When you piss off a hairdresser by asking if she is vaxxed and she cancels your appointment, which you have been anticipating for 16 months

(She was not, in fact, vaxxed)

You all remember I’ve been cutting my own hair, right?

I have not been highlighting it myself. Contrary to what history might teach us, I do sometimes learn from history and have left the chemicals alone.

Also, I am lazy.

Also, who was going to see my hair anyhow? I mean, besides Mr T and he is not judgy about my hair.

(However – when we first met, I was unemployed and I was highlighting my own hair. Mr T became quite proficient at pulling my hair through the cap with a crochet hook. He is a man of many talents.)

I have not been to a stylist since January 2020. And that was at SuperCuts because my – our – stylist retired in September 2021.

So more than a year since I have been to a salon.

BUT MY IMMUNE DAY IS IN SIX DAYS AND I WANT TO GET MY HAIR DONE!

Yes, I know I wrote an entire manifesto about no makeup, no clothes that hurt, etc, etc, etc.

But this is different.

I called the SuperCuts by me to see if their stylists were vaxxed.

“That’s private information!” the SuperCuts person said. “I can’t tell you that!”

So I @’d SuperCuts on Twitter.

Same answer – PRIVATE INFORMATION!!!

I asked around on Facebook and everywhere one does and got the name of a hairdresser. I saw some of her work and it was good so I emailed her.

She seemed very nice – she gave me her prices and we set up an appointment.

Then I remembered I had forgotten to ask her if she was vaxxed. I am reading that it’s OK for two vaxxed people to be around each other but it seems that they are still not sure about a vaxxed person with an unvaxxed one.

The last thing I would want to do, after more than a year of being careful, would be to catch covid and then give it to someone else. There are people who cannot get the vax and children can’t get the vax, so we are not out of the woods yet.

“Oh! I forgot to ask you!” I emailed. “Are you vaxxed?”

I thought this was a pro-forma question – that of course she would be vaxxed after all she works putting her hands on people and being right in their faces.

Plus it is very very easy to get the vax where we live.

She wrote back,

I’m surprised you asked as that is personal information…? But since you did ask, I am not. I will cancel your appointment 

Whoa.

Pretty much everyone else in my circles is vaxxed or vaxxing. We talk about. We celebrate it. It is a common topic of conversation.

Even at work, we talk about it. (I mean, online.)

I replied politely that of course I understood – that I would not want to risk infecting her.

Then I wrote to a salon by me. I had written to them before, asking for pricing, and got the reply that I needed to call because each stylist set her own prices. That made me cranky – why would anyone ever call on the phone now that email and messaging exist?

I wrote, “Hi! Are your stylists vaccinated? With the data still not clear on if vaxxed people can give covid to unvaxxed people, I am not taking any chances – I couldn’t live with myself if I gave it to someone. Thanks!”

Within an hour, I had an answer.

Hi! We have 2 hairstylist and they both are fully vaccinated as of this week it has been 2 weeks since their 2nd dose. We have been re opened since May 2020 and all three of us have been taking this virus serious and none of us got Covid! We are very proud of that. We have made many changes to our salon to make it safer. We don’t use a front desk. Was he one of us have our own checkout at our stations. That was a huge change!

I replied that I had asked that question of another stylist, who had cancelled my appointment.

Oh wow. I feel it is every business to answer every persons concerns and questions. Especially over something so important.

I have found my new salon.

I don’t care what they charge.

(OK, I care a little bit, but now that I am cutting Mr T’s hair, I can keep doing that and save the $40 or $50 it would cost every six weeks for his cut.)

And to those who suggested I should ask the question more tactfully – “What are your covid protocols?” – I say nah. I have been doing some completely unscientific testing and the only people who have been offended at this question are unvaxxed people who are choosing to be unvaxxed.

And I don’t want anything to do with them.

Let’s talk about – Yes I’m Going There – Socialized Medicine/Single Payer/MediCare for All

I used to be against it but after five years of dealing with BC/BS of Michigan, I now know what Evil is

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor and Fix Things. I also wanted to be an astronaut. My life has not gone according to plan.

I really was against socialized medicine.

In my first job out of college, I worked for a health insurance company. This was back in the days when employers would actually offer benefits to employees instead of trying to sell them the BS that true freedom was to be found in driving other people around, even when the cost of operating your car plus the self-employment taxes is more than the money you make.

In those days, employers paid all the premium or most of it. We had a deductible and then we paid 20% and we had a pretty decent idea of what it would cost us to go to the doctor or the ER.

Socialized medicine, as we understood it back then, meant rationing.

As if certain people, for lack of money, do not get the care they need in this country.

As if care were not rationed here.


A few years ago, as I was riding to work, I fell off my bike. I found the only spot of hard in an acre of grass – my helmeted head hit a manhole cover. Even so, I managed to lead with my (prescription) sunglasses, which broke and did not stop my eye ridge from hitting the iron.

A kind stranger drove me to an urgent care, where Mr T met me.

Urgent care would not treat me.

We went to my doctor’s office.

My doctor would not treat me.

We surrendered and went to the ER, where I waited a few hours to be treated. That is not unreasonable – I was not about to die – but I later realized that the delay was not because they were triaging me but because they couldn’t reach my insurance company to see if a CT scan would be covered.

While we were waiting, I was asked a series of questions including did I feel safe in my house.

Although I had lost consciousness in the fall and was not feeling too great, I did roll my eyes and answer, “If my husband was beating me, do you think I would tell you while he’s sitting next to me?”

(YES I KNOW IT’S A GOOD IDEA FOR MEDICAL PEOPLE TO ASK THESE QUESTIONS. I HAD JUST HAD A HEAD INJURY, OK? AND I THOUGHT I WAS BEING FUNNY.)

I kept asking them how much a CT scan would cost – we had a $2,500 deductible and had not met a penny of it.

They would not tell me.

The whole point of high-deductible plans is that people will make more rational medical decisions if they are paying for part of those decisions. In the old days, with low deductibles and co-pays, people would go to the doctor – or, more problematically – to the ER – for anything. So yeah – having a financial skin in the game can help reduce ER trips for diaper rash and broken toes.

But how do I make a rational decision about my medical care if I can’t get a price?

I can’t get my doctor’s office – and we really like our doctor – to tell us what an office visit costs. I have emailed the hospital system he works for to ask and they will not give me an answer.


Ten days ago, Mr T went to the library to pick up some books for me. It was about 4:30. Our library is in our city hall. That day, they were doing a covid vaccine clinic at city hall. Mr T and I were not eligible yet.

But when Mr T walked into city hall, a man standing in the hall asked if Mr T wanted the vax. They had two doses left over, he explained.

YES I SAID YES! Mr T answered.

Then he called me, only I didn’t hear the phone because I was downstairs working out with the music loud and my phone was upstairs.

Mr T called and called and then he texted.

When I went upstairs ten minutes later, I saw his calls and texts and I tried to call him back but he did not answer so I texted YES I SAID YES.

And I read the rest of his messages, which included the news that he had accidentally taken both sets of car keys, which usually would not be a problem as the library is only half a mile from our house and I always walk anyhow.

But now I had to run because I WANTED THAT SHOT.

And I have not been running but I RAN AND I RAN AND I ARRIVED JUST AS ANOTHER PERSON WAS ASKING FOR THE LAST DOSE AND THE CLERK SAID NO MR T’S WIFE IS COMING

And there I was.

And I gasped, “Oh no! I forgot my insurance card!”

And they said, “Nah it’s free don’t worry.”

(I know it’s not free free, OK? I totally get that. But I also pay and have paid a lot of taxes in my life and dang if my tax money can’t pay for a vaccine that will help keep millions of people from dying, then what’s the damn point?)

I didn’t even have to show an ID. I just told them I am who I say I am.

They wrote it down.

They gave me a shot.

Fifteen minutes later, Mr T and I walked out of there.


A few years ago, my sister and I were in Italy at a cooking school. She got sick or injured – I don’t even remember.

She went to the – ER? urgent care? – and they saw her.

She tried to give them her US insurance information and they brushed her off. Charged her like $11 or something.


I saw a specialist whose office was in the basement of the hospital. So – specialist visit for $45 copay, right?

Not according to BC/BS of Michigan.

No, according to them, that’s a hospital visit because – you know – it’s in a hospital. Which means hospital deductibles apply – $700, for what it’s worth.

A visit that I thought would cost $45 cost me hundreds of dollars.

When we had United Healthcare, I would visit my neurologist in that same building.

Cost me a $30 co-pay and not a penny more.

BC/BS of Michigan, I hate you so much.


When Mr T and I had our colonoscopies, BC/BS kept billing us $800 each we weren’t supposed to have to pay anything at all.

It took eight months of fighting to get it straightened out.


In the ER with my head injury.

I don’t know how much a CT scan will cost.

I don’t feel like giving a blank check to the hospital.

My sister the nurse practitioner says yeah, I should get the CT scan.

“Natasha Richardson,” she says. “That’s all I’m going to say to you. Natasha Richardson.”

So I get the scan and fortunately everything was fine but three weeks later, we got a bill for $4,800 because turns out they do know what to charge for a CT scan after all.


During our 2020 unemployment, we paid $1,200 a month for health insurance.

And we still didn’t know what actually getting sick would cost.


If covid vaccine = socialized medicine

and “Surprise! bill of $4,800” equals Our Great System in the US

Give me socialized medicine. Give it to me now.

I don’t care if my taxes go up. I just want to know what it’s going to cost me to get sick so I can plan for it.

Increase my taxes so I can walk into a vaccine clinic and walk out after doing nothing more than giving my name.

If this be socialized medicine, I am happy to have it.

Women: A Manifesto for How We Groom Ourselves at Work

Join us in The Revolution: We’re not going back to makeup or to clothes that hurt

on etsy

When I started my new job, I was very worried about this idea of being on camera for zoom meetings. I have used Skype in previous jobs, but we were never on camera – we just talked. Like in the old days, when people talked on the phone and sometimes had no idea what the person on the other end looked like.

AND THAT WAS FINE.

People used to just call people on the phone without warning or an appointment and we thought that was normal

(Also – remember when people would call you and you hadn’t planned for them to call? Or you would call them and they weren’t in the office so you had to leave a message with the receptionist?)

(People used to just call. That seems so bizarre now. If I get an unexpected phone call from a family member now, I expect to hear that someone has died.)

(And even when my uncle died, my cousin texted me.)


ANYHOW.

I was worried about being on camera because I hate being on camera, most of all, but also, I was worried I would have to change my 14 months of unemployment habits, which were to shower – eh – whenever.

I mean, it’s not like we were going anywhere.

And it’s not like Mr T was showering any more frequently than I was.

It’s amazing what you can get used to.

Showering – whenever – and wearing gym clothes every day.

Those were the upsides to unemployment.

Oh – and not having to get up to an alarm clock.

However, unemployment also meant not having money and paying $1,200 a month for health insurance, which was not so great.

I thought, I guess I can wash my hair for money and for health insurance.

When I started the job, I took a shower every day. Every day, y’all!

And I dried my hair! With a hairdryer!

And I put on makeup.

I put on makeup after throwing out the old mascara, which I had not used in a year, and had dried out.

And I wore presentable clothes.

And I gritted my teeth and turned on the camera and there you go.

But then I realized something.

Other people were in gym clothes.

Almost every woman I talked to had her hair in a ponytail or bun.

And almost nobody was wearing makeup.

I asked my new work friend, Lyla, what she thought.

“I haven’t shaved my legs in months!” she said. “I asked my husband if it bothered him and he said he hadn’t even noticed!”

And she agreed on the makeup with a comment about screw the patriarchy we should be evaluated on results, not on our appearance, which made me love her even more than I already do.

And we agreed that when we return to the office, we are going to normalize not wearing makeup and not doing our nails and maybe even wearing sleeveless clothes, which is Not Done in the corporate environments where I have worked.

What’s wrong with sleeveless clothes?

I used to be against Sleeveless At Work.

Why? Why is it so bad?

Much of it of course is that it’s usually too darn cold to expose much of my skin.

But the other was The Rules.

The Rules that certain parts of a woman’s body are off limits.

And I helped enforce those rules.

Holy smoke I have been part of The Patriarchy.

But now – after over a year of THERE ARE NO RULES, I think, yeah, whatever. Just wear clothes.

I am not going to be an Agent of the Patriarchy anymore.

If they don’t like it, let them try to fire me for it.


However.

And you knew there was a however.

If we do not put time and money into our appearances, we will be putting our incomes at risk.

I read about this in Soraya Chemaly‘s FABULOUS YOU HAVE TO READ IT book, Rage Becomes Her.

(I am even more furious after reading this book. And I was already pretty angry.)

(Ha. “Pretty” and “angry” are mutually exclusive, according to how the world sees women who are expressing their anger.)

Chemaly wrote,

Few women, particularly those living in the United States or other industrialized countries, escape the press to be eternally dewy and lineless. Indeed, they are rewarded for conforming to standards, in other words, being “good.” According to a recent study in the journal of Research in Social Stratifications and Mobility, the more time and money a woman spends on grooming, the higher her salary at work, regardless of how well she rates on job performance. Prior theories have focused on the benefits of being attractive, but this study teased out the difference between attractiveness and investment in appearance. Researchers speculate that women who use makeup signal that they are responsive to social norms, gender stereotypes, and society’s greater propensity to police women’s behavior, “in ways that keep women distracted from really achieving power.”

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

Here’s the TLDR:

Physically attractive individuals have higher income than average individuals.

This relationship is reduced when controlling for grooming.

Surprisingly, the attractiveness premium does not vary by gender.

Grooming explains all the attractiveness premia for women, but only half for men.

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

And this, from the Washington Post:

Like past studies, the research showed that attractive people tended to earn higher salaries. But that wasn’t all. Their research suggested that grooming – practices such as applying makeup and styling hair and clothing — was actually what accounted for nearly all of the salary differences for women of varying attractiveness. For men, grooming didn’t make as much of a difference….

However, the researchers did find a big difference between men’s and women’s salaries when it came to grooming. Controlling for factors such as age, race, education and personality traits like agreeableness and conscientiousness, they compared how interviewers rated people on attractiveness, how they rated the same person on grooming, and that person’s salary….

They found that a substantial amount of attractiveness was the result of grooming, and here’s where they found gender differences, Wong says. “For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming.”

In other words, the study suggests that grooming is important for both men and women in the workplace, but particularly for women. Changes in grooming have a substantial effect on whether women are perceived as attractive, and their salaries. In fact, as the charts below show, less attractive but more well-groomed women earned significantly more, on average, than attractive or very attractive women who weren’t considered well-groomed….

One is that these gender differences are the result of a cultural tendency to monitor women’s behavior more than men’s, in ways that keep women distracted from really achieving power. Wong quotes Naomi Wolf, a third-wave feminist who argues that unrealistic standards of beauty that women are encouraged to pursue – an ideal she calls “the beauty myth” – is ultimately a way to control and constrain women’s behavior.

Washington Post

So. We can do as men do and not worry about makeup and elaborate hair and spend our time, as men do, accumulating power.

But if we do, we might sacrifice income.

My house is paid for. I’m in. I don’t judge any woman who decides differently – and of course wear makeup and clothes that hurt if you want to! – but I hope there are enough of us who are at a point in our careers where we don’t care about (we don’t want!) being promoted that we can effect change for those who come after us. So that getting yourself fancy is a choice, not a requirement.

Join me. Cast away your chains of makeup and join me.

Let’s talk about how women are portrayed in Hollywood

Also, we have to kill the new racist voting law in Georgia

“I’m not crazy, M’Lynn, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years!”
Photo credit

Oh for pete’s sake could we please please please get some movies and TV shows that are not about how men view women but are just about women and our stories? This can be done. It has been done. So why would anyone make a show where it’s not like that?

(I know I know I know. But still. Women do have purchasing power. If nothing else, Hollywood, do it for the money. Even my very School That Is Old uncles knew how to sell cars. “Women make 80% of the purchasing decisions for the family,” my uncles, who owned a small car dealership, told me 20 years ago, after I complained about my car-buying experience. “We ALWAYS talk to the woman when a couple comes in.”

The bar is so low. They talked to the women! But it was and is the smart thing to do.)

I have been watching a bunch of old shows – 9 to 5, which sadly, ages very well. Steel Magnolias also ages well, although I identify more with Ouiser than with Shelby these days. Shirley MacLaine is brilliant. I think I will have to watch Terms of Endearment again, too.

Mr T and I watched The Big Chill and man. It hits home now in a way it didn’t when it first came out and we were just college students.

There are TV series I love – series that center women and are about women, not about women who are about men. Rizzoli and Isles is great. I am sad it’s over.

Scott and Bailey. Vera. Veronica Mars. No Offence. Agatha Raisin.

Watch these shows. They are about women doing cool things. They are not about women worrying about men or about men who need a female character to round them out.

And then there are the crap shows.

I AM LOOKING AT YOU, STEPMOM.

Good grief. I had watched Steel Magnolias and thought, Yeah even though Shelby made Very Bad Decisions (and it turns out, sadly, that Steel Magnolias is based on a true story), Julia Roberts is a pretty good actress.

So I watched My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Whoa. Did I hate that movie that much the first time I saw it?

Her character was despicable. I kept watching only to see if there was any redemption and there really wasn’t. The character was awful in the beginning and continues to be awful. Do not watch this movie unless you want a good Hate Watch.

(You know – like in book club in the Before Times when we had more fun talking about the books we hated than the ones we liked.)

(Also, it was made in Chicago and I wanted to see Chicago because I miss traveling so much.)

I had already picked up Stepmom from the library and it was that or PBS’ The March and I wasn’t in the mood to be completely depressed about how our country is going completely backwards on civil rights – YES I MEAN YOU GEORGIA, so I watched it.

A few minutes in, I opened the imdb page and started reading the reviews.

I was looking for other people who might have noticed that Julia Roberts’ character is doing all the work that her boyfriend, Ed Harris, should be doing.

Ed Harris and Susan Sarandon are divorced. Harris has since met Julia and she has moved into his place.

The opening scene is of Julia trying to get Ed’s kids ready for school.

Ed is not in the picture.

He is not in the scene.

This scenario plays out repeatedly in the story. Julia – who is not married to Ed – she is his live-in girlfriend – is doing all the work of caring for his children on the days they stay with him.

She cares for his children to the extent that her own career is put at risk. Her boss threatens to fire her because she keeps leaving early to pick up the kids.

Why is Julia taking care of Ed’s children? Why is she in charge of doing the laundry and making their breakfast and picking them up from school?

I kept watching, just in case the writer was playing a trick and Julia would realize she was being used as an unpaid nanny.

Nope.

That did not happen.

Reader, do not watch this movie, despite its cast.

(If you want to see Ed Harris and you do, watch Tender Mercies. He’s not in it, but his wife is. It’s a wonderful movie. Ed is in The Right Stuff. Watch that. Don’t watch The Hours. I hated that movie and I don’t even remember why. I think it was super pretentious. Plus, it’s impossible to make Nicole Kidman not beautiful.)

Do not watch this movie.

Actually, don’t watch anything but The March. Because after I watched Stepmom, I was already cranky, so I thought watching a documentary about the march on Washington in 1963 couldn’t make me any angrier than I already was but guess what?

It could and it did.

We are going backwards in this country and we need to do something about it. Write and call your legislators. Boycott products from Georgia (easy for me to say – I kicked the diet Coke habit years ago). Participate in BLM marches in your area. Send money to the people who are doing the work on the ground. We cannot let our country become a haven for white supremacists.

Let’s talk about the shame of being poor

(Or of being thought poor. I am very lucky – I have never worried about having enough food or a roof over my head)

We do not waste in this house.

I posted a photo on facebook of Mr T’s Favorite Jeans after I patched them (again) and he was concerned.

“What if people think we are too poor to buy new jeans?” he asked.

At first I laughed, but then I thought, “Why do we even think like this?”


I am in the habit of picking up hair ties from the sidewalk. We live by an elementary school and a middle school and I guess the hair elastics either slip out of girls’ hair or their pockets. (When they have pockets. Which we all know is a luxury reserved for Men because Women Have Purses and We Can Carry All The Things In Our Purses.)

Obviously, I don’t pick up the dirty or nasty ones – but one in good shape? Clean? No hair attached?

Of course I am going to pick it up! I don’t want to have to buy them and we all know they last only a short while before the elastic is shot.

So – I pick up and use clean hair ties I find on the sidewalk.

Do you think that’s gross?

Maybe it is. But – it’s not like the girls around here have filthy disgusting hair.

Anyhow.

Mr T and I were visiting friends, Jack and Jill. We were on a walk and he spotted a hair tie.

“Do you want this tie?” he asked.

“What? NO!” I answered.

He was confused. I always want the ties. And he is a practical man. This is the same guy called out to our friend Brandi, who needed us to stop at the drugstore because surprise, her period had shown up unexpectedly, “Texan might have some pads!”

She rolled her eyes at him and shook her head as she walked into the store.

“Maybe that’s not the sort of thing you yell at someone,” I told him.

“But – we could save her the trouble of going into the store!”

“Most women don’t want to talk about their periods in public,” I answered.

“Why not?” he asked. “Women have periods. Is that a secret?”

This is the man who bought menstrual supplies for his stepdaughters and for me, always trying to optimize price with other desired features. To him, it’s an engineering problem to be solved and why don’t we just solve it the most practical way?

He’s so right.


Going off topic.

I am helping a VP prepare a presentation about diversity and why it matters. We are looking for examples of times where lack of diversity on a team has led to a bad product and of course, Apple’s failure to include a period tracker in the FitBit is the first thing to come to my mind.

My VP agreed that it was a great example, but laughed and said no way was she going to talk about periods in a speech where men are present.

How are we supposed to normalize a biological function that half the people in the world experience – that EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD EXPERIENCES – unless we say it out loud?

Deep breath. Baby steps.

But I digress.


After we had gone home, Mr T asked why I denied the hair tie.

“I thought you needed those!” he asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t want anyone else to know I do it, especially Jill.”

“Why not?”

Why not?

Why didn’t I?

I am not ashamed that we wash and re-use ziplock bags (although a friend teased me about that once and I was embarrassed, so I guess maybe I am a bit ashamed).

I thought about it.

“Because Jill grew up rich and she has no idea what it’s like not to have money,” I explained.

“So?” Mr T asked.

“Because – because I don’t want her to think I’m poor or tacky.”

Why? Why is it so shameful to be thought poor that we don’t want our friends to know that we pick up hair ties (which – OK – that one is a little weird)?

But – why is it so shameful to be thought poor that we don’t want our friends to know that we patch our jeans?

What kind of BS have we been sold in this country that if you are poor, it is your own fault?

Yes, I know our poverty here is different from poverty in other countries. I talked to a cab driver in Morocco who told me America was different – that we didn’t have poor people.

Yes, we do, I told him.

But – your poor people can work and become not poor. It is a possibility, he answered. But here? No matter how hard we work, we stay poor.

He spoke the truth. I had seen the same thing when I was a Peace Corps volunteer – that no matter how hard some people worked, they would stay poor. They weren’t lazy. They weren’t slackers. They were part of a system that wanted to keep them in their place.

In this country, we are supposed to be able to rise above all that.

That’s a myth.

That’s a lie.

I used to believe the pull yourself up by your bootstraps myth, but then I learned more. I got more information. I discovered that there were aspects of our society that make it very hard for people to leave poverty.

Yet our attitude is still that if someone is poor in our country, it’s her own darn fault.

That she is lazy.

That she doesn’t want to take care of herself.

That there is no need for us to help her because if she really really wanted not to be poor, she could do it.

And that’s what it is, really, right?

This idea that being poor is shameful and it’s shameful because it’s a condition the poor person has chosen.

If it weren’t actually the fault of the poor person – if poverty were actually a result of social and economic and structural conditions that could be changed – then we would have the moral obligation to change them.

And we don’t want to do that.

Let’s talk about how Zoom is evil, or, The Seventh Circle of Hell

Camera-On Zoom Meetings for Work – Whose Stupid Idea Was That?

This is my robe but that is not I wearing it. Also, I did not get the matching slippers. I didn’t even know they existed but now I have but one mission in my life and that is to get these slippers.

The good news is I got a job.

Now that I have acknowledged that this is good news, I need to complain about said job.

I have never met any of my co-workers in person.

All my interviews were on zoom. Camera on.

And now all the work – the meetings – are on zoom. Camera. On.

Which I suppose I might not mind so much if I were photogenic and young and gorgeous, but Lord have mercy the camera on my computer has a way of highlighting things I would prefer not to highlight.

But – that is the reality of being lucky enough to be alive and I am trying to heed Laura Lippman’s admonition that WE MUST LOVE OURSELVES, so I am going to complain about things about zoom that are not about aging and not about not being photogenic.

To wit:

The entire advantage of working from home, or at least the advantage I have always treasured, is that I did not have to be presentable.

Zoom requires that I be presentable and I don’t even know what world those Zoom people were living in when they designed this awful thing

I worked from home a lot with my old job and we did not do cameras on. I was working with engineers and we were always going through some kind of meeting agenda or doing a formal product development review where we needed to be on the same (literally) page. We shared documents, not images of ourselves. Plus engineers and eye contact is not exactly a thing.

But this job. Oy.

My boss is new to the company. I am new to the company. Nobody has met and I understand philosophically why cameras on is a good idea, but what that translates to in real life for me is I now have to wash my hair more than once a week.

Which might not seem unreasonable to you but I have not been to a salon since January 2020. I have not had my hair colored since then and now I know what color it really is, which is a decent color I suppose but it is boring. And I have been cutting my hair myself and that has gone about as well as you might imagine.

I guess we’re all in that boat. Almost all the women I have met at work have long-ish hair. Nobody has had a haircut.

But I think they have better supplies than I have.

That is, although we still buy things, we are not buying unnecessary things. And we are not making unnecessary trips to the store. And we have decided we might as well use inventory.

Which means I am using the Bad Shampoo.

That’s the shampoo I bought years ago and tried and I didn’t like it but I also was not going to throw perfectly good (well, not good but functional) shampoo in the trash so I put it upstairs in the guest bathroom so my houseguests –

hmmmm.

Thinking this through, it’s not really the most hospitable thing to do, is it?

To ask my family and friends to use crummy shampoo just because they didn’t bring any?

Although in my defense, I thought it was Good Shampoo when I bought it.

Anyhow, I ran out of the Good Shampoo last year and decided I might as well use the shampoo in the house because who cares how I look anyhow?

And then I got a job.

And then I had to have the camera on.

And then I thought crap this means I have to wash my hair more than once a week.

And all I have is the Bad Shampoo.

Plus – it’s cold in our house so I wear my fluffy robe of leopardo over my gym clothes or PJs and that’s not really an option if you are on camera.

Now I am forced to shower more frequently than once a week.

I am trying to figure out The Shampoo Situation.

And makeup! I put on some makeup and I didn’t even recognize myself. Do people even wear makeup anymore? Is that still a thing? Because I am Done.

And I have to wear clothes that make me look like I have put a little bit of thought into what I am wearing, which, in the past year, has been at the very bottom of my list. I don’t care about clothes anymore. Does anyone? I don’t care about any of this anymore. Do you?

Let’s talk about sexism at work

Why does it seem that it’s always the women cleaning up after the potlucks?

Our roles are defined for us so early.

I was 23, working on a team of four men and two women.

Our boss invited us to his home for dinner.

(Yeah, this used to be A Thing.)

So how that worked was the spouse – the wife it was always a wife back then – did all the work, cleaning and cooking for people she didn’t even know.

Remember how a major plot point of Bewitched was when Darren would announce to Samantha that he was bringing his boss home for dinner?

With no notice?

Ah, the good old days.

My co-workers and I went.

We finished eating.

Mrs Boss started clearing the table.

Cindy, the other woman, and I looked at each other.

What should we do?

Any men reading this might be wondering, “What on earth are you talking about? What do you mean, ‘What should we do?'”

But I bet you women know.

You know the dilemma Cindy and I faced.

Are we Work Guests?

Or are we women?

Because Work Guests do not help clean up.

But women do.

And our boss was very very conservative.


As in, he had also invited us to attend his church with him.

(BOSSES! DO NOT DO THIS!)

I accepted the invitation. I went to his church one Sunday.

Because although in general I have very bad political instincts at work, I knew that telling my boss “no” to a direct personal request was a bad idea.

I am Catholic.

He was Assembly of God.

For some of you, that’s enough information.

For the rest, in general, the Pentecostal, evangelical, and non-denominational Protestants think the Pope is the anti-Christ and Catholics are going to hell because we have not been Saved.

(My roommate my freshman year of college was Southern Baptist and yes, she was sure I was going to hell. She has since become a homeschooling mother who has sent at least one child to Oral Roberts University, which I can’t even begin to describe to someone who doesn’t already recoil at the idea.)


Cindy and I looked at each other. Without a word, we got up and started to help Mrs Boss. We cleared the dishes and helped her wash them.

The men continued to sit.

Because that was the expectation. The women cleaned, the men conversed.

Woman > Business Guest.

I would like to think that if that happened today, I would not conform to gender expectations.

I would also like to think that if that happened today, my (male) boss would also be cleaning up.

I don’t know if either one is true. These forces are so strong in our lives.

I do know that in the office, I feel safer challenging the paradigm.

(Plus it’s now 20 years later.)

At my old job, there were about 250 people in the office.

Only 17 of us were women.

Yet for every social event, 100% of the people prepping and cleaning up were women.

I told my intern, who was a college sophomore at the time, never to help with potlucks unless she saw senior men helping.

I also told her not to bring brownies or cake or whatever to work to share.

“You need to be known as Sally, that amazing engineer, not Sally that cute girl who makes cookies.”

But I have to tell you, walking away while my fellow women cleaned up – it’s hard. It’s still hard.

But we need to stop this crap.

Let’s talk about sexual harassment

It was probably my fault

Maybe I was too provocative? I did wear navy suits, sensible black low-heeled shoes, and high-neck white blouses with a little maroon floppy tie. That’s a pretty hot outfit.

My first job out of college, I worked for an insurance company. I had a stint where I traveled through Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico to train insurance agents in one of the company’s products.

I was 22 years old, a young women working with almost all men. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one single female agent.

Wow. I just realized that. I don’t think there was one single woman in the five offices I would visit.

I don’t know what the situation is now with women in insurance, but good insurance agents can make a really good living. Women, consider insurance and financial planning as a career!

When I would present to the agents – standing in front of them in the office, trying to teach them about a new product they could sell that could help increase their income, they would yell at me and tease me and interrupt me.

I thought that was normal.

I thought it was normal that men should not respect women in the workplace.

I thought it was normal, but I also knew that I couldn’t do my job if the men wouldn’t let me talk.

So I asked my brother for advice. “How do I get them to listen to me?” I asked him

“You need to pick one of them and turn the others on him,” he advised. “They need to be distracted from teasing you by teasing one of them.”

Which is exactly what I did.

I picked one of them and made some smart-aleck comment to him. I felt bad doing it – I felt like I was picking on him.

But it worked.

The pack gleefully turned on one of their own and attacked him.

And I was able to do my job and get through the presentation. The presentation that COULD HELP THEM MAKE MORE MONEY. Good grief.

I learned how to talk to the (always older) men who would ask me out.

At work.

I don’t know if this was the right thing to say, but it’s what I did say.

When OLD MEN would ask me out, rather than saying, “I don’t date people I work with” (which should have been my answer and also should have been my policy, but sadly, it was not, although there is nothing wrong with working with people you date but working with people you used to date? that’s tougher ask me how I know), I said, in an effort not to be rude, “I think I’m too young for you.”

Because saying “You’re too old for me man who is at least 35!” would have been SO RUDE.

Thank goodness I didn’t say that.

But also – MEN! Sheesh. Do not ask young women at work out on a date.

Don’t ask any women at work out on a date. Don’t get your honey where you get your money.

But I wasn’t so sure how to handle the physical harassment.

I was in the Albuquerque office, sitting at a desk, talking about the product with a few agents, when one of the men – who was my dad’s age, whom I had never met before, with whom I had no relationship at all – came up to me and

Put

His

Hands

Around

My

Neck

and

Massaged

My

Neck.

I froze.

I stopped talking.

I didn’t know what to do.

I don’t even remember what happened next. Did one of the other men tell him to stop? Did he notice that I wasn’t speaking and that my muscles were suddenly tense?

He lifted his hands away.

And I started talking again.

Later, the manager of that office asked if I would go to lunch with him to talk about agency strategy.

I wanted nothing to do with him or his people, so I said I couldn’t – that I was going shopping during lunch.

DO NOT DO THIS.

As my VP counseled me later, when I returned to the office, after he had called her to complain, “going shopping” is not a good excuse for not meeting with a work colleague during working hours.

I told her that I had eaten with him before and he ate with his mouth open (which was true) so I hadn’t wanted to eat with him again.

But I knew I couldn’t tell him that his bad manners were the reason.

My VP sighed and said I needed to have a better excuse at hand but also that it really was part of my job to meet with co-workers.

It didn’t even occur to me to tell her about the man who had massaged my neck.

It didn’t even occur to me that that was an event I should report to someone.

(Not that I would have known who to report it to.)

It didn’t even occur to me that there should have been rules against this sort of thing.

And I hadn’t even thought about this until recently, when I saw similar stories on twitter. And I realized that in all the decades since this happened, I never once thought, I SHOULD HAVE TOLD SOMEONE.

Not once.

That is how deep into this we are. That we don’t even see our own harassment.

At the time, it was something to shrug off. It was just what happened, right? That’s how the world is.

The older I get, the angrier I become.

I am a Bad Bacon Eater

Also, I do not Respect My Elders

Good Bacon that I will Eat Badly.

I just finished the (wonderful) The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.

One of the characters – Alice – is not sufficiently deferential to her husband’s father. Alice’s father in law wants her to quit her job. When she refuses, the FIL tells his son to deal with Alice, threatening to hit her.

My father in law was like that.

What is it with men who think they get to control women? What is it with in laws who hate their children’s spouses?

My FIL hated me for the way I ate bacon.

(Although at least he never suggested – that I know of – that Mr T hit me.)

“You’ll hand in your notice….”

There was a silence. And then Alice heard her voice.

“No.”

Van Cleve [the FIL] looked up. “What?”

“No. I’m not leaving the library. I’m not married to you, and you don’t tell me what to do.”

“You’ll do what I say! You live under my roof, young lady!”

She didn’t blink.

Mr. Van Cleve glared at her, then turned to Bennett [Alice’s husband and Mr. Van Cleve’s son], and waved a hand. “Bennett? Sort your woman out.”

“I’m not leaving the library.”

Mr. Van Cleve turned puce. “Do you need a slap, girl?”

The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes

Mr T’s dad – let’s call him Mr B for Bully – did want Mr T to sort me out. He told Mr T to “get [me] in line.”

I had angered Mr B by defying him.

He did not like that.


I usually kept my mouth shut around Mr B.

No, this is not my way. Nor is speaking tactfully. As my former boss put it when I was talking to him today, “You are not a politician.”

But I had learned not to challenge Mr B because he took his revenge not on me but on Mr T’s mom.


Mr B and I had a history. He had taught me to keep quiet after an episode over, of all things, Alex Trebek.

Mr T and I were visiting his parents. We were watching Jeopardy when Mr B mused, “I have always found Alex Trebek to be pretentious.”

The words flew out before I could stop them. “Pot, meet kettle,” I said.

Mrs B started laughing.

Mr T started laughing.

For Mr B was indeed quite pretentious.

(Although he never insisted I call him “Dr” B, even though he held a PhD. So there is that. He never went full pretension on me.)

Then Mrs B stopped herself and whispered to me, “Uh oh. You’ll pay for that!”

Mr B glared at me. He glared at Mr T. Then he snapped at Mr T, “You’re pretentious and SO IS YOUR WIFE!”

Well, I thought. You told me. You told me.

(Except – neither Mr T nor I are particularly pretentious, I don’t think, so – the shoe didn’t even fit.)

But whatever.

An hour later, Mr B had Mrs B sobbing as he yelled at her about something inconsequential, called her names, and insulted her parents. He outweighed her by over 100 pounds. He stood over her as she cowered.

“If they had given grades for ‘stupid’ when you were in school, you would have gotten an ‘A!'” he shouted.

The message was clear: He might not punish me personally – he couldn’t, because I already didn’t care what he thought about me, but he would punish somebody.


I had learned not to defy Mr B, but I had also learned not to care what he thought about me.

It had taken years for me to reach that point.

After all, when someone tells his son not to marry you and that he’s going to boycott the wedding, you take it a little personally.

But a year after we got married (Mr T ignored Mr B’s instructions not to marry me and Mr and Mrs B, to my dismay, did not boycott our wedding but they did not add joy to the day), Mr T came slowly down the stairs after his weekly phone call to his parents.

“My dad is upset,” he said.

So what else is new? I thought to myself.

Those of us with good parents – rational, loving mothers and fathers who did not torment us emotionally – have no idea what it’s like to deal with narcissistic, selfish, alcoholic parents.

Those of us lucky enough to have been surrounded with a loving family – who have never encountered mean and narcissistic – assume that if someone treats us badly, it must be because we did something to deserve it.


Shortly after Mr T and I married, Mrs B wrote me a letter.

I think we need to start anew after I offer our read on how the tensions began. You should tell us your recollections.….It took me a long time to build a relationship with some of Mr B’s relatives and the initiative was all mine.

Mrs B

Let’s deconstruct this, shall we? This is but a snippet of her letter. I will offer details.

She offers her “read” on how the tensions began.

She listed the things they did not like about me – my religion, my politics. How I was closed and guarded at their house. How I spent time on the computer instead of watching football with them.

Although not listed, they also didn’t like how I use cabbage, how I offered (or did not offer) oatmeal, that I dry clothes on the clothesline, that I wash and re-use Ziplocs, that I use cloth napkins.

She asks me to tell her what I didn’t like about them.

My recollections? My recollections are that I am not a stupid person and I had nothing to gain by listing all the things I did not like about Mr and Mrs B.

I was and still am grateful that they brought Mr T into being. He is an amazing man and a far better son than they deserved. But who among us would say yes, I think I should write a letter to my in-laws and tell them every single thing I don’t like about them?

And although I would not tell them, I will tell you.

  • They told Mr T not to marry me and told him they were going to boycott our wedding
  • They called me a golddigger (if I am one, then I am a very bad one because Mr T did not have money when I married him)
  • They did not treat Mr T well. One year, when we went to Spain over Christmas instead of going to their house, Mr B called Mr T a “bad son” and Mrs B threatened suicide. She then sent an email to Mr T on Christmas Day in which she wrote, “Everything sucks and I get despondent.” Which – merry Christmas to you, too.
  • They gossiped horribly about Mr T’s half brothers and sisters in law and nieces and nephews to Mr T, telling him things that were none of his business and were just mean.
  • And lots and lots more but my reasons for disliking them are not the point of this post. (What was the point again?)(Oh right! How men try to dominate women by threat of physical violence!)

And she says bitch, I had to suck up to my in-laws and now it’s your turn.

She told me that when she married Mr B, she had to build the relationship with Mr B’s relatives. Which – honestly, was not fair. Yes, Mr B left his first wife for Mr T’s mom, but that was on Mr B, not on Mrs B. I mean, it was on her as well – she knew he was a married man with children, but why was Mr B’s family angry at Mrs B? They should have been angry with Mr B – he’s the one who abandoned his first family.

Mr T did not abandon anyone to marry me.

The default is that in laws welcome their children’s spouses.

Your children’s spouses are not supposed to have to grovel to earn your approval.

I refused to share my recollections. I refused to grovel.



Bacon-ish in Spain.

Mr T came downstairs after The Mandated Weekly Phone Call That Had To Be Initiated By Mr T And Initiated Before 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time Because That’s When Mr and Mrs B Started Drinking.

Any phone call from Mr T to his parents that started after they had started drinking did not count. If he called them after 4:00 eastern, they would be angry and send him emails telling him he had abandoned them and was ignoring them.

“My dad is upset,” Mr T said.

So what else is new? I thought.

“About what?” I asked.

“Remember the first time you went with me to their house?”

“The first time? You mean years ago?”

“Yes.”

“I remember they wanted us to sleep in the same bedroom even though we weren’t married, which I thought was weird. And that even though we had flown all morning, rented a car and driven an hour, and arrived at 1:00 p.m., not only did they not offer us anything to eat for lunch, they didn’t even ask if I wanted water.”

I started to get indignant all over again. I might not feed every person who crosses my threshold, but if you walk into my house, the first thing I will ask you is if you want something to drink.

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DOESN’T OFFER A GLASS OF WATER TO A WEARY TRAVELER?

“I had to ask for water! Yes, I remember.”

Now I was cranky.

“Well, my dad is upset about something that happened when we visited.”

“Is he finally upset that they were such horrible hosts? That he offered the master bathroom to us so we could shower together like he and your mom did? Has he realized that his son’s girlfriend really does not want to think about her boyfriend’s parents naked together in the shower?”

He laughed. “No. He’s mad about the breakfast he made for us that Sunday.”

“What’s there to be mad about about breakfast?”

“He says you insulted him.”

I dug back into my memories. I am not the most diplomatic of people, but I can usually be on decent behavior, especially if I am terrified because I am surrounded by hostility and seething clear dislike.

As I had been.

“What did I do?”

“He didn’t like how you ate your bacon. He says it was an insult to the chef. Who was him.”

“He didn’t like how you ate your bacon.”

(I still can’t believe those words were ever said out loud. Or even thought.)

“He didn’t like how you ate your bacon.”

“What’s wrong with how I ate my bacon? I eat it properly.”

Mr T sighed. It’s hard to explain one’s parents when one’s parents are irrational. “You tore off the fat and ate only the lean.”

I waited.

I waited.

I waited for him to get to the part about how I had done it wrong.

He said nothing.

“That’s it? That’s what upset him? Here we are, four years later, and he’s still stewing about this? This is what he wants to talk to you about?”

He sighed.

“Your parents. Do not like me. Because of the way I eat bacon.”

He shook his head. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you.”

“No.” I shook my head. “No. No. This is good. This is great. For years, I have thought they had a good reason not to like me. I thought if I just did it right with them – if I behaved properly, they might like me.”

Narrator: We know the truth: Clearly she didn’t care enough to grovel as Mrs B had asked.

“They have no rational reason not to like me!” I exclaimed. “They’re making crap up! Their dislike cannot be resolved! I cannot fix this! They don’t have a good reason not to like me – they just don’t so they are grasping for objective reasons – stupid reasons but objective – so they can justify it to themselves. I win! I don’t have to try anymore. Because there is nothing I can do – nothing! – that will make them like me.”

I no longer cared what they thought about it. I knew they would never like me and it wasn’t about me.

I stopped trying.

I was free.


Love never goes away

I will never stop missing my dad

I read Elizabeth Berg‘s lovely story about her dad’s dementia, I’ll Be Seeing You.

She writes beautifully. There are authors I like because they tell a great story about great characters. Berg does that, but her writing style is also gorgeous. She and Alexander McCall Smith have that gentle tone and these beautiful observations and elevations of the ordinary. They can both write an entire page about someone sipping a cup of tea and looking out of the window and make it lyrical and compelling.

When you combine that beautiful language with a story that so many of us have lived – of watching someone we love suffer in a way that we cannot make better – then you have a tearjerker.


It’s been 23 years, five months, 18 days, three hours, and 20 minutes since my dad died.

I still miss him every single day.

Mr T and I have been going through The 36 Questions That Lead To Love in the NY Times.

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

For me, this question is easy. My photo albums and the stack of letters that my dad wrote to me when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile.

Everything else can be replaced.


My dad did not have dementia. He had cancer – small cell blue non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Thank you Agent Orange.

A family friend, Mr S, had early onset dementia. He would have been – wow – I am just doing the math now – only in his 50s.

He knew he had it. I mean, he had the diagnosis. And he knew it would get worse.

He had one mission.

In his moments of lucidity, which were fewer and fewer, he sat down with his wife, Mrs S, and showed her all their investments. The house and car maintenance schedule. The file with the utility bills.

It’s not that Mrs S was stupid or ignorant – she was not. But they divided duties. She was a nurse and a mom. He was retired from the air force and a dad. They divided the house labor and he did the money stuff. (NB There is not a whole lot of money to manage when your career is in the military.)

His biggest concern was not whining or complaining about his fate but that Mrs S not have a hard time once his mind was completely gone.

Their story makes me think of Flowers for Algernon – the knowing that your mind is deteriorating. What do you do with that time? What do you do while you still can?


My dad was 61 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer.

He thought he had pulled a muscle running a 10K.

My parents were living in Italy at the time. My dad had started a second career, after retiring from the air force, as a teacher. He was teaching seventh grade math and science at the middle school on Sigonella navy base on Sicily.

[Imagine here the long, literally painful story about medevac from Sicily to a US military hospital in Germany to Walter Reed – where Mrs S, who lived in Washington, DC, went to visit him, to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, all of this over Christmas and New Year’s.]

I found out on Christmas Eve, via a phone call, that my dad had cancer.

I saw my dad on New Year’s Eve – the day he arrived there – in the hospital on Lackland.

He looked like he was pregnant with triplets – his kidneys were not pushing out fluids the way they were supposed to.

He tried to smile, but didn’t succeed.

They gave him morphine and he finally slept.


There was an ice storm in Germany and non-essential personnel were told not to go to work at the base.

The people who worked in the lab – the lab that was diagnosing my dad – were considered non-essential.

We waited and waited and waited for a diagnosis.

It took days for us to get it – the stage 4 blue cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Doctors of all kinds came in to see my dad.

The surgeon came twice – once to evaluate, once to tell us that he could not cut out my dad’s cancer.

“It would be like trying to cut out a wet paper towel,” he told us.


They needed to get a tissue sample from his hip bone. The resident, who was about to perform her first bone aspiration, told him that there was not a way to prevent pain for the procedure because it involved bone.

They told him he needed to expose his bottom half.

“I’ll wait in the hallway,” I told him.

Then I heard him whimper.

Then I heard him cry out in pain.

Then he said, “Please come hold my hand.”

“I don’t want to see your penis!” I yelled.

“I don’t care!” he answered. “It hurts! Please – please – hold my hand.”

He squeezed my hand so tightly that it hurt.

If you have never held your father’s hand while he weeps in pain, not even trying to hide his tears, you are a lucky person indeed.


Three days ago, my boyfriend before Mr T, John, would have turned 70. We dated over 20 years ago. I loved him but I couldn’t have lived with him – we were too different in how we did things.

But I loved him.

Three years ago, he died of leukemia.

He was only 67. Sixty seven doesn’t seem so old to me anymore.

I knew he was sick but I didn’t know how sick. I sent him some puzzles to keep busy. I kept meaning to send him some brownies but you know. Things. Things got in the way.

I thought I had time.

I did not have time.

He died before I could send the brownies.

It still bothers me. It bothers me that I didn’t show him how much he actually meant to me and that I still cared about him.


I send brownies any time I can now. Any reason.


My dad was in and out of the hospital in San Antonio for months. He went through chemo.

When he started losing his hair, my mom and I took him outside and shaved it all off, giving him a Mohawk in the process.

He lost probably about 40 pounds with the chemo? He was so thin. We wanted him to eat. He said that a Burger King milkshake sounded good.

I ran out of the hospital, jumped into my car, drove off base, found the nearest Burger King, bought a milkshake, ran back to the hospital and handed it to him.

He wasn’t hungry anymore.

He was supposed to drink Ensure. He had a few sips, then stopped.

“Please, Dad,” I begged. “Drink more.”

“I’m not hungry,” he told me.

“Please.”

He breathed deeply, exhaled, then drank a few drops.

“More, please. Please, Dad. Drink more.”

He drank some more. I kept encouraging him.

He drank more.

Victory! Lots of calories in his skeletal body!

And then –

He threw it all up.

Pink strawberry Ensure.

All over his PJs and his bedding.

All because he wanted to make me happy.


My mom had to go back to Italy to pack up their things and send them to the States. She had found a small apartment near the base. I stayed with my dad while she was gone.

I was trying to read a book.

My dad kept reading out loud to me from his newspaper.

I would listen, say, “Uh huh,” then return to my book.

I just wanted to read my book.

My dad was the first one in his family to go to college. He was not encouraged to go. His dad had a small auto dealership and garage where my dad had worked until he left home to join the Coast Guard. My dad could have stepped into the family business and never left his hometown.

He was a stutterer. He was not encouraged in academics. Still, he went, going to school on the GI Bill.

He majored in Russian history. He read and was curious and took other classes. When I was in junior hight, I helped him study for a test in his geology class. He and my mom took computer programming when I was in high school. He was curious about the world.

I was the first grandchild of 26 – ten of whom are older than I am – to go to college.

When I was admitted to college and got academic scholarships, my father was so proud. He proudly wore the Rice sweatshirt I bought him. I have photos of him wearing it in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt – anywhere he traveled.

“Listen to this!” he said and read me yet another item from the paper.

Didn’t he see I was reading my book?

“I KNOW that, Dad!”

“You always were smarter than me,” he answered in a quiet voice.

Even now, 24 years later, I am flooded with shame at how I treated my dad. That I snapped at him when he was just trying to connect with me – while he was trying to take himself out of his chemo-ravaged body and think about something, anything, that was not cancer.

That I could not have been kinder to my dying father.


My mom was three years younger than I am now when she watched her husband die of cancer.


He was back in the hospital. Their stuff was on a ship coming from Italy. The apartment contained rented furniture. My dad had only what they had carried when he was medevaced.

One of those items was his rosary.

My father took great comfort in his faith. The hospital chaplains would come by to see him because he liked talking to all of them, regardless of denomination. He would argue with the Protestants and pray with the Catholics.

One morning, his rosary was gone.

My dad was not a panicker. He was not an angry, dramatic man. He was compliant with the doctors, doing whatever they asked of him. He did not ask much from my mom or my siblings and me. He did not want to be a burden.

But when he reached into the pocket of his robe and didn’t find his rosary, he panicked.

“Oh Dad it will turn up,” I assured him.

“No! No! We have to find it!” he insisted.

He tore at his clothes, open and closed the drawer in the nightstand by his bed, lifted his sheets.

The rosary was nowhere to be found.

“Where is it? Where is it? We have to find it!”

I rolled my eyes and started looking. I was DONE with cancer and stupid stuff.

I looked under the bed.

I looked in the closet.

I looked behind his nightstand.

My mom looked in the bathroom.

She looked behind the bed.

She looked in the cushions of the chair.

We could not find it.

I wanted to stop.

But my dad, who was not a man who insisted, insisted.

Finally, after half an hour of searching, we found it wedged between the foot of the bed and the mattress.

He grabbed it with both hands, holding it close to his chest.

That rosary is now in my nightstand drawer. Every time I see it, I think of my dad.


My dad died eight months after he was diagnosed. I was working in Miami, but flew to the hospital in Wisconsin when my aunt, who is a nurse, called to say that his cancer had returned and he was not going to make it.

When I returned to work two weeks later, the VP of my group stuck his head into my office and offered his condolences.

I burst into tears.

“Oh,” he said. “Were you close?”

Yes.

I still miss my dad.