherd said. “When spring comes he will be reading.”

Shepherd and Daniel sat down to a good meal of the stew and cherry pie.

Shepherd put the dishes into the sink and poured two glasses of whisky.

“A man who lives alone must watch how much he drinks,” Daniel said. “Your life depends on how sober you are.”

“Don’t worry, Daniel,” Shepherd said, “only when guests arrive and the celebration of your gift.”

They sipped for an hour talking about the cold and surviving the wilderness.

“I must go now,” Daniel said. “Not much daylight remains.”

Shepherd opened the oven and pulled out another cherry pie. He wrapped it in cloth. “My gift to you and your family.”

“My wife and children have never had cherry pie,” Daniel said. “They will surely enjoy it.”

Daniel slung on his parka. He stepped over to the fireplace where Pal was asleep. He leaned down and said, “Take care of Shepherd.”

Shepherd walked with Daniel to the porch. Daniel packed the pie on the sled and rocked the sled free. The dogs sprung to their feet.

“Yaaw! Yaaw!” Daniel called out to his team of dogs. Daniel circled the dogs and sled around and they headed down a gentle slope of snow toward the stream that led to the river.

As he watched Daniel skim over the snow he thought about loneliness, real loneliness, for the first time in his life. He realized that of all the things he planed for that was the one thing he gave no attention.

Daniel was a man of the wilderness. He heard stories of loneliness and how it can shred a man.

Shepherd returned to the cabin. He pulled his chair closer to the fire. He held Pal in his lap and read to him from Call of the Wild.


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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 2

Warning Loneliness

(Continued from yesterday.)

thFCM1XGGMShepherd sat a table and heated the sauerkraut with bits of squirrel sausage and hot dogs on a propane heated stove. They rolled the kraut and hot dogs in homemade bread and washed it down with coffee.

“This is good,” Daniel said.

“I’ll start a hot dog stand on the road to Ruby,” Shepherd said.

“I’ll be your first customer,” Daniel said.

Shepherd smiled. “You’ll be one of my only.” He sipped his coffee.

“Do you have a snow machine?” Daniel said.

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “Do you?”

“I have one for everybody in family,” Daniel said.

“When will the snow come?” Shepherd said.

“It is already deep in the mountains,” Daniel paused and thought. “This weekend, big snow.”

“This will be my first big snow up here,” Shepherd said. “Last spring there was some snow but it was a spring snow.”

“I worry for you, Shepherd,” Daniel said.

“I will be fine,” Shepherd said.

“Many men have come here and said that,” Daniel said.

“I am prepared for the winter,” Shepherd said. “I have a tight cabin, plenty of wood, and enough food for three winters.”

“That is good,” Daniel said. “You prepared well; I can see that, but did you prepare for loneliness?”

“That’s why I came here,” Shepherd said, “to get away from people.”

“Certain people?” Daniel said. “You left friends behind?”

“Sure,” Shepherd said. “I have friends.”

“To bad,” Daniel said, “you will miss them.”

Shepherd’s eyes fell to his empty plate. His thoughts became forlorn and dark.

“I will help you unload your provisions, Shepherd,” Daniel said. “I must make it home before night fall.”

After Shepherd’s winter provisions were moved from the jeep and stacked in the dinning room and kitchen Daniel left. Shepherd started stacking canned food items in the cabinets and stopped. He walked to the front porch and watched Daniel walk to the stream in the distance. Daniel walked along the stream heading toward the river.

Shepherd looked at the mountains to the west; they were caked in snow and it spread to the foot hills. Shepherd thought deeply for a moment. “I have prepared for everything except my mind.”

Shepherd looked toward the stream. Daniel stood on a rock. He waved. He knew Shepherd would be watching. Shepherd waved big and friendly, but his heart was sad and already longing.

Shepherd watched Daniel until the stream disappeared into a gully.

(Continued tomorrow.)


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The Daily Prompt & Eric’s Aria -Part 1 (short story)


Daily Prompt: The Heat is On

Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best.

There is most likely something that compels us to do anything. We do nothing unless compelled, be it our own compulsion or others. Certainly imposing tasks and goals on ourselves is best, but work will sometimes suffer and languish if it is not meant to please others.

My story for the day is about friends who raise the spirits and expectations of the other. It’s in two parts. I hope you enjoy.

Eric’s Aria (Part 1)

Eric had a peculiar way of lifting Richard’s spirits. It was through his actions more than his words, although, indeed his words had impact also.

Richard owned a local propane distribution business. In the winter he filled propane tanks at homes, farms, and businesses. In the warm months business was slow; it was mostly outside barbeque tanks and campers.

It was near the end of the winter; demand was low. It was a day that started lonely. None of the familiar faces were anywhere to be seen. Sometimes that is best. Richard never liked to pass his loneliness and despondency on to others. Eric was of the same sort. Eric was a farmer. He spent a lot of time alone. So it was quite natural that Richard called Eric.

“Hey, Eric. I’m flying solo this morning and could use a little company. Can you meet me for coffee?”

“How long ya before you break,” Eric said.

“It’s up to you,” Richard said.

“Half hour?” Eric said.

“Sure,” Richard said surprised it wouldn’t take longer.

“The usual place?” Eric said.

“I’ll be there,” Eric said.

The melancholy perhaps had an ending.

They met at a small diner attached to a gas station and small grocery. Two truckers sat at the counter. Richard ordered coffee for the both and the waitress no sooner poured it and Eric limped through the door.

“Gout?” Richard said.

“Beef,” Eric said.

“They say ya got to stay away from red meat,” Richard said.

Eric chuckled. “Nah, one of my cows checked me into the glass. (Eric loved hockey and was always making hockey references.)

“So that’s what the cow did,” Richard said. “How did you retaliate?”

“High stick,” Eric said. “But the damage to me was already done. Looks like I’m going to spend a couple days in the penalty box.”

“You get an x-ray?” Richard said.

“I know a fracture from a sprain,” Eric said. “In a day or two I’ll be lacing up my blades and doing laps on the pond.”

“The pond still frozen?” Richard said.

“No, Richard,” Eric said disappointed. “I’m speaking metaphorically.”

“I’m sorry,” Richard said. “I’m always associating hockey with strong handsome Norwegian bachelor farmers who take all their summer frustrations out on the winter ice.”

“Well,” Eric said. “You hit just about all of them.”

“What’s did I miss?” Richard said.

“Lonely,” Eric said. “That’s why I was glad you called.”

“Yeah, me too,” Richard said.

“Whoa,” Eric said. “I’ve never seen that look from you. What’s wrong.”

“Don’t really know,” Richard said. “Sometimes you over think a problem. There’s really no bogy man, but you convince yourself there is one; it’s dark, late, and alone. There just has to be one. And all the sudden you’re shaking. You ever get that way?”

“Yeah,” Eric said.

“What do you do?” Richard said.

(Continued tomorrow.)



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Nothing Is Farther Than Loneliness And Death

There's nothing like an old friend to take away the loneliness and distance from home.

There’s nothing like an old friend to take away the loneliness and distance from home.

Daily Prompt: Far from Home

Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.

By way of the crow just a little more than 500 miles, not far, but allow me to explain.

It was 1966 sitting on the side steps of a World War Two style barracks at Ft. Dix New Jersey. I was young fresh, not savvy or street wise. I was from a Midwestern farm still reeking of freshly mowed hay and cow manure.

I had old-fashioned patriotism and a glint optimism.

It was Sunday morning three weeks into basic training in world that had not existed before this time. I was an easy target for quick-witted and fast talking east coasters who always seemed to be working an angle.

I looked at the ground beneath and held the earth in my hand and let it sift through my fingers and back to the ground. ‘How did I get here,’ I thought. ‘Where next?’ The answer was frightening along with expectation of possible death. I was truly alone and about as far away from friends and family as I ever wanted. The distance and loneliness dug deep into my chest. ‘There is nothing worse than this,’ I thought. ‘I’ve never felt so lonely and distant from anything. I never want to feel like this again.’

A short guy with a v-shaped face and wise guy arrogance came out the barracks door. “Hey, man you’re blocking the steps.”

“There’s plenty of room to walk around,” I said.

He shoved me. “Move over!”

I stood and shoved him back inside the barracks. He fell to the floor and quickly got up. He clinched his fist and started toward the door.

“This won‘t be your day,” I said.

He walked away.

Another guy came up to me. “I’ve been watching you from inside. You sure look like you need a friend. Let‘s go to breakfast.”

His name was Dave and we were friends before, but now real friends. He was a wise guy and quick with his wit and tongue. He said he’d been watching me for a couple of weeks and worried about me.

He took the loneliness and distance away.

A little over five years ago I Googled his name. I thought of calling him and asking about children, grandchildren, and what he did after the army. It took me to a memorial webpage. Dave was killed in action about 18 months after I met him. All these years he was dead.

That same loneliness over 40 yeas earlier suddenly returned. It wasn’t good. The tears I wanted to cry in 1966 came rather easily, but they came at a better time, a time when I was not so far away.

By the way, the photo on this post was likely the last taken of Dave G. Lupien.

Link to Dave’s memorial webpage.


Filed under Daily Prompt, Essays

How Do Things Like Aurora, Colorado Happen?

How Many Ways Can You Tell the Same Truth?

Loneliness is a breeding ground for unhealthy thoughts.

Sometimes I just think and write. That terrible event in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado is on my mind. I’ve stopped watching all the accounts on TV. Everything the news outlets can offer can be reported adequately in five or ten minutes. The rest of it is just people putting their face in the camera and restating the obvious or what has been said and already known.

Guns, Guns, Guns

I’ve read several accounts on the internet. What fascinates me is how people react to those tragedies.

I read the comments. Some are quite serious and thoughtful, even more so than the articles. Others use it as a platform to introduce their agenda.

I’ve never owned a gun and likely never will. The only time I’ve had a gun is when the government gave me one. I practiced not on silhouettes of Bambi or Thumper, but on men. A governments only use of a gun is to wield authority, kill people, or to offer a military burial.

I would like to see the day when there are no guns, but I see nothing wrong with a person possessing one. Accidents happen and they would not have happened if a gun was not present. Cars slip out of gear and role over children and children drown in backyard pools. I could be wrong, but their seems to be far less tragedies with a gun, but when something happens with a gun it seems to be exploited.

This begs the question who is the one who is eager to exploit gun ownership?

Come along with me a mental exercise. Let’s say a poll is taken. Question: Are you for or against gun ownership? That implies an answer one way or another, but what if you have the choice, ‘I don’t care.’ Most people fall into that category. Who are the others?

If I’m a crook and own a gun I don’t want other people to have one. If they have one we are than on equal footing. I’m a crook and I want the advantage. So do you think crooks are for or against gun control?

On the other hand if neither of us have a gun is it still as likely a crook will rob me? I think so, most robberies are committed without a weapon.

Anyway I think this whole gun control thing is just a ruse for something else. Essentially people seem to be in this constant struggle to make people think and feel the way you do. That is never going to happen. Take two men at a bar; I don’t care what the subject is, but each is trying to convince the other to come around to the other’s point of view. They could be talking about the beer and arguing with the intent of convincing the other to change.

Guns and Movies?

When tragedies occur there is a flood of individuals and groups who rush in with the answer; the reason it happened. Ever since first grade it has been observed that the first one to cast blame is usually the one that has something to hide.

As an example the movie industry is generally not in favor of private ownership of weapons. They are often the first to step forward and demand a ban on various sorts of weapons.

Those who favor the private ownership of weapons rush in and draw attention to the unrelenting violence on the screen.

Both are factors; very, very small factors in why there is a spike in violence.

No Human Contact

One thing overlooked; human contact. Nearly all the mass murder situations are committed by loners or those on the fringe of human contact.

We live in a world where everything can be done online with little or no human contact. Once one becomes computer savvy, the keyboard, screen, CPU, mouse, and an internet connection is all that is needed to conduct affairs of living. There was a time a person went to the gas company, the electric company, and telephone company to pay utility bills. You were forced to interact with a clerk or teller.

A visit to the bank was small talk with a teller and a smile and handshake from the president. While waiting in line in the lobby or on the way out it was possible to run into and acquaintance, neighbor, old schoolmate, or your insurance agent. Often there was a small conversation not interrupted by a cell phone. Now you wait in line at ATM and make certain the other person can’t see your PIN when it is your turn.

At the grocery the self-scanning lane can be used. Back in the day you waited in line and had pleasant conversations with those you waited with. The bag boy took your groceries to the car and you chatted a bit with him.

The gas station was a friendly place. Along with a fill-up the inflation of the tires was checked, the fluids checked, and the windshield cleaned. Sometimes nothing more than change was given and a ‘thank you,’ at times a longer conversation could be perused. Now you swipe your card and pump.

Life has changed. We see more people now than people did a hundred years ago, but interact with them less.

There will be a robotic barbershop someday soon. People ride around with their radios jacked up or talking on the cell phone. Either living in their own world or doing anything to avoid personal contact with the person on the other end of the phone.

Lessons are Never Learned – Presidents and Celebrities Can Not Heal

There is a simple Bible proverb that comes to mind, “One isolating himself will seek [his own] selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) One isolating himself becomes less and less feeling toward others. He misses out on the advice, wit, wisdom, charm, and commonality of others. He turns inward because there is no place else to turn. Thoughts and imagination can run wild and unchecked by practical principles for the common good.

Violent movies may stimulate a pattern of thinking. Guns may be a way of fulfilling some notion or fantasy, but it is the lack of human empathy that can only be stimulated through human contact that can short circuit an impulse to do evil.

A profound reverence for life has to be a part of a person’s emotional portfolio.

Someone is always saying there are lessons learned. Is that really so. Lessons are never learned, otherwise things like what happened in Aurora would be on the decline. Such thinking makes us think that the solution is in more government control, more social programs, or better education. All these have thus been miserable failures. To think they have merit is naive at best.

What is missing in the lives of people alienated from the world they live in and have little contact is a sense of connection with something grater than themselves. We live in a world that teaches and promotes self and self-gratification. People need spirituality and purpose to their lives.

The word ‘healing’ or ‘heal’ is often applied to tragic situations. Once again it is believed that some sort of program or national attention is needed, such as the visit of a the President, movie star, sports star, or celebrity. They can do no more good than waving their hands over a broken arm and expect it to repair itself immediately. The only healing that is what occurs naturally.

For the most part it is a photo-op for the politician or celebrity. If not, come in quiet; don’t announce you are coming and leave your press people behind. Don’t make a speech. Quietly offer a prayer and condolences.

Christian and German

Crazy people do crazy things. Loneliness and isolation can drive a person crazy or keep them there.

There is a grim reminder in the Bible at 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 according to the New International Version (NIV) “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

On the other hand the Bible encourages a proper outlet and interaction to stimulate what is good in us. 2 Timothy 2:22 states, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” The Bible’s clear admonition; we need people and upbuilding human contact.

We live in world that cast doubts on the Bible, God, and morality. Doubters point to the atrocities committed in the name of the Bible, God and morality. People who argue that are disingenuous. It’s like saying the Germans started two world wars, therefore all Germans are evil. In fact everything that has come our way by means of the Germans must be destroyed or thought of as wrong; goodbye Einstein, Nietzsche, Von Braun, Porsche, Luther, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Schweitzer, and Marx.

In spite of how one feels about religion or the Bible, we need people.

All the Lonely People, Where Do They All Come From?

The world is made of and promotes divisions, differences, and conflicts. One race or another, one country or another, one religion or another, one political ideology or another, one party or another, and so on until we get down to the individual and then it becomes us against the world.

That’s how Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City, Oslo Norway, and Aurora, Colorado happened. That’s how Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, Timothy McVeigh, Anders Behring Breivik, and James Holmes happened. They cut themselves from the herd.

The answers are simple the implementation is humanly impossible, but one thing is certain, we don’t need another ATM or quick-scan check out.


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There Was Another Side to Mom

Maybe it’s just me, but this ain’t weird, especially when you’re alone.

A year ago I began writing about my Mom. I committed myself to write a story a week for a year. I wanted my Mom to be remembered; for her life to have meaning and form.

Perhaps, in a selfish way, I wanted it to be cathartic. I hoped that writing about her would drive me to understand who she is.

There is another side to Mom. The side I am most aware and familiar.

In my early teens Mom told me she thought I was a weirdo. I stoically walked upstairs to my room and cried. Shortly after that my Dad had a big blow-up. I ran away from home, but returned before anyone knew I was gone. I peddled my bike to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, slept at a roadside park, and came home the next day. As I look back at that time, I don’t think I really came back. We were cordial from that point, but never loving.

Later in life Mom related to me that she talked to my first grade teacher, Miss Kephart. “She said you were a weirdo. (Is that where that came from?) You stayed by yourself and never played with the other kids.”

“I think that’s called being shy,” I said. “Do you know what it’s like to be the only kid in class who didn‘t go to kindergarten? I started out behind and never caught up.”

“What she meant was that you were going to grow up and be different,” Mom said.

I don’t think Mom ever got beyond what Miss Kephart said about me. It stuck with her. She viewed everything I did as weird or different.

I suppose it was scary for Mom to raise a boy. She had two daughters eight and ten years older than me. Mom never adapted very well to change.

Mom and I had some good times together, but suddenly without notice like a psychedelic flash-back Mom would turn somber. It was as if the voice of Miss Kephart was saying, “He’s a weirdo.”

I liked to go to the barnyard and toss a baseball and hit it as far as possible. Go find it and hit it back. Mom said to me one day, “That’s stupid; people will think you’re touched.”

“But Mom,” I said. “I don’t have anybody to toss the ball to me.”

“There’s kids up and down the road, go play with them,” Mom said.

“Mom they don’t want me around,” I said. “They’re all very religious. They know Dad spends all his time at a bar and has a filthy mouth. They don’t want me around. I can feel it. When I go to their homes the parents watch me like a hawk, they got chores inside, we got to get ready to go some place, and sometimes they just don’t come to the door. I don‘t blame them I wouldn‘t want me around either.”

“Sounds like you got a problem,” Mom said. “Go hit your baseball, see if I care.”

It’s sort of funny, I hit the ball much further after conversations like that.

One day Mom said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m reading the encyclopedia from cover to cover,” I said.

“The encyclopedia is to look things up,” Mom said.

“I just want to read it,” I said.

“That’s a waste of time,” Mom said.

My uncle, who lived with us, was sitting in a rocking chair and staring into oblivion. He hadn’t moved in at least an hour.

I nodded my head toward him. “Is that what you want?”

“Don’t be a smart ass,” Mom said.

I’m nearly at the end of my stories about Mom. From time to time one will pop up and I’ll recount it and write about it, but my conclusions about her are at least another story and week away.


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