Archives for November 2012

Day 20: Black Friday Shopping? Yeah. I’ve Done It.

The outrage has started already. Every year as Thanksgiving draws closer and talks of Black Friday deals begin, so does the criticism of Black Friday. Consumerism, selfish, greedy, blah blah blah. Same thing every year.

The thing is I don’t think Black Friday is awful – and in fact for the past several years, I’ve gone out the Friday after Thanksgiving to shop with my mom. It’s almost tradition.

I’m not gonna camp outside Best Buy for five days. Nor am I going to wake up at 3 a.m. to go ANYWHERE. But, you know, if I wake up at a decent time and venture out to the mall, well… I don’t mind the crowds. And I kind of enjoy the people watching. I never go with the NEED to buy anything, but if there happens to be a decent deal that I don’t have to trample anyone in order to get, well, who doesn’t like a deal? Often times, I come home after a few hours out with maybe one or two purchases crossed off my shopping list and a few interesting stories.

I’ve actually never encountered the kind of gruesome crowd that makes people cringe when they think of shopping on Black Friday. That could be because I’m not “busting any doors”, but what I’ve always found is that people are light hearted, helpful and chatty – all good things because the lines are a the worst part of it all.

With the plan to do a more low key holiday this year, I wouldn’t mind if I found some great deal on Friday – but frankly, I haven’t decided if I’ll even venture out. My daughters will be with their dad, so it’s not like there’s much else going on demanding my attention other than being a greedy selfish consumerist pig.

Besides, Pumpkin wants a Barbie Potty Training dog and so help me, if I can get away with not paying full price for that I’d sure like to.

Day 19: On lightening the mood

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For the love of puppies, Sarah, not every day has to be full of deep thought and angst words.

After a week of chaos and unsettled mood and moments of heavy heartedness, I had an opportunity to lighten my mood over the weekend. Do you know what a relief it is to have moments to catch your breath when you’ve been living in the mode of waiting for the other shoe to drop?


Last night, I stood at my kitchen counter eating salted caramel gelato out of the container, savoring the sweet taste on my tongue. I thought of running a bath, of turning in early, of maybe reading a few pages of a book. For a change, I felt exhausted from the fullness of time well spent versus the exhaustion of living in stress-mode.

I could get used to that.

My grandfather has a long way to go and visiting him is extremely difficult and gut-wrenching but? I see progress. I have to believe it’s a good sign that the rehabilitation efforts are so extensive – it means that his medical team believes he is capable of recovering, at least somewhat. That reassures me.

I edited photographs from a portrait session – over three dozen images that I am pretty pleased with. Tremendously happy.

And things got better from there. Saturday evening was wonderful. Sunday was the way Sundays should be: full of sunshine with a slowed down pace and time spent with people who make you smile.

It’s not all stress, tears and frustration up in here, y’all.

I promise.

I write about the tough stuff to process it, exorcise it, think it through, release it from my brain. I write about it because it’s what I know these days. I write about it because this write every day for a whole month idea was a spectacularly dumb one and if I had known the ride November would take me on, I surely would not have pursued it.

But that’s life, you know? It’s a cyclical whacky experience. And there are going to be days that are good and there are days that aren’t and if you just wait long enough a good one will roll your way again.

I think.

I know nothing for sure about that.

What I do know is that this weekend there were moments I laughed really hard. I ate good food. I slept peacefully. I saw lovely faces. My grandfather called me “precious.” Hugs. All of the hugs.

Today begins a new week. Thanksgiving week. I have so much to be thankful for – and I assure you I am fully aware of that…even when it seems I’m not.

Day 18: Throw out old bank statements

“Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.”

So says the infamous “wear sunscreen” speech from Mary Schmich, who originally wrote the piece as a column for the Chicago Tribune (I think).

The subject of love letters came up the other day and I remembered fondly that one of the best love letters (if not THE best) was one I received my junior year of college from a boy that was one of my dearest friends, but who I’d had a crush on, off and on over the years since the night we met at a campus party my freshman year of college. Our friendship had been a good one – we hung out regularly, talked quite a bit, emailed all the time, and at some point, he decided that his feelings were maybe different.

His timing was fantastically rotten as I had started seeing someone not long before (spoiler alert: that relationship fizzled after several weeks as relationships are wont to do when you’re 18, 19 years old).


In the midst of all of that, he had written me a spectacular letter.

It was handwritten in that delicious, fabulous way letters were before we all became tied to our iDevices (I’m not criticizing – as I type this, my iPhone is on my lap), several pages of ballpoint scrawl, front and back side of the page.

His words were the lovely and simple sort – full of kindness and attention to detail – detail upon detail that he culled from years of knowing me. And even better than a letter full of compliments, it was beyond the typical “You’re a nice kind of person” letter, but the quirky things he noticed were things that showed that he really and truly had paid attention over all of these years.

I kept that letter for the longest time.

And then I lost it.

And when the subject came up the other day, I wished that I still had that letter. Not out of any sense of mourning for what might have been (I’m actually decent friends with his wife who is AMAZING, also – politically and spiritually we could not be anymore extreme opposites than we are – it would have worked and of that, I have no doubt), but because it would be nice to read what it was about 18 year old Sarah that stood out to someone. See how 18 year old Sarah and 36 year old Sarah were similar and how I’ve (hopefully) grown since then.

(Dang, that was half my life ago. Sheesh.)

In 2011, I encouraged y’all to write a love letter to yourself. I wrote one to myself.

Without a doubt, it was one of the most difficult posts to write – it took me over a week. It seemed unnatural to bestow any kindnesses upon myself and I measured each word and thought over and over to determine if I truly wanted to put that out there, if I was saying things that people would read and think, no freaking way could that even be true, as if their opinions mattered anyway.

When I was 18 I read his words and not even a single ounce of me thought I was undeserving or unworthy. I took those words at their face value, believed them to be true and was certain he meant them.

I don’t think I was particularly more well adjusted then, but maybe I was because how well adjusted is someone who assumes every kindness is a fabrication?*

I wish I still had that letter so I could remember what kinds of things it was that made a boy get out a pen and paper and sit down and give me his words. Is that funny, that I don’t remember all of the words but just the way it made me feel? Because I don’t remember the words, I do remember the feeling and ugh, does anyone even write love letters anymore?**




*Not EVERY kindness. Most of them though because surely you’re just saying it to be nice.

** They’re probably all texted now. “U R so GR8.” *gag*



Day 17: On birthdays and remembering

Today is the birthday of the girl I was best friends with in junior high. She was the biggest fan of the New Kids on the Block and she especially loved Jordan Knight. She swore she’d move to Boston someday where she would marry a New Kid. When I moved to Michigan, she would send me cassette tape letters – bits of her talking on tape interspersed with stuff from California radio, as it was (and probably still is) eons ahead of Michigan radio as far as music. She actually did go to college in Boston. Didn’t marry Jordan or any of the other New Kids.

And it’s not just her birthday I remember. Seems like I have all of these days floating in my head – even people I haven’t seen or talked to in years. And all of these days throughout the year conjure up memories of people and times and sometimes it’s enough to trigger me to reach out and say hello, though often I just smile at the memories and move on with the day.

In three days, it will be the birthday of my very first best friend who lived two doors down from my family when we were in preschool through early elementary school years. I am actually still friends with her, still friends with her family and saw them when I was in California last summer. She was then and is now a free spirit and very direct. We used to play act “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” even when it wasn’t Halloween. I remember making bead bracelets with our names on them when her younger sister was born. I remember her teaching me inappropriate versions of nursery rhymes long before Andrew Dice Clay was a name I’d ever heard.

Or May 3, the birthday of a college boyfriend who wore too tight pants, was obsessed with Smashing Pumpkins, and quite possibly lived with his parents until he turned 30. (I kid. I have no idea where he ended up. Somehow I don’t think I’m wrong though.)

Or June 23, the birthday of one of my closest friends who always used to know the good music first and introduced me to some of my favorite artists. She and her brother shared a birthday and they were the first siblings I ever met that were actually friends. I always envied that. They taught me how to find constellations.

Every year and on various days these people and their birthdays run through my mind and I wonder if it will always be that way, if I will be eighty years old in a rocking chair remembering the birthday of the first boy to tell me he loved me or my high school cheerleading coach’s. There are so many I have forgotten, I wonder why these stay.

Do you know how much smarter I would be if I could have that space in my brain back?

Day 16: Sometimes It’s the Little Things

Sometimes in the face of stress, it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

Retail therapy isn’t really an option these days because money is just dumb and did you know that bills don’t pay themselves? I don’t even like to go to the mall or anywhere near a Target anymore because a) too tempting and b) sure Sarah, why don’t you just spend money and give yourself something else to stress about?

And the funny thing is – I’m really okay with that. There’s not a whole lot that I need. I could mindlessly wander around a store and find item after item that I want, but maybe one of the best things about being more financially conservative these days is realizing that I can live without it.

I have to find other things to cheer myself up:

This week, the girls and I made cookies. Ate one fresh from the oven. DELICIOUS.

Texts with friends.

Taking a photograph I love.

Getting a Birchbox in the mail (okay, this one costs money, but it’s just ten bucks a month and this month’s box had cool stuff in it – to me it’s worth it. While I’m not blowing money on stupid stuff, it keeps me from feeling deprived).

Bubble baths

Soda and lime (with or without the vodka. I’m without these days, not because I’m out, but because sometimes you have to treat your liver nicely)

Making a spectacular quesadilla

A mailbox full of catalogs and not a single bill

Coffee and doughnut day with the kids

Finding the glove you thought you were missing


More hugs

Catching up on Netflix

I admit, I was more than a little giddy about the Twistband (it’s orange! so cute) and mascara from the Birchbox. Who doesn’t love a little retail therapy? But, I’m really trying to keep it a little simpler. And I’ve found that all of these other things are just as gratifying – if not more so – than a cart full of stuff that will just take up space and collect dust.

Hey. I might finally be growing up.

Who knew?

Thursday Ten: It’s Been a Hard Week edition

1. I’m not even going to try to put a happy front on it – it’s been a very difficult week with my grandpa in the hospital and I hate that I can’t do anything to make it better. Spent a good chunk of yesterday texting pictures of me and the kids making silly faces to my mom who then shared them with grandpa. (Sidenote: I have an extremely huge number of pictures on my phone of me and the kids making silly faces.)

2. I am thankful for many things – and one of the biggest is that I’m able to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I’ll be walking in June, and I would also be thankful (*grin*) for your support. Click this link if you’d like to donate to support the cause.

3. Probably one of the hardest parts of writing daily is that it’s quite hard to do without getting at least a little personal. And shucks, I’ve dumped emotion and icky feelings ALL OVER THIS PLACE over the past two weeks. Ew. I’m so sorry. But in reality, I suppose sometimes it’s good to show y’all that I’m human and that things do affect me, even if I’d like to pretend that I’m made of steel. I’m finding lately that I’m not, but, that’s okay too.

4. One of the things that clears my mind when I am stressed (AND OH BY THE WAY THIS WEEK HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY STRESSFUL) is movement – exercise has always helped. Thing is? It’s getting too freaking cold for that nonsense. But sometimes I take pictures I like while I’m braving the cold so…semi-victory?
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5.Earbuds that don’t tangle. That’d be nice.

6. The Princess’s addiction to Pinterest has her…learning to sew. All on her own. Last night, she sewed a hand warmer – a pouch full of rice, sewed all shut, that you can pop into the microwave so the rice heats up and keeps your hands warm. It’s actually pretty dang cool. I want her to make one for me. And as much as I tease her about Pinterest and her addiction to it, I love that she’s actually doing all of these neat crafty things because I lack that gene.

7. We always put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but given that the kiddos will be with their dad for the holiday, I promised that we could put it up before they went. Next Wednesday. That doesn’t even seem right that it could be time for the holiday season. Gah.

8. I finally started Christmas shopping yesterday, speaking of the holidays. I bought one thing. One down, eleventy billion to go. Uh, that’s an exaggerating. This will be more mellow of a holiday than it’s ever been, just by nature of life and its circumstances, but I think it’ll still be fine because all of the stuff that matters is still there. Long as I’m still with my kids on Christmas morning and we’re still sharing monkey bread for breakfast, I’ll be happy.

9. I’m so far overdue for an oil change that I’m embarrassed to go in. I will go in. Eventually. Because it’s important but yeesh. I wish there was a service that would come pick up my car during the work day, put gas in it, change my oil and return it to my parking lot before I get out of work. Yes, I’m lazy.

10. I don’t even want to tell you what music I downloaded this week because it is a shameful download, a song purchased solely for the purpose of flushing an earworm out of my brain. So that is how I’ve come to own the acoustic version of Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”. It got stuck in my head for hours last Friday. Downloading it didn’t help. It was worth 99 cents to try though. Or not.

Day 14: Healing happens slowly. Too slowly.

Two years ago, I wanted to hire someone to plow my grandparents’ driveway during the winter. My grandpa had slipped and fallen on the ice and I didn’t want him to take that risk anymore. Well into his 80s, there was no need for him to be shoveling his own driveway – but he insisted: I was not to hire a plow service. He would do it himself.

He has not been one to rest on his laurels. Ever. He has always been an active man, a busy man.

That is why seeing him like this has been so devastating, not just for me but for the entire family. We’ve seen him in the hospital before, but this time feels different, this time he seems different. This time there is an air of helplessness coupled with intense frustration in his demeanor. This is not a man who does helpless well.

The dietary department walked in with his dinner last night, a plastic bottle of strawberry Ensure. He didn’t want it. “Maybe you can get him to drink some,” my aunt told me.

Grandpa started asking me about Pumpkin – am I able to keep up with her, is she adapting well to stuff – he’s clearly enamored by my youngest daughter. Thinks she’s the bee’s knees.

“Here grandpa,” I said, holding out the straw, “let’s have a sip.”

“No,” he replied. “You don’t work up an appetite doing nothing.”

“Oh grandpa, if I can handle Pumpkin, I can surely handle you. Just a sip.” I held out the straw again. He took a small sip. Victory.

“I could eat a cheeseburger!”

“You have to start somewhere. Keep drinking this and you can work your way up to cheeseburgers.” Another sip.

I was able to get him to take four sips of that awful smelling strawberry flavored garbage. As I drove home, I could still smell that artificial strawberry on my hands. I don’t blame him for not wanting it.

After I left, he didn’t drink any more of the pink goo.

I worry.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he said, “I just had a stroke so I don’t remember, did we have sex last night? … Last year?” My grandpa said this to my grandmother shortly after I walked into his hospital room. I thought I might need to bleach my brain. It was precisely the goofy kind of thing grandpa would say and it was precisely the reminder (albeit a tremendously disturbing one) that although his body looks weak and he looks fragile, the man we love is still there. His mind is sharp, for the most part, save for some brief bouts of confusion. He can still make a crowded room laugh.


I deliberately left my camera bag in the car when I got to the hospital. I thought it’d be weird. I take my camera every where but I didn’t know, would he feel like a spectacle if I were to take pictures? I didn’t want to make him feel anything negative.

“Where’s your camera, Sarah? Don’t you want to capture these moments for prosperity…pos-posterity?” And so I followed his lead and I took my iPhone out of my pocket and I said, “Okay! I’m taking your picture now!” and he smiled, only the left side of his face barely moved.


I stood by the side of his hospital bed, on his right side. He hears better on that side. His eye had been filling with goop and he had been blinking furiously. I asked my mom to get a warm wet cloth and once she brought it to me, I slid his glasses off his face and gently wiped his right eye clean. “Theeeeeerrreeeee…” he said. “That’s so much better. Thank you. I love you.”

He grasped my left hand in his right and held it to his face. My heart cracked in half.


The plan is to move him to a different facility for rehabilitation today. Nothing happens quickly, but that is the plan as of last night and so we’ll see. I am hoping that wherever he goes next feels less sterile hospital zone and more “let’s get you on your feet, healed and sent back home!” I’m sure the atmosphere matters. I hope they let me smuggle in a cheeseburger. I wonder if that’d help.


I put my hat back on, buttoned up my coat, slipped my phone back in my pocket. I said my goodbyes for the night – to my grandpa, my mom, her husband, my aunt and lastly my grandmother. As I leaned in for a hug she said, “Thank you for getting him to eat.”

I walked back into the cold night air and navigated back to my car. I climbed in, started the engine and sat in the dark, devastated.




Day 13: Not the post I meant to write

I was going to write a different post – a post about boundaries and a post about how we teach other people how to treat us and how we don’t have to say that everything is okay if in fact it is not. And then I decided not to.

Families are tricky business, aren’t they?

And families that talk a lot – well, it doesn’t mean they’re actually saying what’s important.

My family never shuts up but sometimes it takes some huge epic thing to get the real words to come out. While the process sucks, I’m grateful that at lest the words do come out at some point.

I was upset yesterday – something my sister had done had triggered some feelings in me – I was sad, mad, and a little bit devastated. In fact, it tore at my mind all day. The difference between Sarah now and the Sarah from even a year ago is that instead of choking on my feelings and never saying anything, I let her know I was hurt.

And there was an afternoon of silence.

Last night she sent a long email – about the day’s events, about other stuff, about ALL OF THESE THINGS – things she’d never mentioned, things I never knew were bothering her and while it was a hard email to read, it was a relief to know what she was thinking.

If we don’t tell people what’s on our minds they can’t ever truly know. If you spend any amount of time face-to-face, surely you should pick up on something, but my sister and I have busy lives and we’re not often in the same place these days – and I had no way of knowing the things that were bothering her.

(I should also mention that problems were exacerbated by our mother who isn’t exactly known for minding her own business – as some of the things my sister was upset about were second hand inaccuracies.)

It’s only recently that I have stopped worrying so much about the effect my words might have on people. I don’t want to make people feel sad or bad and I don’t like to see anyone hurting – but the thing is, stuff generally works out somehow if you just tell it like it is. Doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. Doesn’t mean you have to choose the meanest words your vocabulary holds. Quite the opposite really.

Maybe I didn’t handle things the best way yesterday. I don’t know. My heart was achey and my feelings were hurt and I felt unsupported by my sister, someone I care about. I felt that she should be on my side and that her actions were contrary to that and I kinda said so.

And when she wrote back, she told me why she had done what she had done, but instead of leaving it at that as she had in her texts, she apologized and said it was never her intent. She meant well. That it wasn’t worth this, this negativity we were both feeling. That she loves me. That she wants me to be happy. That she appreciates that I’ve always been one of her biggest cheerleaders. But that she’s always been here for me, rooting me on, and supporting me through all the garbage. And she has.

And I replied.

The thing is that sometimes we don’t know all the hurt someone is carrying with them if they don’t say so. And I’m glad, despite the ugliness that preceded that she could tell me how she was feeling.

It’s amazing, this life. People. We’ve all got our own stuff going on. And how would you even know?

I’m sensitive lately, that I know. And my sister said that she’s probably more sensitive than I – sounds kind of like a recipe for disaster, no? But – we know this about each other now. That’s something.

(There’s no neat way to tie up this post – have you noticed that I have that problem?)

I’d love to keep on being conflict avoidant but I think this way is better. The hurt feelings? We’ll get past it. We’ll know each other better because of it. Maybe treat each other with a little more kindness and sensitivity.

I hope.


Day 12: Taking the time

Last night, The Princess cut out pieces of paper in the shape of tickets with one side that read “Polar Express”. She made hot cocoa and a big bowl of popcorn. She instructed me and her sister to “Wear your slippers. Meet in the car.” In the car, we drank our lukewarm cocoa, ate some popcorn and sat in the garage chatting and giggling until The Princess said, “Okay, now let’s go back in the house and watch the movie.” {Apparently, when she saw this described as Pinterest, it was as an activity to do closer to Christmas, usually initiated by a parent and involved driving around to see Christmas lights}

She set up The Polar Express on the DVD player and the three of us curled up together on the couch to watch the movie.

The whole thing – from the tickets to her putting on the movie was a lovely and delightful surprise out of nowhere that touched my heart and made me think so many times, “I am so unbelievably lucky.”

(We’ll disregard the part where she turned off all the lights and I nearly fell asleep halfway through the movie. It was a long weekend. I was tired.)

I love this about her.

I love this kind of thing in general.

Gestures are an amazing thing. It cost her nothing but time, and the three of us had a good night chilling out on the couch together, eating popcorn and telling the dog to not bite us. I am a fan of gestures, and like to think I am a somewhat thoughtful person, and you know what? It had never occurred to me. Sure, occasionally, I make a half-hearted attempt to wrangle the girls to watch a movie. Sometimes I’m even 50% successful, getting the attention of one child but not both.

Somehow The Princess made it fun and inviting and it was a good time and after the weekend we had, it was a breath of fresh air to just be, to laugh and to drink cocoa while watching a movie.

We’d spent the day together yesterday. With an unseasonably warm fall day, we took the dog for a walk (I had the added pleasure of carrying 50 pounds of Pumpkin on my back because her legs were too tired and or she couldn’t want to didn’t want to keep up – whatever, more exercise for me!). We ate leftover ropa vieja for lunch. We went to the hospital and spent the first 30 minutes in the cafeteria with my aunt because my grandfather was in physical therapy (“He flashes everyone when he does PT,” my aunt said. “No one wants to see his junk. Let’s go wait in the cafeteria.”). Thirty minutes in the cafeteria with my aunt and the girls, the girls happily snacking on hospital junk food (because why should food in a hospital be good for you?) until we could visit my grandpa. We then spent a bit of time visiting with my grandfather (he’s quite tired, the strength and sensation in his left side has quite a ways to go for recovery but his mental facilities are pretty much on point for him – a relief, for sure). Then to the park to further take advantage of the weather.

So, for The Princess to plan this movie event was quite possibly the perfect end to this day. This day of hanging out, being together, being a family – and we ended on a good note.

I’m not surprised she got the idea from Pinterest –  that seems to be where she gets all of her ideas lately, including the Christmas gifts she plans on making this year and can I please buy x, y and z and let her do chores to make extra money and “HEY MOM GUESS WHAT I SAW ON PINTEREST?”), and I love that she tweaked it to make it work somehow for our family. But I love that she took the time.

I said yesterday, I feel like I’m supposed to be learning something from all of this stuff lately. I don’t know what it is, exactly. What I do know that in the face of my grandfather’s medical emergency, I was able to somehow manage to add some peace to my weekend in the form of time with people I adore and surely that’s something.


Day 11: Don’t Get Old

My grandpa had a stroke yesterday and I am convinced that the universe is telling me something this week. The universe is wanting me to pay attention.

Perhaps that is too self centered a view, but I can’t help but think that when so many things go wrong in a small span of time that there’s something I am supposed to be learning.

I don’t know yet what it is.

I am hoping that my grandfather is fine – that the doctors are providing him good care and that his road to recovery will be smooth. It is my hope. I am keeping cautiously optimistic because they were able to administer TPA in time to break up the clot and within a short span of time he went from being unable to move the left side of his body to touching his nose with his left pointer finger, from no speech to slurred speech to clear speech. To being able to state his full name and birthdate as well as where he is. To asking me about my children.  To trying to boop my nose.

My grandfather overcame stomach cancer in the 1980s – I was a kid then. I don’t remember the details much. He had part of his stomach removed. Chemo. We were in California. We were far away.

He is a funny little old man and I love him and I have said often that he’s my favorite man in the world – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. When I was a kid, he’d send mail addressed to “Haras” (my name backwards) and he always had a roll of Lifesavers on him to share with us kids, and he’d write me letters and I’d write back. He’s never stopped telling the story of the time we drove down to Carmel and I cried the whole way. Nor has he stopped telling about when I was about to start my first job out of college and how nervous I was about it – but he’s always quick to say he knew I’d be fine, and look how well I did.

He loves my kids. Like he did for me, he pays Ten for the As on her report card (and he better heal up because that girl has a paper full of straight A’s to show Great-Grandpa). He puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable of my youngest daughter’s name in a way that is unique to him. And every time I see him he says, “That’s a nice lookin’ family you’ve got there, Sarah.”

So, he really needs to be okay.

This week has been one thing after another but this makes some of those big things feel small and maybe that’s my lesson. That what really matters is the health and love of people I care about and the rest is just… extra. That stuff will work itself out.

I don’t know.

This is the kind of week that makes one weary, that’s for sure.

Not sure what is in store for grandpa in the next few days, but I’m hoping that he quickly makes his way out of the hospital into whatever rehabilitation program they deem will best suit him.

He’s a survivor. He’s made it through so much. He just has to keep hanging on because I’m not ready to let go just yet.