My father was terrible at gifts. Terrible at receiving them. You would break your back to find the most amazing, perfect gift ever, he would open it, pause, say, “Thank you!”, put it down, and never speak of it again. Over the years I bought him, among other things, a beautiful, strange coffee table book about Mexican churches, a silver wall hanging with a scroll of paper for note-taking, a wooden 3D puzzle in the shape of a gondola, a tiny statue of Molly Malone, which was the first song he’d learned and partly the inspiration for my name. The only gift I ever bought that I can confirm he [...]
When I was eight years old, the only thing I wanted to be was president, and Tommy Hanlon told me in front of everyone in my class that I couldn't be.
One plank arm, square in my face with a noodly little finger: "If you weren't born here—you can't be president!" he squealed, a proud look in his eye.
At the time I was ostracized and lonely and distinctly un-American. I was, by the Southeastern Pennsylvanian definition, a "normal looking" eight-year-old, with a whole lot of love to give, but I had an untrustworthy accent that I'd brought over from England and a few other Victorian ticks like asking a [...]
I’ve spoken to very few people about what it was like to be in a room watching my mother take her last gulps of air. It was dinnertime, dark. We’d just had pizza. We’d been taking turns sitting by her side when there was a change in her breathing. All the oxygen drained from the room. When my mother died, it was just my family in a semicircle, alone together with what moments ago had been “her,” but in the span of seconds had become “her body.” She was 63.
When I read that comedian Laurie Kilmartin was live-tweeting her father’s dying days, I recoiled as though from an uppercut [...]