Is It Really All Random? Headline Animator


I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boy, 20.5 inches, 8lb.4oz.

They told me my baby’s birth was scheduled for April 1st. When I found out he’d be a he, I thought, how perfect. Boy baby born on April Fools’ Day. Boys love April foolishness, pull pranks, make mischief. Might as well say ‘Boy Day’ on the calendar. Delightful. But that came later. Part of the healing.

When Girl died it was torture. World cracked. Pieces everywhere. Wondered if I left a trail wherever I went. Splintered soul falling away. Told me likely no more babies. And, there I was, pregnant again. Genetic counseling. And testing. It was hard to breathe. So much wondering. Amnio. Long time to quash the worry, till we knew.

Puttering late one afternoon when phone rang. Official results. Normal. The way we prayed. Baby healthy. Then she asked the question. The one we’d decided we didn’t want answered. “Would you like to know the sex?”

Everything changed on her breath. She knows more about my baby than me. Someone knew things only I should know.

When Girl came, never saw her. Never heard her. Girl hustled away. That was the way back when. Like if they kept her away, swept her up fast, I wouldn’t hurt. I’d forget I was supposed to have a baby. Took longer to get over never seeing, never holding, and  knowing she died in another’s arms than to heal from her death.  “Yes.” Popped from mouth. “Yes. I want to know,” to the voice on the phone.

“You’re having a boy.”

Never considered. Never. Girl gone. A girl will come. Only a girl. Shocked. Hung receiver back on the wall, and sobbed. Felt like losing her again. Flooding the kitchen with tears and disappointment. The daddy walked in from work.

“What happened?” said he to his wailing wife. Could hardly push the words from my mouth. I sputtered, “Stanford Genetics.” His face turned ashen. His eyes, not again?

“No, no. Baby’s fine. Healthy.” I tried to smile. Snorting, nose running, tears still flowing.

He smiled. Big and crooked, brilliant smile. “Then why are you crying?”

Between blubbers, “It’s a boy.”

He knew. He knew everything inside. Hugged me tight. Warm, soft, honeyed, west Texas drawl. Smooth and tender. “A boy?”  Grinning, his mouth wide open. “Ha! What will I do with a boy? I only know how to spoil girls.” For sure that was the truth.

Holding and sobbing for a while. Girl’s chapter was over. The End. Later, much later, he told me he let escape a silent sigh. Boy would have his own life. Own future. Own fate unfettered by another’s should have been. Didn’t tell me then. Hormones and all. Crying common. Reason not so nearly.

That’s when I found out baby being born on April Fools’ Day was a boy. Boy. Fooled me, huh? I told you boys love that day…

I grew bigger every day. Partly Boy, mostly banana cream pie. Silky, rich custard distracted from screeching fear Boy wouldn’t come home either. Boy kicked all the time to tell me different. Tried to shout he was big and tough. Spirited. But I wouldn’t answer him. No buying clothes or crib, or blankets, or toys. No painting blue. No loving him. He could leave, like her. Leave me unable to breathe. Wouldn’t even choose a name, until he came to be. Real. In my arms. See baby toes. Smell baby smells. Stroke baby cheeks. Feel warmth and softness.

Getting close to due date. Boy planned for the following week, on Wednesday. Late on Friday before, telephone summoned. Doctor had news. Lots of folks wanted to be at Boy’s Coming Out party. People who helped with Girl, and remembered. Needed a happy ending, too. Nurses and doctors. Dozens. Wanted to be there to share this newborn’s robust roar. But they couldn’t come on Wednesday. Doc asked, can we do it on Monday? March 30th. 

How could Wednesday seem like months but Monday as tomorrow? All weekend, the daddy and me, we stared at each other trying to see our future. Boy here in two days. Boy here tomorrow. Boy here-- today.

Lying in the operating room, people circled pressed against the wall. More outside, faces in the windows, waving. In the middle, on the table, me. Boy’s anxious daddy, and medical folks. Behind, team of pediatricians just in case. So scared. Scared to hope yet hopeful still. Minutes away from Boy. Boy, please.

Born by section. There he was, sucking his thumb. Everyone could see but me; they told me all about it. Doc reached in and scooped him up. The room erupted, clapped and cheered, thumbs up in windows, high fives inside. A room full of crying. First Boy with a mighty holler, nurses chimed right in. Even surgeon cried for special delivery Boy

Baby docs wrapped Boy in a blanket. Bundled him up tight. Handed him to surgeon. He clutched Boy to himself before setting him on me. Beamed and said, “Everyone deserves this, but no one more than you.”

They asked us if he had a name. We assembled it right there. Last name of his daddy. Two middles for his papas. First one, just for Boy. Then Boy came home. And all four names came with him.

I learned—April Fool on me—Boy wasn’t really mine as much as I believed. He was on loan. Grew strong and smart and beautiful. Did it quickly, too. Heaven asked one thing of me; when time is right, set him free. To do in the world what he did in our home. Make it better. Make it brighter. Heal others after healing me. And go on to love his life. 

I did as asked. Cared for him like treasure he is. Then gave him over to him. To set his own course, and make his mark. And as was true when he came to me, where Boy goes is better for it.

Happy, thrilling, smiling, joyful day. Happy birthday, Boy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Keeping It Real

I’m pretty sure it’s not safe to trust someone who can’t make a proper pastrami sandwich. There I said it. I can’t be the first one who’s thought it. I just said it out loud. Pastrami isn’t made on sourdough. No. It certainly doesn’t have mayonnaise on it. Never. It has mustard, maybe some Swiss cheese, maybe not. The mustard options are narrow. Deli, coarse ground, yellow; that’s it. Not Dijon. Not honey mustard. Not chipotle flavored. No fancy stuff. No goin' California.

More options with the bread. Rye, corn rye, marble rye, Pumpernickel. No Dutch Crunch, no whole wheat. My god. Whole wheat? And I suppose you make your baklava with peanuts? Get your Parmesan from a green foil, cardboard container? Adulterate your cheesecake with canned cherry glop? If you can’t trust the food, you can’t trust the place. You can't trust the server. Beware.

Be suspicious when someone wants to smear a succulent, spring leg of lamb with mint jelly. That's a no. Absolutely not. What about salad dressing from a bottle? Ummm, no. Guar gum? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s good on a hot house ripened, middle of winter, not nearly red, can’t smell or taste it tomato. I wouldn’t know. And key lime pie with a graham cracker crust, worse yet no-bake? These are offenses. Know them for what they are.

There are principles at work here. Patience and quality. Tradition, purity. If someone's buyin' precooked polenta in a tube, and you can’t trust 'em to stir the real deal till it’s smooth, how they gonna hang with you? If they’re zapping oatmeal in a microwave instead of slow cooking, how do ya trust they got the patience to listen? If they won’t make the effort to wait till broth is all soaked into risotto so it can release its creamy goodness, then what else aren’t they gonna wait for?

Stay on alert for mayonnaise in guacamole. If it's in there, you been hoodwinked. Adding fat to make it creamy. Nope. A good avocado is plenty creamy. A squeeze o’ lime, some salt. South of the border they’ve been makin’ it forever. Messin' with the guac and callin' it creative? No. People playing fast and loose with the rules. Creative, all right. Better watch your step. 

This may seem a little crazy. But you gotta stand up for real. Log Cabin? No maple syrup in it. It’s corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring. I don’t know, maybe it was invented to go with the artificial blueberries in the boxed up pancake mix. Artificial stacked on artificial, drizzled with artificial. We got a problem. What do you really look like under all that stuff?

C’mon—you actually gonna trust someone whose topping is Cool Whip? It’s not meant to eat. It comes from petroleum. You eat Vasoline, too? Reddi Whip is propelled from the can by nitrous oxide—the stuff the dentist gives you. Land sakes alive, it makes you dizzy. Heavy cream. You want heavy cream, from a carton. Whip it up. Know it’s real. Perfect for real peaches that take all summer to ripen and drip with juicy goodness. Berries from the vine, sweet till the middle with a little tart bite. God's way. If the food is pretend, who is the person that eats it? Cooks it? Serves it? See. Makes ya think, right?

That’s it. Nothing left to say. Never fails. You wanna know if you can trust someone’s character, look in their fridge, look at their plate. The food will tell the tale. And by the way, it’s not really a deli if they wanna put pesto on your pastrami. Run. Fast. Better to have PB&J on Wonder Bread. At least you got yourself some history and plain ol' crushed peanuts. (Not Skippy or Jif, and be careful about the jam.) 

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts 
while eating a homegrown tomato."
  Lewis Grizzard

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sorrow Dislodged From Throat

“You hit my car!” Hollered from middle of the street. Red Corolla’s wheels squealed. Turned left and disappeared. Shit.

Day started at 5AM, taking Dad to visit Mom in the hospital. You know, right before taking him to be admitted for surgery. Could say ‘one of those days’ but who in hell has a day like this?

Two hours for the surgery. That’s what the doc said. Except two hours passed. Then three. Five. Five and a half. Doc finally came out. Relieved. His small grin. Said there was no smiling but ‘we got the job done’. Gonna be a tricky recovery. Crap. He’s 83. Tricky means a lot of things.

At 3:30PM stomach said one last time, and ‘I’m not going to tell you again’, I hadn’t eaten all day. Surgery over. Husband and son arrived. Husband helped, son led me to food. Drove few minutes. Downtown. 

I parked. Then red Corolla. Scraped down the side of my car as he was backing out. Parking crooked. Driving crooked. Thinking crooked. Then he sped away. Damn.

“You hit my car!” What did I have to lose? Crazy lady in middle of the street. Friendly owner of diner where we parked saw mess and called police. Owner calling police, son calling insurance. Crooked man walks into diner. Didn’t expect him at the party. Where was red Corolla? Well, some of it on my car but where's the rest? Guess he thought better about bein' a hit n run driver.

He scrambled. A lot. I think it’s called excuses. ‘Didn’t see. Didn’t know. Didn’t feel. Then I heard you yell’. Son handled him. Ah, son. A peach.

Crooked driver heard me say to insurance, ‘my car’s been hit, what do I do next’ and he said, ‘didn’t hit you; scraped you’. Really? You’re kind of an ass and you want to parse words? Really? You had to decide whether to be responsible but I should be careful with words. Really? Do I have it right?

Man apologized. “I take full responsibility.” Hmmm. Scramble on outside is scrimmage on inside, eh? Who is this guy? Son said, “Man, sportin’ some kinda bed head. Got some crazy hair goin’.” Didn’t notice but fairly metaphorical.

He apologized a few more times. Wanted to say okay. Wanted to accept. Be gracious. Say ‘thanks’. Say, ‘really it’s a car, it can be fixed’. I didn’t, I couldn’t. Squinted at him. Who are you? Not proud to be meet ass with ass. Felt pissed. Anxious. Tired. Sad. Frustrated. Confused.

Sat with grilled cheese sandwich on wheat, crooked driver gone. Only son and me. Patrons chattering. Owner harrumphing on my behalf. Sweet. 

Thought back on whole deal.

I roared. “You hit my car!” Kinda girl who can’t scream in her dreams. Wonder if I need help in real life, what will I do. Stand frozen waiting for calamity? You hit my car! Had stage in middle of the road. People drinking coffee, eating ice cream on sidewalk, walking by, all knew. “Hey, have you heard? He hit her car.” What was that? What'd you say? It came from me?

Then I knew. Long, hard day. Alone for hours to breathe in fright. Let future unfold. Life hurling toward uncertainty. Alone. An only child who isn’t but it didn’t matter. Alone anyway. Mom sick. Dad sicker. Don’t know about getting better. Might not get better. Might be as good as it gets. And no one to tell I was mad. And afraid. So afraid.

Really had wanted to howl at the heavens, you hit my life! You hit my life. You hit. My life. Sorrow stuck in throat.

Sorry, crooked man. I wasn’t nice. You helped. Day out of hand. No listeners for the pain. You hit me. Found your red Corolla paint. Found a voice, too. Sorrow dislodged from throat.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Random Acts of Visibility

Okay so once there was a hotel clerk that kept my running shoes under her desk so I’d have ‘em when I traveled there, every month or so. Sneakers are big. Heavy too. Take up the whole danged suitcase. Packing complicated. Glad she did that. Too nice. I was appreciative.

Then there was (well, I guess still is) a restaurant owner that had my favorite drink waiting at the table whenever I visited. I think maybe a couple of places like that, actually. Hard to be that attentive. Really nice. Makes me feel special. I am appreciative.

And wonderful small surprises at the coffee kiosk in the grocery store. “This one’s on us today.” Man, was I sad when, “Here’s my email address. I gave notice. I want you to know where to find me so we don’t lose touch.” Gave me a welcome pound of coffee when I followed her. And a hug. Love coffee; too, too nice. Surely, appreciative.

You’ll never believe this. A jeweler, later a friend, handed me a diamond and gold watch after my husband’s suicide. I'd admired the watch for a while. Are you nuts? “You love the watch. I care about you. Wear it and enjoy it now while everything is sad. One small thing of joy. Some day you’ll pay me. I believe in you.” Holy crap. Now not appreciative. Plain ass stunned.

A friend called it a constellation of stars around me. I call it a blessing. Haven’t always understood. Have always appreciated. Thought it was an accident or something.

An event most curious a few years back. Basil, a limo driver who fetched me at JFK, once, twice, maybe three times a month, over six years of work in Connecticut. A true gentleman. Tall and beautiful. Impeccably dressed. Jamaican, lovely lilting accent. Walked and sat so straight. Showed every centimeter of his stature. A motoring island of calm amidst the screech and the scramble of New York life, traveling north on the 684.

We said our hellos. More to say over time. Association grew, greetings did, too. Swapped  stories of work and kids. Settled in the back of his car. A little news, a joke or two. Loved speaking of his early home. Siblings left behind. His mom.

Did his job with elegance. Asked him how he remained unperturbed with putout passengers and traffic. Simply replied, “I’ve made it my mission to restore civility to America.” A small, self-satisfied smile, behind it something saved just for him.

Known each other at least a year. One customary ride he asked to stop the car. Wanted to leave the freeway, turn off in White Plains. Speak to me, he said. “Basil, can’t you speak to me in the car?”

“There’s something I need to say to your face, while looking into your eyes. I cannot do that from here.”

Mind raced. Liked him. Thought well of him but after all he was a stranger. A nice one, but a stranger still. Off the main road? Scared. Felt bad being frightened. Too cautious not to be. Make a decision. Make a decision. Finally he said, “There’s a coffee shop right at the exit, next to the highway. We’ll have coffee and I can talk to you there.” Fear subsided. Started to relax. I agreed.

True to his word, brimming with people, a diner staged close to the freeway. Imagination nearly got me. He asked for the table most remote. Uh-oh. There again. Unease. Tried  hard to trust.

Sat down in a booth across from me. Reached in the vest pocket of his bulky overcoat. Pulled out an envelope. Addressed to him. Handed to me. “Open it,” he directed.

Not good with surprises, bad at guessing games. Where is this going? Please someone; can’t we get back in the car? Basil began to speak.

“A few months ago I had a birthday. I reported to work that day and my boss called me to his office. He said he’d received a letter complimenting my work. It was a beautiful letter sent to make him aware of my performance.”  

Graceful gestures, deep voice. Jamaican English perfection. “The letter was from you. I wanted to thank you. Face to face.”

“There’s no need to thank me. I hoped it might benefit you if your employers know how well you represent them.”

“There’s more to the story that you must know. The reason I brought you here. Every year on my birthday I do a personal inventory. How am I doing in life, I ask. I stop to consider what I’ve done, and haven’t done. As I did my birthday inventory I thought to myself, she is a woman who does. She does not merely talk. She acts. I realized I do not do that. So I made a decision that I, too, would be a doer. That was your birthday gift to me.

“For a long time I’ve had the idea to speak about teacher - parent collaboration for better education. Because of you I told my idea to someone, and spoke at my child’s school. That led to an engagement at a university. In the envelope is the fee I’ve been paid.”

Inside. A check for $10,000. Basil? Pride and gratitude on his face.

Me? I recovered. From shock at his attribution. From having been so fearful. At losing a driver to Connecticut.

Learned? I see dead people. No, not like the movie. Not dead and think they’re alive. Alive and wonder if they’re dead. No one sees them. Do their business every day. Empty trash faithfully. Dust offices dutifully. Deliver mail without fail. Make coffee perfectly. Drive to Connecticut. Better the job’s done, more undetectable they become.

Stumbling through my life I realize I see people. But they knew it before I did. Pretty sure it’s not more than “thank you”. Occasional question about something they mentioned and I logged in. Before I knew in my head, I knew in my heart. People yearning to be seen. And heard. And known in some small way as they know themselves. More than a job well done. Whole souls brimming with a stories. 

Little, tiny, miniature magic kindnesses. Rain joy on the invisible. Comes back a jillion times bigger. Right back at me. 

Thank you. One by one, a cuppa coffee here, a soda there, helped me notice me. I'm not just your average joe. I perform random acts of visibility. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Best One in the House

The story goes that she wasn’t supposed to have a cat. Had one anyway. Tucked away in her apartment. That’s how some girls are. Have their own rules (I know, I did, too). One day the landlord found out and threw down his ultimatum. “The cat goes, or you both go.” She took the cat to a shelter.

Some months before, my sweetie’s cat had died. I never wanted a cat but once Rick came into my life, it was a ‘love me, love my cat’ sorta deal. Never had a cat before. Didn’t even like them. Cat was so scared he shivered behind my dryer for days. Black domestic long hair. At least before hiding behind the dryer. Lint hanging from his whiskers, feather duster tail. Cleaned the area pretty well though. Cat had so much hair I actually thought he was a cat till we bathed him. Found out he was really a gargoyle. Weighed about 8 pounds. Five pounds fur. 

Rick loved his cat. Said he was his best friend. Said, can’t throw him out just because I gotta girl now. So I had to get used to him. Murphy. He was 13 or 14 when I met him (the cat, that is) so I figured no matter how much of a trial it was, cat couldn’t live much longer. Wrong. 

When he died (the cat, that is), the old man was nearly 20. By then I loved his white muzzle, his comforting purr, the way he adored my sweetie, all in spite of myself.  It was hard to put him down. To say good-bye.

The cat had come against my will. He left the same way. Done with pets. Heartache too big. Didn’t know why anyone would do it more than once. But the sweetie had different ideas. He played along for a couple of months, then suggested we visit the pound. Just for a look. I made him swear no animal was coming home with us, but I was willing to peruse. I loved the puppies, anyway.

We saw puppies and birds, rodents, and of course, kitties. Stacks of cages, side by side, filling the feline room from floor to ceiling. So many. Tap, tap, tap, at my ankle. “Lady. Look down here.” Little paw stretched out of the cage reaching for my pant leg, playing with my denims. All the way on the bottom. “Lady. Lady. I’m down here.”

We took him to the “Get Acquainted Room” -- sure. That’s what they call it. Reel you in. Can’t get out without taking the animal. “He’s the best one in the house. If anyone comes looking for a cat, this is the one we’re going to show. He’s the friendliest, and pretty calm, too, for a Tabby.” Calm? Geez, wonder what excitable looks like. Kitty scrambling between the sweetie and me, jumping on ours laps, climbing up my front to perch on my shoulder, nuzzling my neck and hair. Purring. Oh my, purring. “Can someone get him off me, please?”

We left the cat behind. Milo. The young woman who hid him in the apartment called him Milo. Probably after the Tabby in the movie, I figured. I visited him a few days later, by myself. How do you shake the feeling of kitty kisses on your ear? You don’t. Universe planned it that way. There he was, waiting, waiting, for someone to take him home.

By the following weekend, the sweetie broached the subject of Milo the Cat, the one that would be shown to every family looking because he was 'the best one in the house'. Come to find out, the sweetie had been secretly visiting, too.

Well, shoot. How do we convince ourselves he should be ours? The best one in the house hadn't been chosen by anyone else, right?  Each time we visited he'd still been waiting. "Lady. Make up your mind. Can't wait forever." Meant to be. See?  

So the 'best one in the house' came to live with us. 'Pretty calm for a Tabby' racing back and forth, thunder paw gallop. Confusing our denims and sofa for his scratching post. Had to teach him how to use the real deal. Our legs were getting sore. He’s a fast learner, when he’s of a mind.

Turns out he knew his name. I wouldn't have chosen Milo but he came when called. Pretty good trick. So we left his name alone. He’d been messed with a lot already. The apartment, the pound, the cage, the waiting. No sense messing with his name.

He musta loved apartment girl. Bet she had long hair. Never met a young woman with hair he hasn't liked. I'm not young, but thankfully have hair he snuggles every night. Purr. Purr. Purr. Still kitty kisses on my ear.

“Lady. Lady. I’m down here.” He chose, then waited for us to catch on. Catch up. Six years ago we brought the best one home. He'd  waited long enough. 

Happy anniversary, Milo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From Tales of Growing Together

Within a few months the lease was up on the cottage and the young woman living there didn’t want to stay. Couldn’t blame her really. How many people want to hang around after a suicide? Poor thing. Comes home one night after work and can’t get in the driveway. Fire trucks. Ambulance. Coroner. It was hard. For her, too.

We cleaned and painted, made everything ready, put our ad in the classifieds. It didn’t take long, such  a sweet little place. If it had been bigger, not sharing land with ours, the rent might have been too dear. But it had such compact style, a price to match, and applicants came quickly.

It was my first time vetting prospects alone. I thought about everything I’d seen Tom do, collecting information, checking references, running credit reports. Something about a cottage sitting 20 feet from the owner. People with tomfoolery in mind mostly don’t live next door to their landlords. Would-be problems weed themselves out.

A little family came. Mom and Dad, maybe 30, and a 3-year old daughter. Musicians. We talked of the shared arrangement, and of the cottage grandfathered in. A rental at the pleasure of the neighbors, who could complain and have the status changed were they of a mind. Not likely. But the lovely lot needed careful tending so we could all enjoy it. I needed the income. They would get a sheltered place, good neighbors all around, and gardens with fruit trees and roses. A haven behind a hedge.

I didn’t feel drawn to them, nice as they seemed to be. The word simpatico strikes. Or lack thereof. Financials were golden but I would’ve liked more ease with my tenants. I didn’t think I could wait for a perfect fit so I moved ahead.

Problems began right away. All I need say is it was a pain. Keeping agreements wasn't their style. I asked them to go. Offered no-fault divorce. No penalty for breaking our lease, no holding up the deposit. No, they replied. But then, a few weeks later, yes. They left. But I was at square one.

We cleaned and painted, made everything ready, put our ad in the classifieds. It didn’t take long, such  a sweet little place. If it had been bigger, not sharing land with ours, the rent might have been too dear. But it had such compact style, a price to match, and applicants came quickly.

A very different couple came. Unmarried. He much older than she perhaps by 25 years. Most calm and affable while she was a nervous and quirky bookkeeper. Long, spindly legs and a laugh that would have seemed forced for anyone else. But she, so silly with her  head pitched back, neck long, mouth open with a cackle, no one's appearance on purpose. Yet, on her it was somehow charming. Her laugh made ordinary funny.

Again the paperwork and credit checks. Not many references though. And they wanted to pay in cash. Criminals pay in cash, I thought. They checked out from what I saw, even with their queer request.

They felt good. Felt right. It wasn't Tom's way, but he was gone. Time for my formula, my gut, my decision for my son and me.  I chose the peculiar pair.

My 12-year old came home from school and I told him about the two. “New people are coming. I like them and I hope you will, too. I think you’ll feel good around them. But I want to prepare you, they’re a bit different. Not like anyone who’s lived here before. Kind of odd.”

He looked at me for a moment. Affect even, thinking. “Mom, odd odd, or odd like you?”

What to say. Odd like you?  I must have made some kind of face, I don’t know, confused, surprised, quizzical. “Mom,” a pause, “You don’t think you're normal, do you?”

No big judgment. No criticism. Maybe a little sorry to break the news. He was matter of fact. So flatly stated. Trying to get a fix on the neighbors, using me as his odd barometer. “Perhaps unconventional describes them,” I added. “Like they see things a little different way.”

Ahhh, he exhaled, as though he understood. “That’s like you. I’m glad the place is rented. Now you won’t have to worry.” He moved right along with the school day news and to his homework and a snack. Odd like me was apparently our normal. Pretty okay. Not even a thing of concern.

Just like that, I found out I wasn't normal normal.

Oh, and the odd like me couple? He stayed for about four years and then he went away. We never spoke of it. She stayed as long as we did, paying in cash, for another five years.