Don't Break the Ice

Julia Klatt Singer


Laura: September 1977

3:37 a.m. glows like a coal on the alarm clock on our headboard.  It's that neon red that implants itself on your brain if you stare at it too long.  In my sleepless state the numbers feel alive to me.  They're watching me, measuring me, controlling me.  3:38 a.m.  There is no other light on in the house, or light anywhere for that matter.  The night sky is black and a quiet rain falls.  Its steady rhythm dances me to sleep, but not Philip, not tonight.

      Philip is running a temperature.  101 degrees, 102.  He cries hourly, but won't nurse, can't sleep.  I have been rocking with him since midnight, both of us fading in and out of sleep but never falling.  I dream about you taking Philip from my arms, placing him in the bassinet, then carrying me to bed.  I jerk out of the dream, clutching Philip tighter.  It was this I feared most, this waking up without you.  You were always here within arm's reach.  Your warm body, your earthy smell, your sharp toenails.  God, how I took them for granted.

      It's been a hard week.  Abby and Eric went back to school on Tuesday.  Its always tough getting back into a schedule, especially when none of us seems to be a morning person.  Eric's fine, but Abby walks watching the toes of her shoes.  Her bangs hang in her eyes and she refuses to let me cut them.  She's wearing her hair long again, she pulls it in front of her to hide her small breasts.  She doesn't have much to say when I ask her about school.  All I can seem to get out of her is that it is boring, or at best, o.k..  I hope it's just an eighth-grade girl thing.

      Emma had another fit tonight.  She forgot her doll, Rosie, outside in the sandbox.  She didn't realize until bedtime, until after Rosie had been out in the rain for three hours.  Rosie's rain-soaked cotton stuffing felt like lead.  Emma wanted Rosie in bed with her and she wanted Rosie dry.  An impossible situation.  I tried to talk her into letting me put Rosie in the dryer, but this only made her more hysterical.  I feel so powerless when she gets like this.  All I can do is let her scream until she exhausts herself, and falls asleep.

      Just thinking about it makes me want to cry now, but I'm too worn out.  So I sit here rocking our baby, our three-month old baby you've never seen.  Tears run down my face, drip from my chin onto Philip's fevered forehead like the rain off the roof.



Abigail:  Driving at Night, 1992

There's something different about driving at night.  The car, so shiny, solid and obviously man's invention during the daylight, is transformed into a cocoon, a protective shell at night.  Especially cold nights.  As the heat kicks in and surrounds me, I feel safe. Held tightly by my seat belt, I feel hugged.

      When I was a kid, as I walked to and from school, I used to talk to myself.  Never a conversation exactly, just little situations in which characters needed a voice.  I did get carried away sometimes, shouting for my characters--which may be why no one else wanted to walk near me. Lately, since I've starting taking drives at night, I've been having conversations with my dad.  I've had more conversations with him this fall than I did when he was living.  It's been fifteen years since his death, more than half my life ago. 


      I remember how we used to ride like this when I was young.  You would drive and I would  get to sit in Mom's seat.  You would ask me about school, or basketball practice, or piano lessons and then we would sit silently, aware of each other but unsure of what to say.  There is one night I'll never forget, the night you took me, instead of Eric, to catch  moths.  It was early summer, past midnight and the night air was still very warm.  We drove with both windows rolled down and I could hear the crickets over the noise of the engine as we entered the woods.  We drove slowly through the dark tunnel made of trees for what seemed like miles until we finally reached a clearing.  You left the lights on as we parked and you pointed out  the moths flying in the path of the headlights, Silver-spotted Ghost Moths.  I said I could see them, but I couldn't.  We then made our trip into the woods, each with an ice cream bucket and a paint brush.  The bucket was filled with a maple syrup and beer concoction you discovered.  We moved with a flashlight  from tree to tree, painting the beer syrup on the bark.  Then we went to the car to get the jars to put  our catch in.  I wanted to bring the net, but you said we wouldn't need it.  The drunk moths hovered close to the trees, flying so slowly I could catch them with my hand.  They died happy, you said, and beautiful. 


      I imagine the questions my dad would ask me and answer them honestly, straightly.  "So why don't you marry this guy, Paul?"  Because, Dad, I'm frightened.  I don't know if I'm afraid he'll die, or afraid of spending the rest of my life with him.  My father understands why I'm not ready to marry.  He knows how much I count on being alone.  He knows how much loneliness has become a part of my life.  He isn't condemning and angry like my step-father.  He just listens and accepts that this is where I'm at.  Easier to do when you're dead, I guess. 

      My life, our life has changed so much.  We were an ordinary family.  You know, the kind of family that goes to the drive-in, takes family vacations camping at Yellowstone and Wisconsin Dells.  We went to church and MacDonald's and wanted to go to Disneyland.  We watched the Smothers Brothers, Mission Impossible, and Masterpiece Theater on T.V.  We owned a station wagon, ate dinner together every night at six, went for bike rides, and had picnics at the park.

       After Dad's death we became a poor family, without a car, receiving handouts from everywhere.  I hated most having to open the front door to boys I knew from school dropping off a bag of groceries from their mothers, who waited in the car.  Whenever I saw them in the halls at school I would turn around, or pretend like I'd dropped my pencil so they wouldn't see me. 

      And then Mom married Owen.  I was a freshman in college at the time.  I drove home with Eric, my older brother, for the wedding over fall break. That spring they built a house together, and I packed up my childhood memories and left home.

      I watched a way of life die with Dad.  I felt my mom struggle and suffer in silence, always trying to appear strong and stable.  I gave up touching.  I felt like a tea cup, balanced precariously on the edge of a table, knowing that with the slightest disturbance I would fall and break.  I did everything I could just to hold on. 

      Yet I don't always resent his death--I keep hoping that it's worth something.



Emma:  Dinnertime, 4 years old, 1978

Mommy threw away the Don't Break the Ice Game today.  I don't know why.  Kato, our cat, didn't pee on it like he did on my Sesame Street puzzle with Big Bird.  And Philip can't eat the ice cubes because they are too big.  I know.  We put some in our  Kool-aid  and he couldn't put his in his mouth. I could.  Two of them.  One in each cheek.  Mom says it's time for supper.

      Dad used to eat supper with us.  Every night.  He would come home from work and then we would wait a little bit until Mommy said 'Dinner's Ready' and then we would all sit down.  Daddy sat in the chair next to Mommy.  But not now.  We are saying our prayer now. 

      "Our father, who..." everybody says.

      "Where is our dad?"  I ask.

      "Shh..Not now honey," says Mom. "We're praying."

      "But why isn't he here?" I ask.

      "On earth as it is in..."  everybody goes on.

      "I want my daddy to eat with us!"

      "Emma, dear, he can't," says Mom, her eyes still closed and her hands folded tightly on top of the kitchen table.

      "Why not?"

      "Emma, Dad's dead," says my sister, Abigail.  She always knows the answers. 

      "Where is my daddy?" I scream, kicking and hitting the floor.  "Why won't my daddy come home?   I want my daddy to eat with me!  I want my daddy!  My daddy!  Daddeee!  Daddy come home!"

      Finally, I can't scream anymore.  I can still cry, but only a little bit.  Mom carries me to her bed and holds me, under the covers, tucking the blanket in close.




Abigail: Trying to Remember the Funeral, January, 1986

 After I finished college, I lived with my mom and step-father for a summer.  One afternoon I came across a box of photos tucked in the closet of the spare bedroom.  I sifted through them, glancing at the faces and scenes, trying to recognize something, someone.  One of them was a 5x7, now nearly ten years old, taken at the funeral by the local paper.  I searched the familiar faces, trying to find mine among them.  I'm there, standing next to Eric.  I don't remember any of it.  Nothing.  Not the memorial, the service, the burial, or the display at a bank in St. Paul of my father's needlepoint, butterflies, moths and model trains.  Nothing.  I don't even remember what day he died, or what day he was buried.  All I remember is that it was January.

      The gray January morning must have been cool, but not cold, for sleet fell and blurred some of the images in the picture.  The coffin was set on a mechanical machine that looked foolish, impractical stuck in the sleet and slush and snow.  In the center of the picture, just beyond the coffin, was my mom,  visibly pregnant with her coat tightly buttoned around her bulb-shaped body.  To her left was my sister, Emma, barely tall enough to see over the casket.  But she's there, both her arms wrapped around my mom's leg, her body pressed against it, her little white muddy boots marching on top of my mom's black leather shoe.  My older brother Eric stands a half a foot taller than my mom, his posture straight and proud, his eyes downcast.  I'm next.  I recognize my face, my long brown hair, and my powder blue ski jacket, but I don't know this person.  She stands in the picture, slightly turned away from the camera- not a profile exactly, just far enough to the right that her eyes are hidden, her heart trapped behind her tightly folded arms. 

      To the right of my mom is my grandmother, Irene.  She's my mom's mom.  Her head is down.  Her hands and her handkerchief cover her face.  But even through the sleet I can see the veins in her hands. Their strength, the blood pumping through them.  Next to Irene is my other grandmother, Pearl, my dad's mom.  And next to her is her third, or maybe her fourth husband, Arnold.  They are both composed.  Arnold looks slightly uncomfortable, like his underwear is creeping up, and Grandma Pearl looks tense.  Her small, thin body doesn't fill her winter coat.  Her legs stick out below it like popsicle sticks.  The muscles in her face are tight, strained.  She has this look that if you lit a match near her she would explode.  Her eyes are the only ones to look directly at the camera.

      So I was there.  I'm trying to remember myself there.  I hold the photo in my hands and stare at it.  Waiting for something, I sit absolutely motionless. All I want is a flicker of a memory, a smell, a feeling, a recognition of something... anything.  After a minute or so I give up.  I place all the photos back into the box, close it, and put it back on the shelf.



Eric:  Carleton College, Fall 1982

School's been going very well.  I'm a sophomore now, and have decided to major in Physics and Theatre.  I'm still dating Susan, two years already, and am basically quite happy.  Or at least I should be. 

      I've been having trouble sleeping.  I had a horrible dream the other night about my roommate, John.  He died in it.  He was caught by a snake and eaten to death.  I couldn't see him because of the dreadful darkness, but I could hear him calling for help as the snake slowly squeezed the life out of him.  In my dream I was happy.  I was happy it was him and not me that got caught. 

      Little things have been getting to me.  I yelled at Susan for being five minutes late to dinner last night, when I am often three or four minutes late myself.  Susan suggested that I speak to one of the counselors here on campus.  She thinks I'm too hard on myself.  I think it could be anxiety about my mid-terms.  I have a 4.0 to keep up, I am so busy with the play this fall, and I'm starting goalie (perfect shut-out record thus far) on the varsity soccer team.  I've decided to take her advice.  There's a good chance that it is nothing, and it can't hurt to make the appointment.  I can always cancel.



Emma and Philip: A Spring Afternoon, 1980

I go to morning kindergarten.  I can write my name.  See.    E M M A.  Philip and me, we play outside every day after lunch, even when it's raining.  We like to play in the sandbox. Today we went to the front yard to play.  We don't go in the street.  The street is not for kids to play in, only cars.  We sit on the curb.  I hold Philip's hand because he is only three years old.  He is still a baby. 

      "Our dad is dead."  I say.

      "Dead?"  says Philip.

      "Dead,"  I say.  "He does not eat dinner anymore.  He does not come home any more.  He lives in Hebben now."

      "Does he get hungry?" 

      "No.  Gramma Renie says he's at peas."

      The mailman walks by and Philip says, "Hi.  Our dad is dead."

      I say, "Yeah."

      The mailman says, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."


      We pick up rocks and make a pile of pretty ones to give to Mom.  Philip picks a flower, too.  A pretty little white one.

      A bit later our neighbor lady, Mrs. Anderson, walks by with her dog, Tiger.  He's a nice dog.  He does not like to bite kids, just mittens.

      "Our dad is dead,"  Philip says.

      "That's not a nice thing to say,"  says Mrs. Anderson.

      "It's true,"  I say.

      "It's still not nice to say that to people.  Does your mother know..."

      Course Mom knows.  She's the one that told me.



Eric:  Winter of 1983

I was very nervous when I got to his office.  I was so afraid he would think that there was something wrong with me when I know there isn't.  There can't be.  It just doesn't make any sense.  He asked me what I wanted to talk about.  I didn't know.  It surprised me that this was the question I couldn't answer.  We started chatting about school and my family.  I remembered my dream about John.  The dream interested him.  I also remembered Abigail's letter.   She had sent me a letter earlier this week that really concerned me.  For being such a bright girl, she can be so naive sometimes.  So many boys ask her out, but she never dates them more than two or three times.  I'm worried about her reputation.  She got asked by three different boys to the Homecoming Dance and she turned them all down.  I don't know what she wants.  So instead, she went to a party where there was drinking.  She got drunk and wrote me this awful letter.

      The counselor asked me why Abigail's reputation concerned me, and other questions about my family.  How many brothers and sisters I had, about my parents.  I didn't say much.  He asked me about my health, eating habits, how I've been sleeping.  He wanted to know if I usually remember my dreams, if I wake up at night and can't fall back to sleep, and end up pacing the halls.  I never mentioned pacing the halls.  I wonder how he knows. 

      I don't remember how we started talking about that day, I didn't want to, but I ended up telling him about Dad.  It was strange to talk about it.  It was so long ago.  The words tasted rusty in my mouth.  I hadn't talked about him, or that day in years, maybe never.  It was like trying to cut the grass with an old push mower that has sat unnoticed, weathered and unused behind the shed. 

      We never should have gone to the lake.  I didn't have to ski.  Why didn't we stay home that day?  None of this would have happened.  Things would be so different now.  I could have saved him.  There must have been something I could have done...why didn't I save him?  Why did I have to be the last one to see him alive? 

      "I could have saved him...I should have saved him."  I started bawling.  I hadn't cried since that day six years ago.  I rocked in the chair, sucking up my tears and cursing my own name.    


      I ended up taking the rest of the semester off, but I still passed all my classes, barely.  I went into a crisis center for three weeks.  I didn't tell my mom about any of it, until the day I left the center.  I didn't have the heart to let her down.  She didn't need to worry about me.  She has enough to deal with at home.



Pearl:  November 11, 1977

I knew this was going to be a hard day for me.  November 11, the birthday of my oldest boy.  I wonder if his brother Reed or sister Doreen even remember that today was his birthday.  I will never forget the day he was born, my first little baby.  I was so afraid when I went into labor.  I wished the baby could just go on living inside of me.  It was a long labor, nearly fifteen hours.  I fell asleep right after I gave birth, and didn't see him until the next morning.  He looked so small and helpless. 

      I would do anything to change places with him.  He was such a good boy, such a kind father.  I'm the one who should be dead, not him. 

      I can't believe now that I gave him to my sister, Mildred, until he was three.  How could I have given up those precious years with him?  I was too young to know what I was doing.  I think God is punishing me now for what I did then.  God knows I deserve it.

        His wife and my grandkids live about 40 miles from me, far enough away that I don't have to visit them very often.  I used to visit them all the time.  I do love those kids, but I just can't stand to look at them--especially Emma.  She's so much like her father it's frightening.  Same intense eyes and unruly dark hair.  I ask God over and over, why can't it be me?  What do you want with my boy?

      He loved Fig bars as a boy.  That's how I got him to leave go of Mildred's hand at the train station.  He didn't want to get on the train to go to Chicago with me.  So I gave him a Fig bar and promised him another if he boarded the train.  He took the bar and my hand and climbed onto the train.  Mildred left before the train did, so Mickey wouldn't see her.

      I haven't been eating very well lately.  A piece of toast and a cup of coffee for breakfast.  I might have a cup of tea later, but usually, I just don't feel like eating.  I've lost a little weight, the doctor says.  I'm down to eighty pounds.  He teases me about becoming a gymnast.  I tell him I'm too old for that, but he says 54 isn't too old for anything. 

      Today I ended up going for a drive.  I went to the mall to do a little shopping, but I couldn't find anything worth buying at Woolworth's or Montgomery Ward's.  I thought maybe I'd visit Mickey's wife and the kids since I was so close.  I got to the house around 5:30.  The curtains were open and I could see them all sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner.  The windows looked a little fogged over, probably having spaghetti--that was Mickey's favorite meal.  He loved my homemade meatballs and tomato sauce.  He would be 37 today, if ...?

       I sat in the car, unable to get out and walk to the door.  I couldn't go into that house, not without him in it.  I hope Laura and the kids didn't see me sitting out front.  I can't face them.  What would I say to them?  That I hope I don't have to live through another of Mickey's birthdays without him?



Laura's new husband, Owen:  Thanksgiving, 1982

I had been looking forward to this day.  Our first holiday all together.  My three kids, who are actually in between Laura's kids in age, are coming for dinner, along with my parents and Laura's mother, Irene.  It's one of my favorite holidays. 

      This morning, though, Emma, who just turned six, fell down the stairs and knocked out her new front teeth.  When we couldn't get a hold of a dentist, Laura and I rushed to the emergency room.  Luckily they were able to put them back in.  No solid food for her for three weeks.  We got home two hours later to find the turkey still sitting in the fridge.  Eric and Abigail are home from college, but for some reason are not able to read simple instructions yet.  Laura panicked.  The turkey would never be done in time for dinner.  I tried to control myself when Eric and Abigail appeared for breakfast at noon. "No breakfast is served in this house after 9:30 am,"  I told them.  Abigail retorted with a "O.k., we'll have pancakes for lunch."

      The afternoon was quiet, until Philip, the three year old, came riding by on his Bigwheel, just as Laura was moving the roaster filled with gravy off the stove.  For fear of colliding with Philip on his little bike, she dodged him and bumped into the counter.  Gravy splashed against the kitchen wall, running down behind the cabinets, never to be seen again. 

      Thanksgiving.  No gravy.  Emma can't eat and has a stomach-ache.  I have a headache.  To polish the day off, Abigail tells me she's vegetarian and she won't eat the turkey.  I tell her, if she intends on sleeping in this house tonight, she will eat the turkey, and she'll eat it without gravy.  She stares me in the eye, smirks and walks away.

      I don't think I'll ever be able to get rid of the gravy stain on the kitchen wall.



Emma-Senior Year, 1991

I hate math.  Not one of my friends is in my class, it's no fun, and the teacher is so boring.  To top it off, Eric had Mr. Matters, too.  You know, every single one of my teachers remembers Eric.  They all ask me if I'm Eric's sister.  They all tell me what a gifted guy Eric was.  They all want to know how he's doing.  So I tell them he's got his Phd. in Physics and is teaching at the University.  I tell them he's also directing plays at a community theater and yes, he's married and has two cute little girls.  What I don't tell them is that Eric has this nervous twitch and he never sits down.  Can't.     

      Some teachers ask about Abigail, but not many.  Like Owen, I think they try to forget her.  I try to change the subject when people ask about Abby.  Everybody thinks so poorly of her as it is.  She has this way of doing very memorable, horrible things.  I don't know why she dropped out of high school during the spring of her senior year, she only had two months left, and she was in the top five percent of her class.  But she still got into college and did graduate.  She also stopped going to church, which really pissed off my Grandmother Irene, and she moved in with her atheist boyfriend, which pissed off Owen even more.  It couldn't be much worse.  Then she quit her job as an accountant last month so she could spend more time dancing and playing the piano.  I wish she would think about what she's doing to everybody around her--especially me.  I'm the one who has to hear Owen go on about all the things Abby shouldn't be doing.

      Eric and I are driving to Grandmother Pearl's funeral together tomorrow.  She died last Thursday of kidney failure.  Abigail says she's been slowly starving herself to death, even though the doctor says it was a surprise.  

      Abby and I dropped in one afternoon about a month ago and found Grandma asleep at the kitchen table.  She looked like a child, so small and weak, her lips parted and her forehead so smooth.  She was very angry at us when she woke up and found us there, staring at her.  After threatening us and shaming us for frightening an old woman to death, she invited us to stay for dinner.  She made scrambled eggs and toast.  Grandma Pearl just drank coffee.  Abigail ate her share of the eggs and toast despite the fact that they were cooked in bacon grease, burned and runny at the same time.  I'd rather starve to death than eat cold, runny eggs.  I understood why Grandma didn't want to eat them.

      I don't know what I want to do next fall.  I sometimes envy Abby.  She does what she wants to regardless of how practical it is.  I feel like I have to do what everybody else wants me to.  A lot of my friends are going to the University and they want me to go with them and join a sorority.  Owen keeps harping on me about my grades--especially my "C" in math.  I wish I was more like Eric.  Owen harps about my clothes and my hair and my attitude.  He's one to talk.  I can't tell him I don't know what I want to do.  He wouldn't understand.  He's the kind of guy who always knows exactly what he's going to do, because its the exact same thing he's done for years.



Laura: Spring of 1982

Eric is having a tough time.  Of all my children, Eric will go the furthest, and feel like he has not succeeded.  He has always been the top of his class.  He's bright, athletic, and I think, even if I'm his mother, very good-looking.  When he was in junior high I called him my "Renaissance Man" .  Abigail nicknamed him "The Saint" when they were in high school together because he always did exactly the right thing. 

      But Eric may never forgive himself.  He feels so responsible for Mike's death.  Mike and Eric ran together most mornings, but that January morning Eric wanted to cross-country ski.  So they went to Silver Lake where Eric could ski and Mike ran along side of him.  They were about 2/3 of the way around the lake when Mike fell through the ice.  Eric tried to pull him out, but the ice was breaking up.  Eric's skis helped to keep him up, but the frozen, slushy water pulled Mike under.  Eric screamed for help, but there was no one else around.  He refused to leave the spot, trying and trying to see his father under the ice and break him loose, but Mike was gone.  In my dreams I become Eric, and I see Mike's face for an instance and then he disappears.  I wonder what Eric dreams?

       About a half hour later another jogger came by and found Eric shivering, standing ankle deep in the frozen water, a ski in his hand like a fishing pole, frozen tears and mucus on his face. He went for help, leaving Eric standing there, alone.  I got the phone call an hour after it happened.  I felt my heart pause, heavy within me, and I struggled for breath.  As I hung up the phone my baby inside me, my Philip, kicked me hard on the top on my uterus.  Tears streamed down my face as I sat hugging my belly, holding my love close to me.



Philip: 14, 1992

It's weird cuz I never even saw him.  He died before I was even born.  Abigail and Eric were about my age when he died.  They had a lifetime with him.  They were lucky.  They really got to know him.  Mom never talks about him.  I guess it would be hard for Owen--my step-father, to have to hear about him all the time.  I think competing with a dead guy has got to be harder than you think.  Especially one that died young, and was married to your wife.  But it's still not fair.  I have no idea who my dad was, and it even feels like nobody really wants me to know.

      Abigail will answer questions I ask her, but she says she can't remember much.  I wonder what drugs she took that made her lose her memory so bad.

      Eric, on the other hand, doesn't say anything.  He gives some vague answer--sounds like a politician.  It's like when I ask him a question, he's just finished a textbook with the answer in it, and instead of talking about it, he shuts it.  The end.  Time to talk about something else, like the weather.

      Emma found a box of Dad's stuff in the attic last summer.  It had comic books, cuff links, ribbons and pins he had won in high school.  He was in, get this, the Latin club, the Glee Club (totally goofy), and he swam the 50-meter fly.  He was a great swimmer, even though the rest of us are scared to death of the water.  There were some handkerchiefs with his initials on them, and an entire box full of index cards that he had practiced his signature on.  I guess when he was about my age he thought he was gonna play pro-baseball.  Used to hang out at Wrigley Field in Chicago catching foul balls and home runs.  There's even a couple autographed bats from the fifties.  Very cool stuff.

      Emma says it's hers, cuz she found it.  Ya right.  She took it all to her room.  I  pounded on her locked door.  "It's not yours, it's Dad's."  She's very selfish sometimes.  I went to my room, knowing I couldn't talk logic with her and turned on my Nirvana tape. 

      About two weeks later though, when I was helping Abigail move, she handed me a shirt and a sweater from her closet.  She says, "These were Dad's.  They'd look good on you."  I put them on and wore them all day, despite the fact it was 85 degrees out.



Laura, 1992

      I'm turning fifty this December.  I'm amazed at all that has happened to me in these fifty short years.  I feel as though I've lived three lifetimes.  My own childhood spent moving from town to town as a military brat--until my father's death.  Then the sixties that lead to my unexpected pregnancy and my life with Mike, and then life after Mike.  Each so distinct, so separate.  Each has joyful memories, each has pain.  I've learned that one can't control life.  Birth and death just happen.  I planted bulbs last week with Abigail.  They will come up if, and when they want to, despite what we have done. 

      Abby's doing well.  She is finally taking the time to figure out what she wants out of life, instead of just reacting to it.  I had four children and they are each close to me when they need to be.  I can't force Abigail into church or marriage.  I can't ask Eric to loosen up, or to let go of his guilt.  He still worries too much, but the girls are keeping him so busy, I don't think he has time to worry as much.  I can't change Emma's self-centeredness and anger.  She has always reacted with emotions first, thought later.  But she has come so far.  When I think about that little girl who threw temper tantrums at dinner every night for almost two whole years, I'm pleased with the young woman I now know.  I can't ask Philip to apply himself, to try a little harder.   I just hope he doesn't ruin his chances of getting into college.  He is so bright, it would be a shame if he wasted it.  They will each figure life out on their own.  And they will feel strong and capable when they do.

      I don't know what has been harder for me, the death of my husband or the death of their father.  I could only be their mother.  They could only be my children.  His death left a hole in our family that will never be filled.  We've slowly tried to patch it, to mend it, but it is still there, visible where the new patch doesn't fit, obvious where the threads don't match, and may not be strong enough to hold.  I do hope it holds.





JKS 1995