Category Archives: Raising Sons

Mandatory Pre-Wedding Mother/Son Lunch #2

Mandatory Pre-Wedding Mother/Son Lunch #2

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Patrick Francis Healy, my “middle child”, my #2 son, is getting married next weekend.

Named after St. Francis of Assisi and my father Edmund Francis Shaheen.  A classic Irish name with a bow to his grandfather, William Healy.  A lover of nature, an artist, a true renaissance man outstanding in his field.

After almost two days of laboring, Patrick was born with his brown eyes wide open to check out the world.  I think he was impressed.  We had a quick snuggle before the nurses whisked him away to the nursery to observe him.  “He’s too quiet”, they said.

In my hospital bed looking out the window at the stars, I couldn’t roll over and get comfortable.  He was still with me.  Safely tucked just under my heart.

My phantom limb.

Once home, Patrick was forced to contend with his two year old brother, Robert, who by the way was NOT quiet or tranquil.  Nonetheless, he almost immediately slept through the night and even when he wasn’t asleep, he would just lie in his crib, taking in his new digs.  His dad and I would look at each other and ask “Where did he come from?”

Robert loved him and would climb into his crib in the morning to talk to him and show him the many stuffed animals adorning.  Their bond has strengthen through the years.  I’ve often drawn a parallel to their lives with the story of the Prodigal Son.  (But that would be an entirely different blog!)

Nothing really ever rattled Patrick. He was happy playing with his GIJoes and reading his books on his own.  That is, until Peter was born and his status was disrupted.  But he quickly adjusted and life became even more fun and interesting with a little brother.

“He’s quiet”.  Those words spoken in the delivery room couldn’t have been more prophetic.  Quiet until he has something to say.  Quiet because there are creative things churning away in his very intuitive mind.

Walking to the park with my three sons after my mother died, Patrick so sweetly chimed  “Wouldn’t it be fun if Sitti was with us?”  He was 3 1/2 years old.

On the anniversary of my mother’s death, I put some of her perfume on just to have her close.  In the kitchen during breakfast Patrick said “You smell like Sitti!”  She had passed 7 years prior, and Patrick still remembered her comforting scent.

When we lived in Portland, we had a roof leak over some built in book shelves.  It rained (go figure..) and my books were ruined.  He helped me pull them off the self and dry them one by one.  “Oh Mom.. your books!”  At 14 years old he knew what was important to me and I was deeply touched by his empathy and caring.

I went to Patrick’s room to just chat one evening when he was in high school.  He was busy with a writing assignment.  I asked “What are you writing?”  He responded “An apology letter to the Dean of Students.  It has to be two pages.”  I said “What in the heck did you do?”  Later I learned that it was something rather significant that involved some shenanigans with several of his friends.  But Patrick took it in stride and did what he needed to do to rectify the situation.  Quietly.  Deliberately.  He took responsibility.   And then he put it behind him.

After leaving for college at CAL Berkeley, Patrick continued to come home every weekend.  I was always happy to see him but I finally asked him why he wasn’t staying at school and getting involved and making new friends.  He calmly responded “I don’t like the food in the dorm.”  And of course he had learned from me from a very early age that food is love.  So I figured he came home for some food.  And some love.

“He’s quiet”.  To be honest it was a rare moment to see Patrick rattled.  But see it I did when he came home from three years of graduate school in Denver.  He wanted to stay there.  He wanted a job there but he didn’t get one. Probably one of the first times he didn’t attain what he set out to get for himself.  We talked for hours.  I could feel his disappointment and distress.  I felt helpless.  I had never seen him so dejected.

But get a job he did in Santa Clara at Verde Design where he had interned after getting his BA in Landscape Architecture.  He wasn’t expecting to go back there.  He wanted something different.

Nonetheless, he found a place to live.  He made a spreadsheet of his expenses.  He pulled himself together and started that job at Verde.  A couple weeks in he heard the click click of a co-worker’s heels as she approached her desk after being on vacation in Spain.  Click Click.  I think he knew.  She appeared out of nowhere.

“He’s quiet”.  He holds his cards close to his heart.  After a two year warm and wonderful friendship, he finally risked everything to tell Nazaneen that he was falling in love with her.  And a year later they were engaged.

Today, when Patrick and I had our lunch together, we talked about having a partner in life and how important it is.  How the burdens and the worries of life are so much easier when they are shared.  I encourage him to continue to spoil her and make her feel special.  I crossed the line of politically correct and told him that every woman wants to be loved and taken care of.  (Shoot me now..)

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my Patrick Francis will be a compassionate, supportive and caring husband.  And Nazaneen is just the woman who will appreciate his still waters that run deep.

We finished off our lunch today at the hair salon in Morgan Hill- Patrick a nice trim and style.  Mom- some highlights and a cut.  After Patrick left, Carolyn, the stylist, commented on what a wonderful young man Patrick is.

I know.  I’ve known it from the start.  My middle child. My #2 son.  He will always be tucked right below my heart.

My phantom limb.

Magical …

Magical …

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You know my heart and its ways

You who formed me before I was born

In the secret of darkness before I saw the sun

In my mother’s womb

~Psalm 139

Welcome to the world little Bear. One more sleep and I will hold you in my arms.  ❤️ Your Sitti

 

And the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down. ~Joni Mitchelle

And the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down. ~Joni Mitchelle

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I’ve always love the song “Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell.  As an adolescent when this song first came out, I never truly appreciated the significance of the lyrics.  But at this time in my life, they pulse with meaning.

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern through the years and I wonder if other women my age are seeing it as well.  Our children leave home and go to college.  They acquire degrees and find careers that make them happy.  And life feels somewhat stagnant as a parent with an empty nest.  We take a back seat to many of their adventures and accomplishments.  We brag about them with our closest friends or a stranger in the market, showing pictures on our phones to whomever appears interested and feel blissful when they call home to say hi or I love you.  After a life full of raising sons and taking a back seat to their health, education and well being, I am often at a loss for how to proceed.

We’re captive on the carousel of time, we can’t return.  We can only look behind from where we came.

And then suddenly things begin to happen.  A wedding, a grandchild, another grandchild, another wedding.  Life takes on new challenges and excitement.  A flurry of new activity.

When my sons were growing up, my childrearing “bible” was The Gesell Institute of Human Development.  Anyone remember the books “Your One Year Old”, “Your Two Year Old”, “Your Three Year Old”?  Their research shows that children’s growth is not always an even ride from less to more maturity.  Instead, smooth and calm behavior alternates with unsettled and uneven behavior.  Children go through periods of “disequilibrium”- when they are learning new skills and abilities, growing quickly and experiencing more anxiety and less confidence.  And “equilibrium”- a period of stability and consolidated behavior- when they practice the skills already mastered- when they are easier to live with…

Wowzy..   sounds like my adult life! 😱

2018 was smooth sailing.  A year of equilibrium.  I had the grandmother skills honed and the mother in law persona figured out.  I’d finally settled into my townhome after grieving the sale of my memory-filled yet large and empty house.

2019 will be the year of disequilibrium for me.  A new grandchild.  A wedding.  A new daughter in law.  Growth, challenge, frenzy, a year of learning.  I see the pattern emerging.  What has been lost to the past is being reincarnated in the present-  layered with periods of anxiety and the mastering of new skills.

As they say in Portland, Oregon.. if you don’t like the weather wait an hour or so.  The clouds and rain give way to sunshine and blue skies.  The painted ponies go up and down.  We’re captive on a carousel of time.

And oh what an incredible ride it is.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Mothering Sons

Mothering Sons

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I’ve come out from my writing hiatus in order to respond to an instagram post by @monbon6985-  a picture of her handsome husband, @el_nater, and their precious new baby boy, sound asleep.  The caption reads “If only it was always this easy!”

To which I responded “Oh boy… so much fun to come!”

I wanted to write more but instead I’ve taken it to my blog in order to write to all mothers of sons who get their information from the internet.  Here is what GOOGLE will not tell you about raising boys.

Put your mani/pedi, tea party fantasies aside and role up your sleeves.  Fasten your seat belt and make sure you have easy access to oxygen and know how to put your mask on.  Raising boys is not for sissies.

A mother of sons has a certain quality that distinguishes her from other mothers.  It’s something called GRIT.  It’s both under her fingernails and in her character.  We find each other and become fast friends- not unlike war veterans or earthquake survivors.  With boys, it certainly takes a village and all hands on deck to keep them on the straight and narrow.  Or to keep us sane.  Whichever is the most important at the moment.

It’s the little things that can throw you a curve.  The various items you find in the pockets of their pants when you are doing their laundry.  The “senior trip” photos that he accidentally left in the back seat of your car.   Or the alcohol in your pantry that suddenly tastes like water.  The camping trip to Mt. Madonna that you had a strange hunch about and wouldn’t let him go to at the last minute, thankfully.  Or the phone call from Mexico when your son and his friend, Nate, slept on a random beach and lost their car and personal artifacts to the incoming tide and had to hitchhike their way back to civilization.. or at least that’s the story they told me.

It’s when they are playing basketball shirts and skins in your driveway and you notice that one of their friends, Chris, has a gigantic tattoo across his back and pierced nipples.  “Does your mom know you have that?” I asked… wondering if I should strip my boys down naked and examine them from head to toe.  Or when you’re greeted at the door by your son and his friend who just painted his bedroom.  “Hi mom.  Oh BTW the paint on the chip is REALLY different from the way it turned out.  Just sayin’!”  After which I climb the stairs to his room and Boston Ivy from Home Depot reaches out and violently grabs me.  BTW, Will Carter, I think I still owe you some money.

When you come home from work and the girls you just had for detention a half hour ago are at your house (in their rolled up uniform skirts) BBQing with your sons and their friends.  “Oh Hi, Mrs. Healy.”  Deserving a mention is the trampoline pushed up to the garage.  One look and I knew.  “Were you boys jumping off the roof onto the trampoline???”

They cannot lie.  I must tell you.  Boys totally suck at lying.  That’s a good thing.

They will grow up and suddenly outweigh you.  But you must convince them that you can outsmart them.  At least for several more years.  Long after you can no longer carry them in your arms, you will carry them emotionally and spiritually.  And if you do this whole boy thing right, they will become your knights in shining armor.  They will fix your technology and help you with home repairs.  They will start having the parties YOU used to have for them and all their friends and invite you to come and just relax. They will take your arm when you cross the street together and carry your packages.   They will tell your significant other “Thank you for taking such good care of my mom”.

Through all of this you must never let them know that you have no idea what you are doing.   Don’t ever let them see your weakness.   Don’t let them know that you stay up all night worrying about them.  Act “as if” you’ve got this mother of sons thing under control.  Poker face.  Don’t let them see you sweat.

You got this @monbon6985.  And @thetateway, @neneboehealy, @sarah_h_lucero, @carliebuys, @lindsbot_, @eringrubisich.

You will survive.  Tattoo it on your heart.  Write it across the sky.  Trace it in the dust he lets settle in his bedroom.  Always stand by your man.  He needs your love and support.  Even when he throws the proverbial pitcher of water at you and walks off into manhood.

Thank you Robert, Patrick and Peter for making me one tough mudder.  I couldn’t have done this without you.  And thank you for not telling me EVERYTHING.  I love you with every fiber of my being.  And believe me.. I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey together.

Ok.. maybe just a few things.

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Choose your adventure…

Choose your adventure…

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On our way to the Nashville International Airport, Boe and I reviewed all the lessons learned during my week long visit.  First a little Arabic…
Di´ddy Di´ddy is what you say when you hit your head or your arm or some other extremity on something that hurts!  Repeat over and over while hitting the guilty object until the hurt is gone.  Fa´dush!  That’s what you say when someone sneezes.  I think it means God Bless You.  If a person is coughing or choking on something, place your hand on their back and tap lightly while repeating Sa´ha!  And lastly, when dinner is ready get yourself to the table in a hurry!  Ya´la!
Next, some basic manners.  Boe, keep your foot to yourself when in the car seat or Sitti will have to take a bite out of it!  Also, make sure you sit on your teezee (bottom, buttocks, bum) in the bathtub and when riding in your red wagon.
Now, a grammar lesson.  In the south, BBQ is a NOUN, not a verb!
ASSWHATIMTALKINABOUT says Uncle Mickey!
We’ve arrived now at the airport.  “No long goodbyes, Boe.  I will see you soon!  Chin up!  Ok.. just one more bite of your toes!
Standing at the curb, I wave and watch as Peter, Breezy and Boe pull away.  I didn’t want to cry and be THAT gramma.  But as I walked through the airport terminal every little baby squeal or laugh reminds me of Boe.  Every sweet kiss and snuggle.  That baby smell.  Those contemplative blue eyes.
Sigh….
When my boys were little we read to them a series of books entitled “Choose Your Adventure”.  In each book, the reader would get to choose how the story progressed and make decisions at each impasse.  Until they would reach the final destination.
As parents, that’s pretty much what we strive for.  We want our children to choose their own path, set goals and create their own lives.  We begin to train them when they are little- pick up your toys, get ready for school, comb your hair, do your homework!  We continue (with added fervor) when they become teenagers- get a job, save your money, go to college!  We long to have our own lives back and to be able to traverse life unencumbered by the awesome demands of parenthood.  Well, at least for a day or so.  😌
So when my son announced that his little family was going to move across the country- 2000 plus miles away- like a good parent, I listened, showed my best game face, and celebrated.  Isn’t this what I prepared him for all along?
And amidst the confusion, sadness and eventual resolution, there came a profound epiphany.  Life has a funny way of turning the tables.  Our children become our mentors.  Their adventures become our adventures.  They teach us that we also get to choose.  And there is, indeed, life after parenting.  That the world is vast and there may be no place like home, but there are also journeys and experiences and adventures to be had- near and far.  👠
So, in the wise words of Max from the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are… dry your tears onehipdiva and “Let the wild rumpus begin”!

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Dear Boe…

Dear Boe…

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I just wanted to write to you and tell you how much I enjoyed our play date this weekend.  I had been looking so forward to it ever since your mommy set it up for us.

I think I’m in love with you.  Oh my…

I especially had fun this morning when we were crawling on the floor together, exploring all the ins and outs and unders of your living room floor.  You were quite interested in the plugs and cables.  Perhaps you will be an electrician when you grow up.  Or a deep sea diver.

Or a secret service man.

You’re such a good crawler.  You get around with finesse.  Remind me to invite you to my house next time I need someone to get that thing that rolled under my sofa.

I’m home now doing my laundry.  And I’m giggling at the combination of dog hair, snot and mashed bananas on my nightgown. Good thing I raised three sons and have lots of Shout It Out and I know how to use it!

I’m reminiscing of our time together.  Sigh.  And I’m thinking of you. ♥♥

You’re the avocado on my sandwich.  You’re the frosting on my cupcake.

You’re the garlic in my baba ghanoush.

This kind of JOY is new to me.  It’s wonder, awe and rapture all wrapped up into one.

It’s a little boy with eyes of blue.  Oh, how I love you!

Your Sitti

 

 

Fearfully and wonderfully made…

Fearfully and wonderfully made…

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in the secret of darkness

before I saw the sun

in my mother’s womb

        ~Psalm 139:14

Dear little Boe,

You are a miracle.  A gift.  Someone new to love and long to hold.  A bundle of sweet smells and warm cuddles.  You have us all in awe and wonder.

How beautiful you are.  A blank slate.  A crisp white page to be filled with lovely lyrics.  An empty vessel within which we place all our hopes and dreams.  Your innocence is compelling.  I feel absolution in your presence.

I know that some little parts of you have been etched from my own body.  That in itself is mind blowing.  I look at you and feel such love and connection- and at the same time, a sense of mystery.  Who are you?  Who will you become?  How will I fit into your life?  What will we do together to build our relationship?

Little lovey, the day you were born we all experienced a life changing transition.  Woman and man became mother and father.  Mother and father became grandmother and grandfather.  It may take some time for us to learn our new roles so please be patient with us.

I hear other grandparents brag that they can spoil their grandchildren and then send them home.  All the fun and none of the responsibility.  Then they laugh!  But Boe, I have a little secret for you.

I would do it all again.  The pain of labor, the sleepless nights, the diapers, the desitine, the sticky kisses, the million and one soccer, basketball and little league games, the waiting up for teenagers, the “sex” talks, and the endless and painful letting gos- witnessing three little boys traverse their paths into manhood.

But there would be do-overs.  I would clean less, order more take out, play more games and be more attentive to the ebb and flow of raising a family.  And most of all I would allow myself to enjoy it all.  Not be so stressed and insecure. Not be so hard on myself.  Not compare myself to other moms who appeared to be doing it better.

Little Boe, when your daddy was growing up, I wrote him letters on his birthdays and other occasions so that he would know how my love for him unfolded and developed as he grew up and became a young man.  When he graduated from high school I gave him all those letters.  It was a labor of love.

I want to do that for you, little Boe.  I want you to see what I see in you.  And in those moments when you are feeling insecure or a little blue, I want you to know how much you are loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, and carefully knit together in the secret of your mother’s womb by an even greater Love.

My heart is full.  My life has taken on a new meaning with your birth.  I have so many things I’d like to share with you.  So many songs I want to sing to you.  And I have all the time in the world to listen to you.

Stay sweet, little boy.  Take in all the love you can.  Learn honesty and integrity.  Be generous and kind.

Grow up to be a man for others.

I love you,

Your Sitti

 

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The Mom Void

The Mom Void

It’s Mother’s Day and it seems appropriate that I would be channeling my mother in the kitchen this weekend.  Tabouli, Hummus, Baba Ghannouj- salt, allspice, cinnamon, garlic, tahini, eggplant, and parsley dripped and splashed everywhere!  You can’t make Lebanese food without making a mess, using your hands and taste testing along the way.  The sterile kitchen police would have me under arrest.

My daughter in law is craving Lebanese food for my little Lebanese grandson still nesting just under her heart.  A new little Shaheen boy in the works.  My mom would be beside herself!  Another man to cook for!

I found my place very early in life next to my mother in the kitchen.  I had no choice really.  I just grew up in there with my own apron and stepping stool, stirring the rice pudding, chopping the parsley and washing the dishes.  Sometimes all at the same time.

I never complained.  With a family of eight and so many brothers, it was the only way I could sneak something to eat before the food hit the dinner table. It was also my special time to be with my mom.  To smell her perfume and sing songs with her.  At a very young age, I wanted to be just like her.  She was so loved and admired by everyone.  And she was a fabulous cook.  I think she invented that idiom about the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach..

She always knew just what to do in every situation.  What to cook for every ailment.  How to take care of her family.  She could have written the book on mothering.

I watched her as a young mother wrap up my babies and sing to them.  When my youngest, Peter, was born, I found her playing in the sandbox with Patrick and Robert and their trucks.  “Whose mother is that??” I wondered!  My mother never got dirty.  My mother had her nails and hair done every week and wore heels and hose.  My mother didn’t own a pair of jeans until she turned 50!

As I recuperated from each pregnancy and birth, she cleaned my house and did the laundry and cooked delicious things for us in the kitchen.  I just held my babies and watched.  I wanted to get in there and chop and stir and wash dishes but clearly our roles had changed and I was no longer the little girl helping.  I was the mother. Still learning from her.  Still needing her advice and expertise.  Still wanting to be close to her in the kitchen.

Now on the cusp of being a new grandmother myself, I’m feeling a bit insecure in the transition.  What will my new role be like?  What are the expectations?  Will I know what to do with a new baby?  After all, it’s been 30 years since I had Peter.  Things have changed. Mothers are more enlightened due to the internet.  Information is dispelled easily through a quick Google.  Does anyone call their mother for advice anymore?

The new parenting trends bring natural fibers and toxic free toys.  Gender fluid nurseries and neutral color schemes.  Babies sleep face up instead of face down.  Bumpers are no longer safe in cribs.  There’s something called “sleep training”.

Maybe I will Google “gramma training”.

So I find myself in the kitchen where I feel safe and smug.  I know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Or through his mommy’s stomach.

It’s a start.  The rest will come in time.

As I chop the parsley and squeeze the lemons.  Smash the garlic with the salt just how she taught me.  Mix the Tabouli with my unsterile hands- I haven’t killed anyone yet with my cooking- I feel her standing next to me and I smell her perfume.  I am infused with her wisdom and her strength and her confidence in me.

“You got this, Sissie!  You’re going to be a wonderful Sittie!”

Feeling the Mom void..

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Imminent

Imminent

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Imminent- about to happen, close at hand, forthcoming, in the offing, on the horizon, expected, anticipated, looming…

It’s like waiting for the wedding to begin.  Everyone is giddy with excitement and suspense.  Or waiting for a baby to be born where there’s a conglomeration of anxiety, longing, and hopefulness.

We spend so much time in our lives waiting for something to happen.  My friend, Tom, calls it “waiting energy”.  We wait for the clothes to be dry, for the turkey to be done, for the pudding to set, for the tomato plant to produce for us a bumper crop of sweet fruit.  We wait for someone to “pop the question”.

We wait for the mail to come, for a phone call from a significant other, for the car to warm up, for our guests to arrive, for the guy from Home Depot to deliver the new refrigerator. We wait for the test results, for some good news, for a loved one to pass away from their pain and suffering into relief and peace.

And then we wait for our grieving to end.

I’ve been waiting all summer for my townhouse to be finished.  But it’s really not about the townhouse.

It’s about me.

What is it about “waiting energy” that zaps our lives and renders us immobile, unproductive and frozen in time and space? Why can’t we stop waiting for something to happen and just start living our lives in whatever space we dwell in.

Physical space.  Psychological space. Spiritual space.  Inner space.  Outer space.

What have you put your life on hold for- and why?

 

 

 

 

 

Ya’aburnee.. you bury me.

Ya’aburnee.. you bury me.

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I was quite saddened when I read about Vice President Joe Biden’s 42 year old son, Beau, who just died of a brain tumor. This poor man has been through more trajedy than one could imagine.  First losing his wife and infant daughter in a car accident with his two small sons fighting for their lives.  Then years later having one of them succumb to cancer after not only surviving but also thriving with an enviable life, a successful career as an attorney and a fulfilling marriage with two beautiful young children.

Fate is twisted.

Ya’aburnee means “you bury me” in Arabic.  It means wanting to die before a loved one so as not to have to face the world without him or her in it.

This was the prayer on my mother’s lips when she received the news that my brother, Bobby, at age of 31, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  “Let it be me.  Not you.”

She fought for her third son from the very beginning.  He was born premature weighing only four pounds.  Just big enough to fit in a shoe box.  In school he was the class clown and the ring leader among his friends, often getting into trouble with Sr. Dolores, the principal at St.Philip Neri, in our small town of Compton.  He would lead kids twice his size around the neighborhood, looking for mischief.  He teased  me endlessly about being chubby and offered to pay my membership to Vic Tanny’s Salon.

After nine years of Catholic school Bobby  begged to be set free to attend the local public high school where most of his friends went.  He was a rebel.  A contrarian.  A master of debate.  How he convinced our ultra- Catholic parents to transfer him to public school remains a mystery to us all.

Years later while waiting to be accepted into Law School after earning a degree in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a Masters Degree in Political Science at American University, he would bide his time sitting on our couch at home reading through the encyclopedias from volume A through Z.  By now I was taller and not so chubby.  But he would still find things to tease me about.

Bobby went on to become a successful attorney.  He fell in love and married Christine. Together they had a family, Matthew and Katherine.  I’m sure my mother stopped worrying about him at that point.  (If mothers ever stop worrying..)

Until the evening when she got the news of Bobby’s brain tumor.

“Ya’aburnee,” she gasped in fear.

She got her wish.  My brother, Bobby recovered after several years of treatment.  He was healthy and back to work as an attorney, just long enough to be the Executor of my mother’s will after she succumbed to ovarian cancer in October of 1986.

And I imagine she was waiting with open arms at the gates of heaven with St. Peter when the cancer took my brother Bobby’s life in July of 1991.  For a brief moment, they would embrace and she would comfort him.  After which they would move on to join the Communion of Saints, their lives on earth but an ethereal dream.

My father was not so lucky.  He buried my mother.  And then he buried his third son. Dad died of cancer and a broken heart almost exactly a year after my brother died.

All these painful memories come back to me as I read the article about Joe Biden losing first his wife and infant daughter, and then years later, when it looked like life had self corrected, he lost the son he fought so hard to save.

Ya’aburnee.  You bury me.

My new mantra.

Ya’aburnee.